Category Archives: Colin Blackburn

The Wee Toughie, Eyemouth, Coldingham Sands, Sunday, October 12, 2014

Colin Blackburn

Before the start.Today I was meant to be running the Aviemore Half. Unfortunately work had other ideas and I had to be in Liverpool by 10am on the Monday, not something I could really do even with a blistering PB. I resigned myself to staying at home and I looked around for an alternative. By the power of social media I came across the Eyemouth 10K, a multi-terrain race that styled itself as The Wee Toughie. It also turned out it was its first running. Eyemouth is about 12 miles from our house so very much on the doorstep with the advantage of being somewhere Elfie and I had yet to explore. The race was organised by Run Eyemouth and the Borders Sport and Leisure Trust. As I’m in an English club I got to pay the extra £2 for not being Scottish but £12 is still not too bad these days.

It turned out that the race started a little way up the coast on a beach – ring any bells? – in the absolutely beautiful little bay just down from Coldingham. And just to add stunning to beauty it was a glorious day. Crisp autumn sunshine making for the perfect conditions, I ditched the second layer. There was a pre-race briefing, outside the Beach Cafe which housed registration, where I got the gist of the route but as I wouldn’t be leading and the course was marshalled and marked I thought I’d be okay. As the start time approached the 40-50 runners gathered behind a line in the sand. I moved down to the firmest sand, Coastal Run experience kicking in.

The beach section was a little shorter than at Beadnell! Just a few hundred yards and then we were up some killer steep steps to the cliff-top path. This is a really painful start to a race. The footpath then follows the headland, opening up to some stunning views, round to St Abbs. (St Abbs is a pretty little fishing village but appears to be a made-up Victorian name as there is no St Abb.) Through the village and after a short section of road and some roadside paths it is through a farm and down onto narrow woodland footpaths. Before long we’re out onto the grassland around the top of Mire Loch and I assumed back down towards St Abbs.

That would be too easy! A sharp left takes us up a line of telegraph poles on what can only be described to the sassenachs as a fell section. Tussocky-grassy steep, then bare-hillsided steeper. Over the summit the sea views open up again, this coastline is nothing short of spectacular – at times like this I wish I carried a camera. Then it’s down some rocky steps before a long tarmacked and tracked section taking us back towards St Abbs from where the race retraces its path along the cliff, down the steps and across the beach to the finish.

Did it live up to its name? Certainly, it was a wee toughie and I was very pleased with 50:50 – though it my have been a wee shortie too. But beyond that it was a very friendly, well-marshalled, well-organised race with stunning views and a bit of terrain to suit everyone. Of course next October it’ll be driech but if this race is back then I hope to be too! It’s a long way from Durham but I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

Before the finish.

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Coastal Run, Beadnell to Alnmouth, Sunday, July 20, 2014

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. Endurance Champion Race - click flag for more information. 14 miles

Colin Blackburn

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.

Striders at the seaside.

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.

Louise keeps smiling in the heat.

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?!

Results

Pos Name Club Cat CatPos Time
1 Kevin Jeffress Sunderland Harriers M 1:18:57
34 Debbie Appleton Havering Mayesbrook AC FV40 1:31:21
90 Michael Tait M 1:39:53
102 Graeme Walton MV40 1:40:42
120 Jon Ayres MV40 1:42:14
137 David Gibson MV40 1:44:09
139 Katy Walton F 1:44:19
163 Rachel Terry FV40 1:46:21
220 Matthew Crow M 1:51:15
242 Alister Robson MV40 1:52:30
258 David Brown M 1:53:30
263 Mandy Dawson FV40 1:53:48
265 Colin Blackburn MV50 1:54:01
272 Juliet Percival FV40 1:54:24
288 Michael Bennett MV60 1:55:25
361 Lesley Charman FV40 2:00:19
386 Stephanie Walker FV35 2:01:56
433 Megan Bell F 2:04:44
439 Nicola Whyte F 2:05:01
456 Mark Dunseith M 2:06:31
464 Kathryn Sygrove FV40 2:06:53
469 Lucy Cowton F 2:07:02
472 Camilla Lauren-Maatta FV40 2:07:16
477 Fiona Jones FV35 2:07:39
502 Melanie Hudson FV35 2:09:32
511 David Spence MV60 2:09:46
527 Anita Clementson FV40 2:10:46
538 Paul Beal MV50 2:11:24
595 Sarah Fawcett FV50 2:15:14
611 Dave Robson MV60 2:17:13
634 Barrie Evans ? MV60 2:18:32
685 Ian Spencer M 2:24:18
724 Louise Billcliffe FV50 2:27:48
733 Jacquie Robson FV35 2:28:43
758 Karen Anne Chalkley FV50 2:31:10
761 Debbie Mcfarland F 2:32:01
781 Anita Dunseith F 2:35:32
799 Brian Ford MV40 2:39:43
819 Kirsty Anderson FV35 2:43:39
823 Sue Jennings FV40 2:44:36
827 Kelly Collier F 2:45:52
828 Helen Allen FV40 2:45:52
832 John Hutchinson MV50 2:50:24
846 Christine Farnsworth FV60 2:59:00
847 Maggie Thompson FV60 2:59:00
850 Robert Clark M 3:03:09

857 finishers

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Duns Reivers Week Fun Run, Berwickshire, Thursday, July 10, 2014

Colin Blackburn

I moved up to the English side of the border – I can’t afford to have to get a new passport – a couple of weeks ago and had hoped to take part in the Berwick Curfew Run shortly after the move. Unfortunately while Alister travelled up to a race right on my doorstep I travelled down to Manchester for work! It looks like I missed a good one. Looking around for a local race I found this little gem hosted by runduns. It’s a few miles over the border in the small Berwickshire town of Duns and forms part of their summer festival, the Duns Reivers Week. The town seemed to have numerous events every day for a week or so. Thursday evening included the 5K run, a shorter run for the kids, a marching pipe band and a torchlight procession followed by fireworks.

Registration for the run was pretty informal, in the town square outside Hugo’s Bistro. Four quid, no numbers. At 6:28 the field gathered at the start line. At 6:29 some of the seniors, me included, were asked to step forward so the the all-too-eager juniors didn’t get bowled over at the start. At 6:30 we were off. At 6:30:05 the all-too-eager juniors overtook the front-row seniors! A short closed road section took us out of the town and into the grounds of Duns Castle. After that it was a very pleasant multi-terrain run around the castle’s woodland paths and meadow tracks, including running alongside a lake called Hen Poo (I didn’t leave the el off). The race ended with a run back down into the town to finish just outside Hugo’s.

I was pleased to get my medal after the announcement that due to the large number of entries they may not have had enough – what is it with races in the Borders in July? I’m not sure of the results but I was happy with 22:56 on a slightly undulating 5K. After the race I got a chance to chat with a few Tweed Striders, my now local club, before Elfie and I went for a Chinese. While we ate a marching band went back and fore on the street outside the restaurant window playing various Scottish classics. All a bit surreal. We didn’t have time to hang around for the procession but maybe next year we’ll plan ahead.

It’s not exactly an easy race for Striders to get to but if anyone is up here in July for, say, the Kelso 10K, then this little race is a nice warm up and a great evening out in Duns.

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Brass Monkey Half Marathon, York Racecourse, Sunday, January 19, 2014

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. Endurance Champion Race - click flag for more information.

Colin Blackburn

Grand Prix Race. Endurance Champion Race.  Striders who know me will know that I am not usually one for the roads but that I have been turning up for some of the club’s classic road races over the last couple of years: GNR, Brampton and the GNR again! This year I decided to tick off the Brass Monkey, though given the 90 minutes I spent trying to access a crashing Knavesmire Harriers’ website it was nearly a write off before I even started. Having managed the almost impossible, to get just one entry into the race – no more, no fewer! – I joined 20 or so Striders on the bus to York very early on a cold January Sunday morning; a similar number made their own way there. By the time we got to York the forecast “sunny periods” hadn’t arrived and so I prepared for a wet run. But, by the start, it was a bit warmer than at home and so the thermal came off and my gloves and hat were left in my bag. In fact it was probably pretty ideal: the cold side of mild, overcast, light drizzle and no wind.

I’d not really prepared for a half marathon relying instead on it being a comfortable distance for me. In fact several days cross-country skiing the previous weekend, including a very tough 15km of a disastrous ski marathon, had taken their toll. I hadn’t realised quite how much until about halfway round the Brass Monkey lollipop of a course. Muscles that really shouldn’t ache when running started to ache, muscles that I only ever seem to use for skiing but muscles that were still complaining. It made for a very painful final six miles. What probably made things worse was that everyone says this is a potential PB course. No wind, no sun, and nicely cool just added to that potential, a potential my brain didn’t want to waste even if my legs did. So I punished my legs more than I probably should have, but I did get that PB.

Spot the Strider.
photo courtesy and © David Aspin

For those who have not yet done this half marathon, the course is a mix of minor and more minor roads. I’d say it’s as flat as a pancake but the bridge over the A64 is a nasty little climb when your legs are tired after 12 miles of pounding the roads. It’s well marshalled with three well-placed water points. There are some great patches of support as you pass through a couple of villages and there is fantastic support at the finish, well there was by the time I finished. There’s even a bit of wild life to see, about half way round a weasel darted across the road in front of me carrying something like a vole in its mouth.

Once we were all in and changed – and it’s great to be able to get changed in the warm, dry comfort of the race course main building – it was back on the bus for Shipton. It was a short bus trip to the Dawnay Arms for Sunday lunch and a couple of very welcome pints, then a longer sleepier bus trip back to Durham. A tiring but enjoyable day, but one my legs are not going to let me forget just yet.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Chip Time
1 Matthew Peirson Holmfirth Harriers M 1:10:19
19 Jilly Woodthorpe Barnsley AC F35 1:15:57
83 Gareth Pritchard M 1:21:58
153 Paul Evans M 1:25:51
181 Graeme Walton M40 1:27:17
294 Jeremy Lloyd M45 1:31:08
343 Katy Walton F 1:33:24
347 Rachel Terry F40 1:33:27
376 Stewart Mcconnell M 1:33:29
367 Jonathan Steed M40 1:33:50
511 Colin Blackburn M50 1:38:11
520 Michael Hughes M45 1:38:15
715 Alister Robson M40 1:44:56
759 Rachael Bullock F 1:46:00
826 Jane Ives F40 1:47:53
846 Lucy Cowton F 1:48:37
908 Jackie McKenna F45 1:51:13
1037 Paul Beal M50 1:54:02
1042 Alan Smith M65 1:55:49
1045 Richard Hall the Younger M45 1:54:36
1050 Jacquie Robson F35 1:55:01
1090 Kirsty Anderson F35 1:56:24
1104 Laura Turnbull F 1:57:04
1140 Ian Spencer M50 1:58:08
1164 Kathryn Sygrove F45 1:59:38
1160 Kate Macpherson F40 1:59:44
1252 Sarah Fawcett F50 2:05:17
1349 Christine Anne Farnsworth F60 2:16:23
1429 Margaret Thompson F60 2:31:37

1446 finishers.

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Marathon de Bessans 10K, France, Sunday, January 12, 2014

Colin Blackburn

I was over in France and this 10K caught my eye. Bessans is a beautiful little town nestling in the Rhône-Alpes. It’s a wide valley surrounded by snow-covered alpine peaks. The 10K started shortly after its sister races, a marathon and a half marathon, and shortly before the children’s races of 5K and 2.5K, there was also a “Just for fun” race, yes they did use the English! As I would be running the Brass Monkey in just seven days I decided that the 10K would be a sensible distance. The pre-race build-up was great, lots of commentary and the race mascot, some sort of devil-come-bear-come-bull, running around annoying people.

Bang on 10:00 the main field was off with the half marathon doing a hilly circuit of the valley, the marathon covered this loop twice. At 10:15, and part of a much smaller field, I was off on the 10K which took a very different route for the first 6K. It was a fairly simple course: a trail dropping down to the river and then following it to the halfway point, then a long steady climb with a couple of short sharp hills back to the finish. For the most part it was a gentle descent but there were a couple of very steep drops that were technically difficult. Just as I got to the 4K-to-go marker I joined the main field – they’d done 17K by this point! This was not easy to do with a pack of elite athletes hogging the trail. Rather than get crushed I decided to pause – it was just after a sharp climb – and let them pass and took a breather.

The next 3K was what felt like a never-ending climb but it did end – after 3K! – and as I crowned the hill the finish area was in sight. It was then a fairly flat course in and I crossed the line in a very creditable, for me, 45:23. Even the 10K competitors got medals – and a bit of tissue to wipe the sweat (or worse) off! After the finish line there was a whole array of nibbles and drink, the French do this so well. I had a cup of vin chaud (mulled wine) and some cake. After waiting for friends who were doing the half and the marathon to finish we all headed for a post race meal, pasta with the local cheese and fresh yoghurt, before the long drive back to Geneva.

After looking at my GPS log I noticed I’d hit around 30kph on that steep descent, that’s some descending for me! Oh, did I mention that this was an XC ski race? No? Well, it was and I recommend that anyone who runs tries one if they can, they are great fun and almost always beautiful. My marathon race the day before on slightly different skis was a disaster, but that’s a much longer story and I don’t want to put you off.

I suffer the effects of snow blindness and exhaustion... and I'm not even racing yet!
photo courtesy and © Dagmar Junghanns
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Not the Ellesmere 10K, Shropshire, Friday, August 23, 2013

Colin Blackburn

On Sunday I didn’t do the Ellesmere 10K. In fact I didn’t know the Ellesmere 10K existed. But I was in Ellesmere. Not Ellesmere Port but Ellesmere, Shropshire. Ellesmere is pretty. Ellesmere has a mere and so Ellesmere is flat. Ellesmere is pretty flat. The Ellesmere 10K has 31 metres of climb. That’s 3 metres of climb for every kilometre. It’s that flat. Oswestry Olympians, the club that organises the Ellesmere 10K, say, “This race was won [in 2012] in 29.12 which was the 6th fastest time in the UK for a road race.” It’s that flat. The Ellesmere 10K has chip timing. The Ellesmere 10K costs only £10. That’s £1 per kilometre. The Ellesmere 10K includes a technical t-shirt and a goody bag. The Ellesmere 10K is good value. The Ellesmere 10K has PB potential. Oswestry Olympians say, “The sun usually shines on this race.” On Sunday the 25th of August 2013 the sun did shine on the Ellesmere 10K.

I’d recommend the Ellesmere 10K but I didn’t do the Ellesmere 10K. I went cycling.

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Compass Sport Trophy, Slaley Forest, Sunday, February 17, 2013

Colin Blackburn

The Compass Sport Cup & Trophy is the nearest thing in orienteering to what the Harrier League is to NE cross country. One key difference is that it is a national competition with regional qualification rounds; another is that, as some orienteering clubs are very small, the competition is divided into the Cup for big clubs and the Trophy for small clubs. My club, Northern Navigators, is a small club so at the weekend we competed against other small clubs in the north of England and southern Scotland for a place in the final of the Compass Sport Trophy.

The two competitions take place simultaneously and this year were organised by NATO, the Tyneside orienteering club rather than the military alliance and a big club, and took place in Slaley Forest south of Hexham. There are several different classes depending on age and gender with upto two or three runners in each class counting towards an overall club score made up of the best 13 runners overall. Like the Harrier League those runners who aren’t counters still help in pushing counters from other clubs into lower positions. Because of the scoring it’s definitely an event for the club coming out in force, in breadth and depth. And on the day NN really did come out in force, fielding 20 competive runners. And what a day! It was bathed in glorious sunshine.

Northern NavigatorsElfie dropped me in the middle of the forest near Ladycross Quarry where the event assembly was and my plan was to zip round the course and then jog back home for a late lunch. As I got out of the car I bumped into Dougie who reminded me that the start was getting on for a mile away. I was just about to head to the start with Dougie when I remembered I had to pick up a new club top. Although you don’t have to run in club colours it’s nice to show your colours on an occasion like this and so I headed to the car park to get a brand new top from the back of Boris’s car. By the time I had jogged to the start and got changed there was only 10 minutes to go before my start time and Dougie was well into the woods already.

First two legsAlthough it was dry from above it was anything but from below. Some of the tracks were positively clarty and even patches of dry-looking open ground turned out to be marshy. At one point I was almost up to my knees in mud. Great stuff! The navigation was fairly straightforward though I had a couple of misses and at one point struggled across a landscape of tree stumps and ditches when it would definitely have been easier to take a long route round a nice track. In many ways this really is cross country: ditches, mud, streams, mud, uneven ground, mud, hills, mud, nice tracks and even more mud – it was glorious! As I got to the last control seventy something minutes after starting I saw Dougie, and serveral others, looking for it. Maybe I was lucky but my line took me right into the control and then it was just a short track run to the finish. At the finish I realised how much punishment my nice brand new top had taken along with my nice new Craft thermal. I guess there was more gorse and scratchy trees than I had thought.

After hanging around a minute or two for Dougie we walked back to his car via the assembly area to download our dibbers. By now it was a lot later than I had expected and so I wasn’t going to make it home for a late lunch. Instead I took advantage of Dougie’s Berlingo as an impromptu coffee shop and changing room. Since this was the largest gathering of our club for a good while I decided to hang around for a club photo. Herding orienteers is a bit like herding cats but eventually 20 of us managed to be in the same place at once and we got a photo.

Then it was just the run home! From the edge of Slaley Forest I took the packhorse trail over the fell to Penny Pie and then down to Blanchland. By the time I got to Baybridge I decided to walk up the road rather than het knee-deep in mud again by using the footpath. In the end the run home was longer than the orienteering and I had definitely missed my lunch!

The good news was that Northern Navigators had come second in Trophy round and had thus qualified for the final. A great achievement and I hope I will be able to make the final later in the year but I’m sure the club will be out in force vying to win the Compass Sport Trophy.

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Hillforts and Headaches, Rothbury, Tuesday, January 1, 2013

AS / 3M 1020'

Colin Blackburn

Despite sending out an email letting people know about this option for New Year’s Day I hadn’t planned on doing this race myself. When, late on New Year’s Eve, Elfie saw the weather forecast for Tuesday she suggested a trip up to Rothbury just to get out of the house after being pretty much housebound by constant rain and high winds for the holiday period. Then I read about the landslip in one of the roads into Rothbury and wondered if we’d even be able to get there. But we did and the weather was glorious, perfect running weather.

I registered very early in the Newcastle Arms and then went for a walk around the town – there wasn’t much happening first thing on New Year’s Day. Popping back into the pub to use the loo lots of runners had started to arrive and I came across Geoff and Sue and Shaun and Ros. Shaun and Ros had spent the night in Rothbury and so Shaun was about as race-ready as they come! After a bit of a warm-up the faithful gathered outside the church just before 11.

Hillforts and Headaches is that rare thing in fell racing, an uphill-only race. A straight 3 mile blast from Rothbury to Beacon Hill via at least one hillfort. Lordenshaws HillfortThis year the route was a little different due to the road bridge being rebuilt. The race started outside the church and went down the very narrow ginnel and over the narrow footbridge crossing the swollen River Coquet – all a bit of a squeeze. After a short road climb the route heads up onto the fells towards Lordenshaws. With all the wet weather it was very slippery under foot on the footpath up the fell. One guy in those 5-finger things was slipping all over the place. Shaun later told me after chatting to the runner that they were the off-road Vibrams, it certainly wasn’t a great advert for them!

After the slight rest on the approach to Lordenshaws car park from Lordenshaws Hillfort the final climb up the rocky, flagged and stepped path to Beacon Hill starts. This contains the steepest sections and is hard under foot but you can eventually see the finish. By the time I was on this section the earlier finishers were jogging back down to Rothbury calling out encouragement to those of us making up the back half of the field. Then you get to the wind-break shelter on the hill and the effort is all over. At this point it was quite a struggle to get my windproof out of my bumbag and put it on before it blew away, but it was certainly needed up there once I stopped moving.

Unlike other years when I’ve done this race there was no snow, no cloud, no rain. Just glorious views across Coquetdale.

View across Coquetdale
photo courtesy and © Elfrieda Waren

After a couple of minutes to catch my breath I joined those heading back down and saw the tail-end runners still struggling up the hill. At Lordenshaws I met Elfie who’d been walking up on Beacon Hill and had also taken a few photos of the race. Since our car was parked there and we were ultimately heading to Wallington Hall we decided not to head back into Rothbury for the presentation, but I’m sure it was as good as ever with bread and soup available. Wallington wasn’t! Although open on New Year’s day their sandwiches and cake were definitely on the stale side – I hate to think when they were made!

This is definitely a race to be recommended if you’re not too bothered about GP points and you don’t want to be out too long.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Lee Grant NFR Sen 1 23.10
4 Will Horsley NFR Sen 23.53
22 Karen Robertson NFR FV40 1 28.44
31 Geoff Davis NFR V50 31.04
34 Shaun Roberts V50 31.49
56 Susan Davis NFR FV50 35.01
58 Colin Blackburn NFR V50 35.45

83 finishers.

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Great North Run, Sunday, September 16, 2012

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. Endurance Champion Race - click flag for more information. Grand Prix Race. Endurance Champion Race.

Colin Blackburn, Pam Kirkup and George Nicholson

Colin Blackburn …

As a runner I’m happiest when I’m orienteering. At even the biggest orienteering events such as the Scottish 6-Day I can still find myself completely alone in a forest with the sounds and smells of the woodland all around me. So what was I thinking when I entered the Great North Run for the very first time way back at the start of this year. Did I think I’d enjoy being surrounded by over 40,000 people (that’s almost a third of the population of my hometown Huddersfield!). Did I think I would I enjoy the smells and sounds of the 13 miles of tarmac between Newcastle and South Shields? Eight months later, as Sunday the 16th of September dawned and I was stirring my porridge at some ungodly hour I was about to find out …

Louise and Victoria. Arriving with a coach-load of Striders near the start with almost two hours before the off it didn’t look too crowded. It was statistically unlikely but I did bump into Christine who I had met on holiday back in the summer, a 100+ parkrunner she was up doing the GNR with some friends. By 10:30 I was in a pen with a couple of thousand people I didn’t know from Adam who seemed to be throwing their clothes away into the central reservation. The Red Arrows traditional fly-over gave an impression the start was imminent but the start itself seemed fairly anticlimactic, more of a mass shuffle forward. As I shuffled forwards with the crowd each lorry parked in the central reservation seemed to be transformed into a mass urinal. Finally there was a pinch point and then I was running. I vaguely remember seeing people high-fiving Greg Rutherford but like the pre-race toilets there was a queue that you think twice about joining.

A minute or two later and I had the choice of the high road or the low road. There seemed to be a lot of last second barrier jumping to change lane but knowing no better and as I was on the left (and it was downhill) I went low and followed the underpass. The low road seemed to be the loo road! I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed so many people peeing around the start of the race. A little later with sky above my head again I realised why this race is special. I was in a concrete canyon but the tops of the cliffs were lined with hundreds people shouting, yelling and waving banners for their friends, family or loved ones running down below. And that was just a couple of hundred yards. A few months ago kittiwakes were the noisiest residents of the Tyne Bridge, today it was people cheering on the runners.

And then into Gateshead where the real entertainment started with steel bands and drumming groups every few K and most roundabouts seemingly occupied by rock bands. One band out towards South Shields was decent enough for me to have wanted to stop and have a proper listen if I hadn’t have been in a race. Oh, there was Elvis out there somewhere too but again I didn’t stop to listen as the race was always on my mind. Filling the gaps between the music were the relentless crowds and bus-full after bus-full of charity supporters. Okay, it thinned out a bit between Gateshead and South Shields but not much.

As for Striders, well from getting heading into my pen to about half way round I didn’t see a single one – despite knowing that George was carrying his torch I failed to notice passing him. Then at some point I heard a scream of “COLIN!!!” and nearly jumped out of my skin. Looking around Jan and Tony were on a patch of grass that you wouldn’t want to have to get to during rush hour. Jan was doing the screaming while Tony was taking some photos. A while late I passed Bill and then it wasn’t until the drop down to the coast that Anna passed me and I passed Jean. The final section along the coast road was great with the noisiest crowds of all. High-fiving (or should that be low-fiving?) all the little out-stretched palms seemed to make me run a little faster. The last 400m seemed longer than once round the track but I finally crossed the line taking 5 minutes off my only other half marathon in Dundee a couple of months ago.

That was the running bit over. I’ll skip the bit where I got lost finding the baggage buses and just get straight to the pub. To everyone’s surprise the Look Out had put on a spread for us. The pool table was laden with pies, pasties, sandwiches, crisps, cheese puffs… and the obligatory sausage rolls. I hope we drank enough between us to pay for it all! But it was very welcome despite plenty of people grabbing food before the pub. Getting out of South Shields was a bit of an adventure involving a bizarre discussion between our bus driver and a marshall as to whether what we were on was technically a bus. It turned out we weren’t enough like a bus to go down the “Bus Only” road and so we had to spend an hour in the sort of shuffling traffic that reminded me of the start.

Did I mention that it rained for almost the entire race? No? Well apparently it did. Definitely a race worth doing, I’d go so far as to say that for me it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

… Pam Kirkup …

This was my 19th Great North Run, the first one being 30 years ago in 1982. As my first ever race, it got me started running seriously and led me to joining my first club, Durham City Harriers, along with Jan Young.

Number-swapping? Noooooooo ... As the world’s biggest, arguably greatest, half marathon it has rightly earned the terms ‘iconic’ and ‘inspirational’. The images of the Tyne Bridge as thousands of runners pour over the river; the Red Arrows performing in perfect symmetry; the incredible feeling of seeing the coast after that harsh climb through the eleventh mile and then what seems like the longest mile in history, that run to the finish. The all-inclusive ethos of the race is impressive. Everyone from the superfit: whether it be Ethiopian and Kenyan superstars, finely honed celebrities, elite club runners or competent recreational runners down to the totally unfit and relatively unprepared; all are there mostly raising money for very personal charities and get round somehow. It’s all amazing – but does it have to cost so much? At £48 it’s considerably more expensive than London Marathon Club entrants paid this year. And if you defer your number, you have to pay the £48 all over again!

Yet on Sunday Striders filled a 50+ seater bus with mostly runners, a few supporters and race volunteers. Others made their own way there. The bus dropped us off incredibly early, so we had plenty of time to ‘mentally prepare’ for the race … which seemed to involve many trips to the loo, consuming bananas and having a go at carrying George’s Olympic torch. It was surprisingly heavy – no wonder Emma and Dougie were recruited as “torch Sherpas”! Eventually the start time grew closer so we all retired to our start ‘pens’, identified by the race number. Mine was ‘white zone G’. There I met up with Christine Farnsworth and we compared the relative inadequacies of our preparation; we would both just “get round”. Christine had “done no real training” other than “just 4 miles” at the most. After the bizarre warm-up aerobics session we began to move forward. Twenty two minutes after the gun we approached the start line … and she was off like a rocket! No real training? Hmmm!

My first impression was how hard it was actually running on tarmac! Having spent the last two and a half months training mostly on the Waskerley Way and other similar tracks and trails it felt like the soles of my feet had been beaten by bamboo sticks. Then the rain started! For me this race is such familiar territory that I know whether or not I’ve blown it pretty much by Heworth. All was well at that point but the rain was getting heavier so it wasn’t comfortable. However, it was amazing how quickly the miles seemed to pass by. My target was to finish before 2.30 and I’d tried to stay with the pacer for that time but to no avail. Without my glasses, steaming up in the rain, I couldn’t see him anyway!

As always the crowds cheering us on, the music, just the whole buzz of it all kept me going. Louise and Victoria, going really well, passed me at around 9 miles. That slight uphill bit on the John Reid Road always does for me. This year it was entirely psychological – I was reaching the furthest I had run in training. So it was starting to unravel a bit. But I soon recovered and pressed on. When I was able to put my glasses back on I realised I’d been following the 2.15 pacer! Anita passed me on the hill towards 11 miles. She was looking relaxed and comfortable. Not long to go now – it would be a breeze. Once I got to the downhill stretch to Marsden I knew it would be ok, I should finish in about 2.20. To my delight it was actually 2.16.49!

Once again I had that intense feeling of elation and achievement. The finish was extremely well managed. I met Kate McPherson who was delighted with her time and then I wandered off to the “Charity Village”. This year I am supporting Marie Curie Cancer Care – conspicuous by their absence around the course it has to be said. Never mind, they were offering every comfort in their marquee – even a “double leg massage”. There was a bit of a queue so after a cup of tea and a flapjack I left in seek of the baggage bus, but more importantly, a pint of lager! At the Look Out pub Striders were gathering, all exchanging stories of experiences around the course, times and a few PBs. It was a very happy enjoyable afternoon. The landlord had put on a buffet for us – apparently we had spent so much money on beer etc last year that he had wanted to thank us.

So was it worth it? I asked first timer (surprisingly) Colin. He had mixed views. Not too keen on the hype or “warm up” before the race – I’m with him on that one! Also some of the crowds and runners barging/ stopping dead in front of you was a bit of a problem but I think it was otherwise ok for him. He’ll no doubt tell me if I’ve got it wrong!

It has to be said that the organisation is superb. Although I’m not keen on the pens at the start. When we left the pub there was total gridlock. We were inexplicably prevented from using a road that had been closed other than as a bus lane. Weren’t we a bus? So maybe Brendan needs to rethink his transport policy.

Is it worth £48? I don’t know – for me I’d do it anyway. The price however might make it less of “the people’s race” in this day and age. 55,000 entrants would probably say otherwise. I’m totally against the £48 fee for deferrals – no wonder people pass on their numbers! Anyway, when I got home Paul said “how did you get on darling?” I replied “2.16.49”.

His response? “Well done – not bad for an OAP”!!! He may not have any teeth left!

… and George Nicholson

Another Great North Run done and dusted and I still find the ‘magic’ of the Event as exciting as ever.

Barrie & I never imagined back in 1981 when we had completed our 1st GNR that we would still be running down the same route 31 years later, and we both feel very privileged to be part of a select group of 117 runners. There is a now quite a ‘bond’ growing with all the ‘other presents’. We have our own Newsletter, T shirts, and of course special starting positions at the front of the race, and certainly since 2005 the GNR has become more than just a half-marathon to me.

The support I have had from Striders over the last few years and from many other friends has been absolutely marvellous, and each year I have tried to do something different or original that may help capture the imagination to raise the profile of the my chosen charity and thus encourage donations. As I did not fancy running with a fridge on my back for the 30 days preceding the Run, I took an easier option and decided on Olympic Torch carrying. Thankfully it was still relevant to gain press interest and I was lucky enough to have some interview requests. This aspect however is the one I find the most stressful (as Jacquie knows!) and I never find it gets any easier.

Once more I had great support from other Striders who opted to run and fundraise for Acorns. Monies are still coming in , and between Alister, Sue Gardham, Sue Jennings, Dougie, Emma, Sam Brown (former Sunderland park run director) & myself we will have topped £2500.

As for the Race itself, what can I say that’s not been said before? It’s a very familiar route to so many of us. Colin & Pam have summed it up perfectly in their reports. The excitement for me is as great as ever.

Starting in Zone A with Barrie & I were Sue J, Emma, Sam & Dougie. Thankfully I’d run the Coll half-marathon with the Torch, and I felt less anxious having familiar faces near to me. The first mile tends to be relatively quick but then soon settles down. Sam Brown left our group and moved ahead and was thrilled with her first sub 2hr half marathon. I lost sight of Sue & Emma for the first mile or so, but they soon caught me up and stopped alongside me for several more miles, thankfully did not hang back for me as I slowed and both recorded PB’s.

Dougie in particular was a tower of Strength to me at many vital points en route when I was struggling, and carried the Torch for several of the miles. He caught up with me by Gateshead Stadium and stayed with me all the way to the finish line. The one big regret I had was that we separated just after the Tag removal area. We discussed beforehand the problems that may be encountered if he was photographed with a swapped name & numbered bib pinned to his chest. I was distracted by the first TV crew encountered and then lost sight of him altogether after that. I wish that he could have been by my side at these times and had been interviewed alongside me as well. His effort on the Run was greater than mine as he was also taking photographs , and I feel he did not get the recognition he deserved.

George receives a proposalPerhaps the most surreal moment was on the startline. I had a ‘marriage’ proposal by one of the ‘celebs’ !!!!! I did suggest it would have been nicer for him to ‘propose’ to one of the gorgeous young ladies with me at that moment i.e. Emma or Sam. He was insistent however that it had to be to me and gave me a big hug afterwards. Hmmm.. Without a few minutes his picture of us all was circulated to his 8600 followers on Twitter. It turned out that he was Patrick Monahan a stand up comedian who was sending out regular tweets every mile along the route, and giving his observations of the day. We ran together for the first mile or so and parted company just before the Tyne Bridge.

So another Great North Run done and most of my objectives achieved. Nova International have already commenced their planning for the 2013 GNR. I may defer MY plans for a few more weeks yet…

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Wilson Kipsang Kenya 00:59:06
1 Tirunesh Dibaba Ethiopia F 01:07:35
836 James Garland M 01:29:32
847 Simon Gardner M 01:29:36
1056 Graeme Walton M 01:31:09
2072 Matt Claydon M 01:36:19
2110 Jonathan Ackley M 01:36:31
2665 John Wandless M 01:38:20
4344 Marco van den Bremer M 01:42:46
4431 Aaron Gourley M 01:42:58
5613 Anna Seeley F 01:45:29
6149 Colin Blackburn M 01:46:32
6225 David Spence M 01:46:43
6519 Konstantin Visegradi M 01:47:17
6850 Kathryn Sygrove F 01:47:58
6857 Elinor Rodger F 01:47:58
7496 Paul Beal M 01:49:06
9687 Jean Bradley F 01:52:50
10263 Camilla Lauren-Maatta F 01:53:45
11659 Jill Ford F 01:55:45
12662 Alan Harvey Smith M 01:57:13
13067 John Greathead M 01:57:46
13151 Sue Gardham F 01:57:53
13172 Angela Proctor F 01:57:55
13232 Greta Jones F 01:57:59
13275 Alister Robson M 01:58:02
15027 Sandra Graham F 02:00:27
17004 Sarah Tulip F 02:03:41
17122 Zsofia Nemeth F 02:03:51
17760 Emma Detchon F 02:04:51
18288 Danny Lim M 02:05:41
18764 Dawn Dunn F 02:06:25
18853 Kate Macpherson F 02:06:34
19023 Ann Towers M 02:06:50
19447 Victoria Tindale F 02:07:30
19490 Denise Mason F 02:07:36
19716 Jim Nicholson M 02:07:56
19904 Dougie Nisbet M 02:08:15
20045 George Nicholson M 02:08:29
20458 Anita Clementson F 02:09:08
21172 Louise Barrow F 02:10:16
21263 Carole Reid F 02:10:24
21370 Christine Ann Farnsworth F 02:10:36
21396 Barrie John Evans M 02:10:40
21696 Joanne Richardson F 02:11:09
21697 Joanne Porter F 02:11:09
22307 Brian Ford M 02:12:10
23221 Jacquie Robson F 02:13:43
23501 Gary Parkinson M 02:14:11
23680 Nicola van den Bremer-Hornsby F 02:14:31
24267 Margaret Thompson F 02:15:31
24992 Pamela Kirkup F 02:16:49
25183 David Thornber M 02:17:10
26074 Katie Butler F 02:18:45
26074 Robert Clark M 02:26:24
33665 Kathryn Clark F 02:37:57
34031 Philippa Coffer F 02:39:15
34032 Alex Probert F 02:39:15
36222 Elizabeth Dick F 02:49:02
38885 Mark Reay M 03:14:17

40,041 finishers.

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Half DRAM, Dundee, Sunday, July 29, 2012

Colin Blackburn

…they didn’t.

Still, I had a half marathon to run so I hobbled downstairs – whoever thought spiral staircases were a good idea was clearly not a runner with DOMS – and ate a lot of cereal. My landlord, housemate and friend, Chris, had offered me a lift to, you’ve guessed it, Camperdown Park before he headed off to do some orienteering. I vaguely toyed with the idea of forgetting about the race and doing some orienteering as well but I had paid £13.10 and eaten a lot of cereal. The start for the half and the full marathon was beside the Mansion House in the centre of the park and as I approached it was clear that this was a bigger affair than yesterday’s parkrun. With a 1000 runners, 800 of whom were doing the half, there were a lot of people milling around. The whole thing was very well organised with various stalls – taping, energy drinks, etc., and baggage vans to take any bags to the end of the half out at Broughty Ferry.

After getting myself prepared and getting rid of the bag I set off for a light warm up through the woods, well the queues to the loos were a bit long! Near the start line I bumped into my colleague Scott who is also using this as a stage on his GNR training. We didn’t have much time to chat before we were off. The course took a loop through the park before crossing a very busy road into Templeton Woods. As this race had police support the road was closed for 15 minutes to allow the field to get across. In fact the police managed the traffic at the handful of other major road crossings on the route. The minor roads were handled by a plethora of marshals and elsewhere the course was very obviously marked. The course uses what is known as the Green Circular, a fairly lightly trafficked loop around Dundee. It was a mix of surfaces from woodland tracks, secluded cycleways and the occasional but unavoidable main road pavement.

The first couple of miles were distinctly uphill and on relatively narrow and occasionally muddy tracks, so I took it easy and didn’t waste any energy trying to get past people. In fact the few people who did pass me on the section were stood puffing and panting further up the hill – that’s no way to race! Once the first couple of miles is over the course heads gradually downhill all the way to the finish. There was the odd footbridge or section where the cycleway rose up a road embankment, not real hills by any means but you certainly felt them after a few miles. Also, after the initial woodland section the course was fairly exposed and the sun had come out – a very, very rare event in Dundee – so I am pleased I wore my hat and that I had put some sun cream on. Given the weather, the four water stations were also very welcome, especially the last two with big bowls of jelly babies.

When my watch beeped at the 16km mark I finally felt qualified to let the thought, “only a parkrun to go”, cross my mind. And it did! A mile or so further the road started to drop down to Monifieth and I started to feel I was nearly there. I grabbed a quick swig at the final drinks station, chewed a few sweets and finally saw the Silvery Tay. The last climb was the disturbingly steep railway foobridge and then it was on to the esplanade, back west towards Broughty Ferry. Up until this point I thought a sub 1:50 was on, then the headwind hit! I don’t think I have ever been to Broughty Ferry on a calm day and this was no exception. My only consolation was that I had a little over a mile to go while the marathon guys would have this headwind for at least another 10 miles. I dug in, got my head down and headed for the finish. I just missed my target and crossed the line in 1:50:47 but was very happy with that and equally happy to be comfortably in the top third of the field.

With my medal and goodie bag collected – Haribos, cereal bar, a nice High-5 drinks bottle and a 10% discount from a local tiling company! – I found my bag, got changed and headed back to the bus that had been laid on to get us half DRAMers back to the start. Once the bus had negotiated the Dundee traffic and dropped people at the bottom of the park – did he not realise how tired our legs were? – I got back to the start line to see the first marathon runner come in in 2:43. That’s a great time given the final three miles are uphill and the headwind – though chatting to him briefly he said that the headwind did die down a bit. He still beat me getting back on a bus!

Unfortunately Chris didn’t offer to collect me but today there was no way I was jogging home so I just ambled back which I think helped my legs. I got back in plenty of time to watch the last hours of the far from disappointing women’s road race! Well done Lizzie Armitstead! Well done also to the organisers, marshals and police that made for such a great race.

I then fell asleep and dreamed of getting a half marathon PB in the GNR…

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