All posts by Jonathan Hamill

Swaledale Marathon – Jack’s story 2017, Swaledale, North Yorkshire, Saturday, June 10, 2017

23 miles

Jack Lee

The Swaledale Marathon like any decent run ends up as a story. This will be the story of how I started full of energy, in a rain jacket with a pack full of gels and water and ended up exhausted, sprinting through Reeth and soaked to the skin in just a Striders vest. However, if you ask any who ran or spectated that day they will give you their stories; most of those are shared with friends such as Camilla and Kathryn, Tim and Phil or Gareth and Stephen and many others. While I rarely ran with other Striders I made many friends who shared my struggle and who while I might never know their names I shall never forget.

Swaledale might not be on the FRA calendar but it has one thing in common with the fell races I have ran…it started with a long, steep and painful ascent. This was towards Fremington Edge and while I had told myself and others before I would stay with friends (Jon and Elaine were the ones I was thinking of) I found that my regimen of strength and core training meant I floated up the hill. I looked into Jon’s eyes on the way up and knew that I was too strong to hold myself back. What had felt like a tough start the year before seemed like a jog down to the shops for milk and so I struck off on my own ahead into a windy and rainy new adventure.

Stephen, Michael and Gareth had gone off in their triumvirate but I became the fourth strider running with a group across the top of Fremington and down into the next valley towards Whaw. An increasingly terrifying gap behind meant that the little group I was in became my new comrades and I had to keep the legs turning over to keep up. It wasn’t difficult but I always feared for later as I had barely held onto consciousness last year in the final mile and didn’t fancy going through that again. I kept up through the valley and up towards Great Punchard Head where we lost a few on the climb, at this point I was with a few other men and the first lady (checking the results her name was Amy and she ran for Rugby and Northallerton). She floated up Punchard…I don’t think I ever saw her walk and we were together for 12 or so miles including all the hard work up Great Punchard Head. I ran almost all that uphill as well with only short stops to walk and make sure I didn’t get ahead as I hadn’t recce’d Punchard as thoroughly as possible.

 

After a while we made it to the bog and I am not sure how any of us made it through that mass of muddy holes and collapsing paths. It had been raining pretty consistently since the start of the race and by now we were all sodden and the coarse was soaked through from current rain and that in the week before; wet bog is a beast of its own but we fought through mile after mile of tough track and a few self-clip points later and one manned clip point we came to the last self-clip on Punchard. My group had whittled down to myself, another guy who seemed nice and Amy (who glided as if on road). She later told me at one point it was her second time doing Swaledale and that she was a road runner by trade. Considering her nav (thumbing the map as she went) and her strength I would recommend a change of focus. Anyway we reached the final self-clip on Punchard to find a very wet looking group of three clipping at which point Michael turned around and greeted me. We had run the fell so well that we had caught up to Michael, Stephen and Gareth apparently.

 

This was the start of the downhill towards Gunnerside and when I said to my new friend that these three were some of the fastest in my club she turned to me and said only “you have them”. Encouraged by this I quickly over took Gareth who was busy writing a determined story of his own (albeit maybe not the happiest of tales). When the navigation went a bit awry I took the rest of them and went down towards Gunnerside. While there I did the manned clip and started tactically stripping…I was too hot in the rain jacket and the rain was down to a mere drizzle for the first time since the start of the race. My new friends left ahead and I was left with Michael, with Stephen and Gareth behind. Michael and I started the uphill out of Gunnerside and he stayed with me for a bit until I said something like “Michael, I have run the race of my life but there is not much left and I know the rest of the route…leave me, I will be fine”. So hesitantly he did.

 

I don’t know how I got through the rest of the miles but I did. I thought I could see Michael’s luminous jacket ahead although it turned out it was someone else and he was actually well ahead overtaking everyone and their mothers. I ran as the rain and wind came back to lash at my Strider’s vest. I fell after surrender bridge while in a small gulley and just remember getting up and thinking that I couldn’t stop. My leg had cramped but I though hiking out of the gulley would stretch it out. I was in a bad way at this point with no strength left although I was fairly conscious at least.

 

I kept going and after seeing Jan’s husband I made my way down the lane of loose rocks with the last self-clip and came out into Reeth where a small crowd with a few cheering Striders (Joanne and Lesley come to mind) coaxed a pseudo-sprint out of me. It felt like a sprint to me but for all I know it could have looked more like a waddle. Everyone else turned up in layers at the least and mostly in rain jackets but I must have looked a sight in only shorts and a soaked vest. I got to the finish line, gave in my card and went for food. I had finished 14th in 3 hours and 36 minutes. 7 minutes quicker than last year in much worse conditions and 37 places higher. With food I sat down and made merry…job done.

 

Well done to everyone who ran a tough and wet Swaledale this year with a special mention to Michael Mason (6th), Elaine Bisson (3rd Female) and the Men’s Team (2nd). An honourable mention to everyone who spectated as well who waited in the rain while we had all the “fun”.

Results available here

Swaledale Marathon – in road shoes! 2017, Swaledale, North Yorkshire, Saturday, June 10, 2017

23 miles

Matt Archer

I guess a good starting point for this misadventure would be why? I am a roadrunner. I love the roads and although I have grown to love cross country the roads will always be my favourite mistress. After seemingly being stuck in a rut I took some advice from Carole Seheult. She suggested that I needed to love running again and stop PB chasing, so with that in mind I decided to enter races that intrigued me but had never run before because they weren’t on a road. I scoured the race calendar and the two that stood out were the DT20 and Swaledale. As soon as they opened I entered both and was really looking forward to some off road adventures. Before the DT20 I went down to Reeth with my long time training partner in crime, Pete Mason, and we ran some of the DT20 route. I came away feeling that it was tough but achievable. What has this got to do with Swaledale I hear you cry? Well to cut a long story short I ran the DT20 and hated it, my legs were wrecked within the first couple of km and I spent the rest of the race feeling very frustrated. This left me facing Swaledale with some trepidation, I was going to be revisiting the same territory but this time going for longer. Several people tried to reassure me that the Swaledale climbs were not as brutal but I wasn’t convinced.

In the lead up to the race I consulted with a Swaledale vet, who shall remain nameless, who advised me to wear my road shoes over my cushionless Inov8s. This recommendation was reiterated one week before the race so my mind was made up. Unfortunately the weather was not paying attention to my decision as it then proceeded to rain for the entire week before.

I woke on Saturday morning asking myself what I was doing. I had not recced the course, the weather was bad and my experiences at the DT20 were still haunting me. Race day breakfast was consumed and I jumped in the car to drive down. On arriving in Reeth the weather was no better but my mind was made up – road shoes. We assembled in the start field ready for the off, most people in waterproof running jackets that we were sure we would be taking off shortly when we started to warm up.

The ascent of Fremington Ridge began and to my delight I arrived at the top with a piar of legs that seemed to be in good working order. Having run the ridge twice in the past I knew that conditions underfoot would be challenging for the road shoes but to my delight they performed well with no notable traction issues.

Figure 1 – The trusty all terrain Adidas ‘road’ shoes. Next stop Cross Country.

Figure 2 – A photo showing the extensive grip that these beasts posess.

I was slowly working my way through the field feeling slightly cocky about my choice of footwear. We arrived at the descent, a grass like carpet that I had thrown myself down with great delight in the past. A smile started to stretch over my face as… oh shit its like an ice rink. Road shoes + wet grass = no grip. I backed off and slowly picked my way down the climb as runners in grippier options flew past. Reaching the bottom I was not perturbed as we were on a semi solid track and this turned into tarmac as I slowly picked off the runners who had passed me and then some. I saw Elaine Bisson, had a quick chat and carried on my merry way. Oh how I love my road shoes, all is forgiven. Before long Jon Ayres and the second placed female appeared on my horizon and I caught them too. I was enjoying this far more than expected. My legs felt good, my shoes were paying dividends, even the rain couldn’t dampen my spirits. Oh no but the sucking black peat bog that we were about to enter certainly could. I had been warned that this stretch would be tricky in road shoes but 5 miles in the grand scheme of things wasn’t much was it?? Wasn’t much?? It was f*!k$*g eternity. I was all over the shop, even the smallest change in direction had me scrabbling for grip. I slowed to a walk and quickly lost sight of the runners around me. Not a problem if you know where you are going. I didn’t. As I emerged from the black hell Elaine cruised past telling me to latch on and latch on I did. My directional knight in shining armour had arrived. We powered on having returned to a hard trail. I started loving it again, after all I had just completed the toughest part for my road shoes and I hadn’t gone over once. Things were looking up. We descended down towards the river and the run in to Gunnerside, my legs felt good, my body felt pretty fresh and all memories of the DT20 had been vanquished. To get to the river we left the farm track to cut through some fields, not a problem, its grass not the horrible black peat. We enter a field with a steep slope things start to go wrong, smooth soles on wet grass, this isn’t going to go well and it didn’t. It wasn’t long before I was sliding down the hill on my back. I picked myself up, muttered a string of obscenities and studied the line of mud that stretched down my body. I couldn’t dwell though as Elaine was moving and I needed to keep up. We searched for a way out of the field, found it and dropped down to the river and followed it to Gunnerside. Into the check point we went and straight out again, passing runners that had left me on the peat bog earlier.

Figure 3 – Leaving Gunnerside with Elaine who guided me round a big chunk.

Straight out of Gunnerside there is a steep ascent, Elaine powering ahead, me behind furiously trying to keep up. When we arrive at the top Elaine urges me to go on if I feel like it so I open my legs and away I go. Conditions underfoot seem pretty… woah bang. Next thing I know I am lying in some gorse on my back. I hear the words “are you ok Matt?” drifting over. No way I got away with that one. I quickly pick myself up and with a quick “Yes” continue on my… bang. Knees and hands hit the deck, I’m down on all fours. Not again. The footpath began to open up and I passed one runner and then a second. I hit a gravel road I recognised, I knew the end was near and I still felt good. I hit the accelerator and increased the pace passing another runner. The track ends, now I am not sure, I think I know but not 100%. Where is the guy I passed? He appears, I check, he isn’t sure but thinks it’s the way I was going to choose so I go with it. Through the gate and onto an uneven rocky path, yes this is it. My road shoes suddenly come into their own as I start to fly down the path without a care in the world. I pass a lady who warns me that the next section is slippy. Not in these bad boys. I motored on. The end of the path approaches, I know it’s a left onto the road, I open up my stride and throw myself down the hill as I approach the final bend the crowd roars (namely Jo P, Lesley C and Mandy D). Round I go and through the finish. I look at my watch, sub 4 hours. I collect my mug and walk away a happy man.

Figure 4 – Flying into Reeth and the finish.

Massive thanks to Elaine Bisson for being my guide, to Jo P for providing the post race towel, Lesley C and Mandy D for standing in the rain cheering us all home and the biggest thanks go to my Adidas Glide Boosts, I couldn’t have done it without you!!

Swaledale Marathon – A Soaked Supporter’s View 2017, Swaledale, North Yorkshire, Saturday, June 10, 2017

23 miles

Pam Kirkup

8.00am on the morning of the race Paul F & I pitched up to registration, in my case, to hand in my number for anyone who hoped to get an entry on the day. It was drizzling nicely.

An hour later at the start, this year’s cohort of runners seemed somewhat diminished from previous years. The purple posse was there in strength … and the rain was building up.

If you don’t know the course of the Swaledale Marathon it’s 23+ miles over quite diverse terrain, including valley paths, some steep climbs on rubble and bog, some awkward peat hags, some decent paths over the moors and a pretty unpleasant, stony downhill path to the road down to the village of Reeth. Saturday was probably one of the worst conditions I have seen for this run. It was going to be difficult and challenging – a certain bog-fest, even for the experts. A baptism of fire for Swaledale ‘virgins’.

After the start, the walking wounded – Mandy and I – trudged in the now heavy rain to Reeth in search of coffee and shelter. In the meantime the purple posse was doing the slog up the rubble to Fremington Edge. This is a swampy, boggy ridge which goes in the direction of Langthwaite, the route goes through a gate downhill into the valley and then on roads to the first checkpoint. On Saturday Fremington Edge would have been at its most unpleasant – and I hear it was very boggy – but nothing compared to what was to come.

The route then is mostly on roads to Whaw and the second checkpoint. After this is a steep uphill climb to the main road, which the runners cross to the path up to Great Punchard  Head. A small stream on the way up had become much more full, and the stream crossing at Great Punchard Head seemed to have become a challenge to some people, as Paul arrived there. After Great Punchard Head route finding can be difficult but, although it was cold, very windy and the rain was hammering down, Paul said that the route was clear. No mist. And,  for the first time, the path was marked with flags. However, the ground underfoot was very difficult. Nina said that she lost her footing and one leg ended up knee deep in a bog. A runner in front of Paul ended up thigh deep in a bog – thankfully he was able to haul himself out. Luckily, visibility was clear and so runners could find their way to Little Punchard and then on to Level House – a fantastic food station with tea, sandwiches, cake, flapjacks and lots more.

By then I had joined the dash to Gunnerside – you have to get there early to get a parking place. The rain was now relentless. I missed the first few runners coming through but I did see Jack, and then Stephen and Gareth (poster boy for next year’s race??). The camaraderie of supporters is really amazing – everyone shouts for other people’s runners as they sprint down that riverside path to the road. Even though you don’t know them! The purple posse came hurtling in after that. Phil & Tim, Matthew & Elaine, David Brown, then Jules, Mike Bennett, Jan, Nina, Malcolm Sygrove, Camilla & Kathryn and then Paul! I didn’t get photos of Elaine Bisson (3rd lady!!) who ran a blinder with Mathew Archer (how could he possibly have run that course in road shoes???), or David Brown – his picture was black .Rain?

From Gunnerside the runners leave the road at the top of the village, taking a long steep path up to a (usually) decent path to Blades. Part of this has vehicular access for the cottages and farms so wouldn’t normally be difficult. At Blades the route veers off to the left onto a level moorland path to Surrender Bridge which can often be quite muddy – a quagmire on Saturday! Surrender Bridge is the last manned checkpoint and marshals point runners in the right direction for the last push to Reeth. Once you’ve negotiated ‘Crinkly Bottom’, a small but steep ghyll, (I hear it now has a bridge to cross it), you make your way to a long, narrow and often steep path of stones and boulders. Punishing on, by now, sore and weary feet. For me it’s always been a nightmare. Then it’s a downhill cruise on the road to the finish.

In the meantime, I drove back to Reeth, after Paul came through Gunnerside, and joined the finish supporters at the Buck Inn. People were sharing stories about the bogs, the peat hags and the awful conditions underfoot. It was certainly a more difficult course this year – for everyone. Gareth said “Never, never, ever again!”. Tim said “It was great I loved it”! Everyone had a story to tell! Spirits were high.

Regardless of the conditions, Elvet Striders did a great job. We were second male team, only just beaten by East Hull Harriers. And Elaine Bisson was 3rd Lady in a sensational 03.55 and was 33rd overall. There were some excellent times:

Michael Mason – 3.24, Jack Lee – 3.36, Steven and Gareth 3.39, Mat (road shoes) Archer – 3.53, Elaine (super woman) Bisson 3.55, David Brown 4.19, Tim & Phil – 4.31, Jules – 4.36, Mike Bennett – 4.45, Nina – 5.10, Jan – 5.17, Kathryn – 5.19,Malcolm – 5.26, Camilla – 5.27, Paul Foster – 5.37, Joan & Anita – 5.42, Emil Maatta – 6.02, Anna & Catherine – 6.51, Barbara Dick – 7.01, Louise Billcliffe – 7.20, Christine Farnsworth & Margaret Thompson – 7.42.

I hope the first-timers won’t be put off. On a good day it’s a fantastic course with wonderful scenery. Saturday was not the best start! However it takes more than a day’s deluge to dampen the spirits of the purple posse.

Here’s a gallery of some thoroughly soaked Striders!

 

Eric North Memorial Calderdale Way Relay – Leg 5 2017, Wainstalls, Halifax, Sunday, May 21, 2017

7.55 miles

Jack Lee

In honesty it shouldn’t have surprised me that what had started over a year before and eventually developed into a determined pact between two men to come back and conquer a fell race ended in a roar of noise. That noise for the most part was Mark “encouraging” me (not so gently) up the hill towards the final lane and the finish not far beyond. Besides the noise what I remember is mostly made up of fragments of images and a feeling of overwhelming tiredness as I pushed my body to its limit. I felt I had long since passed what should have been my limit but a year’s work is not something to be thrown away easily and the end was all but in sight. So I ignored the fatigue, the pain and the cowardly voice in my head calling for an end to the first two and pumped my legs.

 

This feat of probable stupidity had started a year before when Mark and I, without any idea of where we were going, ran the 5th leg of the Calderdale Way Relays from Wainstalls to Shelf and by divine luck and following people who looked like they knew what they were doing made a good fist of it all; coming in a just a minute over the hour cut off for that leg. We probably could have left it at that and walked away heads held high but I think we are both more than a bit stubborn and we made a pact to try it the next year but this time having recced the course. It took us until the Tuesday before to get out and figure out where we would be going on the race day and there was quite a comparison between our amicable lope over the hills to Wainstalls and then back again to Shelf and the actual race day. It took over three hours and involved a fair amount of time lost, especially at the start. In the end what should have been 15 miles ended up nearer to 17.5 and the light was almost gone but the fire in our stomachs burned all the brighter.

 

Nothing Mark and I do can never be easy and we both did our best to ruin the start of the race with Mark turning up in the nick of time 15 minutes after registration should have ended and my bambi on ice moments in the first mile. The mass start of the race was hectic with not so much warning of the start as a shout from the marshals that the race had started. We all hurriedly dashed off with Mark and me falling into place as the third pair (we would finish 2nd from the mass start by the end). The crush of people meant I wasn’t getting much time to see my foot placements and after five or so minutes I did what I had feared and rocked a bit over on my left ankle. The day before, however, in a rare moment of insight I had bought an ankle support which probably saved our race and after a few limping strides I managed to get running again. At this point we were on the first of the three most trying climbs of the route up a grassy and mucky slope through farm fields to the farm buildings themselves. Here we pushed, keeping up with those around. Until we happily crested the hill and started down a long grassy descent a long what might be an old mining track to the outskirts of a small village.

 

I felt Mark pushing and it was all I could do to keep up with him. Generally either one of us could be ahead on the uphill, the downhills were my ground but on the flat I felt like a sailor without a boat…desperately trying to keep afloat. It continued like this for a good while with a few scrambles through fields and the odd chance to throw ourselves through small gaps in the walls until we reached the longest climb. It started with a steep road section which I happily ran. In the recce we had agreed that both of us could walk and run the loose track afterwards (still steep as anything) but Mark was obviously feeling in fine fettle (see the next photo) and dragged me up at a slow jog with him, passing a few groups with batons on the way. At the top we met two ladies one of which appeared to be very tired and her partner (obviously the fitter) was pressing ahead. We had a brief section of flat…Mark sped up, but I knew after that there was a tight squeeze through a gate and a downhill section. The fitter of the two women was battling to stay ahead of me, however, and I had to call most of my strength just to dive through entrance before her even though her partner was a fair distance behind.

 

The downhill was a relief and for a while I could be the one pushing but what goes downhill in fell running quite often has to go back up and after crossing a small stream we had a short steep climb into a quaint hamlet before a very steep and grassy climb. I had to warn Mark as he tried to miss the turning towards this horrific slope. By this time it was just us and Team 7 (Baildon Runners). We had been nearby each other all the way through the race and now as the end was in sight we both took chances to try and break away from each other. First came their attempt after the grassy slope on the still uphill but not as steep lane and then one of Mark’s shortly after. I pushed and pushed determined not to be holding him back. After a few fields and lanes we came out onto a road just above Shelf and Mark roared into action sailing down the hill and I went with him.

 

It was the uphill shortly afterwards where he started encouraging me enthusiastically, with the two others behind us mirroring. As Mark shouted “Come on Jack” we could hear from behind “Come on Eoin”. I am going to be honest that the climb felt slow. I later found out that we had done the last half a mile in about three minutes. Mark had splits in pen on his arm and he neglected to mention that while we had been 35 or so seconds up on last year at one point we had lost that before the last mile and a half. After what felt like an eternity of torment we came to the turning and I all but sprinted down the lane. I remember a flash of the paving stones and one of the pair behind shouting “30 seconds”. We burst out of the laneway to happy faces and I pumped one fist in the air as I stopped my timer on 59.37. The later results are wrong and still say 1.01 to my chagrin. We had done it and given Louise and Keith a 10 second or so head start on the pack, which was hard earned and I suspect we will never get thanked for…

 

It does look like it was drinks and smiles all around at the rugby club in Halifax but I had already headed off for a few days in the Lakes.

 

 

 

Results are available to download here

The Grasmere Gallop 2017, Grasmere, Cumbria, Saturday, June 3, 2017

17km

Tamsin Imber

It was a warm, shorts-are-needed, sunny day in Grasmere! What good luck! The Borrowdale volcanic fells, flanked with many shades of green and their characteristic grey lumpy rocky tops looked magnificent and inviting. It was a lively tourist filled, bustling Summer morning in the village of Grasmere. Excited runners in active wear buzzed about in the Grasmere sports field, registering and portable loo-ing. With ten minutes to go, the ardent sound of bag pipes cut through the air as we were herded to the start-line on the bridge…and with a 3, 2, 1 through a megaphone..we were off…!

Well, ha ha…kind of! I, spending too much time chatting, had not noticed the large number of participants in comparison to the capacity of the narrow wall-lined road, and therefore found myself stuck at the back of a large crowd.. behind a large number of Nordic walkers and family fun runners! (There were several events all starting at the same time). So I found myself walking for the first quarter of a mile!  This was taking ‘Don’t set off too fast’ to the extreme!  Although I was disappointed as I felt I’d kinda lost the race before I had started, it was a pleasure to hear and see the excitement and joking of many of the kids participating in the fun run.

Once people spread out a little I started weaving through them. It was a bit precarious dodging the random angles of the sticks of the Nordic Walkers!, but it added a steeple chase element! I didn’t get the Nordic Walking race though. Surely there would be the temptation to break into a cheeky little run now and then…?!..?  Maybe the poles trip you up if you do this.

I had got to a point where people were more spread out so was able to get up to pace. Wonderful! Despite my start, I was determined to try my hardest as I love the thrill of it, and to enjoy the run! As I continued to weave past people I saw beautiful pink rhododendron flowers and yellow poppies on the stone wall and smelt the occasional scent of honey suckle as we continued along the road that goes round the lake side. ..Ah ha! And what was that ahead? A purple vest with green and white stripes! It was Jill! Woohoo! After a cheery hello, I continued uphill now, and soon onto stony trail.

The route was so scenic! We ran along Loughrigg Terrace with stunning views of Grasmere and it’s forested island. Then downhill through scattered mature deciduous trees where we had to leap over roots and puddles. We reached Pelter Bridge and it was a shady minor road up to Brow Head Farm. Then back onto trail, round Ivy Crag to Loughrigg Tarn. I was now running with four guys, with one girl a bit ahead of us. It was lovely to zoom along with space. I was surprised to find that since the London marathon I am better at running downhill than uphill (it used to be the other way round!) With every uphill I fell behind the four guys, and with every downhill that followed I whizzed past them! After Loughrigg Tarn there was a long downhill section and I decided to use this new found ability to my advantage. I ran past the four guys again, then caught up with the girl ahead and put in a surge to pass her!

We were soon back into woods and uphill, before a fantastic downhill zigzag from Loughrigg terrace down to the foot of Grasmere! It was then a pretty shore-line gravel path back along the lakeside to the village. As we (me and the four guys-they had caught me up on some uphill so we all ended up together) ran through the village the friendly marshals signposted us back to the Sports Ground to the finish! And the finish lead to a tent of water and National Trust cakes 🙂 I collected my jumper that I had hidden behind a gate up the road, then bumped into Jill again! She had enjoyed it too. It was a lovely race and I would definitely do it next year. Shout-out to Alan Smith, who I didn’t bump into on the day, but later heard he won the V70 prize in the 10k race!

That evening I had a small trip to Grasmere for ice bath plus to try my first wild swim avec newly learned front crawl! I approached the foot of Grasmere where the stony beach is from the path above. There, enjoying the evening, I saw a lady throwing a ball for her dog into the water, two mallards, and a pair of Italians in underpants with a ghetto blaster. There was also a swan in the far distance. The overall effect was reassuring. Luckily the ghetto blaster seemed to give up the ghost.   It was a clear evening with sun low in the sky and a light breeze making lake reflections blurred. There were small ripples from the wind. I was planning to stay in my depth, and just swim up and down parallel to the shore. It was lovely and cool and I was soon in! After summoning up my courage I looked under the water through my goggles! Oooo! Wow! Amazing! The sun shone through the water and you could see all the rocks and stones below! I started swimming and it was being in a different world! I saw lots of little black fish, one had a proper triangle-shaped fin on its back! But it wasn’t a shark. They flitted away from me as fast as I had seen them. A bit further along I couldn’t see, as it became sandy and the water was yellow and turbid. I wasn’t so keen on this so it became my turn around point. I found I could navigate as I passed the same rocks, large stick and bolder just going up and down level with the shore. It was a lovely way to end the day!

Results available here

Extract from the book Running My Way by Tamsin Imber with permission from Pitch Publishing.

Managing mental health – Endurance running is my salvation and why my workplace prospers from it, Friday, May 26, 2017

Jason Trimmer – Chiltern Harriers

Quite a long title I know, so bear with me whilst I explain. Those of you who know me personally, understand that I don’t mind self-serving some physical and mental hardship occasionally. I’m a veteran, I took the Queens shilling and served with the British Army for 14 years, it made me who I am today and the physical lifestyle has stayed with me, ingrained, even when I transitioned into civilian life.

 

They say that ‘middle age’, whatever decade that is now, is one of the most difficult periods of your life, raising children, managing a career and caring for ailing parents. Pressures from all angles, that if not managed, can cause mental health issues. I arrived back in the UK from Australia, 2.5 years ago, with my family and 5 suitcases, nowhere to live and no credit history. I returned to support my Dad who was just about to start his first round of treatment for prostate cancer. Giving up my career in Sydney, pulling my 3 boys out of school and asking my wife Carolynn to leave her family behind was a big ask and has tested us all.

 

I hear daily about mental health, it’s profile has been elevated and deservedly so, however this is a consequence of just how many suffer from it. The workplace is a massive breeding ground for anxiety and stress, time pressures abound, high expectations given the digital tech we surround ourselves with, constantly bombarded with multiple streams of information that need to be digested. It seems to me that society is ever increasing the demands and demonising by some is common place in our 24/7 lives. And this is just the workplace!

 

My salvation is endurance running through remote and difficult trails, preferably in mountainous areas, 100 miles is not uncommon with big elevating climbs that can take days to complete. These types of events take meticulous planning and training just to get to the start line. My last ‘big event’ in the summer of 2016, took me around the Mont Blanc ‘massif’, through 3 countries, 103 miles with 10,000 metres of climbing over 36 hours non-stop. It took everything from me, physically, emotionally and towards the end I began to hallucinate. I suffered 30+ degree heat during the day, ran across snowfields during the night at altitudes of 2,500 metres and endured a thunder and electrical storm atop one of the last peaks. This event stripped me to my core and perversely I would do it again, even though ‘everything hurt’ and I mean everything.

 

For me it’s about feeling ‘raw’, getting back to basics and getting back in tune with who we once were as humans, we chased our meals, we ran away from danger, humans are built to run and we’re dam good at it, humans need to keep moving. You don’t need to replicate what I do to achieve the benefits; the biggest step is putting your shoes on and getting out the door.

 

So why does my workplace prosper? I’m more alert during the day as I sleep better, if I’m sleeping well then my overall mood is boosted. I’m a positive person who always looks optimistically on the world, probably due to the endorphins that are released through my system. I would like to think that my memory is improved (I have no way of measuring this as I’m not prepared to stop running for an experiment). And because I feel ‘happy’ my social behaviour is positive, not to mention the motivation, goal setting, having a purpose and critical thinking that happens, a direct correlation to running and my behaviours in the workplace. I’m less prone to sickness which means more days in the office, a tangible benefit to the business. Confidence is reinforced meaning that any work goal is achievable, we may fall occasionally during a project for example and some would see that as failure, failure is only realised when you refuse to get back up, re-evaluate and crack on. This is what runners do, sheer will and determination is sometimes required in the workplace not just outside on the trails. I could go on and on.

 

My typical response to any of my colleagues asking me in the morning, ‘How are you Jase’, is ‘Bloody great’ and that is the truth, because I am a runner.

 

Soon I’ll be enjoying my 50th year and I’m looking for my next ‘stretch’, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m also pleased to say that my Dad is doing well and in remission.

 

If anyone would like to talk to me about Mental Health and how I manage it through running, then please shout out, we could chat whilst we run.

 

Ultra-Trail Du Mont Blanc (UTMB)

Queens shilling

 

Footnote

When I read Jason’s article, which he originally published on LinkedIn, I thought it would benefit other runners, who may not use LinkedIn.  I therefore asked Jason for his permission to share it, and do so gratefully.  Jason told me that ..”reaching out to as many people as possible about mental health and how we can manage it is SO important”.

Jonathan Hamill

Chairman

Asics Windermere Marathon 2017, Brathay Hall, Ambleside, Sunday, May 21, 2017

26.2 miles

Catherine Smith

The journey to Brathay Windermere Marathon – May 23rd 2016 – May 21st 2017

 

Almost exactly a year ago to the day that I ran Windermere (my first solo official marathon) I was coming back from a number of ongoing niggles and injuries, I wanted to get faster but had fallen out of love with running after training for Dark Skies which I ran through the night with Gareth and storm Katie in March 2016 (my first realllly long race – 26.8 miles round kielder – I like to make things easy for myself!).  I hated the feeling of ‘having to run’ during training and hated the fact the injuries were also stopping me enjoy running.

 

I asked Anna Seeley (coaching co-ordinator) for a training plan and we met to discuss where I was at, what I wanted to do and what my running habits / preferences were, she designed a really flexible, simple, yet effective, plan for me to follow and I saw the benefits being realised pretty much straight away, I got my mojo back, niggles were kept at bay and the PBs were falling until one fateful shopping trip when I treated myself to a new pair of trainers because ‘they looked good’ and ‘matched better’ (DOH).  Soon after I developed heel / foot issues which was diagnosed as plantar fasciitis. I was in a lot of pain and spent a number of months and large sums of cash trying to resolve the issue.  I ‘water ran’ to nelly the elephant (thanks Katy Walton for the tip and loan of the float) and followed various stretching, PT and Pilates regimes in an attempt to fix it & not lose too much fitness but it was taking such a long time to heal I was struggling mentally and physically.

 

Thankfully I seemed to turn a corner in the last few months, I couldn’t say exactly what made the difference, probably a combination of everything but I was finding my fitness was coming back & I was able to chip at a couple of my PBs again without the foot flaring.  I was entering local longer runs and doing them as a run walk strategy to minimise injury flaring (Leas Marathon- did 20 miles and loved it) Locke park 20 was a fab day out running in circles with some of the purple posse and I was organising some regular Sunday long runs with a variety of folks.  Before I knew it I realised that I had sort of been doing an informal Marathon training plan without any ‘have to’ feelings, I was loving running again and had had none of the pressure of following a rigid plan!  On the back of this realisation and the high of my Blackpool half pb I floated the idea of running a low key marathon sooner rather than later and suddenly we were booked for a weekend in the lakes with a Windermere entry in!! Not a fast or flat course – in fact probably more challenging than keilder but it would be during the day, I wouldn’t have to carry ‘full kit’ and I very much hoped storm Katie or any of her mates wouldn’t make an appearance

 

With Anna’s input I had decided on a run the flats / downs and walk the big hills strategy to minimise injury / foot flaring.  I had never ran over 14.2 miles alone before so this was big for me but I was excited as much as I was nervous.  Gareth had decided to enter too as he had unfinished business with Windermere- his first ever marathon which totally broke him! He wanted to right that wrong of a ‘terrible’ performance (no gear and no idea) which culminated in a 3.07 first Marathon time (if only ha ha) so we both had challenging goals we wanted to achieve.

 

I had set my ‘if only’ at 4.45 and sub 5 as a ‘must do’ Anna said she thought I should run to feel and I might surprise myself, but I was too worried about hitting the wall and bailing into the hotel pool & spa at mile 20 (that’s where our hotel was on the route) or being over taken by a penguin (Mike Parker I blame you for this irrational fear ha ha) or having pull out because of injury so I decided to aim for approx 10.55-11.15mm and take it from there.

 

On the morning of the race we met other striders in a rainy field where the Parking was organised by enthusiastic marshals who played a massive part in making the day such a success

 

As we squelched over to get our numbers I noticed that the t shirt was purple & white, and they had a ladies fit (I am normally swapped in race tees) so I felt this was a sign! I told myself I would be achieving my first solo marathon & bought the tee as my motivation / reward!

 

Obligatory strider selfies done we followed the marching band to the start, it was rather emotional and exciting, the day was starting to brighten up and we all wished our purple club mates good luck as we lined up, Gareth and Elaine moved up to the front, Gareth was definitely feeling relaxed as the start line picture shows ha ha

 

The gun went, the band start playing and we were off! This was it! More emotion as the crowds clapped and called out good luck wishes…. internal pep talk with myself & I settled into my pace, glanced at my watch, going too fast! Must slow down, got 26 hilly miles to go! I had decided to run with average pace set as that way I wouldn’t panic about the walks slowing me down or start racing to bring it back in line, I had used it for Blackpool half so felt confident that would be a good plan for Windermere too. First mile ticked off going too fast! Feeling good but 25 to go! The first hill loomed and I had the dilemma of the walking this early what would people think?? then I reminded myself this was my race & I had a plan for a reason! I wanted to get round in one piece and I wanted to recover sooner afterwards injury free so I slowed to a pacy walk, I was the first but others copied, I glanced at my watch, average pace hardly changed, still too fast, another mile ticked off.  This became my routine & I was absolutely loving the run, I felt strong as I moved up the miles, pace was still faster than any of those I’d predicted / planned to aim for – I was walking the hills and making the most of the flats and downs, I took time to hydrate at all the stations and kept up fuelling with chia charge flap jack as well as gels & shot blocks.  A good couple of miles were breezed though ahead of pace as I distracted myself trying to get chia seeds out of my teeth!

 

The marshal support at the drink stations and throughout the race was amazing as was that from spectators in the villages – I took time to say thanks and smile (I was pretty much grinning all the way round) and high 5’d the scouts who were cheering us on next to a purple cow! Resisted the urge for a purple cow selfie (THAT TOOK GREAT WILLPOWER)

 

I chatted to folks on the way some joined me on the walk bits but then dropped off as I picked up the pace again on the running bits – pace still to fast! I was worried that the wall or the penguin moments would happen or that the hydration fluid might decide it didn’t like me but I still felt great  cautiously optimistic! I passed our hotel and mile 20 & was smiling rather than wanting to bail, just 10k to go, I’d got this! It was soon after that Malcolm gave me a shout out a marshal point – he had had to pull out because of his knee, that made me sad but also more determined, I thought of him, Mandy & Lesley, people who couldn’t run at this time and would give anything to swap places and dug deep!

 

Gareth and I had driven this last section so I knew what was coming I knew we had icecream mountain ahead (big hill with an icecream van at the top) I seemed to be getting even quicker!! I dared to think that my 4.45 dream could be a reality! I didn’t appear to be hitting the wall, I continued with the hydrating/fuelling and run/walk and before I know it I was up & over icecream mountain, picking somewhat broken folks off along the way, I checked they were ok as I ran passed giving words of encouragement – I remembered Gareth telling me that was where he’d seen lots of folks struggling in his first Windermere attempt.

 

Last water station ahead, something cold, pink, rather sticky & delicious as my last fluid intake & off I went, chatted to a guy who said he didn’t think he could make it – I encouraged him to come along to Mile 25 with me & he did for a while, but dropped off as we came to the last mile. Checked watch something like a 9.53 min mile?!? Oops!! Still way ahead of average pace I had planned beautiful views of the lake I was feeling good but one thing that was messing with my head was the fact my watch had lost distance so I wasn’t displaying the same as the mile markers, what ifs kicked in….  I missed the 26 mile marker somehow (there were ALOT of luminous yellow signs) so I wasn’t sure what I had left to go, the last push to the finish is not fun at all it’s twisty turny, a drag followed by proper uphill – none of us enjoyed that section! But then you round the corner and it’s the down hill of the finish funnel to cross the line, I sprinted, glanced my watch, didn’t dare to believe it! Heard Gareth and Anna shout out, I’d done it!! 4.37.19!!! I’d earned my purple tee and exceeded all of my expectations!! I was over the moon! Anna came over to say well done and tell me that Gareth and Elaine had won prizes & id made it in time to see them – our Marathon day was totally meant to be!

 

Thanks for reading! I would highly recommend Windermere as a challenging but low key road marathon with the joys of the enthusiast marshals and spectacular views to distract you from the hills (definitely not on the fast/flat list!)

Results available here

 

Helvellyn and the Dodds Fell Race 2017, Threlkeld, Cumbria, Sunday, May 28, 2017

AL / 24km /1337m

Elaine Bisson

So I’d stupidly made a deal with myself, if I didn’t run as I hoped at Windermere marathon and could walk down the stairs the next day, I would enter this race. I didn’t run the race I hoped, my ankle had been causing bother, I could walk. I spent the week icing my swollen ankle and rolling my calf…all fun and games to convince my husband this idea was perfectly reasonable!

I packed my bag with full compulsory fell kit and had had a wonderful sleep. This race doesn’t start until 12, I could almost lie in (we have three kids) and still have breakfast and drive the two hours to the race headquarters at Threlkeld cricket club. I knew what was in store having recced this with Geoff and Susan the previous summer. Susan had then suggested that I try the race at which time I’d thought her quite mad, especially as I’d spent a considerable time attempting to come down Clough Head, how a year changes you!

Having registered I returned to hide in my car and stare up at Clough head, then covered in cloud. My second deal was simple, if visibility was poor I’d not run the race but do a training run in the lakes. I rechecked the mountain weather forecast which declared with utmost certainty that all tops would be clear by early afternoon affording spectacular views. Not convinced and chilled by the wind I put on my long sleeved top and returned to the cricket ground to have a few laps warm up.

With ten minutes to spare we all sidled to the start, all kits were checked and a race briefing was held. The only thing I remember as panic rises in my chest “visibility is poor, up to 50m at most, keep maps and compasses to hand. Remember if you come off Clough head too early you’ll come a cropper”.

And so there is Tarmac, about a mile,my ankle no longer likes Tarmac, I could feel the limp coming until open fell and up to Clough Head. It’s steep, there are little foot holds like rungs on a ladder. It’s important to get in the right group early on, I find myself going off piste to cut round slower people. At the top wisps of cloud drift down until it’s full on clag. First checkpoint (there are seven…four out three back, Clough Head, Great Dodd, Raise, Helvellyn) in the bag then I try my best to hang onto the men who were all in fell runner club vests. At times they disappearear and I blindly search for those lithe people rather than starting to follow the walkers heavily laden with kit and clothes. There’s a short section everyone skips around Stybarrow Dodd on a sheer grass drop. It’s grass, there’s a bit of a trod. But yikes I’m far too slow and again they leave me for dust. By Raise, the sky has cleared and I’m sweltering, slowing I take off my long sleeved top then set off again.

This out leg I try to keep pace with those around me,the ups seem almost too comfortable but I want to ensure I have enough left in the tank to get back, especially with last week’s marathon still lingering in my legs. It is a breathtaking place to be, the views are incredible.

The sun blisters down and beats on our backs. It is busy coming up Helvellyn Lower Man, trying to pass the many walkers out and keeping out of the way of the fast runners on their way home..that is a thing of beauty to behold lots of extremely fit runners skipping seemingly effortlessly across the rocks.

Helvellyn in the bag I decide to work harder now, I start to really enjoy myself, my ankle on this soft ground isn’t causing as much bother as I’d thought. By then I’ve fallen in with two men, we chat on the ups and I seem to pull them up, they in turn force me to run faster on the descents.

Now back to Clough head, the descent is grassy but extremely steep. By halfway I’ve really got frustrated with myself, I manage to catch one person but a fair few fly past me, I curse myself for my slowness. Then finally the slope lessens and I am able to stretch out my legs it feels glorious and onto the the final downhill stretch on tarmac. I reach the end elated, I’ve done it. Something last year I don’t think I would have dreamed of going near. I’ve finished 7th lass (as all marshals and runners refer to me) 61st overall. My time 3:09 is reasonable. My ankle isn’t complaining too much. The princely fee of £7 does not afford a race Tshirt or medal but it does give a sense of pride, the most spectacular day out and includes in the cost a fabulous picnic buffet…for runners 2 sandwiches, tomato, 1 cake and a tea or coffee. I fill my napkin and enjoy my picnic on the grassy field looking up to Clough Head deeply satisfied.

I’d done it, perhaps not done it justice, but done it all the same. I knew that the me of last year would be incredibly proud if not slightly gobsmacked. I’ll definitely return to this and give it all I’ve got, it’s a beautiful brute of a race, there’s quite a bit of technical work I need to crack before then though…more days in the lakes then!!!

Results available here

Virgin Money London Marathon 2017 – Michael Littlewood, Sunday, April 23, 2017

Michael Littlewood

Strategy

2:45 was the magic number, 6.17 min/mile average pace. This meant Championship time.  I had missed this target by 2 minutes last year and it was not going to happen again. To achieve this, while I needed to heed Allan’s advice (don’t go off too fast x 3) I wanted to feel settled at 6.13/min mile pace until halfway to then relax for the remainder of the run. I had my nutrition strategy sorted – my normal gels at 1 hour, 1.5 hours and 2 hours + five sips of water. Oh and I had remembered my Strider vest and the ubiquitous yellow hat!!

 

Start

We had managed to stay at the same hotel as last year which was close to Stephen meaning we could travel to our separate start lines together. This calmed my nerves greatly. At the actual start line, my body wasn’t playing the game – cramp in both calves and spasms in piriformis and hamstring. Trying to complete flexor stretches next to the Elites on a full start line was fun!! Even more fun was the toilet etiquette when I was not allowed to leave the start line to visit the facilities and was forced to use a bottle instead!! Time to then put my music on, have a little dance (a little bit of Cypruss Hill) and get my head in the game.

 

0 – 6.2mile

The first 10k was a dream, I felt photo fresh and cramp free. My pace was bang on time and I had a massive smile on my face. I even managed to work the crowd a bit and enjoy some of the sights.

 

6.2 – 13.1

Still smiling and running well. I was concerned about taking the gel, although I had practised with this, I only had a 50/50 success rate meaning that on occasion it upsets my stomach. Not this time!

The absolute highlight was spotting Oscar, Lewis and Wendy as I ran off Tower Bridge. The first time in 3 years that I have noticed them in the crowd. It really gave me a massive boost and I actually had to slow myself down a bit in order not to excitedly increase my pace!

 

13.1-17 miles

Now this was the first tricky bit. The route is a little dull coupled with the run getting harder. I needed to increase my effort to maintain my pace. I can’t say that I was struggling but my legs were definitely feeling more tired and just not as fresh – a bit of an anti-climax after the exhilaration of getting to the half way point.

 

18 – 23 miles

Mile 18 was my slowest mile at 6.30/min but I did not feel like I had slowed down. This worried me. I responded with a 5.53 at 19 miles which was maybe a mistake because miles 20 and 21 were really hard. I was not going to let it slip now though. I spotted a runner in front of me with ‘Training Oscar’ on his back – he was my focus. My pace stayed at 6.12 and 6.18 – still on track. This bit me on the backside at mile 22 and 23, pace was now 6.27 and 6.28. Could this really be slipping away??

 

The Decider – 24

Mile 24 was the biggest mile of my running life. I came out of the tunnel, up the hill and onto the Embankment, I had real negative thoughts. I wanted to give up, 2:45 seemed certainly out of range, I knew Striders were expecting me to succeed and I felt a failure, I had let them down. I had to kick my own arse and I looked at my hand which reminded me of Wendy and the boys who love me and really spur me on.

The attack began. The pain was incredible, the tops of my hamstrings were on fire, calves were screaming and my eyesight was beginning to blur but I was passing people left and right. I spotted a Crook runner about 50 metres ahead and I was catching him which gave me strength. Mile 24 was the quickest of the race – 5.47min/mile.

 

Mile 25

I had caught the Crook runner Rob Teasdale. This was North East team mentality in a nutshell! He said ‘Let’s do this!! Let’s get that Championship time!!’ This encouragement and teamwork was just what I needed, I was gone by then and really struggling, the impact of mile 24 meant I was even tasting a metallic taste in my mouth, the blood vessels at the back of my throat were bursting.

 

Mile 26 – finish line.

I came around the last corner with Rob and noted that I only had 40 seconds left, I was not sure I was going to make it. I told myself to light this one up!! I visualised myself in the morning looking back on the race and knowing that I had accomplished it. I don’t really remember much about that last 200 metres but I crossed the finish line with 9 seconds to spare!!

I could not believe what I had done, I stood still and was then quickly ushered forward although I did need some assistance with the first few steps.

 

The Championship Finishers – Stephen Jackson and Michael Littlewood

 

Final thoughts. (Warning – the soppy bit!!)

I would like to say a massive thank you to the purple army who I know had my back. I simply could not do this without your support. Allan Seheult as my coach and friend, thank you for all the time and care you give. My training partners Gareth, Tamsin, Matty and Stephen. It really is a privilege to run with you and most importantly, great fun! Stephen, Vics and Allan also get special mention for putting up with my drunken ramblings on that long train ride back home!!

To Wendy, Oscar and Lewis. I love you, thank you for all you do. Can’t wait to cheer you across the London Marathon finish line in 2018 Wendy!!

Virgin Money London Marathon 2017, Monday, April 24, 2017

Tamsin Imber

The London Marathon

Warning!: This is not a positive report. Other reports about this race are available!

I’m not a city person. I don’t like crowds. I don’t like traffic. I don’t like constant loud noise. And I don’t like too much concrete. COD (Concrete Oppression Depression) is a ‘thing’ that happened to me when I lived in Liverpool for 5 years.  So why did I enter the London marathon? Curiosity and that was it. Ha, well, yeah, we all know what killed the cat don’t we.

So, I was at the Green start, having got a Good For Age place, and needed to get to Maze Hill train station for this start area. The race and the whole of London it seemed were very well organised for this race. The organisation I can not criticise at all. There were marshals everywhere in the Underground train system sign posting people. Also everyone was extremely friendly. And anyone with a race number also travelled free. I arrived in good time and did all my usual pre-race things.

..It all went wrong when I went to my start pen. From then on for the next 26.2 miles I was in a crowd. The problem with being short is that most people are taller than you so you can see only the backs and sides of people around you and a bit of sky above. I once stood on a chair to experience life from the view point of my husband and it really does give you a different perspective! So, in this crowd of runners it was really hot, smelly and claustrophobic. Following the blue line was never going to happen as I couldn’t see it!  As we got closer and closer to central London the spectator noise increased exponentially. Due to the crowd situation a short girl running next to me went splat on her face. I stopped to see if she was OK and two guys from behind ran straight into me so I went flying too. One of them had kindly tried to stop me by grabbing me, but he squished my body so tight with his hands that his nails made me bleed. I felt really stressed. I had a splitting headache. As we pounded the hot tarmac I tried to work out why. I can only conclude it was stress. Stress from people always in my personal space, stress from the noise and stress from lack of fresh air. I had sewed two pockets onto my Striders vest top and in one of them I had luckily put some foam earplugs. They only blocked out 50% of the noise but it helped a bit.

Then the sun came out. Thing with down south is that its obviously warmer than up here, add that to the London heat island affect (plus 2 degrees) and the sun coming out and suddenly you have 20 degrees. I’m not good running in the sun. I squirted my legs with water from the water stations to cool me down, which also served to get rid of the nauseating sticky orange yak that got squired on my legs from other runners stepping on Lucazade sport bottles.

After half way it soon became clear to me that I was not maintaining my 7.50mm pace, probably due to the stressful conditions, and my hopes of 3.25 rapidly dissolved. After some many miles of trying to get up pace and failing to do so I considered leap-frogging over the barrier to escape, but decided to continue because actually I’d only be standing in a hot, sweaty crowd queuing somewhere else to get onto a tube station platform. At least by continuing the race I was in a moving crowd going to where I wanted to go.

Finally got to the end. Thank God. Gutted about my rubbish time. A rubbish 30 minutes later than my PB and 35 minutes later than my goal! Didn’t really want a medal. Cried. Collected my bag. Gave myself a kick up the bum and went to meet my family.

On the Virgin train back to Durham I ate an overpriced Richard Branston baguette with chemical flavourings and tried to work out what had happened. I love marathons, it is my favourite distance. I just didn’t like London.  I can’t wait for  my next marathon. I suspect it will be a race in some unknown backwater of nowhere where I can just run freely, where I can concentrate on what I am doing!, where maybe there is some scenery!, and where I can enjoy it! Even though London wasn’t for me and didn’t go well I am proud of myself for trying it and I learnt a whole lot about big city marathons.

Extract from the book Running My Way by Tamsin Imber with permission from Pitch Publishing.