Category Archives: Report

Hardmoors 30, Ravenscar, North Yorkshire, Tuesday, January 1, 2019

30 miles

Mark Kearney

Epilogue

The plan was coming together in early 2018. A friend and I were talking of taking on the Hardmoors Marathon series in 2019 after several 10k and half marathon races in 2017 and 2018. The aims of increasing the distance, the elevation, the number of events over a 12-month period were all challenges we believed we were up for….and as part of the training in advance of the first ‘Chapter’ of the Hardmoors series we thought it would be good to take on the New Years Day Hardmoors 15. 15 I hear you say, but the title says 30…. there must be a mistake, a typo in the report which needs correcting…..alas no. The only error occurred by me failing to log on in time to secure a spot in the 15 being forced to sign up for the 30. The cursor hovering over the payment button longer than usual given this was on New Year Day…..however it was not enough to deter me, we pressed proceed and we were in, booked up for 30 Hardmoors miles.

Mark Kearney running along coastal path with lighthouse behind him.

Generally having a good weekly mileage behind me I was confident I could manage the distance but with little hill work other than races in December I went into Christmas wanting to know what I was getting into. A recci of the route a week before helped me understand the areas I thought I could gain time against the ‘mountain goats’ in the race and have a better understanding of the terrain and stages of the race.

An early morning start as usual for the race with the long drive to Robin Hoods Bay for the 9:30 klaxon. As usual the registration area was already busy, seeing some familiar faces and already feeling the warmth and positivity which these races and the runners seem to have in bucket loads. I collected my number, passed the mandatory kit check (and was asked if I was running with my travelling back pack…scary), packed up the hydration vest and started to go for the warmup and congregation on the starting line.

As the competitors gathered on the starting line around me I often reflect on the why, the what and on the where did all this seem normal. A near 40 year old man, wearing compression tights, a race vest, hydration pack and even packing walking poles and a compass…. On New Years Day in 2000 if I could have saw into the future of 2019 I would have reached for another beer to take the image from my mind.

I knew the route, I had completed the research, first 6-7 miles was along a cinder track to Whitby, through the town and up the steps to the abbey. I new this would be a good stretch for me, solid footing, slight incline but steady pace would have me in a good position I hoped a quarter of the way into the race. As the race started there were 4-5 of us in a pack for the first mile…. steady pace until the lead runner picked up the pace and started to kick out 6:30 min/miles towards Whitby. I responded by increasing slightly but knowing we had 27+ miles to go wasn’t interested in a foot race this early on in proceedings and stuck to a slightly revised version of my plan.

After the climbing of the steps I had opened up a gap behind me to the third placed runner but had no sight of the leader. Thinking he had kept his pace going I kept the best rhythm possible on the contours of the Cleveland Way on the route back to Robin Hoods Bay for the half way check point. The ground and weather to us were kind in equal measure as we ran along the cliff tops, the ground hardened since the previous weeks recci which I was extremely glad of which allowed me to make good time over the first 13 miles.

Back into Robin Hoods Bay check point at mile 13/14, shouted out my number, gave a wave to the marshal, grabbed a handful of jelly babies and off I went. Next stop Ravenscar and Hayburn Wyke for the third quarter of the route. Again I knew this was back on the cinder track, firm footing but a steady climb to Ravenscar before flattening to Hayburn, chance to push on to see if I could see the leader…..all to no avail but knowing I had tried left me confident I shouldn’t have lost time on third place. Here I filled up my water for the first time since the start before the last push back along the coast and the Cleveland Way to Robin Hoods Bay. Taking on more fuel I prepared for the technical part of the race, a series of climbs and descents from cliff top to bay, down stone steps, boggle holes and the like as we raced back to Robin Hoods Bay; wind in our faces as we made our way over the cliff tops and through the tree lined trail.

Running down through the steep descent through Ravenscar to the Alum works, remembering this on the recci and the route to go through the works on the Cleveland Way through to Robin Hoods Bay…. or was it straight past the Alum works? I kept going knowing it shouldn’t be that much of a detour, only to come out and turn around and see third place behind me…. from nowhere. Immediately the pace picked up as I passed multiple tourists walking along the coast for a New Year’s Day stroll, a million ‘excuse me’s’, ‘runner coming through’ and ‘sorry’s’ later I was down at the base of Robin Hoods, no sign of third place…..on reflection given how bad I thought I would smell after the best part of four hours running you would think they would move quicker out of my way. Ill forgive them though due to the breeze and the fresh sea air combined with the previous nights copious amounts of alcohol.

One last push I knew, a sting in the tail, a steep climb on tarmac from the bay to Flyingdales community centre. A push and drive of the legs up to the crest and a turn back to see no one behind me…a chance to relax, gather and refresh the legs before the climbs levelled off allowing a few minutes to find rhythm before the finish line and put on a brave face….. and finally seeing the first placed runner again.

The clue is invariably in the race series title that these will be Hard but the spirit of the organisers, competitors, marshals and supporting families make these fantastic races and extremely popular for all ages and abilities and something I would recommend to anyone.

Overall a great race, great day and great way to start 2019. 4 hours of running, over 2000 foot of climb in a beautiful part of Northern England….and happy to come away with second place.

p.s. it was also great to see Dave Toth picking up his 1000 Hardmoors Mile in the 15 event…impressive if punishing running!

results

posbibtimenamecat
11394:04:30Phil Jones (Shropshire Shufflers)MV40
21404:09:27Mark KearneyM
581145:50:08Eric GreenMV50
621135:52:09Aaron GourleyMV40
(Visited 49 times, 1 visits today)

Nine Standards Fell Race, Kirkby Stephen, Tuesday, January 1, 2019

BM 8mile; 549m climb

Nigel Heppell

A straightforward out and back again fell race starting from Kirby Stephen marketplace.
Hosted by Howgill Harriers.

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Unusually warm, dry and sunny conditions meant this was a very runnable race.

See if you can work out where the summit lies on the chart below –

Results

1st J Cox (Eden runners) 00:53:17
62 Geoff Davis (NFR) 1:09:08 1st V60
70 Penny Browell 1:10:17
145 Nigel Heppell 1:22:55
166 Dougie Nisbet 1:29:16
196 finishers

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Cuddy’s Corse – The Mince Pie Equaliser, Chester-le-Street to Durham , Friday, December 28, 2018

~8 miles Social Run

Jonathan Hamill

Keen to settle their festive excess debt, a dozen or so Striders met at St Mary and St Cuthbert Parish Church in Chester-le-Street, lured by the promise of a challenging, hilly yet rewarding route – Cuddy’s Corse.

I explained at the start how lucky we were not to have to carry the uncorrupted body of Cuthbert, the Patron Saint of the North, like those who went before us. I then suggested we stage a club relay run with a coffin – this received a less than enthusiastic response.

Off we went from the Church, under the A167, following part of the Riverside parkrun route, then across the River Wear towards the field edges and a lovely climb up to Great Lumley. Luck and fair weather were on our side as the conditions were favourable compared to the slip-slide of the last Striders’ run on this route. Having paused at the top to admire the views, we processed on to Finchale Priory and to more familiar ground – HMP Frankland, continuing down to Durham (at this point folk seemed to rejoice in the downhill opportunity).

Following the exact Cuddy’s Corse route, we crossed Framwellgate Bridge and startled shoppers as we climbed Silver Street and up to the Cathedral – job done and well done all!

Corse Map

Corse Leaflet

(Visited 73 times, 1 visits today)

Guisborough Woods, Guisborough, N Yorks, Thursday, December 27, 2018

BS 5.5miles Climb 1234ft

Fiona Brannan

I’ve had a gentle few months in terms of training, an injury picked up in early November, not helped by a fall in the Wooler Marathon (two months later, the bruising is still there and hurting!). Cross-country proved doable, but running in, or walking in the fells was impossible for a few months, as I could go up fine – but not down!

After a rather sedentary week in Somerset for Christmas, and a number of get-togethers and office parties in the weeks before, the short and not horrendously steep Guisborough Woods race was a good way to get back into fell races, if not actually onto the top of any fells. It is a course of 3 laps around the quarry in Guisborough woods, each lap with around 130m of climb and descent – so after the first, you know exactly what you have to do again, and again… In terms of distance, it is close to cross-country, but requires rather more effort – a worthwhile training exercise for both the up and downhills! It might not be the most scenic of fell races – it’s not a bad view, you just see the same one three times – but is a marked, marshalled course with no exposed summits or kit requirements (on the day I did it – in bad weather this would likely change!) so a good options for anyone off work and looking for something to do between Christmas and New Year (there are junior races too). The lapped course may not be the most exciting, but it does mean that no runner is ever far from the start or help if needed. A bumper turnout of around 200 runners showed lots had this idea!

My time off and reduced training definitely showed, I was significantly slower and in more discomfort in the climbs than usual, but made it round all the same being beaten by sometime Strider Danny Lim – that hasn’t happened before! Well done Danny, I’ll need to work harder next time… At least the weather was kind and sunny, and my knee didn’t show any signs of pain on the descent, which meant I was able to claw back some time and places careering down through the mud, nearly taking out a poor man from DFR on one lap (running down steep mud is easy – stopping quickly is not!). Not long after I finished, Mike Bennett ran in, soon followed by Nina, arms out and clearly enjoying flying down the hill for a final time. We lined up along the finish to cheer Jan in, the final of our ladies team (we came 3rd!) as she let us all know that she had managed to stay on her feet this time, no broken bones!

A trundle back to base at the Rugby Club for the prize giving – including winter series winners from last year, the year before, top 3 male and female finishers in this years race, veteran finishers, junior prizes – I kept asking Nina what the current prize was for, eventually we both lost count – Esk Valley are very generous with their prizes! A final shout of ‘anyone who hasn’t got a prize, and thinks they should have – come and see me!’ and time to go home and wash the mud (and in Nina’s case – blood) off our legs and rest up ready for the Captain Cooks NYD race.

(Visited 96 times, 1 visits today)

3200m Time Trial or 12 Bridges, Maiden Castle, Wednesday, December 19, 2018

3200m

Club photo in market square of Striders with Christmas Tree in background.

photo credit: Jonathan Hamill
Chocolates and Mulled Wine in the Market Square

3200m Track Time Trial

PosTimeBIBStrider
100:10:45.8512Georgie Hebdon
200:10:53.7526Michael Littlewood
300:10:56.4428Mark Kearney
400:11:03.3227Graeme Watt
500:11:36.322Bryan Potts
600:11:59.0831James Garland
700:12:18.2914Allan Renwick
800:12:19.2621Emma Thompson
900:12:29.1229Mark Christie
1000:12:49.7117Craig Thornton
1100:13:01.2223Andrew Davies
1200:13:14.3622Conrad White
1300:13:33.476Davey Lumsdon
1400:13:40.5911Adrian Jenkins
1500:13:46.0432Sarah Davies
1600:13:50.814David Browbank
1700:13:55.3710Matthew Carr
1800:14:23.8125Peter Hart
1900:14:29.2116Alex Brown
2000:14:45.0830Pete Matthews
2100:14:56.723Paul Chute
2200:14:58.8324Anna Mason
2300:15:21.3218Tim Matthews
2400:15:47.0319Jan Young
2500:15:48.8920Vics Jackson
2600:15:51.451Steve Ellis
2700:15:59.315Joanne Patterson
2800:16:21.797Lisa Lumsdon
2900:16:39.5815Rachel Coy
3000:16:48.429Sam Askey
3100:17:39.438Kathryn Shanks
3200:18:09.0013Peter Dawson
(Visited 31 times, 1 visits today)

‘Running My Way’ by Tamsin Imber, Monday, December 17, 2018

Tamsin Imber

Grab a cuppa, maybe some cake, and enjoy a light-hearted read. ‘Running My Way’  is a celebration of taking life by the horns. It documents…

  • What happens when Tamsin, a busy working mum of two, immerses herself in the joy of running and discovers running ‘her way’. From the curiously meditative experience of running hard on a track, to the adventures of running 30 miles across the North York Moors sustained by frozen Jaffa Cakes.
  • The passion and friendliness of the running community, united by the simple act and immense liberation of putting one foot in front of the other (lots of times).
  • The joy of running with wild abandon through the bogs, moors and woods of the countryside.
  • Why the challenge of competitive running is truly addictive. And why you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you don’t get a Personal Best.
  • Why CFS/ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) is a serious and life restricting illness. 

 

As follows is an extract from this book by kind permission from Pitch Publishing.

The ‘Hardmoors ‘White Horse Marathon’ North Yorkshire Moors. (28miles, hilly), May 2015.

Driving down the A19 was like driving through the sea! The heavy rain beat down hard and bounced straight back up off the road. The wind came in gusts and repeatedly slammed rain into the side of the car. The car air conditioning roared loudly at full blast as GH (gorgeous husband) battled to demist the windows. Through all this noise the words of James Bay were occasionally caught as the song ‘Cry me a River’ played on the radio! No need to cry, we already had a river! I half wondered if it would be cancelled.  Had I met the organiser of the Hardmoors series, I would have known how unlikely this was!  For now, I really hoped it was on. I was buzzing with excitement!

After our little white Fiat Panda had struggled up the steep angles of Sutton Bank, GH and the kids dropped me off and made haste to warm indoor places in York. The warm inviting car drove away and I was abandoned in the heavy rain in a deserted Sutton Bank visitor centre early on a dim morning in May. In a moment of inspiration I had grabbed my ancient, ‘car-to- work- entrance’ umbrella from the car just before it drove off, and I now tried to shelter underneath it.  This umbrella was useless as the spokes on one side had been bent a long time ago and the thing turned inside out whenever it knew a big blast of wet wind was coming my way. I skidadeled to the visitor centre, hoping to find some shelter. As I got closer I noticed a small group of runners sheltering beneath the roof between the two visitor centre buildings. They were all smiling! Had they not noticed there was a gale outside? One guy was even stripping off in an act of defiant optimism! I was slightly cold!  One lady had come all the way from Norway to experience the North York Moors. I think she was going to get a true experience!

I realised I needed to collect my race number so asked for directions. They pointed me towards the front of the visitor centre. There in small field was a small white tent flapping about for dear life in the breeze! Umbrella up, I braced myself to the elements and made a run for the tent, slip sliding on the mud. My umbrella laughed at me mockingly and used it as another great opportunity to turn inside out.

In the tent I found another group of sheltering runners and marshals giving out numbers. I collected my number and cowered in the tent for a bit. It got closer to the start time, so I joined everyone now congregating behind the start and I shivered beneath my merciless umbrella as the heavens delivered further onslaughts of sheets of water.  In a sudden big gust my umbrella then whacked me in the face. I tried to show it who was boss by throwing it into a nearby bin. Soon a big, strong and tough looking man appeared. He looked like he had come from the army! This turned out to be the Hardmoors organiser. He gave a strict briefing in true style, one that I would come to know and love over the next year, rounding off with a “ OK you ‘orrible lot. Five, four, three, two one, go suffer!”

There was nothing left to do but to embrace the heavens! First along the top of a wood along the top of the escarpment. It was slightly more sheltered with this tree barrier.  I didn’t have a hood as I hadn’t been able to find a cheap water proof jacket with hood in my copious spare time, just a thin wooley hat on my head. My hat soon became soaked through, but it was a warm, heavy wet thing on my head which was better than nothing on my head. We ran along a rutted, rocky footpath, which necessitated sighting ahead to find the best foot landings without falling over. This was difficult through my rain streaming glasses. Then it was down a steep mud bank and around Goremire lake, which is a very nice hidden gem. There were marshals around the lake which helped as there were a myriad of little muddy paths here and there. Once round the lake it was a steep mud bank, back up on to the moor.  The mud back was churned up by all the runners ahead and I was on my knees at times!

Then we ran away from the edge, and higher up on to the open wild exposed Moors! It really could not have got any wetter! I cannot report on the views. I just saw a watery scene with some heather in it. Due to my impaired vision it was hard to navigate. After five or so miles, there was a path off to the right. Was this our path? Luckily my map was accessible and cling-filmed, stowed in my new, still cheap, but larger, running rucksack. I could not see the map, but others could, and this confirmed we did indeed need to take this path.

Brilliant! We were now running south west, the rain behind us with a downhill trend. Lovely!  On a steep muddy descent my road shoes were a bit like ice skates and I had to gingerly slow down to a tip toe. There were six guys just behind me at this point. They waited patiently, offering encouragement! I felt very bad holding them up though so let them past as soon as I could find a vaguely firm surface to stand on. Then it was to a forest. I put on a surge and managed to catch the guys up. I was surprised to find I wasn’t so keen on people passing me! I kept up with them along the wider track through the edge of the forest. They put on a good pace! Hooray, it had stopped raining now! Eventually the guys out-paced me and disappeared into the distance.

I was now running alone through private land. (The organiser had negotiated with the land owner to enable us to run through this area, due to a problem with the original route).  This felt nicely well off the beaten track! It was a wooded area of recent tree felling and machines and vehicles had churned up the land. Spindly tree branches lay across the path spiking me through my leggings. Underfoot was soft rutted mud. At one point I had to haul myself up a bank of tree branches! I hadn’t had so much fun for ages! Eventually I came to the other side of the dendrous*[1]obstacle course, to meet a smart little road. Tarmac felt like a luxury product! At a junction I was unsure of which way to go. I admit to being very lazy and instead of wrestling my numb fingers with wet zips to get the map out I just waited until the runner behind caught me up. He seemed surprised to see me standing there. He was very polite and also confident about the route. We ran on together and enjoyed some conversation. The bit on the road was not for long and we soon found ourselves running across a flat valley bottom through grassy and boggy fields. We talked about the possibility of trench foot. The valley was steep sided and wooded. Then ahead I saw the most beautiful sight! It was Riveaux Abbey, shrouded in the low mist which blended into a white sky. The Abbey looked eerie and majestic. Given the weather, the Abbey grounds were deserted and we had this peaceful sight to ourselves. A lone marshal directed us over a stone hump back bridge and we headed back West, admittedly still a fair few miles to go, but West nevertheless which uplifted my spirits and gave the legs a new boost of energy from places unknown.

It was round further woods and grassy fields we went, more ups and downs, to reach a final checkpoint. The Hardmoors series is entirely run by these amazing volunteers who stand in bad weather at wild outposts for hours, who are always smiling and encouraging and some even bring home baking! Some are runners, others are friends. I thank them, and did no more so than at this point when I was feeling the distance. I was offered a cup of delicious cool water and home made shortbread! It was nice to chat and stay a while! Then back to the task at hand, to get to Sutton Bank Visitor centre. After more knee wrenchingly muddy paths, came a rather less attractive track, with less attractive views. I guess we were right off to the south of the Moors now. It was  past featureless ploughed fields. It was very long. I was felt really hungry and had a craving for meat. As I passed a lone grass pasture I eyed up the sheep.

I caught up some others and we walked up a hill, discussing the gravity of the situation to justify walking! Groups of walkers with dogs appeared in the wooded area a mile from the Visitor Centre. Then at long last the Visitor Centre was ahead! Just a case of getting round to the tent! The sun shone down warmly and the car park was now full and a buzzing scene of happy picnickers and families! I stumbled along the side of the car park to be cheered on by a few runners, (some of whom I recognised from earlier) who had already finished. Finally I was back in the tent and a marshal took my number down. I was a bit stunned at how much of the North York Moors you can see in a morning if you want to! My family returned from a good morning seeing the museums of York and we went to the Visitor Centre café to exchange experiences. I also got a sausage sandwich!

The next day was a Monday and I turned up at the women’s running group! I had heard the word ‘recovery run’ bandied about, but wasn’t sure really what it meant. A slow run to ease the legs maybe? I’m not sure I could do that! My legs were so stiff I had to kind of walk down the stairs like a robot without bending my legs. Sitting down was painful, and at home the repeated sweeping of the floor necessitated by children meant flipping myself from standing to press up position without bending the legs, sweeping up lying down, then snaking to the bin! At the track I decided to cheer people on, then enjoyed the café! I told the woman’s running group leader about my post race mobility. She looked at me wryly and said well done. She asked me how the route had been. I’ve no idea, I replied I hadn’t seen 95 per cent of it what with the rain on my glasses!

If you wish to read more, Tamsin’s book is available to pre-order from Waterstones and Amazon websites. It is available from these websites and in bookshops from 17thDecember 2018. 

https://www.pitchpublishing.co.uk/shop/running-my-way

[1]          Dendrous: Made of twisting tree branches, logs and other forest furniture.

(Visited 93 times, 1 visits today)

Christmas Handicap 2018, Houghall, Durham, Sunday, December 16, 2018

Handicap Course

Pam Kirkup

The Christmas Handicap came within a whisker of being cancelled this year. A few days before the deadline, I had only 6 entrants and quite a few apologies from people who would normally take part but were doing other races or Christmassy things. But then there was a flurry of last-minute entries and on the morning of the race, there were 34 runners, about normal for the last few years.

The theme for fancy dress this year was ‘Movies past and present’ – lots of scope in that, I thought. George Nicholson and David Shipman had agreed to lead off the ‘scratch runners’ so that anybody new to the course would not get lost (more about that later!) and the various turning points and ‘hazards’ were well marked with arrows and tinsel.

And so we were all set to get going at 11.00 … except that the only ‘scratch’ runner hadn’t turned up. So I had to do a quick revision of the handicapping – mostly in my head.

Where’s Allan Seheult when you need him? He’d have done it in a heartbeat! So David (alias Where’s Wally and George (alias Banana Man?) set off with the 3 new scratch runners, followed by Wendy (the Riddler) Littlewood. There were some amazing costumes including Captain America, Crocodile Dundee, a nun, a busy-bee and Conrad who seemed to be a downhill racer!

It was a good day for running – not too cold, sunny and the only bit of ice was on part of the footpath and on the corner at Houghall Lane. Everyone entered into the spirit of it – the bran tub was overflowing and Santa entertained passers-by as usual.

The first across the finish line was Fiona Harrington Hughes in 47 minutes. Fastest male was Bryan Potts in 32:07, the fastest female was Fiona Brennan in 34:56. All 3 juniors got prizes – the fastest being Lewis Littlewood in 41:01. The rest of the prizes were for fancy dress. And then we come to the last across the finish line … we waited but there was no sign. And then someone said ‘Is that not him running down from Shincliffe Bank?’. Completely from the wrong direction! He had just kept going past Houghall Lane in spite of the large arrow and tinsel directing runners to turn right. Obviously ‘in the zone’! Anyway, he saw the funny side of it.

Afterwards, we went to the Court Inn for the Christmas Carvery and the prize giving. Fancy Dress prizes went to (in no particular order) Lizzy Wallace, Conrad White, Mike Bennett, Anna Mason, George Nicholson, Lesley Charman, David Shipman, Wendy Littlewood, Tim Matthews, Lesley Hamill, Karen Byng, Fiona Kinghorn Jones, Joanne Richardson, Sam Renwick, Jonathan Hamill and Fiona Brannan.

Once again it was a very enjoyable and sociable event.

More Photo’s can be found here.

Name5 mile timeHandicapFinish timeActual time
Bryan Potts29.0022.0054.0732.07
Fiona Brannan29.0022.0055.5633.56
Sam Renwick30.0021.0055.2134.21
Terry Robertson35.0016.0051.5935.49
David Holcroft35.0016.0051.5735.57
Lewis Littlewood40.0011.0047.0136.01
Conrad White37.0014.0051.2437.24
Mike Bennett34.0017.0056.4839.38
Lizzie Wallace43.008.0049.4141.41
Anna Mason42.009.0052.0643.06
Tim Matthews42.009.0053.4844.48
Oscar Littlewood40.0011.0056.0345.03
Graham Perry38.0013.0058.4145.41
Fiona Harrington Hughes51.000.0047.0047.00
Lesley Charman43.008.0055.1947.19
Wendy littlewood48.003.0051.1048.10
Joanne Mustard43.008.0059.1251.12
Fiona Kinghorn Jones45.006.0058.1652.16
Karen Byng45.006.0058.1652.16
Lesley Hamill45.006.0058.1652.16
Danielle Glassey46.005.0059.0954.09
David Shipman51.000.0056.4256.42
George Nicholson51.000.0058.0158.01
Joanne Richardson51.000.0058.0158.01
Erin51.000.0059.1259.12

(Visited 86 times, 1 visits today)

Tour de Helvellyn: A Tale of Two Spectators, Lake District, Saturday, December 15, 2018

Our route: 17 miles, a few thousand ft of ascent, 3 coffee shops, 30 miles bus travel

Nina Mason

It was Brownies that taught me to always carry emergency money. The 2p piece for the telephone box has now been replaced by my credit card, a crumpled fiver, and my phone….and I was glad of the 40-yr old lesson last Saturday.

I’d heard about the Tour a couple of years ago, but it wasn’t until this year that I’d thought it might be achievable for me to complete. I want to enter the race in 2019, giving me time to build up the mileage required, practise navigation, running in the dark etc. Having done an out-and-back recce of the first and last 12 miles of the route, I wanted to recce the ‘loop’ at the end of this ‘stick’, parking at Patterdale and following the course round Helvellyn

And what better day to do it? On the day of the race itself, with Mum for company, at an easy jog/walk pace, experiencing the weather the competitors would get. I’d checked the forecast and we knew it would be a tough day out, so kitted up with everything we needed. We would go in the opposite direction to the runners and hoped to surprise the hardy group of Striders that were competing (Aaron, Elaine, Geoff, Juliet, and Patricia) with chocolate and jelly babies half way up a hill. I’d worked out their approximate split times, aiming to bump into them between their checkpoints 3 and 4, probably on our way up to Sticks Pass.

Well, that was the plan…..

The day started well. Up at 4.30, drive and park up at Patterdale. Then a 7 am start up to Grisedale Tarn. In hindsight, this was the best bit of the day. Despite the freezing temperature and a bit of breeze, we soon got warmed up, jog-walking up the track, head torches on. It was pitch dark when we set off, and the mountains slowly appeared around us as we headed up the hill – a stunning experience that I will never forget.

It was quite breezy at Grisedale Tarn but nothing we couldn’t manage, followed by a very icy (so fairly slow) descent down Raise Beck. The next section – a long forest track by the side of Thirlmere – was straightforward. We stopped briefly for second (maybe third!) breakfast, and I think we were lulled into a false sense of security by the breeze – nothing alarming – being at our backs.

We reached Stanah (the runners’ checkpoint 4) at 11 am. I’d been expecting to see runners coming towards us by now, but there was no-one visible. Maybe they were just on their way…

What happened next justified some of the precautions that we are all told to take when we head up the hills – appropriate clothing, map and compass, spare food…yes, all that of course, it goes without saying. But equally important – an ‘escape route’ and (Brownie) bus fare home.

As we headed up the steep path to Sticks Pass the wind was in our faces. After a couple of hundred metres of ascent, we were struggling. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced wind like it – literally, every step required effort and a pause to rebalance and ‘pin’ ourselves two-footed to the ground. The wind was relentless, and every now and then a stronger gust would mean we had to stand still, leaning into it, preparing to drop to the ground if it knocked us down. Whilst we were just about warm enough in our clothing, the bits of exposed skin around our eyes (the only bit showing between hat, hood, and buff) was freezing, it was so bitterly cold.

So when mum got knocked off her feet the second time by the wind (quite literally blown off her feet) we knew it was time to quit. I’ve only ever bailed out once before – in similar conditions out walking with Leigh when she was young (also in the Lakes). If I had been alone I might have continued, but I always tell Tony I’ll bring Mum home in one piece, and it just suddenly felt too dangerous – so we hunkered down, backs to the wind, and looked at our options. Back down the hill to Stanah first.

We then considered a long jog/walk back to Patterdale via the Old Coach Road and Dockray, but the mileage looked a bit much, particularly as it was starting to rain fairly heavily by now, and the wind would have been in our faces for much of it.

From there then, an easy, though long, finish to the day. Coffee shop then jogged along to Threlkeld, half hour wait; bus to Penrith, over an hour wait and two more coffee shops (pretty cold and sick by this time); bus to Patterdale, and then a drive home in appalling conditions via the A69 (the 66 unsurprisingly being shut). Home at 8 pm desperate for a shower and bed.

I think Mum enjoyed herself – the early start took a bit of convincing, but she agreed it paid off. I think she too will remember the experiences of the day. And – she had the foresight to bring her bus pass! (hmmm, I must ask if she went to Brownies….)

We found out later that the race went ahead, but a shorter route – to CP3 and back. We had missed the runners by about a mile and a half – in my opinion, the wildest, windiest mile and a half in the country that day! Well done to Aaron, Elaine, Geoff, Juliet, and Patricia on the day – we were thinking about you even if you didn’t get the shouts and sweet treats!

After a day like this, I tend to reflect. What did I learn?
I want to experience more darkness and dawns amongst the hills.
I am definitely planning to do the Tour next year.
The life-skills learned at Brownies will remain with me forever (laugh if you want, but we played a game involving the order you wash your dishes, and that also remains with me).
And I obviously have more ballast than mum.

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Tour de Helvellyn, Askham, Lake District, Saturday, December 15, 2018

38 miles (shortened route 27 miles)

Aaron Gourley

The warmth of the village hall was soon forgotten as I headed out the door and into the morning darkness for the start of the Tour de Helvellyn. The weather forecast had been the subject of much debate the previous day on Facebook between the small group of Striders that were due to take part in the race.

. The weather forecast had been the subject of much debate the previous day on Facebook between the small group of Striders that were due to take part in the race.

With Storm Deirdre bringing winds in excess of 60 miles per hour and wind chill down to around minus 10 degrees, the day was certainly looking to be a challenging adventure. Thrown into the mix were freezing rain, a rare occurrence in the UK, and snow for later in the day to further add to the hazards we’d face. The weather brought the dilemma of what kit to start the race in and what to carry in addition. I opted to start out light and add layers as the day went on meaning I’d be carrying a fairly heavy pack.

I arrived at Askham Village hall in good time to register and prepare ahead of the race which I’d decided to start at around 7:30 am. Getting out of the car it was immediate how cold it was going to be and headed straight to the hall to register. Upon entering I happened to notice a small handwritten note which read that the route was to be shortened by around 12 miles, cutting out the loop around Helvellyn due to the weather.

At registration, this was confirmed and although I was slightly disappointed, I was relieved that I wouldn’t be out in the mountains for as long as I’d thought. This also meant I could ditch a small amount of the extra kit I was carrying and lighten up my pack a little. As I did so, Elaine, Geoff and Juliet turned up to register.

Out on the open moor, it was starting to get light as I moved at a steady pace having set off at 7:45 am. The wind was blowing but nowhere near as strong as expected and, despite the initial shock of the cold, I was happy with the number of layers I had on. The first few miles cross Askham Moor are pretty straightforward to navigate. I ran with a girl from Penrith and we chatted as we steadily made our way towards Howtown.

The ground was quite hard underfoot and there was the odd patch of ice but nothing too treacherous. At Howtown there’s a choice of routes you can take to get to the first checkpoint at Martindale Church – either continue straight across the trail and arrive at the back of the church, or cut down past the adventure centre and run up the road to the church. It’s noted that the road is the quicker of the two and is the route I took on my previous running of this race. Today, opted for the trail.

Checking in at Martindale Church, I moved swiftly through to the next section which is a long road run up the valley to the start of Boredale Hause. From here the route climbs to the col which then leads to the village of Patterdale on the other side. The next checkpoint is at Side Farm at the foot of the pass on the edge of Patterdale but you cannot pass through until this opens at 9:30 am so timing your run is vital. This meant that there were a lot of runners on this section as I arrived just after the opening of the checkpoint.

Inside I grabbed a few treats then made off for the next section through Glenridding and up towards our turn around point at Swart Beck Footbridge, just below Sticks Pass. The weather was still ok on this side of the valley but the howl of the wind could be heard and every now and again there’d be a strong gust that would take you by surprise. Still taking my time, I ran into Glenridding and up past the Traveller Rest pub to the Greenside for the start of the steep climb up to Swart Beck. The route climbs steeply here, often the need to use all fours to make progress. It was getting colder and the wind was stronger as I made my way up. For the very short moment I dared lift my head I spotted Elaine making light work of the descent having already been to the checkpoint and turnaround point. The girl is a machine and had passed me somewhere on the route as I knew she’d started after me.

I eventually got to the point where that path levelled off and made my way across to the checkpoint before turning around and making my way back. On the way back I passed Geoff who has been running immensely strong this year and again, I knew had started after me so was making good time. It was now a battle to try and stay ahead of him.

The run back off was taken with caution as the ground was covered in loose rocks. I slipped and pulled a muscle in my left shoulder, nothing serious but was quite painful at the time. Retracing my steps back through Glenridding to Side Farm, I enjoyed the run in the shelter of the valley. I checked in at Side Farm and took a moment to grab a nice hot cup of tea and a biscuit. Rather than wasting time, I set off with my tea (you have to bring your own mug if you want a drink), as I left Geoff came running in, he was closing the gap on me.

I made my way up the steep climb back up to Boredale with my tea which seemed to be retaining its heat a bit too well. The climb was slow and laborious but eventually, I reached the top, stashed my now empty cup and made for the long descent back to Martindale Church. At the foot of the pass, I went to open a farm gate but a gust of wind howled in and trapped me, I had to wait until it eased to get myself free. I ran/walked up the road eventually arriving back at the church. I checked in and decided to head back across the trail rather than take to road route through Howtown.

The wind was picking up and my body temperature was dropping as was my pace. I was feeling really tired all of a sudden and running was becoming difficult. The ground was getting icier heading back to Askham and the tracks were becoming more hazardous. Hopping the tracks and ice was energy sapping and because of this I misjudged a jump and ended up flat on my back. I lay for a bit as I slowly tried to comprehend what I’d just done before trying to get up which was much more difficult than it should have been.

It was now raining but it didn’t seem too heavy. This was freezing rain however and I was now soaked and very cold. With about a mile and a half to go, I decided to just keep moving and get back to the finish as quickly as possible. Eventually, I made it back and was so glad to be warm. Elaine was already relaxing and Geoff was back getting changed. He’d managed to pass my due to route choice at Martindale Church, I’d taken the high road, he’d taken the low.

In all, I’d enjoyed this race but was pretty relieved that it had been shortened – even though it was still a 27-mile race. I made hard work of it as I seem to have with all my races in 2018 but it was a good experience again. The journey home was just as eventfully however as the A66 had been closed meaning a diversion up the M6 and across the A69 was needed to get home.

2018 Results

PosNo.NameClubCategoryTime Taken
1251Jim MannDurham Fell RunnersM05:42:46
5126Katie Kaars SijpesteijnNorth Leeds Fell Runners1st F06:16:53
12236Scott WatsonMV5006:41:57
96115Mike HughesMV4008:42:02
9755Geoff DavisMV5008:43:12
11985Aaron GourleyM09:06:35
138172Juliet PercivalFV4009:24:58
13856Mandy DawsonFV4009:24:58

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