Category Archives: marathon

Endurancelife CTS Northumberland Marathon, Bamburgh, Northumberland, Saturday, February 24, 2018

Lesley Hamill

When Karen asked me if I fancied signing up for this race last year, I automatically assumed she meant the half marathon. After all, we were already booked to do the Paris Marathon in April…When she told me she’d entered the marathon, I was a bit apprehensive, but having checked with Kate Macpherson (who wrote my last marathon plan) that it wasn’t a completely mad idea, I signed up.

Training began in November, I dug out the training plan we had used for the Liverpool marathon last year, (the one I didn’t get to run as I fell and broke my wrist a few weeks before the race). Karen and I decided to run the long runs easy, as neither of us had done an off-road marathon before, and certainly weren’t going for a time.

Many of our long runs were done in some awful weather conditions – snow, ice, wind, rain. We kept telling ourselves this would stand us in good stead for the race itself, which it did! Luckily the weather on the day of the race was really kind to us.

When my alarm went off at 05.10 on the morning of the race, I did wonder what on earth I was doing! I crept out of the house to get picked up by Karen’s husband who was driving us to Kate’s house. Kate had very kindly offered to drive us up to the start at Bamburgh, for which we were really grateful! It was a freezing cold morning, but the heated seats in Kate’s new car warmed me up nicely!

When we arrived in Bamburgh it was the most beautiful morning, the sun was just coming up and it looked like it was going to be a lovely day. It was still windy and freezing cold, but we’d soon warm up once we started running. We headed to registration, and as we’d arrived in good time there was no queue, so we picked up our numbers and timing chips (which we had to wear on our wrists) and could get ourselves ready without any stress. There was even no queue for the (proper) toilets – bliss!

It was lovely to meet up with some other runners from Durham, and at 08.30 we were told to gather in the courtyard for the briefing. This was really informative and light-hearted, we were told which signs to look out for so we didn’t get lost, what to do with our timing chips at the checkpoints, and what to do in case of an emergency. We then boarded the coaches which took us to the start at Alnwick Castle. We climbed over a fence, headed for the flags, luckily didn’t need the toilet again as there were none, and at 09.30 we were off! We ran along by the river Aln, a bit claggy in places, but nothing too bad. Crossing the river on the stepping-stones was a bit nerve-wracking, but luckily I didn’t fall in! We then ran under the Alnmouth viaduct, where a nice runner from Finland offered to take our photo. We were on the roads after this and headed for Alnmouth harbour where the first checkpoint was. It was nice to be able to stop at the checkpoints, put our timing chips into the machine, fill up water bottles and grab a bite to eat. We were off again, following the extremely well-marked course, and onto our first beach of the day at Almouth.

Just wow, so beautiful! I felt really lucky to be running on such a beautiful day in such a stunning setting. We ran through Boulmer, found a toilet (phew!) and off we went again to Longhoughton and then lovely Craster. Soon we could see Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance – yay!

Another stop for some photos (it would have been rude not to!) There were quite a few people out on the paths here, so we slowed down a bit, it was also quite challenging terrain so we were happy to take it easy!

We ran through Low Newton and on to Checkpoint 3. This was the key checkpoint as you had to make it here before 2.20 – luckily, we were much earlier than this. Another stop to chat to the very friendly marshals, fill up bottles again and grab some more food. I had brought loads with me. Normally I would use gels for fuel, but chose a Clif bar and shot bloks for this race, which worked really well.

We ran on to Beadnell beach – this was a particularly stunning part of the course as there were quite a few kite-surfers in the sea, which was an amazing sight! Cue another photo stop – why not! I felt like I was on familiar territory now as my parents have a caravan in Seahouses and it was lovely to run on the beach and through the town. Fortunately, we didn’t have to run past the fish and chip shops!

Back on to the beach now and the final stretch towards Bamburgh castle. The marshals at the final checkpoint confirmed it was only 2 miles to the finish – brilliant! I picked up a bit of speed on the beach, the wind was behind us and the tide was out (thankfully!). I hit 27 miles, but no sign of the castle? Had someone moved it? Had I missed a sign somewhere and gone the wrong way? Luckily, I passed a few other runners, some doing the Ultra (who had to get to the Castle then do an additional 8 miles on the roads to make up to 35 miles).

A man who was supporting his brother on the Ultra told me to aim for the white flags, which finally I reached, phew. But the castle is at the top of a hill of course, which meant climbing up the dunes to get there, aaaaaargh. After 27 miles, my legs were not up for an uphill sprint finish, so I power walked up, cheered on by Jacquie Robson and lots of supporters at the top. Round the corner and there was the finish – at last!! Gave in my timing chip and got a printout with my time on straight away, very efficient!

Medal, t-shirt (nice colour blue!) and cheered Karen in. Quick change (well as quickly as our aching bodies would allow), on with lots of layers and into the café to refuel – lovely! No post-race medal photo as we were too cold!

All in all, I would recommend this race to anyone. There is a 10K, half marathon and ultra (all on the same day). The race organisation is superb, the course is extremely well marked so no chance of getting lost, and the whole route is absolutely stunning.

Gran Canaria Marathon, Sunday, January 21, 2018

Dougie Nisbet

The expo was a two day affair so I expected things would be quiet when we turned up around opening time. Sadly no. A strange one-way system was in operation and it was clearly VIP time too. And I didn’t know which queue to join, because I didn’t know my bib number, because I wasn’t on the start list. I was paid and registered and everything, but on the sheet lists pinned to noticeboards there was no mention of me.

Still, shy bairns get nowt. So I joined the shortest queue. The queue for bib numbers 1 to 100. I was viewed with some suspicion (can’t think why, don’t I look like someone who’d wear the numero uno?) but who cares. The front of the queue came soon enough and I tried to explain. In English. The volunteer’s English was a million times better than my Spanish but we still struggled. Eventually they found me, on another list, and I walked away happily with number 922, and a mental note not to go to expos the second the door opens. Wait for other runners to find the bugs.

We were staying, more through accident than design, at roughly kilometre 37 of the marathon, as it prepares for its final fast approach to the finish. This, with the hotel serving breakfast from 6am every day as a matter of routine, meant I had a very civilised start to marathon day. I looked out the window and got that strange marathon tingle you get when you start seeing other runners, in ones and twos and groups, drifting in from all directions and making their way to the start. I eventually joined them and was wandering around the start in good time trying to find the baggage drop. It was elusive, time was ticking, and I began to get anxious. I spotted a runner who looked like he was on a purposeful baggage drop trajectory so I tapped his kit bag and yelped Dónde?! He pointed up and replied Arriba! That was all clear enough and I reflected that I may have learned more Spanish from watching Road Runner cartoons than from text books.

The sun has got his hat onBy start time I was quite relaxed and chilled waiting in my pen. Away we went and I settled down into a comfortable pace in the cool morning sunshine. My training put me around a 4:15 marathon and I knew better than to try deceive myself that I was capable of faster. Still, it’s nice to experiment and after about 10km I began to test my pace. I was feeling comfortable but I’ve learned so much from my hot marathons last year, especially Lanzarote  where I pushed too hard and ended up blowing it. So for the first half of the race I gently pushed the envelope, testing how I felt, recognising my limits, and easing back. I was running without a heart-rate monitor but I trusted my instincts on perceived exertion and kept within my limits.

The sun had very much got its hat on by now and I reckoned it was time to get the sunglasses on and turn the cap round backwards. The sweat was dripping in my eyes but, oddly, it wasn’t stinging. Very odd. Then with a start I remembered something important that I’d forgotten! Despite the leisurely start to the day I had managed to leave the Factor 50 untouched on the bed side table. I’m normally very particular about this and now suddenly I was worried. Wear Sunscreen! There wasn’t much I could do about it now, and in the Old Town of Las Palmas there were decent slabs Wear Sunscreenof shade if you chose a good line. Roberta had realised the same thing around the same time and despite heroic plans to unite me with some sunscreen she realised that it was an impossible task. Our hotel was on a narrow strip of land that the course zig-zagged through in the final kilometres and was effectively locked down to taxis and buses.

Kms 9 to 16 are a bit dull. The marathon course was, on the whole, a bit unremarkable. This is the 9th running of the race and much fanfare was made of the fact that the marathon would be a single loop. It sounds good but the single loop often involved running a long way up a dual carriageway, around an orange cone, then back again. In fact kms 9 to 16 were so astoundingly dull that the organisers didn’t even put it on the map.

But that was all behind me now. We’d also left the interesting streets of the old town and were heading back towards the city. I was still pushing the envelope from time to time but I knew to trust my instincts and not crash and burn as I knew I would if I chanced my luck. With about 10km to go I saw Roberta waving a bottle of suntan lotion but by this time I was more interesting in scooshing water over my head and letting fate take its course.

The finish straightAlthough I thought the course overall had been a bit dull at times, it makes up for a lot of that in the closing stages. The last few kms are a fast belt down the lovely Playa de Las Canteras. I wasn’t as fast as I’d like to have been, but I hadn’t blown it either, and I managed a strong controlled finish without the nagging doubt that I could’ve or should’ve gone faster.

I finished in 4:16, marginally faster than Lanzarote, but I ran a poorly executed endgame in Lanzarote, whereas today I had got it about right.


NEMC Mo Charity Marathon, Newcastle upon Tyne Town Moor, Sunday, November 5, 2017


Kerry Barnett

Continuing my quest to complete 50 marathons/ultras before I’m 50, I signed up for the North East Marathon Club charity marathon; all entry fees are donated to the Movember Foundation.

Run on the same day as the more commercialised Mo 5k and 10k’s at Newcastle’s Town Moor, our event started at 8 am so we were finished before the larger races in the afternoon.

A very early start, picking up another runner from Durham,  myself and Rob set off at 6:30 am on Sunday morning, to be sure we were there in plenty of time. We were indeed. Traffic is very different at 7 am on a Sunday morning…. Arriving at Claremont car park at around 7:15 am, we sat in the car for a while as the boathouse wasn’t opening up til 7:30 am. It was very cold; not windscreen scraping cold, but still around 3 degrees C.

Arriving at Claremont car park at around 7:15 am, we sat in the car for a while as the boathouse wasn’t opening up til 7:30 am. It was very cold; not windscreen scraping cold, but still around 3 degrees C.

Bundled up in around 5 layers, we made our way over to the boathouse to collect our numbers and moustaches (mandatory kit to start the marathon). Visiting the loo and stripping down to running gear, we lined up (all 39 of us), all hoping to complete varying amount of 5k laps around the Town Moor (with an additional 2k at the beginning to make 26.2 miles if you completed 8 laps).

Yes, 8 laps of the exposed, windy, cold, Town Moor. I’ve run on the Town Moor before, but never more than 10k at a time, so I’m thinking its pretty flat, but make no mistake, when you’re doing the same undulations time and again they become more troublesome. Also, because of the Living North Christmas Fair, we had 2 road crossings each lap, as well as the 3 gates which we had to open and close ourselves. It wasn’t an easy course!

The first 2k was a dream, pretty much, because it didn’t actually go onto the Moor. My moustache didn’t even last this short lap due to the need to blow my nose, so off it came and into my pocket. I did, however, see a few moustaches around the route at later laps.

The real work started. The first half marathon I kept to a strict 3-minutes running, 1-minute walking, strategy, which worked well. This took me pretty much exactly 2:30 and that was the first 4 laps over with. I was pretty pleased and still feeling good. My fuelling strategy, with a shot block every lap, was keeping things under control and coke at the start/finish/lap area was lovely too.

Now the hard work really starts. It’s still cold, the wind is picking up on the exposed Town Moor and traffic is picking up at the Christmas Fair car park. Luckily, our coaching coordinator, Anna Seeley, laps me at this point. With her own troubles to think of, she completes lap 5 with me. It’s nice to have company. It’s a desolate place the Town Moor. A small marathon like this has no support on the route, except for Rob popping up here and there to cheer me on. We run/walk and chat lap 5 away and now I’m onto the last 3 laps, which are really tough. My right hamstring keeps ‘pinging’, the wind is getting stronger and I’m envious of the people who can keep running into that wind which slows me to a brisk walk. I’m doing 2:1 on the Moor, then 3:1 back on the road around the Moor back to the lap point. Coming up to lap 6 and Rachel, who is tracking the laps, says ‘2 to go’. I know this isn’t right because I’m only at 17 miles, so I correct the chart and keep going.

Lap 6, Rob joins me to keep my spirits up. He’s in his jeans and waterproof jacket, which probably looked pretty incongruous to see us going around the lap. He’s good company and soon another 5k is ticked off. Now there’s 10k to go. Really, really tough work. Walking a lot of the time on the Moor and putting runs in when I feel I can, then back to the 3:1 on the road part again. Rob has stayed at the lap point, getting his shorts on ready to join me on my last lap. I’m going to need all the encouragement I can get now. My hamstrings are tight, my hip flexors are tight, my glutes are tight, my lower back is suffering from pushing against the wind.

So last lap with my number 1 supporter, Rob, is down to lamp posts. Run 1, walk 1 over the Moor into the wind, once that part is over, it’s run 2 lamp posts, walk 1. Where there are no lamp posts, it’s 50 steps running then 20 walking. At least this way I know I’m running more than I’m walking and consistently moving forwards, There are loads of people arriving for the Mo runs now, and apparently, lots of them turned up to our little outpost thinking it was where they needed to be.

Coming up to the boating lake now for one last time. It’s nearly over. I’ve gone past the 5 hour cut off. I’ve missed a PB, but it’s done and the lovely NEMC folks have kept the finish open for me. I’ve finished my 23rd marathon, collect my moustachioed medal and finally sit down for a cup of sweet tea.

The NEMC raised £1000 for the Movember Foundation which is fantastic.

That was hard, and I’ll be running another Town Moor Marathon in 2 weeks – same people, different route. Hopefully less wind next time!

Dublin Marathon, Sunday, October 29, 2017


Stephen Lumsdon

Back in late April this year I had never run a competitive 10k, so on a whim (or act of drunken foolishness), I decided to test myself to become a marathon runner within a shortish space of time and signed up for the Dublin Marathon. Within the space of 2 hrs, on that day, I’d signed up, booked a hotel and flights, so I couldn’t change my mind and back out.
Come June, I began to follow the 80/20 marathon training plan and, to be fair, everything went very well, until the Tuesday before the marathon when I woke up with a chest infection and heavy cold. After 48 hrs of intense remedy treatment (hot drinks, paracetamol and running to sweat it out), I felt better, but I was running the marathon no matter how I felt.

I arrived in Dublin on the Friday evening, minus some of my Iso gels, due to forgetting about the 50ml-liquids-on-flight regulations and the very efficient airport security staff at Newcastle!

I checked in to my hotel, about 15 mins walk from the start line. Saturday morning I ran a little leg loosener around St Stephen’s Park (had to be done).

The remainder of Saturday I went to the marathon expo in my Striders hoodie and collected my number and signed the memory wall. After that, I browsed some museums and galleries to take my mind off the next day and my family and friends began to arrive in Dublin.

I awoke Sunday very early, had breakfast and went through my stretching routine and continued to read my marathon plan (I wrote down a plan and a number of quotes to help me get around). Off I went to the start line for 8.30am. My wave started at 9.30 and despite a cloudy and chilly start, by 9 am the sun came out and it warmed up very quickly.

I decided at that point I would run the first miles with the 4h 50m pacers (the marathon has pacers up to 5h). I went through the start line at 9.31 am and the temperature was 16 degrees C, so much for an autumnal marathon and cool temperatures.

Miles 1 -3 out of the city centre start towards Phoenix Park and I was running with the 4h 50m pacers, miles 4-7 the field had settled and began to spread out, still with the pacers I went through 10K in 1h 7 mins and felt comfortable.Miles 8-13 I caught up with the 4h 40m pacers as we went around the park and then on to the streets on the outskirts of Dublin. 13.1 mile at 2h 17m, and still with 4.40 pacers.

Miles 14-18 felt ok early in this stage and got ahead of pacers by about 1 min per mile, pace-wise, but with the weather, temperature and amount of fluids and food required, I began to feel it at about 16 miles. I decided to slow it down and began to consume the free jelly sweets, Jaffa cakes (other orange based chocolate sponge cakes are widely available) and cheese, kindly being offered by the people of Dublin (although I refused the sausage rolls!), as well as taking on as much liquid as I could stomach and using the remainder of my Iso gels. Also at this point, my watch died on me, despite being fully charged. Not the first time that’s happened – new watch required Santa!

Miles 19-23 the route back towards the city and up ‘Heartbreak Hill’. Still with the 4.40 group and feeling the soreness in the top of my right calf at this point. I refused to let it make me stop and I wasn’t going to give in, despite now being past the 20-mile mark (my longest previous distance).

Mile 23.1 Pacers announced ‘Park Run to go’ and anyone fancying a go, to give it a go from now. So as with Vale of York in September, I decided to ‘give it a go’ and left the pacer group and headed for Dublin city centre.

The run-in is quite flat and becomes very straight at 2 miles to go from Ballsbridge to City Centre. I continue with my push to the line, the crowds get bigger and noise increases from this point and by now I forget my calf pain and just push on. 1 mile to go, I up my pace a bit more and tell myself 9 more minutes. The crowds are large and the noise from them and music is louder, so it’s better to soak it up and continue my stride length. 800 metres to go, keeping it steady and no sign of finish line. Around the corner (well crossroads), 400 metres to go I decided to crank it to flat out and I am passing people towards the line and finish across the line and complete my first ever marathon on 4h 36 mins 35 secs, I reckon the last 5k is around 28 mins. Average mins per mile 10.32.

The feeling when I crossed the line and upon finding my family and friends is quite euphoric. After collecting my bags, off back to my hotel for a bath, shower and then back into Dublin for food, Guinness, Champagne and craic.

Overall Dublin is a great marathon. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s very well organised and the volunteers and people of Dublin are very friendly. A special note for the pacers. They were not just good at pacing, but also at talking you through the course, when to take on fluids, gels etc and how to approach each difficult part of the course mentally as well as physically.

In summary, I came to Dublin with a plan on how to execute it effectively; I would like to think I followed it very well. I was very pleased with the outcome of the weekend and becoming a marathon runner.
Monday – I was in the hotel with my Striders hoodie on and a lady came over to talk to me about how she used to work in Durham and regularly would see Striders out running and at Durham Park Run. So I think we will continue to seek world domination for people of purple.





Nottingham ‘Robin Hood’ Marathon, Nottingham, Sunday, September 24, 2017

26.2 miles

Catherine Smith

So once again I found myself questioning what on earth I had gotten myself into as I was preparing to pack for Nottingham Marathon. I was worried Windermere was a fluke, I was nervous about the pressure of going for a time when recently my races hadn’t quite gone to plan, all the what ifs were running through my head, Pardon the pun, I was putting unnecessary pressure on myself and instead of inspiring, motivating & encouraging I was psyching myself out! I mentioned this to Coach Anna and Gareth who both chatted to me about taking the pressure off, having a realistic goal and not being too hard on myself, that helped & between us we came up with a plan I was happy with, I instantly felt relief and back in control, then came the motivation, I realised that I was running the marathon on a friends birthday, I knew the date rang a bell, sadly he passed away the day after his birthday 3 years ago, I also knew that a number of people would give anything to be able to swap places with me, I now had a plan & the drive to get round.


The day of the marathon came and we set off to the start line, it was somewhat sunnier than predicted/anticipated which was a little worrying but equally made for pleasant pottering before the start.  In the marathon ‘village’ we banged into familiar faces which was lovely, the Toth’s and a couple of Hunwick Harriers (one an ex-strider) selfies, hugs and good luck wishes done we headed to our pens.  Gareth was up at the front, first class obvs, we were all in ‘cattle class’ it was very busy there & it was great to see the Toth’s again as I worked my way towards the 4.45 pacer.  I chatted to a lady for a while who explained because of the ‘waves’ we wouldn’t be set off for another 20mins! Hilarious to think Gareth and co would be into their second 5K before we were even allowed to go anywhere! Again grateful of the pleasant autumn sunshine & warmth at this point I tried to move as much as I could in the jam-packed space, we eventually made our way to the official start and then had to wait again until our wave was officially set off, bang, the gun went, the band played, I filled up, eeek I was doing it, my second ‘solo’ marathon, my 4th official marathon, a person whose only sport used to be extreme shopping at the metro centre! Allan’s words resonated in my head ‘don’t set off too fast’ x3 – particularly challenging here as the half marathoners were in the same pen and they shot off!


I dodged round a few people and then settled into my ‘average pace’ only I was ahead of my planned time and it felt ok! Early days Smith, reign it in – 26 miles to go I told myself as I passed 4.45 pacer guy comfortably.  Whoever said Nottingham Mara is flat is a liar, granted it’s no Windermere or Swaledale but it’s certainly not flat! Thankfully the lady I was chatting to had warned me about the early climbs to the park so I was prepared and this also helped me slow the pace naturally, still ahead of 4.45 guy though as I saw him on the first out and back early on.


Soon I reached the first water station, part of plan had been to ensure that I walked, fuelled and hydrated at every station, but this one was on a downhill, I couldn’t waste a downhill?!?! So I grabbed a ‘DRINQ’ packet? Thanked the marshals and continued running down the hill, I felt myself getting ‘sprayed’ at times which whilst welcome in the heat was a little surprising (not like the GNR spraying you expect!!) I found out later as I tried to take a drink that the clever water thingy was the reason behind random, forceful spraying, it was hard work to manage it whilst running and folks were definitely struggling to aim the water, I also found out that a chia flapjack bar and an unexpected jet of water can be potentially lethal – Q choking fit!


On the second out and back I saw some of the fast lads making their way towards us, I spotted the Elvet purple and green and gave Gareth a shout out, he looked happy, that helped me push on (a little too fast for a while) again I saw 4.45 man not far behind but enough that allowed me to feel cautiously optimistic.


The support on the course was great, GNR esq at times which is a fab motivator, many of the Nottingham clubs seem to be purple and/or green so that helped too, seeing hoards of similar colours and getting shout-outs (even if they weren’t really meant for me!) The Notts Women Runners had some awesome coordinated kit and loved my Strider nails!


I was still ahead of pace and feeling good at the halfway point however this wasn’t quite the positive experience that ticking off ‘half way’ usually is because we all run the same route until a break point where the marathon runners go left and the half folks dash to the finish, being cheered was great but having folks sprint past and hearing lots of ‘nearly there, not long nows’ on repeat does not sit well when you have to do another 13.2 miles!!!!


Additionally, the route takes you out to a quiet housing estate and then a rather deserted main road so whilst the silence was welcome in some ways it was also a bit of a shock to the system, an ‘all or nothing’ experience that messed with the head a bit! It was along here that I first noticed Elvis, he nipped into the bushes for a wee and the lads in front said ‘Elvis has left the building, hu hu hu’ it made me chuckle and was the lift I needed.  I ticked off a few more miles making sure I was drinking when I could make the contraption work and fuelling well, I was still ahead of pace and feeling ok.  After the quiet ugly road the route takes you into a park which reminded me of Bushy, it was beautiful but also a bit strange as you cover grass, trails and a little mud for while in your ‘road marathon’. This route really does have a bit of everything!


In the car park I heard someone shout ‘come on Elvis, well done Elvis’ then ‘hey you can’t be beaten by Elvis Catherine’ – I realised it was Dave Toth, a welcome friendly face, from that point Elvis and Elvet had a battle going on! We would keep catching and overtaking each other but whether in front or behind I couldn’t help but smile at all his cheers and shout outs which really did sound like ‘come on Elvet / well done Elvet’


I saw Rachel Toth heading to the park where hubby was waiting for her in the woods (oh er missus) we passed on the long and ugly road bit and guessed she might have been struggling with the same halfway challenges I had, I wished her well. High 5’d and off we went, I willed her on as I chased Elvis!!


I was passing people along the way who looked a little broken, I offered them fluid, paracetamol and ‘ket’ (from my haribo/Skittles and jelly beans selection) without thinking that that has a different meaning to people who are not from the North! The gentleman did look a little shocked! Oops!


I was still ahead of ‘average pace’ but definitely feeling it now, the water walk was getting longer, I set myself challenges, just get to the next mile marker, just catch Elvis again etc to distract myself, just a parkrun to go! I reminded myself that I wanted to make myself and others proud and how lucky I was to be out there when others couldn’t be, I dug deep!


At the 22 mile marker I heard a shout out and saw Gareth on the bridge, He looked happy which helped, I guessed his run had gone well, I yelled get a photo of Elvis! (For the race report is been writing in my head to distract myself) he probably thought I was crazy! He shouted back he’d see me again at mile 25, half good half bad, I’d have to keep running! This part is also a bit of a section to mess with your mind because you can see and hear the finish but you are going in the opposite direction, I rewarded myself with skittles and Haribo as I ticked off the miles, I realised my Elvis/Elvet support shout outs had gone, I must have lost him at the last water station.  I could see mile 25 marker ahead, I wanted to walk but I could see Gareth leaning on the lamppost so I didn’t let myself (till after he went!) he told me he’d got a PB I was over the moon for him, I kept checking my watch, I definitely knew I would achieve sub 4.45 but my head couldn’t do the maths to predict what I might come in at and I always find the last 800 thingys sap all your time and energy and feel never ending! Ahead I spotted the ‘half / full’ turn in point I had crossed at the start and halfway, I had done it, my second solo marathon, I only had half a mile to go, I saw a set of supporters who had popped up all over the course, consisting of a hotdog, 2 dinosaurs and a princess! I was very glad this wasn’t my first time seeing them otherwise I might have thought I was on some extreme skittles sugar high! They cheered me down the last road section before I turned right onto the grass finish, which seemed to go on for ever!!!!! Finally, I turned the last corner and there was the finish line with giant circus characters on stilts cheering me in – again a rather surreal moment!


A number of first aid folks asked if I was ok, thankfully I was, just elated and emotional that I had managed to exceed my own expectations, PB by over 4 minutes and I actually enjoyed it – I was absolutely delighted and a bit overwhelmed! I collected my bling, teeshirt, goodies and a hug from Gareth then waited to cheer Elvis in – and get a selfie of course! He was running for a great cause, breast cancer now, I donated on the way home, he had such a positive impact on my race.


We pottered about in the marathon village hoping to catch folks coming in, we saw Matthew (ex-strider) finish and cheered Rachel down the home straight.


Team Smitchard then left the city, uh huh huh Thank you very much!

Loch Ness Marathon, Sunday, September 24, 2017

Nina Mason

At the start of 2017 my resolution was to try and regain my running ‘bug’ – the last few years had seen this fade (not to mention my fitness). I needed a challenge to help me stick to any sort of training plan, so I entered the Swaledale Marathon – giving me six months to prep with the aim of getting round.

It was all going reasonably well during the spring, and I started thinking about what came after June….I needed something to keep my momentum going. We were planning a week in Scotland in September, and I spotted the Loch Ness Marathon. The only other road marathon I had done was London in 1998, and I thought it would be ‘interesting’ to give one a go. Race reports were favourable – perfect. Race entered.

Swaledale came and went and I felt like I was enjoying running again. I had this foolish idea that if I could do 23 up and down in the rain and the mud, 26 on the road couldn’t be that bad…..could it?

September arrived and found me in the Highlands. The start was beautiful, up on the hills (no sign of the Loch until about 6 miles); the first few miles downhill overall but with some ‘pulls’ (reminded me a little of Dent); the support was superb, every house and village we ran through people were out cheering, handing out sweets; and the event organisation brilliant. And yes, stunning scenery.

As for my race – torturous. A fast-ish first 6 miles (I tried unsuccessfully to slow it down); a decent half-Marathon split, then an utter slog for the next 13 miles. I don’t feel that I would have got round more quickly/easily with better pacing – more training perhaps! Do I mention I finished behind someone dressed as Nessie? But I got round (and had a fab week away).

As we all invariably do, I look back to try and benefit from any insights I may have gleaned from the whole experience:

  • if road marathons are your ‘thing’ then I heartily recommend the Loch Ness Marathon, it’s a superb event.
  • I have ultimate respect for anyone that runs this distance, in whatever time; it’s a LONG way, and a long time to ignore that little devil in your head telling you ‘just stop and the pain will end’
  • the huge blow-up Nessie, chip-timing, and a finish with crowds and a ‘proper’ clock almost won me over…..almost. But I prefer those events where despite being nowhere near the ‘sharp end’ I still have the chance of winning a bottle of wine just because of who turned up on the day!
  • long roads….not my thing. Give me so much mud it sucks at your shoes, lung-bursting, thigh-burning uphills, trying to get my breath as I fumble with a gate latch, eye-watering ‘don’t fall! don’t fall! don’t fall!’ tumbling downhill over heather, roots, bog, stone…..

So – an experience, and reaffirmed what I enjoy about running. For now, Swaledale remains my favourite race, and I may try to get some fell races in (and for now, focus on XC!). For what it’s worth, I got a new marathon PB (beat my ‘98 London time by 25 min) but I won’t be planning to better that anytime soon….not for another 19 years anyway…..

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.

Asics Windermere Marathon, Brathay Hall, Ambleside, Sunday, May 21, 2017

26.2 miles

Catherine Smith

The journey to Brathay Windermere Marathon – May 23rd 2016 – May 21st 2017


Almost exactly a year ago to the day that I ran Windermere (my first solo official marathon) I was coming back from a number of ongoing niggles and injuries, I wanted to get faster but had fallen out of love with running after training for Dark Skies which I ran through the night with Gareth and storm Katie in March 2016 (my first realllly long race – 26.8 miles round kielder – I like to make things easy for myself!).  I hated the feeling of ‘having to run’ during training and hated the fact the injuries were also stopping me enjoy running.


I asked Anna Seeley (coaching co-ordinator) for a training plan and we met to discuss where I was at, what I wanted to do and what my running habits / preferences were, she designed a really flexible, simple, yet effective, plan for me to follow and I saw the benefits being realised pretty much straight away, I got my mojo back, niggles were kept at bay and the PBs were falling until one fateful shopping trip when I treated myself to a new pair of trainers because ‘they looked good’ and ‘matched better’ (DOH).  Soon after I developed heel / foot issues which was diagnosed as plantar fasciitis. I was in a lot of pain and spent a number of months and large sums of cash trying to resolve the issue.  I ‘water ran’ to nelly the elephant (thanks Katy Walton for the tip and loan of the float) and followed various stretching, PT and Pilates regimes in an attempt to fix it & not lose too much fitness but it was taking such a long time to heal I was struggling mentally and physically.


Thankfully I seemed to turn a corner in the last few months, I couldn’t say exactly what made the difference, probably a combination of everything but I was finding my fitness was coming back & I was able to chip at a couple of my PBs again without the foot flaring.  I was entering local longer runs and doing them as a run walk strategy to minimise injury flaring (Leas Marathon- did 20 miles and loved it) Locke park 20 was a fab day out running in circles with some of the purple posse and I was organising some regular Sunday long runs with a variety of folks.  Before I knew it I realised that I had sort of been doing an informal Marathon training plan without any ‘have to’ feelings, I was loving running again and had had none of the pressure of following a rigid plan!  On the back of this realisation and the high of my Blackpool half pb I floated the idea of running a low key marathon sooner rather than later and suddenly we were booked for a weekend in the lakes with a Windermere entry in!! Not a fast or flat course – in fact probably more challenging than keilder but it would be during the day, I wouldn’t have to carry ‘full kit’ and I very much hoped storm Katie or any of her mates wouldn’t make an appearance


With Anna’s input I had decided on a run the flats / downs and walk the big hills strategy to minimise injury / foot flaring.  I had never ran over 14.2 miles alone before so this was big for me but I was excited as much as I was nervous.  Gareth had decided to enter too as he had unfinished business with Windermere- his first ever marathon which totally broke him! He wanted to right that wrong of a ‘terrible’ performance (no gear and no idea) which culminated in a 3.07 first Marathon time (if only ha ha) so we both had challenging goals we wanted to achieve.


I had set my ‘if only’ at 4.45 and sub 5 as a ‘must do’ Anna said she thought I should run to feel and I might surprise myself, but I was too worried about hitting the wall and bailing into the hotel pool & spa at mile 20 (that’s where our hotel was on the route) or being over taken by a penguin (Mike Parker I blame you for this irrational fear ha ha) or having pull out because of injury so I decided to aim for approx 10.55-11.15mm and take it from there.


On the morning of the race we met other striders in a rainy field where the Parking was organised by enthusiastic marshals who played a massive part in making the day such a success


As we squelched over to get our numbers I noticed that the t shirt was purple & white, and they had a ladies fit (I am normally swapped in race tees) so I felt this was a sign! I told myself I would be achieving my first solo marathon & bought the tee as my motivation / reward!


Obligatory strider selfies done we followed the marching band to the start, it was rather emotional and exciting, the day was starting to brighten up and we all wished our purple club mates good luck as we lined up, Gareth and Elaine moved up to the front, Gareth was definitely feeling relaxed as the start line picture shows ha ha


The gun went, the band start playing and we were off! This was it! More emotion as the crowds clapped and called out good luck wishes…. internal pep talk with myself & I settled into my pace, glanced at my watch, going too fast! Must slow down, got 26 hilly miles to go! I had decided to run with average pace set as that way I wouldn’t panic about the walks slowing me down or start racing to bring it back in line, I had used it for Blackpool half so felt confident that would be a good plan for Windermere too. First mile ticked off going too fast! Feeling good but 25 to go! The first hill loomed and I had the dilemma of the walking this early what would people think?? then I reminded myself this was my race & I had a plan for a reason! I wanted to get round in one piece and I wanted to recover sooner afterwards injury free so I slowed to a pacy walk, I was the first but others copied, I glanced at my watch, average pace hardly changed, still too fast, another mile ticked off.  This became my routine & I was absolutely loving the run, I felt strong as I moved up the miles, pace was still faster than any of those I’d predicted / planned to aim for – I was walking the hills and making the most of the flats and downs, I took time to hydrate at all the stations and kept up fuelling with chia charge flap jack as well as gels & shot blocks.  A good couple of miles were breezed though ahead of pace as I distracted myself trying to get chia seeds out of my teeth!


The marshal support at the drink stations and throughout the race was amazing as was that from spectators in the villages – I took time to say thanks and smile (I was pretty much grinning all the way round) and high 5’d the scouts who were cheering us on next to a purple cow! Resisted the urge for a purple cow selfie (THAT TOOK GREAT WILLPOWER)


I chatted to folks on the way some joined me on the walk bits but then dropped off as I picked up the pace again on the running bits – pace still to fast! I was worried that the wall or the penguin moments would happen or that the hydration fluid might decide it didn’t like me but I still felt great  cautiously optimistic! I passed our hotel and mile 20 & was smiling rather than wanting to bail, just 10k to go, I’d got this! It was soon after that Malcolm gave me a shout out a marshal point – he had had to pull out because of his knee, that made me sad but also more determined, I thought of him, Mandy & Lesley, people who couldn’t run at this time and would give anything to swap places and dug deep!


Gareth and I had driven this last section so I knew what was coming I knew we had icecream mountain ahead (big hill with an icecream van at the top) I seemed to be getting even quicker!! I dared to think that my 4.45 dream could be a reality! I didn’t appear to be hitting the wall, I continued with the hydrating/fuelling and run/walk and before I know it I was up & over icecream mountain, picking somewhat broken folks off along the way, I checked they were ok as I ran passed giving words of encouragement – I remembered Gareth telling me that was where he’d seen lots of folks struggling in his first Windermere attempt.


Last water station ahead, something cold, pink, rather sticky & delicious as my last fluid intake & off I went, chatted to a guy who said he didn’t think he could make it – I encouraged him to come along to Mile 25 with me & he did for a while, but dropped off as we came to the last mile. Checked watch something like a 9.53 min mile?!? Oops!! Still way ahead of average pace I had planned beautiful views of the lake I was feeling good but one thing that was messing with my head was the fact my watch had lost distance so I wasn’t displaying the same as the mile markers, what ifs kicked in….  I missed the 26 mile marker somehow (there were ALOT of luminous yellow signs) so I wasn’t sure what I had left to go, the last push to the finish is not fun at all it’s twisty turny, a drag followed by proper uphill – none of us enjoyed that section! But then you round the corner and it’s the down hill of the finish funnel to cross the line, I sprinted, glanced my watch, didn’t dare to believe it! Heard Gareth and Anna shout out, I’d done it!! 4.37.19!!! I’d earned my purple tee and exceeded all of my expectations!! I was over the moon! Anna came over to say well done and tell me that Gareth and Elaine had won prizes & id made it in time to see them – our Marathon day was totally meant to be!


Thanks for reading! I would highly recommend Windermere as a challenging but low key road marathon with the joys of the enthusiast marshals and spectacular views to distract you from the hills (definitely not on the fast/flat list!)

Results available here


Windmill Way 26m, Skidby, near Hull, Saturday, May 13, 2017


Dave Robson

I hadn’t done this event before, but it was held in the same area, to the west of Hull, as the enjoyable Golden Fleece. That one was organised by the scouts, as was the Windmill Way, so I thought I would give it a try.

The organisation was laid back. The kit list consisted of whatever clothing you thought was appropriate. The person before me at registration asked if there was a checkpoint at the windmill as there hadn’t been one in previous years. ‘No there isn’t’ was the answer although it was on the route description and the tally card which was supposed to be clipped. Nothing was said at the briefing, so I was lucky to have heard that. There were lots of checkpoints with increasing amounts of food at them which was nice, but I did get a little nervous after the first one which just took my number and had nothing to eat or drink !

However, this was largely made up for by the finishing momento

which was lovely. Registration and Race HQ was a fairly dour building on the outskirts of Skidby

but there was plenty of parking. There were walkers as well as runners and the briefing largely consisted of telling us about a fairly small route change.
Just over the mile from the start was the famous windmill
where I didn’t waste any time looking for the non-existent checkpoint. Then it was back into another part of Skidby for the second checkpoint where they just took my number. Then we were off into fields with one or two gentle climbs
followed by pretty villages such as Little Weighton

and attractive churches – this one is Rowley

The next section was tricky as the gpx route I was using didn’t go the way everyone else was going, but I just trusted the two people I was running with and some yellow tape which appeared and was never used again. That got us to the route change (in order not to disturb some prize pigs apparently…). That was fine, but there was about 0.25m on a fairly busy road, followed by a long stretch on a much quieter road. There was a quite a bit of tarmac overall and the fields were also very hard from the lack or rain recently.

There were some signs to point us in the right direction

but they weren’t that often.

Soon after we  turned off the road were running downhill through woodland

which is just my favourite running terrain. At the bottom was the Yorkshire Wolds Way which we were to come across and follow about three times. We climbed up out of the valley and there were some good views of the Humber estuary (which can hardly be seen in this photo)

On to the village of Everthorpe, which I was familiar with from the Golden Fleece

On to South Cave where there was an indoor checkpoint with cake, soup and hot drinks. I was pretty warm at this stage, so I just filled up my bottle with water and didn’t stay long. At this point it started to rain, which had not been forecast, but it wasn’t heavy and it was too warm to put my waterproof jacket on. On to the Wolds Way again and on to the lovely Brantingham church

More climbing and through some more lovely woods to Welton where the checkpoint had rice pudding and peaches. There was no way I was going to skip that. On to Welton Dale which was lovely

before crossing a few more fields and on to the long green lane back to Skidby and the finish. 5hrs 6min which I was pleased with – quite a bit faster than I have ever done the Golden Fleece.
There was more rice pudding and peaches at the finish together with cake. Cost of the whole event was just £10, a bargain.

Virgin Money London Marathon 2017, Monday, April 24, 2017

Tamsin Imber

The London Marathon


Warning!: This is not a positive report. Other reports about this race are available!


I’m not a city person. I don’t like crowds. I don’t like traffic. I don’t like constant loud noise. And I don’t like too much concrete. COD (Concrete Oppression Depression) is a ‘thing’ that happened to me when I lived in Liverpool for 5 years.  So why did I enter the London marathon? Curiosity and that was it. Ha, well, yeah, we all know what killed the cat don’t we.


So, I was at the Green start, having got a Good For Age place, and needed to get to Maze Hill train station for this start area. The race and the whole of London it seemed were very well organised for this race. The organisation I can not criticise at all. There were marshals everywhere in the Underground train system sign posting people. Also everyone was extremely friendly. And anyone with a race number also travelled free. I arrived in good time and did all my usual pre-race things.


..It all went wrong when I went to my start pen. From then on for the next 26.2 miles I was in a crowd. The problem with being short is that most people are taller than you so you can see only the backs and sides of people around you and a bit of sky above. I once stood on a chair to experience life from the view point of my husband and it really does give you a different perspective! So, in this crowd of runners it was really hot, smelly and claustrophobic. Following the blue line was never going to happen as I couldn’t see it!  As we got closer and closer to central London the spectator noise increased exponentially. Due to the crowd situation a short girl running next to me went splat on her face. I stopped to see if she was OK and two guys from behind ran straight into me so I went flying too. One of them had kindly tried to stop me by grabbing me, but he squished my body so tight with his hands that his nails made me bleed. I felt really stressed. I had a splitting headache. As we pounded the hot tarmac I tried to work out why. I can only conclude it was stress. Stress from people always in my personal space, stress from the noise and stress from lack of fresh air. I had sewed two pockets onto my Striders vest top and in one of them I had luckily put some foam earplugs. They only blocked out 50% of the noise but it helped a bit.


Then the sun came out. Thing with down south is that its obviously warmer than up here, add that to the London heat island affect (plus 2 degrees) and the sun coming out and suddenly you have 20 degrees. I’m not good running in the sun. I squirted my legs with water from the water stations to cool me down, which also served to get rid of the nauseating sticky orange yak that got squired on my legs from other runners stepping on Lucazade sport bottles.


After half way it soon became clear to me that I was not maintaining my 7.50mm pace, probably due to the stressful conditions, and my hopes of 3.25 rapidly dissolved. After some many miles of trying to get up pace and failing to do so I considered leap-frogging over the barrier to escape, but decided to continue because actually I’d only be standing in a hot, sweaty crowd queuing somewhere else to get onto a tube station platform. At least by continuing the race I was in a moving crowd going to where I wanted to go.


Finally got to the end. Thank God. Gutted about my rubbish time. A rubbish 30 minutes later than my PB and 35 minutes later than my goal! Didn’t really want a medal. Cried. Collected my bag. Gave myself a kick up the bum and went to meet my family.


On the Virgin train back to Durham I ate an overpriced Richard Branston baguette with chemical flavourings and tried to work out what had happened. I love marathons, it is my favourite distance. I just didn’t like London.  I can’t wait for  my next marathon. I suspect it will be a race in some unknown backwater of nowhere where I can just run freely, where I can concentrate on what I am doing!, where maybe there is some scenery!, and where I can enjoy it! Even though London wasn’t for me and didn’t go well I am proud of myself for trying it and I learnt a whole lot about big city marathons.