|8||84||Michael Mason||m||Seniors M40||00.42.06|
|13||35||Michael Littlewood||m||Seniors M40||00.43.12|
|109||197||Allan Renwick||m||Seniors M40||00.49.28|
|169||783||Fiona Jones||w||Seniors W40||00.51.37|
|196||40||Davey Lumsdon||m||Seniors M50||00.52.29|
|203||95||Stephen Winship||m||Seniors M50||00.52.39|
|210||24||Stephen Soulsby||m||Seniors M50||00.52.45|
|220||888||Ian Butler||m||Seniors M50||00.53.09|
|251||1||Andrew Davies||m||Seniors M40||00.5406.|
|259||3||Jonathan Hamill||m||Seniors M40||00.54.21|
|282||94||Anna Basu||w||Seniors W40||00.55.00|
|320||7||Sarah Davies||w||Seniors W50||00.56.04|
|355||740||Chris Shearsmith||m||Seniors M40||00.57.06|
|356||10||Susan Scott||w||Seniors W40||00.57.10|
|357||21||Rachelle Mason||w||Seniors W40||00.57.18|
|362||235||Stephanie Barlow||w||Seniors W40||00.57.32|
|393||970||Malcolm Sygrove||m||Seniors M50||00.58.22|
|405||86||Alex Brown||m||Seniors M40||00.58.43|
|425||68||Craig Walker||m||Seniors M50||00.59.12|
|464||317||Jean Bradley||w||Seniors W60||00.59.58|
|555||2||Lesley Hamill||w||Seniors W40||01.01.56|
|606||665||Jill Rudkin||w||Seniors W40||01.03.25|
|653||114||Lee Stephenson||m||Seniors M40||01.04.50|
|694||159||Chloe Black||w||Seniors W40||01.06.25|
|742||191||Heather Raistrick||w||Seniors W50||01.07.39|
|749||132||Alan Smith||m||Seniors M70||01.07.54|
|764||29||Jenny Search||w||Seniors W40||01.08.07|
|813||72||Catherine Walker||w||Seniors W60||01.09.07|
|816||179||James Nicholson||m||Seniors M70||01.09.11|
|829||573||Alison Heslop||w||Seniors W40||01.09.41|
|854||166||Angela Robson||w||Seniors W40||01.10.29|
|915||73||George Alan Scott||m||Seniors M50||01.12.50|
|920||25||Elaine Broatch||w||Seniors W50||01.12.55|
|921||6||Jane Dowsett||w||Seniors W40||01.12.56|
|922||51||Carole Thompson-Young||w||Seniors W50||01.12.56|
|929||766||Tina Taylor||w||Seniors W40||01.13.00|
|934||661||Faye Ward||w||Seniors W40||01.13.15|
|948||37||Wendy Littlewood||w||Seniors W40||01.13.52|
|951||57||Zoe Dewdney Parsons||w||Women||01.13.56|
|1003||1180||Alison Smith||w||Seniors W40||01.16.39|
|1004||109||Sue Walker||w||Seniors W60||01.16.39|
|1013||1013||Christine Farnsworth||w||Seniors W60||01.16.50|
|1026||1290||Ann Kain||w||Seniors W50||01.17.11|
|1085||425||Jane Baillie||w||Seniors W40||01.19.50|
|1091||65||Aileen Scott||w||Seniors W40||01.20.10|
|1098||22||Kerry Barnett||w||Seniors W40||01.20.46|
|1111||56||Lindsay Parker||w||Seniors W40||01.21.30|
|1140||824||Sharon Campbell||w||Seniors W40||01.23.00|
|1149||455||Diane Soulsby||w||Seniors W50||01.23.17|
|1181||181||Carol Holgate||w||Seniors W40||01.25.58|
Keswick Half Marathon, Sunday, May 6, 2018
Over the past few years, there seems to have been an increase in the add-ons available when booking races. Tech t-shirts, medals, coasters etc…. The Keswick Half Marathon was no different (with t-shirts and slate coasters available) but a “pleasant” surprise was that they included a heatwave for free.
I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s race which I would easily describe as the most scenic and beautiful I’ve ever entered. It is very well organised with registration being held at the rugby club, 1 mile from the start at Portinscale. On paper, this sounds like a right pain but in reality, it adds to the atmosphere and enjoyment of the day. The race is limited to 1000 with some EotD.
As everyone streams along the path flanked by sheep and fields you can see everyone actively relaxing whilst they warm up. I spent the time strolling along with my wife, Jane, whilst Club shirt spotting. There seemed to be an awful lot of our usual XC enemy from the Poly. I knew this was going to be a very different affair but I had my heart set on beating as many of the red/black lot as possible.
The start was held just over Portinscale’s mini Humber Bridge. Many of the Purple Army congregated and nattered before the race with some of the Bob Graham Round support team also in attendance to wish us well on the tarmac. All of a sudden the race director seemed to be counting down from 10 and we were off…. very little warning.
The initial mile winds through the village past a lot of parked cars and supporters. It reminds me a little of the start of the cash-cow that is the Blaydon race.
After we break free from the houses the race follows a lovely road enveloped by trees. It gave us respite from the direct sunshine. My phone had said 21C as we started and it was only going to get hotter. (I hate the heat! I might mention that again later, a few times!).
We passed my friends waving in Swinside and made our way up the first horrid little hit past the adventure centre. From here until mile 10 there was no tree cover. That was it….sun sun sun. I had predicted it so hydrated a lot and covered myself in lots of sun cream.
I know this area like the back of my hand and this is one of the reasons I keep coming back and will probably do so next year. The roads are quiet for the first third of the race. Our Scottish dynamo, Allan, then overtook me at the start of THAT hill on mile 5. By then I’d realised I had totally underestimated how crap I was in the sun and gone off too quickly. I love hills….but not hills with no breeze and in this heat. I was struggling and annoyed with myself already. My head always lets me down in these situations and I knew it was going to be a very tough 8 miles from now on. At the top of the hill, there was a big animal trough with fresh water running into it from a stream….in went my head and arms to try to cool down (I hate being hot!). This provided much respite and I sped up for the next mile.
The views opened up with a stunning vista across the water. The problem now was that every walker in the NW lakes seemed to know this too and there were cars and vans parked all over.
The issue of it being an open road race didn’t really bother me last year but because of the long weekend and sun, everyone seemed to have made their way to the side of Catbells. The sun was belting down now and like a newborn baby, I was struggling to control my temperature. Suddenly I saw a mini waterfall and jumped under it…..then Penny passed. This was on 7 miles. I tried to talk myself into following her for as long as I could but I just didn’t have it in me.
The views around were simply stunning though so I just decided to take them in and plod along as best I could. Originally I had a target of 1:45hrs but this was downgraded to 1:50hrs due to the heat.
As mentioned earlier, the organisation for this race is excellent. In total there were 7 water stations (1 of which was put on last minute by a local hotel). These tables were very much needed and I dread to think what would happen if there were fewer. The smiley volunteers must have been sweltering as they greeted us with the cold water (I have no idea how they managed to keep it thus).
As I crossed the final section from Grange to Keswick I was met by someone shouting “Come on Tim, Penny is just ahead of you!!” I have no idea who it was and we all think it was just some friendly chap who had noticed the purple named vests. It did spur me on and although it wasn’t a fast 3 miles along the road to Keswick, I did manage to feel stronger than the previous year. (Being in shade did help).
The final section took us into the town centre and past all the day visitors.
One helpful local lad stood with a hosepipe squirting us all on the final few hundred yards. At this point, I slowed to run with a couple of fellow runners when I heard them say, “I cannot do this anymore. It’s too hot!”.
Unfortunately, by doing this it allowed one of the red/black enemy to pass me with only 200 yards to go. I left it until about 80 yards and left my new found friends and sprinted to overtake the Poly runner. Luckily I took him with 10 yards to go and finished in a sluggish 1:54:38 (6 mins slower than last year).
I was met by a smiling Stuart Scott some 10 hours after his successful Bob Graham Round! Gareth was also there basking in the glory (and sun) of coming second in an amazing 1:21:19.
This is what I love about the Club….regardless of our individual speeds, successes and pace, we all support each other and wear our purple with pride.
Jane finished in a very respectable 2:37hrs in her first proper race of length as an Elvet Strider, shortly after Anna, Catherine and Andrew.
|Position||Act Time||Surname||First name||Cat||Sex|
Steel City Striders
The Last Anniversary Waltz Fell Race, Stair Village Hall, Keswick, Saturday, April 21, 2018
11.5 miles, 3600 foot of ascent
I’d first heard of the Anniversary Waltz when, around 14 years ago, a striking photo of a runner approaching the summit of, I think, Robinson, the lush green of the Newlands valley in the background, graced the front cover of The Fellrunner. Over the years, I’d wondered at the unusual name and had got as far as entering a few years ago, only for life to make other plans. This year was different, as it was announced that the race would be run for the final time, due to the death of one of the married couple who have for two decades organised the race; if not now, never.
Race day dawned bright, with the skies over Keswick clear and the road out to Stair village busy with running traffic – it appeared that Jack, Fiona and I were not alone in taking the last opportunity to race here, and we were informed that c600 runners were here for the Waltz, and c300 for the Teenager (the 15m extended version), many north-eastern vests amongst them, as well as a smattering of national-level talent; to all intents and purposes, this felt very much like an unofficial extension to the English Championships.
Registration was busy though efficient, and after watching the Teenager competitors walk up their first hill from the start (Causey Pike), we had a pleasant half-mile or so to the start, an old mining track that cuts below Catbells. A brief, eloquent speech was made about the life and legacy of Steve Cliff, whose marriage to Wynn this commemorated and in whose name the proceeds would be donated to MND research (I presume the pollen count was high, as there was a lot of eye-rubbing going on), and then we were off, shuffling from a position too close to the rear of the pack, slowly picking up speed as we dodged around runners, descending into the valley bottom with Jack on my shoulder and Fiona not far behind.
The first 3 miles were rapid, and felt it, my watch recording the second mile as sub-7min/mile pace, and I quickly began to realise that if we’d lost height in the first three of nearly twelve miles, and the last mile was downhill, then ALL of the 3600′ height gain would have to take place in the next eight miles. This thought occurred as the track turned to grass, Robinson loomed on the right-hand side and it was decision time – take the pain of climbing Robinson now, in order to get it out of the way, or keep up the speed on the gentle track up the valley and then brace for a sharp final ascent? I went for the former, Jack, just ahead of me, for the latter, and we saw each other again at the top, both hurting a little from the quad-straining gradient and the short section of scrambling. From this first summit, Jack loped ahead of me at speed down the grassy flank of Robinson to the path that leads up to Hindscarth, the next peak of the horseshoe. I tailed as rapidly as I could and rather enjoyed the shallow gradient and springy, forgiving ground, not losing him to sight, then slowly regaining on both he and an NFR runner as we climbed again, passing them near the top, along with another 15 or so runners. Hindscarth summited, it was down again to Dale Head, another nice runnable section with a final rocky drag, passing Tim Skelton en route (not in the race, so a rather surprising sighting) before the section I’d been fearing.
I am a terrible descender in rocky terrain. My balance is not great and my eyes water so much that often I can barely see as I go downhill at speed, leading to a lot of falls. My intention had been to come off Dale Head to the south, using the tourist path. However, having realised I was a reasonable way up the field by now and, more importantly, actually a little ahead of Jack, I could not bring myself to be sensible and therefore attempted the direct route to the stream leaving the tarn at the bottom. If memory serves me, the descent was not enjoyable, was faster than I thought possible, still lost me a dozen or two places, probably accounted for the bruised bits I felt the next day and had me at one point on the verge of having to stop to ‘do a Paula.’ Let us move on; love stories do not include that kind of mess.
The hard bit over, and feet refreshed in the clear waters of the rocky stream crossing, the rest of the race passed well, with places regained on the climb to High Spy, no more lost on the gentle descent before Catbells, another handful gained on the steady run up to Catbells and then a grassy descent that hurt the feet as it got steeper and steeper (I was looking forward to running down the natural curve of the hill, only to be pointed sharp left, down the steep bit, by marshals), but gave enough traction to maintain pace sufficient that only a handful of runners came past me again – none of them Jack, who I was convinced was on my shoulder. Down onto the track where we had started, through a farm, onto tarmac and back to the village where the finishing funnel, a stream for foot-washing and a chap with a hosepipe awaited. At the time of writing, results are unpublished, but I think I took around 2:10 and Jack came in a few minutes later, not helped by one of his shoes disintegrating on Catbells and a touch of heat illness. Fiona? She’d started the race as a ‘nice, steady run’ and then felt competitive halfway round, so had spent the back half picking people off one by one, and seemed fairly upbeat.
It has been said that the deaths of those who will be missed deeply, by many, lead to the most enjoyable wakes; this was such a day – a massive field of people who love the hills gathered together for a day simultaneously about life, death and running. The world moves on. This race does not, though was a fitting tribute to a man who loved the area and the sport and a reminder that a day spent in the hills, with friends, is never a day wasted.
Virgin Money London Marathon, Sunday, April 22, 2018
Sweat. Yes, it was hot! As we waited for the start, we were all drinking water, looking for shade and paying frequent visits to the ‘female urinals’ (a bizarre experience!) Finally, our wave set off. After all the waiting and anticipation, it was great to be finally running my first marathon! Although my training had been derailed by a combination of injury, snow and work, I still hoped I might be able to finish in under 4 hours. The first miles seemed deceptively easy. The atmosphere was brilliant and there were plenty of distractions: crazily-dressed runners (Paddington costume – in that heat??), cheerful crowds, Greenwich, the Cutty Sark. It was already roasting, but there were lots of water-stations and showers, and I found I was able to maintain a reasonable pace.
Blood. About 10 miles in, with the temperature continuing to rise, I suddenly had a terrible nosebleed! What to do? This was definitely not in the Plan! I didn’t want to stop, so I carried on running slowly for a couple of miles with blood streaming from my nose onto my face, hands and legs. Not a pretty sight! It finally stopped, but by then I realised would have to abandon any hopes of a sub 4-hour time.
Tears. The second half was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. There were lots of highs: catching sight of my family by chance; spotting Striders Rachel and Michael Mason and Peter Hart in the crowds at around 18 miles; strangers shouting my name; the man running with the washing machine on his back… But there were plenty of lows too: by about mile 20 my legs were screaming at me to stop and I had to force myself to continue. By 24 miles, I knew the end was in sight. Despite the excruciating pain, I managed to pick up the pace and finish with a decent time of just over 4 hours.
I came away from my first marathon with mixed feelings. I’m really glad I did it and it was a thoroughly memorable experience, but I can’t say I’m in a hurry to do another one any time soon!
Dark Skies Run at Kielder, Kielder Northumberland, Saturday, March 24, 2018
Kielder Dark Skies had been on my to-do list, if I ever decided to do a marathon, the photos always looked stunning, it is such a beautiful place and to have full access to the Dark Skies was a bonus (if the weather played nice). The weeks leading up to the race I thought I may need to buy a set of waders but the weather gods looked kindly on us.
I arrived full of excitement, if not the usual pre-race nerves. Got my number, a Trial Outlaw buff (I love a buff!!), sorted my kit bag, a quick final bite to eat and went out for a wander around. Found the other Striders in time for an obligatory Striders selfie and we were off.
I tried to stick to my race plan and not to get carried away with the crowd. Had a little chat with Dougie as we dodged the mud, before looping along the reservoir and heading back up and across the start line again. It was just beautiful, running through the forest with the regular views of the reservoir.
I had had a problem with my foot 2 weeks before the race. Figuring it was tendonitis which I’d had in the past, I rested it and it seemed to be fine, well at least until mile 3!! Ouch. It started to hurt but I tested it and it was manageable so I carried on. A welcome downhill to the reservoir before having to turn back and go up the hill again!!
My playlist hit the spot and along with chatting to various other runners along the way, the miles ticked by. The atmosphere was fab. I was chatting with one guy, maybe around 7 pm and he commented on it still being light; we roughly stayed together for a while, when we realised it was starting to get dark. To see the stars appear almost one by one was magical and before long the sky was lit up with masses of stars. I was gutted that I couldn’t get a photo of it, but it will stay with me in my internal camera. It reminded me of the 6 am dive in the Maldives looking for Hammerhead Sharks. While waiting, the plankton was sparkling all around us and I thought then it looked like a clear night sky.
On I went, by now head torch on and I found myself alone in the forest. I confess prior to the run I had been a little nervous as to how I would feel in the forest, technically, on my own but I absolutely loved it. Kerry had said that when she’d done it, she sometimes switched her torch off and I even did this too, it was so tranquil.
What I will say, is that while I knew it would be a tough race, I had told myself I’d done a few races with big hills Hell Runner (where we were literally clawing at the bankside to get up), Hawkshead took in the Coffin Trail, Paras 10 with ridiculous hills covered in rubble and Bacchus Marathon had 2 fairly steep & long hills which we had to do twice, so the hills didn’t worry me too much. However, I was not prepared for how relentless the ups were and that they seemed to far outweigh the downs (which when they came were often steep) and I didn’t appreciate how little ‘flat’ sections there were. Boy, it was hard going!
Around mile 14 I confess I was in tears, the pain in my foot had got bad, possibly with not getting any rest from going up or down, and I did think I may have to quit at the next CP, but I was still enjoying the run and I really didn’t want to give up (helped somewhat by the paracetamol which had kicked in by the time I reached the Dam).
Taking the great advice from Kerry during our Sunday runs I went with my bronze medal plan – to cross the finish line. At the Dam I met up with a girl I’d ran with earlier in the race and after a brief loo stop and putting on my jacket as it suddenly felt cold, we headed across the dam. I walked this bit with her and once across I ‘trotted off’. She was still walking but with my run/limp speed and her brisk walking we matched each other fairly well and we opted to stay together.
At mile 19 we were still on target for a 6hr/6.15 finish and this spurred us on but after that, I don’t know what happened. Before we knew it a few people caught us and got passed us, the hills through the wood were steep and my Garmin had died so I had no idea how far we were from the next CP. I was feeling very cold and somehow I forgot to keep fuelling. We kept pushing forward and occasionally chatting about all kinds of rubbish but it kept us going, then the thing I dreaded happened…. the tail runners caught us.
We had to get to the last CP by the cut off time and their calculation was we might not make it…. I just felt sick and I know she did too, especially as she was in for the double. We pushed on and on and the lights of Leaplish were in the distance. It felt like it had been a LONG way from the Garmin dying at 22miles. We got to the CP to the marshal saying sorry ladies you’re out of time… Well I swear he must have seen our faces and quickly followed with ‘see those lights? They are the van coming down for us…. if you’re gone, you can’t be picked up’ we were like Mo & Usain as we made our way through Leaplish and I vaguely heard him say only 1.6 to go… after what we’d done that would be nothing!!
We kept going one step at a time and I have to say I was in my own little world and we were through gate after gate and then the TR said just around this corner. Pain forgotten, we pushed on and even the incline to the finish couldn’t dampen my spirits. I’m sure I grabbed her arm and dragged her with me, although I almost forgot the finish was inside the clubhouse! I have never ever been so happy to see a finish line!! I think I my eyes may have leaked!!
Before long my husband, Mum and Jonathan turned up inside. I never saw anyone waiting outside but it was a bit of whirl. We went over the road for our post-run hot meal. My running buddy was sat at a table, I stayed standing up (not convinced I’d get up if I sat down). We had a little hug before I left and she thanked me for staying with her, but it was a joint effort. She was staying over as she was doing the double. Given the time, due to being so long finishing & that the clocks were going forward, I opted to just head back. Hubby brought me a mini bottle of prosecco to celebrate my finish, which I had in the car on the way back. I won’t lie I was devastated to be in the last 2 finishers again, but with a fully functioning foot I am sure I would have at least managed my silver plan, however, I am grateful to the TR’s and the guys at the checkpoint for letting us through.
Overall, a fabulous race and I would say to anyone who fancies it do it. It is not every day you’d get to do something like this. I have discovered a love of running at night and quite like running at night on my own – who knew!
I took my trainers off in the car and my foot looked a little bruised. Still thinking it was tendonitis I wasn’t overly concerned. Got home, showered and put some ice on it and it was clearly swollen. A trip to A&E on the Sunday confirmed I had a full fracture of the 2nd metatarsal (to add insult to injury they were out of purple casts!).
So I’m hoping this is off soon, so I can get back to Club and, fingers crossed, I am fit enough to do Loch Ness in September. It has certainly scuppered my plans for the year!
Hartlepool Marina 5 Road Race, Sunday, April 15, 2018
Five miles isn’t a particularly common race distance in the north-east as far as I can tell, there only seems to be a handful scattered through the race calendar in amongst the more common 5ks, 10ks and half marathons. Perhaps it was this uncommon distance, perhaps being in the middle of the spring marathon season (Paris, Manchester, London etc), or perhaps everyone had rusted up in the biblically damp lead-up to the race. Whatever the reason, it was a relatively small but hard-core Striders contingent of eleven that went out to play.
I scrounged a lift from Jonathan Hamill and his enthusiastic support team in a bid to cut down on carbon emissions. It was an easy journey and not just because I wasn’t driving. We arrived nice and early (just after 9 am), which meant no parking problems. After visiting the boat (not THE boat, sadly – that might have been a little more impressive!) to collect race number (with timing chip) and race t-shirt (sizing’s generous, so I went down a size), we made full use of the nearby McDonalds. Food for the support team, toilets for the athletes. We weren’t the only ones doing it! Other facilities are available.
The weather was starting to warm up from the extended winter we had been “enjoying”. Despite being fine and the sun attempting to break through there was still a chill in the southerly breeze. In the end, I opted to leave a light base layer under my club vest, big wuss that I am.
We warmed-up along Maritime Avenue, where the race would start and finish. By the time we got back to the start the rest of the racers had formed up in the start funnel, so we joined near the back. I was realistic about my likely finish position i.e. nowhere near the front, and the race was chip-timed, so I didn’t see the harm in starting near the back.
The course is essentially flat. It sets out next to the marina following Maritime Avenue through a housing estate before turning up a short incline through a car park and onto the promenade. It is an out and back course so once you’ve reached the turn you know what to expect on the way back. You also get to see the leaders on their return (or the chasers if you’re in the lead). As we met them coming back I counted the places and made Stephen Jackson 9th as we passed and it wasn’t long before I saw Chris Callan and some of our other faster runners on their return, giving me a chance to cheer them on.
I’ve been working my way back from some recent illnesses so I had set an easy expectation on myself – no PB to beat, no pressure. My plan was to set out at 8-minute mile pace, which I thought I could hold all the way through. I would see how I was feeling at 2 miles and then the turn (2.5 miles) and pick up the pace a little if I was feeling OK.
And I kind of stuck to that plan. Kind of. I held 8-minute mile pace for nearly 2 miles but seeing the leaders gave me a burst of adrenaline and my pace picked up before I realised what was happening. It felt OK and sustainable, so I kept at it, keeping around 7:40 pace most of the way back along the promenade. I was picking off other runners all the way back and this was the other advantage of starting from the back and running negative splits, it gave me natural targets to aim for. The route was plenty wide enough to allow easy passing all the way.
Getting to the last 600m or so I dropped back through the car park onto Maritime Avenue and the slight downward slope gave me the impetus to start pushing for the finish.
I’ve always had a finishing kick (a legacy of being a failed sprinter) so really wound it up in the final stretch, earning me a shout out from the tannoy announcer.
Stephen was first male Strider home (8th overall in 26:23) and Fiona Jones was first female (20th woman in 35:26 gun time). There were some other excellent times from Striders, including both Chris Callan and Michael Littlewood coming in under 30 minutes (sub 6-minute mile average). In total there were 493 runners with times ranging from a blistering 24:16 (new CR from Dominic Shaw of New Marske Harriers) to just over 1:07.
I loved this race. It was a great course, inexpensive and accessible. It’s a good opportunity to run this less common distance and a real PB opportunity.
29th Allendale Challenge, Allendale near Hexham, Saturday, April 7, 2018
I first heard about this race a few years ago when Mike Hughes told me he’d done a race which involved running over mounds of mud which were taller than him. I couldn’t quite envisage what he meant and whilst intrigued I didn’t really want to experience it myself at the time I was more interested in trying to get PB’s in road races rather than wading through mud for hours.
Fast forward a couple of years and I will do pretty much anything to avoid running on the road and am one of those slightly strange people who go out in search of mud and hills every weekend.
Having missed a couple of other long fell races I was looking through the race diary and spotted the Allendale Challenge on a weekend where I knew I was going to be child-free. What had sounded like madness now seemed like the perfect way to spend a cold April Saturday.
After a spectacularly wet and cold winter, it was clear the conditions were not going to be good. Apparently, this race is muddy even after the driest of winters. This didn’t bother me too much and I was quite cheered to see the weather forecast was kind-ish; clear in the morning and a bit of drizzle for the last couple of hours of the race. Perfect for when you’re getting a bit hot…
Geoff, John and I headed over early on Saturday morning and got there about an hour before the race started. It was a lovely morning and I imagined the walkers (who set out 2 hours before the runners) would be having a lovely time. After a quick warm-up, we were sent on our way. With gloves and two layers, I was soon quite hot.
The race starts with a reasonable amount of climb on road and then gradually you move onto track and after a few miles, you’re into the fun stuff. Geoff and I had been to and froing up until this point but once we got into the mud I seemed to lose him and also got myself to the front of the ladies’ race. I’m not sure how as I felt like I was moving backwards through the thick bog. The only way I realised I was going faster than walking pace was that I started to pass quite a few of the walkers.
It was at this point that the “drizzle” arrived. At first, it was just that and quite pleasant but it quite quickly became heavy and rather than refreshing was just making it even harder to see properly and to gauge how deep the mud was. This is one of those races where you can’t get into a rhythm – every few steps a leg will disappear deep into the mud and I had soon coated both legs from foot to thigh in thick mud. As we climbed up towards Killhope I stopped to put my waterproof on – I was starting to get really cold and the extra layer gave me a boost as I was immediately much more comfortable.
Killhope is the highest point of the race and about halfway through the 26 miles. I knew the race had more climb in the first half and was looking forward to speeding up after the hard work climbing through mud, rain and snow. The descent arrived and I did feel better – it was a stony track that went on seemingly forever. Not the most comfortable in fell shoes but a relief after the mud. After a quick checkpoint, we were back in mud though and on the way up again. And then the peat bogs…
Mike hadn’t been wrong.. I thought I knew mud but this was something else. You completely lose your sense of direction when you’re hidden amongst enormous piles of peat… so whilst some people tried to run between them I kept going over the top to try and spot the runners ahead of me. Typically I lost confidence in my route choice so did a bit of shuffling around trying to decide who I should be following. Eventually, we came through it and I was pleased to hear a few supporters and walkers telling me I was still the first female.
There was now about 8 miles to go and I’d been told that the final section was not too tough – a long slow climb (“the drag”) and then an easy-ish descent back into Allendale. I felt good. At this stage in a long race I know if I’m going to crash or not and today was a good day.
As I sped down an easy rocky descent before the drag I knew it was all for the taking – first lady and (perhaps more importantly) a victory over Geoff!
Then suddenly a rock decided it had other plans for me, in slow motion I went over one rock then my leg crashed against another and finally my head clunked hard onto a third. It was like they were all distributed carefully to cause me as much damage as possible. I was winded but thought I should be ok to carry on. The runner behind me thought differently – he told me to sit down and shouted ahead to get medical help. I told him I had to finish the race and I was fine. (I’d DNF’d my last long race and was not about to let that happen again). He said I was bleeding and should get my head looked at. I put my hand to my head and realised he was right…with a handful of blood and legs which were beginning to hurt more, it became apparent I had to do the sensible thing. I wasn’t giving up though and my new friend started to walk me up to the medical van so I could get sorted as quickly as possible.
I had a few shocked looks as I climbed up but I assured everyone I was fine. At the van, I told them repeatedly that I had to finish the race. They seemed to think my health was more important (obviously not runners) and insisted on doing various checks, cleaning all my wounds and asking me a series of questions, to most of which I replied: “I’m fine, I need to finish the race”. After several minutes a lady passed and I complained to the medical team that I’d lost my place – still I wasn’t allowed to go. A few minutes later and Geoff appeared looking a touch concerned (but not enough to stop!). Eventually, I was allowed to head off as long as I promised to stop if I felt ill and to check in with the final checkpoint. I was determined to gain back the places I’d lost and set off at a good pace up the drag. It wasn’t long before I spotted Geoff and I could tell he was using the run/walk system, which I’d read in previous reports he often found sensible for this section. I knew I could get him, so dug in and before long I passed him. Then I thought I spotted the first lady ahead of me and sped up again to try and catch her. I think this was a mistake… it turned out not to be the first lady but a man… and the burst of speed was swiftly followed by a wave of nausea. The weather was getting worse and worse with rain falling heavily and I couldn’t work out if my vision was blurred because of the head injury or because of the rainwater filling my eyes. I slowed down for the descent to the next checkpoint feeling sicker and sicker and cursing myself for thinking I could run at speed after my fall.
On arrival at the checkpoint, as promised, I was given another check over and asked whether I felt well enough to continue. I admitted I felt sick but figured with only 3.5 miles to go I had nothing to lose. So I continued, now at a walk and still in mud (so much for the easy finish to the race…). Before long Geoff passed me – he asked if I wanted him to walk/run with me but I declined, preferring to admit defeat… There is a short section along the river towards the end which I’d imagined would be quite pleasant but even that was deep in mud. I managed to build back up to a run and before long I was on the final road which would take me back to Allendale, warmth and food!
I finally got to the hall in 4 hrs 48 minutes… not quite where I wanted to be… and not the first lady but still a very happy runner.
My head wound decided the end of the race was a signal to start bleeding again so I was properly patched up and given a full MOT by the fabulous mountain rescue staff whilst Geoff (who had beaten me by 2 minutes in the end!) provided sweet tea and Jaffa cakes to get my blood sugar levels up.
Not long after, John returned and we made our way to the Golden Lion for pie and peas, the perfect way to celebrate finishing what had been a tough race for everyone, Geoff claiming that in 13 years of running the race, this had been the worst conditions yet.
If anyone has made it this far, I must say a massive thank you to the North of Tyne Mountain Rescue team both on the course and back at Allendale. We know from their incredible work looking after Rob Wishart last year that the emergency services are brilliant at what they do and they proved this again. Profits from the race go towards this fantastic resource and for that reason alone I recommend it to anyone. However, unless you’re a really big fan of mud I’d suggest choosing a slightly drier year!
|Place overall||Place gender||Place cat.||Name||Runner no||Category||Finish|
|1||1||1||KIPCHOGE, Eliud (KEN)||3||18-39||02.04.17|
|15||1||1||CHERUIYOT, Vivian (KEN)||109||18-39||02.18.31|
|142||142||111||Jackson, Stephen (GBR)||1397||18-39||02.39.31|
|455||449||78||Littlewood, Michael (GBR)||1965||40-44||02.50.28|
|631||621||434||Pritchard, Gareth (GBR)||1444||18-39||02.54.14|
|703||692||475||Kearney, Mark (GBR)||1989||18-39||02.55.32|
|9241||2067||1155||Walton, Katy (GBR)||20291||18-39||03.58.02|
|10682||2558||181||Davies, Sarah (GBR)||10045||50-54||04.05.42|
|12922||3374||716||Gardham, Sue (GBR)||20293||40-44||04.16.41|
|25121||8102||120||Bradley, Jean (GBR)||24716||60-64||05.09.38|
|28404||9697||5229||Brannan, Stacey (GBR)||20292||18-39||05.24.56|
|30424||10716||61||Farnsworth, Christine (GBR)||30595||65-69||05.35.48|
|35569||13532||88||Thompson, Margaret (GBR)||20290||65-69||06.10.04|
NN Rotterdam Marathon, Rotterdam, Sunday, April 8, 2018
Overall a very good, flat, fast course (5th fastest in the world), with amazing support but quite narrow on some crucial points. Would definitely recommend it as an international race.
This was the most spontaneous decision to run a race I have ever made. I made the decision to sign up for it over a coffee with a Dutch friend in Rotterdam while I was telling her that I was preparing for the Athens Authentic Marathon back in October. She said to me “Oh there is a big one here every April why don’t you sign up for it?” and I just did.
Despite this being my third marathon, training had not gone ideally since I had to do about two weeks’ worth of running (including two of my 16-mile long runs) on the treadmill on the very snowy days because (a) I’m Greek and I don’t function in snow and (b) I have no shoes or balance that could provide traction on it. However, I did feel stronger and all the indications from a club time trial and from a tempo run which broke my 5k PB were that I could bring down my Marathon PB of 3:49:15. So I was contemplating a sub 3:45 with the assistance of a pacer as I had told Jack Lee over countless lunch runs (by the way Jack, thank you for joining me for all of those, your help was much needed).
On Saturday I had to go to Rotterdam to pick up my bib number which is a bit of a hassle, especially if you reside away from the city. Nevertheless, the Expo was really nice, with lots of interesting stands. I got a bit too excited about all the other international marathon stands that I might have accidentally signed up for a ballot for a free marathon in Svalbard in the North Pole!
Later that day, the race organisers announced that because temperatures might rise to around 19 degrees, they would have water stops for the last 10 km for every 2.5 km instead of 5 and also wet sponge stops to cool you down.
Race day was on. Woke up around 5:45 with my girlfriend’s home being about 2 hours away. Changing trains at Schiphol Airport meant that we witnessed tourists looking curiously at the hundreds of people dressed in shorts and vests boarding the Rotterdam train.
We arrived there around 9:00 (race start was at 10:05 am). In terms of the bag drop, it is pretty straightforward and relatively fast, with the only exception that due to security measures you are not allowed to drop your own bag but a designated transparent one you receive at the Race Expo along with your finisher shirt.
The starting pens were easy to find, but my only complaint on this was that there were toilets inside the pens which meant people queued very disorderly to use them. Regardless, I was ready, gels packed (one every 4 miles), the temperature was meant to be nice (15-19 degrees) and sunny, I had planned my water stops and also had the 3:45 pacers in sight.
The race start was given under the sounds of “You’ll never walk alone” which was sung by runners and spectators and a Dutch singer on a microphone. However, with all the queues in the toilets, I realized I had lost the 3:45 pacer that I wanted to follow. Nevertheless, I decided to stick to running by feel and knew that I wanted around 8:30 min/miles in order to be happy. So the first thing you see after the first 500 metres in the run is this:
This is the famous Erasmus Bridge and is quite a spectacle to cross and also have the tugboats hosing water around it. This is also the only part of the race where there is an apparent elevation change.
The first 16 miles of the course, are on the southern part of the city, which has quite a few changes in order to keep you entertained.
In the first 2-3 miles, you cross the area around F.C. Feyenoord’s football stadium and there was quite a large group of people dressed in their colours cheering us up with brass bands and drums. Also, the race organisers had provided with a band every 3-4 km in order for the runners to remain entertained. In no time the first 10k were in, in a comfortable time of 52:53 with a pace of about 8:29 mins. At that point I gauged how I felt and I thought I could maybe cut off another 5 secs per mile up to the half marathon point.
Support at this point of the race was not ideal as there were parts where you were running through the banks of a canal on a narrow cycle road so people were not able to reach it in order to cheer. However, on every major intersection of public roads, there were huge crowds which made deafening noise and definitely pushed you on.
As I said before, in terms of city geography, the Rotterdam Marathon is a nice one as the first 26 km are basically done in the south part of the city, which is the relatively rougher area. This is because the old harbour was located there, so this led to seeing the what was considered a poor part of the city with the towering concrete blocks around miles 9-15. These areas are however now up and coming, as there is a lot of renovation occurring with the old storage houses being turned into food halls, cafes or restaurants. There are even hotels and student halls made out of old containers! However, me being a tourist while running also had another effect which was going quite faster at a pace around 8:15-8:20 having gotten my mind off the running. This meant my HM time was at 1:50:32!
At that point I realized that all I had to do was run the other half 64 seconds faster, and I would have broken the 3:40 barrier. So I geared up mentally for that and pushed onwards. I had only to do what I was doing so far and I was on track for it.
Now between mile 16 and mile 17 is the part where you cross back to the central part of the city again going through the Erasmus Bridge where I managed to get my first “feet off the ground photo”.
Another quite funny thing about that bridge is that, as I said before, it is the only part that has a noticeable elevation change in the race. It is about 60-70 feet over 500 metres of distance. For an average Strider, who runs in Durham daily, this is like a walk in the park, but it turns out that for most Dutch people, it isn’t. I noticed quite a few people stopping running while going up the “hill”. On the other side of the bridge, my girlfriend was waiting for me to cheer me up and she made me push on.
However, the race was far from over. Back to around 2 weeks ago and me sitting in my office looking at the race map and saying to Jack Lee that “miles 19 to 24 are around a park, so support will be significantly less and this is when I also hit the wall in Manchester”. And that was the case. Although you first go through miles 17-19 which are absolutely packed with supporters, you then have to run around the Kralingse Plas which is a big reservoir to the north of the city. There, support was much sparser, especially in the first two miles and as if that was not enough, the sun came out and the temperature went to around 22-24 degrees.
All of this, plus my mind telling me to quit, forced me to go through a “mini-wall” of 5 miles where I was averaging 8:28-8:30. Not enough of a slowing down to be called a proper bonking/walling but enough to put a dent in any chance of breaking 3:40. Still, when I realised I was approaching mile 25, I pushed myself as much as I could.
By then the route has gone back through the city so you cross areas with thousands of people making support amazing. Similarly to what I had seen in Manchester, people were bringing out jellybeans, oranges, bananas and water to hand to basically random strangers running past them. This, I think, is something that motivates me the most in such races. Seeing people who do not know you just scream out your name, as they can see you struggle, or offer you some food or even a thumbs up and a smile. Just because they at that moment respect what you are going through and want with their own way to push you forward.
Now by the end, I was again in the 8:10 min/mile region and was hoping for a chance in a good sprint in the last two km. However, in the last water stop, at km 40 because of the sheer volume of spectators, the course was narrowed down to a few metres width, resulting in not enough space to overtake having grabbed your water cup. And the guy in front of me stopped dead on his feet to drink water. And I had to stop.
Now if you’ve run a marathon, you know that stopping at mile 25 is practically game over for any pacing plan you had before. I might have stopped for about 5 seconds, but it was enough to make it hard sprinting again. As an example, in Athens, I managed to do 8:12, 7:57 and 6:38-minute miles for miles 25, 26 and the 0.2 finish. That was an 8:38 min/mile overall marathon. In Rotterdam, I did 8:15, 8:21 (water stop incident) and 7:37 and the final average pace was 8:22 mins/mile. I reckon it was at that moment that I realised I was not going to break 3:40. Still, it would be a PB in the region of 7-8 minutes so I should still be happy.
And so I did, I gathered my biggest smile and ran that last km. And then it hit me for some reason: I was finishing my third Marathon in a third different country, having brought my PB down by 25 minutes in a year, having lost 20 pounds of weight, running in a running club’s colours. I realised that this is definitely not a bucket list thing. This is a part of me, something that defines my everyday life, it has taught me things about myself I would have never known. All the miserable winter miles that I so hated doing were worth it just for those last moments in the famous Coolsingel road, where your ears literally hurt from the roar of the crowds. I tried really hard for the third marathon not to get shorter breathing (a.k.a. cry) because of all of those emotions coming to me (and to look suave in the finishing picture). The final time was 3:40:55 (turns out I did run the second half faster by 9 seconds).
I would definitely recommend this race to anyone. It was a bit unlucky that I got 23-degree heat which made things a bit harder, but overall it is a very fast course. Support can be a bit lonely in that last part, but if you plan for it I guess you can counter that. It takes you through a very nice tour of the city as well, crossing that wonderful bridge, seeing the historic building in the city centre and the rougher part of the harbour in the south as well. I would definitely consider re-doing it in a couple of years since it is well organised and very fun.
Cannonball 100KM Canalathon, Sowerby Bridge to Manchester and back, Sunday, March 25, 2018
5 am on the morning that the clocks changed, how cruel is this RD?!? And the alarm goes off, final preps stumbled through, ice scraped off the car before registration and a 7 am start time. The Canalathon race briefing was simple, run to Manchester, run back. If you get timed out don’t argue, just accept it and come back again next year to try again, simple.
I think the 13 hour cut off had definitely had an effect on the number of entries, averaging 12:30mm shouldn’t have been too much of a challenge but take off that stops at CPs and any time wasted on navigational errors and it was looking a bit tighter. There were only 52 registered and as it was only 36 showed up; only 4 females. This was going to be a potentially long lonely run, not helped by a complete ban on headphones. I’d have to keep myself amused.
7 am and we were set off, running down the streets of Sowerby Bridge then onto the canals and in the first mile of the race, people’s intentions became clear. No one was hanging about. I’d intended on sticking to a 9 min run, 1 min walk for as long as possible but to warm up the legs decided to run the first couple of miles which allowed me to settle into a nice little group of 4, in joint last place averaging 10mm! As the rest of the field disappeared into the distance decisions had to be made, did I stick to my original plan and take up the last place on the theory that the others were either superhuman or had gone out too fast, so would be caught later? Or did the plan go out of the window and I try and stick with the others at the back. I figured the original plan was more likely to result in me finishing but the run-walk was at a quicker pace than ever should have been sensible, I wanted to keep the others in sight.
5 miles in and the route crossed a road, the towpath disappears in places so you have to deviate off then back on, but as I was trying to vaguely keep up with the group in front I wasn’t concentrating and followed them up the road. What’s an extra ½ mile when you’re already at the back and pushing the time limits? Only on ending up in the middle of Hebden Bridge did I shout the others back and we managed to get ourselves back onto the towpath.
I briefly managed to end up 4th last as I’d turned back first but that didn’t last long and soon I was tail running the field again.
Another navigational error at Todmorden saw more time lost but I finally got to CP1; an extra mile in total added onto the route by this point. I think being last unfortunately meant that the food that had been put out for the 100Kers had been demolished and fresh supplies hadn’t been put out, so no food picked up here. A quick cup of coke was downed before it was onwards and upwards.
From here the canal started to properly climb up to the Summit Inn. Locks were getting closer and closer together and each climb at the lock seemed to get steeper. Luckily the scenery in this section is definitely the prettiest experienced along the canal and this acted as a nice distraction to the task at hand. Beyond the summit, the downhills after every lock, rather than the gradual uphill grind, were greatly appreciated and the next few miles flew by, helped by the steady flow of 50K runners coming the other way who were all so encouraging of us 100K nutters.
The sun had come out and it was really quite a nice day, so different from the horrible conditions we’d faced in training in the run-up to the race. CP2 was really crowded with the 50Kers coming the other way so it was a matter of grabbing a couple of Jaffa cakes, a cup of coke and legging it. Shortly after this, the lack of food and fluids started to hit. Going too quick and running through CPs was not on the plan. I never trust races to provide decent food at the CPs so I was carrying enough with me to get by but nothing was appealing. Forcing a bar down over the next few miles I started to feel a bit more human and gradually I started to catch a few runners.
The canal heading towards Ancoats starts to go through some dodgier areas at times so there was no hanging about and I’d heard a couple of messages come through but wasn’t going to dig into my bag to find my phone.
With about ½ a mile to go to the turnaround point, I spot a couple of purple hoodies… was this a mirage? Was I hallucinating? Or had our wonderful Captain and Vice-Captain come down to support?!? Yup.
As I got closer the latter became apparent and what a pleasant and appreciated surprise that was. 50K is a long way to run alone and knowing you were about to turn round and run the whole thing back again is enough to start to play games with your head. Knowing that I had friends who had taken their time to come down and cheer me on meant that a DNF was not going to be on the cards, whatever happened.
I did then run off and leave them to get to the CP, I needed to have the distance ticked off. A quick catch up at the CP and it was time to make the return journey, retrace my steps hopefully minus the navigational errors.
Having run downhill for the last 17 miles it was a gradual uphill again for 17. The run-walk was being dictated by the locks which were messing up my rhythm and it was between the halfway mark and the CP at 42ish miles that the wheels well and truly came off.
It was here that I struggled the last time I ran this race, with the result being me DNFing at Rochdale. I wasn’t going to let it happen again. A lad on a motorbike kept riding up and down the towpath which was freaking me out slightly, as in a tired stumbly state with fairly deep water to your side you don’t need any extra distractions.
A lot of families walking and on bikes were also around along with dogs on extendable leads, all making life more difficult once you’ve lost the ability to steer.
There was less and less running and more and more walking and I could feel the time I’d built up slipping away. Now was not the time to panic, a constant drip feed of shot bloks and fluids kept me going but I knew despite feeling sick I was going to have to eat something at the next checkpoint.
Due to going over distance on the way out I couldn’t work out exactly where the CP was distance wise on the way back and one bit of industrial canal looks very much the same as another bit so the sight of purple hoodies again was fab. I was just hoping that they hadn’t run out from the CP to find me. Luckily not and with Catherine sent on the hunt for chocolate milk I walked the final stage. More coke, a couple of Jaffa cakes (this eating of food thing just wasn’t happening), and chocolate milk and I was sent on my way hoping I wouldn’t be sick after consuming such a ridiculous combo.
While walking with Kerry I’d been talking about the Summit Inn and saying that even though it wasn’t the halfway mark on the return journey it would feel like it was, as beyond there it’s downhill and I knew that I would get to the finish. My pace was still dropping but I knew that once we stopped climbing I would start to run more again and it would improve.
Due to the first overly speedy 50K, I had plenty of time in the bank and for the first time in the day wasn’t last. There weren’t many behind me but knowing there was at least someone was reassuring. A message asking me to let them know when I could see the pub made me wonder if they’d decided to come to there to support rather than the next CP and sure enough a beer holding mirage appeared. Never has beer tasted so good or produced such an improvement in both mood and performance, I positively flew down the next few miles to CP5 with a smile on my face.
CP6 was only 5 miles further along the canal as they decided to position one on the road crossing that had been our downfall on the way out. I managed to find the little footbridge over the canal at Todmorden on the return journey so no wasted time or effort there and it didn’t seem like anytime at all before the support reappeared.
As I walked along to the CP with them I was repeatedly steered away from the edge of the canal by an increasingly highly pitched Catherine. The recent wet weather meant the towpath was rather muddy and slippy in places and I think she could envisage a rather soggy end to my race. Luckily without any mishaps I got to the last CP only to find out they’d run out of coke, vile tasting energy drink would have to do instead.
Last 5 miles and time to walk them, if I needed to, but I could smell the finish and suddenly the competitive side of me decided to kick in. I’d overtaken 3 guys on the way to the last CP and there was no way they were catching me and I had another runner in sight, so 59 miles into an ultra I decide to give chase.
Not knowing how far I actually had to go didn’t really help but soon enough I’d caught and passed that guy and shortly after that, the finish appeared wahoo!! Never have I been so glad to finish a race. Having DNFed my previous 2 canal ultras, never having finished one despite running further on what would be classed as “more difficult” courses I just wanted a finish time and I’d done it. In the end.
Would I recommend the race? If you like canals and flat routes and don’t mind running on your own for large sections then yes, the CPs are well spaced out and the marshals are super friendly. I, however, am never ever running along a canal again, give me hills any day.