Category Archives: 20km

Reeth Trail 20k, Reeth, Swaledale, Sunday, April 30, 2017


Steve Ellis

I had entered this race last February in the spirit of trying more off-road race for a change. Two weeks All-Inclusive in Mexico 3 weeks before the race, I concede, was not the best preparation! However that was not to be my only problem! The Saturday before I pulled some muscle/tendon behind my knee practicing Long Jumps! OUCH!!A visit to Mr Sleemans House of torture assured me that no lasting damage had been done but some work would be needed. Or should I say KNEADED as I was given a thorough pummeling. It worked as by Saturday I was virtually pain free. And ready.

Jan and myself assembled chez Sygrove for our early morning embarkation to Reeth . We arrived in good time for the collection of numbers and a quick cuppa. The weather was bitty. A bit cloudy, a bit sunny, a bit windy etc. perfect for running.

Jan collected our outer garments and we assembled at the start for the briefing. After wishing each other best of’s we set off. Barely 100 meters into the race mine came to a sudden ignominious stop! WHAM!!!! I ran into a way- marker sign (see photos).Knocked clean off my feet, dazed and bloodied I tried to work out what had happened. Wearing my cap and my gaze fixed firmly downwards to avoid tangling with legs didn’t help. I was escorted back to the start to be quickly assessed by the race marshal. She accepted my assurances that I was ok and allowed me to continue. She suggested I might consider only completing the 10k course if I so wished. WHAT! 10k?? In the true spirit of Yorkshire I had paid to run 20 and that’s what I intended to do! So finally I set off again with the back marker.

The route follows the river for a while before turning left and heading upwards. The ascent is about 5 miles on mainly stony/ grassy trails with a bit of tarmac. By the top legs are screaming to be set free as mostly we had jogged then walked to the top. As the terrain leveled it became possible to get going! It was now more noticeably windy but welcome too as I was now quite warm. The views of this beautiful part of England spilled out in every direction. The geometric patterns of dry-stone walls tessellating across the hillsides only broken up by the odd stone built barn or house, sturdy and defiant in this austere land. The sheer scale of it all opened out all around and I had to be careful not to become to immersed as large rocks and boulders stuck out of the grassy paths tripping the unwary.

A water stop at about 11k was very welcome with the added bonus of jelly sweets! Immediately after the path turned sharply left another 1.5k climb loomed and I thought I had finished the ups today!

The final descent was long and tiredness crept in. grassy paths were order of the day for a while with a bit of road thrown in. Just before I reached that turn I was distracted again and tripped once more. Over I went, A over T, landed on my left shoulder and knee. Ouch  again. Bruised and muddied I picked myself up once more concerned that someone may have seen me! I felt such a idiot!

The end was in sight now as I zig-zagged down the road then across a couple of fields and finally over the bridge. Here I was meat by Malc and Kath and Jan who spurred me on up the final rise to the finish! They had al been very concerned for me but were equally relieved to see me finish! At this point Kathryn revealed her injury sustained near the race start too as she was constantly looking back to see if I was coming and tripped and badly cut her knee on a rock…..then ran 20k! Also she inflicted terminal damage to a pair of those spectacular tights she is so beloved of. Sorry Kath!

Finally we assembled for refreshments at a café and to compare notes and mishaps. I was delighted to have finished this race as it had not looked likely a week before or indeed after 2 minutes of the race itself! Still we live on to fight another day and meet the challenges head on…literally in my case.   Thanks to Malc and Kath for a great day out and equally good company…always a bonus to share these experiences I find, and thoroughly commend them to anyone wanting to have a go.

We had two other striders who did very well Dave and Chris (who very unluckily missed out on a podium place by dint of a misunderstanding I believe. ) I am sure there is a lot more to come from you two and feel  sure great thing lie ahead. Fantastic running.
Full results available here.

Finish Pos First Name Last Name Club Category Finish
1 Kieran Walker Sedgefield Harriers M 01:23:14.85
4 Chris Callan Elvet Striders M 01:35:47.25
17 David Hinton Elvet Striders M 01:51:17.45
60 Kathryn Sygrove Elvet Striders FV50 02:19:25.10
61 Malcolm Sygrove Elvet Striders MV50 02:19:26.20
84 Stephen Ellis Elvet Striders MV60 02:35:29.50
95 Finishers
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DT20, Reeth, Saturday, April 1, 2017


Elaine Bisson

I hugged Sarah last year’s rival (this year on timing duty) she looked me straight in the eyes and said “Go on, you’re going to win this.” I wasn’t so sure, I think I could match last year’s time…

It was a beautiful spring morning, I’d kept myself to myself, calmed down, enjoyed a good 2 mile warm up along the river. I was ready as I’d ever be. I’d started to train differently. My miles had risen dramatically but most of those were fun off road long distances. I’d actually recced this a fair few times, it was pretty and challenging. I’d been to the track to monitor progress and my speed was back but who knows. My husband had told me to enjoy it, that there was always someone who would turn up and be faster than me…that had irked me no end. How bloody rude and what if today was the day I turned up??

I’d been reading lots too, inspirational books for the love of running…seriously just loving running (but usually the author was extremely talented!) I’d filled my head with mantras and quotes to use when it started to hurt. I determined to push hard all the way, no let up, to run like I’d never run before, as if it were my last.

I looked around, lots of eager runners, I marked out two women, standing alone in their own thoughts, like me, sh** I thought, and there they are, They’ve turned up.


After a short race briefing we were counted down and off. Straight across a field, through a rather deep muddy and stinky puddle then up the other side. I pushed hard until my legs started to burn, a bit further and then I could walk hooray! There is a long first climb up to Fremington Edge. I kept my head down and worked hard, whenever feeling came back in my legs I’d run a bit until they started to burn, then walk, then run. Eventually we reached the top gate, runners from previous years were marshalling, I knew them, they gave me (and everyone else) a huge cheer and shake of bells “well done first lady, looking strong”, wow, I wonder how long that will last.

I knew it had taken me a while to break into a good pace last year but I determined to reach that pace faster, whether my legs liked it or not. I started to overtake quite a lot of men. I felt strong. Then I heard the welcome friendly Yorkshire voice “hey up, I’m back!” My running buddy who is well known to be an extremely good pacer and motivator, Jon Ayres, was back.

Through lots of practise I’d got far better at descending, switching off my brain, as soon as we hit grass I was gone and Jon was trailing behind. A few sub 6s thrown in, it was exhilarating, this was fun. Then we hit the bridge and everything started to sway, a few seconds of panic that I was going to collapse then I realised the bridge was actually swaying not my head, phew…time to push on.

Jon looked around, “are you ok, you’re running like you’re possessed” Thats  the point I thought, run like it’s your last! And so we kept pushing on and on, if my legs were screaming I’d walk, have a sip, a gel, as soon as they weren’t I’d run again. The welcome checking of Jon ‘are you alright’ every now and again and confirmation, yes actually I am, let’s move this up a gear.

Up to Calver, it’s a cheeky one with a false summit, even when I told myself it’s not the top, I still was tricked. Then Jon started looking anxious, kept checking over his shoulder, kept saying come on let’s go for this. Only coming off Calver did I realise why, a girl was coming and her friends were timing me to tell her the distance between us. The clap of thunder overhead marked the start of the storm, 1.5miles to go, a good downhill…no f***ing way is this going to happen. We flew off Calver, one of the marshals shouted “f***ing brilliant, you’ve got this”, 1.5miles left and the adrenaline had kicked in, flight or fight? I was going to do both. We caught quite a few on the descent then I knew there was a short reprieve when we could walk, then it was sprinting ALL the way. As we cornered a bend a flash came…I thought a camera lens, nope lightning then immediately afterwards thunder…best run faster then! It was awesome. Never have I run like fury, I looked at the last few fields, about half mile now, we picked up our pace more to storm through the last field, they’re not allowed to catch me now!

I saw the clock and was shocked at the time, I saw Sarah’s face beaming, I’d bloody well done it, First lady from the start, first lady at the end, 5minutes quicker than last year and I still had an itching for more. One massive hug from Jon who had sneakily got me by a second. I’m not sure either of us has ever raced like that. I raced like it was my last and it was amazing! If only I could bottle up that feeling…I’ll just have to do it again!

We cheered in a few friends, picked up our Tshirts, complimentary tea and cake then I had to head home before presentations to pick up my boy. Jon, who had joked ALL the way round that he was First Lady kindly picked up my prize.

Not much I can say about these. I’ve made some amazing friends from previous years, the same smiling faces turn up time and again. It’s brilliantly organised. They’re in Yorkshire, but somehow found a way into my heart, I absolutely love them. Tough but well worth it.

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DT20, Reeth, Monday, April 4, 2016


Jason Harding

Thanks to Helen Allen transferring her “Grand Slam” entry to my name, and hoping to put the recent Harrier League experience of mud and hills to good use, I signed up for my first trail race, the Dales Trail 20 at Reeth in Swaledale.

I hadn’t visited the Yorkshire Dales and took this opportunity to drive down to scout the route the day before the race. The limestone scenery on the hill road that connects Barnard Castle to Reeth is spectacular. I parked up to recce Calver Hill, at 487m the highest point on the course. The wind was so fierce on the summit that after a few minutes I was obliged to shelter by the cairn. Fortunately, the weather was less tempestuous on race day.

The Dales Trail series is so well organised and the hospitality of Reeth to runners so welcoming and genuine that camaraderie and trench humour triumphs over any anxiety that a novice feels tackling such a tough course. I was surprised to discover that I managed the opening ascent to Fremington Edge (475m) without too much discomfort, save for the fact that on the brow of the summit, a tall man with a loping walking stride kept pace with my arm and knee pumping attempts to run to the top. Once on Fremington Edge, I thought I would be distracted by panoramic views but by then I was focused on a tussle with my companions for the next 12 miles; one of the many ebbs and flows that rippled through a stream of 206 runners who started (and completed) the event.

On the steep rocky, technical descent from Fremington Edge I lost ground to experienced fell runners, but even more on the two occasions when those ahead of me took the wrong path and were not called back on track by those behind us who clearly knew the route well. These mishaps made me more determined to do battle with fell folk on the 5-mile circuitous climb up Calver Hill. At the start of the ascent we were offered a bowl of brightly coloured jelly babies and – for reasons still unclear to me – I grabbed a fistful like a starving man stumbling upon manna in the wilderness (I hope tail runners weren’t left howling at an empty bowl).

By this point in the race, my efforts to move up the field were hampered by trying to negotiate the boggy, undulating terrain while trying to pop a jelly baby into my mouth. After the first sugared shape almost dropped whole down my windpipe and was aborted, I resolved to chew the next into submission. Yet the marshal who told me “you’re doing brilliant!” was answered by coughs, then half digested jelly spewed over the Swaledale turf. My admiration for the endurance and skill of trail or fell runners extends to the art of high speed sweet swallowing (Tom Reeves, can you sort out a jelly baby interval session at Maiden Castle?).

The less technical descent into Reeth suited road runners and I was able to pick up a few places to finish in the top dozen, followed home by Jon Ayres, who knocked minutes off his time from the previous year. Hot on his heels was Elaine Bisson, who won a hard earned prize as the third place woman. Tim Skelton, Phil Connor, Malcolm Sygrove, (and Shaun Roberts, allegedly – Ed.) and a gutsy run from Steph Piper completed a strong Strider showing at Swaledale on a rainy but nonetheless exhilarating outing on the Yorkshire Dales.

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DT20, Reeth, Saturday, April 4, 2015


Jon Ayres

As a firm fan of the Yorkshire dales an excuse to visit the area is generally seized upon, with gusto , and the chance to get a few extra miles prep for the upcoming Swaledale marathon made this new event one not be missed for me.

The start is just outside Reeth down, that’s down, by the river and the run heads up (approx 600 feet of up ) toward and onto Fremlington edge. From here it’s a skirt across the top, heading North West (I think) up another climb before a near vertical, and frankly to this Tarmac trotting Princess, terrifying drop that involves clinging to grass, rock or just to dear life. Then a fast section of track that’s part of the C2C for a mile or so before another climb, which completes the upward tally of over two thousand feet, at this point I’d no idea of location as lack of oxygen was causing hallucinations,with a good 2 1/2 miles of drop and flattish trail.

Spotted at the start were Corrina James, Anita Clementson and Phillip Connor and words uttered at the end all seemed to affirm my view that it’s a very tough course but excellent fun. It also gave excellent value a cracking run,technical tee, water bottle and free tea and cake at the finish. The organisation and marshalling were near faultless and very friendly. A great, hard run that leaves me looking forward to the next two in the series, I’d heartily recommend them to all.

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Reeth Trail 20k, Sunday, May 4, 2014

Jon Ayres

As the Swaledale marathon approaches the chance to run a new event in the same area just a few weeks before seemed like a good plan.

The course is on the other side of the river to the marathon, heading toward Keld then looping back through Apedale with a drop back into Reeth. Easy really.

Arriving in Reeth with Graeme Walton and Mike Hughes we strolled down to the Swaledale Outdoors shop (a bit of a gem this place; loads of great gear and a stop off point on the version of the Coast to Coast which starts/finishes dependent upon direction in Robin Hoods Bay) to collect our numbers. As I signed for my number it was with a jubilant cry I informed my fellow Striders that I had the number two to bear upon my chest, which left me chuffed to buttons until Graeme held up his piece of paper bearing the numeral 1. After a brief sulk we wandered back to the car grabbing a brew on the way (no Starbucks in this corner of God’s own country just a newsagent nipping into the back of the shop to boil a kettle, ace!) and got changed. Having spotted Aaron Gourley earlier helping out with marshalling duties a quick chat established that long sleeves were the order of the day as it might be “a bit blustery” as we climbed out of the valley.

The race starts about half a mile out of the village down by the river, for those who know the area it’s just down by the swing bridge, and it was here that the first indication of the wind could be felt; nothing too much but enough to raise a cautious eyebrow. The start line was a fairly informal affair with approx. 130 folk all huddled together like emperor penguins on pack ice and after a brief safety talk we headed out along the river. Nice and flat this bit with solid ground to cross and so it continued for around a mile. At this point Arron, Mike, Graeme and I were all fairly close to each other and all seemed good; then the climbing started.

Having lived and run in Durham for a fair few years now I’m generally of the opinion that hills are not to be worried about; after all we train on them loads and should be OK with a climb or two but this was lung busting. Just walking was hard and as Graeme pointed out as the first major climb kicked in “the paths not even in a straight line”. With each turn of the climb the hills seemed to continually grow dominating the skyline and towering over us. All credit here to Mr Walton as he picked up his pace and started to pull away from me (nothing unusual there mind Tarmac, Hill or Dale it’s become a depressing regularity watching him fade off into the distance). All I concentrated on was holding something approaching an upward shuffle and the hope that soon, surely, I’d see the top of the climb. Nervous looks over the shoulder also confirmed that Aaron was putting his experience to good use and wasn’t letting me get away either.

The climbs continued, with a couple of short plateaus until we crawled to the top, a very tough 5 ½ miles of crawling/shuffling and the occasional thought of “it’s a tad breezy up here”, apparently the views as we went up were spectacular but lack of oxygen combined with sweat pouring down and coating my eyeballs obscured the scenery from me.

A quick turn, whereupon the wind seemed to ease and we had a fast couple of miles along a very rough road. At this point the mountain rescue land rover which was roaming the dales looking for lost runners, wrong un’s from the other side of the Pennines or those in need of assistance seemed to follow me. Clearly my running style must need working on as I thought I was going quite well. With Graeme not quite out of view and therefore something to aim at this did turn into a couple of swift miles and a few folk were reeled in who’d left me for dead on the hills. Then at 7 or so miles we hit the last major climb; nothing like as long as the first assault on Everest we’d conducted three KM’s earlier but sharp and long and here again I was forced to watch a purple vest move away from me with ease. This climb was much shorter (not sure just how much as my Garmin had stopped giving me updates and was now just bleeping in Morse Code “hurry up lardy the pie shop closes soon”) but it hurt and again I opted for a run/walk strategy, I walked as Graeme ran, finally though the last major climb was done and, stopping only to wave at the planes below, the fun started. A sharp drop on mixed terrain was gleefully ceased on and a sub 6 min mile pace was the reward. At this point I started thinking in terms of the 400m laps left and also congratulated myself on getting through all the hard work. Then all hell broke loose; we turned into the valley that would lead us home and the “breeze” hit us. My pace dropped by 3 min per mile and tears started to form in my eyes. For a while I staggered with another lost soul as we leaned into the gusts. Even the slight downhill gradient felt hard; it was awful. Finally, solace was offered and the wind was pushing us along as the path turned and another runner was passed. For the next mile or so the “purple massive” was in evidence as Graeme and I ran together consoling each other about the hills and quizzing each other as to just who’s idea this had been (HIS!).

Another drop offered gravity the chance to pull my stomach downwards and the thought of a savoury pastry or two for lunch propelled me forward and back into the wind. Oh deep joy! Fortunately this was only for 400m or so and it was with a heartfelt sigh of relief that the final mile was plodded downhill- offering a pretty speedy finish for those with the legs for it; Mike Hughes take a bow.

So a well organised and great race with a small friendly field, what’s not to like? Did I mention the wind?

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Brussels 20k, Sunday, May 26, 2013

Lucy Cowton

A piece of advice for anyone contemplating running a race in Belgium; prepare to get your elbows out and forget your British manners! Luckily I’d been forewarned of this and sharpened my elbows and practised a French-looking pout especially for the occasion.

I’m quite new to running having got the bug after the running GNR last year, and this was the only other big event I’ve been to. So, after a horrifically difficult journey across the channel which took a sweaty, cramped and grumpy 16 hours to get there (thank you EuroTunnel) I woke up in Brussels a nervous, doubtful wreck.

And they're off!

There’s no way I’ll manage this today, I thought, after hardly any sleep, very little food and with storms and wind blowing like mad! But once I got on the Metro, the sight of hundreds of runners of all ages, sizes and fitnesses heading to the start and my mantra ‘if they can do it, you can do it’ spurred me on. The atmosphere getting to the start was electric. I’ve never thought of the Belgians as a particularly happy lot but I’ve since changed my mind! The towering columns of the impressive Cinquantenaire signalled the start of the pens, and as I made my way over there with my friend James we were stopped and interviewed for Brussels TV (just thought I’d drop my five minutes of fame in there…)

In true Belgian style there was neither order nor control over the pens, so despite James’ number being 20,000 behind mine, we joined the hordes to clamber forwards and managed to start together not too far from the front. As I was so nervous, I knew I’d start far too quickly and that I’d probably already used up a whole load of energy jumping around in the rain to keep warm! So I consciously held to just over a 5k/mile pace through the business district and kept it strong and steady, trying hard not to get too pushed around by huge men with big elbows… Now I began to understand why I’d seen so few women there!

The course swerved and circled in nice short sections up a steady hill, along the Euro zone. It was challenging to keep a foot hold on the slippy cobbles as we flew past the Palace as Belgian roads are not a strongpoint! Hundreds of displaced cobbles and potholes meant quite a number of runners came a-cropper, but luckily I kept my head down and managed to avoid them. But then, my worst nightmare … three underground tunnels. I was still keeping a steady pace but I’m pretrified of closed spaces and as you entered the tunnels the humidity, heat and noise of thousands of runners was so disorienting I thought I might ‘go’. Instead, spurred on by a handsome fireman beside me, I picked up to almost a 4k pace and sped through them as fast as I could, and was rewarded after the hill at the other end by a break in the clouds!

Well done Lucy!

The next part of the run was wonderful. We weaved through a beautiful park, down tree-lined streets and past bird-filled lakes. There were a few crowds of spectators, but nothing compared to the GNR. This was more than made up for by the fantastic blues, brass, jazz and drumming bands accompanying us at various points en route! I hit the 10k station at exactly 50 minutes and had a celebratory fruit gum. I was really enjoying it now and happy with my rhythm. The next few kilometres flew by, as the course moved along residential streets and past posh houses. I found it funny how runners could basically go any route they wanted – a few ran along tram tracks whilst others nearly knocked spectators over running over pavements! A few narrow streets meant I got my elbows out again and was nearly tripped by a pushy, scary-looking body builder-type, but I just about kept upright and found my rhythm again.

I’d been warned about the famous ‘mont du mort’ around the 17k mark-2 kilometres of steep uphill along Avenue Tervurenlaan but just as I realised I’d already started it, I spied the 1h45 balloons marker just by the side of me. I must’ve lost a bit of pace but as I was aiming for under 1h50 I was ecstatic! I kept pace alongside the balloon man and huffed and puffed past the runners slowing down, feeling thankful for once for Durham’s hills during my training!

As I reached the top with sweaty, misty eyes, I saw what I thought was the finish line – yeah! I tried to ignore my burning thighs and dig into a pocket of energy to pick up my pace, but as I neared it, I realised it said ‘only 1km to go’! Oh dear. I eased off a bit and reserved a tiny bit of push for the real finish. I managed a wobbly sprint around a roundabout, down an ‘elbows-at-dawn’ narrow and over the cobbles to finish in 1h47. But strangly I had come through in front of the 1h 45 marker… I saw James by the bananas having done a fantastic 1h40 and looking curiously fresh! I on the other hand weakly collected my Belgian-flagged medal and wished I’d only pushed 2 minutes harder! I’ll be more prepared for the tunnels, cobbles and sneaky finishes next time and sharpening my elbows in preparation!

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