Category Archives: half-marathon

Keswick Half Marathon, Sunday, May 6, 2018

Tim Skelton

Over the past few years, there seems to have been an increase in the add-ons available when booking races. Tech t-shirts, medals, coasters etc…. The Keswick Half Marathon was no different (with t-shirts and slate coasters available) but a “pleasant” surprise was that they included a heatwave for free.

I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s race which I would easily describe as the most scenic and beautiful I’ve ever entered. It is very well organised with registration being held at the rugby club, 1 mile from the start at Portinscale. On paper, this sounds like a right pain but in reality, it adds to the atmosphere and enjoyment of the day. The race is limited to 1000 with some EotD.

As everyone streams along the path flanked by sheep and fields you can see everyone actively relaxing whilst they warm up. I spent the time strolling along with my wife, Jane, whilst Club shirt spotting. There seemed to be an awful lot of our usual XC enemy from the Poly. I knew this was going to be a very different affair but I had my heart set on beating as many of the red/black lot as possible.

The start was held just over Portinscale’s mini Humber Bridge. Many of the Purple Army congregated and nattered before the race with some of the Bob Graham Round support team also in attendance to wish us well on the tarmac. All of a sudden the race director seemed to be counting down from 10 and we were off…. very little warning.

The initial mile winds through the village past a lot of parked cars and supporters. It reminds me a little of the start of the cash-cow that is the Blaydon race.

After we break free from the houses the race follows a lovely road enveloped by trees. It gave us respite from the direct sunshine. My phone had said 21C as we started and it was only going to get hotter. (I hate the heat! I might mention that again later, a few times!).

We passed my friends waving in Swinside and made our way up the first horrid little hit past the adventure centre. From here until mile 10 there was no tree cover. That was it….sun sun sun. I had predicted it so hydrated a lot and covered myself in lots of sun cream.

I know this area like the back of my hand and this is one of the reasons I keep coming back and will probably do so next year. The roads are quiet for the first third of the race. Our Scottish dynamo, Allan, then overtook me at the start of THAT hill on mile 5. By then I’d realised I had totally underestimated how crap I was in the sun and gone off too quickly. I love hills….but not hills with no breeze and in this heat. I was struggling and annoyed with myself already. My head always lets me down in these situations and I knew it was going to be a very tough 8 miles from now on. At the top of the hill, there was a big animal trough with fresh water running into it from a stream….in went my head and arms to try to cool down (I hate being hot!). This provided much respite and I sped up for the next mile.

The views opened up with a stunning vista across the water. The problem now was that every walker in the NW lakes seemed to know this too and there were cars and vans parked all over.

The issue of it being an open road race didn’t really bother me last year but because of the long weekend and sun, everyone seemed to have made their way to the side of Catbells. The sun was belting down now and like a newborn baby, I was struggling to control my temperature. Suddenly I saw a mini waterfall and jumped under it…..then Penny passed. This was on 7 miles. I tried to talk myself into following her for as long as I could but I just didn’t have it in me.

The views around were simply stunning though so I just decided to take them in and plod along as best I could. Originally I had a target of 1:45hrs but this was downgraded to 1:50hrs due to the heat.

As mentioned earlier, the organisation for this race is excellent. In total there were 7 water stations (1 of which was put on last minute by a local hotel). These tables were very much needed and I dread to think what would happen if there were fewer. The smiley volunteers must have been sweltering as they greeted us with the cold water (I have no idea how they managed to keep it thus).

As I crossed the final section from Grange to Keswick I was met by someone shouting “Come on Tim, Penny is just ahead of you!!” I have no idea who it was and we all think it was just some friendly chap who had noticed the purple named vests. It did spur me on and although it wasn’t a fast 3 miles along the road to Keswick, I did manage to feel stronger than the previous year. (Being in shade did help).

The final section took us into the town centre and past all the day visitors.

One helpful local lad stood with a hosepipe squirting us all on the final few hundred yards. At this point, I slowed to run with a couple of fellow runners when I heard them say, “I cannot do this anymore. It’s too hot!”.

Unfortunately, by doing this it allowed one of the red/black enemy to pass me with only 200 yards to go. I left it until about 80 yards and left my new found friends and sprinted to overtake the Poly runner. Luckily I took him with 10 yards to go and finished in a sluggish 1:54:38 (6 mins slower than last year).

I was met by a smiling Stuart Scott some 10 hours after his successful Bob Graham Round! Gareth was also there basking in the glory (and sun) of coming second in an amazing 1:21:19.

This is what I love about the Club….regardless of our individual speeds, successes and pace, we all support each other and wear our purple with pride.

Jane finished in a very respectable 2:37hrs in her first proper race of length as an Elvet Strider, shortly after Anna, Catherine and Andrew.

I’ll be back next year. It’s too pretty a route not to….I just hope I get some drizzle next time. I’d love to think that more Elvet Striders could join us!! It’s a fantastic day out.

 

PositionAct TimeSurnameFirst nameCatSex
101.13.30Arthur
Blackburn Harriers
ChrisM
2101.32.38Rich
Steel City Striders
JenniferF
201.21.19PritchardGarethM
7101.42.12RenwickAllanV45M
14501.50.09BrowellPennyV45F
20501.54.38SkeltonTimM
24601.57.44RaynerAndrewM
33102.06.07BradleyJeanV60F
36602.08.53DaviesAndrewV40M
50602.23.06SeeleyAnnaV35F
50702.23.06SmithCatherineV40F
61302.37.05SkeltonJaneV35F
62202.40.11FarnsworthChristineV65F
67802.52.42BrownVickyV35F

Brass Monkey Half Marathon, York Racecourse, Sunday, January 14, 2018

Stephen Jackson

Ok, so it’s not for everyone, but I love the Brass Monkey half marathon. As long as my legs are strong enough, and my internet speed is quick enough, I’ll enter this race.
What better way to start the year?

The plan was to head out somewhere near PB pace or a little quicker and see how I felt. Never likely to trouble the lead pack in a highly competitive field this was more about seeing where ‘I’m at’ at the beginning of 2018.

After a fairly frantic start, I settled at the back of the second group, with the front-runners disappearing into the distance with the lead car. There was another break at 5k and I was in or around 15th position with some familiar faces, many from the North East (I was to finish 13th).

I found the first half (the ‘out’ of the out-and-back race) the hardest, I think this was due to the brisk start coupled with a headwind. I actually felt better at 10 miles than I did at 5. I ran from just before halfway with Michael Hedley from Tyne Bridge Harriers, not for the first time over the half marathon distance.

The conditions were good; cold but not freezing, no rain, not too much wind.

It was all there for the taking but in the end, I felt I had a good race, not a great one. This is a race you can achieve something special and I fell just short based on the high standards I set myself. That said, a PB is a PB – you shouldn’t be disappointed with a personal best: it is exactly what it says on the tin.

Also, if you’ve got the time – take the bus with fellow club members to a race this year. I know it’s difficult for people with families etc. to justify the best part of the day out of the house, but it really does make it a social ‘team’ event.

Overall PositionBibno.Finish time Chip time Participant Category
1124001.07.1501.07.12Jamie Parkinson
THAMES HARE & HOUNDS
(M) Open Senior
72185401.19.0601.19.02Tracy Millmore
Birtley
(F) V35
1382901.12.4501.12.41Stephen Jackson(M) Open Senior
30131101.15.0501.15.01Gareth Pritchard(M) V35
6997501.18.5001.18.44Michael Littlewood(M) V40
8524201.19.4801.19.43Chris Callan(M) V35
1024001.21.2601.21.19Matthew Archer(M) V35
144133701.23.0701.23.00Phil Ray(M) V35
19475901.25.4101.25.25David Hinton(M) Open Senior
19564101.25.4301.25.38Mark Griffiths(M) V40
265162801.28.4801.28.28Emma Thompson(F) V35
2693201.28.5201.28.45Michael Anderson(M) Open Senior
433134801.35.5101.35.24Allan Renwick(M) V45
4458501.36.1501.35.49Michael Barlow(M) V40
516112101.38.2501.37.57Dan Mitchell(M) V40
59767001.41.3001.41.01Jonathan Hamill(M) V40
771184801.47.3501.46.48Katy Walton(F) V35
78239001.47.5401.46.54Andrew Davies(M) V40
79270701.48.1101.47.09Peter Hart(M) V40
800144401.48.3801.47.36Anna Seeley(F) V35
85254301.50.4001.49.39Mark Foster(M) V35
936145001.53.4801.52.46Chris Shearsmith(M) V40
101697601.56.4601.55.58Wendy Littlewood(F) V35
1070141201.58.1701.57.15Lisa Sample(F) V35
108619701.58.3901.57.37Alex Brown(M) V45
1113150001.59.4401.58.42Catherine Smith(F) V40
11688602.01.5002.01.02Stephanie Barlow(F) V40
1180124502.02.2102.00.57Joanne Patterson(F) V35
130674002.09.4702.08.02Alison Heslop(F) V45
132886202.11.3702.10.02Debbie Jones(F) V45
1330105602.11.4202.10.06Debbie Mcfarland(F) Open Senior
1333129802.11.5602.10.21James Potter(M) V35
134451102.12.4702.11.01Kirsten Fenwick(F) V35
136721202.16.2602.14.41Vicky Brown(F) V35
14509002.30.4602.29.01Kerry Barnett(F) V45
146460202.36.4702.35.01Rebecca Gilmore(F) Open Senior
1481165602.51.5402.50.12Rachel Toth(F) V40
1486TOTAL RUNNERS

Brass Monkey Half Marathon, York Racecourse, Sunday, January 14, 2018

Wendy Littlewood

January 15th, 2017 Brass Monkey marked my first attempt at the half marathon distance and at 5:45 am on the 21st October my race prep for attempt two began.
I had been delighted with my time of 2:10 in 2017, far quicker than I ever imagined. Could 2018 be quicker? Should I be dreaming of the elusive sub 2??
My 5k and 10k times had improved though according to VDOT. Not quite enough to expect this time; still floating around the high 26 for 5k and unable to get below 55 in 10k. A training plan was set to aim for 2:05. Still a decent PB.
As always, life gets in the way of sticking hard to any plan. This plan was also more daunting and regimented than the beginner’s plan I had followed last year. Simply running 10 miles was no longer enough; I had to run the miles at a set pace and the run strides at the end (these often got forgotten….).
Bearing in mind the timing of the run, committing to training throughout winter and peaking over Christmas time is tough. Certainly makes you feel like a proper runner though!! My last long run was with great company (James and Helen Potter) between Christmas and New Year. There was no snow on the ground when we set out on the lines from Broompark. On our return, the whole place looked like Narnia!
As training progressed, my pacing was actually a little faster than expected although my 5k pace was still not improving. Being honest, I was probably shying away from an all-out parkrun – I just wasn’t feeling brave enough for that test. If I failed, in my mind, the sub 2 would definitely be out of the question.
Disaster struck the first week of January – cold/flu. I felt completely wiped out. Nerves really, really set in. Of course, in retrospect, this was perfect timing – enforced tapering! Michael insisted that I would still do sub 2, in my mind, I was focussing on getting around and anything better than last year would be a win.
The cold got better just in time however on the morning of the run, I was still resigned to managing consistent 9:30 min/mile pace, still a PB after all.
Then I met up with Greta and Karen Jones (formerly of this parish). Karen had promised me that she would pace me around for sub 2 as this was not going to be a target race for them. I was aware of their pacing abilities, the first time I ever met them was mid parkrun when they told me they were pacing me for a PB because Michael had told them I was aiming for one that day!!
I got my excuses in and tried to dissuade them from accompanying but they just wouldn’t be shaken off and guided me to the 1:45 – 2:00 area near the start. The conditions were perfect, no wind, no rain or snow, no ice and a positively balmy 4c.
Brass Monkey is a flat, out and back route. Two extremely small hills on the way out that then feel like mountains on the way back! Big enough to have great facilities at the racecourse and small enough to be fun and chatty. As with many runs, the marshals are members of the local running club and extremely supportive and friendly.
The first 3 miles glided by. We were running at a nice chatty (albeit slightly breathless) pace. It felt so comfortable that Greta had to remind me to slow down a little (don’t set off too fast!!). How on earth was I running at 8:45 pace???? Target for sub 2 was 9:08….. Surely I would blow up sometime soon.
We maintained this pace up to 6 miles and I was still feeling comfortable. 10k 54:13??? Surely this had to end soon?? Miles 7-9 started feeling tougher however we still maintained the pace. Sub 2 was back on the agenda with a bang!!!
I knew that mile 10 onwards is when you truly prove your grit and this race was absolutely no different. No matter how many times you tell yourself ‘its only a parkrun’ its always the toughest part of the run. To stop getting completely defeatist and out of control, we did a couple of short walking breaks. Our pacing had been so consistent earlier that we had the time to do this and still hit target.
Mile 10 was the slowest yet at 9:13 – I love the way looking back at pacing always tells the story of the run. Mile 11 was quicker again at 8:49 but then mile 12 hit back at 9:22. I was hurting and so very tired. I desperately wanted to see Michael and the boys.
We turned a corner and could see the Racecourse – Greta kept me concentrating on how proud my boys would be of me…. I was desperately trying to keep the tears at bay.
As we came off the road and into the racecourse, there was no Littlewoods in sight – had they seriously forgotten me?? I should not have worried – just ahead a sea of purple and the most tremendous roar!!! The Strider army were there with bells on!!
With the finish line just metres ahead, Greta grabbed my hand and we sprinted across the line. I have never felt so emotional and tremendous!!
I know I surprised a few people that day, Lewis was certainly caught unawares. He thought he would see me at around 1:59:59 so he had to have quick reactions to run beside the course alongside me to see me finish at 1:55:58!!
15 minute PB.
Brass Monkey has taught me a few things this year:
I can be quicker than I think.
Just because I didn’t do the strides at the end of the long run in week 5 and 6 of the plan doesn’t mean that I can’t hit the target.
Getting up at 5:30 to enter this race is a small price to pay for such a fantastic experience: it is completely worthwhile.
I have the best running pals in the world. Runners are amongst the kindest, most altruistic people. My target for 2018 is to pay this forward

Overall PositionBibno.Finish time Chip time Participant Category
1124001.07.1501.07.12Jamie Parkinson
THAMES HARE & HOUNDS
(M) Open Senior
72185401.19.0601.19.02Tracy Millmore
Birtley
(F) V35
1382901.12.4501.12.41Stephen Jackson(M) Open Senior
30131101.15.0501.15.01Gareth Pritchard(M) V35
6997501.18.5001.18.44Michael Littlewood(M) V40
8524201.19.4801.19.43Chris Callan(M) V35
1024001.21.2601.21.19Matthew Archer(M) V35
144133701.23.0701.23.00Phil Ray(M) V35
19475901.25.4101.25.25David Hinton(M) Open Senior
19564101.25.4301.25.38Mark Griffiths(M) V40
265162801.28.4801.28.28Emma Thompson(F) V35
2693201.28.5201.28.45Michael Anderson(M) Open Senior
433134801.35.5101.35.24Allan Renwick(M) V45
4458501.36.1501.35.49Michael Barlow(M) V40
516112101.38.2501.37.57Dan Mitchell(M) V40
59767001.41.3001.41.01Jonathan Hamill(M) V40
771184801.47.3501.46.48Katy Walton(F) V35
78239001.47.5401.46.54Andrew Davies(M) V40
79270701.48.1101.47.09Peter Hart(M) V40
800144401.48.3801.47.36Anna Seeley(F) V35
85254301.50.4001.49.39Mark Foster(M) V35
936145001.53.4801.52.46Chris Shearsmith(M) V40
101697601.56.4601.55.58Wendy Littlewood(F) V35
1070141201.58.1701.57.15Lisa Sample(F) V35
108619701.58.3901.57.37Alex Brown(M) V45
1113150001.59.4401.58.42Catherine Smith(F) V40
11688602.01.5002.01.02Stephanie Barlow(F) V40
1180124502.02.2102.00.57Joanne Patterson(F) V35
130674002.09.4702.08.02Alison Heslop(F) V45
132886202.11.3702.10.02Debbie Jones(F) V45
1330105602.11.4202.10.06Debbie Mcfarland(F) Open Senior
1333129802.11.5602.10.21James Potter(M) V35
134451102.12.4702.11.01Kirsten Fenwick(F) V35
136721202.16.2602.14.41Vicky Brown(F) V35
14509002.30.4602.29.01Kerry Barnett(F) V45
146460202.36.4702.35.01Rebecca Gilmore(F) Open Senior
1481165602.51.5402.50.12Rachel Toth(F) V40
1486TOTAL RUNNERS

Brass Monkey Half Marathon, York Racecourse, Sunday, January 14, 2018

Joanne Patterson

Everyone who knows me knows that I don’t like distance. In fact, I’m pretty sure most of you would say that I don’t even like running. So when I found myself up at 5.40am on a Saturday in October, in a queue for a queue for a place in the 2018 Brass Monkey, I did wonder what on earth was wrong with me.

I hadn’t got along with distance in the past – I had done the Great North Run in 2016 and it hadn’t gone at all to plan. Looking back, I wasn’t ready. I thought I had trained enough, but I was vastly underprepared for the mental strength that would be required. I completed it, but I hated myself, my life, running, the world etc. etc (always the drama queen). I remember seeing my Dad at the end and just collapsing into his arms in a big snotty blubbering heap, vowing to never run another half marathon as long as I lived. I was gently persuaded to try the distance again at Brass Monkey 2017 to see if it was the distance that I didn’t like, or if it was just that particular race. I, unfortunately, picked up a chest infection in November, and couldn’t train much at all, but to be fair, I had no intention of racing it, and I knew I could complete the distance. I did; in exactly the same time that I ran the Great North Run.

Fast forward to October 2017 – fate had got me a place in Brass Monkey again. I was determined to train properly and give this a real try this time. My times had been improving over the year, gaining good PB’s over 5k and 10k – I could do this. A good friend had been giving me lots of advice and support and constantly encouraging me to have a little faith in myself, and in my training. He even convinced me to run Gibside Fruit Bowl and Loftus Poultry Run, as the hills would be good training. (Our friendship almost didn’t survive the joys of Gibside).

Due to some personal circumstances I had been struggling a little with my mental health and had been signed off work for quite a long time to try and work through them. Training for this race helped me in a way I can’t even describe. Having a goal to focus on, gave me a reason to get out of bed. But it also stood in the way sometimes and convinced me that I was kidding myself, that there was no point even trying.

In my heart, I knew I was capable of a PB, having run the previous 2 attempts in 2:23:59. I wanted to dream of sub 2 hours, but I just didn’t think there was any point. No way could I sustain the required pace over 13.1 miles and I so desperately didn’t want to be disappointed. So I admitted to myself that I would be happy with sub 2:05, which would have been a nice 18 minute PB.

I drove myself down to York instead of jumping on the Strider bus. I wanted to remain slightly incognito so that I could focus properly. A little warm up and then off to the start. I positioned myself behind the sub 2-hour section and waited with more nerves than I have ever felt.

The plan was to run 5k easier than race pace, then 10k at race pace and the final 6k with everything I had left. I was nervous that I would become too comfortable with the easy pace, and not be able to pick it up when I needed to, so the plan kind of went out of the window 1km in. I felt good. My pace was slightly faster than race pace, but it felt comfortable. I saw Allan, Lesley and Graeme and a selection of Strider children, and I actually smiled and waved – never been known. I saw Catherine around 6k and tried to keep her in my sights to keep me going, but at the second water stop, she took some kind of super gel and went off like a whippet.

So feeling good lasted a while, I was enjoying myself but trying not to get too carried away, listening to people around me chatting with their friends (and wondering how they could manage it). I started to slow down around 16k – there is something about hearing “only a parkrun to go” that just messes with my brain – it’s not comforting to know that! I was very aware that I had slowed down and tried to push a bit more, but I had nothing left. Perhaps if I had followed “the plan” I may have had something left, but alas, all I could do was my best. I had never managed to run the entire distance without stopping for a walk, so my next goal was to make sure I didn’t stop, even though a lot of runners around me seemed to be defeated by the “hills”. I was actually thrilled to see the “hills”, it was a nice change from all the flat (this is now on my ‘things-I-never-thought-I’d -say’ list) and I managed to lose a few people so I think I will thank Cross Country experience for that!

Running down into the racecourse felt amazing. I knew I was almost there. I had nearly done it – I didn’t look at my watch, I knew that I hadn’t managed a sub 2 but I had no idea by how much, but it didn’t matter now. I had run the whole way, I had mostly enjoyed it, and really soon I could stop!!! When I think about the finishing straight now, I get goosebumps. A collection of Striders were at the front and they were all I could hear – their roars of support brought out the last of what I had left and I sprinted as fast as I could to the finish, overtaking around 5 runners (Michael, Lesley, Stephen and Matt – thank you so much). My official time came through as 2:00:57. Nowhere near as far over the 2-hour mark as I had convinced myself, and a massive 23 minute PB.

But this, of course, means I will have to do it again next year….

Overall PositionBibno.Finish time Chip time Participant Category
1124001.07.1501.07.12Jamie Parkinson
THAMES HARE & HOUNDS
(M) Open Senior
72185401.19.0601.19.02Tracy Millmore
Birtley
(F) V35
1382901.12.4501.12.41Stephen Jackson(M) Open Senior
30131101.15.0501.15.01Gareth Pritchard(M) V35
6997501.18.5001.18.44Michael Littlewood(M) V40
8524201.19.4801.19.43Chris Callan(M) V35
1024001.21.2601.21.19Matthew Archer(M) V35
144133701.23.0701.23.00Phil Ray(M) V35
19475901.25.4101.25.25David Hinton(M) Open Senior
19564101.25.4301.25.38Mark Griffiths(M) V40
265162801.28.4801.28.28Emma Thompson(F) V35
2693201.28.5201.28.45Michael Anderson(M) Open Senior
433134801.35.5101.35.24Allan Renwick(M) V45
4458501.36.1501.35.49Michael Barlow(M) V40
516112101.38.2501.37.57Dan Mitchell(M) V40
59767001.41.3001.41.01Jonathan Hamill(M) V40
771184801.47.3501.46.48Katy Walton(F) V35
78239001.47.5401.46.54Andrew Davies(M) V40
79270701.48.1101.47.09Peter Hart(M) V40
800144401.48.3801.47.36Anna Seeley(F) V35
85254301.50.4001.49.39Mark Foster(M) V35
936145001.53.4801.52.46Chris Shearsmith(M) V40
101697601.56.4601.55.58Wendy Littlewood(F) V35
1070141201.58.1701.57.15Lisa Sample(F) V35
108619701.58.3901.57.37Alex Brown(M) V45
1113150001.59.4401.58.42Catherine Smith(F) V40
11688602.01.5002.01.02Stephanie Barlow(F) V40
1180124502.02.2102.00.57Joanne Patterson(F) V35
130674002.09.4702.08.02Alison Heslop(F) V45
132886202.11.3702.10.02Debbie Jones(F) V45
1330105602.11.4202.10.06Debbie Mcfarland(F) Open Senior
1333129802.11.5602.10.21James Potter(M) V35
134451102.12.4702.11.01Kirsten Fenwick(F) V35
136721202.16.2602.14.41Vicky Brown(F) V35
14509002.30.4602.29.01Kerry Barnett(F) V45
146460202.36.4702.35.01Rebecca Gilmore(F) Open Senior
1481165602.51.5402.50.12Rachel Toth(F) V40
1486TOTAL RUNNERS

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!

 

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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…..as 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

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