Last time we said it would be a while, and so it has been.
Reading over last year’s report truly brings home what a different world we are living in now. Anyone remember parkrun? Or that we did in fact have a cross country season? Even in these… ‘times’ (insert appropriate adjective), we are so very proud of our club and its heart, our club members. We have continued running, just in different ways and with adjusted objectives. Running Strong.
As always, it is so difficult to pull out individual highlights for fear of omitting other worthy feats however we feel a couple of people need mentioning who have completed particularly outstanding or perhaps just plainly ridiculous adventures. Beginning the year, Elaine Bisson pushed further than ever before to win the Montane Spine 100 mile Challenger (what next??). Segway to Stuart Scott: a Backyard Ultra on his treadmill – 108 miles in 26 hours in April followed by The Accumulator in May with Aaron Gourley (the number of miles ran each day to correspond with the date of the month, a total of 500 miles for the month) and in June a 24 hour run in aid of RT Projects. Across the world (virtually, of course), Wendy and Ashley were amongst others in the club who ran the length of Tennessee… and back again to complete 1270 miles over the early summer. Maybe they fancied the holiday experience? No words to describe the endurance and strength of character each one of these challenges will have taken. Alex Brown’s achievements are also worthy of note. Hitting his distance pb with the Hardmoors 55 (and looking exceedingly chirpy with it) was not enough, he then completed the Virtual Wooler Marathon (28.5 miles) just a few weeks later. Perhaps the PE department will stake a claim to poach him from the History department soon! Continuing in the long-distance range, it was amazing to see Mark Kearney representing Striders proudly by winning the Punk Panther Ultra in lockdown conditions. He has certainly not let up on his impressive mileage and looks set to crack 4000+ miles this year. Only a very select group of Striders will achieve that in 2020.
Finally, no Captain’s report in recent years would be complete without mentioning ‘the legend that is’: Stephen Jackson. In running terms, Stephen has once again shown his talent by achieving the club’s 10k record with a time of 31:30 beating his own previously held record. Not content with this, he also beat the club record for HM with a time of 68:50 again beating his own previously held record. We are all aware that Stephen recently moved to run first claim for Sunderland Harriers. Elvet Striders will forever have your back Stephen and we wish you all the best as one of the most brilliant and gracious runners in the North East. Dave Shipman however, is delighted to retain the club’s mile record time!
2020 has been a year like no other. So many cancelled events, no team buses, club runs or parkruns. Camaraderie is such an important part of the club and this has not ceased due to lockdown (not the first, or the second). Seems like every week we have heard of our members completing virtual challenges either solo or with running buddies – we will still pretty much run any distance for a bit of bling (I hear Corrine has a lovely framed pictue of the A167 on her wall now)! Well done to all of those who have further and faster (or slower, or shorter!) in these circumstances, you are all built of stern stuff.
It is an old saying but still true. This club cannot function without its volunteers and we would like to say a huge thank you to our run leaders who have proved their flexibility this year by continuing to find imaginative ways to keep us going throughout, leading small groups and quality training sessions. Hear this: you are appreciated, and so much (it’s a gang that is always open to new members by the way!). Who could have thought a car park would become our main training ground, and special thanks to Michael (from Fiona, and the rest of us) for devising and running the sessions that soon became known as the ever popular ‘Theatre of Dreams’. Next year, look forward to the franchising and expansion to multiple locations, new coaches, new car parks, new dreams… (thank you Tamsin!)
Prior to this meeting Jonathan Hamill announced his intention to step down as Chairman of Elvet Striders, a position he has held since 2017. Jonathan has done an outstanding job leading this club for several years, from one turbulent situation to another. Being Chairman is a time consuming, difficult, and unpaid position, made only tougher through juggling full time work and the added pressures having a young family brings. We appreciate the not inconsequential effort and sacrifices you have made in devoting your time to the running of the club: they have not gone unnoticed. Thank you, Jonathan.
A personal note from Michael here, at the end of last year Elvet Striders lost an irreplaceable member, coach and friend. Allan Seheult first gave me any confidence in my running ability, I would run through walls for him. He epitomised Striders for me. The friendship, the generosity, the encyclopaedic running knowledge. So many of us benefitted from his kinship and support. We will never forget him. As 2021 beckons and the hopes of a vaccine develop, I am sure we are all wishing for the day that we can return to some form of group running and perhaps even cross country and elbows out (fingers crossed!!) When this happens, lets not get too excited and let’s remember Allan’s three points of sage advice: … Don’t go off too fast, don’t go off too fast and don’t go off too fast!
It’ll be the last time Louise Collins ever messages me on a Thursday afternoon asking whether I was going for a long run on Saturday….. “For sure” said I, “fancy a marathon attempt?”
So the plan was made, neither of us having properly trained for it but after a run of races being cancelled, me wimping out of Langdale Half due to the weather and a fairly solid summer of training for not very much, it felt like the virtual Saturn Run was an opportunity for us both for a first marathon.
We started early, Louise in her customary tiki shorts and t-shirt regardless of the weather and me wrapped up for Jack Frost (with my snowstorm tiki’s on to boot). We had agreed a 10-minute mile plan which I was super keen for us to stick too. It was going to be a tough day as it was, for me, and Louise is a considerably stronger runner than I am, so pacing was going to be key to my success.
We had a brilliant time. Starting from Durham we followed the lines all the way to Bishop which although a bit dull did allow us to tick off a lot of relatively easy miles. We particularly enjoyed telling someone we were running to Durham – when we were quite clearly going in the wrong direction! Arriving at Kynren was a bit of a shock for us having not really known where we were for some time and a few stops for photos (including many poppies) followed.
I had planned three different possible routes and the one we chose was the flattest. I don’t know Bishop at all but the maps on my watch had us, and as long as we followed the map line we were good. I think Louise was questioning this as we embarked on quite a long climb up Durham Road which, for those who don’t know Bishop, is definitely not flat. Louise was a trooper and ran the whole way – pausing to wait for me to catch up each time! I think the hill took quite a bit out of me and I must admit around mile 15 I was quite head down. My right leg was hurting and it was feeling like hard work with a long way to go. Louise still appeared to be super fresh and it was probably the only time I was a bit worried this wasn’t going to be.
Thankfully we arrived into Spennymoor and to Louise’s parents waving flags and cheering us on. I think I was the one who needed and benefited from it more than Louise to be honest! It was an enormous pick me up and I actually felt my legs get lighter as we set off again. Onwards down Tudhoe Front Street and more support just as we hit 20 miles from Terry and my very excited children. My leg still bothering me but we were keeping pace really well and I was delighted to be able to confidently tell them we were going to make it.
Heading over to High Shincliffe via Sunderland Bridge we spent much of the last six miles telling each other we were nearly there, trying to calculate whether we would need the loop of High Shincliffe planned or whether the detour to Louise’s parents would be enough and continually looking at our watches. Neither of us wanted to have to do that extra loop and the sense of relief when we worked out we didn’t need it was significant. Maths like that at 23 miles in is pretty impressive too I think! Our pace was still really good but it felt like a very long parkrun home and we’ll both admit to hanging-on as we headed down the A177 – by this point comparing which parts of us were hurting the most. I would have burst into tears on the hill outside Maiden Castle if it wasn’t for the fact we were only 0.5m from the finish line but even then I had to walk it. Absolutely nothing left. The finish line did arrive though and the lamppost after the parking meter on Quarryheads Lane will never be looked at the same again by either of us.
Just a short walk back home including one of the steepest hills in Durham (sorry Louise!) but by then it was all done and we had finished bang on pace. Emma Piasecki nearly causing a crash on the A690 to pull over and give us a well-done cheer was the cherry on top of the cake.
It feels somewhat strange having a first marathon being a virtual one. We definitely stopped which you wouldn’t do in a race, but it does leave me keen to experience a proper one and see what’s possible with more dedicated training – we can only hope for races like that at the moment though. Having said that though, the team-work was so much fun and there is a heck of a lot to be said for shared experiences like that in this lockdown world. Thank you Louise.
My favourite domestic event of 2019 was the inaugural Brathay Ambleside Trail 60. It was a route of some 37.5 miles made up of three distinct sections. A fast, flowing trail up and over Loughrigg from Ambleside to Coniston was followed by a series of steep ups and downs for the next 20 miles to the foot of Grasmere Common. The final section was made up largely of road and hardpack to the finishing line in Rothay Park.
After so many cancellations, it was great to receive the news that the 2020 event was going ahead, despite the return to work from furlough of many of the Brathay staff just a month earlier. The weather this time around was very different to last year’s ‘Indian summer’ race. Registration was at Brathay Hall under a heavy and brooding sky. Ambleside Parish Council had ruled out the use of Rothay Park as a start and finish area which resulted in the longest and most technical walk to a start line I’ve ever encountered, at Lily Tarn, a ‘mere’ 20 minutes away up on Loughrigg Fell. I thought I had plenty of time to meander and take a couple of photographs. I made it to the line with a minute to spare!
The line was a three-square socially distanced grid to enable runners to start in groups of six at five minute intervals. Runners who expected to take longer than 10 hours had been asked to book a starting time between 7 and 8am. I had selected an 8.35am start, having completed the dry weather route in just over 8 hours in 2019. It was wet and very greasy underfoot on the rocky walk to the start so I now doubted my thinking after seeing only a handful of runners with later starting times including the likes of Ben Abdelnoor. There were four of us in the grid when the starting signal was given by the marshal and two of my fellow ‘competitors’ sped off into the distance as though they were in a 10k fell race and wanted to be back in time to shower and change before the pubs opened. Suffice to say I didn’t see them again.
The early flowing trails of 2019 were once again evident this year. I never recovered my form after last year’s event when I ran the last 5 miles hard but I went on to suffer with problems that a chest examination and thoracic X-ray didn’t clarify. A long October day out at Lakes In A Day – some 3 hours longer than planned – had been followed by a DNF at the Tour de Helvellyn in December. I resolved to take it easy this year and run well within myself, especially as my training plans for August were stymied by a hectic return to work since the end of lockdown. My pace of 10 minute miles during this lightly rolling opening section was comfortable and I felt pretty good. I had overtaken two runners in the first 10k but Ben Abdelnoor and a few others had floated past me. Running through the Tongue Intake Plantation, I guessed that I must be close to the back of the field.
The weather had actually done little to change the opening miles of the challenge although I did my best to make it harder by turning into some woods with fallen trees after a large route marker had shifted direction at a forest road intersection. I retraced and stopped to replace the tilting marker to prevent others from going the same way. My mind had been distracted by information coming from my Garmin. I’d put it in UltraTrac mode for the first time, to conserve battery life. It had suggested that I had clocked a couple of 6 to 7 minute miles, impossible for me at the best of times! I also began to doubt the distance information as I went on my way towards the beautiful balcony section of trail that overlooks Tarn Hows from the east.
The wind picked up and the rain started just as I followed the broad and elevated path. A glimmer of sun suggested it would ease so I kept the waterproofs stowed but it worsened dramatically as I began the first steep ascent of the day intersecting Coniston and Yewdale Fells. Another, brighter shaft of sunlight offered hope but it only brought a worsening in the weather – the mild start had also given way to some wind chill – so I donned the waterproof and moved on. Seconds later I ran into John and Gemma Wandless, a warm welcoming distraction from the hoolie. I was more than happy to chat for a minute, a natural break from the effort of the climb. I moved well to the high point and descended into Little Langdale where I made the first of numerous stumbles that were to become quite common during the next few miles. When my feet stop moving well, it’s usually a sign that I’m not at my best and I began to feel tired as I headed towards Blea Tarn.
The promise of the feed station at 30km helped my spirits even though I knew that it would be a limited affair with water, electrolyte drink and energy bars. The wonderful food that was on offer last year was a casualty of running a ‘Covid-secure’ event. The feed station at Skelwith Bridge had been dropped completely and the first one was much later at Great Langdale. A brief exchange with another runner – I was being overtaken again – confirmed that my watch was deceiving me. I had thought it was a kilometre to the feed station and it was more like five. The next three miles were a grind.
I was awful on the relatively flat section of The Cumbria Way to the foot of Stake Pass. Offering some salt to another runner suffering with adductor cramp, he recovered well enough to overhaul me soon afterwards. I was walk-jogging at this point. One heavy stumble, recovered just before a face plant beckoned, had tweaked my unreliable back and I popped a couple of paracetamol with a handful of plain chocolate coated ginger bonbons, a jam sandwich and a generous swig of electrolyte. As I began to ascend Stake Pass, a double equipment fail of my waterproof zip opening from the bottom and my pole belt detaching itself into a puddle around my ankles had me ready to throw the rattle, toys, cheating sticks and everything out of the pram. Right on cue, the wind and rain returned with a vengeance to scatter my frail state of mind across the fellside. A few minutes of faffing ensued and I gave myself a proper telling off. For goodness sake, the hardest part of the event was still to come, and then some.
Whether it was the energy rush or paracetamols (or both at the same time) I found a really good hiking rhythm up the unrunnable Stake Pass and crested the top completely rejuvenated. I overtook perhaps a dozen runners, en route to the next feed stop at Langstrath (40km/25 miles). Cold roast potatoes were an unexpected treat and the hiked ascent to Grasmere Common was a joy, especially so as I took time to look around back to the beautiful Langstrath Valley. Even a treacherously wet section of hand to rock adjacent to Lining Crag was enjoyable. This is the stuff that focuses the mind on efficiency and safety of movement rather than time and distance. Brownrigg Moss and the ridge to Gibson Knott was a fun-packed bogfest full of hamstring stretching leaps which tested my short legs to their limits. Although this section felt much rougher than last year, I enjoyed it more. After passing Gibson Knott, the clag remained high enough to see the approaching shape of The Howitzer atop Helm Crag. I remembered this as a key moment last year as the zigzagging, runnable descent of the Bracken Hause sits a few hundred metres before the summit of the crag where the transition from boggy fell back to trail begins and the final hardpack/road section of the Trail 60 beckons.
Happily running down the Hause, I arrived at a simple wooden footbridge next to the road which I promptly tripped over and almost went down again. No worse for wear, I happily jogged through Grasmere Village to the final feed station at 32.5 miles (52km). The hardpacked trail provides picture postcard views of the lake and is followed by a beautiful section along Rydal Water. I’m not known for my love of road running but I was more than happy to move on easier ground on the run in to Ambleside by the quiet lane under Loughrigg. I had called Sue from the feed point to say that I hoped to be at Brathay Hall within the hour. Just over 47 minutes later, I rolled in some 8 hours and 50 minutes after setting off, 35th out of 108 finishers. I was surprised to be 1st MV55 home out of 12 (3rd over 50/22). I was some 15 minutes behind the first overall vet 55, Catherine Musetti from Ambleside AC, who was also – rather wonderfully – 1st female.
Thanks to Sue and to John and Gemma for being at the finishing line supporting the runners coming home. John and Gemma had already put in a decent shift on the fells. Sue, as always, was at the finish and ready with my favourite post-race treat, two blocks of a plain chocolate Bounty!
The Ambleside Trail 60 is a super event which I can heartily recommend to anyone looking for a tough challenge that is shorter than the Lakeland 50. What it lacks in distance, it more than makes up for with a series of hard ascents and rough terrain amongst some of the most beautiful valleys and fells of The Lake District. Whether you are thinking of your first Lakeland ultramarathon or your umpteenth, this one is a great choice.
I’d seen the Esk Valley Walk route a few months ago, and had been toying with the idea of running it, either over 2 days, or making it a more challenging single day out. This weekend, I opted for the latter, along with a night camping in the van with Adrian.
The route starts with a 17 mile loop (leg 1) from Castleton round and over the moors to the source of the Esk. Then there are 3 shorter ‘legs’ from Castleton to Whitby, generally following the river valley but wandering up and down either side. The terrain is a good mix of moor, grassy field footpaths, tracks and trails, plus a little road (though often with a soft grass verge to keep off the tarmac). As well as beautiful countryside the route passes through some of the prettiest villages in the area.
I decided to do this ‘solo’ and ‘unsupported’ – which basically meant carrying a large picnic, along with other essentials. I could top up my water from ‘natural sources’ – no problem considering my route. I downloaded maps and the route description from the website – the description in particular is excellent and easy to follow.
Adrian dropped me at Castleton just before 7.30am and saw me off from the start at the railway station; he was later on the pier at Whitby to see me finish. I am so grateful he’s happy to support me in my adventures, even when it means he misses his weekend lie in.
I thoroughly enjoyed my day out – the route is fabulous and I would recommend it as either a run or walk. The weather was good, plenty of sunshine, though a brisk breeze on the first moorland leg, and great views. I felt ok – legs tiring (as always, as expected) after about mid-20 miles but managing a relatively constant overall pace. And more importantly I was happy all the way, grazing through my picnic, drinking Esk water, and soaking up the scenery.
I didn’t race round – I was treating this as a fun day out, stopping to admire views and the interesting things on route. But hitting leg 4 and only 8 miles to go I thought ‘wouldn’t it be good to do this in under 8 hours’ – which culminated in a sprint through Whitby town centre to the pier, not recommended on a sunny, busy, Saturday afternoon!
My watch recorded 38.4miles and just under 3500 feet of climb, most of the ups being on the moors on ‘leg 1’, and up to Danby Beacon, with the rest of the route ‘gently undulating’.
Adrian and I camped that night just outside of Whitby, and I used my day out as a fine excuse for making the most of an enormous pub meal and bottle of wine – a good end to a wonderful day.
The Pandemic meant there were no events when the first lockdown restrictions were lifted so Melanie and I turned our attention to doing some long distance trails in roughly ten mile sections with a car at the start and end of each section.
We were particularly attracted to the new Northern Saints Trails http://www.northernsaints.com/ which were only developed shortly before lockdown started. Part of the interest was because four of the six trails finish at Durham Cathedral so we would not have to travel too far. The Northern Saints website has excellent route descriptions, but the gpx files aren’t very accurate, so below we have given links to hopefully more accurate gpx files which we have fine tuned as we ran the trails. Signage on the route is very variable, some routes have few or no signs, others aren’t too bad especially as you get close to Durham (when you need them less…). Also the signs (as illustrated) do not have an arrow on them like most public footpath signs, so when you get a junction and there is a sign on a post at the junction, which way do you go ? We made quite a few errors, but working out what to do next was part of the fun. Having OS maps on our phones was often our saviour and we enjoyed seeing sites we hadn’t seen before. The routes sometimes make small diversions to run past churches and we found a couple of diversions because of the pandemic and building works.
Way of Life 30 miles Gainford to Durham https://www.fetcheveryone.com/routes-view.php?id=1811763 Rolling hills and a runnable trail which starts at the village of Gainford to the west of Darlington and goes north to West Auckland, then Witton Park, Bishop Auckland, Buyers Green, Whitworth, Tudhoe, Low Burn Hall and Durham
Way of Light 46 miles Heavenfield to Durham https://www.fetcheveryone.com/routes-view.php?id=1816311 Heavenfield is on Hadrian’s Wall north of Hexham and the route heads south to Hexham and continues on to the lovely Hexhamshire, followed by Slaley Forest, Blanchland Moor, Blanchland, more moors above Derwent Reservoir, Edmundbuyers, Castleside, Lanchester, Esh, Ushaw College, Witton Gilbert, Flass Vale, Durham. If you are only going to do one of these, do this one, it is stunning ! There is currently a high locked gate in Ushaw College but if you amend the above route to stay to the north of the main College buildings that will save you backtracking.
Way of Love 30 miles Hartlepool to Durham https://www.fetcheveryone.com/routes-view.php?id=1815142 This one starts by going up the coast and then through Hart, Castle Eden (but sadly not the Dene), Trimdon, Cassop, Old Durham, Whinney Hill and to the Cathedral. This twisty route has more old railway tracks than most of the other trails. There is a very overgrown nettle section before Trimdon Colliery, we would advise taking the footpath to the north !
Way of the Sea 40 miles Warkworth to Jarrow https://www.fetcheveryone.com/routes-view.php?id=1815796 You could start this one at Holy Island and follow St Oswald’s Way to Warkworth. St Oswald’s Way turns inland there and the Way of the Sea continues south along the coast via Blyth, Whitley Bay and Tynemouth to North Shields and across the Tyne on the passenger ferry and on to the finish at Jarrow. That links to the Way of Learning which starts from there.
Angel’s Way 31 miles Seaton Sluice to Chester-le-Street https://www.fetcheveryone.com/routes-view.php?id=1817189 The most urban route starting on the coast north of Whitley Bay. It joins the Tyne Wear Heritage Way https://www.tynewearheritageway.org.uk/ for a while and then heads into North Gosforth and right into the centre of Newcastle, down Northumberland Street to the Quayside and past the Sage, on to Saltwell Park and then of course, the Angel of the North. Then off to the west towards Beamish and then back east to Chester-le-Street where you can join the Way of Learning back to Durham if you wish. There is currently a well sign posted temporary diversion from the route above because of house building at White House Farm near North Gosforth.
Yes, it had to happen! Sooner or later actual racing was going to restart, and Martin Stone, well-known to fell-runners and those using SiEntries, was the man to organise it. This 13-mile race was set up as, I think, a bit of a test event, the first fell race since lockdown, and one to be observed by the FRA and others to check out Covid19 security measures. These involved using essentially a time trial format, six runners going off at a time at five minute intervals: 234 runners, taking all morning to get set off. We could choose our start time, and groups of up to six could ask for the same start to have a bit of a mini-race. No water stations, mask on at the registration and finish, and they asked for not too much hanging around before and after the race.
So, how did it go? Well the whole thing was organised superbly, and no one behaved stupidly, as far as I could see. The only people perhaps not socially-distancing enough were the quite large numbers of the general public also in and around Lowther Castle during the event – quite a few in the cafe courtyard – but the organisers had no control of that.
Race-wise, I set off pretty strongly, but had a taster of how the day would go when I found the long 3-mile climb out of Askham very heavy-going. I put it down to the heat at first (20 degrees at 11:00, then getting hotter), but as I kept taking little walks to get my breath back, it dawned on me that giving blood six days earlier was having an effect: I kept going ‘into the red’ far too easily. Once I realised this I could manage it better, and try and keep my effort (and pulse rate) down on the climbs. But it was much harder work on any sort of gradient than it had been just a week earlier.
I’d expected lots more overtaking, and being overtaken, than in a normal race, where runners essentially self-sort till you end up alone. But, though I did see more people, we were still pretty sparse. Nice route – a bit of everything, including lovely soft grass, some tarmac, some stony hard track, a long drag, a very big hill, a bit of bog … and a plodge through a river!
Very pleased to get back to the castle … took about two and a half hours, which was much longer than I’d expected, but it could have been worse in the circumstances.
A good crack! If this is the new normal for racing, it isn’t bad …
Following on from the announcement of Keith’s sad and far too early death,it occurred to me that many club members, especially newer ones, will not know Keith or be aware of his contribution to the Striders over many years. Due to Covid restrictions we won’t be able to give him the send off he deserves and because of his shyness and modesty it’s also a chance to share a bit more of Striders history too.
Keith took to running at school in Middlesbrough,combined with a serious and successful road cycling career, including with Cleveland Wheelers on Teeside.
When he came to Durham he ran with Durham City Harriers and later Chester le Street AC,riding the wave of the running boom in the early 1980s, including the emerging popularity of London Marathon and Great North Run .By the time he joined the Striders quite frankly he had done it all, including a sub 2.30 marathon, 6 and 12 stage relays, National Cross Country several times and all of the established track,road,fell and cross country races.
With that pedigree Keith,along with the likes of Dave Jenkins ( Sunderland) Mickey Page( Houghton le Spring AC), John Marshall and Barrie Evans ( Durham Harriers) was part of a small experienced group who trained with the Striders in the early days and passed on their experience of the running world ,helping to establish the Striders as a new club in the North East, while still competing seriously for other NE clubs.
Keith’s racing experience, advice on targeted training, his careful approach to injury management and peaking for specific races proved invaluable to all of us as we naively explored the running world by doing as many races as possible. His long Sunday runs and hill sessions around his home area of Esh and Cornsay were legendary.
Eventually Keith realised that he could run seriously and also have more fun so left Chester le Street to become a regular with the Striders,turning out for over 20 years at races,relays,Harrier League and the gamut of club events. He was also one of the many club members who gravitated to the Saturday morning runs on Waldridge Fell,where he became a key part of the social off road running there.
Together with his wife Gill he was also a regular at most social functions,parties,fancy dress runs and Christmas handicaps. There was a great deal of truth in the story that most of his costumes were directly from his current wardrobe!!
As a club member Keith was always reliable and committed,a creature of habit who did the races he knew and loved, dragging Gill and his family around the country, often disguised as holiday destinations or weekends away. For 20 years or so when the Calderdale Relay came round he would say ” Put me down for leg 6″ and he would guide his relay partner round, always saving energy for a fast last mile to overtake competing pairs and ensure we weren’t last!!
As an individual Keith often presented as a complaining, Victor Meldrew-like personality, known for a time as Grumpy of Esh,a title bestowed on him by Mudman and Mudwoman, Geoff and Susan Davies. For those who got to know him over the years he was a funny, kind, devoted family man who had a huge amount of detailed knowledge about running, athletics and cycling. If you ever did a long run with him you might also benefit from his more specialist subjects, including cars, aeroplanes,motorbikes ( anything with wheels and/or an engine), wartime airfields of Lincolnshire, Polish steam engines ,the journalistic skills of Suzannah Reid,or the well-hidden musical talents of the Pussycat Dolls.
Post- running on Wednesday nights, refuelled by a pint and his staple chips and gravy,apart from talking about the races coming up in the near future his regular lectures on how not to parent three teenage girls or how to prevent them from ever getting a boyfriend were legendary.
Keith made a significant contribution to the club, especially in the early days,then wearing the Striders vest in races for many years. He will be sadly missed by many friends in the club and our thoughts are with Gill and family after his sudden and unexpected death.
David Shipman, President – Elvet Striders August 2020
I found myself in the unusual position of being able to take a day off at the end of July, so I took my opportunity and booked it. I really wanted to go to the Lakes to run some fells but other commitments meant that a full day trip wasn’t practical, so I started looking a bit closer to home – perhaps the North Yorks Moors or the Yorkshire Dales? I’d never run in the Dales before, so when I came across the Reeth 20k Trail Race and realised it would be about an hour’s drive from home my plan started to take shape.
The weather forecast was scorching, with temperatures due to reach 29C in the afternoon, so I wanted to be finished before it got too hot. I managed a fairly early start, arriving in Reeth just after 8:30 only to find that Friday is market day, with part of the green taken up with the market and a lot of people already parked up. Luckily there was still some space, though, so I parked up and paid £2 into the honesty box for all day parking. After changing my shoes and checking my kit, I was off.
Rather than walk to the normal race start, I decided on a gentle jog in to warm up a bit. I found my way past the chapel and along a back lane to drop down to the river and suspension footbridge. It was deserted as I picked up the race route on the other side and started off at a gentle pace for the first mile or so proper alongside the Swale. At the far end, the path turned away from the river and climbed to the road where I doubled-back for a quarter of a mile, before following the finger-sign pointing me right, up onto the moor and the start of the main climb of the day.
All of the route from here, until reaching this road again, was on clear tracks and very easy to navigate, so much so that I tucked away my map and unconsciously let my Garmin do the work for me (I’d uploaded a copy of the course that I’d found online and checked against the OS map beforehand). Nav beginner mistake number 1! It wasn’t until a little while later when I thought “I don’t know this area and don’t actually know where I am on the map” that I gave myself a virtual cuff around the back of my head and got my act back together. GPS can fail for many reasons and should only ever be a back-up. I worked out where I was along the track from the various features and kept tabs on my position as I went after that.
I’d set off with the intention of running this route in a relatively relaxed way, not treating it as if it were a race, so I was walking the steeper hills (in fact, most of them) and getting moving again on the easier and downhill sections. In reality, I was working reasonably hard, not helped by the heat. I was slathered in factor 50 and turned my cap around to help keep the sun off my neck. I’d drunk a bottle of water with an energy sachet in it on the drive down so I was fairly well hydrated to start and kept taking on water as I went.
I was stopping periodically to take photos as well. There were some great views across Swaledale; this isn’t the rugged, craggy fells of the Lakes and a bit bleak in places on the tops, but with the mostly clear skies and a bit of distant haze there was plenty of scenery to take in, when it was possible to raise my eyes from the track! I also noted a few local features, like the road crash barriers re-purposed as drainage culverts across the track. There were also childrens’ paddling pools being used to create drinking ponds for either the sheep or grouse, it wasn’t obvious which they were intended for.
And if I spooked one grouse, I upped a hundred, they were almost as common as the sheep. A word of caution for anyone heading up there after the not-so-Glorious Twelfth (of August) – I’m sure a lot of this route will have grouse shoots going on, so better to check before travelling down. There were a lot of other birds around too (none that I got a clear enough view to identify) as well as the ever-present sheep (mostly Swaledales, of course).
The track climbed continuously, with a couple of respites, until a T junction on Whitaside Moor at about 4.2 miles into the race route (4.8 miles for my run). Turning left, the climb continued right up until crossing the fence that runs over High Carl and Gibbon Hill and marks the top of the southern ridge of High Carl. From there, the track enters Apedale (at least, the beck is called Apedale Beck and the track Apedale Road, so I’m calling it Apedale). Here it starts to drop, so I took the chance to open up my stride a little and benefit from gravity. I still needed to be cautious as the surface underfoot in the steeper top section was still pretty stony. It would be very easy to turn an ankle and this is a pretty remote part from which to need rescuing and combined with the pressure it would put on Mountain Rescue due to Covid-19 restrictions I wanted to make sure I avoided that. Further down, where the gradient eased, the surface improved and this was a chance to really get moving, hitting sub-7 minute miles at some points (put in the context of a 15 minute third mile during the climb and getting on for an 11 minute mile average over the whole run, this should give you an idea of how much fun the downhills were!). Another thought going through my mind was not to get too carried away as I knew I had another decent climb to come.
The sign this climb is approaching is reaching Dent’s Houses, which are just the other side of another gate across the track. At the crossroads, a left turn took me almost immediately up towards Greets Hill. Near the top there’s a small quarry (stay to the right, towards the cairn, if you want to avoid the quarry itself) and the fence junction at the top marks the end of the second climb. From here, the bridleway became more grass than stone, which was much more pleasant to run on and allowed a pretty rapid descent to the road across Grinton Moor.
Apart from a farm crew repairing the track early on, this is where I saw my first people of the day, as a couple of cyclists passed slogging their way uphill. I was pleased to still be descending, even if on tarmac for a bit. It wasn’t long (a third of a mile or so) before I was back off onto the bridleways and heading up the valley above Grovebeck Gill. This was a marginal incline – noticeable by this stage (I was 10 miles in) but eminently runnable. The target was the spoil heap and building visible up the valley, at which point the track turned and I was back into downhill mode.
Approaching a complex-looking junction, I quickly re-checked the map – straight on – and continued the descent. Rockier underfoot here, so cautious again. Eventually the track reached a field above the road and this is where I made my first minor nav error, following the bridleway to the right as I hadn’t seen the track branch off left, cutting off the corner. Not to worry, no big deal. Another short stretch of road before a right turn at Harkerside Place which has a footpath signpost to Reeth – nearly home. This is where race signage or marshalling would have helped because the footpath signs get a bit sparse. With a few false starts and a minor detour I eventually got back on the right path and dropped down to the “finishing field”.
I decided that the end of the suspension footbridge would be my finish point – I would have regretted running all the way back up the path to the village. And besides which, the crowds had started to come out – there were kids swimming in the river, people queuing to take photographs of the bridge (no, I’m not kidding), dog walkers…I was just glad I’d set off early!
In the end my route recorded as 13.2 miles with 560m of climb, which included a 0.6 mile warm-up from the village and a couple of small nav errors in the last mile, so 20km / 12.5 miles was pretty much spot on.
The village green was even busier when I got back but after taking a steamed-up “finished!” selfie and a quick change I couldn’t help starting my recovery with a good mix of protein and carbs from the Ice Cream Parlour.
This was a great route with some lovely views of the Dales. It was very quiet despite the glorious weather and with the combination of distance and climb should prove to be a helpful session ahead of some Lakeland runs, hopefully in the not-too-distant future.
It is with huge regret that I have to announce the death of Keith Wesson, long term member of Elvet Striders, Cestria cyclist and regular Waldridge Warrior. Having undergone successful cancer surgery Keith was re-admitted into hospital where he died on Thursday. Our thoughts and condolences go to Gill and the family at this difficult time.