So, there I was on Sunday morning, sitting in reception at MC convinced that no-one would turn up. I mean there had been the North Eastern XC Championships the day before, the Tri-club Christmas do the night before and it is the ‘season to be jolly’ … and sometimes ill!
But then the doors opened and in walked an image of long haired hippiedom, (if that’s a word) with beads, scarves and shades, looking like he’d just emerged from the Woodstock festival and uttering ‘peace and love, man’. An unrecognisable version of David Shipman.
Moments later Adam Ant arrived in full highwayman ‘Stand and Deliver’ mode brandishing a pistol – very menacingly I have to say. Anita Clementson had landed!
And then came Mandy! Clutched in the arms of a massive green alien she waddled in. Walking seemed difficult so how she was going to cope with running 2 laps of Houghall Woods escaped me.
Somehow then I knew it was going to be alright!
Then there followed an array of runners in astonishing and funny costumes. John Bisson, who had wanted to race it arrived in a massive inflated Santa costume while Elaine (Dancing Queen) Bisson looked luscious as Agnetha (the blonde?) from Abba.
We had many others – several 70s Flower power hippies, Wonder Woman, Santa’s elves, a busy bee, John McEnroe, Olivia Newton John in complete leather ‘You’re the one that I want’ mode, Hermione from Harry Potter and Fiona (Brittany Spears) Brannan.
No time for a group shot this year since everyone set off to the start outside Houghall College. The weather was good – cold but sunny – and so David Shipman & Mike Bennett (the 2 one lappers) led the run off with scratch runner Joanne Richardson. Some of the paths were slippery along to the corner up to Houghall Lane but everyone knew and ran on the grass where possible. Most people were just out for a relaxing run around the woods but there were some good times.
Anyway, everyone got around – some pulled out after one lap – and Priyan didn’t get lost this year! It was a very happy and fun event and then most of us set off for the pub. The Court Inn gave us a small alcove off the main dining room so we could present the prizes without disturbing other diners too much.
It was a very good and enjoyable day! Be there next year!
Erin Keeler- Clark
Priyan Mistri (friend of FB)
Prize winners & a few thank yous
The prizes for running:
1st finishers – jointly Louise & Jude Warner – 46.19
Fastest Male – Michael Littlewood – 31.34
Fastest Female – Anna Basu – 35.57
Fastest Junior – Lewis Littlewood – 38.38
All the other prizes went for fancy dress as follows and in no particular order:
Shipman, Anita Clementson, Mandy Dawson, Keith Wesson, Sean Laidler,
Elaine Bisson, John Bisson, Lizzie Wallace, Zanna Clay, Phil Todd, Jan
Young, Fiona Brannan, Priyan Mistri & Mark Warner.
I’d like to thank Dougie, Simon and Stuart for helping to promote the event.
thanks to Paul Foster for setting out the course and marshalling at the
dodgy tree, to George Nicholson for marshalling at the bottom of
Houghall Lane and to Nick Latham for marshalling in the woods and taking
some great photos
As always Santa
and his elves were brilliant at the start and judged the fancy dress
and Carole Seheult recorded the finishing times.
And a huge thankyou to everyone who turned up and ran (waddled, strolled?) in such amazing costumes.
If you can get the day of work, or not work at all, the Military League army orienteering events are great for the runner. I usually do not too badly in them, and over the years I’ve seen myself creep up the placings. The navigation is usually not too difficult and nowadays, more often than not, I’m pretty happy with my result.
Wednesday’s event at Catterick, was not one of those days.
These are army events, and are put on for the army as training events. Most of them are open to civilians, in possession of a passport and a free day. So well suited to the freelancer, the homeworker, the worker on flexitime, and the retired. It’s a wondrous mix.
I was feeling pretty confident as I checked the blank map at the Start. There’s been a couple of occasions recently in orienteering events where I’ve accidentally strayed into Out of Bounds areas so I tend to check the map legend more closely nowadays. And this map had a clear section for Out of Bounds areas. In urban areas this is worth paying attention to. You don’t want to accidentally run through someone’s garden, or across a sensitive bit of parkland, or munitions, or whatever. And I noted, with interest, that Water was Out of Bounds. Well that might make things interesting.
The first few controls were in the barracks, then we were ejected out of the gate that had taken so much security to get into, and into the surrounding area. The navigation got a bit fiendish now, especially as the water had been marked as out of bounds. Which, to be frank, I thought was pretty pathetic. I’ve seen beefier becks at Hamsterley and that is (rarely) marked as out of bounds. Who’s going to take a long detour round to the nearest footbridge when a brief paddle will do the job much more quickly.
Still, rules is rules. And from a runner’s point of view, there was a certain switch-of-brain-now satisfaction in a long tempo run along, across, and round, then back along again, but even so, it was a long way round. I mean, look at 17 to 18, and 24 to 25, and so help me God, 22 to 23. I mean, look at it again. 22 to 23, and you’re not allowed to to paddle across! My split was almost 11 minutes, when it should’ve been almost 2. I did look hard at the pipeline crossings; they were not marked out of bounds, but I suspected (rightly) than large amounts of barbed wire might be involved, and they might not be a worthwhile route of investigation.
So you might be ahead of me here, and can guess the next bit. I got to download, asked who the planner was, and Phill Batts brightly announced that it was he. I complemented him on the fiendishness of the course, the decision to mark water out of bounds, and dryly (I thought, but let’s be frank, probably closer to waspishly) observed that a lot of runners had taken a non-legal direct line.
Phill looked puzzled, and mildly pointed out that the blue out of bounds area, on the out of bounds bit of the map, was a dark blue, with a border, and the beck, on the map, was light blue, and without a border. So the beck was very much not out of bounds.
Bugger. Given that I’d taken the non-scenic route I was happy not to be last, but annoyed at myself for making such a daft mistake. But as I always tell myself, I’m not going to get on the podium, so however the day unfolds, an orienteering event is always a great bit of training.
Having watched Graeme in, we were off, up a short muddy slope through the woods and out into open moorland. A slow run soon turned into a steady hands-on-knees walk as the slope steepened through bracken and heather. The next hour or so was hard work. Muddy tussocky narrow paths, the occasional bog and stream crossing, and short sharp uphills, grabbing on to rocks and heather for extra grip. When we didn’t have our heads down watching where our feet needed to land next, Paul and I had the odd exchange.
Alright, yeh, keep it going, fast walk, no shame in that, Kendal mint cake, no thanks, stunning view, no sign of Elaine and Fiona, phew…..
Between checkpoints 4 and 5 we had our only real route choice. Contour round to the next checkpoint, longer but safer, or a more direct route down into a gully, through a stream and up the other side. We went for the latter, stumbling down through knee-high heather and head-high bracken down a steep ravine before crossing the stream and clambering up onto a runnable track where our pace picked up again. We began the final climb and reached checkpoint 5 having gained a few places. The final mile was the fastest of the 8, it was great to stretch the legs on a gradual downhill path, before descending steeply through heather, open field and woodland, handing over to Geoff and Nigel for leg 3. A great team event, well organised, perfect weather and a very tasty chilli at the end. Who’s up for next year then?!
OK, strap yourself in. I’m turning the Nostalgia dial up to 11.
Back in the day, when I was a lad, we’d often go to visit my grandparents in Peebles. My brother and I would spend weekends playing in Hay Lodge Park, jumpers for goalposts, and exploring the woods along the River Tweed. My grandparents lived in Hay Lodge Cottage, opposite the park gates, where my aunt still lives. As I grew up in Edinburgh I’d still visit Hay Lodge Park, with my student chums, and late at night, we’d sometimes manage to get into Neidpath Tunnel and walk through casting our torches ahead like something out of Scooby Doo. The real challenge was to walk through, alone, without a torch. Larks.
The whole stretch of line here is an engineering marvel, from the tunnel to the viaduct with its amazing skew-arch construction, which was necessary as the bridge crosses the Tweed at an angle. There are stories that suggest that the Royal Train hid in the 600 yard tunnel during WW2 as the King and Queen visited war damage in Clydeside. Great story. Not even sure if I’m bothered about whether it’s true.
Fast forward 40 years and things have changed a little. Hay Lodge Park now has a parkrun, and the tunnel is open to the public. It’s normally unlit, but for one day, the tunnel is lit for the Tweed Tunnel Run.
I first heard about the run when I saw that Colin Blackburn had ran it previously. It looked a hoot. Three courses to choose from; 20km, 10km, and 4km. I signed up and put it in the diary.
The weather wasn’t looking great for the run, which was a bit of a shame. There’s a lot of autumn colour and contrasts and a ray or two of sunshine would’ve made for stunning conditions with the Tweed running high after all the rain. The Start was an intriguing affair. Like many races there was the problem of bottlenecks early on, especially with narrow wet rocky rough paths within the first kilometre. The organisers tackled this in an interesting way; every runner was set off individually, with the fast guys off first. It reminded me of these scenes you see of people taking a parachute jump; the starter would tap a competitor, say GO, then the next one would move forward, and a few seconds later (4 I think), the process was repeated. They allow half an hour to get all the 20km runners away, then it’s time for the 10km runners.
I’d seeded myself near the back of the pack and it was about 10 minutes before I finally got going. Even so, it became apparent to me pretty quickly that this was not going to be a quick race. I was full of a big tea from the previous evening, and I was beginning to suspect my field research into the relative merits of Clipper IPA vs Broughton Pale Ale had perhaps, on the whole, been a little too extensive. I settled down into a comfortable pace that seemed to be slightly slower than everyone else’s, meaning that I was steadily overtaken on the narrow paths.
On my feet I was wearing a pair of reliable and comfortable but worn Saucony Nomad trail shoes that had served me well. But the recent rain meant the paths were muddy and slippy. The route is mostly trail with occasional track and short sections of road, but even so, if it’s as wet as this next year I’ll wear a shoe with a more aggressive sole.
The route itself was wonderful. I thought I knew the area pretty well but the race took us upriver and across bridges and along paths I never knew existed. I loved the contrasts. I love woodland paths but this was all mixed in with tracks and riverside and open hillside, with twists and turns so you were never quite sure what was coming next.
Having done a few ultras I thought a 20km trail run would be pretty easy and I was surprised when we got to the 10km marker and got that ‘only half-way’ feeling. But I wasn’t pushing hard and I was happy to run easy and enjoy the views. One advantage of non-standard distance races on mixed terrain is there’s no benchmark. So I felt no pressure to go faster, as frankly, what was the point?
We were led onto open hillside and an exposed climb round Cademuir to the highest point of the course where the views of Peebles and the valleys made me stop and stare for a bit. Then there was some fun descending down slippy paths where again I felt the lack of traction in my shoes. It wasn’t downhill all the way though with a few kick-ups here and there, before the feed point and the turn into South Park Wood and the approach to the tunnel.
This bit of the race was a series of flashbacks, probably mostly imagined, as the last time I’d played in these woods was a long time ago, usually involving convoluted plot adaptations of Swiss Family Robinson. Still, every now and then I’d see a familiar path or feature and it was curious to see how much had changed, and how much hadn’t.
The routes converged and split a few times, and on the final descent to the tunnel there was a bit of congestion. There were no obvious problems as far as I could see though, and I guess if I was a bit faster, I’d be in front of the pinch points. I quite like these mixed-pace runs that you often see with LDWA events where the runners catch the walkers and there’s a lovely big melting pot of runners and walkers all out doing their own thing on their own terms.
The approach to the tunnel was quite a thing. Quite theatrical as it got closer, and then 674 yards until daylight again. I liked it. I wasn’t sure I would as I thought it might be a bit cheesy, but I think they got it just right. There were walkers and runners in the tunnel but I jogged through and enjoyed the surrealism, knowing that I’d be back for seconds later.
One of the great things about this event is that after the races are over there’s a 3.5km walk that you can sign up for that takes in a loop over the viaduct then back through the tunnel. This means the day can be a family affair as the runner has time to get back, finish, then go out on the walk again.
I set out with Roberta on the walk, retracing bits of the run route, and this time with plenty of time to enjoy the tunnel again.
I’ve already signed up for 2020. If you fancy a taster of what to expect, and to see some more, ahem, professional quality video of 2019, have a look at the Tweedlove video below. And I’m not just saying that because I make a brief appearance (1:34 since you ask).
All I can say is “ I was conned”. I can’t remember who said it is all downhill or flat , but someone did. I entered this one only about 2 months ago, on a whim, and to have an excuse for a short Scottish holiday with my husband to incorporate him cycling and us walking in the Cairngorms.
So having driven all the bloomin way up to Inverness, with a stopover in Perth, it was fairly rude of the weather to be so lousy. The Event Village was already cold and muddy on the Saturday at registration but by the time we got back to the finish line Sunday afternoon , it was a quagmire. Before that though we had to get to the start by transport buses in the dark and rain , an hour’s drive to a howling moor at the top of a hill above Loch Ness in the middle of nowhere.
I’ve never stood in a toilet queue for 50 mins in a bin bag before, but the young Swiss chaps in front of me ( in kilts) gave me a nip of their herbal hooch to warm me up. I couldn’t find my fellow Striders, other than a quick wave to Sophie and Debra from the queue. So no group photo unfortunately.
Then a miracle happened: the start line assembly involved repeated plays of The Proclaimers 500 miles and the rain stopped and as we trotted over the start to the accompaniment of a piped band, we were off, downhill ( as promised).
Now I knew that the people weaving past me at speed would probably regret it later, so I kept a happy steady pace and tried to enjoy the moors, trees, greyness etc. Then we saw the Loch and the route runs beside it for several miles and this is where I was conned because it keeps undulating up and down. Nothing severe but my legs could feel it. I ran with a lovely young Scot called Iain for a while and we talked about his caber tossing and bagpipe playing amongst other things. Mile 17.5-18.5 is a hill that I knew I would run : walk so I sent my husband a text to say I was probably going to take 5 hrs and he could judge when to stand in the cold at Inverness. I had seen Karen for a cheery smile and Aileen and I had passed each other 3 times. She was looking strong and happy in her first marathon.
I was getting tired and properly disappointed when I saw the finish line over the river and knew the bridge was near BUT they only bloomin make you run on to the next bridge don’t they? I managed a hug with my husband at mile 25.5 then walked a minute when I was out of his view before a slow sprint for the line. Thanks Alan for the shout. We were incredibly lucky for a dry few hours in the middle of 2 weeks of rain. The event was very well organised and super friendly. The Baxter’s soup at the end was just what I needed. Aileen and Alan did brilliant first marathons.
Sitting in a lovely restaurant later full of marathoners in their medals with Aileen, Alan, Sophie and Debra who all got the memo about dress code but didn’t tell me(!) we celebrated the other Strider finishers, Peter, Karen and Craig as well as Carolyn Wendy and Mike’s marathons elsewhere. A good weekend.