After the recent British Transplant Games, the very local World Transplant Games, within a couple of miles of where I spent quite a long time in hospital, couldn’t come soon enough. Good to start the week with the 5K, which I thought was my best chance of doing well, having picked up the Gold in Newport. The course was changed close to the last-minute, from, I think, the normal parkrun course, to a shorter version, two laps, due to a circus pitching on the route! Obviously, pretty flat … but there was a fair wind blowing …
I set off fast, perhaps a tad too fast – perhaps a bit too much adrenaline coursing through the veins. Was ahead of the firm favourite to win the MV60s after the first lap … but then flagged a bit. The last section into blustery wind was a bit challenging … and yet, my band of supporters (you know who you are!) told me I was still second, so I was more than delighted to come away with a Silver medal.
This is one of my favourite races of the year. I am so very proud to be from this beautiful city and to be able to part of the atmosphere this night always brings, is pretty amazing.
I first entered the Durham City Run 5k in 2016, before I joined Striders. I had recently become a part of the running community via Durham parkrun, and when this race was advertised, I knew I wanted to do it. I actually joined Striders in the time between entering and the actual race and so was lucky enough to be wearing purple on the day. It was the first time the event had happened, and so of course there were teething problems. A mass start of all the 5 and 10k runners and lots of narrow riverside paths made for a frustrating race for everyone. The organisers asked for feedback following the race and it appeared they had listened to it for the 2017 event. This time, the start was staggered (I think – it’s hard to recall last night let alone 2 years ago) and the route was changed. They changed the route again in 2018 but this time it worked a lot better – staggered start times, different starting place for the 5ks and the 10ks and a different route which resolved some of the crowding (well it did at my position anyway, I can’t speak for the fast 10k runners). I think the only thing missing, would be a separate finish funnel for the 5 and the 10. Other than that, I think they had finally got it right. There is support on every corner and the atmosphere is just something else.
I entered the 2019 race purely because I had ran every one since the beginning, and I am a sucker for any race where you get a medal AND a t-shirt. I haven’t been running well recently due to some medical problems that are still being investigated and treated – some days it feels as if my body has given up on me – I knew there was absolutely no chance of a course PB and part of me was dreading it. I always choose to run the 5k because I love being on Palace Green when the 10k Striders are finishing – this is what it’s about for me. The 2017 & 2018 races saw me finish just in time to grab a drink, my medal and a spot at the top of the hill to see Stephen Jackson take the win.
So, for the first time since 2016 the route was the same, we all knew where we were going, which hills we needed to tackle, separate starts – all good. Well it was, until a burst water main caused absolute chaos. We learned only a day or two before the race that the route would have to change because the road closures needed, couldn’t be kept in place because of the required diversion of traffic. We were given maps of the new routes which looked a bit bizarre and I don’t think anybody could quite envisage what the new race would look like. Add to that we would all be starting at the same time, in the same place, covering the same initial 5k together. Oh and it was the hottest day of the year. Based on the weather alone, I had no intention of doing anything other than getting to the finish line and getting that medal, which is lucky because it was carnage. When the race started, there were still people trying to get into the starting area. Immediate bottlenecks which caused literal standstills – this went on probably for the first 2k. The route was bizarre, but it was nowhere near as bad as the poor 10k runners had it (I did not envy you that horrific climb from the riverside up to Palace Green!). The worst part of this race (in my opinion) is the climb up Providence Row (and knowing you get about 10 seconds recovery before you climb up to Palace Green). I could feel my brain telling me to walk it, but I knew I would be so disappointed if I did, because I had managed to run up it last year! Then I heard a familiar voice telling everyone “it’s not a hill – just don’t look up, it’s flat. But don’t look at your feet or you will fall over”. It was Ben Smith (of the 401 marathon challenge). I’ve met Ben a few times at various events, but I’d never had the honour of running with him. He could see I was struggling – he put his hand out and said “come on, give me your hand, we can get up this together”. And we did. He gave me a quick hug at the top, and then off he went to continue the 10k. I knew I was almost at the finish. Just that lovely climb up to Palace Green left. Seeing Wendy Littlewood waiting at the corner where it gets particularly hard, I’m sure she said “Come on Joanne, you aren’t really dying, it just feels like it”. Shouts up that hill from some former Striders and the lovely Anji Andrews (Gateshead Harriers and Events of the North) who told me I was looking sexy (which of course I was) got me to the finish line. 3 minutes slower than 2018, and my slowest 5k race ever but I didn’t care. It was so hot and I had been sensible – now I got to do the best bit – watch for all my amazing club mates running to that beautiful finish line.
For anyone who was doing this for the first time please don’t think it is always like this. It’s not. It is normally wonderfully organised and I can’t even imagine the stress encountered when the organisers were informed on Tuesday evening that they would have to completely re-route or cancel the run. People would have complained if it was cancelled, and lots of people complained about changes. Nothing can take away the atmosphere, community and support shown by runners and spectators for this event, and the organisers did the best they could under the circumstances.
In addition to the 5k, the festival had many other offerings this year, including themed runs, a “Run Like A Legend” mile and a Family event. I entered the mile race when my body was still on side – thinking I could get close to my 7:24 track mile. It was only £5 to enter and you got another medal and a fab Nike t-shirt. It started at the Boathouse pub, ran down and across Baths bridge, along to the bandstand then back. It was really well organised, with bookable timeslots with about 10 people per slot. Sadly, for me, a PB didn’t happen but I will probably give it another try next year – I just need to get better at getting on and off Baths bridge!
I’m not really one for parkrun tourism. If I’m on holiday, the thought of getting up at 730am to go find a local run doesn’t really appeal. Jane and I tend to go to bed later than normal because the kids stay up later….so it all makes parkrun a no no for us. This leads to me usually taking my trainers and going out for a run on an evening when the family is chilling prior to food etc.
Out of curiosity, I had checked if there were any races during our week away in Jersey (incidentally the birthplace of the prettiest of the Littlewoodi (the correct plural I think), Wendy)….and to my surprise the local running club was to hold a 5km race along the prom of St.Hellier.
We arrived back at our Airbnb an hour before the race which was a nice 1mile from the start. The Facebook page had just said “meet at the first shelter” which obviously meant nothing to me. Luckily the aforementioned Wendy knew all about this famous bus shelter so I was given a handy map. I didn’t ask how or why and assumed it was a weird local thing.
I jogged down the hill expecting to get there 15mins before the start at 6:30pm and totally misjudged it. I arrived 30 mins early and had that awkward decision about whether to go for a run or stay and meet the local club runners. I stayed and had a nice chat with a few. People filtered down and we all had to sign our names and get a hand written number, or old GNR number for our vests. Didn’t seem to matter as it was free.
At 6:45pm there was a photo shoot of some in attendance and a little speech by the organiser about the meaning behind the run. It was for a nice sounding lady called Daphne Wagstaff who had passed away a few years previously but had done a lot for the local running community.
The race started at 7pm in full sun and no wind. Gutted. I hate running in the sun. It was about 26c. I knew it would be flat though so decided to take it easy and not do anything stupid (which is hard for me!).
The 37 of us set off at quite a nice pace and quickly formed into the usual groups. I was at the back of the fast pack and we pounded along watching out for cyclists (who can be quite aggressive in these parts we had been warned) and the odd dog walker. The simple route was an out and back along the prom with the beach (and sun) to our left. I passed about 5 bricked shelters (so I’m glad Wendy knew which one was the special one) and picked up my pace to pass one chap who was being tracked by his wife on a bike. Up ahead we passed almost through a cafe and I eventually saw a friendly face smiling at at sign directing me to turn back. By now the fast lads had passed me on their way back and I had a decent gap between me and the next runner. But it was hot and my head knew what was going to come.
The elevation map of the route should be flat but there were key sections which where I had to jump over a grate or a curb and thus added mini hills of about 10cm. Nothing Fiona B or Stuart and his ladder would struggle with.
With about 1.5km left I started to really feel the heat (Have I mentioned that I hate heat!?). I’d been eating and drinking holiday food all week and probably wasn’t hydrated nearly enough for a parkrun paced race. I could see a female closing about 100m behind me so I had to focus on the bus shelter ahead….but to my horror it wasn’t THE shelter but a trick one to put me off. Onwards forged against the driving wind, rain and 1:4 hills. I wished! My feet were on fire and my eyes were blurring with sweat. I saw the shelter again….people were stood at it so I put my all into the last 100m to make sure I wasn’t passed by the closing lady. But once again I was betrayed by the shelter and it was just a trick! I had to crack on but I’d mentally gone. If I was a horse in the National the jockey would have just pulled me over to trot to the end to protect it from injury. I couldn’t do this! I was representing the Elvet Striders internationally and I could feel the weight of expectation on my drooped shoulders. By now the lady’s shadow was just in the corner of my vision. I knew I’d be beaten. I could actually see the finish now but with 50 yards to go I was passed by what turned out to be the female winner (she was actually second female but you can only win the trophy once and the other lady won it previously).
I passed the line to claps from the fast lot as the first Elvet Strider! I was happy to add to my tally of being the first in purple for my last 2 races (See Roof of England Fell Race).
We stayed around by the beach clapping in all the rest, much as we do up in Durham. The trophies were given out to the first new Male and Females from Jersey Spartan AC. This seemed a good idea as it enabled different to win it rather than just the same persons each year – it was a memorial run after all.
After the photos I popped down the steps to the beach, ran to the shore and jumped in!! Poppy and Fred met me there whilst Jane sunned herself on the beach.
This was a lovely local race with some fast runners and inclusive feel. 37 of us ran and nobody needed a GPS/OS map or more than 1 Marshall. I’d recommend the island and this race to everyone!
I’ve been trying to be ‘Great North Done’. That’s what everyone calls it when you’ve run all the parkruns in the North East. What do you mean you’ve never heard of it? It’s not like I’ve just made it up!
After finally getting to Gibside last week (which is great by the way), I only had Druridge Bay for the set. I’d even got to the sneaky new one at Newbiggin not long after it started. That’s another good one, as our captains will testify to after today, I’m sure. Coincidently I bumped into Paul and Dylan Swinburne there, as I did today at Windy Nook. Yep, another new North East parkrun. We’re spoiled for them up here.
I rolled over in bed to see how many more hours I had to luxuriate when I noticed it was 07:58 and my 07:30 alarm had failed! Luckily I’d got my uniform ready the night before, as if I was a school kid, and was dressed in minutes and out the door before 08:20. This gave me plenty of time to do the 25-minute trip to Gateshead.
The postcode (NE108XU) sends you to Whitehills Community Centre where’s there’s space to park. From there you need to walk 500 yards through a housing estate to Windy Nook Nature Park. The organisers emphasised how we shouldn’t park in the housing estate to avoid annoying the residents. There was free tea and coffee in the Centre after. I expect it won’t always be free.
There was a lot of snow and ice left around the North East and Facebook was peppered with parkruns being cancelled. Luckily not Windy Nook. Coincidentally, my Daughter was supposed to be playing footy at Hill Top School half a mile away but that was cancelled too. The course is not far from Wrekenton XC so that should tell you what to expect. The snow had turned to slush which flowed down the paths and turned the off-road bits into slippy bogs. I’d packed my fell shoes but made the mistake of wearing my brand new Brooks instead. They’d be fine for this course normally but not today.
I was expecting lots of tourists from the cancelled runs. There were 215 runners, in the end. I suspect this parkrun will attract around 150-200 most weeks, but what do I know?
The organisers did a great job welcoming everyone, explaining the route and bad conditions and to expect some hiccups.
The course is complicated. At least it was today. There was a hiccup and we went the wrong way on the first lap (I’ll have to go again to be sure). It’s a three-lap course; you start and finish at the same point. Before the first lap, you set off around a small path loop in the wrong direction then you start the laps. Halfway around, there are 14 steps. But there are two sets of steps in the park and we went up the wrong ones first-time, I’m sure. The real lap has a long wood chip incline with the real steps and a muddy bank. It’s great to do it three times. It’s not as bad as the inclines and hill at Flatts Lane but the mud made it almost impossible to run up today (in Brooks).
Windy Nook is not a PB course. I was saving myself for Sunderland Strollers Half on Sunday and I took nearly 28-mins. I’ll be going back to get under 25 minutes soon. But I don’t think I’ll get very far under.
It’s a fine addition to the ‘Great North Done’ set and all the Striders should get there soon before any more parkruns appear (I’m looking at you Kerry in a Peterlee type direction).
As a parkrun fanatic, I am always delighted when a new Parkrun starts up in the North East. Not only is it great to see the movement growing, but it also creates exciting new possibilities for Parkrun tourism. However, although I like to imagine myself heading off into the wilds of Northumberland or North Yorkshire to tackle a new course, rarely does this actually happen: it’s enough of a challenge to get our family to Maiden Castle by 9, let alone anywhere further afield. But this Saturday was different. Knowing that I had to drop my daughter off for a rowing race in Ashington at the unearthly hour of 7.45 am, I immediately checked the parkrun website and was happy to discover that a new run had started in nearby Newbiggin-by-the-Sea just a week before!
Daughter and her friends dropped off, I headed straight there. The course is, appropriately, by-the-sea. The start is on the beach, but almost immediately you join the long promenade which curves around the attractive Newbiggin bay. There are some interesting sculptures and stunning sea views along the way. At the end of the promenade, you climb a steep grassy hill (I had a flashback to cross-country!), run around a small park, then descend and return along the promenade. The second lap follows roughly the same route. The finish is at the historic Café Bertorelli, famous for its ice cream. Sadly, I didn’t have time to stop and sample it!
This is a scenic, varied, and reasonably challenging parkrun, especially if you happen to be running into the wind (I was surprised to be first female finisher – admittedly, the field was not huge!) I would highly recommend it to all Striders and their families. I’ll be back, and not only so I can try the ice-cream!
I’d enjoyed last year’s Hexham 5k fun run so I felt compelled to support the organisers in their quest to secure enough attendance to route the run through Hexham’s town centre. The council agreed the request and with full road closures for the run, the 5k started 5 minutes before the half marathon from in front of the Queen’s Hall Art Centre. With pleasant weather and a fine view of the Abbey we set off, the HM runners and spectators cheered us from the start line.
Fifty runners followed the path down Hallgate bank and onto Wentworth Place, past the visitor and leisure centres onto the main road to the A69. If you don’t know Hexham this start was entirely downhill and the momentum along with the supporters propelled us along nicely. At this point the course goes over the bridge and drops down along Ferry Road. The course continues along the road where it crosses over the A69 and turns around just before Corchester Lane returning on the same route until a left turn onto Sandhoe takes you to the finish line and a handsome medal of the Abbey.
Anyone who knows me is aware that I’m not the Strider’s fastest runner but with the support, the downhill momentum and aid of Anna Seeley’s HM training sessions I’d managed to knock 3.05 minutes off my PB. The first place 5k runner came in at 20.42. I’m looking forward to Hexham 2018.
… otherwise known as the 2nd Beer Belly Run from the Grey Horse pub in Consett raising funds for Motor Neurone Disease.
This has to be said is a ridiculous concept, one that we have inherited from America. The idea is that runners do 5 x 1K laps around a pub, after each lap you down a half of beer until the last lap when you down a pint. Thankfully I was driving and so was excused the beer swilling however the landlady did give me a glass of wine at the finish.
The entry form said that fancy dress was “positively encouraged” so Paul and I joined the throng – me as Adam Ant in ‘Dandy Highwayman’ mode and Paul as a Beverley Hillbilly. If you weren’t around in the ‘60s Paul’s outfit will be a mystery to you! There were some cracking costumes – Harry Potter characters, Freddy Mercury, a zombie with a rubber mask, Elvis and a man in drag with enormous false breasts to name but a few! The fancy dress prize went to a bloke wearing hideous white Y-fronts with a towel stuffed down the front, he had a knotted hankie on his head, he ran in wellies and he had a brown ‘skid mark’ painted on the back of his pants with some toilet paper hanging out of the waist band. Gross but hilarious! Blackhill Bounders had a few serious runners in it to compete for the prizes – even so I think I might have been second lady! Paul & I certainly finished quite high up … which might give you an idea of the standard.
Afterwards there was a buffet and 2 bands were due to play during the evening. We left after the buffet but it was a very enjoyable afternoon and an entirely fun event.
The inaugural event was last year to raise money for Parkinsons UK – a local teacher, Nigel Nattress had been diagnosed with the disease and the pub organised a series of events to raise money for the charity. The final sum raised was £5000+. Unfortunately, Nigel had been misdiagnosed – he actually had Motor Neurone Disease and died in the spring of this year. He was only in his 40s.
So this year the pub continues fund raising – this time for the MND charity and Marie Curie nursing. The pub raised £500 on Sunday alone. Some students from Longfield School in Darlington, where Nigel taught have raised £2000 in a sponsored sky dive.
The run might have been quite silly, great fun but in a very worthy cause.
This race is three laps of Ropner Park in Stockton and 5k in length. It is all on tarmac, and besides a tiny hill at the end of each lap, it is a very flat and fast course.
I entered this race for two reasons: the first being that entry included a medal with santa on, and the second being that I would get to dress up in my Mrs Santa outfit.
I had planned on taking it easy, since the only short events I have taken part in have been the parkrun, where I have mainly been volunteering as the 30 minutes pacer for the last few months. However, on the morning I felt like I had quite a bit of energy, and since the course was flat and on a good surface, I wondered if I could do under 25 minutes, I guess there was only one way to find out. So off I went, the first lap felt reasonably comfortable, the second lap I started to wonder if I could maintain my pace, in the third lap I could hear someone was trying to pass me which kept me going. However, he did eventually pass me on the final hill, only for him to then not turn off for the finish and headed off to do another lap. Thankfully he very quickly realised his error and turned back. By this point I was ahead of him, so I slowed and let him pass me at the finish, as I am sure he would have beat me had he not started a new lap. I came in at 24 minutes 18.
Dave also had a really good run, finishing in 26:12. He probably could have gone faster but he was also doing another 5k that afternoon, so needed to keep something in reserve for that. There were at least seven other Striders running.
It was not until the next day, when the results came out, that I discovered I was the 3rd lady to finish, thank you to Jill Young for picking up my prize.
As the preparation for Marathons next year begins so the thinking of how to incorporate long runs into family time starts. The chance to take the Jr members of the clan for a day out at Gibside hall and for a few miles to be clocked up running there, followed by a harder end to the run appealed.
Having never done a “great local” run before I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but am happy to confirm that they feel very much like the parkrun of 5 years ago, friendly and well organised with the group totalling around 60 or so.
There are two runs – 2 and 5k – with the longer set off a few seconds earlier. The course starts flat but there are a couple of “lung busters” with the terrain being a mix of hard and softish trail. Marshalls are spread around though both I and Elaine Bisson managed to take wrong turns at separate points, fortunately these were soon corrected. The last mile or so is a long drop with a sharp short climb and a flat finish (very fast).
A great course in a terrific setting, definitely worth a visit.
For the record Elaine finished first Woman about ten seconds ahead of me, due to some really strong hill running, however as her wristband hadn’t arrived (a bit like the parkrun barcode, just a touch fancier) she wasn’t registered in the final results.