Although some may not see the appeal of a wintry run along main and minor roads which are not closed, I relish the prospect of this, the oldest 10-mile road race in Britain. Slick organisation, a net downhill course (albeit with a few negative decline challenges!), friendly atmosphere and the lure of a carvery afterwards – what’s not to like? As B2C is a firm favourite on the club GP calendar, this also ensures a good purple contingent.
Last year I had a good run, which left a time of 1:20:33 to beat. My plan this time was to nudge just under 5 min/km pace, which would break 80 minutes. Above all, I told myself to avoid the error of my ways last year – setting off like a scalded cat, which caught up with me later in the race.
There had been some planning ahead of this day in the spectator department too – my Son Patrick was really looking forward to spending the day with Lewis, and watching the racing. The Strider bus weaved along the countryside to reach Brampton and upon arrival at the William Howard School, there were earnest discussions about the prevailing conditions, and whether long or short sleeves were the order of the day. I settled for my club vest but with the comfort of my gloves, beanie and as I’d had a niggle in my left calf, my fetching compression socks.
After the team photo, we moved towards the start on Longtown Road. Having been before, I knew to expect a ‘surprise start’ – the road closed at the last minute, and a starting pistol fired rapidly to despatch some 500 runners on their way.
The first stretch downhill with a sharp right turn to join the Carlisle road has a habit of encouraging a bit of an overly keen pace. This year was no different, and as I ran along for the first 4 km or so at ~4:30 min/km with Graeme Walton, we remarked on how we had diverted a little from the plan. I knew the climb up to the Newby back road would settle me down, and it did.
As I ran along these minor roads, thanking the volunteers on my way, I reflected on the remarkably dry conditions compared to the wading experience of the 2015 race. Natalie was in front of me and provided me with a purple vest to keep within my sights – try as I might, however, I could not catch her.
Through Low Crosby, we re-joined the A689 towards Carlisle. I knew there were a couple of undulations to come, and I told myself to keep calm – last year I’d developed a horrendous stitch in the last 2 miles which had been hard to recover from.
I could see the houses on the outskirts of the City, and pressed on. To my left and ahead, I started to see the River Eden, and finally the Eden Bridge. I passed Andy and Mike who spurred me on, just before the final descent to the Bridge. On the Bridge, I was determined not to let the chap in front beat me, and to my left, I saw a welcome sight of two bobble hats – Patrick, and Lewis. As I got closer I realised this was a Strider funnel, and I gave it everything I had left to get ahead of the white shirt in front. I rounded into the finish funnel and smiled from ear to ear – job done! A hugely enjoyable race, with a PB of 1:15:37 and well done to all Striders who ran!
No medals for this race – I think I got a pair of socks in 2015, a lovely coaster last year which is on my desk, and this year’s prize was a race mug. Thanks to the organisers who also let Patrick and Lewis have a mug each for their cheering efforts.
2nd time lucky? Last year, I settled for a rather splendid long sleeved top in lieu of my entry, and heard the tales of a splendid and scenic coastal run in the sun. This year, the race sold out in a matter of six hours but fortunately I secured an entry again, and had my sun tan lotion at the ready.
Saturday evening saw me consider various weather forecasts, and contemplate my shoe and clothing choice. Having packed my hydration vest, at the eleventh hour, I abandoned it and decided for the minimalistic approach of club vest (fear not, I had shorts too) and trail shoes given the inclement weather anticipated.
A Sunday morning reveille at 0600hrs (what else would any sane person do on their wedding anniversary?) saw me tiptoe around the house, and jog up to meet the Strider bus. As I had stayed up quite late, reading old race reports of the Coastal Run and contemplating what lay ahead, I quite fancied a snooze on the bus but this notion rapidly faded, as the bus filled full of other chatty but half asleep Striders.
We made good progress, and parked up in Beadnell, donning waterproofs to saunter down the road to the Boat House for registration. I always find it a challenge with my OCD to attach a bib number perfectly straight – to do this in the rain, with a fresh breeze on the upturned hull of a small boat compounded the challenge. Event clips and bib attached, I processed along the beach toward the start area at Beadnell Bay. There were portaloosportable toilets aplenty, and a fairly short queue leaving time to join fellow Striders to shelter and stay warm(ish), stowing bags on the baggage bus at the last moment, for the obligatory team photo on the beach.
Lined up on the start, and raring to go, I listened intently to the official at the front – I relayed his information to other runners because I thought it was wise to heed the advice, which I summarised that runners should stay between the first set of marshalls to avoid perishing on the slippy rocks. Then we were off, across golden sands, the warmth of the sun on our backs, the breeze in our hair, amidst children building sandcastles, and enjoying ice-cream [error, that was a figment of my imagination]. Then we were off, across a sandy base of rivulets fed by the Long Nanny River, which set the scene of what would be a challenging race. I had struck out at a pace just sub 5 min/km, which softened as I met the first constriction point of soft sand and rocks up to High Newton by the Sea. I was amazed at this point to see a runner relieve himself against the dunes in full view of other competitors – how could he have missed the vast provision of portaloosportable toilets, and council facilities adjacent to the start?
Having climbed this initial hill, I enjoyed the short fast downhill section to Low Newton and the sands at Embleton Bay. We then negotiated the inland side of Dunstanburgh Castle, on mud, grass and rock paths, with a few slips and falls. I halted to check one poor soul who had taken an impressive tumble, landing hard but he was fine to continue. I passed a few runners, at this point lamenting their choice of road shoes, and wondered if Matt Archer had his racing flats on.
Next up was Craster Village, at which point we were looking a little more bedraggled, our muddy battle paint splattered up our legs, and higher! Support was evident here, and water was provided. The encouraging sight and sound of Michael Mason galvanised my resolve as I climbed up past the harbour past The Heughs, where there was a cheeky kink taking us along the headland to Cullernose Point.
Then a treat of a section of road past Howick, and on to Sugar Sands where the majority of runners took the bridge across Howick Burn but some hardier souls opted for the water crossing. A short but punishing climb ensued, up a rocky path, which I decided to run passing a couple who were walking, clearly conserving their energy to pass me on the flat on the top!
Into Boulmer for the final water stop, which I needed, where supporters braved the conditions to cheer us on. Leaving Boulmer, just prior to dropping down to Foxton Beach, a cheery chap stood beside a sign which advised ‘about 2 miles to go’. He shouted encouragingly, that it we were nearly upon the beach and only 10 minutes to go. I looked at my watch briefly, trying to calculate what this meant but gave up as ‘nearly 2 miles’ was too imprecise a measure for me, a detailed metric man.
This beach seemed never-ending, and I remember thinking about the meaning of this approximate 2-mile sign. I tried in places to pick up my pace, mainly because I thought if I did the race would be over quicker but there were slippy rocks, and dilapidated fences (really!) to cross. On one particular fence, my ability to hurdle non-existent, my right hamstring cramped as I ungraciously ‘hopped’ over it. I recovered to catch the magnificent sight of a blue inflatable finish arch.
The arch got closer, and I tried to pick up pace, hastened by Jon Ayres who was doing a sterling job as a bare-chested Mr Motivator having already finished. Attempting to follow Jon’s advice of lengthening my stride, I managed to briefly return to that sub 5 min/km pace again, prior to what felt like sinking to my knees in the softer sand near the finishing arch. Through the finish, I immediately felt that sense of accomplishment which makes it all seem worthwhile; and a quick check of my watch confirmed a pleasing sub 2-hour time (subsequently 1:55:31 chip time).
I grabbed some water, and headed over to provide some encouragement to my fellow Striders. Jon congratulated me, and I quipped that that last beach was like a club committee meeting in length! Then via the baggage bus, to the Strider bus, which now resembled something of an impromptu changing room. I was grateful at this point for Lesley’s advice to take a change of footwear, and in equal measure for her encouragement to attend this race. Prize giving was in the nearby Alnmouth Links Golf Club, which provided an opportunity to dry out, and celebrate the team achievement. It was great to see Stephen Jackson pick up a prize for 5th place, a valiant effort indeed after his Durham City Run win of only a few night’s previous, and to see other age category winners; Tamsin Imber for 1st FVET40, Christine Farnsworth for 2nd FVET65 and Margaret Thompson for 3rd FVET65.
The organisation of this race by Alnwick Harriers is first rate. Marshals and locals alike are friendly, and supportive. The coastline and scenic aspect is fantastic, and where else can you run ~14 miles through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on a mixture of sand, road and trail? In summary, I’d encourage anyone to have a go at this race – I’d certainly like to do it again, but hopefully next time on a drier, more summery day!
You can relive the Northumberland Coastal Run here
This HAS to be one of the best races in the north-east! The fact that it sells out in a few hours supports this.
Beautiful rock-pooled, sandy beaches , Dunstanburgh castle, the pretty village of Craster and convivial cliff top coastal footpath make this one magnificent run! And when raining and grey this coast looks beautiful in a wild, wind-bashed way. I make no apologies for the amount of gush in this report!
Today, early morning in Beadnell, the sky was thick with cloud and it was raining. I was cowering in the warm baggage bus along with others, discussing if a rain coat would be a good idea. One lady posed the question, had you ever needed a raincoat during a race in the summer? The problem was that my answer to this question was yes. However, today the temperature was 19 degrees. Also I am usually freezing cold before all races whatever the time of day or year, and it seems to bare no relation at all to my temperature when running. That the hidey holes of trees in my local nature reserve are often housing old jumpers of mine to collect after a run is attest to this. So, I decided to wear, a swimming costume, my Striders vest top and a thick cove of factor 50+. (The latter to protect me from any direct sunlight that in a freak event may appear. I was on antibiotics following tick bite in Dalby forest, the type of which the nurse stressed to me makes the skin more sensitive to sunlight so I must stay in the shade she said with emphasis).
Detaching myself from the bus, and shivering in the cold wind which greeted me I jogged up over the small dunes green with thick tussocky maram grass and down onto the beach. At the top of the beach were little fishing boats pulled up high above the tide line resting on their sides on the sand. The sea looked grey and ominous, reflecting the sky.
A large crowd of runners was rapidly gathering at the Beadnell end of the beach in the distance. With still twenty minutes to go I decided to get the legs moving and jogged in the opposite direction for a bit. Matt Archer and two others ran towards me doing the same. Then it was time to go to the start. I met Rachelle in the crowd. I felt anxious though as I did not know which way we were heading, there was just a sea of heads around me. So I whizzed out of the crowd and approached it head-on. The crowd was fronted by a line of elites! Like, no joke, they totally looked like them Ha ha! Thin, muscley men, shoulder to shoulder, silent and focused looking….and Gareth was one of them…phew! He looked a bit surprised to see me, perhaps as I was about to get run over in two minutes? He helpfully advised me we were all headed between the two bright orange marshals half way down the beach. I quickly made my way past the elites for about 3 metres deep into the crowd until I got to some ladies and stood with them.
One minute later with a loud parrrrrrp on the horn, we were off! Careering across Beadnell Bay! People were running all round me. There were large pools of water, where the sand was hard but rippled and uneven underfoot. Big splash as your foot suddenly went down into a pool, and up the other side. I kept getting side splash from other runners, and it started to rain again now, so also getting wet from above. More splash from below as a river crossed the sand. Despite this I was now totally baking hot! My swimming costume seemed really heat insulating. It was annoying, so I took my striders vest off and wrapped it round my arm, Ah, that. Running in a swimming costume! Well, we were on a beach.
After a short cliff top stretch we onto Newton Haven beach, and then the grand beach of Embleton Bay. The mystical stone ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle rose out of the misty haze on the distant headland that cups the bay. I headed towards the sea, to run on the wet firmer sand. Half way across I could see there was a choice of path, either stick to the coastal path or clamber over rocks up to the path. I opted for the latter. It would not save me much distance but it would avoid the runner congestion on the coastal path. I changed my track to head straight for the rocks. As I did so, who should speed past me but Jon Ayres! Lovely to see him! He asked me when my next triathlon was (a reference to the swimming costume?). I said it was today if I got tired of running.. We kept pace together and reached the rocks which were very slippery and seaweed covered. We bounded up as fast as we could, and met the path, which was unexpectedly muddy and slippery. This continued on the narrow path round the castle, slip-slide running. Trying not to elbow other runners. Once past this bit, the path widened and was back on low cliff tops. One of the Kenyans I’d seen at the start was sat on the side as he had injured his foot and was clearly in pain. There were two marshals helping him so I carried on. Jon had gone on ahead at this point.
We were fast approaching Craster. I was well surprised! Half way already? This half seemed so much easier than Dalby Forest half, but then this one is flat and easier underfoot, and there is no flat in Dalby. Craster is a pretty little village and running through it I could smell the smoke of the Craster fish smokery. A small crowd of local residents cheered us on.
After Craster there was a long stretch of muddy slippery coastal foot top. I kept my pace, comfortable but a bit hard. I was enjoying this! We ran down onto the next beach to be immediately greeted by a bridge over a stream. A girl overtook me at this point but I was determined to follow her as there probably was only 4 miles left now I estimated, from my study of the OS map beforehand. Also, at this point I sensed an up-shift in vibe in the runners around me from ‘maintaining pace’ to ‘getting serious’. I upped my pace to match hers and kept a secret 10 metres behind her. I followed her steadily along the path.
Off Boulmer beach, onto another hedge-lined minor road parallel with the sea. This one was looong, but I knew it lead to the final headland then onto the final beach. It was not far now, the guys around me were now more upping it, as was the girl I was following. At the headland, marshals cheered us on and said 2 miles to go! Yes! Down a flight of steep steps and we were onto the last beach! Great! Nice to be back on sand, another beautiful bay, this beach had a few areas of slippery grey rocks and rock pools of uneven depth to negotiate! Rounding the corner and there were the groynes to hurdle over ha ha! Made difficult by the fact we were all trying to go hard now, and that the level of the beach on one side of the groyne was different from the level on the other side! ..and once round the corner the blue inflatable finish arch could be seen..so near… but ….so ….far! A teasing sight! On and on and on….and it did not get an nearer! This was really hard now! I gritted my teeth and ran past the girl I had been keeping up with, but could not stop another girl flying past me! The arch was still far away! Finally, we were up with the first supporters! Katy and Graeme with their new baby were there and Lesley cheering us on! A few more yards and booff!, deep deep deep soft sand! Not the greatest when trying to vaguely approximate a sprint! I think swimming through it may have been faster. The deceptive blue arch was proving to be a battle to reach! A staggering inelegant plod and at last, I was under the arch!
A cold, but not freezing, morning in York for the 35th Brass Monkey half marathon. The weather, as it turned out, was pretty kind to the 1500 or so runners. The drizzle had disappeared by the time the race started at 10:00 and the wind was barely noticeable.
If you enjoy road running there is no denying it’s a cracking race. York racecourse provides the organisers with a great base for runners and spectators alike, the course is as described; ‘fast and flat’ and the marshals and officials do a great job making everyone feel looked after.
I have a theory that the January date is particularly appealing for club runners looking for a ‘post-Christmas’ target – a reason to pull on the high-vis kit through December. Whatever the reason, this is a popular race with a capital P and apparently sold out in 38 minutes.
Unlike last year, this time I had a plan. Go out at 75 minute pace and (3:33/km) and try to pick it up towards the end. As it worked out I had some company for a big chunk of the race as a group of 5-6 runners from various clubs around the North East, including captain Gareth Pritchard, worked together in a little pack – each taking a turn to lead the group.
This worked really well up to 9/10 miles when I decided to make a bit of a move – followed only by one runner from Roundhay Runners in Leeds. It emerged that we had a similar goal in mind and again, the ‘strength in numbers’ approach helped build the momentum towards the end of the race, which was now in sight (metaphorically speaking).
As we hit the railway bridge with a couple of miles to go I had a little bit left in the legs, and pushed on again with my pace now nearer to 10k effort (3:22/km) – time for my end of race mantra ‘now or never’.
So, a second over 1:14 according to my watch, a second under according to my chip; I always did like chips.
A new half marathon PB of 01:13.59 and a post-race analysis of ‘job done’.
A very popular race with fellow Elvet Striders in abundance with lots of smiles and encouragement pre and post-race.
I really hope this can be the first entry on the running calendar for 2018, it is most certainly one of my favourites.
“I completed the York brass monkey today for the first time. 2hrs 3min 56sec. Sore and aching but very happy with my result. Met up with some lovely striders who were very friendly and supportive, especially Trevor Chaytor who helped me get home afterwards due to an unexpected emergency back in Durham.” Karen Crampton
Well, what a top day for a run! Cold yes, but blue skies and the sun is coming out as we arrive in Brampton. I enter the school and join the throng of club runners-it is buzzing with a cheerful vibe! And it’s warm inside! After bumping into a few Striders here and there, I head outside as there is still half an hour before the start-so time for a short warm up around Brampton. Brampton is a pretty village indeed. I find a few quiet side streets to run along. I bump into a man walking his dog and his dog starts to run with me, so I offer to take him to Carlisle :-). Further about the village I spot a few other runners warming up-they are all male and not wearing much-they look like fast runners! Noting the time I head back to base to catch Mr Walton.
Prior to now I have always ran how I feel. In races this has sometimes worked, and sometimes resulted in ‘the Crash’ when I have set off far too fast! So today, Graeme has very kindly agreed to run with me using his watch to pace us. So I get to see how it feels like to run a paced run and also to see how to use a watch. We finalise our plan just before the race. We were going to go for 71 minutes with a negative split pacing, but Graeme suggests trying for sub-70 as we seemed comfortable at 6.55min/m on the track for 10minutes on Wednesday … I’m always up for a challenge … so why not. We can always drop back to even splits if it doesn’t work out.
Graeme and I join the crowd, squashing in behind Stephen and Matt at the start-line. After ‘the wait that is before every start’ everyone moves forward like at a music gig when someone comes on stage … and we are off! Down the hill, round the sharp bend and out of Brampton. It’s a bit congested. Graeme keeps looking at his watch, and I just follow Graeme!
Congested and following Graeme.
The sun comes out. Nice views across the fields. Still a bit congested. I am warm now. I angle through a gap in the runners to throw my £4 hoodie that got from the British Heart Foundation charity shop last week to the roadside. (We’ll drive back this way and pick it up if it’s there, if it’s not that’s fine).
Nice. We are into a steady pace now. I’m enjoying this. A down followed by an up and then onto the smaller road.
Running. Nice country road, nice weather, what’s not to like? Graeme keeps looking at his watch, he is keeping us in a good steady pace. As we go round a bend I notice 3 girls ahead. Hummm. I wonder if Graeme has noticed? Probably not. I wonder if his watch will notice if I speed up just slightly and creep past them? Hummm, we are not supposed to increase pace until Mile 5.
Excellent I can see the mile 5 marker! Ha. I increase pace a bit and get past those girls . Graeme looks at his watch.
Graeme looks at his watch.
We have a mile 6 sign and then a 10k (6.2 mile) sign. It confuses me as I have done quite a few half marathons recently and this is half way, I remind myself it is a 10mile race. Graeme now suggests we don’t increase pace til after the bridge, hummm maybe we went off too fast for a negative split for my level of fitness, I guess that is the danger of aiming too high. Well, if we can do even split that is ok.
This mile was hard. I am not sure why! I just had to grit my teeth through it!
This was a good mile. Graeme shouts out that we only need to do 2 more miles at 7 minute pace. Excellent! I can do this. Towards the end of mile 8 Graeme seems to be running faster and faster! Suddenly it feels like a time trial! Is this really still 7 min mile pace? It is uphill, maybe that’s why it is hard?. I have also noticed 3 more girls ahead, I get behind them but it’s hard to get past as they are running astride. Graeme is urging me on. A quote I read somewhere flits into my head. ‘Racing hurts, get over it’ that was easy to accept when sitting on the sofa ha ha!, however I’m not stopping now, I try and keep up with Graeme’s legs!
At this point it is clear Graeme could run the last bit faster than me, I think he should just go, but he doesn’t as he is a Gentleman.
I wish I knew where the finish was, then it would be mentally easier I think. But, its only 4 laps of the track I tell myself. Graeme is being very encouraging all the time. Why did they build The Sands so far away? We are now running with 5 ish other guys. My breathing is really loud! so I am pleased there is background traffic noise! Graeme urges me past them, and I try and manage an increase in speed for a bit, but I don’t know where the finish is so slow down again. Graeme shouts out it’s just round the corner, but I’m not sure which corner he means, there are people in the way! Aghh! And then the path is lined with people and low and behold the finish line is just ahead! Mr Walton is ahead but lets me pass just 1m from the line! What a good sport! … And ooo it’s so good to stop! ..After recovering Graeme checks his watch for one last time-wayhay! 1hr 09 mins! We did it!
Thanks so much Graeme! This was really helpful! Graeme’s watch showed that we did even splits. .. ha. It’s funny how different a 7 min mile feels at the start compared to at the end! I really enjoyed this race and I would definitely do it again! It’s a nice route and a good club event!
Brampton to Carlisle 10m today has been a weird day with a weird run and a mix of emotions… I woke up this morning feeling just quite bleurgh about the day. It was more that I just felt like I couldn’t be bothered to run 10 miles. I just wanted to stay in bed. My legs were tired from the thousands of steps I had walked delivering leaflets this week and my mind was tired because.. Well just because…. But I battled on and got up. Task 1 complete. Task 2 was to actually get ready for the race. Loads of self doubt just kept giving me this mental block. Even down to the smallest things like which gloves to wear and which top and the thought of these things was giving me a sense of dread ! It was weird! I got ready anyway and made it to the bus. Our running club puts on a bus for some of the races and this was one of them. As soon as I got on the bus and saw my friends I felt better. I think it’s being around other people. And when those people are smiley and happy, I think that’s infectious. They build my confidence. Not only around running but all aspects. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many people believe in me. So when I’m asked what’s helped in my recovery I have to say not only running but the friends I have made through running. I’ve only known them maybe 18 months but already they feel like family. We arrived in Carlisle an hour before the race started. Luckily the start was next to a school so we were able to keep warm inside and use the toilet (only 4 times I think this race, it’s getting better!) Anyway, the ‘ideal’ in my head was to keep the race pace at around 9:15 min/miles. I figured that if I could do that, it equates to a 2:01:00 half marathon. My next half marathon is in York in January and it’s totally flat so I was going to try and push for 2 hours. This felt like such a good plan. I ran alone, I wanted to just see what I was capable of. Running alone was good in a way as I was able to focus on what I was doing, but at times it was lonely too and not so good for my motivation!! Anyway, for the 1st 3miles I was running around 9 minute miles. I knew this was faster than what I had planned but I felt good so I kept at it. That was the mistake I made I think. I went off too fast for the first 10k and so after that I really struggled. (I did get a 10k PB!) With me, I never know what goes first, mental strength or physical strength. Or in other words do I become physically tired or mentally tired ? Or does one cause the other and vice versa..? For the last half I really struggled. I can’t even explain what with. My breathing was fine, it wasn’t that. My legs, yes were tired but not overly tired but my mental strength did disappear. All I could hear inside was …
“He’s walking just have a walk!”
“You haven’t made your time anyway so just stop.”
“You are so slow!”
“You won’t do well, you won’t continue, you’re useless, people will be finished and you’re still struggling.”
For some people they say that they can give themselves a boot up the backside and when people pass in a race it motivates them to catch them. But it is the opposite for me. If someone passes I think “well screw it, I’m shit!” It’s like I go into a self-doubting, weak mental frame of mind where my thoughts turn from “this feels good, keep going,” to “you’re shit, just stop.” Once I’m in this mindset I don’t seem to be able to pull myself out. A couple of friends caught me/I caught a couple and that gave me a little boost, enough to get to the end. I just wish my mind was as strong as my legs. I don’t think it’s just me who experiences this though, right? So I finished. My average pace was 9:25 which I was disappointed with but it did teach me what I need to do about pacing for this half marathon in January. I just wish I could get some sort of magic pill that kept my mind strong. Overall I had a great day. Even though I was slightly disappointed in my time, thinking about it, I really beat myself up and criticise myself and I think I need to be kinder. I keep trying to think that I wouldn’t criticise a friend for going slower than hoped for and I would be proud of their achievements. Just wish I could think like this for myself. The day was rounded odd perfectly – dinner, pudding and wine with friends and then a few gins, Xfactor and I’m a celebrity. Not the most healthy food and drink choice but hey ho we all need a treat. Here are my splits from yesterday – they’re hilarious and certainly shows where I went wrong!
Having found myself up at some ridiculous time earlier in the year to secure the entry I was once more rudely awakened from my sleep very early on Sunday morning because of the Brass Monkey!
Road trip for me, Kerry Anne Barnett, her boyfriend James (second claim Strider) and Gareth Pritchard we set off on the icey journey to York Race course
I had high hopes for a PB with all the talk of a fast and flat course but was also nervous my PB at Keilder had been a fluke and that the ice may scupper any plans we had for a fast race.
We arrived to a beautiful sunrise and got ourselves ‘race ready’ (selfies, numerous toilet stops and other essential pre race activities!)
It was great to catch up with some of the strider posse before we all went outside and lined up for the race.
Gareth and I had discussed what I needed to aim for pace wise to get my sought after 2.05 ish PB so I stood in the appropriate time pen with Rebecca Devine (more selfies… Obvs!)
After a few announcements we were off, it was absolutely freezing, but bright and clear and there was a great buzz from the crowd – runners and spectators.
I was enjoying the pace & soaking up the atmosphere and soon enough the first mile was ticked off. I checked my watch and saw I was ahead of planned times so I slowed a bit, didn’t want to peak too soon! Wise words from Allan ringing in my ears, golden rules 1-5 – don’t set off too fast (and repeat x4!)
Along the way the support from the marshalls & spectators was great and I thought the surrounding areas were very pretty, despite it being a road race. I spoke to a couple of Striders on route, Robin Linton and Jayne Freeman which was a welcome distraction for me but all in all just tried to focus on sticking to pace and not spilling icey cold water on myself at the water stations!
I had a bit of a panic when my garmin dropped out and said I was doing 11 min miles all of a sudden as we went through a wooded part but some lovely regular Brass Monkey runners said “that always happens here love” phew!!!! Apart from that minor shock I was loving the race, I was ahead of pace and feeling strong, I was starting to believe I had sub 2.05 in me & pushed on.
I struggled a little from mile 11 so the frozen jelly babies were very gratefully received around Mile 12.
Pacing still on track and lifted with the sugar hit and shout outs from the crowd I pressed on, trying to work out the pacing maths in my head distracted me from the pain of the last mile and a bit which seemed to go on forever!
I could finally see the finish line and I knew I was ahead of the sub 2.05 target – I was so elated but just kept telling myself not to fall over! I crossed the line at 2.03.13 (official chip time). I actually squealed as I read the text much to the shock of those around me at the time who thought something bad had happened!
I was absolutely delighted to hear that Gareth and James had also PBd along with many of the other purple posse!
We celebrated Kerry coming in ahead of her planned time and then went on the hunt for much needed refreshments hearing the achievements of many of the club as we passed them enroute including Penny, Matthew, Michael and Kelly who all reported excellent PB times.
I have officially classified this as my new favourite race (didn’t have an old favourite race to be fair!!) I loved the whole day (not just cos I PBd) and will definitely be setting my alarm for next years entry!
I love this race and am almost evangelical when describing it to people “the beaches are great, the trails are quick and pretty, the view of the castle as you run past and the support from the locals, it’s just fantastic” etc.
So how to make it better? Well this year I had a cunning plan, following a run of the course a couple of weeks prior to the actual day, an alternate route had been found!
To the day loads of people in purple vests, a coachload and a fair few more all gathered around the car park, queueing for the loo and avoiding the slow moving traffic as their owners looked to secure a place to park, the strength of wind is debated and just before the off the gathering on to the beach for the team photo [If anyone has a ‘team photo’, or indeed, any photo, – send it to me! Ta. Ed.].
Then we’re off a stampede of splashing soles the broad starting line changes shape to an, almost, beach long peloton, a line of smiling faces embracing the day, enjoying the run and reaffirming a love of running.
At this point however a small group edge towards the waves turning with the bay and aiming away from the masses their eyes focused on a small path and a break in the dunes, a set of purplies are off exploring.
Concern races through my mind, I’ve checked and reread the rules- the course is suggested not set, our route choice is our own and ( perhaps crucially ) we never really did compare the choices available. Too late now we hit the new (ish to us) trail and keep the pace lively hoping this is a wise choice.
After a mile and a bit we merge with the main field I see faces I’d not expect to be passing now, numbers that had been passed on the run out are ahead. I ask a fellow strider for his measured distance (the new path is about 500 metres longer, perhaps this is why after 35 years of the event being run the alternate is not needed?)
From this point on works to be done and it’s head down and pushing as hard as I dare, still 10 miles to go. I have a good day – in the end when comparing time to last year the deviation didn’t make much difference- but throughout the feelings are good, smiles stay on faces and it’s a great day and another fantastic experience.
On the final beach the wind really took hold, the sand clung to the feet sucking them down and devouring energy but still the love affair is there. This is why in the depths of winter,on freezing cold mornings I, my friends, clubmates and countless more like us all put on our kit and get out there because running isn’t just about the personal goals, it’s a shared experience that releases endorphins and on good days, of which this is definitely one, makes the heart glow.
At the end we excitedly chatter and congratulate each other on getting round, one of our number wins their category which is really very impressive as they too choose the long route. And then that’s it I’m not on the coach back and am part of a small group descending quietly home, the talk turns slowly to other subjects. Thoughts will gradually no doubt blend parts of today’s run with those done before and also, hopefully, with those to come but always, always there’s a part of me that dwells forever on those beaches.
[Note: Results on the www.resultsbase.net website are not listed by overall position when filtered by club. To see your overall position you need to go the their website and click on your own result. Ed.]
Let’s not pretend otherwise: I adore this race. It’s got the lot: entry on the day, indoor changing, unlimited tea before and after, well-marked, hours of fun on the green and empty Howgills and, very importantly, probably my favourite descent in any race I’ve yet done (the death-stumble down from Ringing Roger at the Skyline does not count, as that was relief as much as pleasure). I grant that it is not a race to everyone’s taste but, for the distance runner wanting to try the fells, I would mark this as the long one to go for.
Sunday morning: the sea of purple showed that either I was not alone or that people were out to bag some GP points in this first outing for the Full Yomp in the club championship; a lot of familiar faces were present, though Joan, Camilla, Debs, Anita and Diane were opting for the half course in order to keep their legs fresh for Swaledale six days later. We talked, stretched, taped and lubed whilst drinking hot tea from proper mugs, our numbers augmented by Steph Scott of NFR but slowly falling as Striders headed out in ones and twos to the starting control, runners on the full course having a window of an hour to set off (making it impossible to judge your position in the field). I watched Danny, Juliet, Sue, Maggie, Christine, Ian, Scott and David go, was suddenly having photos taken with the Half Yompers and then bid all goodbye to begin a long few hours.
To all those considering this race next year, an obligatory warning: this race starts easy, with a downhill to the main road, a flat half mile or so to an old railway bridge and then another mile and a half of gently-undulating concrete farm track luring you in to an unsustainable pace. I felt good here, though checked myself slightly as I overtook a handful of runners and a lot of walkers, maintaining a pace at which I could chat if I had anyone to chat with. The gradients became slightly steeper and the track rougher after crossing the Settle and Carlisle railway tracks then, all of a sudden, the tarmac was gone, to be seen again only at a brief water stop before the contour lines got closer together and Greenlaw Rigg beckoned. I climbed this at a slow run, sped up a little then slowed again on the climb to Little Fell, passing Sue, Maggie and Christine who were running as a group at this stage. The Nab followed in this series of ‘climb, flattish bit, climb again’ and forced me into my first walk of the race which gave chance to admire the drop off the crags and the perfect views in the clear, sunny weather, of the other side of the valley – the intimidating back half of the race. Finally Wild Boar Fell was summited, David and Scott passed on the way (both of them happily chatting, a racing activity they profess to disdain ordinarily), a drop to a boggy hollow completed to soak the feet thoroughly and Swarth fell ascended at a semi-traverse, the anticipation building. THE descent was around the corner.
I dibbed at the electronic box, took the offered cup of water from a marshall asking why so many runners from Durham were there today and began: forward-lean, knees never locked out, gravity doing the work and with arms used for balance. That was the idea, anyway, though I suspect video analysis would show there may be a way to go before I challenge the better descenders.
Nevertheless, the mile of grassy hill down to Aisgill was everything I remembered it to be – soft but not boggy, forgiving of the odd slip and encouraging you to lean in and trust the grip of your shoes. It felt fast and without fear, which is not the case on the rockier stuff at times. It felt incredible. Aisgill gained and the railway and minor road crossed for the only taste of tarmac in over a dozen miles I used the portaloo to offload unnecessary fluid weight, took on more water and hit the farm track alongside the steep, rocky Hell Gill, the clear waters very tempting as the day got warmer. Farmland gave way to moor, track to trod and Hugh Seat, gregory Chapel and High Seat were knocked off in succession, each a little tougher than the last but with frequent water stops to reward the effort. Descent to Tailbridge Road was smooth and fairly quick, High Pike Hill the only relatively minor climb to interrupt it and, after dibbing and taking water again at the road crossing, the near-solitude of the last few miles was no more, as we now joined the Half and Mini Yomp courses, the latter starting from the road which participants had been bussed out to (note: the junior Evanses do not yet know they’re probably doing this next year). Despite the fatigue beginning to creep into my legs at this point, this was really enjoyable, the walk-running family groups clearly having a grand day in comparison to the suffering long course runners; actual smiles were seen. They also, in addition to the copious tape markers and the lone Howgill Harriers runner I was chasing down, served to mark the remainder of the course very clearly, the long line of them snaking gradually to the Nine Standards, though the stones themselves remained out of sight until we were almost on top of them.
From the Nine Standards the only way is down – both literally and in terms of terrain, as the lush grass and soft earth was replaced by rocky track until we hit road at Fell House, though this allowed a final burst of speed to be attempted on the curves around Hartley Quarry and the view into Kirkby Stephen showed it appearing closer rapidly when seen through the aromatic sun-heated yellow-flowered gorse. Howgills man dropped me here, his approach to gravity clearly better than mine, though he remained in sight as we entered Hartley village over the beck then took the narrow path to the Eden river and Kirkby Stephen. A final effort along the quiet main road and a left turn up to the school, shouted in by Joan (7th lady in the half), Debs(10th), Camilla(9th), Diane(13th) and Anita(12th), and it was all over – second place (3:24:42) showing on the screen in the school hall. Unfortunately, one cup of tea and a very good shower later, two faster runners had come in after me, relegating me to fourth, which was not entirely a surprise and still left a definite sense of contentment as Diane and I drank yet more tea and watched Scott and Danny (31/32nd), Danny and Juliet (61/62nd), Ian (96th) and Sue (129th) run to the finish and take a deserved rest. As I said at the beginning, I do not attempt to hide my liking for this race but it is always useful to re-visit one’s assumptions and challenge them – re-running the Yomp served to re-affirm to me what a great race this is.
Having spent most of my childhood holidays camping and walking in the lakes, Windermere marathon sounded like a great challenge. I’d stuck to the 12 week training plan Allan had given me to the T. I had trailed in Jon Ayres’ dust as he rallied me along on the early morning weekend runs. This was finally it, this was marathon day! I knew what I had to do “just keep running, just keep running” (thanks Katy Walton!), I actually had a marathon race plan…I was going to stick to it. 3:20…was it too ambitious? To coin Allan’s much loved phrase “butterflies flying in formation”, they weren’t, they were out of control.
It’s a pretty low key marathon, registration is open from friday until 15 minutes before the race begins. There are about 700 runners, including those amazing 10in10 runners who run Windermere marathon for 10 consecutive days…their final, our one and only. There’s ample parking in the field, plenty of portaloos portable toilets [You’ll have Dick emailing us again, I kid ye not. – Ed], changing facilities and even an ice plunge pool if you’re brave enough to yelp in public!
At 10:10 all runners are called to assemble on the lawn in front of Brathay Hall and we are taken down to the start line following the drum band. I took my place, inching near the front and looked around at my competitors.
10:30, the gun fires and we are off. I try really hard to reign myself in, after tapering I get a little too excited that I can actually run again and usually set off far too fast. The course climbs steadily for the first 3 miles, it plays around a bit then there is a hill to rival Redhills on the 8th mile. I took my time up it and got to the top with the help of two bag pipers, their music drifting through the trees.
Its quite a pretty run, passing through Hawkshead, along Esthwaite water, and on to Newby Bridge. I was running well and got a lift at Newby bridge where the street was lined with 20/30 spectators clapping and shouting encouragement. For most of the course you get the odd hiker or cyclist..thats it. Oh and trying to avoid the odd bus and car as it hurtles down the country lanes is also a must!
A lovely lady is waiting in a lay-by with a table heavily laden with kendal mint cake, flapjack, cupcakes, jelly babies…I resisted temptation, stopping for a picnic was not on the plan and Jon Ayres had warned me off taking any mint cake from strangers! Then on to the second half back up the side of Windermere. This is where it starts getting tough, just looking up the Lake seems immense! Again no rest for weary legs, undulating as always, a pretty hefty climb again at mile 15, by mile 18 I’d really wished I’d considered a flat course, this was relentless.
On to “icecream mountain”, nicknamed by regular Brathay marathoners, a hill with an icecream van at the top and a few cheering spectators. By this stage it did feel like a mountain and I’m afraid to say I walked up that mountain. However in walking I actually overtook the man in front of me who was still trying to run. Encouraged I set off again, eager to make up my lost seconds. My final gel guzzled down, in the 22nd mile I felt like I was flying, autopilot, strong and buzzing from the sugar rush. Great encouragement from Allan had me waving manically, I felt great, I was nearly there surely…then the dip and I still had 3 miles to go, I could see the finish now and it didn’t seem to be getting any closer. I’d caught up 10 runners, at the next water station I passed 3 women, this urged me on, I felt strong but my watch told me I was slowing…
1 mile to go on from Ambleside, just round the tip of the lake, over a little bridge, through the bottom of the drive. I catch a glimpse of my eldest Lucy waiting at the gateway. Allan shouts on encouragement to get up the hill as fast as I can (I later find he had thought I’d get 3:19:56…oh dear must have been the walk up the hill!). I push on up the hill. Harry and Sophie are waiting, John is at the top. It feels like forever and my legs are really tightening up, I really want to stop, I let out an involuntary ow!ow!ow! , then relief as it levels to the finish. A small runway lined with clapping and cheering spectators, the commentator is saying my name over the loud speaker, I finally get over the line. A lady puts a medal round my neck and I drop at her feet absolutely finished, 3:20:28! Bang on target! Water, banana, jelly babies await. After a quick change, Lucy helping as my legs keep cramping up, I hit the tea stall…lots of tea later and onto the ice lollies, then gin and tonic sorbet…a little elated and maybe a little drunk they announce the prizes are to be awarded. I somehow bagged 3rd lady and first in my f35 age category…a cup, a tin of Grasmere gingerbread and £50 of asics vouchers…but that is not the icing on the cake, the fact that Joss Naylor is the man to present it to me pretty much makes this day “A Great Day!”
My long suffering husband has spent most of the weekend entertaining our 3 kids and puppy as I have been in a world of my own in the pre marathon void. The best thing for him about this race is that I got the time I set out to get…relief for him I might actually be in a good mood until I start contemplating my next target. The next best thing for him is that the kids were in heaven. They feasted from the lovely food stalls…hot dogs, burgers, chips, candyfloss, crepes, waffles, ice cream. They ate them all. They also went on high ropes, low ropes, climbing wall, zip wire and a fun run…and Elsa and Olaf were drifting around throughout the day.
So they say, “mummy, can you do this again next year?”…now that is a question worth considering!