Category Archives: Anna Seeley

Cannonball 100KM Canalathon, Sowerby Bridge to Manchester and back, Sunday, March 25, 2018

Anna Seeley

5 am on the morning that the clocks changed, how cruel is this RD?!? And the alarm goes off, final preps stumbled through, ice scraped off the car before registration and a 7 am start time. The Canalathon race briefing was simple, run to Manchester, run back. If you get timed out don’t argue, just accept it and come back again next year to try again, simple.

I think the 13 hour cut off had definitely had an effect on the number of entries, averaging 12:30mm shouldn’t have been too much of a challenge but take off that stops at CPs and any time wasted on navigational errors and it was looking a bit tighter. There were only 52 registered and as it was only 36 showed up; only 4 females. This was going to be a potentially long lonely run, not helped by a complete ban on headphones. I’d have to keep myself amused.

7 am and we were set off, running down the streets of Sowerby Bridge then onto the canals and in the first mile of the race, people’s intentions became clear. No one was hanging about. I’d intended on sticking to a 9 min run, 1 min walk for as long as possible but to warm up the legs decided to run the first couple of miles which allowed me to settle into a nice little group of 4, in joint last place averaging 10mm! As the rest of the field disappeared into the distance decisions had to be made, did I stick to my original plan and take up the last place on the theory that the others were either superhuman or had gone out too fast, so would be caught later? Or did the plan go out of the window and I try and stick with the others at the back. I figured the original plan was more likely to result in me finishing but the run-walk was at a quicker pace than ever should have been sensible, I wanted to keep the others in sight.

5 miles in and the route crossed a road, the towpath disappears in places so you have to deviate off then back on, but as I was trying to vaguely keep up with the group in front I wasn’t concentrating and followed them up the road. What’s an extra ½ mile when you’re already at the back and pushing the time limits? Only on ending up in the middle of Hebden Bridge did I shout the others back and we managed to get ourselves back onto the towpath.

I briefly managed to end up 4th last as I’d turned back first but that didn’t last long and soon I was tail running the field again.

Another navigational error at Todmorden saw more time lost but I finally got to CP1; an extra mile in total added onto the route by this point. I think being last unfortunately meant that the food that had been put out for the 100Kers had been demolished and fresh supplies hadn’t been put out, so no food picked up here. A quick cup of coke was downed before it was onwards and upwards.

From here the canal started to properly climb up to the Summit Inn. Locks were getting closer and closer together and each climb at the lock seemed to get steeper. Luckily the scenery in this section is definitely the prettiest experienced along the canal and this acted as a nice distraction to the task at hand. Beyond the summit, the downhills after every lock, rather than the gradual uphill grind, were greatly appreciated and the next few miles flew by, helped by the steady flow of 50K runners coming the other way who were all so encouraging of us 100K nutters.

The sun had come out and it was really quite a nice day, so different from the horrible conditions we’d faced in training in the run-up to the race. CP2 was really crowded with the 50Kers coming the other way so it was a matter of grabbing a couple of Jaffa cakes, a cup of coke and legging it. Shortly after this, the lack of food and fluids started to hit. Going too quick and running through CPs was not on the plan. I never trust races to provide decent food at the CPs so I was carrying enough with me to get by but nothing was appealing. Forcing a bar down over the next few miles I started to feel a bit more human and gradually I started to catch a few runners.

The canal heading towards Ancoats starts to go through some dodgier areas at times so there was no hanging about and I’d heard a couple of messages come through but wasn’t going to dig into my bag to find my phone.

With about ½ a mile to go to the turnaround point, I spot a couple of purple hoodies… was this a mirage? Was I hallucinating? Or had our wonderful Captain and Vice-Captain come down to support?!? Yup.

As I got closer the latter became apparent and what a pleasant and appreciated surprise that was. 50K is a long way to run alone and knowing you were about to turn round and run the whole thing back again is enough to start to play games with your head. Knowing that I had friends who had taken their time to come down and cheer me on meant that a DNF was not going to be on the cards, whatever happened.

I did then run off and leave them to get to the CP, I needed to have the distance ticked off. A quick catch up at the CP and it was time to make the return journey, retrace my steps hopefully minus the navigational errors.

Having run downhill for the last 17 miles it was a gradual uphill again for 17. The run-walk was being dictated by the locks which were messing up my rhythm and it was between the halfway mark and the CP at 42ish miles that the wheels well and truly came off.

It was here that I struggled the last time I ran this race, with the result being me DNFing at Rochdale. I wasn’t going to let it happen again. A lad on a motorbike kept riding up and down the towpath which was freaking me out slightly, as in a tired stumbly state with fairly deep water to your side you don’t need any extra distractions.

A lot of families walking and on bikes were also around along with dogs on extendable leads, all making life more difficult once you’ve lost the ability to steer.

There was less and less running and more and more walking and I could feel the time I’d built up slipping away. Now was not the time to panic, a constant drip feed of shot bloks and fluids kept me going but I knew despite feeling sick I was going to have to eat something at the next checkpoint.

Due to going over distance on the way out I couldn’t work out exactly where the CP was distance wise on the way back and one bit of industrial canal looks very much the same as another bit so the sight of purple hoodies again was fab. I was just hoping that they hadn’t run out from the CP to find me. Luckily not and with Catherine sent on the hunt for chocolate milk I walked the final stage. More coke, a couple of Jaffa cakes (this eating of food thing just wasn’t happening), and chocolate milk and I was sent on my way hoping I wouldn’t be sick after consuming such a ridiculous combo.

While walking with Kerry I’d been talking about the Summit Inn and saying that even though it wasn’t the halfway mark on the return journey it would feel like it was, as beyond there it’s downhill and I knew that I would get to the finish. My pace was still dropping but I knew that once we stopped climbing I would start to run more again and it would improve.

Due to the first overly speedy 50K, I had plenty of time in the bank and for the first time in the day wasn’t last. There weren’t many behind me but knowing there was at least someone was reassuring. A message asking me to let them know when I could see the pub made me wonder if they’d decided to come to there to support rather than the next CP and sure enough a beer holding mirage appeared. Never has beer tasted so good or produced such an improvement in both mood and performance, I positively flew down the next few miles to CP5 with a smile on my face.

CP6 was only 5 miles further along the canal as they decided to position one on the road crossing that had been our downfall on the way out. I managed to find the little footbridge over the canal at Todmorden on the return journey so no wasted time or effort there and it didn’t seem like anytime at all before the support reappeared.

As I walked along to the CP with them I was repeatedly steered away from the edge of the canal by an increasingly highly pitched Catherine. The recent wet weather meant the towpath was rather muddy and slippy in places and I think she could envisage a rather soggy end to my race. Luckily without any mishaps I got to the last CP only to find out they’d run out of coke, vile tasting energy drink would have to do instead.

Last 5 miles and time to walk them, if I needed to, but I could smell the finish and suddenly the competitive side of me decided to kick in. I’d overtaken 3 guys on the way to the last CP and there was no way they were catching me and I had another runner in sight, so 59 miles into an ultra I decide to give chase.

Not knowing how far I actually had to go didn’t really help but soon enough I’d caught and passed that guy and shortly after that, the finish appeared wahoo!! Never have I been so glad to finish a race. Having DNFed my previous 2 canal ultras, never having finished one despite running further on what would be classed as “more difficult” courses I just wanted a finish time and I’d done it. In the end.

I was 20th out of the 26. A quarter of the field dropped out. Canal ultras are tougher than they should be on paper.

Would I recommend the race? If you like canals and flat routes and don’t mind running on your own for large sections then yes, the CPs are well spaced out and the marshals are super friendly. I, however, am never ever running along a canal again, give me hills any day.

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Endure 24, Bramham Park, Wetherby, Saturday, July 1, 2017

Anna Seeley

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go. If you think about quitting think about why you started. Look in the mirror, that’s your competition. Ask yourself can you give more, the answer is usually yes. A few of the motivational quotes from the K markers placed round the 5 mile course which would be my home for the next 24 hours. People ask why and I think these quotes help summarise it. Having raced every standard distance going I got fed of PB chasing and wanted to see what my body was really capable of.

My body may have had other ideas though and having fought off multiple injuries and still carrying a few niggles I then went down with a stinking cold the week before race day. A few of you shook your heads as there was no talk of a DNS despite by Wednesday still coughing up a lung and having virtually no voice. The whole year had been building up to this weekend and I wasn’t ready to give up all the hard work but I was sensible enough to readjust the goals. My 100 mile in 24 hrs target scrapped I settled for a C target of 6 laps (30 miles), another ultra ticked off, a B target of 10 laps (50 miles) and an A target of 15 laps (75 miles) which would be a distance PB.

Friday and feeling better but far from 100% I set up camp with the help of Catherine and Gareth. After registering and getting my number it all became a bit more real and we set off to recce the course but due to a lack of markers got a bit lost. Saw enough to know it was going to a be a road shoe job though then had a mild panic as I realised I’d only brought old knackered road shoes with me, for use in an emergency, along with my decent trail shoes. Never mind, what would be would be. A meal out on table 24, fate, and it was back to camp to enjoy the festival atmosphere, drink some beer (medicinal of course) and catch up with other solo nutters who I’d managed to pitch near. Very little sleep was had that night, maybe not best prep for staying awake for 24 hours but I was still fairly relaxed as I was joined in camp by Kerry (running) and Rob (support). Photos with Kerry and fellow strider Emma who was running as part of a team and it was time to get ready to go.

Saturday 12 o’clock on the dot and we were counted down, 3, 2, 1 and a hooter went to go. The relay runners went flying off but the majority of us solo runners went for the more relaxed approach although on fresh legs that still involved a sub 30 min first 5K, I’m blaming the rested fresh legs. Once out of the race village we were onto hard packed gravelly trail which made up 95% of the loop and would result in the trashing of many a foot. A downhill to the 1K marker was followed by a gradual 1K ascent nicely named Temple Drag. Downhill past the camper van pumping out tunes at Temptation Corner came the second climb up to the 3K marker and start of the woods, which quickly became my second least favourite part of the course, we’ll get onto my least favourite part later, due to the random stones sticking out which could easily trip without concentrating and became an even bigger nightmare in the dark. Get out of the woods and you could see the main checkpoint with endless supplies of magical pink electrolyte drink and shot blocks, I don’t even like shot blocks but the sugar was greatly appreciated. Down a gravelly path to the only tiny steep hill, it grew longer the more laps we did, on the course then over a short grass section before hitting my least favourite section. A K long v slight incline which unfortunately was being blasted by an evil headwind rendering it much harder to run up than it should have been. The next downhill section was lovely, sweeping and not too steep and then there was the little molehill named Bramhall Climb and you could see the race village. Still 800m away but an achievable target even on knackered legs as it was predominantly downhill apart from a little kick at the end of the lap. I didn’t see the point in the K markers on the first lap but later in the race they were absolutely fab, even when knackered it didn’t take long to get to the next. You had 7 distinct points to work towards on each lap and each marker had a quote on to motivate you.

Having run the whole of the first lap I had already decided on where the walking was going to commence from the second lap on. I could have run a good few more laps but energy preservation is key, it’s all very well running strongly for a few hours but in the grand scheme of things you will go further if you are sensible from early on. Coming down the hill at the 5K mark on the second lap I felt the horrible right quad twinge that I’d first noticed at Windermere marathon earlier in the year. Surely I couldn’t have managed to flare old injuries 8 miles into a 24 hr race, well yes I could and had. By the end of the lap the quad was joined by my hip flexor and groin in a competition as to which could shout loudest at me. Just as well I wasn’t in the mood to listen as this would have been a rather short race report.

Somewhere between 25-30 miles I first became aware that my left ankle was jealous of my right thigh and wanted to join the pain party. I’d been having trouble with this ankle for weeks but had hoped that I’d done enough to settle it, obviously not. Slowing down I had my first wobble of the run, I was only just into ultra territory and my legs didn’t want to play ball. Luckily I knew from past experience that if you refuse to quit and keep moving your head will eventually back down and let the legs do their job and soon I was moving well again. My stomach however was having none of it and other than a slice of pizza when back at camp later I don’t think I ate anymore solid food after the end of lap 6. Luckily I had pre-empted this and packed plenty of high calorie fluids so the rest of the race was fuelled on smoothie, milkshake and of course coke. Not a fuelling strategy I would recommend for anyone but needs must.

At 8 o’clock we all had to have headtorches on so after 40 miles I headed back to the tent to search it out, change into something long sleeved and decided to change my shoes to super cushioned ones which I’d never run more than 5 miles in, what could possibly go wrong? The hard surface was playing havoc with my legs and the B target of 50 miles was looking unlikely. I was slowing down and everything was hurting. At last minute I decided to chuck my race pack on with front bottles so that I didn’t need to worry about water. What a mistake that was. I’ve never run without the pack loaded up with the kit on the back and hadn’t thought about how much the bottles would move without the counterbalance. Result was that miles 40-45 were mainly walked as the swinging bottles were going to cause yet another injury. Ditching the bottles at the end of the lap some running could start again but while my legs were starting to understand the game my head rapidly giving up. So what do you do when the wheels are coming off, you message our ever cheerful enthusiastic captain who will provide you enough memes to brighten the darkest of moments, thank you Catherine and Gareth for chipping in too, I must have sounded properly miserable! 50 miles done in 10:38, somehow a 50 mile PB. At some point Dave Toth appeared as well, super encouraging and a much needed friendly face who having experienced the ultra pain knew what we were going through, thank you.

Lap 11 was the first one in complete darkness and I remembered why I only run with a headtorch when I absolutely have to. The swinging light makes me feel sick and I hate the loss of your peripheral vision. I was convinced that one of the super quick relay runners was going to come crashing into me as they seemed to come concerningly close before swerving. Unnerved I headed back to the tent at the end of the lap to retrieve my spare headtorch, maybe the spare would be brighter, and bumped into Kerry. Out we went, lap 12 for me and the magic 10th lap for her to take her to 50 miles. The woes of the previous lap forgotten we chatted and weaved, neither of us seemed capable of going in a straight line, ticking off the Ks until finally we were done. Massive distance PB for her, she went to find food while I decided rather unwisely to get another lap done before resting for a couple of hours. In hindsight I’d have been better stopping then and restarting at daybreak but wanted as many miles ticked off as possible.

End of the lap and I managed to find my tent, not difficult but my brain was a bit mashed, and settled down for a couple of hours of shivering, getting into a sleeping bag after 65 miles isn’t the easiest task in the world so I gave up and just threw it over me, and attempting to snooze. 5 o’clock and I was back up having forced some more fluids in, I’d given up eating hours earlier. I persuaded my legs that they did want to move and dodging guy ropes I managed to make myself back through the camp site back to the course. Bumping into my friend and 3rd lady at the start point of the lap I had company from 65-70 miles and that helped massively. She was falling asleep on her feet but had 100 miles fixed in her head, had worked out precisely what she needed to do each lap in to achieve her goal and went on to nail it.

Maybe stupid but as I started each lap I mentally ticked off the next 5 miles as I knew I wouldn’t quit mid lap so as I set off on lap 15 I knew I’d have achieved my A goal for the weekend of a distance PB. My legs by now were majorly protesting, I couldn’t move my ankle and my entire right upper leg was throbbing but nothing was going to stop me unless I was pulled off the course by the marshals and fixing a smile on my face was going to prevent that. Each K seemed to be getting longer but eventually the 7K mark appeared and once at the top of the hill the sight of the race village and finish line spurred me on. Finishing the lap on a high and having posed for another photo, smiling of course, for Dave I insanely decided to push the distance PB a little further, how hard would another lap be when you’ve already done 15?

Very very hard and immensely painful would be the answer. The first K was okish but then it rapidly went downhill. Simply putting one foot in front of the other on anything other than the flat, which as I’ve already mentioned there wasn’t much of, was absolute agony. Any sane person would have quit but I’m far too stubborn for that. After everything I had overcome to get to the startline and get that far one more lap wasn’t going to do that much harm so I again recruited the aid of our captain to keep me amused from a distance by messenger. I’m sure every K marker was moved further apart, every hill had grown but finally 1:55 later I dragged myself over the finish line.

80 miles, distance PB, further than I’d ever dreamed I’d get at the start of the weekend and a total that from early on when injuries decided to rear their ugly heads seemed impossible. Even my lack of ability to walk wasn’t going to wipe the smile off my face, already entered for next year, anyone else joining me?

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Vale of York Half Marathon, Sunday, September 7, 2014

Anna Seeley

Looking for an alternative on GNR weekend I stumbled across the new Vale of York Half Marathon and the promise of a flat fast course on closed roads appealed so I entered wondering how quick I could run off marathon training. I later found out that the Hardmoors Princess Challenge was the week before and having destroyed my quads on that I figured I might as well finish them off altogether with the Pieces of Eight 10K the following day so didn’t quite manage to get to the start line as fresh as I would have liked.

It was feeling decidedly chilly as everyone lined up on the start line at Sherburn Aero Club but it didn’t stay cool for long and very quickly the temperatures were rising. The first mile was a little congested as everyone jostled for position and tried to settle into a comfortable pace but once we were out of the air field and onto the roads crowding was no longer an issue. Two miles in and any thought of a fast run went out the window as the early splits weren’t encouraging, it was getting hot and the legs were already protesting. Considered DNFing but figured it would make a good long run if nothing else and decided to try and stick as close to marathon pace as possible.

3 miles in and up the only “hill”, a bridge over the railway line, and onto the long straight roads through Bishop Woods. Rather than following the “racing line” the race snaked its way across the road towards the blissful shade, no one was caring about the extra distance, we just wanted some respite from the sun. Out of the woods and we were onto a 3 mile loop before returning the way that we came back to the airfield. Marshalling was great with fantastic support from both the organising club and lots of local cyclists who seemed to appear from nowhere to cheer us on. Water stations every 3 miles meant that you despite the heat you didn’t need to worry about dehydration.

The last few miles started to hurt as the hamstring which still hasn’t recovered from the fateful night at the relays began to tighten but I was having fun trying to chase down a friend from Blackhill Bounders when all of a sudden with a mile to go I realised my shoe lace had come undone. After more races than I care to remember I should really be able to tie them properly, stopping to re-tie it I watched the black and yellow vest drift into the distance. Tried to chase him down again but didn’t quite make it finishing in 1:44, quicker than marathon pace and considering the 37 miles I’d raced the weekend before promising for the rest of the autumn. Phil Owen finished shortly afterwards, again quicker than marathon pace in 1:56.

For the first time of running this was a very well organised race and the goody bag contained a decent T shirt and medal. This is definitely one to look at for those chasing a fast autumn half marathon time or looking for a more scenic alternative to the GNR.

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Endurun 24, High Gosforth Park, Newcastle Racecourse, Saturday, May 3, 2014

74 miles

Anna Seeley

Have you ever wondered how far you could run/walk/crawl in 24 hours? No? Ok so it’s only me but when I spotted the new Endu24 race at Newcastle racecourse I couldn’t resist the temptation. I’ve tested myself over plenty of long events in the past but always had an endpoint to aim towards, this time no finish line, no idea of how far I could go just me vs the clock.

12 pm Saturday and there was a 10 second count down followed by the hooter to announce that the race was underway. You could either enter as a solo, pair or in teams ranging from 3-8 runners so the early pace was quite fast and it was hard to resist the temptation to fly away so the first lap was definitely the quickest.

The lap itself was a real mixed affair, should have been 10K but actually measured 5.7 miles which really challenged the brain after running for 10+ hours and trying to work out how far you’d gone. First ¾ mile was on tarmac before heading off to do 1 ½ mile grassy circuit which would have done harrier league proud. Two real waterlogged boggy sections ensured the feet were wet and stayed that way for the next 24 hours. Next up was ¾ mile of compact trail before hitting a long waterlogged (yes, common theme here and this was on lap one) path into the rather soggy woods. Out of the woods and onto a horrible S shaped loop on boggy grass before heading back onto a hard trail, final little section of wood and then onto the tarmac road parallel to the race course back to the start/finish line. Now the race course very kindly has furlong markers heading towards the finish and we had the joy of counting them off on each lap. How long is a furlong? After 5 miles not very far at all, after 70 odd a bloody long way especially when there are 8 to the finish line.

End of each lap and it was past the campsite with a chance to pick up something to eat and drink before heading back out to do it again and again and again. Had Phil Owen supporting me so he could prepare any food/drink I wanted which saved on potential faffing which really helped. After 5 laps (28 miles) I had my first longer break, eating more than I wanted but knew I needed I then walked all of lap 6. It didn’t matter how you got round the lap it was just about going as far as you could. Got to the 51 mile mark (9 laps) in about 11 ½ hours, all going well but the course conditions were deteriorating rapidly. Next lap was when things started to fall apart a bit, unable to see far enough ahead with a headtorch to choose your best line through the bog I was slipping and sliding lots. Downing coffee and coke was doing nothing to stop the yawning so I decided to have a break after 10 laps and try and snooze for a bit.

Was woken by Phil at 3.15 to hear raining lashing down, having had a nightmare on my last dark lap I decided to wait till either the rain stopped or daybreak when I could at least see what I was dealing with again. Ended up heading out again at 5.45 (4 hour break) and managed another 3 laps before deciding to call it a day at 10.30, as anything which wasn’t had packed by then was a quagmire, even areas which had initially been fine were a muddy mess. The final lap had to finished before 12pm Sunday otherwise it wouldn’t count and working on my timing of the past few laps it was going to be close and I’d have been gutted to miss out on the finish line by a few minutes. 74 miles run, furthest ever and enough to earn myself 2nd lady, 1st lady managed a fantastic 17 laps to not only win in the female category but also take the overall solo prize too.

A very friendly well organised/marshalled event with no possibilities of getting lost it is definitely one to look at if you want to set yourself a personal challenge. With it being open to pairs and teams as well as individuals this is one that anyone with the right training could take part in and it’s on our doorstep, anyone joining me next year?

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Newcastle Racecourse 50K, Sunday, December 8, 2013

Anna Seeley

When I first saw this race advertised I thought which nutters are they going to find to run 19 laps of the ambulance track of the Newcastle racecourse in December? Within 2 weeks I’d gone from no way, I’d rather shoot myself to it’s the only 50K in the north east and I fancy a new PB before Christmas. Having entered I still had my doubts as to whether I could mentally cross the finish line that many times before finally being told that I can stop but got stuck into training and decided that I’d give it my best shot.

Only nineteen laps to go!

Day of the race dawned and it was nice and mild for December but there was a slightly concerning wind. On arriving at the racecourse conditions could definitely be described as blustery so having collected our numbers and race T shirt, I hate it when races hand out the T shirts in advance as if you are going to get the chance to wear it you really have to complete the race, we sheltered from the weather before being herded to our appropriate start lines. I wasn’t the only lunatic to enter, Bill Ford and Richard Hall stuck to the reasonably sensible half marathon and Gareth Pritchard, Melanie Hudson and Dave Robson took on the marathon. All the races went off at the same time but from differing points round the racecourse so the distance was correct.

Now the race had been advertised as fast and flat. For a shorter race it would have been classed as flat but in reality the first half of each lap was slightly downhill with the second half being slightly uphill and yes you’ve guessed it, we had a headwind for the uphill! First few laps went by without too much stress, was being overtaken by plenty due to the half marathon and marathon start lines being behind the 50K one but there was no lapping going on at this stage. Phil had come to support and it was nice to see a friendly face at the end of each lap especially in the early stages when the laps seemed to flying over quite quickly.

So we went round and round and I’d completely lost track of what lap I was on but I was trying to mentally shut off. As time went there were less people running as the half marathon folks finished and there were various DNFs and then the marathon runners started to finish. I was still passing people and being passed but unlike an ordinary race I had no idea if I was actually overtaking anyone as didn’t know which lap they were on. Bill once finished his race walked round the route in reverse so I must have passed him 3-4 times and each time thought I’ve got to keep running as I’m not going to be seen to be walking at this stage. Claire Readey, who had come to support, then also walked round in reverse, it was nice to see a friendly face on the more lonely areas of the track, but I think I’d given up the idea of no walking by this stage.

My Garmin started to beep low battery at about 19 miles, my own fault as I’d forgotten to charge it properly but by 23 miles it had died and I died with it. Not knowing how many laps I had to go I mentally started to really struggle and my legs responded by refusing to run. Managed to force a run walk for the next 3 miles and finally got told that I had run marathon distance and only had 3 laps to go.

Now even in my fairly knackered state I could count down 3 laps so decided I was going to get them over with as quickly as I could, my legs responded and I was motoring again. Finally onto the last lap and as I passed each fence, there were no other landmarks to count down, I knew I was going to finish. A final push against the headwind to the line, I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to finish something in my life. Had been aiming for a sub 4.30 but had abandoned that target early on due to the wind so was happy to finish in 4.42.

I’ve run further before but that has to have been the most mentally challenging race I’ve ever run, made so much harder by the blustery conditions. Finished saying never again and already thinking maybe, I’m definitely not finished with lapped races but don’t know if I’ll ever want to see that racecourse again.

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Avid Runner Ultra Tyne Tour, Hexham to Tynemouth, Sunday, September 1, 2013

38 miles

Anna Seeley

I did the second of a two day event, day one following either the North Tyne or South Tyne and the second day following the Tyne itself from Hexham to Tynemouth. As with the previous Avid Runner event that I had completed it was a very small field, 6 of us with 5 eventual finishers. There was meant to be more running the second day but a tough first day had led to a lot of DNS’s.

The route initially didn’t follow the river but took us up into the woods above Hexham before dropping us down the riverbanks just west of Corbridge. There were a few potential places for error early on so we stuck together as a group and only really started to split up once we got onto the main riverside path. From here it was along the Tyne to Riding Mill before again being sent through woodland and farmland to eventually rejoin the river at Ovingham. I ran all this section with a NEMC member and was glad of the company as we had abandoned the basic instructions early on and were relying on our map reading skills. Luckily it was very easy but it was good to have a second opinion at a few path junctions.

From Prudhoe onto Wylam, the going got a lot easier underfoot and a lot flatter as was expected for a run out along a river. I had however never seen the river path so busy before with what seemed like hundreds of cyclists, runners and walkers so there was plenty of swerving to avoid collisions. Soon after Newburn I ended up running on my own and this remained the case until the end.

After Newburn, the cycle route NCN72 was followed all the way to the coast which made navigation very easy although the battle through the shoppers at the quayside market was interesting. Was very tempted to have a swift pint in the Tyne bar but the next checkpoint was within sight so onwards I ran to catch up with another runner. He was having a bit of a hard time and planned on walking for the next section but my legs had finally woken up so I tried to keep the pace up. I was now up to second but the lad in first place was long gone so knew that as long as I tried to run the remaining 10ish miles without too much walking then no one should catch me.

It seemed to take forever to reach the next checkpoint at Royal Quays although I surprised the marshal there by reaching her so quickly. She promised me that it was only about 5 miles to go and that I was about 10 mins behind first place. Definitely not enough distance to make up that time but still forced myself to run most of the remaining distance. Whoever put the signs up however were having a laugh, I must have passed about 3-4 which all said Tynemouth 5 miles, I wondered if I had stopped or was going round in circles.

Finally into North Shields then it was the last drag round to Tynemouth with a finish line on the pier. This was a much easier event to navigate than the northern cities and with well stocked checkpoints and friendly marshals definitely beginner friendly for anyone tempted to step up to ultra distances.

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Northern Cities Ultramarathon, Sunderland and Durham, Saturday, June 29, 2013


Anna Seeley and Phil Owen

A race that takes in the landmarks of County Durham including a run past Durham Cathedral that would make many a race director envious, it was definitely sufficient temptation for me to enter this inaugural running of the northern cities ultra.

The exact race route and directions were unfortunately kept quiet till the day, although a route was published on the website a few weeks in advance, meaning there were no real chances to recce the course but everyone was in the same boat. We were given trackers to carry so our run route could be monitored to check that we had gone the right way and also so that the organisers could help us get back on track if we got lost. 7 pages of OS maps and lists of instructions later and a small friendly intimate group of 10 were ready to hit the trails.

First few miles weaved through Sunderland before heading onto the riverbank, through woodland to eventually circle the Washington wetlands centre and wind its way down to Coxgreen Bridge and the first checkpoint. Local knowledge was going to be useful so I stuck with a group of Sunderland Strollers who knew the way but they were running too quick and after managing to fall in the woods I decided to drop back, this was going to be a long day out.

Paired up with another runner on the climb up to Penshaw Monument and we stuck together all the way round Lambton estate and along Lumley Park Burn to Lumley Forge Bridge. The route was difficult to follow in places along here and two heads were definitely better than one at figuring it out although the leading group went wrong here and we caught them up at the second checkpoint. From here it was back onto the much easier to follow Weardale Way round to Chester le Street and then onwards up to Great Lumley.

The only part of the route I was definite on was from Great Lumley and through Durham so the maps went away and it was nice to run and enjoy the scenery which was fantastic on a nice sunny day. Caught the leaders on the descent into Finchale Priory and ran with them onwards past Frankland Prison and down past the kennels. At some point along here unintentionally I must have pulled away from them as the voices behind me faded and by the time I met Phil, Dave and Melanie down by Crook Hall there was no sign of them.

On through the centre of Durham and past the cathedral before dropping down onto the riverbanks everything was going great although the climb up to St Giles Church was hard work after 26 miles in the heat. Next was a loop round Kepier Wood which I really should run round more as I lack any knowledge of the routes through there and managed to end up in a field which I shouldn’t have done but did eventually manage to find my way back up to Gilesgate. Luckily Dave pointed me in the right direction through Gilesgate and I was onto Rennys Lane.

Due to works in Ramside Hall grounds the course had to be deviated onto the dismantled railway here and the rocky surface was not kind on the feet but finally got to Leamside where unfortunately my brain and the route description/maps stopped connecting. Got lost numerous times between here and Fencehouses resorting to asking directions from locals on a few occasions but thankfully finally made it to the next checkpoint and more coke, fantastic stuff on long runs.

After Fencehouses my sense of direction again continued to fail me and I lost more and more confidence over where I was going so although my legs were able to run I didn’t trust them to take me in the right direction. By this stage I knew I was being chased down and I don’t think that was helping matters as I was getting more frustrated by the second but knew that I needed to keep going. Managed to run with a couple of guys in the 60 mile race before Herrington Park but they were moving too quick, amazing considering they’d already covered over 50 miles that day.

Managed to find my way out of West Herrington and thankfully the route then became much easier to follow and for the first time in miles I had the confidence to run but by this point I’d been passed, while I was lost. Onwards towards Sunderland, past the old XC course at Farringdon before joining the Parkrun route past the lakes at Silksworth. Luckily Phil was pointing me in the right direction as my brain had given up with directions by this stage. Tried to convince myself I was just out for a 5K and it would be over soon but after clocking 45 miles the legs weren’t really trusting the brain. Final stretch seemed to go on for ever but eventually the edge of Ashbrooke cricket ground and the cheers into the finish. 46.5 miles run, I think it was meant to be 43 but navigational errors had added to that. At the finish I was informed that although I had come in second the leader had deviated massively from the correct route so I had been promoted to winner.

For an inaugural run there were inevitable glitches in the directions which unfortunately did lead to frustration at times but I’m sure these will be ironed out by next year. I would encourage anyone tempted to step up to ultras to consider this race as it was enjoyable scenic trip through the local area with incredibly friendly and encouraging marshals.

Phil Owen adds:

Till’s girlfriend, Ulrike also finished the 60 Mile race which is damn good going when she doesn’t know the area and presumably reading the road book in her second language!

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Summer Handicap, Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Anna Seeley

Well done to everyone who took part in this month’s handicap. Sorry for the delay in getting the results to you. 32 finishers and a good few others joining in for a lap made for a great race.

Competitive or what???

A big thankyou to Jacquie for help with the results, Michael for taking some great photographs and Paul for getting everyone away on time. With such a good turnout and mass finishes at times I hope everyone agrees with their times but if you think I’m wildly out let me know and I’ll look into it

George presses the flesh.

The next handicap will be on the 26th June. Remember you can run as many or as few handicaps as you like so please join us next month if you can.

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Summer Handicap, Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Anna Seeley

Well done to everyone who took part in the first handicap of the year. 41 finishers and a good few others joining in for a lap. Luckily the waterproof clipboard wasn’t required unlike last year’s atrocious weather but the lack of mud didn’t seem to hamper anyone’s fun.

Before the off ...

A big thankyou to Sue and Angela for help with the results, Alister for taking some great photographs, Greta for leading out the race and Mike for helping with identification of finishers. With such a good turnout and mass finishes at times I hope everyone agrees with their times but if you think I’m wildly out let me know and I’ll look into it.

The next handicap will be 22nd May. Remember you can run as many or as few handicaps as you like so please join us next month if you can.

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Terry O’Gara Memorial 5K, Wallsend, Sunday, April 21, 2013

Anna Seeley

Having seen Alister’s email about this race during the week and promptly ignoring it as today was meant to be the last long run before Sunderland next week I sat down to watch the London marathon and suddenly had the urge to race. Called Alister back to pick me up and we were off to Wallsend.

Due to the rather rushed exit to the house and also having no idea what I can run 5K in these days as haven’t raced one properly in about 18 months I stood on the start line with no watch and no idea what time I was going for. Also at the back of my mind is the marathon in a week’s time and the fact that I’d had to drop speed training from my plans due to my legs rebelling. We’d thought that the course was flat as it had been described as a potential PB route but there was talk of hills, sometimes a lack of local knowledge is a good thing.

First K and Alister was quickly away into the distance, no worries it would have been stupid to try and keep up with him as there is no way I have the speed in the legs but managed to tuck in behind a Jarrow and Heburn runner who I have frequently finished close to in 5Ks in the past. Down a hill and onto Hadrians way we started the drag to regain the height we’d lost, well if this was the hill they were on about it there was nothing to worry about. Past the 1K marker and felt I could/should be going a bit quicker so set off after a couple of Sunderland Strollers lads who were having their own battle.

At the 3K mark you pass the finish and go onto a slightly modified second lap, so back down the hill and up the drag and I’m now stuck between the two Sunderland Strollers. By 4.5K I’m wishing the race to be finished, remembering just how much I hate 5Ks and actually looking forward to the chance to run a marathon next weekend but there’s no easing off as I’m pushed all the way to the line.

Despite it not being completely flat and having a few twists and turns this is definitely a fast course as Alister proved a great run to finish with a seasons best. Good if rather bright T shirt for finishing I’d definitely considering re-visiting this race next year.

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