|8||84||Michael Mason||m||Seniors M40||00.42.06|
|13||35||Michael Littlewood||m||Seniors M40||00.43.12|
|109||197||Allan Renwick||m||Seniors M40||00.49.28|
|169||783||Fiona Jones||w||Seniors W40||00.51.37|
|196||40||Davey Lumsdon||m||Seniors M50||00.52.29|
|203||95||Stephen Winship||m||Seniors M50||00.52.39|
|210||24||Stephen Soulsby||m||Seniors M50||00.52.45|
|220||888||Ian Butler||m||Seniors M50||00.53.09|
|251||1||Andrew Davies||m||Seniors M40||00.5406.|
|259||3||Jonathan Hamill||m||Seniors M40||00.54.21|
|282||94||Anna Basu||w||Seniors W40||00.55.00|
|320||7||Sarah Davies||w||Seniors W50||00.56.04|
|355||740||Chris Shearsmith||m||Seniors M40||00.57.06|
|356||10||Susan Scott||w||Seniors W40||00.57.10|
|357||21||Rachelle Mason||w||Seniors W40||00.57.18|
|362||235||Stephanie Barlow||w||Seniors W40||00.57.32|
|393||970||Malcolm Sygrove||m||Seniors M50||00.58.22|
|405||86||Alex Brown||m||Seniors M40||00.58.43|
|425||68||Craig Walker||m||Seniors M50||00.59.12|
|464||317||Jean Bradley||w||Seniors W60||00.59.58|
|555||2||Lesley Hamill||w||Seniors W40||01.01.56|
|606||665||Jill Rudkin||w||Seniors W40||01.03.25|
|653||114||Lee Stephenson||m||Seniors M40||01.04.50|
|694||159||Chloe Black||w||Seniors W40||01.06.25|
|742||191||Heather Raistrick||w||Seniors W50||01.07.39|
|749||132||Alan Smith||m||Seniors M70||01.07.54|
|764||29||Jenny Search||w||Seniors W40||01.08.07|
|813||72||Catherine Walker||w||Seniors W60||01.09.07|
|816||179||James Nicholson||m||Seniors M70||01.09.11|
|829||573||Alison Heslop||w||Seniors W40||01.09.41|
|854||166||Angela Robson||w||Seniors W40||01.10.29|
|915||73||George Alan Scott||m||Seniors M50||01.12.50|
|920||25||Elaine Broatch||w||Seniors W50||01.12.55|
|921||6||Jane Dowsett||w||Seniors W40||01.12.56|
|922||51||Carole Thompson-Young||w||Seniors W50||01.12.56|
|929||766||Tina Taylor||w||Seniors W40||01.13.00|
|934||661||Faye Ward||w||Seniors W40||01.13.15|
|948||37||Wendy Littlewood||w||Seniors W40||01.13.52|
|951||57||Zoe Dewdney Parsons||w||Women||01.13.56|
|1003||1180||Alison Smith||w||Seniors W40||01.16.39|
|1004||109||Sue Walker||w||Seniors W60||01.16.39|
|1013||1013||Christine Farnsworth||w||Seniors W60||01.16.50|
|1026||1290||Ann Kain||w||Seniors W50||01.17.11|
|1085||425||Jane Baillie||w||Seniors W40||01.19.50|
|1091||65||Aileen Scott||w||Seniors W40||01.20.10|
|1098||22||Kerry Barnett||w||Seniors W40||01.20.46|
|1111||56||Lindsay Parker||w||Seniors W40||01.21.30|
|1140||824||Sharon Campbell||w||Seniors W40||01.23.00|
|1149||455||Diane Soulsby||w||Seniors W50||01.23.17|
|1181||181||Carol Holgate||w||Seniors W40||01.25.58|
Keswick Half Marathon, Sunday, May 6, 2018
Over the past few years, there seems to have been an increase in the add-ons available when booking races. Tech t-shirts, medals, coasters etc…. The Keswick Half Marathon was no different (with t-shirts and slate coasters available) but a “pleasant” surprise was that they included a heatwave for free.
I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s race which I would easily describe as the most scenic and beautiful I’ve ever entered. It is very well organised with registration being held at the rugby club, 1 mile from the start at Portinscale. On paper, this sounds like a right pain but in reality, it adds to the atmosphere and enjoyment of the day. The race is limited to 1000 with some EotD.
As everyone streams along the path flanked by sheep and fields you can see everyone actively relaxing whilst they warm up. I spent the time strolling along with my wife, Jane, whilst Club shirt spotting. There seemed to be an awful lot of our usual XC enemy from the Poly. I knew this was going to be a very different affair but I had my heart set on beating as many of the red/black lot as possible.
The start was held just over Portinscale’s mini Humber Bridge. Many of the Purple Army congregated and nattered before the race with some of the Bob Graham Round support team also in attendance to wish us well on the tarmac. All of a sudden the race director seemed to be counting down from 10 and we were off…. very little warning.
The initial mile winds through the village past a lot of parked cars and supporters. It reminds me a little of the start of the cash-cow that is the Blaydon race.
After we break free from the houses the race follows a lovely road enveloped by trees. It gave us respite from the direct sunshine. My phone had said 21C as we started and it was only going to get hotter. (I hate the heat! I might mention that again later, a few times!).
We passed my friends waving in Swinside and made our way up the first horrid little hit past the adventure centre. From here until mile 10 there was no tree cover. That was it….sun sun sun. I had predicted it so hydrated a lot and covered myself in lots of sun cream.
I know this area like the back of my hand and this is one of the reasons I keep coming back and will probably do so next year. The roads are quiet for the first third of the race. Our Scottish dynamo, Allan, then overtook me at the start of THAT hill on mile 5. By then I’d realised I had totally underestimated how crap I was in the sun and gone off too quickly. I love hills….but not hills with no breeze and in this heat. I was struggling and annoyed with myself already. My head always lets me down in these situations and I knew it was going to be a very tough 8 miles from now on. At the top of the hill, there was a big animal trough with fresh water running into it from a stream….in went my head and arms to try to cool down (I hate being hot!). This provided much respite and I sped up for the next mile.
The views opened up with a stunning vista across the water. The problem now was that every walker in the NW lakes seemed to know this too and there were cars and vans parked all over.
The issue of it being an open road race didn’t really bother me last year but because of the long weekend and sun, everyone seemed to have made their way to the side of Catbells. The sun was belting down now and like a newborn baby, I was struggling to control my temperature. Suddenly I saw a mini waterfall and jumped under it…..then Penny passed. This was on 7 miles. I tried to talk myself into following her for as long as I could but I just didn’t have it in me.
The views around were simply stunning though so I just decided to take them in and plod along as best I could. Originally I had a target of 1:45hrs but this was downgraded to 1:50hrs due to the heat.
As mentioned earlier, the organisation for this race is excellent. In total there were 7 water stations (1 of which was put on last minute by a local hotel). These tables were very much needed and I dread to think what would happen if there were fewer. The smiley volunteers must have been sweltering as they greeted us with the cold water (I have no idea how they managed to keep it thus).
As I crossed the final section from Grange to Keswick I was met by someone shouting “Come on Tim, Penny is just ahead of you!!” I have no idea who it was and we all think it was just some friendly chap who had noticed the purple named vests. It did spur me on and although it wasn’t a fast 3 miles along the road to Keswick, I did manage to feel stronger than the previous year. (Being in shade did help).
The final section took us into the town centre and past all the day visitors.
One helpful local lad stood with a hosepipe squirting us all on the final few hundred yards. At this point, I slowed to run with a couple of fellow runners when I heard them say, “I cannot do this anymore. It’s too hot!”.
Unfortunately, by doing this it allowed one of the red/black enemy to pass me with only 200 yards to go. I left it until about 80 yards and left my new found friends and sprinted to overtake the Poly runner. Luckily I took him with 10 yards to go and finished in a sluggish 1:54:38 (6 mins slower than last year).
I was met by a smiling Stuart Scott some 10 hours after his successful Bob Graham Round! Gareth was also there basking in the glory (and sun) of coming second in an amazing 1:21:19.
This is what I love about the Club….regardless of our individual speeds, successes and pace, we all support each other and wear our purple with pride.
Jane finished in a very respectable 2:37hrs in her first proper race of length as an Elvet Strider, shortly after Anna, Catherine and Andrew.
|Position||Act Time||Surname||First name||Cat||Sex|
Steel City Striders
Virgin Money London Marathon, Sunday, April 22, 2018
Sweat. Yes, it was hot! As we waited for the start, we were all drinking water, looking for shade and paying frequent visits to the ‘female urinals’ (a bizarre experience!) Finally, our wave set off. After all the waiting and anticipation, it was great to be finally running my first marathon! Although my training had been derailed by a combination of injury, snow and work, I still hoped I might be able to finish in under 4 hours. The first miles seemed deceptively easy. The atmosphere was brilliant and there were plenty of distractions: crazily-dressed runners (Paddington costume – in that heat??), cheerful crowds, Greenwich, the Cutty Sark. It was already roasting, but there were lots of water-stations and showers, and I found I was able to maintain a reasonable pace.
Blood. About 10 miles in, with the temperature continuing to rise, I suddenly had a terrible nosebleed! What to do? This was definitely not in the Plan! I didn’t want to stop, so I carried on running slowly for a couple of miles with blood streaming from my nose onto my face, hands and legs. Not a pretty sight! It finally stopped, but by then I realised would have to abandon any hopes of a sub 4-hour time.
Tears. The second half was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. There were lots of highs: catching sight of my family by chance; spotting Striders Rachel and Michael Mason and Peter Hart in the crowds at around 18 miles; strangers shouting my name; the man running with the washing machine on his back… But there were plenty of lows too: by about mile 20 my legs were screaming at me to stop and I had to force myself to continue. By 24 miles, I knew the end was in sight. Despite the excruciating pain, I managed to pick up the pace and finish with a decent time of just over 4 hours.
I came away from my first marathon with mixed feelings. I’m really glad I did it and it was a thoroughly memorable experience, but I can’t say I’m in a hurry to do another one any time soon!
|Place overall||Place gender||Place cat.||Name||Runner no||Category||Finish|
|1||1||1||KIPCHOGE, Eliud (KEN)||3||18-39||02.04.17|
|15||1||1||CHERUIYOT, Vivian (KEN)||109||18-39||02.18.31|
|142||142||111||Jackson, Stephen (GBR)||1397||18-39||02.39.31|
|455||449||78||Littlewood, Michael (GBR)||1965||40-44||02.50.28|
|631||621||434||Pritchard, Gareth (GBR)||1444||18-39||02.54.14|
|703||692||475||Kearney, Mark (GBR)||1989||18-39||02.55.32|
|9241||2067||1155||Walton, Katy (GBR)||20291||18-39||03.58.02|
|10682||2558||181||Davies, Sarah (GBR)||10045||50-54||04.05.42|
|12922||3374||716||Gardham, Sue (GBR)||20293||40-44||04.16.41|
|25121||8102||120||Bradley, Jean (GBR)||24716||60-64||05.09.38|
|28404||9697||5229||Brannan, Stacey (GBR)||20292||18-39||05.24.56|
|30424||10716||61||Farnsworth, Christine (GBR)||30595||65-69||05.35.48|
|35569||13532||88||Thompson, Margaret (GBR)||20290||65-69||06.10.04|
The Last Anniversary Waltz Fell Race, Stair Village Hall, Keswick, Saturday, April 21, 2018
11.5 miles, 3600 foot of ascent
I’d first heard of the Anniversary Waltz when, around 14 years ago, a striking photo of a runner approaching the summit of, I think, Robinson, the lush green of the Newlands valley in the background, graced the front cover of The Fellrunner. Over the years, I’d wondered at the unusual name and had got as far as entering a few years ago, only for life to make other plans. This year was different, as it was announced that the race would be run for the final time, due to the death of one of the married couple who have for two decades organised the race; if not now, never.
Race day dawned bright, with the skies over Keswick clear and the road out to Stair village busy with running traffic – it appeared that Jack, Fiona and I were not alone in taking the last opportunity to race here, and we were informed that c600 runners were here for the Waltz, and c300 for the Teenager (the 15m extended version), many north-eastern vests amongst them, as well as a smattering of national-level talent; to all intents and purposes, this felt very much like an unofficial extension to the English Championships.
Registration was busy though efficient, and after watching the Teenager competitors walk up their first hill from the start (Causey Pike), we had a pleasant half-mile or so to the start, an old mining track that cuts below Catbells. A brief, eloquent speech was made about the life and legacy of Steve Cliff, whose marriage to Wynn this commemorated and in whose name the proceeds would be donated to MND research (I presume the pollen count was high, as there was a lot of eye-rubbing going on), and then we were off, shuffling from a position too close to the rear of the pack, slowly picking up speed as we dodged around runners, descending into the valley bottom with Jack on my shoulder and Fiona not far behind.
The first 3 miles were rapid, and felt it, my watch recording the second mile as sub-7min/mile pace, and I quickly began to realise that if we’d lost height in the first three of nearly twelve miles, and the last mile was downhill, then ALL of the 3600′ height gain would have to take place in the next eight miles. This thought occurred as the track turned to grass, Robinson loomed on the right-hand side and it was decision time – take the pain of climbing Robinson now, in order to get it out of the way, or keep up the speed on the gentle track up the valley and then brace for a sharp final ascent? I went for the former, Jack, just ahead of me, for the latter, and we saw each other again at the top, both hurting a little from the quad-straining gradient and the short section of scrambling. From this first summit, Jack loped ahead of me at speed down the grassy flank of Robinson to the path that leads up to Hindscarth, the next peak of the horseshoe. I tailed as rapidly as I could and rather enjoyed the shallow gradient and springy, forgiving ground, not losing him to sight, then slowly regaining on both he and an NFR runner as we climbed again, passing them near the top, along with another 15 or so runners. Hindscarth summited, it was down again to Dale Head, another nice runnable section with a final rocky drag, passing Tim Skelton en route (not in the race, so a rather surprising sighting) before the section I’d been fearing.
I am a terrible descender in rocky terrain. My balance is not great and my eyes water so much that often I can barely see as I go downhill at speed, leading to a lot of falls. My intention had been to come off Dale Head to the south, using the tourist path. However, having realised I was a reasonable way up the field by now and, more importantly, actually a little ahead of Jack, I could not bring myself to be sensible and therefore attempted the direct route to the stream leaving the tarn at the bottom. If memory serves me, the descent was not enjoyable, was faster than I thought possible, still lost me a dozen or two places, probably accounted for the bruised bits I felt the next day and had me at one point on the verge of having to stop to ‘do a Paula.’ Let us move on; love stories do not include that kind of mess.
The hard bit over, and feet refreshed in the clear waters of the rocky stream crossing, the rest of the race passed well, with places regained on the climb to High Spy, no more lost on the gentle descent before Catbells, another handful gained on the steady run up to Catbells and then a grassy descent that hurt the feet as it got steeper and steeper (I was looking forward to running down the natural curve of the hill, only to be pointed sharp left, down the steep bit, by marshals), but gave enough traction to maintain pace sufficient that only a handful of runners came past me again – none of them Jack, who I was convinced was on my shoulder. Down onto the track where we had started, through a farm, onto tarmac and back to the village where the finishing funnel, a stream for foot-washing and a chap with a hosepipe awaited. At the time of writing, results are unpublished, but I think I took around 2:10 and Jack came in a few minutes later, not helped by one of his shoes disintegrating on Catbells and a touch of heat illness. Fiona? She’d started the race as a ‘nice, steady run’ and then felt competitive halfway round, so had spent the back half picking people off one by one, and seemed fairly upbeat.
It has been said that the deaths of those who will be missed deeply, by many, lead to the most enjoyable wakes; this was such a day – a massive field of people who love the hills gathered together for a day simultaneously about life, death and running. The world moves on. This race does not, though was a fitting tribute to a man who loved the area and the sport and a reminder that a day spent in the hills, with friends, is never a day wasted.
Hartlepool Marina 5 Road Race, Sunday, April 15, 2018
Five miles isn’t a particularly common race distance in the north-east as far as I can tell, there only seems to be a handful scattered through the race calendar in amongst the more common 5ks, 10ks and half marathons. Perhaps it was this uncommon distance, perhaps being in the middle of the spring marathon season (Paris, Manchester, London etc), or perhaps everyone had rusted up in the biblically damp lead-up to the race. Whatever the reason, it was a relatively small but hard-core Striders contingent of eleven that went out to play.
I scrounged a lift from Jonathan Hamill and his enthusiastic support team in a bid to cut down on carbon emissions. It was an easy journey and not just because I wasn’t driving. We arrived nice and early (just after 9 am), which meant no parking problems. After visiting the boat (not THE boat, sadly – that might have been a little more impressive!) to collect race number (with timing chip) and race t-shirt (sizing’s generous, so I went down a size), we made full use of the nearby McDonalds. Food for the support team, toilets for the athletes. We weren’t the only ones doing it! Other facilities are available.
The weather was starting to warm up from the extended winter we had been “enjoying”. Despite being fine and the sun attempting to break through there was still a chill in the southerly breeze. In the end, I opted to leave a light base layer under my club vest, big wuss that I am.
We warmed-up along Maritime Avenue, where the race would start and finish. By the time we got back to the start the rest of the racers had formed up in the start funnel, so we joined near the back. I was realistic about my likely finish position i.e. nowhere near the front, and the race was chip-timed, so I didn’t see the harm in starting near the back.
The course is essentially flat. It sets out next to the marina following Maritime Avenue through a housing estate before turning up a short incline through a car park and onto the promenade. It is an out and back course so once you’ve reached the turn you know what to expect on the way back. You also get to see the leaders on their return (or the chasers if you’re in the lead). As we met them coming back I counted the places and made Stephen Jackson 9th as we passed and it wasn’t long before I saw Chris Callan and some of our other faster runners on their return, giving me a chance to cheer them on.
I’ve been working my way back from some recent illnesses so I had set an easy expectation on myself – no PB to beat, no pressure. My plan was to set out at 8-minute mile pace, which I thought I could hold all the way through. I would see how I was feeling at 2 miles and then the turn (2.5 miles) and pick up the pace a little if I was feeling OK.
And I kind of stuck to that plan. Kind of. I held 8-minute mile pace for nearly 2 miles but seeing the leaders gave me a burst of adrenaline and my pace picked up before I realised what was happening. It felt OK and sustainable, so I kept at it, keeping around 7:40 pace most of the way back along the promenade. I was picking off other runners all the way back and this was the other advantage of starting from the back and running negative splits, it gave me natural targets to aim for. The route was plenty wide enough to allow easy passing all the way.
Getting to the last 600m or so I dropped back through the car park onto Maritime Avenue and the slight downward slope gave me the impetus to start pushing for the finish.
I’ve always had a finishing kick (a legacy of being a failed sprinter) so really wound it up in the final stretch, earning me a shout out from the tannoy announcer.
Stephen was first male Strider home (8th overall in 26:23) and Fiona Jones was first female (20th woman in 35:26 gun time). There were some other excellent times from Striders, including both Chris Callan and Michael Littlewood coming in under 30 minutes (sub 6-minute mile average). In total there were 493 runners with times ranging from a blistering 24:16 (new CR from Dominic Shaw of New Marske Harriers) to just over 1:07.
I loved this race. It was a great course, inexpensive and accessible. It’s a good opportunity to run this less common distance and a real PB opportunity.
Calderdale Hike, Saturday, April 14, 2018
40 miles / 6800 feet
To say I was over-prepared for this race would be an understatement.
After last year’s (frankly embarrassing) DNF I was determined to finish this year. On time and on budget. So I had done a lot of homework. I’m an IT tech and if there’s anything a tech hates, it’s a Single Point of Failure (SPOF). I had split the route into 8 sections and numbered and laminated maps for each section. I had a spare OS map in waterproof bag, smartphone with route marked on OS maps, 2 spare battery packs (in case one jumped out my bum bag), and Garmin with route programmed. Plus, I’d done a lot of armchair thinking.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the Calderdale Hike. The course changes a little every three years or so, and for the 40th anniversary the long route would be a neat 40 miles. The event is primarily a navigation challenge and although the organisers give a suggested route you are free to make your own decisions on how to get from checkpoint to checkpoint, providing your route choice is legal and uses only public roads and rights of way. I spent a fair amount of time before the race studying the checkpoints and experimenting with different route choices all from the comfort of an armchair. Nothing beats a route recce, but Sowerby Bridge is a bit of a trek and a recce of the 40 mile route would have taking quite a commitment.
I was soon kit checked and after a leisurely cup of coffee we went outside to hang around waiting to start on a decent dry mild morning. I even had the first couple of kilometres memorised. Last year the peloton had split almost immediately, an experience that had both disconcerted and confused me. So this year I was ready. Or at least I thought so.
They did it again! We started a couple of minutes early and I was about to jog off in one direction, but realised that everyone else, without exception, was jogging off in the opposite direction! I did what any normal independently-minded runner would do, I followed the crowd, to discover a small gap in wall led to a street taking a more direct route down towards the canal and the first checkpoint. Despite hours of preparation it just shows nothing beats a bit of local knowledge.
There was a fiddly steep downhill to the first checkpoint, then the next few kilometres east along the canal path were lovely. Flat and gentle, with everyone settling down. After the checkpoint at Copley we turned south and started to climb. There were a couple of minor route choices here but I wasn’t sufficiently confident of their benefit, especially after the quirky start, so just stick with following the runners ahead. What may be shorter on the map, may also be muddier and slower in reality.
After the Greetland checkpoint I headed south across Saddleworth road and onto the footpath. I was following the suggested route. However I noticed a runner that I’d just passed having a good look at his map before heading west and sticking to the road. Some time later when I caught him up again at Ripponden, we compared notes and although he’d taken the longer road route, it had undoubtedly been quicker and more straightforward than the squelch I’d had across muddy fields and with frequent navigation checks.
Ripponden was a food station and I sat down and had a cup of tea and a sandwich. It was going to be a long day and there was no point in trying to save a couple of minutes by dashing on. I had also settled into a pattern with my navigation. At the checkpoints I would look at my paper maps (beautifully laminated if I say so myself), study the section to the next checkpoint, and get the basics in my head. Map Memory, as they call it in orienteering.
Then while running I would use GPS and smartphone maps to take care of the twists and turns, with the paper maps always there as a backup. Stopping to map read and route plan between checkpoints can be a bit of a hassle and quite time consuming.
Leaving Ripponden there was a substantial route choice to be made. The suggested route headed North East and meandered along the Calderdale Way. But heading west and sticking to the quiet lanes was more direct, and quite a bit shorter, with no extra climbing involved. There were some walkers ahead and they headed for the Calderdale Way and I had a moment of indecision. But I was sure my route was quicker, and although part of me thought it not in keeping with the Calderdale Hike, not to actually go along the Calderdale Way, the orienteer in me is hard-wired to optimise a route and take the most efficient path possible. So for the first time in the hike I took my own route and started climbing North
West out of Ripponden towards the next checkpoint at Hinchcliffe Arms.
I think it was a good choice but it’s difficult to be sure. With an event such as this runners become sparser as the day goes on. So without anyone else to compare myself with I had no real way of knowing whether I’d made the correct decision. At the Hinchliffe Arms checkpoint runners and walkers on the short (27 miles) route took a different path, and things got even quieter.
The next section took us past Withens Clough Reservoir and over to Lumbutts Chapel with Stoodley Pike monument of to the right. Navigation was pretty straightforward here with a combination of dead-reckoning and when possible just sticking to the nice runnable surface of the Calderdale Way. An easy runnable descent brought me to the half-way point at Lumbutts Chapel where Roberta was there to meet me. Although I’d been out for over 4 hours we were only a few miles as the crow flies from Sowerby Bridge.
Lumbutts Chapel is no longer in active use but the checkpoint, a table outside the main entrance in the churchyard, had to be nicest checkpoint on the route. The day was mellowing out nicely, the sun was out, and everything felt very springlike. I checked in, bid goodbye to Roberta who was meeting an old University friend for lunch, and headed out.
On the road to Todmorden I once more decided to avoid the Calderdale Way and stick to the quiet lanes and easy descent to the canal. There was a brief respite of a kilometre or so along the canal path, then a climb up to the next checkpoint at Todmorden Edge. After descending down to the main road there was a long, steep, draining 300m climb to the next checkpoint Keb Bridge.
Towards the top the path drifted right through the Bride Stones and a few of us had to veer back west to get to the road. The checkpoint was easy to miss as it was a dog-leg to the left, down the road a couple of hundred metres, to the car park of the Sportsman Inn.
The next few checkpoints were straightforward and for a while I often had a couple of Calder Valley vests in front of me who I sensed had some good local knowledge. As we descended from Heptonstall I knew there was a route choice over Hebden Water. The Calder Valley vests went left, and I went right. My route was shorter but I suspect a bit gruntier on the climb up the other side of the valley towards the checkpoint at Peckett Well.
Peckett Well was an important checkpoint. It had a chop time, and as I discovered last year, you may be contentedly running along but blissfully aware that you’re running out of time and out of the race. This year I had about 45 minutes to spare, not as much as I would’ve liked, but not too close to the wire either. It pretty much confirms my experience last year, where I didn’t have sufficient speed to recover enough time from my navigational error.
Leaving Peckett Well the route started climbing again towards a track leading out onto Midgley Moor. Just ahead of me I was catching another runner who seemed to be examining his map closely. Good stuff. There was an important route choice to be made and we could have a little meeting, weighing up the relative distances, altitudes and terrain. He glanced over his shoulder, and perhaps he didn’t share my interest in contour intervals because he leapt away and next time I saw him he was disappearing into the distance. Even further away I could just detect the splash of a pink jersey that I’m sure had passed me several checkpoints back. Both runners following the suggested route.
The track opened out onto the moor and I paused to have a think. I studied my map. This was a really interesting bit. No, really! I’d spent some time on my homework for this one and it was quite a tasty puzzle. Like all the route choices, I’d decided I’d choose on the ground, on the day, depending on how I saw things. The organisers’ suggested route stuck to the Calderdale Way, edging south across Wadsworth Moor then turning east across the shoulder of Crow Hill. This involved losing a bit of height (about 10-20m) then climbing to around 360m (are you bored yet?). However, heading straight east across the moor involved a bit more climbing (10-20metres), but you didn’t bleed off any height unnecessarily, and was 1.6km shorter than the organisers’ serving suggestion.
Conditions were good, the paths looked firm, and if it all went wrong it was just a question of following the compass on East and a bit and hitting a track before long. It’d be fine. Low risk, more fun. More interesting navigation.
I clicked my heels together and headed east. The next few kilometres were definitely
in the very pleasant This is why we run category. The shadows were lengthening and the sun was warm and hazy and despite being weary I was pretty comfortable. I was ok for time and there was only about 10km to go. Life was good. My route choice turned out to be sound and I was greeted with enthusiastic applause by the marshalls at the penultimate checkpoint at Jerusalem Farm.
The remaining kilometres counted down steadily as I jogged gently downhill to revisit the first checkpoint at Tenterfields, before the final mile and 100m climb to the finish. Being a back-of-the-pack runner I wasn’t surprised to find people packing up and getting ready to close down the event, but was re-assured when some of the vests I’d spotted out on the course drifted in some time after I’d finished. Perhaps my route choices hadn’t been too bad after all.
Max elevation: 1394 ft
Min elevation: 236 ft
Total climbing: 7539 ft
Total descent: -7543 ft
Average speed: 13.16 min/mi
Total Time: 10:18:28
This was my second bash at the Paris Marathon, I first did it in 2016 when I hadn’t been running for very long, and although I had followed the training plan to the letter I found it really tough, especially in the heat. Jonathan had done it last year, so this year was my turn again. It didn’t take too much effort to persuade Karen to come with me, and before I knew it, a whole group of us from Striders/DMotR had signed up. When you’ve got kids, running a marathon seems a good enough excuse for a minibreak!
We arrived in Paris on the Friday evening and immediately noticed a significant increase in temperature from Durham. All our training this year had been in freezing temperatures, ice, snow, hail, rain, so we weren’t feeling particularly prepared for running in the heat! Saturday morning was the Breakfast Run, a fun 5k warm-up for the main event. On a beautiful sunny morning, we met near the Louvre, picked up our green tops and flags and off we went! The route takes you past the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, along the Seine, finishing on the Champ de Mars beneath the Eiffel Tower. At only 12 Euros (including technical tee and breakfast at the end) I would recommend it! On to the Expo where we picked up our numbers and free Paris Marathon rucksack. It’s worth mentioning that you need a medical certificate signed by a GP to be able to pick your number up, this is the case for all races in France. I managed to get mine signed for free this year, but lots of other people had to pay. After a few photos and a quick look round the stands, we went for lunch, drinking as much water as we could as it looked like it was going to be warm the following day.
On the day of the marathon, we were up early, grabbed some breakfast in the hotel and jumped on the metro to the start. It took us a while to work out where the bag drop was as it wasn’t signposted, it turned out to be a good walk away! We just had enough time for a quick loo stop before entering our pen with Jill and Simon.
Sun was quite hot now, and it was only 09:45, but the atmosphere was great and we were all in good spirits!
We started off at our planned 10min/mile pace, jumping into the shade when we got the chance and taking on water at the refreshment stations, which were every 5k. As well as water, there was a good selection of food on offer, dried fruit, orange segments, cut up bananas and sugar cubes. The route is truly spectacular, and signs point out the main sights along the way. I love the fact the French firemen come out in force at certain points to support the runners, although I suspect this is more of an attraction for the female runners! There are quite a few hoses you can run through to cool down (amazing!) and at regular intervals there are tables with big bowls full of water which you can use to cool down too.
On we went towards the impressive Place de la Concorde, Rue du Rivoli and Place de la Bastille. Arriving in the Bois de Vincennes was a nice change of scenery, especially as the refreshment station was opposite the rather impressive Chateau de Vincennes. We heard someone call Karen’s name out, and it turned out to be a family she knew from Durham who were on holiday in Paris! After a quick chat, we were off again and enjoyed running through the park, even though there was less support here.
There are lots of fantastic bands on the route too, which really lifts your spirits when you are starting to feel tired. We now headed back into the heart of the city and reached the halfway point at the Rue de Charenton where we had a quick loo stop. The route now follows the course of the Seine, passing Île de la Cite, going under the Pont Neuf before going through a couple of tunnels.
At the 16-mile point, I started to struggle a bit in the heat, I remember doing the same two years ago. Karen was feeling strong so I told her to go on ahead while I dug in and battled the demons in my head which were telling me to walk for a bit. Luckily, I got through this and picked myself up again, somehow managing to catch up with Karen at the 20-mile point.
The tunnel was a bit of a strange experience; every year there is a different art installation to look at. Two years ago it was a tropical paradise complete with sounds and smells. This year it was ‘Welcome to Hell’!
The hardest part of the race for me was the last 10K, although I felt a lot stronger than I had done two years ago. Running around the Bois de Boulogne away from the city streets, every K seems to get longer and you wonder if you will ever see the finish! Lots and lots of people were walking now, I was trying to stick to the green line which was becoming more and more difficult. Then suddenly out of nowhere, I hear someone shout ‘Come on Strider!’, and it turns out to be Helen from Bishop Auckland who knows a couple of members of the Club. This gives me a boost to finish strong, especially now I can see the crowds again and can hear shouts of ‘Vous êtes tous les champions!’.
Onto Avenue Foch and the finish line is in sight – enfin! I even hear my name shouted out by the commentator! I crossed the line in 4.32, two minutes slower than I would have liked, but still a 24 minute PB! Karen was just ahead of me and I catch up with her once I have my (amazing) medal and finishers’ top. Job done! A few photos in front of the stunning backdrop of the Arc de Triomphe, then off to the nearest bar to refuel with Coke and chips where we waited for the others to finish.
All in all, I would highly recommend the Paris Marathon, although If you don’t like running in the heat it may not be for you! The route is absolutely stunning, and it is very well organised. I will definitely be back, just maybe not for a couple of years…
NN Rotterdam Marathon, Rotterdam, Sunday, April 8, 2018
Overall a very good, flat, fast course (5th fastest in the world), with amazing support but quite narrow on some crucial points. Would definitely recommend it as an international race.
This was the most spontaneous decision to run a race I have ever made. I made the decision to sign up for it over a coffee with a Dutch friend in Rotterdam while I was telling her that I was preparing for the Athens Authentic Marathon back in October. She said to me “Oh there is a big one here every April why don’t you sign up for it?” and I just did.
Despite this being my third marathon, training had not gone ideally since I had to do about two weeks’ worth of running (including two of my 16-mile long runs) on the treadmill on the very snowy days because (a) I’m Greek and I don’t function in snow and (b) I have no shoes or balance that could provide traction on it. However, I did feel stronger and all the indications from a club time trial and from a tempo run which broke my 5k PB were that I could bring down my Marathon PB of 3:49:15. So I was contemplating a sub 3:45 with the assistance of a pacer as I had told Jack Lee over countless lunch runs (by the way Jack, thank you for joining me for all of those, your help was much needed).
On Saturday I had to go to Rotterdam to pick up my bib number which is a bit of a hassle, especially if you reside away from the city. Nevertheless, the Expo was really nice, with lots of interesting stands. I got a bit too excited about all the other international marathon stands that I might have accidentally signed up for a ballot for a free marathon in Svalbard in the North Pole!
Later that day, the race organisers announced that because temperatures might rise to around 19 degrees, they would have water stops for the last 10 km for every 2.5 km instead of 5 and also wet sponge stops to cool you down.
Race day was on. Woke up around 5:45 with my girlfriend’s home being about 2 hours away. Changing trains at Schiphol Airport meant that we witnessed tourists looking curiously at the hundreds of people dressed in shorts and vests boarding the Rotterdam train.
We arrived there around 9:00 (race start was at 10:05 am). In terms of the bag drop, it is pretty straightforward and relatively fast, with the only exception that due to security measures you are not allowed to drop your own bag but a designated transparent one you receive at the Race Expo along with your finisher shirt.
The starting pens were easy to find, but my only complaint on this was that there were toilets inside the pens which meant people queued very disorderly to use them. Regardless, I was ready, gels packed (one every 4 miles), the temperature was meant to be nice (15-19 degrees) and sunny, I had planned my water stops and also had the 3:45 pacers in sight.
The race start was given under the sounds of “You’ll never walk alone” which was sung by runners and spectators and a Dutch singer on a microphone. However, with all the queues in the toilets, I realized I had lost the 3:45 pacer that I wanted to follow. Nevertheless, I decided to stick to running by feel and knew that I wanted around 8:30 min/miles in order to be happy. So the first thing you see after the first 500 metres in the run is this:
This is the famous Erasmus Bridge and is quite a spectacle to cross and also have the tugboats hosing water around it. This is also the only part of the race where there is an apparent elevation change.
The first 16 miles of the course, are on the southern part of the city, which has quite a few changes in order to keep you entertained.
In the first 2-3 miles, you cross the area around F.C. Feyenoord’s football stadium and there was quite a large group of people dressed in their colours cheering us up with brass bands and drums. Also, the race organisers had provided with a band every 3-4 km in order for the runners to remain entertained. In no time the first 10k were in, in a comfortable time of 52:53 with a pace of about 8:29 mins. At that point I gauged how I felt and I thought I could maybe cut off another 5 secs per mile up to the half marathon point.
Support at this point of the race was not ideal as there were parts where you were running through the banks of a canal on a narrow cycle road so people were not able to reach it in order to cheer. However, on every major intersection of public roads, there were huge crowds which made deafening noise and definitely pushed you on.
As I said before, in terms of city geography, the Rotterdam Marathon is a nice one as the first 26 km are basically done in the south part of the city, which is the relatively rougher area. This is because the old harbour was located there, so this led to seeing the what was considered a poor part of the city with the towering concrete blocks around miles 9-15. These areas are however now up and coming, as there is a lot of renovation occurring with the old storage houses being turned into food halls, cafes or restaurants. There are even hotels and student halls made out of old containers! However, me being a tourist while running also had another effect which was going quite faster at a pace around 8:15-8:20 having gotten my mind off the running. This meant my HM time was at 1:50:32!
At that point I realized that all I had to do was run the other half 64 seconds faster, and I would have broken the 3:40 barrier. So I geared up mentally for that and pushed onwards. I had only to do what I was doing so far and I was on track for it.
Now between mile 16 and mile 17 is the part where you cross back to the central part of the city again going through the Erasmus Bridge where I managed to get my first “feet off the ground photo”.
Another quite funny thing about that bridge is that, as I said before, it is the only part that has a noticeable elevation change in the race. It is about 60-70 feet over 500 metres of distance. For an average Strider, who runs in Durham daily, this is like a walk in the park, but it turns out that for most Dutch people, it isn’t. I noticed quite a few people stopping running while going up the “hill”. On the other side of the bridge, my girlfriend was waiting for me to cheer me up and she made me push on.
However, the race was far from over. Back to around 2 weeks ago and me sitting in my office looking at the race map and saying to Jack Lee that “miles 19 to 24 are around a park, so support will be significantly less and this is when I also hit the wall in Manchester”. And that was the case. Although you first go through miles 17-19 which are absolutely packed with supporters, you then have to run around the Kralingse Plas which is a big reservoir to the north of the city. There, support was much sparser, especially in the first two miles and as if that was not enough, the sun came out and the temperature went to around 22-24 degrees.
All of this, plus my mind telling me to quit, forced me to go through a “mini-wall” of 5 miles where I was averaging 8:28-8:30. Not enough of a slowing down to be called a proper bonking/walling but enough to put a dent in any chance of breaking 3:40. Still, when I realised I was approaching mile 25, I pushed myself as much as I could.
By then the route has gone back through the city so you cross areas with thousands of people making support amazing. Similarly to what I had seen in Manchester, people were bringing out jellybeans, oranges, bananas and water to hand to basically random strangers running past them. This, I think, is something that motivates me the most in such races. Seeing people who do not know you just scream out your name, as they can see you struggle, or offer you some food or even a thumbs up and a smile. Just because they at that moment respect what you are going through and want with their own way to push you forward.
Now by the end, I was again in the 8:10 min/mile region and was hoping for a chance in a good sprint in the last two km. However, in the last water stop, at km 40 because of the sheer volume of spectators, the course was narrowed down to a few metres width, resulting in not enough space to overtake having grabbed your water cup. And the guy in front of me stopped dead on his feet to drink water. And I had to stop.
Now if you’ve run a marathon, you know that stopping at mile 25 is practically game over for any pacing plan you had before. I might have stopped for about 5 seconds, but it was enough to make it hard sprinting again. As an example, in Athens, I managed to do 8:12, 7:57 and 6:38-minute miles for miles 25, 26 and the 0.2 finish. That was an 8:38 min/mile overall marathon. In Rotterdam, I did 8:15, 8:21 (water stop incident) and 7:37 and the final average pace was 8:22 mins/mile. I reckon it was at that moment that I realised I was not going to break 3:40. Still, it would be a PB in the region of 7-8 minutes so I should still be happy.
And so I did, I gathered my biggest smile and ran that last km. And then it hit me for some reason: I was finishing my third Marathon in a third different country, having brought my PB down by 25 minutes in a year, having lost 20 pounds of weight, running in a running club’s colours. I realised that this is definitely not a bucket list thing. This is a part of me, something that defines my everyday life, it has taught me things about myself I would have never known. All the miserable winter miles that I so hated doing were worth it just for those last moments in the famous Coolsingel road, where your ears literally hurt from the roar of the crowds. I tried really hard for the third marathon not to get shorter breathing (a.k.a. cry) because of all of those emotions coming to me (and to look suave in the finishing picture). The final time was 3:40:55 (turns out I did run the second half faster by 9 seconds).
I would definitely recommend this race to anyone. It was a bit unlucky that I got 23-degree heat which made things a bit harder, but overall it is a very fast course. Support can be a bit lonely in that last part, but if you plan for it I guess you can counter that. It takes you through a very nice tour of the city as well, crossing that wonderful bridge, seeing the historic building in the city centre and the rougher part of the harbour in the south as well. I would definitely consider re-doing it in a couple of years since it is well organised and very fun.
29th Allendale Challenge, Allendale near Hexham, Saturday, April 7, 2018
I first heard about this race a few years ago when Mike Hughes told me he’d done a race which involved running over mounds of mud which were taller than him. I couldn’t quite envisage what he meant and whilst intrigued I didn’t really want to experience it myself at the time I was more interested in trying to get PB’s in road races rather than wading through mud for hours.
Fast forward a couple of years and I will do pretty much anything to avoid running on the road and am one of those slightly strange people who go out in search of mud and hills every weekend.
Having missed a couple of other long fell races I was looking through the race diary and spotted the Allendale Challenge on a weekend where I knew I was going to be child-free. What had sounded like madness now seemed like the perfect way to spend a cold April Saturday.
After a spectacularly wet and cold winter, it was clear the conditions were not going to be good. Apparently, this race is muddy even after the driest of winters. This didn’t bother me too much and I was quite cheered to see the weather forecast was kind-ish; clear in the morning and a bit of drizzle for the last couple of hours of the race. Perfect for when you’re getting a bit hot…
Geoff, John and I headed over early on Saturday morning and got there about an hour before the race started. It was a lovely morning and I imagined the walkers (who set out 2 hours before the runners) would be having a lovely time. After a quick warm-up, we were sent on our way. With gloves and two layers, I was soon quite hot.
The race starts with a reasonable amount of climb on road and then gradually you move onto track and after a few miles, you’re into the fun stuff. Geoff and I had been to and froing up until this point but once we got into the mud I seemed to lose him and also got myself to the front of the ladies’ race. I’m not sure how as I felt like I was moving backwards through the thick bog. The only way I realised I was going faster than walking pace was that I started to pass quite a few of the walkers.
It was at this point that the “drizzle” arrived. At first, it was just that and quite pleasant but it quite quickly became heavy and rather than refreshing was just making it even harder to see properly and to gauge how deep the mud was. This is one of those races where you can’t get into a rhythm – every few steps a leg will disappear deep into the mud and I had soon coated both legs from foot to thigh in thick mud. As we climbed up towards Killhope I stopped to put my waterproof on – I was starting to get really cold and the extra layer gave me a boost as I was immediately much more comfortable.
Killhope is the highest point of the race and about halfway through the 26 miles. I knew the race had more climb in the first half and was looking forward to speeding up after the hard work climbing through mud, rain and snow. The descent arrived and I did feel better – it was a stony track that went on seemingly forever. Not the most comfortable in fell shoes but a relief after the mud. After a quick checkpoint, we were back in mud though and on the way up again. And then the peat bogs…
Mike hadn’t been wrong.. I thought I knew mud but this was something else. You completely lose your sense of direction when you’re hidden amongst enormous piles of peat… so whilst some people tried to run between them I kept going over the top to try and spot the runners ahead of me. Typically I lost confidence in my route choice so did a bit of shuffling around trying to decide who I should be following. Eventually, we came through it and I was pleased to hear a few supporters and walkers telling me I was still the first female.
There was now about 8 miles to go and I’d been told that the final section was not too tough – a long slow climb (“the drag”) and then an easy-ish descent back into Allendale. I felt good. At this stage in a long race I know if I’m going to crash or not and today was a good day.
As I sped down an easy rocky descent before the drag I knew it was all for the taking – first lady and (perhaps more importantly) a victory over Geoff!
Then suddenly a rock decided it had other plans for me, in slow motion I went over one rock then my leg crashed against another and finally my head clunked hard onto a third. It was like they were all distributed carefully to cause me as much damage as possible. I was winded but thought I should be ok to carry on. The runner behind me thought differently – he told me to sit down and shouted ahead to get medical help. I told him I had to finish the race and I was fine. (I’d DNF’d my last long race and was not about to let that happen again). He said I was bleeding and should get my head looked at. I put my hand to my head and realised he was right…with a handful of blood and legs which were beginning to hurt more, it became apparent I had to do the sensible thing. I wasn’t giving up though and my new friend started to walk me up to the medical van so I could get sorted as quickly as possible.
I had a few shocked looks as I climbed up but I assured everyone I was fine. At the van, I told them repeatedly that I had to finish the race. They seemed to think my health was more important (obviously not runners) and insisted on doing various checks, cleaning all my wounds and asking me a series of questions, to most of which I replied: “I’m fine, I need to finish the race”. After several minutes a lady passed and I complained to the medical team that I’d lost my place – still I wasn’t allowed to go. A few minutes later and Geoff appeared looking a touch concerned (but not enough to stop!). Eventually, I was allowed to head off as long as I promised to stop if I felt ill and to check in with the final checkpoint. I was determined to gain back the places I’d lost and set off at a good pace up the drag. It wasn’t long before I spotted Geoff and I could tell he was using the run/walk system, which I’d read in previous reports he often found sensible for this section. I knew I could get him, so dug in and before long I passed him. Then I thought I spotted the first lady ahead of me and sped up again to try and catch her. I think this was a mistake… it turned out not to be the first lady but a man… and the burst of speed was swiftly followed by a wave of nausea. The weather was getting worse and worse with rain falling heavily and I couldn’t work out if my vision was blurred because of the head injury or because of the rainwater filling my eyes. I slowed down for the descent to the next checkpoint feeling sicker and sicker and cursing myself for thinking I could run at speed after my fall.
On arrival at the checkpoint, as promised, I was given another check over and asked whether I felt well enough to continue. I admitted I felt sick but figured with only 3.5 miles to go I had nothing to lose. So I continued, now at a walk and still in mud (so much for the easy finish to the race…). Before long Geoff passed me – he asked if I wanted him to walk/run with me but I declined, preferring to admit defeat… There is a short section along the river towards the end which I’d imagined would be quite pleasant but even that was deep in mud. I managed to build back up to a run and before long I was on the final road which would take me back to Allendale, warmth and food!
I finally got to the hall in 4 hrs 48 minutes… not quite where I wanted to be… and not the first lady but still a very happy runner.
My head wound decided the end of the race was a signal to start bleeding again so I was properly patched up and given a full MOT by the fabulous mountain rescue staff whilst Geoff (who had beaten me by 2 minutes in the end!) provided sweet tea and Jaffa cakes to get my blood sugar levels up.
Not long after, John returned and we made our way to the Golden Lion for pie and peas, the perfect way to celebrate finishing what had been a tough race for everyone, Geoff claiming that in 13 years of running the race, this had been the worst conditions yet.
If anyone has made it this far, I must say a massive thank you to the North of Tyne Mountain Rescue team both on the course and back at Allendale. We know from their incredible work looking after Rob Wishart last year that the emergency services are brilliant at what they do and they proved this again. Profits from the race go towards this fantastic resource and for that reason alone I recommend it to anyone. However, unless you’re a really big fan of mud I’d suggest choosing a slightly drier year!