Category Archives: Sarah Fawcett

Loch Ness Marathon, Sunday, October 6, 2019

Sarah Fawcett

(No monsters were harmed in this race report)

All I can say is “ I was conned”. I can’t remember who said it is all downhill or flat , but someone did. I entered this one only about 2 months ago, on a whim, and to have an excuse for a short Scottish holiday with my husband to incorporate him cycling and us walking in the Cairngorms.

So having driven all the bloomin way up to Inverness, with a stopover in Perth, it was fairly rude of the weather to be so lousy. The Event Village was already cold and muddy on the Saturday at registration but by the time we got back to the finish line Sunday afternoon , it was a quagmire. Before that though we had to get to the start by transport buses in the dark and rain , an hour’s drive to a howling moor at the top of a hill above Loch Ness in the middle of nowhere.

I’ve never stood in a toilet queue for 50 mins in a bin bag before, but the young Swiss chaps in front of me ( in kilts) gave me a nip of their herbal hooch to warm me up. I couldn’t find my fellow Striders, other than a quick wave to Sophie and Debra from the queue. So no group photo unfortunately.

500 26.2 miles to go.

Then a miracle happened: the start line assembly involved repeated plays of The Proclaimers 500 miles and the rain stopped and as we trotted over the start to the accompaniment of a piped band, we were off, downhill ( as promised).

Now I knew that the people weaving past me at speed would probably regret it later, so I kept a happy steady pace and tried to enjoy the moors, trees, greyness etc. Then we saw the Loch and the route runs beside it for several miles and this is where I was conned because it keeps undulating up and down. Nothing severe but my legs could feel it. I ran with a lovely young Scot called Iain for a while and we talked about his caber tossing and bagpipe playing amongst other things. Mile 17.5-18.5 is a hill that I knew I would run : walk so I sent my husband a text to say I was probably going to take 5 hrs and he could judge when to stand in the cold at Inverness. I had seen Karen for a cheery smile and Aileen and I had passed each other 3 times. She was looking strong and happy in her first marathon.

I was getting tired and properly disappointed when I saw the finish line over the river and knew the bridge was near BUT they only bloomin make you run on to the next bridge don’t they? I managed a hug with my husband at mile 25.5 then walked a minute when I was out of his view before a slow sprint for the line. Thanks Alan for the shout. We were incredibly lucky for a dry few hours in the middle of 2 weeks of rain. The event was very well organised and super friendly. The Baxter’s soup at the end was just what I needed. Aileen and Alan did brilliant first marathons.

Sitting in a lovely restaurant later full of marathoners in their medals with Aileen, Alan, Sophie and Debra who all got the memo about dress code but didn’t tell me(!) we celebrated the other Strider finishers, Peter, Karen and Craig as well as Carolyn Wendy and Mike’s marathons elsewhere. A good weekend.

Dress Code is orange – didn’t you get the memo?


PosRace NoFirst NameLast NameHalf TimeGun TimeChip TimeCategory
(Metro Aberdeen Running Club)
(Garscube Harriers)
(Visited 108 times, 1 visits today)

Venice Marathon, Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sarah Fawcett

Not as impressive a performance as Stephen Jackson’s marathon but he didn’t mention jellyfish!

I promised Catherine Smith that I would write a race report if I finished today. I must have had a feeling it wasn’t going to be as good a result as I hoped.

I booked the Venice Marathon and 5 days in Italy months ago, but yesterday I was thinking of only doing UK ones hereafter.

It’s been stressful as I don’t speak Italian and I’m out here solo. From Airbnb reservation issues to having to navigate every sort of public transport; clocks changing on marathon eve; and, a persistent low-level headache all week, I’ve set the scene for you with all my excuses!

Well the taxi did turn up this morning at the only time I could book and 10-mins early to boot, and I got to the start before anyone else. Have you ever seen a bank of portable loos with no one queuing?

People soon started arriving by the busload, just as the rain and lightning appeared. It became apparent that the baggage buses were going to leave 15-mins ahead of the posters in the tent. The multilingual announcements were very good. The lorries ended up driving to the port then being put on boats to get them to the finish. Such is Venice. Still, ages to visit the loos – manageable queues- yes, I’m obsessed. Good to get out of the eye-watering fug of embrocation in the tent and the flooded floor.


The sun came out and the race started 20-mins earlier than advertised – see a pattern?

The route follows the River Brenta from Stra past glorious 17th and 18th Century villas – the summer residences of rich Venetians. Thinking of the contrast to the snow in Durham yesterday, I was wishing I had shorts on, not 3/4 lengths. All was fine until about 10 miles then I recognised that it was feeling like a slog. A poor halfway time of 2.24 and those demons started working- was I going to be able to finish?

But I had come all this way… From mile 16 I was run/walking and I couldn’t have told you what the scenery was. There was 2km in San Guiliano Park where the expo was and then some industrial area before the beast that was the 4km road and train link from the mainland to the island.

Today it was a headwind and spray and a view of a tumultuous sea. I walked most of it, as did those around me. We were all struggling.

It was a relief to reach Venice out of the wind, marginally, but after crossing a specially constructed pontoon, put across the Grand Canal for the race, it wasn’t long before we were all shocked by the path ahead; it was flooded by the tide for the entire last 2 miles. Not a little puddle, but a gutsy, wave breaking, ankle deep jobbie.

The ramps over the bridges, instead of being dreaded, were welcomed as dry land. This seafront stretch is where I saw the jellyfish on the “ path” and hoped no one was going to tread on it in the same way that I normally observe beetles or slugs on marathon paths.

I was relieved to reach the end. I hadn’t performed well at 5:09, my slowest road marathon, but at least I have the medal. Catherine Smith tells me the flooded end has reached FB if you want a laugh.Would I do it again? Probably not.

I think Venice is a beautiful city to visit but I don’t need to run to it. At this point, I’m not even sure I want to do another marathon!!

[Footnote added by Sarah on 30 October, 2 days after the Marathon:  Actually it is now no laughing matter. By Monday 70% of Venice was flooded in the worst tides they have seen for 50 years.]

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Durham Coast Half Marathon, Seaham, Sunday, June 15, 2014

Danny Lim, Sarah Fawcett

“The cakes are a mile away!”, read the final mile marker. I cheered quietly to myself, bereft of energy to say anything aloud. My legs were thrashed for lack of a technical term and I was struggling to maintain my current pace. Much of the last 12 miles had been undulating with several steep descents into wooded denes, followed by equally steep climbs. We were treated to birds eye views of secluded coves, wooded valleys, beaches and the shimmering sea. Remnants of Durham’s coal-mining past was still visible if you looked carefully; spoil heaps, slipways, railway bridges and the odd lump of coal on the beach.

There were sections where I was tempted to cut across to save on the distance but the route was very well-marked and I had to remind myself that this wasn’t a fell race. I liked the low-key and friendly nature of this race. For me, the part was the friendliness of the event from runners and supporters alike. At the finish, every runner was cheered on as if finishing the 100 metres in the Olympic Finals. What a homecoming and what a selection of cakes laid out for us! It was the creamiest, tastiest Victoria Sponge I have tasted.

I do think that this race has the potential to become a big event in the years to come. It was a well-organised, fun day out. And given that it is local and easy to enter, perhaps we should consider it for the Grand Prix next year?

A steamy strider scene.

… Sarah Fawcett

Having heard how scenic, friendly and well organised this was last year, I was a late entrant for this off road race and one of only 6 Striders running on the day, Richard Hall having to pull out due to injury.

The descriptions I had heard were all true.  The route takes you along some relatively little known beautiful countryside, and indeed the National Trust, the main organisers, cite this as one of the reasons for the run, to show more people the beauty of the area.

Being a small event, 200 ish on the day, it had the warmth and scale of a club event.  We picked our numbers up on arrival, we’re offered maps although assured of regular way marking, and joined a small queue for the portaloos.  What a shame that 2/3 of the entry money collected had to pay for these.  Come on Durham County Council, next year please can the organisers have your facilities at Spectrum Business Park, for free?

There was a 10 minute delay to the start because some villains had thought it a jolly jape to undo some of the 2 days hard work of the volunteers, and remove some of the way marking.  A suitable punishment for the wrongdoers would be to make them run this course, but more of that anon.

The weather was perfect; cool and still, and as the sea fret lifted we could see all the way to Redcar.  The lady next to me thought that was where we were going.  Fortunately distance can be deceptive and Crimdon was a lot closer.

The first dene, and therefore the first set of steps down and up, came within the first 2 miles and was a taste of what was to come.  I blithely admired the exposed magnesium limestone ( I read the leaflet afterwards) on the way down and then walked up the staircase the other side.  I was prepared to walk all of the 300 steps up, and so this wasn’t a surprise to me. The second set of upness seemed to have lost its cable car/furnicular railway. I can’t believe that those canny Victorians wouldn’t have thought this an essential addition to this nearly sheer rockface. Instead those lovely National Trust people had put in safe and sturdy steps. What was not very sporting was the very jolly official photographer who was perched near the top capturing people’s agony whilst keeping up the friendly banter.

We saw Hawthorn Dene, Horden Dene, Crimdon Dene and goodness knows where else. All equally scenic, all well signposted, all carved like deep gashes in the seaside border of County Durham. I was told that there were 4 or 5 sets of steps. I counted six, including an evilly placed last set not much more than a mile from the finish. Between the denes we went along the cliff top paths and through pretty wooded areas. The last mile marker stated “cake in one mile”. Fabulous; that is my sort of race. As the caravan park came into view I knew I was close to the finish line and apart needing to avoid kids on scooters and adults wandering aimlessly along the promenade I managed a spurt to the finish line and to the waiting Striders, and more importantly, delicious homemade cake.

Six stride out at Seaham.

My team mates did brilliantly; Danny Lim flew in at 1.50. The fastest Strider and well up the field John Hutchinson beat the 2hr threat at 1hr 59 mins. The most cake consuming Strider Jackie McKenna got an incredible 2hr 01min and was 6th female overall Paul Beal achieved 2.04 and was thrilled to not be doing Blaydon on the same day like last year Ian Spencer looked relaxed and happy with a great 2.14 And I brought up the Strider pack with 2.15 and was equally happy with the run and with the cake. Bizarrely and incredibly I was awarded a bottle of wine for being first Old Bird in. I probably should offer it back because the results show I was actually second in my age category but it is too late!

I thoroughly recommend this little gem to anyone who wants a locally based challenge, in a beautiful area, in a friendly, well organised event. Thank you to all concerned


Pos Name Club Cat Catpos Time
1 Mike Jefferies Billingham Marsh Harriers MS 1 1:20’18
20 Sarah Burrell FS 1 1:39’12
55 Danny Lim MS 27 1:50’03
84 John Hutchinson MV55 1 1:59’53
87 Jackie McKenna FS 5 2:01’08
95 Paul Beal MV50 11 2:04’59
123 Ian Spencer MV50 14 2:14’09
126 Sarah Fawcett FV50 2 2:15’37

183 finishers

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Hadrians Wall Half Marathon, Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sarah Fawcett

Jackie McKenna persuaded me that we should do this half marathon as our first off roader, (although she slipped in a sneaky Durham Costal last Sunday so this wasn’t her first), and it was not without some trepidation that we approached this “multi-terrain trail race”. Having looked at the route profile on the website and the previous two years results, where only 49 and 69 participants’ results were listed, we both separately worried last night that we would come in last today if there was such a small field.

My husband and daughter came up with us so that they could do some cycling while we did our run and we arrived in good time, at a cold and windy hilltop at Edges Green near Once Brewed. Race HQ was two small tented shelters and half a dozen portaloos. We were relieved to see that there were lots of people beginning to assemble and I know that they had sold their 300 maximum places, although I always assume 20% don’t turn up on the day for any race. So we might not come last after all!

I was slightly concerned by the two Mountain Rescue Land Rovers that were at HQ and hoped that none of us would need them. As we lined up at the start banner the main hazard was the copious sheep poo underfoot. The starting horn sounded and we were off, down a quiet road, in a chilly wind with a few dark clouds looming. The undulating road section was a pleasant, familiar surface to a road runner like myself and I began to settle in to a comfortable stride. Jacquie soon pulled away from me, striding well, then we turned on to a farm track and the grassy moors that the website promised us.

As promised, the sheep had been mowing well and the relatively dry period we have had recently meant that the surface was pretty comfortable. Out of the wind it began to get really warm and I risked a hidden long distance lens as I peeled off a layer and then replaced my Striders vest whilst running along.

I can’t recall the exact order of the route but I know that the firm grass moorland gave way to steep stony descents and ascents, stepping stones, limestone paving , timber decking and very soggy bogland, before coming out at a welcome water station and the cooling forest track.

I was pleased to be back on surer footing as I hadn’t been able to admire the spectacular views fully whilst watching where my feet were landing. We hadn’t seen much of Hadrian’s Wall itself although it was above us on the crag tops at one point, but the countryside around is beautiful. We finished with a road section and a sprint finish over a cattle grid, up a winding corner and back across the sheep decorated grass. It had been an up and down route; hard work but not brutal by fell running standards.

Jacquie beat me in in an admirable 2 hours 14 mins, and I was a minute and a half behind her. We were both very pleased with our results. We received good quality tee shirts and the organizers gave out prizes including some lovely Hadrian’s Wall china mugs to those who had travelled furthest etc.

I felt that the organization of the event was faultless. The marshalling, signposts, water stops, pre race information, car parking, indeed all the elements that go to make a successful event were here today. It was an excellent morning.

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