Category Archives: Emma Thompson

Saltwell Fell Race, Stanhope, Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. King/Queen of the Mountain Race - click flag for more information. BS/9Km/300m

Emma Thompson

After the London Marathon, I had planned to try and use my new found level of fitness to achieve a sub-40 10k. One failed attempt, a second attempt thwarted by Father’s day, and I decided to shelve this dream for a short while as I was getting too negative about it all.


So when Fiona mentioned the Saltwell fell race on Tuesday morning, it caught my eye. A quick online search told me this was only 5.5 miles and was partially marked – that sold it. A quick check to make sure I wasn’t going to be the only Strider there, and the decision was made – my first fell race! No PB chasing and no clock watching.

With the nice weather, it seemed unlikely we’d need full kit, but I wasn’t taking any chances and quickly treated myself to a whistle, a compass I can’t use and some taped seam trousers on the afternoon. Now I have the kit, I’ll have to do a bad weather race to get my money’s worth!

The race start was located a couple of miles north of Stanhope. Race HQ was the back of someone’s car parked by the side of the road, with parking also scattered along the road. A flag marked the race start. Very low key.

As soon as I parked I realised that, in my effort to pack a full FRA kit, I had forgotten my inhaler…. Whilst I can manage as long slow run without, exercise is the main trigger for my asthma, so without this, it was going to be a slow jog over the fells. I decided to randomly ask total strangers if they had an inhaler but had resigned myself to just enjoying a gentle run out on a summer evening.

Having found Nina, Robin, Nigel and Simon at the start, we were ready to go. Well almost, a request from the race director for an inhaler came up with a result, so 2 quick puffs and we were off!

I had no real idea what to expect so was happy just to settle into pace with those around me at first. After a very short section of path, the race heads uphill, through heather and bracken. There was a small (very small) gap to follow and I just slotted in at a very comfortable pace, not wanting to waste energy at this point traipsing over the foliage. As we got higher, there started to be some slightly sparser areas of foliage (is there an official fell term for this???!), so I started to take the opportunities to move up a few places at a time. Eventually we joined a gravel path again for a short time, reaching the top of the hill. By this point I suspected I might be first female, and if not, then not far off. But was well aware I may have just gone out too fast and had no idea what I was doing or where I was going…

We headed back on ourselves with a long mainly downhill section, but we were back on rough ground. Constantly watching for the best path through, I’d hooked onto the back of a very similarly paced runner and was happy to let him help guide me through. Both taken by surprise with the first bog, not helped by running into the sunshine. He lost one leg into the bog, I lost both above the knees and was pretty concerned about my trainers, but managed to get out with both still on my feet. Off we went.

Second fall was a km or so further on, when a sudden dip in the ground sent me flying forwards with a bit of a thump into the heather. Slightly winded (and with a quick check around to see if anyone had noticed) I got going again and gradually built my pace up again.

Plain sailing until we approached the stream and the ground just seemed to drop away. As I gingerly picked my way down, I was overtaken by Dawn Metcalfe of Durham Fell Runners, who was taking a very much more confident approach to the descent. Then it was into the stream – no we didn’t need to cross it, just go in to the far side, clip our numbers, then back out the same side. Took this crossing a little too fast and fell again, up to my chest in water, but actually quite welcome at this point in the race. Sadly fell right at the feet of the same guy from the bog who by now was probably wondering what I was doing…

There was a bit of a climb back up and then, essentially, it followed the river line. However, I got back in front of Dawn and the river fall man, and started heading up and left further than we needed. Another runner whistled us back down. I had a few random “I don’t know where I’m going” moments (out loud – same man still in earshot, presumably shaking his head around this point), torn between pushing ahead, or holding back and tagging along. Dawn actually took a higher line and in retrospect this worked better, as she got back in front of me.

We dipped back down to the river and then it was a climb and a half back up towards the finish. This was a walk-run in places, and Dawn was still well within reach. She went for a more even pace, and each time I ran, I caught up a little more. Never did quite get there though and had to settle for second place in the end. Still, more than happy with that for my first fell race. And it was just what I needed! I might have to do another one now. And learn how to use that compass. And run down really steep hills without fear for my life.

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London Marathon 2019, Sunday, April 28, 2019

Emma Thompson

Back in 2009, with a few Great North Runs under by belt, I thought I might fancy London one day. I think it was still 5 refusals, then you get a place back then, so I threw my name in the ballot with a long-term plan. Surprisingly I got a place first time! But it wasn’t to be, and I had to defer a year. By April 2011 I had a 2-month-old baby, so marathon plans were shelved for a long time…

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Endure 24 and Emma’s debut as a Strider, Bramham Park, Wetherby, Saturday, July 1, 2017

Emma Thompson

After reading about Anna’s epic achievements at Endure, my effort seems a bit feeble but hopefully my account of running this as part of a team is of interest to those who would never dream of being able to run this solo!

Back in January my sister rang me to ask what I thought about a 24hr team relay event – was this a silly idea? I’m not sure what response she was hoping for, but I thought it sounded amazing and so we both signed up, along with other members of her club, Jesmond Joggers, for Endure 24 at Bramham Park, near Leeds.

The event can be run solo, in pairs or teams – grouped into small (3-5 people) or large (6-8). The route is a 5 mile loop through Bramham Park. This would be more miles than I had ever run and it was difficult to envisage how the stop-start nature of running in a relay would play out over the 24 hours. I had grand plans for training, with longer distances and shorter recoveries between runs. But nearly 2 months of injury finished those plans off.  By June I had given up all hope of participating at Endure. But after seeing an amazing physio 3 days before Blaydon, I was back running. I completed Blaydon and with a few more gentle runs under my belt, and an understanding team, I was off to Bramham park for Endure on 1st July.

A clash with my 6yr old daughter’s dance show meant a quick drive back to County Durham after registration, so I missed the start and my first lap. I slotted back in on everyone else’s second lap (which notably was my first run in a striders vest on my first official day as a Strider!).

The route profile had looked hillier than we expected, but actually turned out to be quite a fast course. Over 90% paths, very little grass, a few hills but nothing too challenging. As the laps ticked by it became clear we would all be running further than expected, as we were running much faster than anticipated.

I was in a team of 6. With missing the first lap, I completed 5 laps in total – 25 miles, much further than the maximum 13.1 miles I had completed before. Between the 6 of us we completed 35 laps, 175 miles, finishing 5th in the mixed large teams, out of 31! My sister’s team of 5 completed 37, an amazing effort, finishing 2nd in their category of mixed small teams. Having all gone purely to participate, with no experience of this kind of event, to finish so high up the field was amazing.

The rests made a huge difference. My legs on the last lap felt tired and heavy, noticing the hills much more, but still maintained a consistent lap time.  After finishing, I actually felt less tired than after a half marathon (and the dreaded post race stiffness never set in!)

Running through the woods with a head torch at 2am in the morning, through an avenue of trees with fairy lights and back into the race village to change over, was a fantastic running experience. The team work was amazing – we didn’t miss one changeover, even through the night. Being woken after an hours nap, to get up shivering and go for a run in the dark, was a bizarre experience to say the least – with just a fleeting  “I’m not sure I really want to go for a run/what am I doing?”!! The cameradie from all the different runners was great.

Totally inspiring to watch the efforts of the solo runners. Huge congratulations to Anna and Kerry whose individual achievements were incredible. I can’t believe how fresh they looked the next morning, about to go back out for further laps.

I will definitely be back – but will stick with a team! Hopefully that can be with fellow striders next year. It very much is an event for everyone. With the different team sizes, it allows for all runners. Anyone in???

Photos credited to Catherine Smith.

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