Category Archives: half-marathon

Great Birmingham Run, Sunday, October 15, 2017

Half Marathon

Andrew Dunlop

This was the run in which everything went wrong. 

I’d had a great running spring, completing the Coniston 14 in March (beautiful), getting a new PB at the Sunderland half in May, and breaking my Durham park run PB twice in two months on the way. Now was my time to step up to try my first marathon. I’d never felt fitter. So, at the end of May, I put my name in for the Birmingham International Marathon, on the basis that it looked flatish. 

Training began well, building up distances, covering 25+ miles for five weeks running. Then after doing too much in a short space of time (Willow Miner followed by a 14.5-mile training run 36 hours later) injury struck. A trip to the physio revealed it wasn’t serious, but I needed some time off running, with strengthening exercises for my knee. That time amounted to be about six weeks. Fitness gone! Bad luck number 1. 

Towards the end of August, my injury was slowly improving and I was out running short distances on the flat again when I received an email from the marathon team. The essence of it (although in a different language) was this: ‘26.2 miles is a long way. Are you sure you haven’t made a big mistake?’ The email offered the chance to switch down to the Great Birmingham Run half marathon on the same day. This was good as getting fit for the marathon was not going to happen in the time I had whereas a half might have been achievable. So that was that.

Fast forward to the week of the race. I’d built up my distances although training was nowhere near what I would have liked. I’d completed a 18km training run two weeks earlier, maintaining a reasonable pace of just over 10 minutes per mile. It seemed likely that I would get around, even if my PB was not under threat. However, a bad cold struck. A sore throat, no voice, nasty cough, the works. I hadn’t had a cold like this for ages. Bad luck number 2. Still, the hotel was booked and we’d arranged to see friends on Saturday, so we travelled. The morning of the run, I’d not slept well from coughing. Should I run? A bit of googling indicated that, as symptoms were above the neck, it would be safe to run. I wasn’t sure I wanted to but went ahead. 

Error number 1. I’d run six previous half marathons; they’d all been in the morning. I knew what to eat beforehand: carb load on the night before, decent (not massive) breakfast on the morning of. This half marathon was going off just after lunchtime (as the marathon was going off in the morning). I had a reasonable breakfast but didn’t have any lunch. Rookie mistake. 

On the start line, I realised that the only reason I was there was that I’d paid for it. I didn’t feel like running and wasn’t confident about how my cold would hold up. (I’d forgotten about my knee, which actually didn’t trouble me all the way around). Still, there I was in the start pen and I wasn’t going to pull out now. Off we went. 

First 5k went well. I set off at a steady pace, 10:30 minutes per miles, not rushing, and felt okay. We wound our way around the warehouses and Pentecostal churches of Birmingham, through some residential streets, through Cannon Hill Park, and around Edgbaston Cricket ground. I passed Dumbledore and noticed that the marathon running Ghostbusters had ditched their car in the park. Then we turned onto the A411 Pershore Road, which I will refer to as the longest street in the world. The crowd of runners stretched off in a straight line in the distance with no turns or end in sight. At about 7k, I ran out of energy and noticeably slowed 11 minutes per mile. Should’ve had lunch. I start cheering on the slower marathon runners coming in the other direction to take my mind off things. I spot a hill coming up for the returning runners (at about 9 miles) and give myself permission to walk up it when I get there. Hard work, but this section had good support, with musicians and homeowners out making noise, with some handing out sweets. 

Eventually, we get to the turning point, just over halfway, turning up into Bourneville. No chocolate on offer. The gradual incline topped out and I enjoyed a stretch of downhill, still feeling exhausted (12 mins per mile). Back onto Pershore Road running in the other direction. This road is not any shorter coming in the Saturday direction. At least we were heading home. Brief respite walking up the hill at 9 miles followed by more jogging (12.30 mins per mile). At 18km I give up and walk for a bit. It feels good. I tell myself I’ll run the last 2km, so I start running again at 19k. I must look knackered, as suddenly most of the crowd are calling me by name and shouting encouraging things “Not far to go, you’re doing REALLY WELL!” I appreciated their support even if they were lying! I don’t manage to run the last 2k; it is stop-start from there. 

Back past the Bullring and my family should be around somewhere. I have to be running when my kids see me, but it hurts (not the injury, thank goodness, but everything else). Two hundred metres from the end, I see them. They give me a boost, and I’m delighted to cross the line. Thank goodness that is over. It’s my slowest half by a long way (2:37), but at least it’s done. And thanks to Wagamama for offering all runners a free post-run meal! 

On the plus side: First (only) Strider Home!




Northumberland Coastal Marathon and Half Marathon, Alnmouth, Sunday, August 13, 2017

Matt Claydon

Another fantastic, scenic, sensibly priced race from the North-East Marathon Club. The full distance takes you from Alnmouth Beach along the coastal path passing Boulmer, Craster, Dunstanburgh Castle and Low Newton Sands up to Long Nanny Bridge, where after a short run on the beach the course returns to Alnmouth along the same route. The half marathon follows the same route to Craster then returns back to Alnmouth.

The beautiful setting can be deceptive as this can be a tough run. Last year I undertook the marathon with the hope of bettering my time of 3.52 from 2010. After a solid run for the first half I fell apart on the way back finishing an hour later than planned. The sand can be particularly energy-sapping when soft underfoot and the paths provide a mixture of surfaces, often undulating and occasionally littered with rabbit holes. It is easy to take your eye off the path at the wrong time to soak up the landscape and come a cropper. That said it is one of my favourite.

I arrived a couple of hours before the race started and was rewarded with a fantastic view:

Anna, Catherine and Alex had entered the full distance and set off an hour before me. So early that the tide was too high to begin at the usual place and the start line had to be moved further up the beach. This year I opted for the half as it was soon after Outlaw. I hoped it would be a breeze by comparison, but this is rarely the way of things. Shorter distances require a faster pace and are thus more exhausting, but with a PB in mind (dreamland) I set off with the front runners. The ridges in the sand caused by the retreating tide were surprisingly uncomfortable to negotiate and it was a relief to get up on to the path and settle into a rhythm. Within the first couple of miles three of us were maintaining a very good pace and had broken away from the field. Although I knew I couldn’t possibly sustain the pace for the duration I was hoping they would tire also. One of the side effects of Outlaw is a real sense of ‘I can do anything’. Although often a false hope I have adopted this positive approach to all endeavours since and enter races with the intention of trying to win them, or at least PB, however improbable.

We kept together until around half way, but as we opened and shut the many gates for each other along the path I had a moment of indecision and after leaving a gate open for the next runner (some distance behind) I ran on, had a change of heart, and ran back to close it (the Country Code was drummed in to me in childhood). This was sufficient time for a gap to open up between myself and the leaders that I could never close. It also meant the 4th place runner had gained on me. After unsuccessfully putting in a few surges to try and claw back some ground I accepted defeat and settled down to run my own race and try to ensure I didn’t lose a podium spot. I passed the place where I had collapsed with agonising cramp in last year’s marathon and grinned to myself- it felt good to still be going strong and be so close to the finish.

Over the last couple of miles I inevitably tired and he reeled me in. Others were also catching me but I made it to the line in 4th and luckily 1st M40.

Sunderland City Half Marathon, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear, Sunday, May 7, 2017

13.1 miles

Mark Warner

Well, I certainly don’t share the same passion for writing as I do for running, but I really wanted to share this experience, this is draft 4…


2016 wasn’t a great year of running for me, I was injured almost the whole year with repeated calf strains and Achilles tendonitis – I blame it on wearing a pair of spikes for a 3200m time trial in April that I hadn’t worn since university.  After that I continued running in trainers that were too light and not supportive enough for me, thinking that shaving a few grams off my shoes would make all the difference.  Lesson for us all – choose your trainers carefully.  Whilst I wasn’t running, I had a bit more time to look at some future races – trying to give myself something to look forward to.  I already had an entry for the Great North Run (GNR) in September and fancied trying another half marathon and the Sunderland half marathon popped up – I thought why not?  Their advertising slogan was ‘#Paula made me do it’ and Paula Radcliffe was making a guest appearance.  I booked the race but it was several months in advance so I pretty much forgot about it.


In January 2017, I had some orthotics made to try and help with my injuries and started some very gentle running – 49 miles in January, 68 miles in February – prior to this, I’d had trouble walking never mind running.  I got more miles done in March and then increased intensity a little during April – before I knew it, the race was coming up in a couple of weeks and I was actually feeling quite good – may even sneak a few seconds off my PB.


So…race day.  The race was due to start in Sunderland Keel Square at 10.25.  I got up about 7am as I like to leave at least 3 hours after eating before I race (not so fussed for a training run), although I never seem to feel hungry on race day – I get excited like a child at Christmas.


Louise and the kids were coming to watch so we set off about 9am and managed to park In Sunderland easy enough.  Louise and the kids walked to the National Glass Centre where the race passes at about 9 and 12 miles and I jogged to the start.  Runners could leave their bags in a car park, so I dropped mine off and went for a jog through the streets.  The day was also hosting a 3km kids race and a 10k race.  I arrived at the start area where the 10k racers were all lined up and Paula Radcliffe and Aly Dixon were being interviewed over the tannoy.


The 10k race set off and the start area was open for the half marathon – what struck me immediately was how much more personal this felt than the GNR.  I was actually quite near the start line and had a brief chat with Steven Jackson before we lined up.  Well, the gun went bang and we were off – I was hoping to run at a pace of about 6 min 35 secs/mile.  Mindful of Alan’s mantra – ‘don’t go off too fast’.  At the start of any race, it must be the adrenaline, because the running feels effortless – you can run at what feels an easy pace that you just can’t do in training.


Mile 1 was a little loop through the city centre streets.  6 min 24 secs – slow down!


Mile 2 was a larger loop through the city streets – 6 min 26 secs – SLOW DOWN!  The thing was, I had people of all ages and shapes and sizes still shooting past me.


Mile 3 – still looping through the city streets, crowd support was great with lots of people clapping and cheering.  There was a water station with some squeeze sachets but no matter how I tried I couldn’t get a drop out of it, I just had to chuck it.  I had to work a little here but completed the mile in 6 min 32 secs, ok better, try and keep this pace.


Mile’s 4 and 5 – the course is starting to open up a little now with longer straights, slightly undulating and bit windy.  The course keeps switching back on itself so you’ve either got a headwind or a tailwind.  Always more aware of the headwind!  6min 21 secs and 6 min 27 secs – still faster than planned but feeling ok.


So.. it’s around here that things changed.  The generic clapping started being drowned out by the crowds getting really excited.  I could hear it quite a way back at first and then somewhere between 5 and 6 miles Paula Radcliffe (PR) and Aly Dixon (AD) jaunted up by my side looking fresh as can be – they weren’t racing at all, I would like to point out.  Just at this point, I’d been having a bit more success extracting my isotonic drink from its carton than I had the water, but in my excitement sloshed most of it over my right arm – really sticky.


I blurted out ‘what an honour!’ – just couldn’t think of anything else!  And then I just thought, scrap my race plan, just try and hang on to these two for a family photo.  I said – ‘I hope you don’t mind, I think I’ll try and hang on until 9 miles – my family’s there’.  PR replied – ‘We’ll see if we can keep us with you’ (very polite!).


Miles 6, 7, 8 whizzed by – I must have appeared as a random runner in many hundreds of photos, loads of spectators were trying to get a photo of the celebrities.  I was feeling really good, I’d certainly stopped looking at my watch.  PR and AD were messing around using me as a windbreaker when we had a headwind.  AD was giving PR a tour of the sights – well, what sights there are. ( I can say that having been born in Sunderland).  More turns through the city centre and back through Keel Square where the crowds were impressive.  We crossed Wearmouth bridge and AD and PR were asking where my family were and what they were called.  Well at this point I wasn’t gasping too much, so replied ‘They should be just outside the Glass Centre at the riverside, my wife Louise, daughter Ava and son Jude’.


Mile 9 – Mission accomplished, I’d reached my target.  Louise recalls seeing the runners come her way, wow, Paula Radcliffe and there’s Aly Dixon too, and, who’s that?..Mark!  It’s getting harder to impress the kids these days but I think this one worked.


Mile 10 – Although I’d only planned to try and keep up to this point, I was having way too much fun to drop off.  This mile was quite flat, right next to the River Wear, the route wiggled through the marina where there were some sharp turns.  On one of these turns PR bumped right into me, she quipped ‘sorry, never have been able to corner’ before making some jokes about Aly’s lower centre of gravity and cornering skills.  I was still feeling great, until we opened onto the sea front, then BLAST, there was this huge headwind.  I must have dropped back straight away as PR said ‘are you struggling?’, I mumbled ‘just a little’, suddenly feeling like I was struggling a lot.  She said, ‘tuck in behind me, I won’t be much of a windbreaker but I’ll be better than Aly’.  I graciously took the opportunity and followed her step for step.  Soon we turned into Roker Park and out of the wind.  This had its own tests with some sharp turns and steep park paths – again very well spectated here.  But another mile down.


Mile 11 – Now if you’ve paced well, you should be in for an easy run home.  From here you’re on the road, wind behind you and heading to the finish.  I had not paced well, yet was loving every stride, and now had the aim of a family photo opportunity at mile 12.  I was digging deep here, my feet were burning, my breathing was really laboured, my heart felt like it was jumping out my chest and I could feel my running form turning to rubber.  PR and AD could see I was struggling yet they were both really encouraging me to hang on.  PR was passing me water from the fuelling station – still couldn’t get a drop out! As mile 12 was approaching, I was working so hard yet falling back inch by inch and then before I knew it there was a few meters between us.  Throughout the whole route there were 2 men on bikes with yellow ‘event crew’ jackets.  As I dropped off the pace, PR shouted to one of them to drop back with me and help me.  He did, and I don’t know how he did it, but by following his bike and his calm words I was back in line – just in time for passing the family.  PR whooped ‘Come on give him a cheer’ as I ran past.  This gave me a real rush of adrenaline and suddenly I felt great…for all of 5 seconds.


Mile 12 – I had exceeded my physical capacity by now and despite more encouragement from both PR and AD, I dropped off, unable to offer a word of thanks.  I just thought, wow what a run. I looked at my watch for the first time in 6 miles and realised even if I walked the last mile, I had a PB.  I settled into a comfortable pace and just enjoyed the last stretch – last road and over the Wearmouth bridge with a sign that said 400m to go.  A few runners went past me but I really didn’t care – talk about ‘runner’s high’.


Mile 13/finish – I turn right after Wearmouth Bridge and could see the finish line ahead.  Hang on – who’s running towards me?  Paula Radcliffe and Aly Dixon – absolute dream!  ‘Come on!’, ‘Sprint finish!’ they’re shouting as they turn around and run with me to the line.  I’m feeling like I could run the course again now!  I cross the line – before I now it I’m getting a hug from Paula and then a hug from Aly (I’m thinking I’ll never wash again!).  I got my chance to thank them and said how unforgettable it had been.  Aly said did you get a PB?  I replied – yes, by nearly 5 minutes!  Average pace 6mins 22secs!


I walked away – just couldn’t’ believe it!  Got some water, got my medal, got my T-shirt and goody bag and couldn’t wait to tell anyone I could what had happened – so here it is!


I’m writing this nearly 1 week later and still haven’t stopped smiling.  Running – good for the body, mind and soul!  My only concern is – how do I top this?!


Postscript: It isn’t every day we add quotes from Olympians, but our Chairman bumped into Aly at the recent Pier to Pier race, and we’re very grateful for what followed!


“Many congratulations Mark for your personal best but also for the spirit and camaraderie and determination that you showed during the race. It was a pleasure and a privilege to share the run with you and to see your delight at achieving your personal best. I wish you the very best of luck in your future racing and thank you for sharing your race and thoughts so eloquently. Paula xx”

“Big congratulations on your PB. It was a pleasure to run with you. Sorry for bullying you in the last few miles but after running so well for so long we weren’t going to let you slip back so close to the finish!  I think the post I found on Instagram sums it up nicely!! Thank you for sharing your race report, reading it puts me right back into the race. Good luck for your upcoming races. Aly xx”

Click here for Elvet Striders results.


Keswick Half Marathon, Keswick, Cumbria, Sunday, April 30, 2017

13.1 miles

Tim Skelton

I love Keswick. It seems to have everything an outdoorsy family would want. I’ve been going there every year since I was born so now my wife and I use any excuse to take our 2 there to explore and be outside. When I saw the Keswick Half Marathon pop up on my Facebook suggested events I was on it in a shot. I know the area very well so that would surely be an advantage?


The race was a lovely flat (cough) route starting at the rocky swing bridge at Portinscale. (see elevation image). The route was an anti-clockwise traverse around Derwent water with an added loop in Newlands to get the mileage up to 13.1.


We set off at home early doors with the plan to arrive in the centre of Keswick to collect my number for 10:30am. The race started at a very respectable time of 11:30am which was another tick in the box for me. I hate early races! I find the hydration/getting food on board very hard for early morning races. We arrived in good time and had a wander over to the Rugby club who were hosting the race to raise fund for their development teams (they also have an amazing beer festival in June which is fantastic) – the finish line was at the centre of their rugby pitches. There was a slight haze overhead and the sun was shining but there was a biting blustery wind. The race limit was 1000 so I was expecting a good buzz around the club and I was not disappointed. Everyone was wandering around in club colours and “active wear”. Once I collected my number it was time to pass on my Purple hoodie to my wife and go for a nice 1 mile warmup to the start line. This actually worked out really well as it forced everyone into a proper warmup be it a nice walk or run.


The start was bang on 11:30am and took everyone through the village of Portinscale which was full of lots of supporting friends and family. There was a great friendly feel about this race which developed over the course. I met the same people throughout as I passed them and they passed me back. Plenty of local and NE club runners were out in force so there was a good air of camaraderie.


The first hills came quite quickly and I was met by family in Newlands as I started a nice pacey down hill section… we all know about these nice bits though is that they are usually met by something to take you back up again….and after 15mins I was met by one hell of a hill and a very steep ascent. There was little time to strap on my oxygen bottle I had to just go for it. The air by now had warmed up but it was still very blustery in parts. The hill kept on coming as if it was toying with us. It even added in some tight corners to throw us off our stride. By now I was passing quite a few people as I love my hills. I did suspect this might come back and bite me on the bum but I was enjoying myself too much to worry about the latter part of the race. I figured the Lucozade tablets I was carrying would do the trick….as long as I had something left for a sprint finish I didn’t really care.


Although this was a road race, it was not closed to traffic. A motorbike decided it wanted to  tootle down the single track road we were on. Shouts of “MOTORBIKE!” cascaded along the line to ensure nobody got squished (although it was only crawling along). Then we hit the 4th and 5th big hill sections…I say this because all in all my Garmin counted about 19 in total. These were massive in terms of the rate of ascent. I got on my tiptoes and pushed on trying to pretends in my head it was only as big as the DLI hill but in reality this was a monster. At the top we were met by smiling families and locals shouting their encouragement, many strangely wearing hats made of flowers (I think this was related to May day the next day).


Once on the top the views were simply amazing. Anyone who know the area will love the vista from the side of Catbells looking down onto Borrowdale. The sun was shining through the slight haze and all the peaks were visible. This section was a long downhill aiming to take us into Grange and across onto the main road back up to Keswick. I knew the last 4-5 miles would be tough but I was enjoying the race for the now. I cannot imagine there is a prettier race out there. The views all around were simply stunning and there was plenty of opportunity to take them all in as it was on road and not trail.


After we passed through Grange we turned left and we knew it was a long road back up to Keswick. This is the bit I wasn’t really looking forward to as I knew it was a long slow incline with traffic all the way to the finish. In reality it was horrid but everyone seemed to club together at this point with words of encouragement and support. I imagine only the elite runners had good legs after 10 miles so I just had to knuckle down and get on with it….although this is never my strong point. At the 10 mile point there was a shout of “only a parkrun left!” and we all seemed to up out game a tad.


The last mile took us into the south side of Keswick and round the rugby club where I knew my family and Neil Sleeman would be waiting. There was no chance of being the first strider home today. After seeing him on the DT20 I knew he’d have finished long ahead of me. I always look forward to the finishes. It is my motivation through much of the latter part of races. Finish strong, take as many people out with my sprint finish as possible. Here I knew I would have the added incentive of my kids and wife being there cheering me on. I rounded the corner and put my food down as soon as I hit the grass. There was a very loud tannoy with a woman shouting encouragement. I managed to stretch my legs and not trip up (always a worry) and pass about 6-7 people in the last 50 yards.


Once I caught my breath I was given a really nice white tech tshirt, a banana, bottle of water and some shortbread. All quite decent for the £15 it cost me to enter. A lot cheaper than many of our other local half marathons and 4 times cheaper than the most famous half marathon in the world ™. Excellent value and I cannot recommend this race enough. Yes it is hilly. Yes it hurt my legs but the views and 4-5 water stations made up for that.


Well done to Neil (pictured) who finished in an amazing 1:29 and Jean Bradley in 1:53:54.






Tim Skelton – 198/683 – 1:48:23

RunThrough Lee Valley VeloPark Half Marathon, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, Saturday, March 25, 2017

13.1 miles

Stephen Jackson

I’ve worked with coach Allan Seheult on three road marathons now, and we always schedule three races within a relatively short 10 week build up, with little to no taper before the races.

The sequence goes something along the lines of 10k, longest run (3 hours), half marathon, marathon pace tempo run, 5k race, marathon.

All of the above, other that the marathon, is training. There is no time for the luxury of 10k or half marathon specific sessions or rest days to taper for the races. The races are part of ‘the process’, not the ‘A race’.

I was, therefore, rather pleased to run a solid half marathon time in amongst a fairly solid block of training.

The event was unusual, thirteen and bit one mile laps of the Velo Park in London. The venue is testament to the legacy of the London Olympic Games, still in great condition and well used by the residents of London and those further afield. It provided a great race HQ with showers, toilets, café, lockers etc.

In a strange sort of way the event quite suited my aim of running a solid, even paced half to get the legs turning over quicker than marathon pace.

Who needs scenery, eh?

I set off, on or around half marathon PB pace following one other runner through the timing mat for the first time; only 13 laps to go. We traded places a couple of times within the first couple of miles before I put in a little surge to drop him on the second lap. From there, I was running on my own. Except, of course, I wasn’t.

As early as the second lap I was overtaking people, which wasn’t a problem and made for a great atmosphere on the course as a few fellow runners gave shouts of encouragement. The only negative, as it emerged, was that I clearly wasn’t taking ‘the racing line’ whilst overtaking people and ended up running about 400m too far which cost me a PB on the day.

The laps were slightly undulating, on a smooth tarmac surface. I worked the hills with a few sharp strides and recovered as the course rolled back downhill. The repetition meant that I could find a rhythm, subtly easing off with the wind in my face and pushing on in the opposite direction. My lap splits were pleasingly consistent and on another day, in another race, I think I probably had a good time in me. That can wait, for now.

The race was well organised in great facilities with lots of friendly volunteers. Runners got a medal, a banana, a protein drink and a pat on the back – the same if you finished first or last.

Actually, first place got free entry to another race so I think I’ll go back sometime.

Pos Race No Name Net Time Category Club
1 942 STEPHEN JACKSON 01:15:24 Male Elvet Striders
2 1854 MARK WAINWRIGHT 01:20:50 Male
3 1919 ADRAIN BURKE 01:23:49 V35

The Monsal Trail Half Marathon, Peak District, Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tamsin Imber

What if you were in a dark tunnel?

A third of a mile long.

I was running straight into the mouth of a giant beast! Wow that was one big, eerie tunnel entrance! Aghh! Running head first into it was like plunging into the sea! Freezing cold! Aghh! With a freezing cold ‘tunnel wind’ complete with big blobs of icy water splashing down on my head from above! It was bendy. Dark. No light at the end of the tunnel to be seen. And there were mysterious echoes ..somewhere.. ahead?..behind?! …I was deep in the tunnel. The sound of my breathing in, out, in out. Rapid echoey footsteps, go faster, keep on!

The Monsal Trail is a disused railway line in the Peak District, now used as a cycleway and footpath. Starting near Bakewell, it doesn’t go round the ‘Peaks’ of the Peak goes through them, meaning seven long tunnels! The Monsal trail half marathon takes a ‘there and back’ route from the Bakewell end, taking in three of the tunnels, several viaducts…and back again!

This half marathon was part of my London marathon training plan, and fell within weeks of training, so there was no tapering before and it was done on tired legs! But, no way can I race and not race. I wanted this. I wanted a podium finish. I wanted a PB. And, I wanted to beat all females younger than me!

I arrived early, so chatted to other runners for a while, but inside I was itching to start. With half an hour to go I escaped for a short warm-up, and to get away from the crowd. As I set off, I spotted my husband and two kids! I thought they had gone to the cycle hire? My daughter skipped towards me, her hair flying about getting in her face, waving her Care-Bear in the air. My son remained by husband’s side, looking serious. As I reached them he looked up at me earnestly, his big green eyes open wide and said “Mum, if you want to run faster, just imagine you robbed a bank and the police are chasing you!” I thanked him. It was original advice. Maybe it would work!

Five minutes to go. The runners just behind the start-line looked in scarily good condition. Tall skinny guys. ..and a large contingent of young twenty something looking girls. Hummm. Was I deluded? I climbed over the rope and squeezed my forty year old self in beside them. Tension and nervous anticipation filled the air. It was also absolutely freezing cold but I was fussing that the two layer option I’d gone for would be too warm. Make a decision, make up your mind. I stuck with two layers.

Last minute loudspeaker instructions over, the gun fired and we all charged forwards like sheep escaping from a pen. My legs protested immediately! I ignored it and forced myself to get into a steady rhythm, building up to a pace that was hard and painful, but that I hoped I could keep up. It was gravelly underfoot. As I got into my stride, so did runners around me and I found myself running in a group of four guys. Concentrate. Keep pushing that steady pace. You can. We reached Hassop station. A small crowd outside the cafe cheered us on! Pounding on I became warmer and warmer as the first sun of the year got properly up and I was soon totally baking! And looking forward to the first water station! I managed somehow to rip off my long-sleeved top from under my Striders vest top whilst running and threw it to the side. Then I saw the grand, eerie looking entrance of the first tunnel was looming closer and closer! Wow that was a big entrance! Aghh! Running head first into it was like plunging into the sea! Freezing cold! Aghh! With a freezing cold ‘tunnel wind’ complete with big blobs of icy water splashing down on my head from above! It was bendy and I could hear mysterious echoes ..somewhere.. ahead?..behind?! I was deep in the tunnel. The sound of my breathing in, out, in out. Rapid echoey footsteps, go faster, keep on! Suddenly out of the tunnel and back into the bright light made me feel a bit spaced out for a few moments. Focus! I concentrated on keeping on it. I was running on my own now, having dropped two of the guys and two had gone ahead. Focus. Keep the pace up. My lungs were OK but my legs were tight. Oooooo! Two more tunnels, viaducts, valley views, cycle path…and then, the first male, having reached the turnaround point, came speeding towards me. Then more guys. Then the first lady…and the second. And the third..Noooo! The fourth..Nooo! The fifth ..Noooo! ….Then…me. I quickly reached the half way point and threw myself round the tight bend round a disused platform. Speed up, get on it! The girls ahead all looked a lot younger than me…but even more reason to try and catch them! My legs hurt more now, but they can speak to the hand, cos the brain ain’t listening. Back through the third tunnel, then the viaducts. More runners were coming towards me now. I heard one say “oooo she looks in pain!” I tried to smile at her but grimaced. Back through the second tunnel, more cycle path, I kept pushing on. And on.

I reached mile 9. Never been best buddies with mile 9. I really needed that next water station too. Swinging my arms more strongly to battle with my legs I ran on. I tried and failed to relate to a police chase. Instead I chanted ‘Mo Farah, Mo Farah’ in my head over and over in time to my feet. Mile 10! Phew! One final ice tunnel and there was the water station! Thank God! Literally! I stuck my hand out in advance, grabbed the cup, threw as much as I could in the direction of my mouth, got most of it over my face, threw the cup to one side and carried on.

Only 3 miles to go! I can do this! Yes! I found I could run a bit harder. A runner then caught me up (male so that’s OK). I kept up with him and we pushed each other on. Yes! I can do this! Lets go catch em! I increased the pace, and so did he. Back past Hassop station, just cycle path all the way now. The sun was really burning down, why was he putting his woolly bobble hat on? Ignore it, focus! Where are those girls? Catch them! I held on. The faster I run, the sooner I can stop. I ran harder and left the guy behind. 12 mile marker, only a mile! Yes! I will catch them. Aghh, the pain! Go, go go! I tried to run harder. Where are those girls? At last the finish in sight! Then suddenly he was right on me, running flat out! No way! I stopped him passing me and raced him to the finish. Aggghhh!! and then we were both over the line, stopped, bent over, gasping for air…!

I didn’t catch those girls. I came 6th lady. But not catching them makes me more determined for next time! I got the FV40 trophy. I didn’t get a PB. I tried my best and and ran as well as I could have done on the day. You win some, you lose some, especially in running! My watch showed even-pacing, which boosted my confidence as I didn’t look at it. And I love my medal with its Bakewell pudding on!

Hedgehope Winter Wipeout, Ingram, Northumberland, Sunday, January 22, 2017

Half Marathon

Tamsin Imber

So..this is the first time this race has been run! It is organised by ‘High Fell Events’ (see their website). It was fantastic! A hardy group of Striders who hedged their hopes on this wintry half included Katherine Preston, Joan Hanson, Penny Browell, Neil Sleeman, Corrina James, Kathryn Sygrove, Anita Clementson, Camilla Lauren-Maatta and Kate McPherson.

For me, it began with ‘the morning after the night before’. The ‘night before’ being the ‘Durham Mums on the Run post-Xmas party’ and ‘the morning after’ being 6am in a quiet and dark house! The family who had been intending to come until yesterday slept soundly! I quickly ate some breakfast and crept out of the house into the pitch black street. The sound of my key unlocking the car seemed to echo loudly in the silent street. I got in and drove off, carefully to find a dim, car-free, A1. Progress north was steady, and cheerfully accompanied by loud cheesy tunes on the radio!

The race start was at Ingram, a small hamlet in the Cheviots. Turning into Ingram I saw a pretty stone church, a few houses, the visitor centre and café and a signpost to parking in a field. It was starting to get light and the morning was dim and hazy with low cloud. And it was FREEZING!! Some surprised sheep looked on with curiosity as cars kept arriving and parking up. Registration was in a tent with a handy heater 🙂 The café was open selling welcomed hot drinks. A big group of chatting and smiling, high spirited runners was gathering.

The race began! ..Slowly! I found myself stationary behind a bottled-necked start-stop queue of 300 odd runners trying to fit along a narrow path! Luckily this was not for long and soon we were climbing up grassy, boggy moorland! It was muddy and very uneven underfoot. Icy pools of water formed in ruts and soon my trainers were soaked through. After a mile I warmed up and had to stop to force my thick waterproof jacket into my backpack. About 50 runners passed me as I wrestled with the zip! Job done, I got into steady pace. Being no path I spent most time looking down to see where to put my feet! I found the bog was deepest where the moss was light green, so I avoided that moss. The ridge climbed upwards to the crinkly Cunyan Craggs which towered above us. It was stony, slippery and steep! I was running in a group with 2 other guys at this point. We waved to the friendly marshals above the Craggs. Continuing upwards to reach Dunmoor hill the grass became stiff and white with frost. Some of the strands of grass had beautiful fringes of 1cm long ice crystals! Looking around, bleak, featureless moorland stretched in all directions. White, rounded Cheviot hills were seen in the far distance. And we could now see the summit of Hedgehope Hill ahead! As we got closer the first guy was galloping towards us! And then more guys behind him! It was fun to see everyone pass us! After my shouts of ‘well done’ and ‘put the kettle on’ I focused on speeding up as I had spotted a lady in the runners ahead. I clambered past her. Then Penny was zooming downhill toward me 🙂 🙂 ! Soon I was also at the summit. It was breezy and misty at the top and the rocks were white with frost. Two amazing (they can’t have been warm!) and windswept summit marshals shouted encouragement! We had to run round their summit flag…and then we were off back down! Trying to fly fast without falling over was exhilarating! My new trail shoes seemed to forget their purpose! I fell over five times in total, including a double-body-roll event! 🙂 Down, down down we went! I was now very brown in colour! Back past the green moss, past the Craggs, past friendly runners coming up, moor, mud,muddy moor, … more mud .. I was nearly there.. only a few miles to go. I was starving hungry now!I had a short daydream about hot chocolate and fell over again! Then after a bit more mud, here was the minor road to Ingram! Wayhay! The tarmac jarred my legs in a new way! It was not far though and I looked ahead and could see where the road turned into Ingram. I planned to start my sprint finish there. …but…turning the corner ..oh!!! BIG OH!!! …ha ha ha! The route was suddenly marked the river!! !! !!as in, to wade ACROSS the river!! oooooo it was deep!… and cold!! and up to my waist !! ha ha ha!! brilliant! ..I staged onto the gravel river banks, only to see the route was taped a bit further on to wade back across the river, and again!! Fantastic! A very refreshing, surprise ending! Ice-bath included in entry fee. Plus I was not only in brown any more! A climb over a fence and small jog into the finish tent ! What a great run!

After a rapid change into dry clothes I saw Penny and others in the café! We drank our free soup/I ate chocolate cake and then we stood round the handy heater in the tent waiting for people to come in. Later it was lovely to see Penny get 3rd place prize in the presentation. What a great, fun and well organised event! The organisers and marshals were superb. There were first aiders with erected shelter tents and mountain rescue at strategic points. The route was spot on! The vibe was good. I really enjoyed this race!

Hedgehope Winter Wipeout, Ingram, Northumberland, Sunday, January 22, 2017

13 ish miles

Joan Hanson

A smattering of striders took on the inaugural hedgehope winter wipeout a fairly low key race on an out and back route from the village of Ingram in the Breamish Valley in Northumberland.

The route covered an eclectic variety of terrain from a brief bit of tarmac, clarty fields, small tracks through heather and across bog, to a sprinkling of snow covered rocks enroute to the summit trigpoint of Hedgehope Hill via Dunmoor Hill. Most fun of all was the ‘suprise finish’ necessitating wading several times through a small river to refresh tired legs and clean the filthy shoes for the sprint to the finish line that included climbing over a fence.

I wouldn’t usually go for an out and back race preferring to go on a bit of a journey in the hills however it was nice to give and receive encouragement from the people going in the opposite direction whether demonstrating how to properly leap gazelle like through the heather and bogs (definately not me) to carrying what looked like half a telegraph pole- it also made navigation and the logistics of marshalling in remote terrain significantly easier.

It was billed as a hard race, thankfully the weather was pretty kind – it would have been an entirely different proposition in thick fog or driving rain. The mug of hot soup at the end was very welcome.

Here’s the link to the drone video:

Final Results:

Pos Bib Name Time ± Group Team
1. 31 Penny Browell 02:11:25.7 00:00:00.0 FV40 Elvet Striders
2. 142 Tamsin Imber 02:18:39.4 00:07:13.7 FV40 Elvet Striders
3. 116 Joan Hanson 02:50:46.8 00:39:21.1 FV40 Elvet Striders
4. 168 Camilla Lauren-Maatta 02:58:03.0 00:46:37.3 FV50 Elvet Striders
5. 55 Anita Clementson 03:02:28.5 00:51:02.8 FV40 Elvet Striders
6. 263 Neil Sleeman 03:08:44.3 00:57:18.6 M Elvet Striders
7. 148 Corrina James 03:08:48.5 00:57:22.8 FV40 Elvet Striders
8. 314 Jill Young 03:14:25.1 01:02:59.4 F Elvet Striders
9. 276 Kathryn Sygrove 03:29:16.7 01:17:51.0 FV50 Elvet Striders
10. 235 Ashley Price-Sabate 03:29:21.9 01:17:56.2 FV50 Elvet Striders
11. 233 Katherine Preston 03:48:55.2 01:37:29.5 FV40 Elvet Striders
12. 182 Kate Macpherson 03:49:24.6 01:37:58.9 FV40 Elvet Striders

The Brass Monkey, York, Sunday, January 15, 2017

Grand Prix Race. Endurance Champion Race.

Stephen Jackson

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.


Strider Pos. Bibno. Finish time Chip time Participant Category Start time Speed Pace
1 896 01:14:02 01:13:59 Stephen Jackson (M) Open Senior 10:00:10 10.62 mph 5:39 min/mile
2 1382 01:15:41 01:15:37 Gareth Pritchard (M) V35 10:00:10 10.38 mph 5:46 min/mile
3 1066 01:18:20 01:18:14 Michael Littlewood (M) V40 10:00:12 10.03 mph 5:58 min/mile
4 62 01:25:17 01:25:09 Matthew Archer (M) V35 10:00:15 9.22 mph 6:30 min/mile
5 165 01:36:03 01:35:40 Elaine Bisson (F) V35 10:00:29 8.18 mph 7:19 min/mile
6 165 01:41:04 01:39:46 Kate Milburn (F) V35 10:01:24 7.88 mph 7:36 min/mile
7 304 01:42:28 01:41:26 David Case (M) Open Senior 10:01:09 7.67 mph 7:49 min/mile
8 1800 01:45:47 01:44:44 Nicola Whyte (F) Open Senior 10:01:09 7.43 mph 8:04 min/mile
19 1558 01:47:43 01:46:59 Eric Green (M) V45 10:00:50 7.30 mph 8:13 min/mile
9 1524 01:48:47 01:48:02 Chris Shearsmith (M) V35 10:00:52 7.22 mph 8:18 min/mile
10 436 01:49:46 01:48:27 Lesley Charman (F) V40 10:01:25 7.16 mph 8:22 min/mile
11 250 01:52:43 01:51:24 Victoria Brown (F) V35 10:01:25 6.97 mph 8:36 min/mile
12 713 01:56:17 01:55:22 Lesley Hamill (F) V40 10:01:02 6.76 mph 8:52 min/mile
13 274 01:56:19 01:55:24 Karen Byng (F) V45 10:01:02 6.76 mph 8:52 min/mile
14 435 01:57:47 01:56:29 Steve Ellis (M) 60 10:01:25 6.67 mph 8:59 min/mile
15 790 01:59:51 01:58:09 Mark Herkes (M) Open Senior 10:01:49 6.56 mph 9:08 min/mile
16 389 02:00:35 01:57:57 Lucy Cowton (F) Open Senior 10:02:44 6.52 mph 9:12 min/mile
17 327 02:00:35 01:58:58 Trevor Chaytor (M) V50 10:01:43 6.52 mph 9:12 min/mile
18 1506 02:00:38 01:59:06 Anna Seeley (F) Open Senior 10:01:39 6.51 mph 9:12 min/mile
19 1558 02:00:39 01:59:06 Catherine Smith (F) V40 10:01:39 6.51 mph 9:12 min/mile
20 485 02:04:47 02:02:22 Jane Dowsett (F) V45 10:02:32 6.30 mph 9:31 min/mile
21 485 02:05:28 02:03:56 Karen Crampton (F) V45 10:01:39 6.26 mph 9:34 min/mile
22 1367 02:08:33 02:06:10 James Potter (M) V35 10:02:30 6.11 mph 9:48 min/mile
23 1926 02:08:57 02:06:30 Katie-Louise Finney (F) Open Senior 10:02:34 6.09 mph 9:50 min/mile
24 441 02:10:28 02:08:01 Katie Davison (F) Open Senior 10:02:34 6.02 mph 9:57 min/mile
25 1314 02:10:29 02:08:02 Mike Parker (M) V40 10:02:33 6.02 mph 9:57 min/mile
26 1555 02:12:28 02:09:59 Alan Smith (M) V70 10:02:35 5.93 mph 10:06 min/mile
27 789 02:12:32 02:10:07 Lucy Herkes (F) Open Senior 10:02:32 5.93 mph 10:07 min/mile
28 1067 02:13:20 02:10:44 Wendy Littlewood (F) V35 10:02:43 5.89 mph 10:10 min/mile
29 938 02:13:45 02:11:20 Debbie Jones (F) V45 10:02:32 5.88 mph 10:12 min/mile
30 558 02:16:09 02:13:19 Kirsten Fenwick (F) Open Senior 10:02:57 5.77 mph 10:23 min/mile
31 1146 02:16:22 02:13:57 Debbie Mcfarland (F) Open Senior 10:02:32 5.76 mph 10:24 min/mile
32 841 02:19:22 02:16:46 Karen Hooper (F) V40 10:02:42 5.64 mph 10:38 min/mile
33 65 02:24:50 02:24:10 Teresa Archer (F) Open Senior 10:00:47 5.43 mph 11:03 min/mile
34 114 02:26:14 02:23:36 Kerry Barnett (F) V45 10:02:44 5.37 mph 11:09 min/mile
35 1325 02:26:37 02:23:59 Joanne Patterson (F) Open Senior 10:02:44 5.36 mph 11:11 min/mile
36 634 02:29:04 02:26:16 Rebecca Gilmore (F) Open Senior 10:02:55 5.27 mph 11:22 min/mile
37 1676 02:33:37 02:30:49 Margaret Thompson (F) V65 10:02:54 5.12 mph 11:43 min/mile
38 139 02:36:20 02:33:36 Faye Bell (F) V35 10:02:50 5.03 mph 11:56 min/mile
39 913 02:44:27 02:44:27 Neil Jennings (M) V50 10:00:07 4.78 mph 12:33 min/mile
40 912 02:51:16 02:48:37 Elaine Jennings (F) V50 10:02:45 4.59 mph 13:04 min/mile
41 1035 02:53:03 02:50:21 Rachel Leigh-Firbank (F) V40 10:02:48 4.54 mph 13:12 min/mile

“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

Amsterdam Half Marathon, Sunday, October 16, 2016

13.1 miles

Jonathan Hamill

amsterdam2aAmsterdam plays host to a number of running events over one weekend, including a Half Marathon, and Marathon.  I selected the Half Marathon, and lured by the lack of hills, attended with the purpose of securing a PB, aiming for a time of

This is an event for those who appreciate slick organisation. At the Sporthallen Zuid, number and t-shirt (for those who pre-ordered one) collection
was effortless. The expo was in full swing on the Saturday afternoon, with the usual vendors poised to equip competitors with every conceivable bit of running garb, and equipment.

Having been before, I knew of a small, highly popular pasta place (Hasta la
Pasta) in the Centrum, which was my dining venue.  Fortunately, for the
restaurateur a stream of hungry runners from various countries had the same
idea.  Carbed-up, I turned in for the night.

Contrary to other races where public transport systems struggle with the volume
of competitors, and spectators, I navigated the Metro with ease, to the
Sporthallen Zuid again, where a simple to use, and efficient bag drop was in
operation.  I walked to the start on Stadioweg (adjacent to the Olympisch
Stadion), where enclosures were marshalled by friendly local volunteers, who
seemed startled when I enquired about the best time to enter the pen.  Their
advice was to enjoy the sun, and come back 5 minutes before the wave was due to
start!  Local shops were open to provide last minute refreshments, and there
were toilets aplenty.  Adjacent to the start is the final half kilometer, and
with the marathon underway, I got to see some of the elite runners charge for
the line.

I entered the yellow pen, with a little more time to spare than that advised,
and having warmed up (yep – getting in a little earlier meant you could run up
and down the enclosure!), I chatted to some French runners from Ville
D’Allonnes, who were tickled at us sharing the same club colours (their
preference for a diagonal white & green stripe being the only difference).

At the appointed time, we moved forward towards the starting arch and sensor.
I struck out at around 8½ minute miles, and paid attention to avoid tripping on
tram lines (I learned this lesson the hard way during a previous visit!). I
lost count of the large number of mobile discos along the route – there were
plenty!  Similar to the Great North Run, there were also steel, and brass bands
aplenty (but no Elvis!), and the residential areas were well populated with
supporters, adding to the atmosphere.  Water and refreshment stations were in
abundance (at 5, 9, 11, 13, 16, and 19km) – Isostar featuring heavily as
sponsor, with their energy boosting drinks and gels, and sponges too – I must
have run over a few thousand!

The course is a mix of residential and industrial neighbourhoods.  The
Utrechtse Bridge takes you over the Amstel river (at which point the route is
shared with the full Marathon), and passes the famous Rijksmuseum, before
entering the large expanse of the Vondelpark (Amsterdam’s largest public park).
With my race plan intact, I exited the top gate of the Vondelpark, adjacent to
the All4running store (the enthusiastic team there had looked after me during
my last visit, on Global Running Day).  I knew I had a fairly straight stretch
and concentrated on holding my pace, hoping to leave something for the last km,
and the finish in the Olympic Stadium.

Aided by the crowd factor, I picked up my pace, ran into the Stadium, and round
the track to cross the finish line – a quick Garmin check confirming I’d
secured my PB!

Walking out of the Stadium, I collected my refreshments, stopped at a couple of
the free photo points, and then onto the medal engraving tent – my medal being
engraved with my name and time, in under 5 minutes!  A brief stop at the bag
drop, then to rehydrate (when in Holland it really has to be Heineken!) and I
was off for a brief but slow jog to the metro.  I called via the hotel to
collect my main bag, and headed straight to the airport, the lure of a hot
shower and dinner calling.
First male strider home (you have to take these opportunities when you can), I
finished with a time of 1:53:15, ahead of my 1:55 target.

Top tips

  • Buy an Amsterdam Travel Ticket at the airport – valid for trams, buses, metros, ferries and trains.
  • Get the 197 bus from the Airport to the Expo (Amstelveenseweg stop)
  • Stay at the Holiday Inn Arena Towers, adjacent to the Heineken Music Hall
  • Metro 50 connects from the Bijlmer ArenA (200m from the hotel) to Amstelveenseweg, and also to Centrum.
  • An Intercity train connects from Bijlmer ArenA to Schipol airport.