This HAS to be one of the best races in the north-east! The fact that it sells out in a few hours supports this.
Beautiful rock-pooled, sandy beaches , Dunstanburgh castle, the pretty village of Craster and convivial cliff top coastal footpath make this one magnificent run! And when raining and grey this coast looks beautiful in a wild, wind-bashed way. I make no apologies for the amount of gush in this report!
Today, early morning in Beadnell, the sky was thick with cloud and it was raining. I was cowering in the warm baggage bus along with others, discussing if a rain coat would be a good idea. One lady posed the question, had you ever needed a raincoat during a race in the summer? The problem was that my answer to this question was yes. However, today the temperature was 19 degrees. Also I am usually freezing cold before all races whatever the time of day or year, and it seems to bare no relation at all to my temperature when running. That the hidey holes of trees in my local nature reserve are often housing old jumpers of mine to collect after a run is attest to this. So, I decided to wear, a swimming costume, my Striders vest top and a thick cove of factor 50+. (The latter to protect me from any direct sunlight that in a freak event may appear. I was on antibiotics following tick bite in Dalby forest, the type of which the nurse stressed to me makes the skin more sensitive to sunlight so I must stay in the shade she said with emphasis).
Detaching myself from the bus, and shivering in the cold wind which greeted me I jogged up over the small dunes green with thick tussocky maram grass and down onto the beach. At the top of the beach were little fishing boats pulled up high above the tide line resting on their sides on the sand. The sea looked grey and ominous, reflecting the sky. A large crowd of runners was rapidly gathering at the Beadnell end of the beach in the distance. With still twenty minutes to go I decided to get the legs moving and jogged in the opposite direction for a bit. Matt Archer and two others ran towards me doing the same. Then it was time to go to the start. I met Rachelle in the crowd. I felt anxious though as I did not know which way we were heading, there was just a sea of heads around me. So I whizzed out of the crowd and approached it head-on. The crowd was fronted by a line of elites! Like, no joke, they totally looked like them Ha ha! Thin, muscley men, shoulder to shoulder, silent and focused looking….and Gareth was one of them…phew! He looked a bit surprised to see me, perhaps as I was about to get run over in two minutes? He helpfully advised me we were all headed between the two bright orange marshals half way down the beach. I quickly made my way past the elites for about 3 metres deep into the crowd until I got to some ladies and stood with them.
One minute later with a loud parrrrrrp on the horn, we were off! Careering across Beadnell Bay! People were running all round me. There were large pools of water, where the sand was hard but rippled and uneven underfoot. Big splash as your foot suddenly went down into a pool, and up the other side. I kept getting side splash from other runners, and it started to rain again now, so also getting wet from above. More splash from below as a river crossed the sand. Despite this I was now totally baking hot! My swimming costume seemed really heat insulating. It was annoying, so I took my striders vest off and wrapped it round my arm, Ah, that. Running in a swimming costume! Well, we were on a beach. After a short cliff top stretch we onto Newton Haven beach, and then the grand beach of Embleton Bay. The mystical stone ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle rose out of the misty haze on the distant headland that cups the bay. I headed towards the sea, to run on the wet firmer sand. Half way across I could see there was a choice of path, either stick to the coastal path or clamber over rocks up to the path. I opted for the latter. It would not save me much distance but it would avoid the runner congestion on the coastal path. I changed my track to head straight for the rocks. As I did so, who should speed past me but Jon Ayres! Lovely to see him! He asked me when my next triathlon was (a reference to the swimming costume?). I said it was today if I got tired of running.. We kept pace together and reached the rocks which were very slippery and seaweed covered. We bounded up as fast as we could, and met the path, which was unexpectedly muddy and slippery. This continued on the narrow path round the castle, slip-slide running. Trying not to elbow other runners. Once past this bit, the path widened and was back on low cliff tops. One of the Kenyans I’d seen at the start was sat on the side as he had injured his foot and was clearly in pain. There were two marshals helping him so I carried on. Jon had gone on ahead at this point.
We were fast approaching Craster. I was well surprised! Half way already? This half seemed so much easier than Dalby Forest half, but then this one is flat and easier underfoot, and there is no flat in Dalby. Craster is a pretty little village and running through it I could smell the smoke of the Craster fish smokery. A small crowd of local residents cheered us on. After Craster there was a long stretch of muddy slippery coastal foot top. I kept my pace, comfortable but a bit hard. I was enjoying this! We ran down onto the next beach to be immediately greeted by a bridge over a stream. A girl overtook me at this point but I was determined to follow her as there probably was only 4 miles left now I estimated, from my study of the OS map beforehand. Also, at this point I sensed an up-shift in vibe in the runners around me from ‘maintaining pace’ to ‘getting serious’. I upped my pace to match hers and kept a secret 10 metres behind her. I followed her steadily along the path. Off Boulmer beach, onto another hedge-lined minor road parallel with the sea. This one was looong, but I knew it lead to the final headland then onto the final beach. It was not far now, the guys around me were now more upping it, as was the girl I was following. At the headland, marshals cheered us on and said 2 miles to go! Yes! Down a flight of steep steps and we were onto the last beach! Great! Nice to be back on sand, another beautiful bay, this beach had a few areas of slippery grey rocks and rock pools of uneven depth to negotiate! Rounding the corner and there were the groynes to hurdle over ha ha! Made difficult by the fact we were all trying to go hard now, and that the level of the beach on one side of the groyne was different from the level on the other side! ..and once round the corner the blue inflatable finish arch could be seen..so near… but ….so ….far! A teasing sight! On and on and on….and it did not get an nearer! This was really hard now! I gritted my teeth and ran past the girl I had been keeping up with, but could not stop another girl flying past me! The arch was still far away! Finally, we were up with the first supporters! Katy and Graeme with their new baby were there and Lesley cheering us on! A few more yards and booff!, deep deep deep soft sand! Not the greatest when trying to vaguely approximate a sprint! I think swimming through it may have been faster. The deceptive blue arch was proving to be a battle to reach! A staggering inelegant plod and at last, I was under the arch!
Bring it on next year!
Extract from the book Running My Way by Tamsin Imber with permission from Pitch Publishing.
2nd time lucky? Last year, I settled for a rather splendid long sleeved top in lieu of my entry, and heard the tales of a splendid and scenic coastal run in the sun. This year, the race sold out in a matter of six hours but fortunately I secured an entry again, and had my sun tan lotion at the ready.
Saturday evening saw me consider various weather forecasts, and contemplate my shoe and clothing choice. Having packed my hydration vest, at the eleventh hour, I abandoned it and decided for the minimalistic approach of club vest (fear not, I had shorts too) and trail shoes given the inclement weather anticipated.
A Sunday morning reveille at 0600hrs (what else would any sane person do on their wedding anniversary?) saw me tiptoe around the house, and jog up to meet the Strider bus. As I had stayed up quite late, reading old race reports of the Coastal Run and contemplating what lay ahead, I quite fancied a snooze on the bus but this notion rapidly faded, as the bus filled full of other chatty but half asleep Striders.
We made good progress, and parked up in Beadnell, donning waterproofs to saunter down the road to the Boat House for registration. I always find it a challenge with my OCD to attach a bib number perfectly straight – to do this in the rain, with a fresh breeze on the upturned hull of a small boat compounded the challenge. Event clips and bib attached, I processed along the beach toward the start area at Beadnell Bay. There were portaloosportable toilets aplenty, and a fairly short queue leaving time to join fellow Striders to shelter and stay warm(ish), stowing bags on the baggage bus at the last moment, for the obligatory team photo on the beach.
Lined up on the start, and raring to go, I listened intently to the official at the front – I relayed his information to other runners because I thought it was wise to heed the advice, which I summarised that runners should stay between the first set of marshalls to avoid perishing on the slippy rocks. Then we were off, across golden sands, the warmth of the sun on our backs, the breeze in our hair, amidst children building sandcastles, and enjoying ice-cream [error, that was a figment of my imagination]. Then we were off, across a sandy base of rivulets fed by the Long Nanny River, which set the scene of what would be a challenging race. I had struck out at a pace just sub 5 min/km, which softened as I met the first constriction point of soft sand and rocks up to High Newton by the Sea. I was amazed at this point to see a runner relieve himself against the dunes in full view of other competitors – how could he have missed the vast provision of portaloosportable toilets, and council facilities adjacent to the start?
Having climbed this initial hill, I enjoyed the short fast downhill section to Low Newton and the sands at Embleton Bay. We then negotiated the inland side of Dunstanburgh Castle, on mud, grass and rock paths, with a few slips and falls. I halted to check one poor soul who had taken an impressive tumble, landing hard but he was fine to continue. I passed a few runners, at this point lamenting their choice of road shoes, and wondered if Matt Archer had his racing flats on.
Next up was Craster Village, at which point we were looking a little more bedraggled, our muddy battle paint splattered up our legs, and higher! Support was evident here, and water was provided. The encouraging sight and sound of Michael Mason galvanised my resolve as I climbed up past the harbour past The Heughs, where there was a cheeky kink taking us along the headland to Cullernose Point.
Then a treat of a section of road past Howick, and on to Sugar Sands where the majority of runners took the bridge across Howick Burn but some hardier souls opted for the water crossing. A short but punishing climb ensued, up a rocky path, which I decided to run passing a couple who were walking, clearly conserving their energy to pass me on the flat on the top!
Into Boulmer for the final water stop, which I needed, where supporters braved the conditions to cheer us on. Leaving Boulmer, just prior to dropping down to Foxton Beach, a cheery chap stood beside a sign which advised ‘about 2 miles to go’. He shouted encouragingly, that it we were nearly upon the beach and only 10 minutes to go. I looked at my watch briefly, trying to calculate what this meant but gave up as ‘nearly 2 miles’ was too imprecise a measure for me, a detailed metric man.
This beach seemed never-ending, and I remember thinking about the meaning of this approximate 2-mile sign. I tried in places to pick up my pace, mainly because I thought if I did the race would be over quicker but there were slippy rocks, and dilapidated fences (really!) to cross. On one particular fence, my ability to hurdle non-existent, my right hamstring cramped as I ungraciously ‘hopped’ over it. I recovered to catch the magnificent sight of a blue inflatable finish arch.
The arch got closer, and I tried to pick up pace, hastened by Jon Ayres who was doing a sterling job as a bare-chested Mr Motivator having already finished. Attempting to follow Jon’s advice of lengthening my stride, I managed to briefly return to that sub 5 min/km pace again, prior to what felt like sinking to my knees in the softer sand near the finishing arch. Through the finish, I immediately felt that sense of accomplishment which makes it all seem worthwhile; and a quick check of my watch confirmed a pleasing sub 2-hour time (subsequently 1:55:31 chip time).
I grabbed some water, and headed over to provide some encouragement to my fellow Striders. Jon congratulated me, and I quipped that that last beach was like a club committee meeting in length! Then via the baggage bus, to the Strider bus, which now resembled something of an impromptu changing room. I was grateful at this point for Lesley’s advice to take a change of footwear, and in equal measure for her encouragement to attend this race. Prize giving was in the nearby Alnmouth Links Golf Club, which provided an opportunity to dry out, and celebrate the team achievement. It was great to see Stephen Jackson pick up a prize for 5th place, a valiant effort indeed after his Durham City Run win of only a few night’s previous, and to see other age category winners; Tamsin Imber for 1st FVET40, Christine Farnsworth for 2nd FVET65 and Margaret Thompson for 3rd FVET65.
The organisation of this race by Alnwick Harriers is first rate. Marshals and locals alike are friendly, and supportive. The coastline and scenic aspect is fantastic, and where else can you run ~14 miles through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on a mixture of sand, road and trail? In summary, I’d encourage anyone to have a go at this race – I’d certainly like to do it again, but hopefully next time on a drier, more summery day!
You can relive the Northumberland Coastal Run here
I love this race and am almost evangelical when describing it to people “the beaches are great, the trails are quick and pretty, the view of the castle as you run past and the support from the locals, it’s just fantastic” etc.
So how to make it better? Well this year I had a cunning plan, following a run of the course a couple of weeks prior to the actual day, an alternate route had been found!
To the day loads of people in purple vests, a coachload and a fair few more all gathered around the car park, queueing for the loo and avoiding the slow moving traffic as their owners looked to secure a place to park, the strength of wind is debated and just before the off the gathering on to the beach for the team photo [If anyone has a ‘team photo’, or indeed, any photo, – send it to me! Ta. Ed.].
Then we’re off a stampede of splashing soles the broad starting line changes shape to an, almost, beach long peloton, a line of smiling faces embracing the day, enjoying the run and reaffirming a love of running.
At this point however a small group edge towards the waves turning with the bay and aiming away from the masses their eyes focused on a small path and a break in the dunes, a set of purplies are off exploring.
Concern races through my mind, I’ve checked and reread the rules- the course is suggested not set, our route choice is our own and ( perhaps crucially ) we never really did compare the choices available. Too late now we hit the new (ish to us) trail and keep the pace lively hoping this is a wise choice.
After a mile and a bit we merge with the main field I see faces I’d not expect to be passing now, numbers that had been passed on the run out are ahead. I ask a fellow strider for his measured distance (the new path is about 500 metres longer, perhaps this is why after 35 years of the event being run the alternate is not needed?)
From this point on works to be done and it’s head down and pushing as hard as I dare, still 10 miles to go. I have a good day – in the end when comparing time to last year the deviation didn’t make much difference- but throughout the feelings are good, smiles stay on faces and it’s a great day and another fantastic experience.
On the final beach the wind really took hold, the sand clung to the feet sucking them down and devouring energy but still the love affair is there. This is why in the depths of winter,on freezing cold mornings I, my friends, clubmates and countless more like us all put on our kit and get out there because running isn’t just about the personal goals, it’s a shared experience that releases endorphins and on good days, of which this is definitely one, makes the heart glow.
At the end we excitedly chatter and congratulate each other on getting round, one of our number wins their category which is really very impressive as they too choose the long route. And then that’s it I’m not on the coach back and am part of a small group descending quietly home, the talk turns slowly to other subjects. Thoughts will gradually no doubt blend parts of today’s run with those done before and also, hopefully, with those to come but always, always there’s a part of me that dwells forever on those beaches.
[Note: Results on the www.resultsbase.net website are not listed by overall position when filtered by club. To see your overall position you need to go the their website and click on your own result. Ed.]
I’ve done a few Coastal Runs over the last five years but up until now I’ve always arrived from the south. This year when I entered I lived in Co Durham but by race day I’d moved to Berwick-upon-Tweed. It turns out that arriving from the north is quite scenic courtesy of the X18 bus. This great bus service runs from Berwick to Newcastle via the coast, including Beadnell! So an hour after leaving my house I was in a very sunny and very warm Beadnell collecting my number.
It wasn’t long before I was bumping into more and more Striders as the sea of purple swelled. The afternoon start of 1:30 was pushed to 1:45 to create more of a start line by letting the tide go out a little bit more. That gave more time to sit in the shade and then take part in a Striders group shot.
I decided to start way down the beach to find a line through the first lot of rocks and to get my feet wet early – there’s not much more fun in running than splashing through the surf! For those who don’t know the race – are there any Striders left who don’t? – the Coastal Run starts on a beach, ends on a beach and is a real multi-terrain race in between. It’s relatively flat but has a few telling little climbs once off the beach. But on Sunday the biggest challenge was the heat! A clear sky and an afternoon start provided the hottest run I’ve done for a long time. With a pretty much total lack of shade there was no escape.
By Craster I was completely shot and started to slow, I certainly felt I was being passed more than I was passing. By the third and final water station I was feeling so bad that I had to stop and stand just to get enough water down. The last couple of years I’d had pretty bad Coastal Runs where I haven’t performed anywhere as well as I thought I should have. At the water station, as I stood at the side of the road watching others run past, I guessed this one was going to be even worse. What the heck, I still had to get to the finish so I plodded off along the road looking forward to at least a bit more soft beach running.
As I jogged those last couple of miles I was passed by so many people I was pretty much expecting to come last. The odd thing was that looking at my watch I couldn’t figure out how it was going to take over 15 minutes to get to that finish flag just over there! For some inexplicable reason as I finally crossed the line I found I had taken 12 minutes off last year’s time and even managed a PB! Heat, what heat?!
I’ve spent many years running, camping and wandering along the Northumberland Coastline, the paths and dunes are familiar and I see it as my second home. Some years ago I spent time with the National Trust along the shoreline where I viewed in awe the bold men and women hurtling along the beach as part of the Coastal run. It was time for me to join them.
The day before the run I was out in the dive boat just off the Farnes, the visibility was clear and you were able to view the route from Beadnell, follow it to the majestically silhouetted Dunstanburgh Castle. We were in the middle of a heat wave (or ‘summer’ as it’s often called) and so I was very aware that this added a slight air of seriousness to the run, I sat in the boat sipping my electrolyte drink, with seals to one side, and mackerel tugging the line below.
Race day, and I woke to a very welcome drizzle, and a not so welcome mist that ate away at the views. At least the morning was cool, so there was little energy wasted as I strolled to the beach. I spent some time before the start looking up and down the beach, stretching, and selecting the most suitable path through the rocks where they chose to put the start line (unsure why they did this as surely they could have just moved the finish 20 yards back?). A chat with fellow Striders, and as 10:30 approached we huddled on the beach awaiting the off.
I selected to start as near to the sea as possible, thinking the sand was harder and I could run a straight, shorter line to the end of the first beach. Hooter sounds and we’re off, hurtling over the rocks as we’re sent into battle! The sound of 1800 feet galloping through sea and sand is immense, to be part of that is exhilarating. First 100 yards over, time to settle down, long way to go yet.
Further down the beach we dipped in the nanny, then past the nesting shorebirds, African and Arctic terns as they swooped down in anticipation of this sudden attack upon their colony. End of the beach and slight bottleneck as we left the beach and joined the road into Newton where a friend and fellow runner was supporting from his garden having had to pull out due to injury. Welcomed water station and another jaunt onto the beach.
It’s here I realised I had set off far too fast (which Alister pointed out as he sailed past me … along with what felt like the rest of the field). I was struggling, and we were only 4 miles or so in, I had to have a word with myself, concentrate on my form, and remember how much I loved running these beaches. The love finally returned as we left the beach, clambered the rocks to Dunstanburgh castle and followed the coastal paths. I felt strong on the paths and started picking off runners on the uphill.
Fantastic support as we ran through Craster, and past the ‘about half way’ sign. Having no distance markers forced me to mentally measure how far I’d ran and how far to go, ‘about half way, about 7 miles, last beach is about 2 miles from finish, so about 5 miles to the beach’.
Sun was back, and heat was apparent, I was thankful of some shaded paths as we passed Howick and made our way to Boulmer. When we hit the roads I slowed in my trail shoes, an executive decision I made to wear whilst on recce of the course some weeks earlier, I slowed with each step as the lugs were almost sucked onto the hot tarmac. I was aware that the final stretch was approaching and heard murmurs from locals and runners advising of such.
And so it came, the 2nd and final distance marker ‘about 2 miles to go’, as we joined the beach at Alnmouth. I was aware not to get too excited, and at least wanted to wait until I could see the finish before I upped the pace. I concentrated on my form and posture. I was aware that somewhere my wife and son were waiting so I scanned the horizon, ensuring I looked my best … this was to be the first time my son would see me run, and the first for my wife since 2009, so I started getting a wee bit emotional as I saw them in the distance. I approached them strongly with a vast smile, I took hold of Willow, my faithful hound, and she joined me on the last mile. I felt no need to power home now, for the feeling of running that final mile with my best mate is far greater than any PB!
I finished under 2 hours, which was my aim. But for this race, time is irrelevant, just to be part of it and to finish is enough. There is an almost ecstatic emotion, one of pride which emulates through all the competitors and supporters alike as they stand together on the beach, cheering for all the runners as they power down that beach and head for home.
As I say, time is irrelevant for this race, its beauty is enough, and I’ll be back next year on Beadnell beach, I have to, I’ve been challenged to a sub 1:50 …
Not for the first time I found myself checking myself out (so to speak) in Tesco Express Corner Shop in North Road. Despite the unexpectedly refreshing pint or two of “Ageless” beer from the Red Lion, I’d arrived back in Durham with a perishing thirst. It’s very handy that Gillingham’s chuck us out just a few hundred yards from an off licence on a Sunday afternoon after a tough race. I’m not one for arguing with serendipity. Judging by the purplish hue in the queue it seems I’m not alone in this philosophy.
It seemed no time at all since I was sat in the tent at the start wondering where my next safety pin was coming from. A kind voice in the corner asked me if I was expecting a good run. It seemed familiar, and I looked up to see my old friend Iain chatting to me as if it was only yesterday (rather than 20+ years) since we’d last seen each other. We used to be friends and rivals in the Dunedin Cycling Club in Edinburgh, where Iain was always the better athlete. Glancing through the results and noticing his 1:39 time, I see nothing’s changed. Ah well, as an ex-member of Dunedin CC and COERC, I’m never one to deny myself a bit of reflected glory!
And so to the traditional primal start on the beach. A massed bunch of hunter-gatherers fidgeting around the start waiting for the signal to go hunting. And away we go. Nowadays I’m pretty good at not charging away like a Kathryn when the gun goes off but there’s something incredibly exciting about running along a beach and I’m sure I got a bit over-excited and headed straight for the sea, carefully resisting the temptation to shout Freeedom!” as I sploshed through the pathetic excuse for a burn that the marshalls had warned us about. I’m glad I’m not the only one who runs inefficiently close to the waves to cut the corner; not because it saves time, but just because it’s far more fun than going the long way round.
A few miles in and I could still see John Hutchinson ahead so that could only mean one thing. I’d started too fast too soon for too long. I glanced at my Garmin and noticed I was way into the anaerobic (My Garmin can’t lie). I calmed down a bit and presently Kathryn caught me up. She asked if she might run with me to Craster. This was rather sweet and I wasn’t sure if she was indulging in a bit of tactical maneuvering or asking me out to the cinema. After Craster Kathryn asked if I minded if she ran off ahead, so that she could stop and have a bit of a rest. Ever the bewildered gentleman I nodded in polite and mystefied agreement. Some time later, sure enough, I passed Kathryn as she paused and supped on a yucky gel, and I ran on by. She’s up to something, I thought.
My parkrun the previous day had crushingly confirmed to me that I wasn’t nearly as fit and fast as I’d tried to convince myself I might be. So I was periodically trying to decide whether I was ‘racing’, ‘training’, or just having a bit of a run. After Craster we see a relatively new phenomenon thanks due to the introduction of the bus. Supporters got tipped out around half way and so you pass Strider Walkers who cheer you on in the last few miles as you approach the finish. This is really nice.
About 3 miles from the finish I passed a Crook Vest that looked familiar. I glanced over to see the Lord of the Streak in a bit of a bad way. On Saturday Paul is running all 11 North East parkruns in aid of Acorns, but today was not a good day. As a very 20-something-plus parkrunner I’m not used to overtaking a regular sub-20 parkrunner, but it was clear that Paul was struggling and my Pacer gene kicked in and we ran together through a tough headwind to the line, where Prince Archie appeared and suddenly I was on my own again.
Once over the line news trickled in from a Tyne Bridges runner of a Strider lady who was having a tough time a mile or two from the finish. A posse was formed and we walked down the beach looking for our woman down. Was it Denise? No. Was it Claire? No. With everyone denying being the damsel in distress we all sauntered to the Red Lion in search of the Barbecue which many of us had fond memories of from yesteryear. The BBQ wasn’t there, but the Adder Lager was still available, along with a bountiful selection of booze and nosh.
On the coach trip home having exceeded my recommended daily alcohol consumption with one pint of Ageless I contentedly chatted with Colin Sue and Angela about nasal hair, dried skin, alcohol consumption, sex, sheds, and a little bit about the race. Kathryn has also challenged me to a sub-2 hour show-down one year from now. Place your bets!
…and Kathryn Sygrove
I had a bad experience of this race in 2011 – illness en route temporarily stopped play, and I lumbered home in a reasonable time, having paid little attention to the surrounds, simply to droop in the coach at the end. Shame really, for such a beautiful and rugged run, not to appreciate the landscape, and the various terrains on offer – so much so that I really could not remember much of the route from last time!
Still, we started on Beadnell beach, a bit soggy and cloudier than expected, and the race started in a flash. 2 miles over very wet sand, with one rivulet pulling you down to your knees, we ploughed on with drenched shoes and socks! Actually, I was going easy at first after a manky virus, wondering if I should be attempting this distance and terrain so soon afterwards. Off up the beach and onto coastal paths, a bit of road through a village, and back onto the sand towards Dunstanburgh Castle. It seemed to get warmer, there was definitely some wind, and I was feeling well invigorated at this stage.
I even raced across the boulders coming off the beach, like a mountain goat, and onto the narrow stony coastal paths round the castle. You see, I had someone in view by now – Dougie – and that was too much to resist. I caught him up and we ran till 8 miles together, beyond the Castle, up over fields, into Craster, and back out across field tracks including some rather steep ones at that. Time passed well and the sun was really warm by then, but my energy was already starting to fade.
I had a wee pitstop for Gatorade and snack bar, and then felt like lead. Dougie was ahead, but I felt too worn out to catch him. I put my head down and did whatever pace my legs could manage but it felt really hard. I think we went over some more field tracks, and – oh yeah – that pig of a hill about 9 miles!! which I had completely forgotten about. It was very warm by now, and I was already willing the race to be over. But the water stations at Boulmer refreshed me and I ran off with a new lease of life up the road to the final stage – about 2 miles of sandy beach to the finish.
Wham! into the fierce headwind, sand blowing up at you, and I’d had enough. I strode forcibly forward, with marching arms, which seemed to do more than a pitifully ineffective attempt at a jog at that point. “It’s like being in slo-mo” another runner joked at me. How true! After a while, I started to jog again, end in sight, though it came v-e-r-y slowly due to the sand pulling your feet down, and the wind pushing you back. There seemed to be too many flags at the end, and one was placed rather cruelly, so as to appear to be the finish, but it wasn’t!! There was still a wee way to go! A few congratulatory cries from other Striders helped push my weary legs over the finish line, less than 2 minutes behind Dougie. All finishers got yellow jerseys, a la Bradley Wiggins, which made me smile. At the Red Lion Pub, I thanked Dougie for his companionship and threw down the sub-2 hour gauntlet for next year, which he grinningly accepted. Watch this space!
This was the third time that I have entered this race but, due to injury, I had never managed to reach the start line before. To make sure that I made it this year, I took the conscious decision to take it steady with my running in Spring. My plan for this was to treat it as a long training run for the Kielder marathon in October and I planned to begin running at the start and not to stop running until the finish. I had been told that this was a seriously tough race with large amounts of running on sand and through streams and sea water. For this reason, I decided to wear my oldest pair of running shoes as I knew that I am now drawn to water in a way similar to iron being drawn to magnets.
Andy James organised a coach to pick us up in Durham and drop us off at Beadnell for the start before taking the non-runners halfway for their walk and picking us up in Alnmouth at the finish. We arrived at Beadnell in plenty of time, registered and I went to find a bush to water before making my way to the start.
This race is billed as “Britain’s most beautiful race” and standing on Beadnell beach looking across the bay to Dustanburgh Castle I realised why. Someone said that the castle was close to half way in the race and I stood wondering whether or not just to swim across to it but sensibly decided that, as the race isn’t a triathlon, it wouldn’t be really sportsmanlike to do that (and it would take me considerably longer than running round as well). The race had one of the strangest starts I have known, we were all walking down towards the edge of the water when the horn went off and we were under way. I started off near the back as I wasn’t bothered about getting a time, I just wanted to finish without stopping. I knew that, physically, I was more than fit enough to run the entire distance, but in my last two races, I have fallen apart mentally and had to walk for one reason or another so it was a nice, steady plod along the beach through streams of sea water, taking photos and just having a plodge in the pools left by the tide (I did say that I’m strangely drawn to water now didn’t I?). Eventually, we were off the beach and onto road, but not for long as we were soon descending onto the next beach.
I decided that, on the second beach, I was going to run as close to the sea as I dared to so I could make the run as short as possible over the sand. I ended up running through ankle-deep water which was absolutely freezing (not a good sign for next week’s sea swim triathlon at Newbiggin). After about another 2(ish) miles of beach running, we ended up clambering over boulders to get onto the path around Dunstanburgh castle, this was a welcome break and made the run into Craster very pleasant. The run carried on over trails after Craster where we passed the walkers from the club before a short stretch on road followed by the final two miles on the beach.
Shortly after I finished, the heavens opened and we managed to get drenched before making our way to a local hostelry for a well deserved pint or two.
… and Pam Kirkup
‘If I ever say I’m thinking of entering the Coastal Run again, please give me a good slap, hard and preferably with a Craster kipper!’ Those were my sentiments after yesterday’s race.
It’s been 11 years since I last took part and I’d forgotten just how tough it was. But then in 2000 I was reasonably fit and managed a respectable time. I’d consulted numerous weather forecasts and the verdict was pretty much the same – gruesome; and since I was likely to be out for a long time, I needed to prepare for 4 seasons!
Having driven through pockets of rain of various strengths the Striders bus arrived in Beadnell to leaden skies but at least it was dry. There seemed to be a certain reluctance to get off the bus so I headed off with Jean Bradley to get my number and join the loo queue – only 20 minutes to wait! The start did seem somewhat bizarre – marshals seemed to be directing us into the sea! “Maybe we have to swim to Dunstanburgh this year,” said a Fetchie next to me. But no, the masses headed off along the shore line on quite a long and soggy yomp along the beach. It wasn’t too bad underfoot – certainly better than the churned up stuff at The Pier to Pier. I was told to look out for a stream to cross after about half a mile. Which one? There seemed so many.
Once off the beach, there came the more familiar road surface and possibly coastal path? Wishful thinking! In no time at all we were back on a beach; more soggy sand and rivulets to cross. And then came the rocks! Wet, slippery, moss covered, ankle biting and in my case hip twisting rocks. Great! At least I was in good company – surrounded by bodies in various stages of falling over. Eventually, I got up the little bankside and onto the coastal path to Dunstanburgh. No doubt all you fell runners will be wondering how a few metres of beach rocks could cause such angst. I think you had to be there! Afterwards, I realised that by taking the direct line I was the architect of my own down fall – a slight diversion to the right and I could have avoided most of it.
This was the start of a brief bad patch for me. My hip was sore and I felt very uncomfortable. So the section I would normally like the best – coastal path around the golf course and cliff tops, past Dunstanburgh and on into Craster – was slow and painful. I did think of dropping out at Craster but I knew I’d have hated myself.
So on to Boulmer, back on tracks, path, road and one or two steep ‘undulations’ – only a little bit of beach at the end I thought! “Three more miles,” the lady at the drinks station shouted. But then the sky was turning black and over in the west was a flash of lightning and rumble of thunder. As the first splotches of rain fell I was so thankful I had my little red running jacket tied around my waist. In minutes a few drops turned into a torrential downpour. Everything was drenched. Then came the “two miles to go” sign and my heart sank! It was near the steps down to the final section of beach. Two miles of beach! It was horrible – relentless beach stretching out in front of you in a haze of rain and no sign of the finish. “We’ve got 2 more bays before we see the finish,” said a guy running alongside me. “Look out for the church spire.”
At last a vague blur of people clustered together came into view – and there was the church spire. This had to be it. As I got nearer I was aware of a figure in purple shouting at me and trying to take my picture. It was Mike Elliott – clearly recently sacked from the News of the World and missing life in the paparazzi! So it was a drenched, dishevelled, puce faced and exhausted Strider who finally arrived at Alnmouth. Back at the bus people were drying off and recovering, wet clothes strewn everywhere. Eventually some of us headed off to the Red Lion for a well-earned pint and their excellent BBQ sausages and burgers. Amazing how quickly you begin to feel better! Others went to the very nice Deli and its caf’e. Some just chilled out on the bus.
Our adventures were not over however. The journey back to Durham was good, the sun had come out and the traffic was running smoothly. Then we came off the motorway and the bus ground to a sudden halt. Broken down and stuck in a lay-by near Carrville. “I’ve rung the depot, they’re sending someone out. It’ll be half an hour,” said the driver.
As you can imagine, there was a mass exodus from the bus and true Strider team spirit kicked in as family and friends were phoned, lifts arranged and everyone was able to get home or to their cars. “Oh look,” said someone as we waited near the Park & Ride, “the bus seems to be leaving!” Funny that! Next day, I’m feeling fine and thinking how much I actually enjoyed the whole day. And you can forget about the Craster kipper – next year, I’ll be there!
All sorts of weather was forecast for this one, so it was actually a bit of a surprise that we got pretty much the same as last time: quite a firm southerly headwind, which when you got out of it now and again, left you feeling pretty warm. The tides were described as “OK”, and the tables showed that it should have been about halfway out – so we were a tad surprised to find that there wasn’t much beach to stand on at Beadnell! No heading straight across the bay this time. Quite a good number of Striders here, and we mulled over what actual wind direction(s) we’d get, as it was all over the place before the start.
Off right on 10:30 – we had to be as there were obviously no start mats for the chip timing – and round the bay we went. After a while some brave souls hung a half-left through some thigh-deep water to save a bit of time (perhaps), but I kept on the drier stuff to quickly come to a deep stream anyway. Wet feet to start with once again. Then I got into a good rhythm to get over to Dunstanburgh Castle. Usually in this race, this is about the time I expect Mike Bennett to go past me, but this year it was Dave “Gibbo” Gibson who came alongside, and we exchanged the time of day. He offered me a beverage, and then I thought he’d be off into the wild blue yonder – but strangely, I pulled away … think my first gel of the day must have just kicked in …
Got to Craster in a good time, and was thinking a fast one might be in the offing, but the running seemed to be getting harder and harder – the headwind wasn’t getting any easier, and I tried to tuck in behind other runners as much as I could. Some people don’t take kindly to this at all, I found – a couple of runners veered sharply off track to shake me off, which I thought was a bit unnecessary – I’m ok with people tucking in behind me for a while … Anyway, round the cliffs, down and up the dip, then eventually out onto the road at Boulmer. Found it very hard going along this bit. I like having the GPS along, but having it tell me I’m doing two minutes a mile slower here than I was at the start was a bit of a bummer. I actually preferred it when we got back on the beach again and could just get your head down for the last stretch. Eventually the finish hove into view, before a thankfully-shortish section of soft sand to the line.
Well-chuffed to get a PB, considering the wind. Dave Gibson was along within a minute of me, and Mike Bennett wasn’t far behind him, with a good strong run, especially as he hasn’t been doing much long stuff recently. Nina was next, continuing her recent run of very strong, err, runs and scooping the second F35 prize! Gary Davies was next, well under two hours, as was John Hutch, with another good one, as he too hasn’t been doing too many long runs. Everyone else got in ok – but we were all glad to get to the finish line. It was quite a hard one this year.