Category Archives: Report

Observations of an Accidental Cross Country Runner, Druridge Bay & Aykley Heads, Saturday, November 17, 2018

Ian Butler

Not holding hands, but a rolling road block of StridersMany years ago, when I got sent to jail, I didn’t take it at all well. I refused all offers of food and drink, spat and swore at anyone who came near me and burst into tears. That was the last time that I ever played Monopoly with my big sister!

I have always had a very competitive streak, and whilst resorting to tears to gain a win at Monopoly may have shown determination as an 8-year-old, that positive approach to push my self to try and win has stayed with me all my life.

I don’t generally burst into tears now, as a tactic to be used to achieve sporting success, as a general lack of sporting talent and advancing age puts a stop to my unrealistic ambitions. However. I do like to push myself and try new things and the latest outlet for my competitiveness is unbelievably cross-country running and the Harrier league.

For those of you unfamiliar with this pastime, it involves men and women congregating in a wet field in the middle of winter, donning a thin vest with the club name on it, and then running around a series of hills and bogs lined with tape before crossing a finishing line. Some of the more sadistic courses have more mud than others, have heavy rain and gale force winds organised for the day, and include a stream to jump over where crowds of spectators gather to watch some poor runner go headfirst into the mucky bilge. I have it on good authority that next year the powers that be are considering introducing an obstacle to cross while under fire from a machine gun or water cannon.

The basics of the races are that they are divided into men and women’s races. Each race is handicapped, with 3 groups setting off at timed intervals.

The first group off are the normal people or slow group, to go by the official title. Why it’s called the slow group I’m not sure, as looking at the field it seems to have everyone from the carthorses, like me, who plough their way around, to some super fast individuals who run around like whippets. The second group, known as the Middle group, set off a couple of minutes later and in hot pursuit of the slow group. The final group, known as the fast group, consisting of stick thin prime athletes, then set off 2 minutes later in very hot pursuit of the leading groups.

The idea I think is that the handicap system should create a leveller playing field for all, with clubs scoring points by getting their first 4 athletes over the finish line, whilst those, not scoring points are there to generally get in the way of others.

Personally, I think the handicap system should change, as my experience is the fast ones seem to steam past me as if I’m stood still, usually on the first lap of three. My recommendation would be that the middle and fast groups should have to carry weighted rusk sacks and an assault rifle. That would be a fair approach in my view, and at least give me more of a chance of helping out the team.

Previously, I had not run in the harrier league owing to work commitments, plus I was a wuss on wobbly ground from a couple of dodgy ankles caused when I was testing out a pair of Addidas Bambers many years ago. Therefore, when I heard about the cross-country league I decided that I would give it a go, but that I needed both the kit to run securely over rough ground and some guidance from the experts.

The Kit

The kit is basic from what I can tell. All you need is a club vest, (which must be worn during the race) and a pair of simple running shoes designed to disperse and give you grip on mud, water and slime.

The shoes can be picked up quite cheaply from running shops. My pair of cheapo shoes has really given me confidence in mud running, but I still have to look down and really concentrate on the 2 meters in front of me as to where I put my feet.

The Training

I needed to get confidence on the ups and downs of hills and rough ground, and so this year I joined the Monday lunch training sessions presided over by Geoff and Elaine. These sessions I found massively helpful.

Fig 1 – Receiving advice on my race start

The training group tends to consist of like-minded victims, who are generally directed by the Professors of Cross Country to run up or down a hill (Or both) in a set time or for a set distance, in order to gain fitness and improve skill levels on rough ground. Top tips on how to do this without breaking your neck are also freely given. Generally, these sessions turn me into a gastropod, huffing along and giving me a sweaty and slimy stinky sheen.

However, the advice is brilliant, and the benefits are massive, and I have certainly gained benefit from these periods of torture.

The Venues

So far I have done 2 events, Druridge Bay and Aykley Heads.

The experience at both is similar.

On arrival, the first job is to tackle the maze known as the club village and find the club tent. This tented community is a bit like a disorganised scout camp, where you need a compass, map and detailed grid coordinates to find your club abode. Usefully, all the tents look the same, but luckily each club proudly displays their club flag for all to see, so after wondering around for half an hour, you will find the home of Elvet Striders and familiar faces.

Considering that up to 50 plus Striders may attend these races, and use the tent to shelter from the rain and to change into their kit, then the 10ft by 10ft space is no Dr Who Tardis. However, there is room to take your tracky bottoms off and pin your race number to your vest, so it serves a valuable purpose.

Race Tactics

I think I heard Geoff Davis once say in his best Churchillian accent, ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat’.

I understand he may also have said the following, ‘ We shall go on to the end. We shall run at Wrenkenton, we shall run at Druridge Bay and Aykley Heads, we shall run with growing confidence and growing strength on the hills and across the streams, we will never surrender’.

So, its very clear to all that there is club pride at stake in our participation in the Harrier League, and that the individual participation is for the greater good of the team and the club. That is one of the great things about Cross Country.

Whether you are the faster or slower runner, what struck me is that this is a team game, with strong support for the runners in each race by fellow Striders, both running or spectating. Therefore, the encouragement is there to push yourself and execute your best race.

I have asked several people about tactics to race execution and the basic top tips I got were: –

  1. At the start, get to the front of the group in order to get a clean break rather than getting bogged down in the crowd. That way, you are ahead and other runners then have to make up ground to pass you.
  2. On a 3 lap race, if you can’t do a reconnaissance and run the route beforehand, then on lap one suss out the lie of the land, but don’t compromise your pace to achieve this. Then once the ground is known, really put in some effort.
  3. If you are a slower runner, your contribution is still valuable for generally getting in the way and in pushing down the position of other teams runners, so don’t give up.
  4. Do not get involved with other clubs runners with any pushing or shoving, cause an Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm, or use any Threatening Words or Behaviour likely to cause Harassment, Alarm or Distress to fellow competitors or spectators. Whilst such a demonstration in the heat of the moment may make you feel better about the sod that just cut you up, in the long term you are likely to be disqualified. Basically, don’t get involved in any ‘Argy Bargy’ and save energy for the race. You can always nip into the car park after the race and let down the car tyres of your chief protagonist.
  5. Keep going to the end, and in the finishing straight try and pass others, and don’t whatever you do allow yourself to be overtaken.
Race Execution
1) Druridge Bay

Standing at the start of my first cross country at Duridge Bay, with my competitive juices boiling, I turned around and found a right Bounder stood next to me. A Blackhill Bounder to be precise by the name of Alex.

Alex is a 20-year-old young whippersnapper. I’m a much much older chap. I used to be his boss at work, and during our conversations about important things, like ‘what did you have for your tea last night?” and ‘what did you do at the weekend?’, it became clear that we had some common ground. We both had done some triathlons, run similar races and followed sports in general, plus we knew many common acquaintances and generally got on well. The only problem was that he was under the great misconception that by virtue of my age that I was some sort of sporting guru and athlete, rather than a bit of an incompetent sporting dabbler.

With that in mind, personal pride was at stake and it was clear that I simply had to beat him around the course.

At Druridge Bay, the ground was quite solid, so as predicted I set off far too fast because I never learn, and because the slow pack is not slow enough, and so I got pulled along with the group. I said to my self, ‘YOU IDIOT’, but I ran the first lap quite well and was able to stick with the pace and determine the lie of the land.

I was also conscious that I was ahead of ‘Whippersnapper ‘, but I was not prepared to turn around and see how far ahead I was, so into the second lap I dug in and started to make some ground on others in the slow group. At the same time, several high-speed medium and fast pack runners passed me in a blur, making me feel great.

Six miles is a good distance for me, as through racing I now know I can keep a decent pace going, and even push on a bit towards the end. On entering the third lap I felt quite good and began to make ground on a couple of others, but there was a group of 3 or 4 runners who I just could not catch. As I accelerated, a little so did they and I simply could not close that 20 to 25-metre gap. However, I was spurred on and remembered the rules I had been told, namely don’t get overtaken, and don’t give up, despite the pain.

By some miracle, as we moved into the last 400m I found myself making ground on the 3 others directly ahead, and as I moved into the final straight I saw that I was closing rapidly. I then sprinted (not really) the last 20 meters, pulled an effort making face, and just as we reached the line they each slowed down allowing me to pass them just before the finish line and take the win in a loud grunting and gasping shout.

Fig 2 – Crossing the line at Druridge Bay

Take it easy and steady-on there lad!’ shouted the man with a clipboard at the finish. I’d got them on the line as directed to do so, and the man called me a lad, so I was happy. Additionally, I had beaten the Whippersnapper.

My competitive juices were well and truly oiled and I looked forward to my next test at Aykley Heads.

2) Aykley Heads

I know the lie of the land very well here, and that was the problem. I know it can be a complete ‘b_ _ _ _ _ _ d of a route, with many ups and downs, grassy molehills, mud and general rough terrain. Therefore, it is a great lung bursting challenge and not one to be missed!!

I followed race tactics as planned, namely, I again went off too fast, but was able to keep a steady pace going. even on the undulating sections after the first mile or so. However, I was very unsure going downhill, on rough ground and my natural instinct to hold back to protect my ankles certainly slowed me down. Unlike others, I simply did not trust my ability and speed downhill; hence I was overtaken on the down sections, whereas on paved surfaces I have much more confidence with speed.

This was really the story of laps 1 and 2 for me.

The most notable aspect of the race was the support given by the marshals and spectators to Striders as we ran around the circuits. It was truly inspiring to have that support. Shouts of ‘Well done Striders’ or ‘Come on Striders’ were heard around the whole course, In addition, shouts of ‘you’re looking good Striders’, although descriptive, certainly did not tell the story of how I felt at the time.

The most curious shout came on the third lap. By this time I was wondering what the heck I was doing here on a Saturday afternoon. But by this time all the faster runners had passed, and I was in a sort of bubble of other similar runners who had gone around together and kind of formed a brotherhood in adversity. This group included a bald-headed bloke in a luminous vest, a Red Kite Runner, and a chap in a red-hooped vest who looked like a bumblebee. In support, I found my self-running alongside fellow Strider Daniel Mitchel and we kind of kept each other supported as we dragged over the undulating sections.

As we ran downhill side by side, a helpful Strider marshal shouted ‘ Stop holding hands and get on with it’. Little did this fellow know that we had applied race tactics and formed a Strider running rolling roadblock, aimed at preventing others from passing, and threatening our faster teammates ahead. This tactic actually worked and kept others at bay for quite a long time until the final leg uphill leg along the railway line.

Then it was an uphill slog over the hill and down through the woods to the final ascent of the finishing climb, which I managed to plod up. Once on top of the hill and on the flat I saw a few of our bubble of runners ahead and somehow managed to overtake them. As I entered the finishing straight, I was really conscious of someone on my inside trying to pass, but I managed to put in a real spurt and hold them off over the finishing line. I felt that I had won the Olympics, and not come in 421st out of 570 finishers.

It’s fair to say that Cross County has met my competitive urges. It’s certainly better than playing Monopoly and running the risk of being sent to jail.

(Visited 146 times, 2 visits today)

Venice Marathon, Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sarah Fawcett

Not as impressive a performance as Stephen Jackson’s marathon but he didn’t mention jellyfish!

I promised Catherine Smith that I would write a race report if I finished today. I must have had a feeling it wasn’t going to be as good a result as I hoped.

I booked the Venice Marathon and 5 days in Italy months ago, but yesterday I was thinking of only doing UK ones hereafter.

It’s been stressful as I don’t speak Italian and I’m out here solo. From Airbnb reservation issues to having to navigate every sort of public transport; clocks changing on marathon eve; and, a persistent low-level headache all week, I’ve set the scene for you with all my excuses!

Well the taxi did turn up this morning at the only time I could book and 10-mins early to boot, and I got to the start before anyone else. Have you ever seen a bank of portable loos with no one queuing?

People soon started arriving by the busload, just as the rain and lightning appeared. It became apparent that the baggage buses were going to leave 15-mins ahead of the posters in the tent. The multilingual announcements were very good. The lorries ended up driving to the port then being put on boats to get them to the finish. Such is Venice. Still, ages to visit the loos – manageable queues- yes, I’m obsessed. Good to get out of the eye-watering fug of embrocation in the tent and the flooded floor.

 

The sun came out and the race started 20-mins earlier than advertised – see a pattern?

The route follows the River Brenta from Stra past glorious 17th and 18th Century villas – the summer residences of rich Venetians. Thinking of the contrast to the snow in Durham yesterday, I was wishing I had shorts on, not 3/4 lengths. All was fine until about 10 miles then I recognised that it was feeling like a slog. A poor halfway time of 2.24 and those demons started working- was I going to be able to finish?

But I had come all this way… From mile 16 I was run/walking and I couldn’t have told you what the scenery was. There was 2km in San Guiliano Park where the expo was and then some industrial area before the beast that was the 4km road and train link from the mainland to the island.

Today it was a headwind and spray and a view of a tumultuous sea. I walked most of it, as did those around me. We were all struggling.

It was a relief to reach Venice out of the wind, marginally, but after crossing a specially constructed pontoon, put across the Grand Canal for the race, it wasn’t long before we were all shocked by the path ahead; it was flooded by the tide for the entire last 2 miles. Not a little puddle, but a gutsy, wave breaking, ankle deep jobbie.

The ramps over the bridges, instead of being dreaded, were welcomed as dry land. This seafront stretch is where I saw the jellyfish on the “ path” and hoped no one was going to tread on it in the same way that I normally observe beetles or slugs on marathon paths.

I was relieved to reach the end. I hadn’t performed well at 5:09, my slowest road marathon, but at least I have the medal. Catherine Smith tells me the flooded end has reached FB if you want a laugh.Would I do it again? Probably not.

I think Venice is a beautiful city to visit but I don’t need to run to it. At this point, I’m not even sure I want to do another marathon!!

[Footnote added by Sarah on 30 October, 2 days after the Marathon:  Actually it is now no laughing matter. By Monday 70% of Venice was flooded in the worst tides they have seen for 50 years.]

(Visited 114 times, 1 visits today)

Harrier League, Gosforth Park, Saturday, October 27, 2018

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. Mud King/Mud Queen Race - click flag for more information.

Results

men
PosbibNameRace TimePackCatActual Time
1852Matthew Briggs (Morpeth Harriers & AC)34:18SMU2034:18
24452Georgie Hebdon37:50MMsen35:20
64504Stephen Jackson39:07FMV3534:07
68483Paul Evans39:10SMV3539:10
76453Graeme Watt39:20MMV4036:50
78506Stuart Ord39:25SMsen39:25
96456James Garland39:39SMV4039:39
100472Matthew Archer39:43SMV3539:43
154480Neil Sleeman40:28SMV4040:28
161507Stuart Scott40:32MMV3538:02
180434Chris Callan40:43FMV3535:43
241429Allan Renwick41:31SMV4541:31
247470Mark Warner41:36MMV3539:06
274467Mark Griffiths41:59MMV4039:29
305451Geoff Davis42:31SMV6042:31
324455Jack Lee42:54MMsen40:24
326461Juan Corbacho42:55SMV3542:55
355436Conrad White43:29SMV6043:29
414444David Lumsdon45:09SMV5045:09
415442David Gibson45:11SMV5045:11
438501Simon Dobson45:53SMV4545:53
474430Andrew Davies46:46SMV4046:46
479479Mike Bennett46:57SMV6046:57
481445David Oxlade46:59SMsen46:59
486481Nick Latham47:08SMV4547:08
4961596Graeme Walton47:29SMV4547:29
500460Jordi SabateStriders47:37SMV50 47:37
501493Richard Hockin47:39SMV6547:39
533509Tim Matthews49:21SMV5549:21
541511Trevor Chaytor49:43SMV5549:43
546486Pavlos Farangitakis49:52SMsen49:52
552466Mark Foster50:09SMV4050:09
586490Peter Mcgowan52:25SMV5552:25
ladies
PosbibNameRace TimePackCatActual Time
11024Danielle Hodgkinson (Wallsend Harriers)26:06MFsen23:36
23382Sarah Davies30:23SFV5030:23
65319Anna Basu31:34MFV4529:04
67371Nelli Bala31:34SFsen31:34
82372Nina Mason31:53SFV4031:53
102360Katy Walton32:22MFV3529:52
131337Fiona Jones32:48MFV4030:18
163338Fiona Shenton33:24SFV5533:24
173320Anna Mason33:34SFV4533:34
1831132Corrine Whaling33:49SFV3533:49
184370Natalie Bell33:50MFsen31:20
211384Stef Barlow34:14SFV4534:14
2291169Emma Lecavalier34:31SFsen34:31
231348Jenny Search34:33SFV4034:33
262317Angela Dixon35:11SFV4035:11
273377Rebecca Talbot35:49SFV4035:49
306346Jan Young36:37SFV6536:37
330380Sam Askey37:23SFV4037:23
331391Victoria Jackson37:24SFV3537:24
366350Joanne Patterson38:28SFV3538:28
417316Alison Smith41:32SFV4041:32
(Visited 21 times, 1 visits today)

Heart of Eden Half Marathon, Eden Valley, Northern Pennines, Sunday, October 21, 2018

Steve Ellis

Nestling at foot of the North Pennines, Appleby, famous for its annual horse fair, hosts this race. Described as a tough run by some reports, I was about to find out.

The journey across from Durham was fraught with two major road closures, one in Barnard Castle and the other on the A66 at Brough (which I later discovered, much to annoyance, was only to HGVs). These closures nearly sent my Sat-Nav into an apoplectic rage and decided to send me off on a very interesting detour. I ended up in a cul-de-sac in an industrial estate in Kirby Steven at one point and finally along some very, very narrow lanes. However, I arrived in good time at Apply Grammar school where the race started and finished.

It is a low-key affair organised by the local Rotary Club and at the start, there were just over 100 runners. The forecast rain had kept away, so I opted to run without a jacket.

The course is all on roads with only the first few hundred meters marshalled. After that, it’s a matter of keeping to the left!

Down the main street into town and through the other side where a sharp left turn heralds the long slog up to Dufton. The hills are never ending but gradual so it is simply a matter of heads down and dig-in. The views came into their own as I climbed ever higher. Hereabouts are some of the finest Pennine walks to be had. Cross Fell, High cup Nick, all on the Pennine Way of course.

As I approached Dufton at about eight miles, I was quite tired and looking forward to some gravitational relief! However before that came, as I turned out of Dufton, there appeared a 100m steep hill. It nearly stopped me dead in my tracks and after a short walk I lumbered up to the top.

Now began the return; a long downhill stretch back to Appleby. Well, mainly downhill with a few sharp surprises thrown in, including, at mile 11 a short 5-minute storm which threw the dead autumn leaves high into towering vortexes and the rain lashed down. Then as soon as it came, it stopped. Quite bizarre.

The finish leads you right back to the school hall where a commemorative mug filled with soup is presented to you and very welcome it was too. My time was 2hrs 9 mins (although my Garmin begged to differ) which I was ok with. The official elevation figures site 262m and I won’t argue about that. Put into context, the GNR is approx. 107m, Coxhoe trail 114m, Brass Monkey 10m and Dent 220. So, all in all, I can’t be too disappointed.

I’m not sure if I would do this again but I recommend it from the point of view that it is well organised, well marshalled and all for a good cause in a beautiful part of the country and about 80 mins from Durham, normally!

(Visited 38 times, 1 visits today)

The Chelmsford Marathon 2018, Sunday, October 21, 2018

Stephen Jackson

This is a race that would never have been on my radar at all had it not been on the doorstep for my younger brother, Gerard, who lived a couple of miles outside the City. He had run his first marathon in Manchester in April 2018 and we had agreed to run his ‘hometown’ race later in the year. Gerard had managed a very credible 04:07:22 on his first attempt but felt confident he could follow it up with a better time without the logistics of travelling to a ‘big City’ marathon (and also benefit from doing some proper training).

Having only participated in one road marathon per annum (quite enough, if you ask me) for the previous 3-4 years, I initially intimated I would run with him. In hindsight, that was probably never going to happen with the prospect of racing for a new PB too tempting, having fallen just short of my best at a ‘warm’ London marathon earlier in the year.

It was to be a nice trip, one we were all looking forward to as it coincided nicely with school half term and the weather is always a few degrees warmer in the South-East. However, on the 24th August 2018, my only brother died tragically and that second marathon wasn’t to be.

During that awful first week following Gerard’s death, it occurred to me that he had entered the marathon and at that point, I just hadn’t got round to it. I had a chat with my wife, Vics, and I decided that I would contact the organiser’s to transfer the number into my name and run the race in his honour. The truth was that I was looking for a focus, a reason to maintain some disciplined training. Running continues to be a huge positive in my life, both physically and mentally.

On the morning of Friday 21st September 2018, I wrote myself a 4-week training plan for the Chelmsford marathon. I’d been running 60-80 miles a week throughout the summer and had already ‘banked’ a 25-mile long run with club captains’ new and old (Michael and Gareth). The plan was to do a ‘short and sharp’ focussed build-up using some of the same sessions I’d worked on in previous years with coach Allan. 100 miles, 80 miles, 50 miles, taper; easy.

By the evening of Friday 21st September 2018, I couldn’t walk from my bed to the en-suite bathroom because of a sharp pain in my left calf; the following morning it felt worse. By the Sunday I’d popped the marathon plan in the recycling bin and booked a physio appointment. I’d decided the injury was a calf strain – I was calling it a strain as that sounded less severe than it felt; it felt like I’d torn part of the muscle.

By the Monday morning, I’d seen Neil at Platinum physiotherapy and I was ‘cross training’ by Wednesday; a swim in the pool followed by 45 minutes in the gym. I managed a full seven days without running before I attempted an easy parkrun at Durham (mostly on grass).

The following two weeks could probably be described as gung-ho. Back up to marathon volume (two 10k runs a day – 140km per week) whilst walking the tightrope between injury and recovery. I didn’t feel fully fit, but I could run – just about. I was seeing Neil or someone at the team at Platinum twice a week. As the calf recovered I triggered some other niggles as I unconsciously adjusted my running gait. Oiled fingers, thumbs, forearms and elbows were applied with pressure into my hamstrings, quads, glutes and back as I discussed running and life in general through gritted teeth.
I was getting there.

With less than two weeks to go before the marathon, I attempted my final ‘long run’ with some trepidation. I’d loosely scheduled to do some work at as yet undetermined marathon pace but the real goal was to be pain-free running. With Michael recovering from the Kielder marathon and Gareth out of the country, my training partner for the day was Vics; on two-wheels with gels in her pockets and a bottle of water in her back-pack – what a hero.

If anyone is still reading this I’d be interested to know if this is the furthest into a race report anyone has got without mentioning the race itself? Answers on the back of a race number to the usual address.

By race day I felt good physically, no niggles and my legs actually felt quite fresh, possibly due to the enforced week of rest. The marathon is a distance that can chew you up and spit you out, but it can be tamed with a diligent approach. Having run 6 over the previous 5 years I was aware of most of the mistakes that can be made; on my debut in Nottingham, I made the baffling decision to not take so much as a sip of water throughout the entire race. By now, I know what time to set my alarm so the routine can begin; water, coffee, toilet, breakfast, toilet (again) and so on. I drop my bag at 08:45 and jog half a mile to the start. I have one final wee in Costa Coffee and stand on the start line – there are 20-30 runners within the ‘sub-3-hour section’, London Marathon, it ain’t.

It occurs to me that I’m likely to be racing fellow runners as opposed to my watch and a pre-determined goal time. I make the decision to go with the lead group for the first mile and assess the situation. Three or four years previously Paul Martinelli had won the race (for context, he ran 02:18 this year in Berlin) but I knew that six-minute-miles would have you ‘in the mix’ most years.

There were a few twists and turns during the first two or three miles, as runners were taken out of the City Centre and by 5km there was a group of 5-6 runners just behind the lead bike, including myself. The pace was brisk but soon settled to approximately 6-minute miles in old money (my watch was beeping each km between 03:40 and 03:45).

There was a name I recognised, a local runner called Crispian was getting lots of support. I knew he’d won it on a previous occasion and although now in his forties had a fantastic pedigree as a club runner (his Power of 10 is a fascinating read)

We reached 10 miles in just under 59 minutes and the group of six had become three; Crispian moved 5-10 metres ahead and seemed to be getting quicker. Sure enough, my watch beeped 03:33/km; which was 2 hours 30 pace, too quick for me but not for him? I did the only sensible thing I could think of and moved back to the front, running faster still I dropped my shoulders and shook my arms off – a bit of bravado that was to suggest I was finding this easy (I wasn’t).

This seemed to have the desired effect as the pace settled back towards 6-minute miles and the three of took turns to take the lead and the miles through country lanes were ‘ground out’ with only the occasional Sunday cyclist and the odd car for company.

I had no plans of trying to make a move for the win until the last 5km or so but just after the 20 mile marker I suddenly realised that I was on my own at the top of an incline, not significantly but enough that it no longer felt like I was running as part of a group. By 22 miles the guy on the lead bike told me I had a gap of about 400m, but remembering I had a guy behind me with a 2.29 PB I was taking nothing for granted.

I did, however, feel remarkably fresh considering I was well over twenty miles into a marathon. I started to push a little bit as the splits started to creep towards half marathon pace and I ran the final 5km in about 17 minutes, this was turning into the best performance of my running career to date. I knew the gap had increased and the race was mine to lose, I discarded a sweaty cap at mile 25 and blew Vics and the girls a kiss, one more mile – I could run a mile.

I’d done some maths in my head and though I could be on for sub 02:35 so I was absolutely delighted to see the clock on 02:34 as I turned the final corner and hurtled towards the finish line and let out a roar.

02:34:17 – that one was for Gerard.

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British Fell Relay Championships 2018, Grasmere, Saturday, October 20, 2018

Fiona Brannan, Geoff Davis, Jack Lee, Mark Warner, Nigel Heppell, Paul Evans

Leg 1; Mark Warner, solo, 5 miles, 2400 ft

I love running and I love mountains but for some reason, I rarely combine the two, so when Paul Evans put a call out for an Elvet Striders team for the ‘British Fell and Hill Relay Championships‘ in the Lakes, it seemed like an opportunity to combine the two. I had put myself forward for the first leg, as I had to be back in Durham for work later in the day. More experienced members of our team helped check I had the right kit to carry around with me, gave me a map and some last minute fell running tips and before I knew it, we were being herded into the starting pen.

Without having considered a race plan, the gun went off and on a spur of the moment decision; I thought it might be fun to ‘blast’ the first field. Zoom, I was off! Head of the pack – Elvet Striders leading the race! But crikey, before I knew it, I had lactic burning like I’d just raced an 800m on the track. Then we started going up – I’ve never run on anything like it; about 3 miles up – getting steeper all the way. The everlasting incline was no place to be trying to clear the lactic acid, my heart and lungs were on fire. This was not running, as I know it; folks were pulling themselves up the mountain on tufts of grass, or rocks – whatever you could grasp. As the race got higher we entered the clouds and visibility was very poor – I was just trying to keep someone close by as I hadn’t really entertained trying to navigate too, but at some point, I reached the summit and then we were heading down.

Through reading, and some of Geoff’s off-road sessions, I know the theory of running downhill (switch off brain, lean forward, don’t brake) but can I put it into practice? – err, no! The whole way down the mountain, despite trying to relax, I was clearly thinking too much and leaning back and braking – my quads were taking such a hammering (5 days after the race, writing this, I still can’t walk properly) but it certainly was exhilarating. After 3 miles of heart and lung burning going up, this was 2 miles of slipping and sliding my way down.

Back to the starting field after handing over to Jack and Fiona, I managed a brief catch up with the rest of the team and used my token for some hot food and drink before heading home. I had a great day – I love the variety of running, but I always seem to enjoy the day more when it’s a team event or relay, it really brings you together.

Leg 2, Jack Lee and Fiona Brannan, paired, 6,7 miles, 2800 ft

Jack: “So that’s what you call dibbing!”

I have never understood fair weather running. Heat makes me overheat while I find a drizzly, windy and generally just a bit crap day brings out my best. I was probably at close to my best at the relays and still I had no chance of keeping up with Fiona on the downs. (Fiona: I’m not a great fan of the ‘up’ part, but I really, really like the ‘down’…)

Our leg of the relays started with some shouts that Mark had been spotted and a fast run away from the line, only to be quickly assaulted by the fells. Usually, the ascent tires me out but today I just plodded on surprised by how easy it was going. (Fiona: it’s true, I’m not much good at ‘up’) Leg 2 started with the ascent of Great Rigg and then Fairfield from Grasmere, and after that it becomes a bit of a blur.

Fiona and I spent 50 minutes trudging up Fairfield with the occasional jog on the flatter section; it was a bit damp but the effort kept us warm, however, when we got to the top the cold wind cut through my clothing. You could get cold very fast if you stayed still but fortunately after a slower start Fiona had found her legs (Fiona: have I mentioned I don’t like the ‘up’ parts?!) and it was all I could do to keep up with her. The next half an hour was one of the most frenetic (Fiona: I think he means fun and exciting!) of my life. I leapt over rocky escarpments, slid down bog on my backside and waded streams all at a frenzied pace just to keep up. I have never descended so fast and was pushing my limits; quite a few times I placed my foot on muddy paths of steep slopes for my footing to go. I was, after all, in a pair of borrowed shoes, as I had forgotten mine. I owe Nigel my eternal thanks and a beer sometime for the loan of shoes. (Fiona; our split times on this section are somewhat more impressive than the ascent, and we managed to gain around 30 places here so must have been doing something right!)

Photograph courtesy of Beau Dog Photography

Eventually, as must happen, the slope became shallower but this just encouraged Fiona to up the pace, so I dug deep and used all the pace I had left just to keep up and after a treacherous descent over the final muddy field (onlookers hoping for exciting slips and falls!) we sprinted in just ahead of fell running legend Angela Mudge and her partner from Carnethy. We tagged Paul and Geoff and our job was done.

Leg 3; Geoff Davis and Paul Evans; paired ca. 6-7 miles, 3000 ft, navigation leg

Having done the fell relays a couple of times before, both times leg 2, 2018 saw me decide to push out of my comfort zone a little and take on leg 3 with the guiding hand of the veteran Geoff D to keep me right and deflect my natural inclination to take route alpha at all opportunities; essentially, I was there to push the pace and to learn, he there to ensure sanity and to guide me in the subtle art of efficient hill running. This played out as follows on a leg of 7 miles and c3000 feet:

Start – CP1: fast start along a lane away from the event field, having been tagged by Fiona and Jack. Easy running on tarmac, then sharp bend upwards to a pair of marshals who hand us our maps of the control locations. A quick glance at the map and it becomes apparent that Geoff’s talents will be of use, as my urges are to go up and over, whilst he takes us nicely up the side of a fast-flowing beck, twisting up the valley over slippery rocks and through bracken to arrive at a stream junction and CP1, other teams arriving and departing rapidly.

CP1-2: the fun starts here, as we exit northeast, traversing up a hill into the low cloud. We follow a sheep trod, and other teams also, then it all becomes very puzzling as we arrive at a tarn that isn’t on the map, but with a saddle that definitely is. We know we’re somewhere around Heron Pike and then, Eureka! Unsurprisingly, the only such body of water on the map is, we realise, where we must be even if we’d been further up the hill, as we’d assumed, and therefore closer to our destination. We lose a good few minutes pondering this, though it turns out, race leaders Keswick lose even more (and, in the process, the overall race). Upwards, over the ridge, downwards, aiming for another stream junction with a sheepfold beyond; I suggest we simply follow the stream to our left and make up for my error with the tarn to an extent by this proving correct, albeit with an element of luck. Dibbed, and done.

CP2-3: easy – take a bearing and follow it, climb gently, descend gently onto a Land-Rover track and the next control, with marshals huddled in a tent.

CP3-4-5-end: easy navigation, but straight up and over, a long line of ant-like figures ascending into the heavens/cloud above us. This gets chilly, and I push the pace fairly hard as we use all limbs to get us up to the very runnable ridgeline, where we make up a few places before contouring around a valley head and then dropping sharply through endless greasy bracken, broken earth and unseen rocks. There are now teams to our left and right, some of them last seen on the climb, some not seen previously. We hit the stream, cross it and then have a choice – up and over or veer round to our left then back right again, adding 300m but taking out the climb. Geoff prefers the latter, so we do it and meet at the next control the teams who entered the water with us: no advantage either way until we then race them downhill on a firm track and realise we have more in our legs, taking out 4-5 further teams. By now the back of the leg is broken and we’re heading home, a little climb taken with aggression and then the final run-in down churned, slippery tracks, CP5 hit, then fields, control on the descent limited and Geoff slipping ahead as I’m just rubbish on this terrain. We re-enter the final field and Geoff’s driving hard and not looking back, knowing I’ll go all-in to catch him again, which I do before we hit the line and tag Nigel. Job done, baton not lost, lessons in the art of navigation on the move gained. Here goes Nigel…

Leg 4; Nigel Heppell, solo, 4.3 miles, 2000 ft

Leg 4 – known as the ‘glory’ leg; also suitable for 16yr olds – I’m well
over-qualified!

Standing for several hours in a field on a wet Lakes day while legs 1,2
and 3 take place, I try to keep as much clothing on as possible before
getting down to race kit and entering the holding pen in what I think
should be a reasonably short time before Geoff and Paul appear for the
handover at the end of their navigation leg. Such is the calibre of the
superstars of the fell running world that the loudspeakers let us all
know the relay has actually been won before half the field even set off
on the last leg and there is a 5min call for the mass start. Peering
into the distant murk, I spot the unmistakable gait of an HH top leading
Paul down the final slope and into the funnel and then it’s my turn to go
off up the lane with a grateful lead on the pack behind.

The official route description says it all; narrow lane; cross beck;
path up to tarn; big zig- zags on climb; scenic dash
around tarn; cross wall; stiff ascent of Heron Pike; nothing to see now
as we enter the cloud base shrouding the tops; onto Fairfield Horseshoe
race line; contour below summit of Great Rigg; speedy contouring descent
onto summit of Stone Arthur; exit cloud cover; hair-raising descent down
leg 2 ascent path; and back into the event field.

On the climb up I very soon hear the sounds of the pack gaining
on me; one or two lanky types begin to lope past; then a whole bundle go
through – I guess the fitter club runners who were held back by the late
arrival of their leg3 runners – then I seem to hold my position; ascent
of Heron Pike is just plain hard work; a bit chastened to be steadily
overtaken by what appears to be a classrooms-worth of school children
but then things level off and we get running again. A few of us trade
places once or twice along the contour and then the fun starts as
gravity kicks in. It always amazes me how timid some become on a descent
over rough ground and now it’s my turn to overtake; beyond Stone Arthur
the slope increases dramatically and keeping a foothold is marginal at
best; no way of slowing down without a fall so go for it, trying not to
wipe out runners caught in front; through hole in wall and into final
descent of event field; others say this is really steep and slippery but
it feels quite relaxed after what went before and I again have to expend
energy running into the finish.

For the road runners amongst you, I ran this at a pace of 15min/mile –

For the fell runners, my rate of ascent was a lowly, but fairly steady
60’/min; and my rate of descent was largely 200-220’/min.

[Footnote – The photograph of Jack and Fiona was generously provided by Beau Dog Photography. There is no oblligation but if you would like to make a donation to the Phabkids then please follow the link and give from as little as £2. Thank you https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Lee-and-Sarah ]

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Asda Foundation Yorkshire Marathon, York, Sunday, October 14, 2018

Corrine Whaling

Our journey to York began the day before the marathon with a playlist of rain-related songs following on from Jonathon’s Facebook suggestion that we all learn “Singing in the rain” – turns out there are a surprising number of alternatives out there (Travis: Why does it always rain on me, Garbage: I’m only happy when it rains, and Rhianna: Umbrella were our favourites!). Suffice to say we were preparing ourselves for a wet soggy run….

On the morning of the race, we got a lift to the station from family and joined the long queue of people waiting for the shuttle bus from the railway station to the University campus. I couldn’t fault the organization for the rest of the day, however, this aspect could have done with some thinking through! Pay as you board meant that getting on the bus took an age, the organisers’ assurance that runners would be prioritized wasn’t followed, and all the while we were getting wetter and wetter. Our Poundland ponchos were undoubtedly the best purchase of the weekend! Rory tried to keep me distracted by making numerous suggestions about ways in which the bus system could have been remedied, but at that point anxiety was building (I was late for the GNR one year having queued in vain for the portable loos and missed getting into the starting pen resulting in a vault over the barriers – I am now absolutely obsessed about getting to the start of races early and so this bus wait was no good for me at all!). Eventually, we boarded and started the short journey to the campus.

On arrival, Rory and I dropped bags (super efficient system), and then decided to do our own thing and meet afterwards– which was probably for the best with regards to maintaining marital harmony given how snappy I was with him at that stage! Luckily I bumped into fellow Striders, Karen and Lesley, and had a lovely chat, which helped to calm my nerves.

The start was fabulous – lovely chatty people in the pen, all bonding over the atrocious weather conditions, which had, in a lovely way, taken the pressure off with regards expectations of the race. We set off on time, all still wrapped in jumpers/ponchos/bin liners.

The first mile flew by, and I set off far faster than I had intended. The route heads into York, and by the first mile-marker I had warmed up sufficiently to ditch my charity shop purchased fleece but was still holding on firmly to the poncho! As we approached mile 2 we passed York Minster with its fabulous bells, which was an amazing sight and sound on a Sunday morning.

We then headed out into the suburbs and towards the countryside – at around mile 3 I felt like a boil-in-the-bag runner, and finally had to ditch the poncho! I had planned to slow down at this point but felt good so kept the pace up. Mile 5 took us into Stockton on the Forest, which was, without a doubt, one of the high points of the marathon for me. On our way into the village a group of girls from the group I used to run with before we moved to Durham were cheering – I had a lovely hug from one of the girls I had run Manchester with, which gave me the lift I needed. Then onto the high-fiving vicar and the congregation who were all out supporting!

After that, the route was through country lanes, with long stretches without any crowds. Normally I quite like that, but I think the rain took its toll on my spirits, and I really enjoyed the villages and cheering. I particularly loved the pipe band at mile 7, being Scottish this was absolutely amazing – hands in the air clapping moment! Unfortunately, that also heralded the moments the heavens opened…It had been raining solidly prior to that but with little force, after that point, it rained heavily with no let-up or stop (until we were in the car journey home!). This meant that for much for the rest of the run lots of time was spent looking at the ground trying to dodge puddles, or trying to dodge the relay runners – I guess when you are doing 6 miles it doesn’t matter too much if you get wet feet, but I was very keen to avoid getting wetter than I needed to! Again I planned to slow down at mile 10 but felt good, so kept the pace up….

Entering Sand Hutton approaching mile 11 there was a stretch of road that was totally flooded with horrible sandy water – I guess there must be a lot of sand in the ground in Sand Hutton, an aptly named village!

Between mile 13 and 15 came the first loopback, I planned to slow down after the half but felt good, so kept going, and the same story at mile 15! The loopback allowed me a couple of shouts of “Go Strider” as Elaine and Anna passed going the other way in super speedy time.

Then another loopback at miles 16-20 gave me a glimpse of Rory, who looked strong despite having just finished the uphill part of the loopback. If I had one real criticism of the race it would be that the loopback there was just nasty! A gradual decline on the way out, whilst all the time looking at the people struggling with the gradual incline on the 2-mile stretch back up again – mean! Thankfully my water bottle needed refilling and Tailwind adding, all of which I hadn’t practised whilst running – the fiddling on with all of this totally distracted me from the climb, which was done before I’d realized!

Thereafter I did purposefully slow down my pace, realising that I needed to reign it in to avoid being in a whole world of trouble later on. I found mile 22 really tough, but then the mantras of “Only a Parkrun to go” and “Just jog it home now” kept me going (I’d run my first marathon using The Non-Runners Marathon Training Guide, which is big on getting you to practice and repeat your own mantras/phrases throughout the marathon, and I have found that this really helps me)

The last mile contains a sharp uphill stretch, although living in Durham, it was nothing compared to what we are used to! What goes up must come down, with the result that the finishing straight is downhill – the atmosphere here was incredible, supporters aplenty and brilliant tunes. I ended with a song and a sprint and finished well within my sub-4 goal with a time of 3:52:02, representing a 21-minute PB for me.

I enjoyed a nice chat with Anna at the baggage reclaim (system slightly less efficient at this point!), and then back home for the nicest cup of tea I have ever had!

Pos.Bib No.NameGenderCat.Chip TimeGender Pos.Cat. Pos.Chip Pos.
2781206Allan RenwickMaleM4503:11:3526550270
3331201Rory WhalingMaleM4503:15:3131560338
4351200Elaine BissonFemaleF4003:21:452810441
5161202Mark GriffithsMaleM4003:25:1647987539
5851203James GarlandMaleM4003:26:30541105576
12551209Anna SeeleyFemaleF3503:51:00188311329
19381211Lesley HamillFemaleF4504:09:13378381971
20511212Karen ByngFemaleF4504:12:39416412069
26811220Jane DowsettFemaleF5004:27:06681572568
28451056kirsty nelsonFemaleF4504:36:37751932840
33821061Sue JenningsFemaleF5004:55:101012863392
(Visited 39 times, 1 visits today)

Harrier League, Druridge Bay, Sunday, October 7, 2018

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. Mud King/Mud Queen Race - click flag for more information.

Ladies group photo by Lisa Evette Lumsdon

Ladies
posbibnamerace timepackcatactual time
11024Danielle Hodgkinson (Wallsend Harriers)23:49SFsen23:49
20370Natalie Bell31:01SFsen31:01
48336Fiona Brannan31:40FFsen26:35
52319Anna Basu31:48MFV4529:08
55372Nina Mason31:53SFV4031:53
96360Katy Walton32:51MFV3530:11
144384Stef Barlow33:53SFV4533:53
155359Kathryn Sygrove34:19SFV5034:19
177324Camilla Lauren-Maatta34:58SFV5034:58
217346Jan Young36:04SFV6536:04
228315Aileen Scott36:24SFV4536:24
2301131Carolyn Galula36:26SFV4536:26
293331Danielle Glassey39:28SFsen39:28
328316Alison Smith42:01SFV4042:01
Men

photo by Aileen Scott

PosbibNameRace TimePackCatActual Time
1362Luke Pickering (Durham City Harriers)34:02SMU2034:02
18491Phil Ray37:29SMV3537:29
92456James Garland39:43SMV4039:43
100468Mark Kearney39:57MMV3537:27
120453Graeme Watt40:21MMV4037:51
207507Stuart Scott41:32MMV3539:02
264455Jack Lee42:34MMsen40:04
275451Geoff Davis42:43SMV6042:43
363444David Lumsdon45:06SMV5045:06
3671597James Lee45:12MMV4042:42
370501Simon Dobson45:22SMV4545:22
383454Ian Butler45:43SMV5545:43
391442David Gibson45:57SMV5045:57
404469Mark Payne46:19SMV3546:19
436430Andrew Davies47:25SMV4047:25
498490Peter Mcgowan50:30SMV5550:30
505427Alan Scott51:05SMV5051:05
506509Tim Matthews51:11SMV5551:11
5141599Neil Garthwaite51:34SMV4551:34
518447Dougie Nisbet51:49SMV5551:49
534503Stephen Ellis53:14SMV6553:14
(Visited 114 times, 1 visits today)

Active Northumberland Kielder Half Marathon, Sunday, October 7, 2018

Kimberley Wilson

Four weeks prior to race date, I’d completed my first ever half at the Great North Run; it was definitely an experience. I can’t say an enjoyable one.

I’d signed up for Kielder half quite a bit in advance thinking it’d be good to do another half a few weeks after my first. I was told it’ll be tough, there are lots of hills and the terrain isn’t great.

The lead up to the race, I really wasn’t looking forward to it, my mojo had disappeared after GNR and I just knew I wouldn’t be able to run a good run.

I was running the full race with my other half, Robin Linton, as Kielder has some sentimental value to us both. We had no plan other than to just get around it.

The night before, I boldly said I wanted to beat my time, which Robin told me not to get too hung up on because the course is so much different.

We set off on our way at a nice steady pace, which I was sure I’d be able to keep all the way around. The first four miles were actually quite nice and they went by so quickly. In my head, I was thinking this is going to be okay. The tactic was to take a slow run up the hills, use the downhill for speed and normal running on the flats. It really seemed to be working. People that had passed me in the first few miles were now starting to get behind me but I still felt strong. The ups and downs continued and they were tough; mile 8 of the zigzag was definitely the hardest.

Around 8/9 miles, I remember taking an isotonic drink and thinking how tasty it was, at the same time I was wondering how I still felt so good and strong. I was really enjoying the race.

As we got to about mile 9/10, Robin’s knee really started to give him hassle. I was trying my best to take his mind off it, but he was in pain. We slowed down a little, but I had to keep moving because of the inclines. I was a couple of yards in front and could see the pain on his face, so I turned around and went back to him. He told me that I had to go on, that I had a PB in me and he’d be fine. I was a mixture of emotions, felt awful leaving him but was determined to finish the race. After a quick kiss of good luck, I headed off on my last 3 miles.

They were definitely hard but I just couldn’t stop thinking about Robin. Lots of music we both loved was playing through my headphones and I just thought, get this done and go back for him. I really pushed those last miles, this time attacking the hills, as I knew it was only 5k left.

I got to the 800m marker and people were walking. I stormed passed, with a few people shouting go on!

Approaching the finish line I saw a worried mother (Helen Linton). The first thing I shout is he’s okay! I had a sprint finish over the line and I see a friendly strider face…Wendy Littlewood. I just hugged her and burst into tears whilst struggling to get my breath. I’m telling her (between the tears) that I’d left Robin and felt awful. She then turns me round to show me the time, it’s showing as 2:11. I couldn’t really register it but what she’s telling me it’s amazing. I just hung onto her; I needed that so much. After finally letting her go, to let the other runners have some of her time, I stumbled to get my race bag, trying to keep the tears in.

I actually couldn’t believe I was over 2 minutes faster than GNR and this course was definitely different level. I actually really enjoyed this race and I think I’d 100% do it again with the same tactic!

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Warsaw Marathon, Sunday, September 30, 2018

Kerry Anne Barnett

In my attempt to complete 50 marathons before I’m 50 and my aim to complete one international marathon a year, Rob and I headed off to Warsaw, Poland for the PZU Warsaw Marathon on 30th September. I’d never been to Poland before and don’t know any Polish which was a bit of a challenge with the plethora of pre-race emails! However, Google translate kept us right.

On our arrival on Friday, we headed to the expo to pick up our race pack, including t-shirts. My ladies medium was very small… I am not very small… so on Saturday Rob took mine back telling them they’d given him a ladies t-shirt instead of a mans… they swapped it so now I have a t-shirt that fits. But now he feels guilty about committing international fraud. Then we set our course on Apple maps to find the start of the marathon. It took us the long way, so we saw a lot of riverbanks and passed the Chopin Museum.

Maybe 2 days of walking around 13 miles a day around the beautiful and historic Warsaw City Centre, filling up on amazing vegan food, wasn’t the best marathon prep…. but hey-ho it’s a beautiful interesting city.

Race day came along. Our hotel was about 25 min walk to the race village, set up near to the Vistula riverbank. It was cold in the shade and warm in the sunshine, so we waited until the last minute to strip to our Club vests. Most people were in t-shirts and some were in long-sleeved full kit! We had been provided with a plastic bag, a sticker with our race number and an allocated minibus to put our bag on, very well organised.

Walking down to the start area, Rob headed off to the sub-4-hour area and I stayed at the 5 hours plus area. The weird thing at a reasonably small international marathon and being a typical ignorant Brit who can only speak English is not being able to communicate with the runners around you. However, a lovely lady started speaking to me and managed to have a conversation in English. Turns out she’s also vegan so that’s always a good connection. I have to say I was nervous about this marathon, despite it being number 31. No particular reason but I was just a bit nervous.

The starting gun went off and we started moving, took a few minutes to cross the start line, as I was far back in the field, but it was chip timed so that was irrelevant. Off we went with a beep as we crossed the timing mat. Jogging along, we were ‘lapped’ by the front-runners before I’d even run 500m. It’s always amazing to see how fast these guys are running.

The course was fairly twisty and turny and there seemed to be many times we saw the same places. We headed off into the Zoo, not my favourite part I admit, although it was flat and sunny. I did see a hippo, some zebras, some mules, deer and bison, but would prefer they weren’t in cages, but they are.

Highlights included a man who was juggling his way around the marathon, a fella in a suit of armour, the lovely green parks we went through, seeing a red squirrel scurry across my path, the beautiful architecture of Warsaw and spacious wide streets to run through. The fuelling stations were regular and well managed, mainly with young people of Warsaw. They were friendly and encouraging. Woda! ISO! Banana! One or two stations had run out of paper cups by the time I got there but there was still water.

At mile 10 I started to feel my right upper inner arm rubbing against my vest; this had never happened before. I hadn’t put any Vaseline in my belt so was contemplating what to do until mile 3 when I sacrificed my nose blowing buff to tie around my arm to stop the chafing. Worked a treat!

I stuck to my 4 min running 1 min walking strategy until about mile 22. By mile 16 I was consistently passing people who had committed the cardinal marathon sin of ‘going out too fast’ and who were now reduced to walking all of the time. Mile 22 I struggled. Took longer walk breaks, tried to talk myself around. Kind of managed to get back on it and kept the strategy going. It was hot now. Managed a whole summer without getting sunburned then got sunburned at the end of September in Poland! Keep going, keep going.

Think it was about mile 18 that the 5k runners zoomed past. Again an awesome sight! Then running along the Nowy Swiat, a wide street, closed off to traffic on a weekend, lined with restaurants, a few runners amongst the other people just out for a Sunday stroll or lunch was quite surreal.

There were also bridges. One looked like the new “Northern Spire’ Bridge in Sunderland. We crossed that a total of 3 times. On the second time, there was a panda. On the third time, there was a panda, a fox, some people with cola (which I’d been fantasising about for about 10 miles) and a chap in a wheelchair giving out free hugs. I high fived the animals, drank the cola, hugged the chap and saw the 40km sign. Only 2ish k to go.

All of a sudden I was on the finishing straight. Rob was there, taking photos, shouting encouragement. And I was finished! Crossing the line seconds after one of the ‘ever presents’ with his original race number from 1979 pinned on his back. He got a trophy when he crossed the finish line. I got my medal, an isotonic drink, a bottle of water and a banana!

My favourite marathon? Probably not. Enjoyable? Yes, as far as a marathon can be. Well organised? Very much so. Flat? Net downhill. Would I do it again? Probably not, but there is a different Warsaw Marathon in April… a better course our ‘Communism walking tour’ guide told us. Would I recommend this Marathon? Yes, it was a well-organised event and Warsaw is a beautiful city well worth a visit.

The photos were cheap too. 39 zlotys (about £8) for the 51 pics I got. Bargain by UK standards.

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