Category Archives: Report

Bilsdale Fell Race, Chop Gate, North York’s Moors, Sunday, March 17, 2019

AL / 23km / 1300m

Nigel Heppell

Striders variable dress code

First running of this FRA category AL race; a 23km/1300m (14.3 miles/4265ft) route taking in the climbs of the northern edge of the North Yorkshire Moors: hosted by Esk Valley Fell Club.

Apparently, this is the only AL (long, and lots of climbs) fell race to be held on the North Yorks Moors (NYM).

Now the NYM are generally regarded as not being particularly high, so how did Esk Valley FC fit in the necessary climb? Simple answer is climb to a peak, drop off the escarpment to the bottom; and repeat; 7 times in all – bit like a fiddler’s elbow, up and down, up and down, up and down…

120 runners turned up for this event on a bright but breezy spring day. Strict kit requirements to usual FRA standards rightly enforced by the organisers, but everything ranging from vest and shorts to full body cover seen out on the hills, especially once at altitude on the moors and exposed to the full force of the wind.

Heading towards CP2

A handful of Striders, Nina, Danny, Robin and Nigel (Jan and Fiona marshalling) attended along with a few faces from familiar running clubs, 3 NFR and a bucket-load of DFR (it’s on their championship race list); a lot of very young and fit types from Durham University AC; and representatives from Scarborough, York, Swaledale, Thirsk, Pudsey, NYM, Middlesborough, Wharfdale, Pickering, Loftus, Leeds, Vegan, Billingham, Darlington, Beverley, Keswick, Totley, Derwent, Driffield, Harrogate, Marske, Wootton, and a certain Mr Fishwick from Chorley.

The start is a sober affair, everyone conscious of the distance lying ahead and wanting to take it easy, on a steady uphill climb, the longest of the day, to summit Round Hill (highest point of NYM), but tempered by the knowledge that there is a 90min cut-off at the top of Cold Moor (3rd climb and living up to its name today) some 6miles away.

As this is a proper fell race there is no defined route and we are free to decide our own way between checkpoints. Some of the CP locations are obvious; summits of Round Hill/Cold Moor/Falconers Seat/ Cock Howe cairn; others are easily visible from above, Toft Hill Scout Hut/Busby stream crossing/Carlton Bank; but CP 8 tucked away out of sight down in Raisdale offers scope for individual route choice off the established tracks.

I elected to go cross-country at this point, taking DFR Denise through the heather with me, and leaving an NFR man to follow the main track. We hopped and jumped through the heather, scrambled down a gully, picked up a nice runnable surface alongside a boundary wall, plodged through a few boggy bits, and arrived at CP 8 from behind; about 10 paces after NFR guy coming in from opposite direction!

Bilsdale


I had more success with route choice earlier on, dropping down towards Clay Bank road crossing where I deviated off the Cleveland Way onto a smooth remnant of quarry track, happily overtaking at least 15 others slowly picking their way down the uneven steps and slabs. And again, taking the direct route down a steep overgrown gully onto Busby Moor put me in front of probably the same set of people who had steadily re-overtaken me since Clay Bank but who ran a zig-zag along the obvious track.

Scout Hall CP4, Roseberry Topping, and Denise Tunstall, DFR
Climb to Falconer’s Seat (Pork Pie Hill?)

My route choice into Scugdale was no good at all; from memory I thought a right fork in the trail would line me up nicely with the Hall (out of sight over the ridgeline) which it did – but I hadn’t factored in the fenced-off quarry/crags that it led to, so a bit of back-tracking had to be done and this is where Denise (who had chosen left fork) got away from me!

The climb out of Scugdale is the last one on the route but it goes on forever. Steep and only walkable at first, you think you are out on to the ridgeline at last but there is still a steady climb of over 100m or so to the last checkpoint at Cock Howe Cairn 2km further on. Run-walk, run-walk; trying to catch those ahead but we are all doing the same; DFR Denise is in sight but I can’t close the gap. Pretty much exhausted and with leaden legs, we are greeted at CP10 by Fiona cheerily hopping about and running up and down the cairn to keep warm; I’m envious of her energy!

At last the downhill run to the finish begins; normally a time to let go, take advantage of gravity and stride out. Not today, the legs just won’t have it; it’s too steep and so it’s a fight all the way. Some small consolation as I manage to pass a couple of equally weary runners on the way down and elect to take the twisty gully track because it feels easier. Slightly surprised as I emerge onto the lane to see I’ve been caught up by another runner taking the direct route down the field so final effort goes into 100m dash through the mud to hold them off, spurred on by Jan’s audible encouragement!
3hrs 40min and near enough 16 miles. Official results coming later.

Footnote:

Huge thanks to Esk Valley FC led by Mike Quinn for organising this and making it look so easy even though we know how much work goes on behind the scenes and how many contribute marshalling/tea making/cake baking without the chance to run. And with a nod in the direction of Dave Parry, once the main prizes have been distributed it’s a case of ‘well we’ve got some bottles left, so if you can think of a reason come forward and claim one’ – of course we’re all too polite to do that, so Danny wins one for entering the race before it is officially open (Nina too, but she already has her age category winnings) and evidently someone has travelled all the way from Texas to claim their bottle of beer!

(Visited 151 times, 4 visits today)

Hardmoors 55(50), Guisborough,North Yorkshire, Saturday, March 16, 2019

55 miles

Simon Graham

Having run a few marathons in previous years, 2018 became the year of the Ultra. My other (better) half, Jill, decided that we should run Paris Marathon as a training run for the Dukeries 30 miler, which in turn was a warm-up for the St Cuthberts Way 45 miles.

Upon completing St Cuthberts I found myself looking for another challenge. Did I want to ‘just be’ a marathon runner in future? I decided that since I prefer the challenge of off-road to pounding the miles on tarmac racing, after a time, and having felt I had more to give after Cuthberts, that I’d go for it. The Hardmoors 55.

This year the 55 became the 50 to commemorate 50 years of the Cleveland Way (along which the race is run). The route was shortened (to 54 miles) and an extra trip over the summit of Roseberry Topping added for ‘fun’. To make things even more appealing the route this year ran from north to south meaning the big climbs would be in the first 30 miles. The second half is by no means flat.

I spoke with my friend, fellow Strider and Hardmoors 1000 club member Dave Toth about doing this with me and sticking together throughout, as I had no intention of plodding around the moors alone. Dave agreed, and I knew he would keep me right pace-wise. I have a history of going out far too fast and blowing up!

Roll forward months of training and miles and the day arrived.

At 6 am in Durham I opened the front door of the house to discover heavy snow falling from the skies. ‘Great’, I thought, just what we needed!

We arrived at Guisborough Sea Cadets at just after 7 am. It was a wet and miserable 4 degrees. Storm Hannah had decided she was going to make an appearance bringing with her 50 mph winds and driving rain. This was at a low level, what on earth was in store for us when we hit the tops of the moors I thought. We started the race in full waterproofs and were to need them all day.

A few minutes delay to the start meant that waterproofs were already coming in useful as we assembled outside of the Sea Cadets in Guisborough. At 8:20 (ish) we were off.

With Dave knowing how to pace these things, I was very careful of not getting swept away in the rush, jogging out of the Sea Cadets and up the hill towards the stile where we would go off-road. Over the stile and through the woods was a good place to start just gently running towards the first big climb of the race, the Tees Link, up to High Cliff Nab, where we would join the Cleveland Way. This was the first real challenge. The Tees Link was a bog fest and staying upright was the challenge. At least the woods provided some shelter from the rain.

And then the wind hit…

At High Cliff Nab, already wet and covered in mud we were greeted by Hannah and her 50mph winds. Undeterred we pressed on towards Roseberry Topping with rain coming at us sideways driven by the fierce winds. Climbing up Roseberry was tough, descending for the first time even tougher. The front runners were already flying down Roseberry for the second time as we went up for the first, the wind not seeming to affect them. These guys are machines I thought.

So, up to the summit of Roseberry Topping, down the other side to the marshals who then told us to simply turn back around and ascend Roseberry again before rejoining the Cleveland Way and heading off to Captain Cooks Monument.

At the summit of Roseberry, we were greeted by a familiar face. My better half Jill (who was acting as support crew for the day) had climbed up from the car park at the bottom to provide some much-needed cheer! I’m not sure who was crazier, me for entering this race, or her for going up there to see me for 20 seconds!

The section from towards Captain Cooks Monument and from there into the checkpoint at Kildale is mainly downhill (apart from the climb to the monument itself) which allowed some actual running to be done but by now after a tough start, I could feel my legs hating the constant force that running downhill puts on them.

Kildale to Clay Bank, from what I can remember of it, is mainly just a huge climb up to the top of the moors followed by a long slog across the exposed moorland. We attempted to run parts of this but the wind and horizontal rain were simply making it all seem rather pointless with little progress being made. It was here, somewhere near Bloworth Crossing, we were passed by someone wearing snow goggles. There had been lots of discussion on Facebook about snow goggles in the days before the race, but I hadn’t actually expected to see someone wearing them! Onwards we plodded, power walking and running, or at least attempting to, towards Clay Bank.

At Clay Bank Checkpoint there was Jill again with coffee and a much-needed food resupply.

Onwards we pressed over the ‘Three sisters’ (even though there’s four of them). Climb up, run a little over the top, descend and repeat three times before coming into Lord Stones Country Park.

At Lord Stones, or what I thought was about the halfway point (turned out to be only 22.5 miles), we met Jill and our friends David and Debbie who has driven down to provide some support. I think the support was as much for Jill, spending the day sat driving from place to place and waiting, as it was for us. A quick change of clothes into a fresh dry kit, a food resupply and again we were off, this time up the ‘fourth’ of the ‘Three Sisters’ Carlton Bank and towards the indoor checkpoint at 31 miles in Osmotherley where I knew there was freshly cooked pizza waiting. Well, there was for me anyway. Vegan Dave could have whatever he wanted, I just looked forward to warm pizza!

Leaving Osmotherley we walked to let the food settle in our stomachs, and since it was uphill to Square Corner it would have been silly to run. The rain seemed to have eased by this point and the wind had died down making the conditions much nicer, or at least it would have had it not simply soaked the ground through so much that what would have been solid, was now just pure mud. We did some ‘Ultra Shuffling’ on the downhill bits we found, but mostly it was power walking uphill to see Jill, David and Debbie again at Square Corner. From Square Corner is another big climb up Black Hambleton hill, fortunately, this is a long and steady climb which was actually somewhat of a relief to me following the previous big steep climbs.

Back on the tops of the moors it was head torch time, and although this section was pretty boring with no scenery (it was dark) it did allow quite a bit of running (shuffling) to be done towards High Paradise Farm and the descent into the disco (yes, they had a disco going on with lights and everything!) checkpoint at Sneck Yate. Straight through this checkpoint and onto Sutton Bank Visitor Centre where once again we met with our amazing support crew, took a few minutes to refuel and pressed on to White Horse.

The Hardmoors Run Director Jon doesn’t like to make things easy, and so rather than simply being allowed to head towards the finish at Helmsley from to top of Sutton Bank, he put in an out and back section to the car park at the bottom of the White Horse. Yes, you go from the top to the bottom and back again climbing loads of stairs along the way. It’s like Roseberry all over again. Once you’re back at the top of the White Horse stairs though you know you’re on the home straight with about 9 miles to go.

From the White Horse to Helmsley is almost all downhill, with no significant climbs left to do. Unfortunately, its also on a lot of grass and tracks which had been turned into what can simply be described as a mudfest by the preceding runners. Thanks for that fast lads (and lasses), as if I wasn’t slow enough I now have to slip and slide my way to the finish!

So, it’s muddy, it’s slippy, it’s dark, I have tired legs and Dave is a power walking machine up any hills. I said its mostly downhill, but not all. I chased him up pretty much every climb on the course.

We pressed on knowing that the end was in sight and that we should just make the cut off of 16 hours. Before we started, and in good condition, I had thoughts of being able to do this in around 14 hours. How wrong was I. The end was in sight though and leaving the mud and hills behind we descended into Helmsley where Jill, David and Debbie had walked to the top of the track at the end of the Cleveland way to meet us and see us to the finish.

Solid ground and tarmac was a delightful sight, but this was a Hardmoors event and it wouldn’t be complete without one last hill to the finish at Helmsley Sports Club. It’s really just a gentle incline that normally I wouldn’t think twice about running up, but this was mile 54 and there was no running up any inclines going on!

We had done it. Finishing in a time of 15 Hours 48 minutes. Dave for his 6th (I think) time, me for my first (and last!) time. Jill, being the amazing support that she was had even got our beers for the finish (She’s a keeper) and boy did they taste good.

What have I learnt, and what’s next?

Well, I have learnt that whilst I have the time to go for long runs on a Sunday morning, what I don’t have the time for is all of the other miles. The back to back long runs, the cross-training that is required for an event of this nature. Running 18 miles on Sunday is all well and good, but doing it again on a Monday after a full day at work, now that’s hard!

What’s next? I have the remainder of the Hardmoors 26.2 Half Marathon series to look forward to. The longest ‘Half’ Marathon is around 17 miles which are comfortable and doable on my planned training schedule of a couple of 10k’s, a parkrun and 10 miles/ hm’s on Sundays. During the long-run training, I’d forgotten just how much fun and enjoyable a 10k (or about an hours run) can actually be and I look forward to enjoying my runs again, not being permanently tired, and being able to get out of bed without aching again.

Oh, and I have also promised to return the favour for Dave Toth and accompany him on the St Cuthberts Way 45 miles. Guess those pain-free mornings are just going to have to wait.

(Visited 284 times, 5 visits today)

Harrier League, Alnwick, Saturday, March 2, 2019

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. Mud King/Mud Queen Race - click flag for more information.

photo credit: Zanna Clay
ladies
PosbibNameRace TimePackCatActual Time
1285Gina Howorth (Elswick Harriers)29:55SFV3529:55
21336Fiona Brannan33:14FFsen28:14
231276Susan Leight33:17SFV4533:17
63393Zanna Clay34:36SFsen34:36
72364Laura Jennings34:43SFsen34:43
100333Elaine Bisson35:08FFV4030:08
102360Katy Walton35:09MFV3532:29
150384Stef Barlow35:46SFV4535:46
1581132Corrine Whaling35:52MFV3533:12
162338Fiona Shenton35:55SFV5535:55
192374Rachael Bullock36:25MFsen33:45
198376Rachelle Mason36:34MFV4033:54
232378Roz Layton37:12SFV6537:12
247387Susan Davis37:25MFV5534:45
252370Natalie Bell37:27MFsen34:47
257383Sarah Fawcett37:33SFV5537:33
260346Jan Young37:38SFV6537:38
262391Victoria Jackson37:39SFV3537:39
311322Ashley Price-Sabate39:00SFV5039:00
343380Sam Askey40:36SFV4040:36
359394Zoe DewdneyElvet Striders 41:12SFV35 41:12
378345Jan Ellis42:36SFV5542:36
396316Alison Smith44:17SFV4044:17
photo credit: James Lee
men
PosbibNameRace TimePackCatActual Time
1208Joseph Woods (Blyth RC)36:31SMsen36:31
11504Stephen Jackson40:23FMV3535:23
47506Stuart Ord42:03MMsen39:33
66498Rory Whaling42:25SMV4542:25
92476Michael Littlewood42:54MMV4040:24
147429Allan Renwick43:44SMV4543:44
171452Georgie Hebdon44:14FMsen39:14
186507Stuart Scott44:26MMV3541:56
191453Graeme Watt44:31FMV4039:31
2381597James Lee45:12MMV4042:42
303436Conrad White46:34SMV6046:34
308451Geoff Davis46:47SMV6046:47
312442David Gibson46:56SMV5046:56
3261733Robin Parsons47:25SMV3547:25
328425Aaron Gourley47:26SMV4047:26
373479Mike Bennett49:06SMV6049:06
386493Richard Hockin49:27SMV6549:27
394469Mark Payne49:50SMV3549:50
406501Simon Dobson50:25SMV4550:25
409473Matthew Carr50:32SMV4050:32
420459Jonathan Hamill50:50SMV4050:50
481463Lindsay Rodgers54:14SMV5054:14
485509Tim Matthews54:24SMV5554:24
491460Jordi Sabate Villaret54:45SMV5054:45
495511Trevor Chaytor55:05SMV5555:05
499435Chris Shearsmith55:37SMV4055:37
5281675Adam Bent61:15SMV6061:15
534503Stephen Ellis62:49SMV6562:49
(Visited 25 times, 1 visits today)

The Duergar Nightcrawler Run, Simonside Hills, Northumberland, Saturday, February 23, 2019

Jonathan Hamill

Intrigued by the picture on the Duergar Run website of a fierce looking character, and the prospect of being chased through the fells by a wild creature or suchlike, I decided to find out more. I discovered that Duergar comes from the old Norse word Dvergar which means Dwarf. There are many old stories which suggest that these Duergars live in the rocks and hills around Simonside, their purpose being to lure unsuspecting hikers or travellers by torchlight over rocky ravines or into deep bogs. I reckoned they would be happy to target unsuspecting runners too.

If you go down to the fells tonight, you may be in for a big surprise …

I downloaded the GPX route and imported it into my OS Maps app – my ‘just in case’ navigation aid, then pondered the relative merits from my shoe arsenal, opting in the end for my newish Hoka Mafate Speed 2’s, which amongst comfort and cushioning promised much for technical trails. I checked that I could comply with the kit list and that my head torch was charged then set off for the 1-hour drive North to Rothbury.

Steep Ascent, Slippery Descent …

I couldn’t make this event last year due to a clash with the Northumberland Coastal Marathon which Lesley had run. Although Lesley had recommended I run the Coastal Marathon this year, our eldest Son’s drum exam meant that the only sensible alternative was to take my chances on the Duergar Run!

When I arrived, I parked near to Tomlinson’s Café and Bunkhouse where registration was taking place. I noted a swathe of competitors engaged in essential carb-loading preparations, the choices on offer making me lament my choice of a triple-chocolate muffin from a global chain of coffee shops en route.

I strolled across the bridge to Haugh Car Park, engaging in discussion with other runners (including fellow Strider Karen Wilson) about the ‘steep climbs for 4 miles’ and ‘treacherous declines’. We listened attentively to the safety briefing, which amongst other things called for dynamic risk assessments by all runners. Then we were off, and up, up, up and up a bit more on Whitton Bank Road and Hillhead Road until we hit a trail which continued to climb. Leaving the normality of farm tracks and paths, and passing the first water station, we encountered the challenging climb past caves and a man in traditional costume fiercely beating a bodhran.

At various points which followed we encountered marshals who encouraged us but we also heard screams and noises which could only be associated with a dreaded Duergar! The climbs were often on stone steps which slowed progress, and on the flats (or sections which were less hilly) we had the challenge of running on stone slabs, which were irregular and with gaps between them sufficient to catch an unsuspecting foot.

After Simonside Crag we had a steep technical descent and then a set of forest trails, which were certainly not tourist paths but on balance less climbing to contend with. We enjoyed a further series of descents on slippery loose rocks before the lights of Rothbury started to appear in the distance. At the final water station, I had three jelly beans which provided me with a welcome sugary boost and then I set to work on the final section which was net downhill.

Pleased at this point as I knew I was within 1km of the end, I let my guard drop and on exiting (falling through) the final gate at the drop down to the bridge in Rothbury, I performed one of my trademark barrel rolls. Having managed to maintain forward momentum I regained sufficient composure to lift my pace over the bridge to the finish. A friendly welcome at Tomlinson’s, a t-shirt and a welcome cup of mulled wine followed.

I’d recommend this event without reservation, if you are content with a challenging trail/fell route and the prospect of being captured by a Duergar! Well done to Cold Brew Events for slick organisation, and to the marshals and those involved in supporting this excellent event!

Total distance: 15812 m
Max elevation: 425 m
Min elevation: 82 m
Total climbing: 522 m
Total descent: -522 m
Total Time: 01:34:31
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(Visited 241 times, 1 visits today)

Last One Standing, Castleward, Northern Ireland, Saturday, February 16, 2019

Stuart Scott

During the Summer of 2018 I entered GB24, an event where you had to run as many 5.7 mile loops as possible, in 24 hours, I absolutely hated it and vowed never to enter a looped event ever again. Fast forward 7 months and there I am stood on the start line of Last One Standing Castleward a looped event with no pre-determined end.

The format of the race is simple every hour, on the hour, you set off to complete a loop of 4.1666 miles (meaning every 24 hours 100 miles is covered) once you have completed a loop you have to be ready to start the next on the stroke of the following hour. If you fail to complete a loop within one hour you are timed out, if you are not in the start area at the stroke of the next hour you are also timed out. The race continues indefinitely until only one remains, they are crowned the champion and everyone else is officially classed as DNF.

So why would I ever enter such an event when I hated GB24 so much? The reason behind this is I love pushing myself to the limit, big adventures and races that are a little different. One of the most famous extreme ultra marathons in the world called The Barkley Marathons is hosted by a guy called Lazarus Lake, this legend also puts on a race called Big Dogs Back Yard Ultra, Laz stated he would grant automatic entry to his race is you won Last One standing, I just couldn’t resist giving it a shot. Big Dogs Backyard Ultra attracts some of the best ultra runners in the world and I would be joining them out in Tennessee in October if I could pull it off, there were a number of events worldwide that could get you into ‘Bigs’ and the first two golden ticket winners did it in 104 and 129 miles.

At 12 noon on 16th February me, my good wife Susan and 127 others stood on the start line with no idea of how long we were going to be running for. Susan had only decided to enter 4 days previously and the plan was she would stay with me for as long as possible then help support me for as long as it went on for, we were hoping she would complete about 6 laps as she hadn’t run over 10 miles in ages and her distance PB was 26.2 miles.

At the stroke of 12 the race got underway and it just felt really weird as everyone was trying to go as slow as possible, everyone was stressing they were going too fast and people made comments about how stupid some were tearing off at something crazy like a 10 minute mile pace. There was a great atmosphere from the off and everyone was really excited about the prospect of going as far as they possibly could.

As there was 129 of us on relatively small forest trails everyone just snaked along, it felt as if we were part of a big club social run or something. Everyone was just chatting away, enjoying the scenery and getting to know each other it was really very pleasant. The first lap finished and this is when the stress began, we only had 10 minutes to eat, drink, queue then go to the toilet then get ready to start the next lap, it was amazing how fast those few precious minutes went.

The same pattern continued for the next five laps, easy going out on the trail and then a massive stress to get ready for the start of the next lap, completing a 4.1 mile loop in one hour is very doable for most club members however if you need the toilet on your break it can take up a few minutes and you constantly have this little voice telling you if you don’t fuel up properly its game over.

By lap 6 the head torches came out and Susan still felt great, this was a massive bonus for me, we just continued on around as if we were on a Sunday afternoon run out. The laps quickly passed by and as there hadn’t been too many early fallers Susan was determind to keep on going, we hit 10 laps and this is when she decided she had another 2 left in her, if she hit 12 laps that would be 50 miles and a new distance PB for her of 23.8 miles. Susan absolutely smashed it and we were both so happy she’d achieved such a massive distance PB.

Starting lap 13 felt strange, I was now out on my own, there was still a real social feel to the run as everyone is together at the start of each lap and most people are concentrating on going slower rather than faster, you chat a lot along the way. I found myself constantly trying to work out who my real competition were, I would strike up conversation with the people that looked like they were really good runners along with those wearing t shirts for seriously hard races that I intend to complete myself one day.

The laps steadily past by and I continued to feel great, I knew the race would go on a long time so had always just tried to think of the first 24 hours as the warm up, this probably sounds pretty crazy as 24 hours means 100 miles but so much is needed mentally to keep you in a race like this and I had to get my ‘warm up’ right.

By 6 am I was really ready for the night to come to an end as the morning meant I was within reach of my ‘starting point’. At about 6.30am I caught up with another runner who’s head torch had died, as I had a spare I lent him mine, he was very grateful, however unfortunately for me my battery failed 10 minutes after this meaning I was now in the dark without my spare! After 5 minutes of running in the dark, hoping the sun was going to rise any minute, another runner came to my rescue and I borrowed his spare to help complete the lap.

The first 7 minutes of my next break were going great when suddenly I got really bad stomach cramps, in any normal situation I would have headed straight for the toilet however the problem I had was the next loop started in 3 minutes and I simply didn’t have time, I carefully made my way to the start wondering how on earth I was going to get out of this predicament when all of a sudden I felt fine again panic over and off we went.

More time and loops passed by and before I knew it I was coming to the end of loop 24, the 100 mile mark and the long anticipated end of my ‘warm up’. We were told there was going to be a photo to the celebrate the 100 mile club so I spent the last 2 mins of my precious 10 desperately seeking out my striders vest for the photo, I think I made it to the start area with about 15 seconds to spare.

By the end of lap 26 I was on a total runners high, I was buzzing and asking Susan to dig out the head torches again as everything would need to be fully charged as I was definitely going for another night. I don’t think Susan was fully sharing my enthusiasm at this point, she had completed a massive distance PB herself only hours earlier and had, had virtually no sleep as every hour I would come storming into the tent waking her up asking where was this, that and the other, looking back now I don’t know how I didn’t get punched, think I’ve definitely got a good one there!

By the end of lap 27 things were starting to change and I could feel the dreaded death spiral looming. My lap times had all been pretty consistent but when you can hear the call for the next loop to start in 15 minutes and you are still about 10 minutes from the end of a loop it really starts to mess with your head. You are tired, you need a rest, the toilet, to eat, to drink to plan what your next move is but you also know you only have 5 minutes to do this before it all starts again. I finished my lap sat down for a drink trying to think straight then the call came that we had only two minutes to get to the start for the next loop, I could have cried!

My three children had recently arrived with my sister in law and although it was fantastic to see them it didn’t half cause me to have a roller coaster of emotions, when I first saw them I was so happy but then my kids wouldn’t come near me cause I was too smelly!

I started loop 28 trying to put on a brave face for the kids but I was now in serious trouble, I did the first 300 meters or so then my eldest two Oscar 6 and Katie 4 came running across the grass to meet me at the first turn I was way behind the other runners now and am not ashamed to admit I burst into tears when I saw them cheering me on Oscar’s face dropped asking what was the matter I told him I was trying my best and he should always do the same, he told me he would.

I was in a right state, I’d brought my phone on this lap I was listening to my favourite fearless motivation album, I started messaging a people I’ve spent a lot of time training with as well as looking through all the messages of support on the Striders Facebook page desperately seeking for motivation to pull myself out of this hole, I am very grateful to everybody who helped pick me up at this point. I ate a load of sweets, drank a lot of sugary stuff and continued on. My first two miles of this lap must have been really slow but I managed to pull it around somehow and caught a good few of the other runners up, much to their surprise, and finished the lap.

I pretty much knew I wasn’t going to make lap 29, within the hour, however I was never going to give up from the start line so my only option was to set off and hope I didn’t make it back in less than an hour as that would mean I would have to go again, it really screws with your mind!

After the first few hundred meters it was pretty obvious I didn’t have a chance in completing another loop within the hour so I just walked and stumbled round very slowly. I saw Susan her dad and the kids about a mile into this loop and told them it was game over, I think they were all relieved. I stumbled on to the second mile marker and hoped I could just cut back from there taking the final two miles off the course, I was informed this wasn’t allowed so if I did this I would lose the two miles I had done, I wasn’t going to lose these off what was already a massive distance Pb for me so I stumbled on like an 80 year old drunk.

As I stumbled on I came across a border collie that seemed to be with a man on a bike, the dog kept following me and I’ve got to say I quite enjoyed his company, five minutes later the guy on the bike returned to ask if it was my dog as someone had lost one. I told him it wasn’t mine but I took it by the collar and said I would keep walking the race route with it so to let the owner know if he saw her again. I found a piece of rope to make a lead and continued on with my new buddy kind of hoping the owner wouldn’t find me before the end so I could walk in with it for a cool finish photo. The grateful owner caught up with me 200 meters before the end and I was robbed of my ‘Big Dog’ finish

I think I completed lap 29 in about 1h30 and fell into Susan’s arms on the finish line, I was done but am proud to say I gave it everything I had. I waited to shake the hands of the remaining runners and was driven away completely in ore of the 8 remaining runners heading out onto lap 31 with no end in sight and much talk of a 200 mile plus race!

I ended up being 9th last one standing with just over 120 miles whilst the winner Peter Cromie went on to complete 41 laps and over 170 miles!!

Overall both Susan and I absolutely loved this event and we will definitely be heading back next year. It would be fantastic to see some other Striders over there and to have a team tent where we could inspire and motivate each other on to meet our own personal goals so if you fancy a bit of a Striders on tour event please get in touch if any of the following appeal to you:

  • You will most likely set a new distance PB
  • You have the opportunity to push yourself to your absolute limits both mentally and physically
  • You will be surrounded by like minded people in a very social setting
  • You will be massively inspired by being surrounded by so many people achieving huge personal goals
  • Speed means nothing, pacing and endurance is everything
  • You could get a few days in beautiful Northern Ireland out of it
  • If you bring your partner you can enjoy hours of quality time together even if you normally run at completely different paces
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Hardmoors Saltburn marathon, Saltburn Leisure Centre, Sunday, February 10, 2019

Mark Kearney

Chapter 1; Saltburn Marathon

“Please can we go to Saltburn in February” is a phrase few will say whom are of sound and rational mind and there are many good reasons for that……however as a trail runner and lover of Hardmoors it is a necessity to arrive bright and early on a Sunday morning, at that time of the year and in that very location.

The Half Marathon at Saltburn in 2017 was my first ‘trail’ run and was perhaps the hardest 15 mile I had ever ran.  Yes, I had completed Marathons and events in the past, but nothing compared me for the climbs, mud, sleet, hail, rain, snow, wind with the occasional presence of sunshine over a 2-hour period.

Now we fast forward two years and after the mental and physical torture of 2017 we have added multiple Hardmoors experiences to the locker and now think its big and clever to double the distance and take on the marathon series.

Training had gone well, a good result in the HM30 the month before and I felt confident going into the race with some good miles behind me.  A recce in the snow the week before had given some knowledge of the elevation and terrain of the back half of the route and on checking the weather forecast no more snow was due; only winds provided by some storm called Eric.

The morning of the race was surprisingly calm, the wind had gone, no rain, no snow, no hail…was this Saltburn? The conditions near perfect weather wise as we parked up and registered for the event.  As usual, seamless teamwork from the Hardmoors family as we registered, smiley face for the kit check and we packed our bags in readiness for the race briefing and the call to go outside and toe the line. Walking out we passed Striders Simon Graham and Jill Young, happily saluting us with coffee cups and wishing us good luck…..with the caveat that they are not as crazy as us and are happy to be taking part in the half marathon, due to start at 10am.

We walk outside on mass, traffic stopped, marshalls in place and Jon says we’re off; so we’re off…. down a main road (at least in force so some element of safety) until we hit the track into the dene to drop to the coast. The leader seemingly intent to break away, hitting a fast paced first mile to the coast before the coastal trail path sections and the first flight of steps….slowing us all down as we walk the climb.  The course taking the scenic coastal path route, along the cliff tops into the bay and then back up for the climb to the top of Loftus before a fast paced tarmac section.  A chance to open the legs after a firm but damp section along the trails.  Seeing friends and fellow runners marshalling and exchanging in general banter as we continue on our merry way.

In a true fashion the trails continued to undulate, generally following the bows of yellow tape placed in many part by our very own Dave Toth in the days before.  Climbs followed drop, drops and climbs, stairs, steps and hills with few flat and fast sections in between before we start to reach mile 18-19 and the Tees Link up to High Cliff Nab.  For those not familiar with this section of Guisborough woods I would encourage you all to have a trip out and take in the elevation and views at the summit, the climb can be challenging in the best of conditions and after the recent snow this climb was the hardest I have experienced in running these events.  Unfortunately, the view from the top was one I couldn’t appreciate during the race but looks good on google.

This was the hardest and biggest climb of the race with a long run back through the woods and over to Quakers Causeway before heading down to Boosebeck and climbing to Skelton.  The taping of the route and support of the marshals was impeccable throughout the route with fully stocked refreshment points and supportive encouragement throughout.  The views, freedom and lack of people and animals on the moors is one of peacefulness; no noise, traffic and only the voice in your head to talk to as you cover the boggy moor landscape.  Michelle likes to comment that listening to me have a conversation with myself is her idea of torture; I quite like it as I generally turn out to be right when I’m finished my discussion.

Reaching the other side of Boosebeck enables the Marathon race to join the end of the half marathon route and it was good to see runners again, to be able to say hello and not continually look for yellow tape as I could follow the pack, to target people to try and reach and have a little competition with myself for the final couple of miles.  Dropping down the steps I had expected to see Dave Toth at his marshalling point but apparently, he had popped to the shop for refreshments so we continued on back into the dene and the final climb to the main road where the finish line and the leisure centre awaited. 

Running into the hall, stopping the watch and desperate for a shower I was happy to end in a time of c3:48 minutes and take first place.  Happy the race had gone to plan, pushing on when required and all in better conditions that we could imagined.

I would encourage anyone to take part, try a 10k(ish) if you’re not sure and I would be surprised if even a little bit of you didn’t enjoy the event and people involved.

Round 1 completed, 6 to go……

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Harrier League, Thornley Hall Farm, Saturday, February 9, 2019

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. Mud King/Mud Queen Race - click flag for more information.

results

ladies

posbibNameRace TimePackCatActual Time
11258Stephanie Lawrie (Victoria Park Glasgow)27:42SFsen27:42
14336Fiona Brannan32:55FFsen27:55
17388Susan Scott33:18SFV4033:18
221132Corrine Whaling33:36SFV3533:36
27335Emma Thompson33:47FFV3528:47
311276Susan Leight33:57SFV4533:57
54390Tricia Everett34:44MFV3532:04
69389Tasmin Imber35:11SFV4035:11
82333Elaine Bisson35:33FFV4030:33
107372Nina Mason36:02MFV4033:22
117382Sarah Davies36:13MFV5033:33
130360Katy Walton36:33MFV3533:53
142370Natalie Bell36:55MFsen34:15
169374Rachael Bullock37:58MFsen35:18
174346Jan Young38:06SFV6538:06
192383Sarah Fawcett38:49SFV5538:49
193391Victoria Jackson38:49SFV3538:49

men

posbibNameRace TimePackCatActual Time
11807Adam Pratt (Morpeth Harriers & AC)35:21SMsen35:21
10506Stuart Ord39:10SMsen39:10
20499Sam Renwick40:28SMsen40:28
27453Graeme Watt40:48MMV4038:18
37456James Garland41:15SMV4041:15
60483Paul Evans41:59SMV3541:59
75472Matthew Archer42:15SMV3542:15
147476Michael Littlewood43:30MMV4041:00
154478Mike Barlow43:33SMV4543:33
162429Allan Renwick43:40SMV4543:40
168498Rory Whaling43:47SMV4543:47
192439Danny Lim44:12SMV3544:12
2071852Mark Griffiths44:30MMV4042:00
258485Paul Swinburne46:05SMV4046:05
260507Stuart Scott46:06MMV3543:36
2631733Robin Parsons46:12SMV3546:12
267442David Gibson46:21SMV5046:21
270436Conrad White46:26SMV6046:26
330440Dave Halligan48:55SMV5548:55
331479Mike Bennett48:58SMV6048:58
351493Richard Hockin50:03SMV6550:03
359473Matthew Carr50:30SMV4050:30
387501Simon Dobson51:35SMV4551:35
412511Trevor Chaytor53:28SMV5553:28
4181599Neil Garthwaite53:51SMV4553:51
419475Michael Hughes53:55SMV5053:55
465503Stephen Ellis69:36SMV6569:36
(Visited 25 times, 1 visits today)

Mad Dog 9 – Bark to the Future, Southport, Sunday, February 3, 2019

Dougie Nisbet

I woke to perfect conditions for this fast race. A 6km jog brought me to the school and a packed but well organised event. I think it’s hit its capacity now. I checked my bib to see what my starting pen was. Dalmation. A dalmation’s quite fast I think. I hope I didn’t put anything too ambitious down for estimated finish time when I entered all those months ago.

On the starting grid waiting for John Barnes to release the hounds

I’d expected to be shivering on the start line but the sun was out and there was no wind and all was good. I heard some woofing and off we went. Previously I’ve found it a bit of a crush initially but there was a bit of space and I settled down resisting the temptation to go off too fast. I’d decided not to look at my Garmin until the first kilometre marker.

In a measured race like this I usually go on average pace. My PB for a 10K was 47 minutes from 2012 on the same course. Realistically I’d be happy with a sub-50. A confidence boost that my training was settling down and a useful benchmark.

At the first km I checked my watch. Average pace and actual pace. They were awfully high. I realised I was wearing my old watch and it was calibrated in old money. And I didn’t even have it set to show elapsed time. This was stupendously frustrating and I spent the first half of the race trying to convert 5 min/km in my head to min/mile pace. Not with any success

I felt like I was running ok and didn’t think I had much spare. At the half way point I edged up the pace with the view of running a good negative split. It’s a great spectator course and I’d already spotted Roberta as I’d flown past Elvis. What. A. Voice. And as we got to around 6km I saw her again as I passed under the pier.

more than half-way (photo credit: Roberta Marshall)

I like a good bit of music on a road event and Southport must put the classiest act on that I’ve ever seen in an event. The Rock Choir. The race is worth it for this brief blast alone.

The extremely excellent Rock Choir (photo credit: Roberta Marshall)

I pushed on and kept winding the pace up. It was a fast day and with 3 km to go I felt I was running it about as hard as I could. My concentration was not what it might be though as I had …

Till I see Marianne walk away
I see my Marianne walkin’ away

… going round and round inside my head. Who sang that?! It took another kilometre before I finally clicked the connection. Boston. More than a Feeling. Sung like I’d never heard it before. Brilliant.

I ran a tight controlled hard race even if it was effectively blind and I was none too pleased to cross the line in 50:14. These 14 seconds stung. It would be easy to think that if I could have seen my pace I might have been able to nip under 50 minutes but I’m not so sure. Great conditions, hard race, good controlled negative split. I realised that I wasn’t really that bothered about the 14 seconds as I’d ran a controlled race. I jogged passed the queues for the buses to the park and ride. Why get the bus when a 6km jog back to base can be all part of the training.

I ran the first Mad Dog 10K 9 years ago and watched it grow to be one of the best races in the country. You have to be pretty quick to get in nowadays. I don’t know if a ballot system is an inevitable consequence of its success. What I really like about it though is the feeling of being part of a local grass-roots race organised by volunteers where so much of the income is donated to small local charities.

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Military League North (MLN), Cong Burn, Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Dougie Nisbet

Orienteering isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and I hadn’t expected much of a response when I lobbed one of my periodical e-mails onto the list promoting a local event. It just made it all the nicer when first Nigel, Jan and then Shaun and Ros turned up at Cong Burn on a sparkly sunny cold winter’s Wednesday in January. This was an army event so were only three courses on offer and Jan and Nigel were going for the hardest one (Blue) while Shaun was approaching with more caution and opting for the middle course (Light Green). Shaun’s logic being that he didn’t want to end up doing so badly on Blue that he never wanted to do another event again.

I’ve said many times that Orienteering events are surprisingly daunting when you first turn up because they seem a bit complicated and everyone else seems to know what they’re doing. In an army event like today there are also a lot of soldiers with racing vests that often include words like ‘rifles’ and ‘lancers’ somewhere. Which doesn’t help. Even our neighbouring orienteering club Newcastle and Tyneside Orienteers are more often known by their acronym NATO.

Jan was a bit nervous so I suggested just treating it like an interval training session. A bit of fartlek. Which is basically what orienteering is. Speed work where the speed, effort, intensity and duration depends largely on how good you are. The worse you are, the better and longer the workout.

Staggered starts can sometimes make these sociable events surprisingly unsocial. By the time I’d got myself registered, organised and to the start the others had already gone. Shaun had been miffed to discover that you don’t get a look at the map with the course on it until the watch has started. I always advocate sprinting around the first corner, hopefully in the correct direction, in a purposeful manner, then as soon as out of sight of the start, stop and have a proper look. Although nowadays I’m a bit more relaxed and sometimes my starts involve a lot of Not Moving until I’ve had a good at where I’m going and got something approaching a plan.

Conditions were great for orienteering and the ground was crispy and lovely to run on. I’m not ashamed to say I was well chuffed to discover I’d caught Nigel and one of my NN clubmates Bob Cooper around control 6. Mindful of a similar experience with High Cup Nick 10 years ago I didn’t allow myself to get overconfident. Nigel had fluffed up control 3 and lost a lot of time. Orienteering is like that. One bad control and you can haemorrhage time away. When it happens early in a race you have to give yourself a bit of a talking to as it’s easy to lose enthusiasm for the rest of the course.

Nigel, Bob and I were in each other’s radar through to control 8 where things suddenly got interesting:

Control 8 to Control 9

What would you do? It’s not a long leg, only a couple of hundred metres direct. I’d already forgotten my advice to myself about over-confidence and decided by far the best and quickest way was to drop down to the beck, leap it like a gazelle and a quick lunge north would take me to control 9. I noticed Nigel had decided to stick to the path and take the long way round.

I didn’t see Nigel for the remainder of the course. He remained ahead of me while he gradually got more into the groove and his split times steadily improved. What I did see from my vantage point of knee deep in a disgustingly brown (I hope it was peat) marsh was a slow scrub where Jack Frost had decided not to tread leaving it perfect for energy sapping trudging. Good practice for Allendale I guess.

Although the time lost wasn’t a lot these mistakes tend to dent your confidence and you either compound things by running about in a panic or slow yourself right down and collect your thoughts. Since my legs were wet, cold, and a disturbing shade of brown, and the only things flapping were my shoelaces I decided to notch things back a bit and had a fairly uneventful few controls where I got warmed up again and into the adventure.

Control 13 to 14 brought the next interesting challenge. What would you do?

Control 13 to 14

The temptation is to contour directly along the steep south-east bank or to climb up and run along the road. In my experience with this sort of leg if there’s easy running further away it’s best to take the long-way round. I crossed the bridge and had an easy run along to the bottom of the bank at 14, back across the beck and up to the fence. The fence rather obligingly had a stile and a proper path on the other side so I hopped over and ran alongside the inside where it was easier while looking for the control. It was a good clean leg and I was pleased with myself.

I didn’t notice at the time but the red vertical lines on the map show that this area is clearly out of bounds and I, along with half the army, had taken the inviting path on the OOB side of the fence. In the grand scheme of things it made little difference to my time but I was annoyed at myself for not noticing and had this been a big event and I’d been spotted it would’ve been an automatic DQ. But few people noticed and it’s not as if I’m going to write about it on the internet or anything.

The remainder of the course was reasonably straightforward but the planner had made good use of terrain forcing competitors over a wide variety of challenging terrain and vegetation. I finished and back at download I found Nigel having a cuppa where it soon became apparant Jan and Shaun were still out on the courses.

We walked back out onto the fell and into the sunshine where we could get a commanding view of runners finishing. Like battlefield commanders we surveyed the surroundings and speculated where Jan and Shaun might be. Shaun was first to finish getting doggedly round all the controls. He had been frustrated by his Garmin’s auto-pause feature which interpreted every pause as an opportunity to stop recording so he was a bit unsure how long he’d been out.

Shaun coming into finish (not from the direction we expected)

Jan kept us guessing but before we got to the ‘should we getting worried’ stage she showed up at the download area. We sent her packing to the Finish which she’d decided to skip, then come back to download. It was largely academic though. Jan had a duff dibber that hadn’t flashed at any of the controls she’d visited. And the controls she had visited had been in an order of her choosing. Of all the tips I thought of offering before the start, visit the controls in order hadn’t been in there. Perhaps I should have though. I had a similar conversation out on the course with Sue and Kerry at the Durham City Night championships in 2015. If your experience of orienteering has all been score events, and no one has told you otherwise, you could be forgiven for thinking that order is optional.

I’m used to being the only Strider at these events so it was lovely afterwards to head down with the Strider platoon to the Tea Barn and investigate the coffee and cakes and indulge in a bit of data analysis. This was an event where there were often varied and quite different route choices between controls. Not necessarily better or worse than each other. But always with consequences.


This event was part of a league of orienteering events run by the British Army Orienteering Club. The Military League North (MLN) have two more fairly local events coming up that are open to civilians. Plessey Woods on Wed 13th Feb, and Warcop (no details yet) on Wed 27th March.


My route on Blue Course
Total distance: 8210 m
Max elevation: 124 m
Min elevation: 44 m
Total climbing: 228 m
Total descent: -228 m
Total Time: 01:19:51
Download
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