Category Archives: Tamsin Imber

The Thrunton Thriller half-ish marathon, The Cheviots, Sunday, May 12, 2019

Tamsin Imber

Courtesy of Martin Ellis

Since recovering from ME, some of my running could be described as ‘off road aloneing’. When I get the chance, which is about once every few weeks, I jump into my car and drive to a wild remote place in the countryside. I run for 2-3 hours on a route of my choice, at a pace that suits me. Then I return to ‘Tamsin’s mobile teashop’ (my car) which is decked out with Yorkshire teabags, a proper solid mug, carton of milk, flask of hot water and slabs of cake for a post-run tea and cake before returning to civilisation.  Having done that for a while, arriving at Thrunton Woods for the Thrunton Thriller trail race, it felt strange that there were other people there. But I like people, so that was ok. The other different thing was that I didn’t need to map read. Sometimes it’s nice to run on someone else’s route as you can just focus on and enjoy the running and having seen the route, I was looking forward to a full tour of Thrunton Woods. And what a beautiful, unspoilt place it is, having been closed to the public for so long!

It was a friendly bunch of runners that waited at the start. They were mostly local, but a few had come all the way from Scotland. The start-line marshal wished us well. He pondered about the distance, but after some thought concluded he had no idea other than it was more than a half marathon and said good luck anyhow. He also noted that the local farmer was upset as he had just this morning lost his albino peacock and if we saw it whilst on the run could we ‘hoy it under our arm and run on down to the farm?’ We got a count down from 5 from his cute kids and then were off, running up a long hill through tall conifers with the sun on our shoulders. So nice to feel the sun after the weather of last week!

Soon after the start I was running in stride with another runner, chatting, when a loud buzzing thing zoomed just above us! Last week, I was zoomed at by some anxious nesting
lapwings on Cronkley fell in Upper Teesdale, but this was a bit different. It was a drone. They had told us earlier they were filming with a drone, I just had not realised it would be that low to the ground!

The course was spectacular. It wandered through the hilly forest, but we also got to climb up Coe Craggs which rise above a sea of tree tops. There were some quite boggy, heathery and clearly untrodden ways which we squelched through. I enjoyed running at my own pace. I wanted to try, as it was a race, so ran comfortably hard. 

Coe Crags Courtesy of Martin Ellis

Barry Kemp was marshalling at one spot. He is the race organiser. I knew it was him before I saw him as I heard his music. Last time I saw him he had got his ghetto blaster to the top of Hedgehope Hill in the Cheviots, in January. He was there standing proud to the full onslaught of freezing cold 70mph gusting winds.  I salute him for this. This time I passed him at a tranquil bend in a forest path. He said I was 3rd lady. Better than that, I have been feeling stronger in my running recently and felt fresh today. This was heartening. Previously, by being ill for 12 months, I had lost all my fitness. So much so that I remember a few weeks into recovery I had pulled a muscle under my ribs by just trying to carry a shopping bag! I ran past Barry.

Soon after a lady caught me up. We ran together for a few miles. Then the sun really came out and I felt too hot in my long leggings. I pondered, should I give up the possibility of a podium finish by stopping to change into my shorts? Today it was a yes. I stopped and let her go, fumbled with unlacing my trainers and took time to appreciate the view.  Unfortunately, a full tipping out my rucksack onto the ground revealed I had left my shorts in the car. But, no bother. I turned my long-sleeved top into a skirt as the head-hole fitted round my waist with the top zip undone, and the sleeves acted as a belt when tied up. I pinned my race number on the front of the skirt. Job done.

The route rounded off with an awesome 3-mile downhill section which is brilliant to power down. (I had the voice of Michael in my head, ‘attack!’). There was then just one more up and down a thin rocky path to the finish. I would recommend this race for exploring unvisited corners, friendly people and good cake. (The chocolate-strawberry cake easily scores a 10/10).  As for distance, (in case you are considering this race) others had worn a Garmin and measured it to be 15 miles and 2, 224ft of ascent.

PositionBibNameTimeGroupTeam
16Jonathan Boxshall02:02:05.2MV40North East Marathon Club
1518Alicja Czopek02:40:33.8FV40BMF Edinburgh
2034Tamsin Imber02:50:51.4FV40Elvet Striders
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‘Running My Way’ by Tamsin Imber, Monday, December 17, 2018

Tamsin Imber

Grab a cuppa, maybe some cake, and enjoy a light-hearted read. ‘Running My Way’  is a celebration of taking life by the horns. It documents…

  • What happens when Tamsin, a busy working mum of two, immerses herself in the joy of running and discovers running ‘her way’. From the curiously meditative experience of running hard on a track, to the adventures of running 30 miles across the North York Moors sustained by frozen Jaffa Cakes.
  • The passion and friendliness of the running community, united by the simple act and immense liberation of putting one foot in front of the other (lots of times).
  • The joy of running with wild abandon through the bogs, moors and woods of the countryside.
  • Why the challenge of competitive running is truly addictive. And why you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you don’t get a Personal Best.
  • Why CFS/ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) is a serious and life restricting illness. 

 

As follows is an extract from this book by kind permission from Pitch Publishing.

The ‘Hardmoors ‘White Horse Marathon’ North Yorkshire Moors. (28miles, hilly), May 2015.

Driving down the A19 was like driving through the sea! The heavy rain beat down hard and bounced straight back up off the road. The wind came in gusts and repeatedly slammed rain into the side of the car. The car air conditioning roared loudly at full blast as GH (gorgeous husband) battled to demist the windows. Through all this noise the words of James Bay were occasionally caught as the song ‘Cry me a River’ played on the radio! No need to cry, we already had a river! I half wondered if it would be cancelled.  Had I met the organiser of the Hardmoors series, I would have known how unlikely this was!  For now, I really hoped it was on. I was buzzing with excitement!

After our little white Fiat Panda had struggled up the steep angles of Sutton Bank, GH and the kids dropped me off and made haste to warm indoor places in York. The warm inviting car drove away and I was abandoned in the heavy rain in a deserted Sutton Bank visitor centre early on a dim morning in May. In a moment of inspiration I had grabbed my ancient, ‘car-to- work- entrance’ umbrella from the car just before it drove off, and I now tried to shelter underneath it.  This umbrella was useless as the spokes on one side had been bent a long time ago and the thing turned inside out whenever it knew a big blast of wet wind was coming my way. I skidadeled to the visitor centre, hoping to find some shelter. As I got closer I noticed a small group of runners sheltering beneath the roof between the two visitor centre buildings. They were all smiling! Had they not noticed there was a gale outside? One guy was even stripping off in an act of defiant optimism! I was slightly cold!  One lady had come all the way from Norway to experience the North York Moors. I think she was going to get a true experience!

I realised I needed to collect my race number so asked for directions. They pointed me towards the front of the visitor centre. There in small field was a small white tent flapping about for dear life in the breeze! Umbrella up, I braced myself to the elements and made a run for the tent, slip sliding on the mud. My umbrella laughed at me mockingly and used it as another great opportunity to turn inside out.

In the tent I found another group of sheltering runners and marshals giving out numbers. I collected my number and cowered in the tent for a bit. It got closer to the start time, so I joined everyone now congregating behind the start and I shivered beneath my merciless umbrella as the heavens delivered further onslaughts of sheets of water.  In a sudden big gust my umbrella then whacked me in the face. I tried to show it who was boss by throwing it into a nearby bin. Soon a big, strong and tough looking man appeared. He looked like he had come from the army! This turned out to be the Hardmoors organiser. He gave a strict briefing in true style, one that I would come to know and love over the next year, rounding off with a “ OK you ‘orrible lot. Five, four, three, two one, go suffer!”

There was nothing left to do but to embrace the heavens! First along the top of a wood along the top of the escarpment. It was slightly more sheltered with this tree barrier.  I didn’t have a hood as I hadn’t been able to find a cheap water proof jacket with hood in my copious spare time, just a thin wooley hat on my head. My hat soon became soaked through, but it was a warm, heavy wet thing on my head which was better than nothing on my head. We ran along a rutted, rocky footpath, which necessitated sighting ahead to find the best foot landings without falling over. This was difficult through my rain streaming glasses. Then it was down a steep mud bank and around Goremire lake, which is a very nice hidden gem. There were marshals around the lake which helped as there were a myriad of little muddy paths here and there. Once round the lake it was a steep mud bank, back up on to the moor.  The mud back was churned up by all the runners ahead and I was on my knees at times!

Then we ran away from the edge, and higher up on to the open wild exposed Moors! It really could not have got any wetter! I cannot report on the views. I just saw a watery scene with some heather in it. Due to my impaired vision it was hard to navigate. After five or so miles, there was a path off to the right. Was this our path? Luckily my map was accessible and cling-filmed, stowed in my new, still cheap, but larger, running rucksack. I could not see the map, but others could, and this confirmed we did indeed need to take this path.

Brilliant! We were now running south west, the rain behind us with a downhill trend. Lovely!  On a steep muddy descent my road shoes were a bit like ice skates and I had to gingerly slow down to a tip toe. There were six guys just behind me at this point. They waited patiently, offering encouragement! I felt very bad holding them up though so let them past as soon as I could find a vaguely firm surface to stand on. Then it was to a forest. I put on a surge and managed to catch the guys up. I was surprised to find I wasn’t so keen on people passing me! I kept up with them along the wider track through the edge of the forest. They put on a good pace! Hooray, it had stopped raining now! Eventually the guys out-paced me and disappeared into the distance.

I was now running alone through private land. (The organiser had negotiated with the land owner to enable us to run through this area, due to a problem with the original route).  This felt nicely well off the beaten track! It was a wooded area of recent tree felling and machines and vehicles had churned up the land. Spindly tree branches lay across the path spiking me through my leggings. Underfoot was soft rutted mud. At one point I had to haul myself up a bank of tree branches! I hadn’t had so much fun for ages! Eventually I came to the other side of the dendrous*[1]obstacle course, to meet a smart little road. Tarmac felt like a luxury product! At a junction I was unsure of which way to go. I admit to being very lazy and instead of wrestling my numb fingers with wet zips to get the map out I just waited until the runner behind caught me up. He seemed surprised to see me standing there. He was very polite and also confident about the route. We ran on together and enjoyed some conversation. The bit on the road was not for long and we soon found ourselves running across a flat valley bottom through grassy and boggy fields. We talked about the possibility of trench foot. The valley was steep sided and wooded. Then ahead I saw the most beautiful sight! It was Riveaux Abbey, shrouded in the low mist which blended into a white sky. The Abbey looked eerie and majestic. Given the weather, the Abbey grounds were deserted and we had this peaceful sight to ourselves. A lone marshal directed us over a stone hump back bridge and we headed back West, admittedly still a fair few miles to go, but West nevertheless which uplifted my spirits and gave the legs a new boost of energy from places unknown.

It was round further woods and grassy fields we went, more ups and downs, to reach a final checkpoint. The Hardmoors series is entirely run by these amazing volunteers who stand in bad weather at wild outposts for hours, who are always smiling and encouraging and some even bring home baking! Some are runners, others are friends. I thank them, and did no more so than at this point when I was feeling the distance. I was offered a cup of delicious cool water and home made shortbread! It was nice to chat and stay a while! Then back to the task at hand, to get to Sutton Bank Visitor centre. After more knee wrenchingly muddy paths, came a rather less attractive track, with less attractive views. I guess we were right off to the south of the Moors now. It was  past featureless ploughed fields. It was very long. I was felt really hungry and had a craving for meat. As I passed a lone grass pasture I eyed up the sheep.

I caught up some others and we walked up a hill, discussing the gravity of the situation to justify walking! Groups of walkers with dogs appeared in the wooded area a mile from the Visitor Centre. Then at long last the Visitor Centre was ahead! Just a case of getting round to the tent! The sun shone down warmly and the car park was now full and a buzzing scene of happy picnickers and families! I stumbled along the side of the car park to be cheered on by a few runners, (some of whom I recognised from earlier) who had already finished. Finally I was back in the tent and a marshal took my number down. I was a bit stunned at how much of the North York Moors you can see in a morning if you want to! My family returned from a good morning seeing the museums of York and we went to the Visitor Centre café to exchange experiences. I also got a sausage sandwich!

The next day was a Monday and I turned up at the women’s running group! I had heard the word ‘recovery run’ bandied about, but wasn’t sure really what it meant. A slow run to ease the legs maybe? I’m not sure I could do that! My legs were so stiff I had to kind of walk down the stairs like a robot without bending my legs. Sitting down was painful, and at home the repeated sweeping of the floor necessitated by children meant flipping myself from standing to press up position without bending the legs, sweeping up lying down, then snaking to the bin! At the track I decided to cheer people on, then enjoyed the café! I told the woman’s running group leader about my post race mobility. She looked at me wryly and said well done. She asked me how the route had been. I’ve no idea, I replied I hadn’t seen 95 per cent of it what with the rain on my glasses!

If you wish to read more, Tamsin’s book is available to pre-order from Waterstones and Amazon websites. It is available from these websites and in bookshops from 17thDecember 2018. 

https://www.pitchpublishing.co.uk/shop/running-my-way

[1]          Dendrous: Made of twisting tree branches, logs and other forest furniture.

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Aykley Heads Cross Country – A view from marshal point 18, Saturday, November 18, 2017

Tamsin Imber

Sarah, Emil and I stood at our marshal point the top of the hill, just before the entrance into the woods. We were as ready as we could be! Two layers of everything, high vis, Sarah’s flask of tea, and food. All would be needed for this four-hour stint. Alas, I had not been able to locate my camping chairs from under my neighbour’s pile of stuff in the shed, but never mind, it was probably too cold to sit down between races anyway!

The kids’ races had been lovely to marshal and to cheer them on. I saw Oscar and a few kids from junior parkrun. The organisation of the emergency system was tested out as a girl in the Under 15’s race threw herself to the ground halfway up the hill and lay on her back! The response from a nearby spectator to summon a medic was immediate. Luckily all was well. As soon as she saw the medic rushing towards her she leapt-up, springing to life, and continued running up the hill! It had just been a power nap!

It was nearly quarter past one. Sarah had gone off to the start area. From our viewpoint, Emil and I could see the start area and tents in the distance. We saw a HUGE crowd of runners gathering near the start of the senior woman’s race! We waited in suspense. Bang! And they were off! It was like watching a handful of stones that have been thrown into the air, in that some were moving off faster than others. Interestingly, after a very short distance, the runners at the front of the pack seemed to spread out a lot quicker than everyone else. Was this because they had more space? Was this because they had planned a fast start? …?

The pack ran around the top of the field and then disappeared from our sight over the brow of the far hill. I was surprised at how long it seemed before the medium pack were started, and then again at how long it was until the fast pack were started. Normally it feels like thirty seconds when you are waiting to start yourself but from the position of a relaxed marshal, it was all a bit different! Once the fast pack had disappeared from sight, it all went a bit quiet from that direction, and Emil and I waited in suspense! When would we see the head of the first runner coming into view?! I suspected that this hill from a runner’s perspective would be long and gruelling! Sarah and Emil were both running today so were going to have to become additionally ‘at one’ with this hill by the end of the day!

When the first runners came into view it was brilliant!! Very exciting! Especially as Laura Weightman ran past and I’ve only ever watched her run on the TV before! There were two runners in front of her. I wondered if Laura Weightman was just biding her time. I wondered if she feels pressure to win every Cross Country race and if so, how does she cope with that?

Much better than that though was seeing Sally charging up the hill in fourth place!! Totally Awesome (please leave the capital A)! And then more and more Striders! In fact, as a whole, every single Strider was way up in the field! Fantastic running from everyone! Everyone was putting in their all! Brilliant, brilliant efforts all round! We heard the cheers from the finish area as people started and continued to finish. Well done all of you!

Emil then left to get ready for the men’s race. I had a silent ‘disco for one’ to warm up. Sarah returned in due course, and after some recovery hot tea, she was ready to marshal again. The men’s race started perfectly on time. There is a lot of them compared to the woman’s race! In fact, from a stationary point, it is like watching one of those very long goods trains go past! On lap one they were fresh and determined. On lap two it was clear on their faces that they were feeling the pain, but still giving it their all. On lap three they had renewed strength, perhaps from the fact it was the final lap! Maximum respect. I would like to try three laps to see if I can also get through the punishment of lap two! I really enjoyed cheering everyone on. Everyone ran brilliantly! As with the woman’s race, the front of the field was as spread out. Is this because it is a pursuit race and people have yet to be moved up? It was interesting to watch. And Sally’s friend was super impressive, …he was lapping people on his third lap!

As the race came to an end my hands were stinging from clapping and I was craving central heating. But it was brilliant to support and be part of it, and to see everyone try their best! Massive well-done Striders! You should be proud!

Extract from the book Running My Way by Tamsin Imber with permission from Pitch Publishing.

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Scafell Pike, Saturday, September 16, 2017

AS / 7.2km / 914m

Tamsin Imber

A long line of runners were strung out above me dragging themselves up the grassy ridge of Lingmell in ungainly, clambering motions. Running was impossible due to the sheer steepness! This was the start of the Scafell Pike fell race! I was excited to finally be here! I was now enjoying the challenge of trail shoes on wet slippery grass incline versus gravity. The very start of the race had been one lap of the Wasdale campsite field, before heading up. This was to ‘thin people out’ they said, as the path up was narrow.

At the start-line I had looked around mystified, as so many people were not carrying anything. I had the equivalent of a fridge-freezer on my back! Full waterproofs, leggings, spare top, hat, gloves, 1.5 litres of water, full OS map, compass, phone, money, GPS device, etc. etc. It was very heavy. I could have done with less, but it made me feel secure as this was my first fell race. I would probably survive a nuclear holocaust. They also had very different footwear to me! Shoes with inch deep grippers! I admit this made me feel a bit disadvantaged in terms of competing! In fact, at the start I just let them go, and off they went powering round the field! Including Fiona. Fiona is a runner from Pendle. I had arrived with an hour to spare, and bumped into her. This race is a series of three; Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike, and she was doing them all. I find whenever I befriend someone before the start of a race, I then have a strong urge to beat them! Especially as she looked similar age as me! However, the fridge-freezer combo was not helpful in this! I pressed on, climbing up the lower slope of Lingmell. I had studied the map super hard during many evenings so had the map in my head plus a small selotape laminated one-page copy in my pocket! Finding myself now with the back of the pack there were group of people chatting, laughing, crawling up on all fours, trying to walk up backwards and I joined them for a bit! One guy kept stopping, and then powering up past a load of people shouting ‘I’m not racing today!’!

I had forgotten the weight on my back now and was into my stride and I wanted to race. So I dug in and started to power-walk past people. It was going well, I was feeling determined! I fired my legs up and passed a few more. Runners were spread out now. Below Goat Crags, the path became less steep. This was across the boggy, grassy catchment area of the Lingmell Gill. I took advantage of this and started running. I passed quite a few more, and then. Yes! Fiona was ahead, and I found I could pass her! We exchanged breathless ‘Well dones’ and I went on ahead. Behind her smile the expression on her face told me she was secretly totally racing me! 🙂

Next was a tall skinny guy (in fact 80% of participants were tall skinny guys) with a green top on. He kept up a good pace and it was hard to overtake him. Especially as we were now crossing the many braids of the stream and his long legs were advantageous. The tributaries of the steam lay in those unsuspecting deep cuttings in the bog, hidden in the bog grass. a nice deep wet surprise! After the bog, the big rock buttress of Scafell Pike towered above us. I was still feeling good. I estimated I had done the equivalent of three Roseberry Toppings now. (The Lake District being so far away, and the ‘chaos of life’ meant I hadn’t been able to get across to do any training. So I had used the nearest steep hill I could think of to do hill reps on. 4.1 Roseberry Toppings = 1 Scafell pike). So, one Roseberry Topping to go! The way up to the buttress was a mossy bank of slippery slime in a shady hollow with sharp rocks. Very precarious. But I was right behind the green-topped guy now, and managed to pass. Then it was up, up, up the rocky, baron crag to the summit!

I pressed on! I was now above the col and could see down the other side! I looked up from my feet for a fleeting moment to see down the other side, to a green, rocky landscape shrouded in low lying mist. Beautiful! But I had to look at my feet! Then, the first man came bounding down the rock scree towards me! Flying from one rock to another! He definitely spent more time airborne than in ground contact! And then, the next guy and the next, all bouncing down! I pushed on, using my arms to propel my weight forwards and upwards, feet in steady rhythm. From one most secure looking rock/foot hold to the next. Sighting the next one, and the next. I was now following a rocky zig-zag path. Up the next zig there was a rounded stoney cairn on the corner. A group of walkers plodded round it with their happy lively dog skitting about, his paws sliding on flat rock surfaces. They heard me coming and kindly got themselves to the side. At the same time, more runners came bounding downhill towards me, including two ladies. I urged myself on past…and the summit could be seen nearby! A hug flat-rocked cairn at the top and four summit marshals stood facing me in bright yellow jackets. ‘What’s your number?’ one shouted to me as I reached them. (My number was half covered by my top tied round my waist). “45” I replied, handing him my plastic token. Wayhay! Half way and I was in 3rd lady position! I really wanted to look at the views… but I didn’t want to lose my place!

A quick glimpse up and I had an awareness of more rock, mountains and ribbons of mist! I turned round and staggered! My legs seemed to need a few moments to get into ‘downhill mode’! I willed them on and began a dicey descent! Parachute would have been easier!

The “path” was a screeish mixture of loose rocks, pebbles and gravel! And the rocks were angular and sharp sided, as my shins found out! I leapt from rock to rock feeling my life expectancy decrease to 5 minutes! But I was not going as fast as the more experienced people behind me. A few men passed me..and then two ladies. Oh no! and then Fiona past me with a surprised and determined look on her face! I made a decision then and there. I could attempt to keep up with them and risk injury, or I could keep a careful pace for me. All the lovely races I have signed up for this year went through my head, and I decided to slow down and be careful. After scrambling down the slippery grassy bank with spikes of stone, I ran across the bog enjoying the beautiful views of Wastwater below. More people passed me. The big crags of Illgill fell overlooked the lake, with tremendous grey screes falling into the water. Visibility was good and I could see the Irish Sea on the horizon and the faint grey outline of the Isle of Man. I leapt on down, past sheep, rocks, a few walkers and soon the campsite came into view below. It was a further knee wrenching, thigh aching descent down to the head of the valley, to the finish.

A group of finished runners were munching on flapjack as I arrived and I was happy to join them! Then I climbed back up a short way to meet my family who had been doing a little walk during the race. The kids were enjoying sliding downhill on their bums! Later, there was a short presentation when everyone had finished by Joss Naylor! A kind and humble man. He thanked everyone for coming and then conducted the prize giving. It was lovely to see a race with such a big age range, from 20’s to over 70’s! and nice that there were therefore age group prizes reflecting this. I was pleased to see Fiona get the first F40 prize, and also to win first F40 for the series! Well deserved. She kindly complimented me on my uphill running and said she had given herself a kick up the bum when I passed her! She said she had found it the most technical of the three mountains. I congratulated her. I had enjoyed it. And it had been an interesting and enlightening experience!

And I shall end my report by leaving you with this poem, which sums up the lakes really.
Solitude in hidden places by Heidi Sands 9/2/17

The mountains surround me, all shades of green
The sun shines upon them, as beauty moves, I’ve seen
— Shadows dancing on the hillside —
— Holding so many places to hide —
There is solitude there, away from the busy streets
Where traffic is flurried, or backed up where it meets
The mountain scenes, bring peaceful pleasure to view
Every season, from greens, multi-colors, white, to blue

Extract from the book Running My Way by Tamsin Imber with permission from Pitch Publishing.

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Northumberland Coastal Run, Monday, July 31, 2017

Tamsin Imber

This HAS to be one of the best races in the north-east! The fact that it sells out in a few hours supports this.

Beautiful rock-pooled, sandy beaches , Dunstanburgh castle, the pretty village of Craster and convivial cliff top coastal footpath make this one magnificent run! And when raining and grey this coast looks beautiful in a wild, wind-bashed way. I make no apologies for the amount of gush in this report!

Today, early morning in Beadnell, the sky was thick with cloud and it was raining. I was cowering in the warm baggage bus along with others, discussing if a rain coat would be a good idea. One lady posed the question, had you ever needed a raincoat during a race in the summer? The problem was that my answer to this question was yes. However, today the temperature was 19 degrees. Also I am usually freezing cold before all races whatever the time of day or year, and it seems to bare no relation at all to my temperature when running. That the hidey holes of trees in my local nature reserve are often housing old jumpers of mine to collect after a run is attest to this. So, I decided to wear, a swimming costume, my Striders vest top and a thick cove of factor 50+. (The latter to protect me from any direct sunlight that in a freak event may appear. I was on antibiotics following tick bite in Dalby forest, the type of which the nurse stressed to me makes the skin more sensitive to sunlight so I must stay in the shade she said with emphasis).

Detaching myself from the bus, and shivering in the cold wind which greeted me I jogged up over the small dunes green with thick tussocky maram grass and down onto the beach. At the top of the beach were little fishing boats pulled up high above the tide line resting on their sides on the sand. The sea looked grey and ominous, reflecting the sky.
A large crowd of runners was rapidly gathering at the Beadnell end of the beach in the distance. With still twenty minutes to go I decided to get the legs moving and jogged in the opposite direction for a bit. Matt Archer and two others ran towards me doing the same. Then it was time to go to the start. I met Rachelle in the crowd. I felt anxious though as I did not know which way we were heading, there was just a sea of heads around me. So I whizzed out of the crowd and approached it head-on. The crowd was fronted by a line of elites! Like, no joke, they totally looked like them Ha ha! Thin, muscley men, shoulder to shoulder, silent and focused looking….and Gareth was one of them…phew! He looked a bit surprised to see me, perhaps as I was about to get run over in two minutes? He helpfully advised me we were all headed between the two bright orange marshals half way down the beach. I quickly made my way past the elites for about 3 metres deep into the crowd until I got to some ladies and stood with them.

One minute later with a loud parrrrrrp on the horn, we were off! Careering across Beadnell Bay! People were running all round me. There were large pools of water, where the sand was hard but rippled and uneven underfoot. Big splash as your foot suddenly went down into a pool, and up the other side. I kept getting side splash from other runners, and it started to rain again now, so also getting wet from above. More splash from below as a river crossed the sand. Despite this I was now totally baking hot! My swimming costume seemed really heat insulating. It was annoying, so I took my striders vest off and wrapped it round my arm, Ah, that. Running in a swimming costume! Well, we were on a beach.
After a short cliff top stretch we onto Newton Haven beach, and then the grand beach of Embleton Bay. The mystical stone ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle rose out of the misty haze on the distant headland that cups the bay. I headed towards the sea, to run on the wet firmer sand. Half way across I could see there was a choice of path, either stick to the coastal path or clamber over rocks up to the path. I opted for the latter. It would not save me much distance but it would avoid the runner congestion on the coastal path. I changed my track to head straight for the rocks. As I did so, who should speed past me but Jon Ayres! Lovely to see him! He asked me when my next triathlon was (a reference to the swimming costume?). I said it was today if I got tired of running.. We kept pace together and reached the rocks which were very slippery and seaweed covered. We bounded up as fast as we could, and met the path, which was unexpectedly muddy and slippery. This continued on the narrow path round the castle, slip-slide running. Trying not to elbow other runners. Once past this bit, the path widened and was back on low cliff tops. One of the Kenyans I’d seen at the start was sat on the side as he had injured his foot and was clearly in pain. There were two marshals helping him so I carried on. Jon had gone on ahead at this point.

We were fast approaching Craster. I was well surprised! Half way already? This half seemed so much easier than Dalby Forest half, but then this one is flat and easier underfoot, and there is no flat in Dalby. Craster is a pretty little village and running through it I could smell the smoke of the Craster fish smokery. A small crowd of local residents cheered us on.
After Craster there was a long stretch of muddy slippery coastal foot top. I kept my pace, comfortable but a bit hard. I was enjoying this! We ran down onto the next beach to be immediately greeted by a bridge over a stream. A girl overtook me at this point but I was determined to follow her as there probably was only 4 miles left now I estimated, from my study of the OS map beforehand. Also, at this point I sensed an up-shift in vibe in the runners around me from ‘maintaining pace’ to ‘getting serious’. I upped my pace to match hers and kept a secret 10 metres behind her. I followed her steadily along the path.
Off Boulmer beach, onto another hedge-lined minor road parallel with the sea. This one was looong, but I knew it lead to the final headland then onto the final beach. It was not far now, the guys around me were now more upping it, as was the girl I was following. At the headland, marshals cheered us on and said 2 miles to go! Yes! Down a flight of steep steps and we were onto the last beach! Great! Nice to be back on sand, another beautiful bay, this beach had a few areas of slippery grey rocks and rock pools of uneven depth to negotiate! Rounding the corner and there were the groynes to hurdle over ha ha! Made difficult by the fact we were all trying to go hard now, and that the level of the beach on one side of the groyne was different from the level on the other side! ..and once round the corner the blue inflatable finish arch could be seen..so near… but ….so ….far! A teasing sight! On and on and on….and it did not get an nearer! This was really hard now! I gritted my teeth and ran past the girl I had been keeping up with, but could not stop another girl flying past me! The arch was still far away! Finally, we were up with the first supporters! Katy and Graeme with their new baby were there and Lesley cheering us on! A few more yards and booff!, deep deep deep soft sand! Not the greatest when trying to vaguely approximate a sprint! I think swimming through it may have been faster. The deceptive blue arch was proving to be a battle to reach! A staggering inelegant plod and at last, I was under the arch!

Bring it on next year!

Extract from the book Running My Way by Tamsin Imber with permission from Pitch Publishing.

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Go Tri Ponteland #4, Wednesday, July 12, 2017

200m swim, 9km bike, 3km run

Tamsin Imber

Take two!

Team ‘Ladies That Tri’ were all set for their next adventure! The Team today was Sam Askey, Gayle Forster, Megan Bell and I. Helen Rodgers unfortunately had to pull out at the last minute due to a shoulder injury, but very kindly came along to support us and marshal, as did her daughter Emily.

Team 'Ladies that Tri'We set off early from Durham, which turned out to be good as during the drive up the A1 the bikes slipped sideways on the bike rack!.. three times! On the third time Helen had the cunning plan to put one of the bikes inside the car and have only two on the rack. We pulled over, and Sam immediately jumped out and expertly got into action, confidently asking ‘Shall I take the front wheel off?’ Get in! Once all was secure Emily sat next to the bike in the very back of the car with the many bags and the cakes may have been squished by my bike! Emily chatted away happily. We talked about the diving boards at the Stanhope Outdoor pool. I applaud her no-fear attitude. I think I’ll be sticking to the small slide in the baby pool.

And so we arrived bikes intact! Megan met us there and after registering, we all took our cycles and stuff round to transition on the grass outside the pool. I was number 17, straight after Anita Dunseith’s husband. Anita was also there supporting him! Anita wanted to see my bike, ‘Is it that one?’ she said pointing to a rather impressive looking blue machine…ha ha! ‘ No, its this one I said’ ‘Oh! She said, looking at my bike, ‘But where is your water bottle?’ and I pointed out my extra large water bottle standing next to the bike and the box of squished cakes that I had sneaked into transition!

Stage 1 - 200m swimAfter a thorough and helpful race briefing by Sue Heppell, the race organiser, numbers 1 to 10 lined up ready to get into the pool! Helen kindly sat in the viewing area to take photos! The rest of us waited around the poolside. Megan, Sam and Gayle all had high numbers-in the 40’s, so I bid my good lucks and lined up myself as it was getting near to my turn! Anita’s husband was off, and then it was a shout of ‘10 seconds to go’ from the marshal, and then a ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Go!’for me! My plan was to swim the first length slowly, then to increase pace and swim the last length hard. This plan was because you aren’t able to warm up in the pool before the race, and last time I had set off fast and then felt like I could not breath after two metres! So my swim went much better this time, and being more familiar with the pool this time I felt more confident as I knew what the bottom looked like. I got out of the pool, waved to the others and pattered into the transition area!

T1 Attack! Had been the plan. I had planned to start counting -the idea being that I had to be out of transition by 30! But this did not happen as I found I couldn’t count and concentrate at the same time! Instead I just focussed on the task in hand and just went as quick as I could. Got the helmet on the wrong way round at first, ha ha, but other than that all was good!, and I grabbed the bike and ran out!

On mounting my bike the first problem was that my bum slid around on my bike saddle like a penguin on ice! Last time I had worn a swimming costume and the skin-saddle friction had kept my bum in place. But this time I had opted for a swimming costume with short legs, meaning there was only swimming costume in contact with the saddle ! I charged up the hill cranking up the gears whilst sliding about! Getting the speed up was good and it was lovely to be out on a warm summers evening riding along the post rush hour roads of Ponteland. The sun was still up casting long shadows. I was really enjoying it and had to remind myself it was a race, and to keep on it! I caught up two cyclists and over took! Then saw three more in the near distance and was gaining on them! I caught them up, overtook, but then as I changed down gears to go round a roundabout the chain came off my bike! Oh no! I yanked my bike to the side of the road, turned it upside down and in a flash got the chain back on..but not fast enough for the 5 people I had just passed to now pass me! I felt so relived that this mishap had been within my only area of bike expertise! The bike I had before this one was a £50 hunk of iron purchased for it’s ‘strong and stable’ quality. It weighed 50 tonnes. It was so ‘strong and stable’ that it didn’t go up hills, and didn’t go very well down them either as downhill meant chain fall-off. Every trip resulted in oily hands!

I peddled on furiously and was pleased to pass those riders again. Up to the top of the road, left turn and more uphill! I pushed on breathing heavily. I was afraid to change gear on the left side in-case the chain came off again, so stuck to using the gears on the right side and hoped for the best! I was going as fast as I could but one after another four cyclists overtook me! Oh no! I doubted I’d see them again as soon the route would be all downhill, and downhill cycling was not my forte! I saw it as a pure ‘face the fear’ challenge! Soon I was onto that said downhill road, with its areas of lumpy tarmac (filled in potholes). A few turns, waits at roundabouts, onwards and the leisure centre was insight! Yes!

T2 I am extremely proud of ( if I do say myself !) I whizzed in, put down bike, helmet off, top off and ran ! One nano second! Way hay! (OK slight exaggeration but it was sooo much better than last time!) I even forgot about the cakes! I pegged it out and onto the run route.

Great to be running! It seemed so much simpler and easier than swimming or cycling! I ran down the footpath, past quite a few dog walkers this time , and kept going. Then much to my surprise, as I reached the top of the path I saw ahead two of the cyclists that had passed me! Could I possibly be gaining on them? I was! Even better, as I turned the corner on to the road I saw all of the 4 riders who had overtaken me on the bike in a line ahead! No way! Yes way! This gave me a boost and I worked hard and ran past each one! No one ahead in sight now, oh dear, this meant navigation, but actually it was fine as I remembered the route, and I also knew it was not far, so I kept the pace up. As I ran down the hill I spotted Megan, closely followed by Sam, running towards me at the start of their run! Waves and cheers as we passed each other! There was the leisure centre, past the marshals, (bikes and runners everywhere!), round the corner and sprint finish up the finishing funnel! …And collapse and sit down!

After I got my breath back I stooSome squashed and not so squashed cakesd with Emily, handed some squashed cakes, and then Helen came round and we were all there to cheer Megan, Sam and Gayle in! They all had big smiles on their faces! So pleased they had enjoyed it. It had been Sam and Gayles first triathlons! So super well done for them! After celebrations we gathered ourselves and our paraphernalia and retreated to a Costa coffee for recovery!

I really enjoyed this race, just as much as the first time. But this time I felt more confident. It has also made me realise how complicated triathlon can be, so many things can go wrong! One area it highlighted for me is that I would like learn more bike stuff, like taking wheels off and mending punctures, using gears right etc. It could all be very helpful! And I think Sam would be the person to ask!

Extract from the book Running My Way by Tamsin Imber with permission from Pitch Publishing.

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Go Tri Ponteland #2, Wednesday, June 7, 2017

200m swim, 9km bike, 3km run

Tamsin Imber

Group PhotoMy First Triathlon!

Eeek! I can see through the window that a big car has pulled up outside my house! With bikes on the back! They’re actually here! Yippee! Quick dash to bathroom to replace toothbrush, dash back to get watch..the kids have already opened the front door and I can hear Helen talking with them. Grabbing many bags of stuff, I rush downstairs to greet Helen and Nina who have come to whisk me away to Ponteland to do my first triathlon!

Let me introduce us! We are team ‘Ladies that Tri’. Comprising Helen and Nina, veterans of the triathlon, and myself, a runner who’s front crawl was recently described by a mystified general public swimming pool user as ‘you look like you are trying to run in the swimming pool.’ I am a recent learner of the front crawl! Having spent years thinking ‘I wish I could do that’ at the start of this year I thought ‘Well why not?’ I joined the Durham Tri club in January and went regularly to the Saturday 5.30pm sessions. I massively thank Bob, Jean, Amanda, Ian and Ellen for their excellent and enjoyable tuition. They are fantastic coaches! I have got much enjoyment from front crawl! I didn’t realise how different to breast stroke it was until now. You only get to see what’s below you for a start! I was now curious to try a triathlon and the Ponteland Go Tri events for beginners seemed a good place to start.

Helen drove up the A1. Our three power machines were attached to the back of the vehicle. I am quite attached to my bike and was pleased to see it travelling in style! I’d like to say our arrival at the Ponteland Leisure Centre was cool and smooth, perhaps even gaining psychological advantage over any fellow competitors arriving at the same time, but it was not as unfortunately I remained locked in the car as Helen and Nina got out and started sorting the bikes as I could not work out how to unlock the door!

Nina and Helen were extremely helpful. It was great going with them! They showed me where everything was (lockers, toilets, registration, transition lines on the ground) and gave me numerous excellent tips such as how to organise my pile of stuff in the transition zone! Before long a crowd of people in active wear were gathered for the briefing before the start. The lady that organises these events was very welcoming. It turned out that quite a few of us were doing our first triathlon! A group photo was taken at the start in celebration which was supportive. My only concern at that moment was that looking around I appeared to be the only person wearing a swimming hat and googles. Hummm. Was anyone else planning to do the swim bit? Ah! It turned out that this was because people get in the pool one at a time in 15 second intervals, so there would still a bit of a wait for most!

There was a call for the first 10 swimmers to line up at the side of the pool! Eeek! That included me! They organise it so the slowest people go into the pool first. When I signed up I had no idea of my time to swim 8 lengths so I had put down 45 minutes to be on the safe side. But this meant that now, I was second person to get into the pool!! Although I was nervous, I was very excited and the pool looked well inviting!

When it was my time to go I got a countdown from 5! By ‘4’ I had changed my mind about a star jump entry. It looked a bit deep. I slid into the pool in a ‘I’m going down a water slide way’ during the ‘3, 2, 1’ and managed to start on the ‘Go!’ And it was great to be swimming again! Also a little scary as to the anticipation of the surge of bodies that would undoubtedly be trying to get past very soon! I kept going as best I could! A little disoriented at times as the bottom of this pool looked different to Freeman’s Quay, so at the end of each length I checked to make sure I was on the correct side of the lane. The course was to swim up and down each lane once, by ducking under the lane ropes to change lanes, thereby finishing at the other side of the pool. I kept going! The first swimmer to pass me gave me a wide berth! Phew! ..I waited for more to pass but no-one did and soon I was climbing up the steps out of the pool!

In trepidation I gingerly walked outside to the transition area on the grass outside the building. Hummm, there were only a few people out. I had a feeling that I ought to be waiting for everyone else? It was a bit strange! I put my trainers and jacket on then waited a bit for Nina who was also out of the pool. I followed another girl who was ready to go and looked like she knew what she was doing. However, once out of the new- to -me -zone- of- transition, I felt more confident. OK, this was a bike ride now! (And very usefully we had arrived early to Ponteland and Helen has driven us around the course! ) So I rode at a pace I thought would be best, which given it was a short course, I decided this should be as fast as I could go! I chased the girl ahead! She was powering up the hill! I followed in hot pursuit, feeling competitive now! But randomly after a few hundred metres some small, long brown things fell out of her bike bag onto the road. They looked like cigars !? Whatever they were, they must have been important as she swore loudly and stopped immediately to pick them up. I asked if she was OK as I passed. She said she was so I carried on.

Goodness, I was now in the lead on the course (although obviously not in time)! I pushed my feet down hard on the peddles continuing up the hill, I needed to do this as fast as possible as I didn’t want anyone to catch me, especially given my head start! I was also determined as I wanted to see how I might fare in this triathlon lark! I made sure I was always out of breath, except for on the down hills where my aim was to go as fast as possible without falling off the bike! Its a very good course. Gradual uphill for the first half, then gradual downhill for the second half. And all left turns bar one! Whizzing back downhill to the Leisure centre I hoped I would not miss the turning, but it was well marshalled! I turned the corner, and Helen’s kids were there cheering me on, bless them! It was a short push-bike -and-run without bashing your ankles into the transition area.

In transition, I had a big fight with my jacket. The zip got stuck! So the hole I was trying to get my head out of was small! I tugged and pulled at it, which made the zip travel further up so the head hole just got smaller and smaller until the zip was stuck right at the top! Aghh! I tore my glasses off and gave a final yank of effort squeezing my head through the hole which felt like removal of half my face skin! After this impromptu facial beauty treatment was over I noticed a guy had caught me up and was just entering transition. I ran out as fast as I could! Back through the taped transition exit, onto the run route! More kind cheers from Helen’s kids as I went past!

The run route headed round the corner, then onto a footpath. My legs didn’t seem to get going as quickly as I wanted them too. Maybe due to a circulation thing from being on the bike? Anyhow I strode on as fast as I could. I couldn’t actually remember how far it was but I knew it was a very short length as it was a mini-triathlon and knew that this meant run as hard as you can. There was no-one on the path for ages then I saw some dog walkers in the distance. Oh dear! My active wear now constituted a swimming costume and, erm, trainers..Ha ha ha! Living on the edge! I ran faster in-case they called the police. Half way down the track, the guy who I’d seen behind me caught me up and overtook. Aghh! I chased his heels! Round a corner and we were now both running down the grass verge of a busy main road in swim wear! At the end of this road, the route went along the pavement of the road straight back to the leisure centre. I recognised this from the bike route so knew it was not far so pushed the pace a bit. Back past transition and I gathered myself for a final effort to sprint to the finish flags! Gasping for breath at the end I was handed a rather nice goodie back containing welcome water, cereal bar and a smart sports bottle! I hadn’t expected anything for a £10 race entry fee! I downed the water then went round the corner to wait for Helen and Nina to cheer them on. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable, supportive and friendly event!

I am signed up to do this event again and was interested to compare my times to the lady that came first. My run time was the same as hers. She was 3 minutes quicker on the bike and 1 minute quicker in the swim. She also spent a lot less time in transition. As its such a short event, it seems that every second counts. I think I can easily improve my overall time by being much faster in transition and next time my plan is to start counting in my head when I enter transition, and aim to be out the other side by the time I reach 30! As far as decreasing my time for the other elements maybe there could be different approaches. Perhaps I could just try to do everything faster, or focus on what I am best at, running, and try to decrease my time for that. I can also now give them a more accurate swim time which means I can be more ‘in the midst’ of the action and perhaps get a more realistic race experience? In terms of enjoyment I was surprised to enjoy the bike bit most! The swim and run bits were just a bit too short for me. I look forward to trying this event again with these plans from the experience I have gained!

Extract from the book Running My Way by Tamsin Imber with permission from Pitch Publishing.

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The Grasmere Gallop, Grasmere, Cumbria, Saturday, June 3, 2017

17km

Tamsin Imber

It was a warm, shorts-are-needed, sunny day in Grasmere! What good luck! The Borrowdale volcanic fells, flanked with many shades of green and their characteristic grey lumpy rocky tops looked magnificent and inviting. It was a lively tourist filled, bustling Summer morning in the village of Grasmere. Excited runners in active wear buzzed about in the Grasmere sports field, registering and portable loo-ing. With ten minutes to go, the ardent sound of bag pipes cut through the air as we were herded to the start-line on the bridge…and with a 3, 2, 1 through a megaphone..we were off…!

Well, ha ha…kind of! I, spending too much time chatting, had not noticed the large number of participants in comparison to the capacity of the narrow wall-lined road, and therefore found myself stuck at the back of a large crowd.. behind a large number of Nordic walkers and family fun runners! (There were several events all starting at the same time). So I found myself walking for the first quarter of a mile!  This was taking ‘Don’t set off too fast’ to the extreme!  Although I was disappointed as I felt I’d kinda lost the race before I had started, it was a pleasure to hear and see the excitement and joking of many of the kids participating in the fun run.

Once people spread out a little I started weaving through them. It was a bit precarious dodging the random angles of the sticks of the Nordic Walkers!, but it added a steeple chase element! I didn’t get the Nordic Walking race though. Surely there would be the temptation to break into a cheeky little run now and then…?!..?  Maybe the poles trip you up if you do this.

I had got to a point where people were more spread out so was able to get up to pace. Wonderful! Despite my start, I was determined to try my hardest as I love the thrill of it, and to enjoy the run! As I continued to weave past people I saw beautiful pink rhododendron flowers and yellow poppies on the stone wall and smelt the occasional scent of honey suckle as we continued along the road that goes round the lake side. ..Ah ha! And what was that ahead? A purple vest with green and white stripes! It was Jill! Woohoo! After a cheery hello, I continued uphill now, and soon onto stony trail.

The route was so scenic! We ran along Loughrigg Terrace with stunning views of Grasmere and it’s forested island. Then downhill through scattered mature deciduous trees where we had to leap over roots and puddles. We reached Pelter Bridge and it was a shady minor road up to Brow Head Farm. Then back onto trail, round Ivy Crag to Loughrigg Tarn. I was now running with four guys, with one girl a bit ahead of us. It was lovely to zoom along with space. I was surprised to find that since the London marathon I am better at running downhill than uphill (it used to be the other way round!) With every uphill I fell behind the four guys, and with every downhill that followed I whizzed past them! After Loughrigg Tarn there was a long downhill section and I decided to use this new found ability to my advantage. I ran past the four guys again, then caught up with the girl ahead and put in a surge to pass her!

We were soon back into woods and uphill, before a fantastic downhill zigzag from Loughrigg terrace down to the foot of Grasmere! It was then a pretty shore-line gravel path back along the lakeside to the village. As we (me and the four guys-they had caught me up on some uphill so we all ended up together) ran through the village the friendly marshals signposted us back to the Sports Ground to the finish! And the finish lead to a tent of water and National Trust cakes 🙂 I collected my jumper that I had hidden behind a gate up the road, then bumped into Jill again! She had enjoyed it too. It was a lovely race and I would definitely do it next year. Shout-out to Alan Smith, who I didn’t bump into on the day, but later heard he won the V70 prize in the 10k race!

That evening I had a small trip to Grasmere for ice bath plus to try my first wild swim avec newly learned front crawl! I approached the foot of Grasmere where the stony beach is from the path above. There, enjoying the evening, I saw a lady throwing a ball for her dog into the water, two mallards, and a pair of Italians in underpants with a ghetto blaster. There was also a swan in the far distance. The overall effect was reassuring. Luckily the ghetto blaster seemed to give up the ghost.   It was a clear evening with sun low in the sky and a light breeze making lake reflections blurred. There were small ripples from the wind. I was planning to stay in my depth, and just swim up and down parallel to the shore. It was lovely and cool and I was soon in! After summoning up my courage I looked under the water through my goggles! Oooo! Wow! Amazing! The sun shone through the water and you could see all the rocks and stones below! I started swimming and it was being in a different world! I saw lots of little black fish, one had a proper triangle-shaped fin on its back! But it wasn’t a shark. They flitted away from me as fast as I had seen them. A bit further along I couldn’t see, as it became sandy and the water was yellow and turbid. I wasn’t so keen on this so it became my turn around point. I found I could navigate as I passed the same rocks, large stick and bolder just going up and down level with the shore. It was a lovely way to end the day!

Results available here

Extract from the book Running My Way by Tamsin Imber with permission from Pitch Publishing.

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Virgin Money London Marathon 2017, Monday, April 24, 2017

Tamsin Imber

The London Marathon

Warning!: This is not a positive report. Other reports about this race are available!

I’m not a city person. I don’t like crowds. I don’t like traffic. I don’t like constant loud noise. And I don’t like too much concrete. COD (Concrete Oppression Depression) is a ‘thing’ that happened to me when I lived in Liverpool for 5 years.  So why did I enter the London marathon? Curiosity and that was it. Ha, well, yeah, we all know what killed the cat don’t we.

So, I was at the Green start, having got a Good For Age place, and needed to get to Maze Hill train station for this start area. The race and the whole of London it seemed were very well organised for this race. The organisation I can not criticise at all. There were marshals everywhere in the Underground train system sign posting people. Also everyone was extremely friendly. And anyone with a race number also travelled free. I arrived in good time and did all my usual pre-race things.

..It all went wrong when I went to my start pen. From then on for the next 26.2 miles I was in a crowd. The problem with being short is that most people are taller than you so you can see only the backs and sides of people around you and a bit of sky above. I once stood on a chair to experience life from the view point of my husband and it really does give you a different perspective! So, in this crowd of runners it was really hot, smelly and claustrophobic. Following the blue line was never going to happen as I couldn’t see it!  As we got closer and closer to central London the spectator noise increased exponentially. Due to the crowd situation a short girl running next to me went splat on her face. I stopped to see if she was OK and two guys from behind ran straight into me so I went flying too. One of them had kindly tried to stop me by grabbing me, but he squished my body so tight with his hands that his nails made me bleed. I felt really stressed. I had a splitting headache. As we pounded the hot tarmac I tried to work out why. I can only conclude it was stress. Stress from people always in my personal space, stress from the noise and stress from lack of fresh air. I had sewed two pockets onto my Striders vest top and in one of them I had luckily put some foam earplugs. They only blocked out 50% of the noise but it helped a bit.

Then the sun came out. Thing with down south is that its obviously warmer than up here, add that to the London heat island affect (plus 2 degrees) and the sun coming out and suddenly you have 20 degrees. I’m not good running in the sun. I squirted my legs with water from the water stations to cool me down, which also served to get rid of the nauseating sticky orange yak that got squired on my legs from other runners stepping on Lucazade sport bottles.

After half way it soon became clear to me that I was not maintaining my 7.50mm pace, probably due to the stressful conditions, and my hopes of 3.25 rapidly dissolved. After some many miles of trying to get up pace and failing to do so I considered leap-frogging over the barrier to escape, but decided to continue because actually I’d only be standing in a hot, sweaty crowd queuing somewhere else to get onto a tube station platform. At least by continuing the race I was in a moving crowd going to where I wanted to go.

Finally got to the end. Thank God. Gutted about my rubbish time. A rubbish 30 minutes later than my PB and 35 minutes later than my goal! Didn’t really want a medal. Cried. Collected my bag. Gave myself a kick up the bum and went to meet my family.

On the Virgin train back to Durham I ate an overpriced Richard Branston baguette with chemical flavourings and tried to work out what had happened. I love marathons, it is my favourite distance. I just didn’t like London.  I can’t wait for  my next marathon. I suspect it will be a race in some unknown backwater of nowhere where I can just run freely, where I can concentrate on what I am doing!, where maybe there is some scenery!, and where I can enjoy it! Even though London wasn’t for me and didn’t go well I am proud of myself for trying it and I learnt a whole lot about big city marathons.

Extract from the book Running My Way by Tamsin Imber with permission from Pitch Publishing.

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The Monsal Trail Half Marathon, Peak District, Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tamsin Imber

What if you were in a dark tunnel?

A third of a mile long.

I was running straight into the mouth of a giant beast! Wow that was one big, eerie tunnel entrance! Aghh! Running head first into it was like plunging into the sea! Freezing cold! Aghh! With a freezing cold ‘tunnel wind’ complete with big blobs of icy water splashing down on my head from above! It was bendy. Dark. No light at the end of the tunnel to be seen. And there were mysterious echoes ..somewhere.. ahead?..behind?! …I was deep in the tunnel. The sound of my breathing in, out, in out. Rapid echoey footsteps, go faster, keep on!

The Monsal Trail is a disused railway line in the Peak District, now used as a cycleway and footpath. Starting near Bakewell, it doesn’t go round the ‘Peaks’ of the Peak district..it goes through them, meaning seven long tunnels! The Monsal trail half marathon takes a ‘there and back’ route from the Bakewell end, taking in three of the tunnels, several viaducts…and back again!

This half marathon was part of my London marathon training plan, and fell within weeks of training, so there was no tapering before and it was done on tired legs! But, no way can I race and not race. I wanted this. I wanted a podium finish. I wanted a PB. And, I wanted to beat all females younger than me!

I arrived early, so chatted to other runners for a while, but inside I was itching to start. With half an hour to go I escaped for a short warm-up, and to get away from the crowd. As I set off, I spotted my husband and two kids! I thought they had gone to the cycle hire? My daughter skipped towards me, her hair flying about getting in her face, waving her Care-Bear in the air. My son remained by husband’s side, looking serious. As I reached them he looked up at me earnestly, his big green eyes open wide and said “Mum, if you want to run faster, just imagine you robbed a bank and the police are chasing you!” I thanked him. It was original advice. Maybe it would work!

Five minutes to go. The runners just behind the start-line looked in scarily good condition. Tall skinny guys. ..and a large contingent of young twenty something looking girls. Hummm. Was I deluded? I climbed over the rope and squeezed my forty year old self in beside them. Tension and nervous anticipation filled the air. It was also absolutely freezing cold but I was fussing that the two layer option I’d gone for would be too warm. Make a decision, make up your mind. I stuck with two layers.

Last minute loudspeaker instructions over, the gun fired and we all charged forwards like sheep escaping from a pen. My legs protested immediately! I ignored it and forced myself to get into a steady rhythm, building up to a pace that was hard and painful, but that I hoped I could keep up. It was gravelly underfoot. As I got into my stride, so did runners around me and I found myself running in a group of four guys. Concentrate. Keep pushing that steady pace. You can. We reached Hassop station. A small crowd outside the cafe cheered us on! Pounding on I became warmer and warmer as the first sun of the year got properly up and I was soon totally baking! And looking forward to the first water station! I managed somehow to rip off my long-sleeved top from under my Striders vest top whilst running and threw it to the side. Then I saw the grand, eerie looking entrance of the first tunnel was looming closer and closer! Wow that was a big entrance! Aghh! Running head first into it was like plunging into the sea! Freezing cold! Aghh! With a freezing cold ‘tunnel wind’ complete with big blobs of icy water splashing down on my head from above! It was bendy and I could hear mysterious echoes ..somewhere.. ahead?..behind?! I was deep in the tunnel. The sound of my breathing in, out, in out. Rapid echoey footsteps, go faster, keep on! Suddenly out of the tunnel and back into the bright light made me feel a bit spaced out for a few moments. Focus! I concentrated on keeping on it. I was running on my own now, having dropped two of the guys and two had gone ahead. Focus. Keep the pace up. My lungs were OK but my legs were tight. Oooooo! Two more tunnels, viaducts, valley views, cycle path…and then, the first male, having reached the turnaround point, came speeding towards me. Then more guys. Then the first lady…and the second. And the third..Noooo! The fourth..Nooo! The fifth ..Noooo! ….Then…me. I quickly reached the half way point and threw myself round the tight bend round a disused platform. Speed up, get on it! The girls ahead all looked a lot younger than me…but even more reason to try and catch them! My legs hurt more now, but they can speak to the hand, cos the brain ain’t listening. Back through the third tunnel, then the viaducts. More runners were coming towards me now. I heard one say “oooo she looks in pain!” I tried to smile at her but grimaced. Back through the second tunnel, more cycle path, I kept pushing on. And on.

I reached mile 9. Never been best buddies with mile 9. I really needed that next water station too. Swinging my arms more strongly to battle with my legs I ran on. I tried and failed to relate to a police chase. Instead I chanted ‘Mo Farah, Mo Farah’ in my head over and over in time to my feet. Mile 10! Phew! One final ice tunnel and there was the water station! Thank God! Literally! I stuck my hand out in advance, grabbed the cup, threw as much as I could in the direction of my mouth, got most of it over my face, threw the cup to one side and carried on.

Only 3 miles to go! I can do this! Yes! I found I could run a bit harder. A runner then caught me up (male so that’s OK). I kept up with him and we pushed each other on. Yes! I can do this! Lets go catch em! I increased the pace, and so did he. Back past Hassop station, just cycle path all the way now. The sun was really burning down, why was he putting his woolly bobble hat on? Ignore it, focus! Where are those girls? Catch them! I held on. The faster I run, the sooner I can stop. I ran harder and left the guy behind. 12 mile marker, only a mile! Yes! I will catch them. Aghh, the pain! Go, go go! I tried to run harder. Where are those girls? At last the finish in sight! Then suddenly he was right on me, running flat out! No way! I stopped him passing me and raced him to the finish. Aggghhh!! and then we were both over the line, stopped, bent over, gasping for air…!

I didn’t catch those girls. I came 6th lady. But not catching them makes me more determined for next time! I got the FV40 trophy. I didn’t get a PB. I tried my best and and ran as well as I could have done on the day. You win some, you lose some, especially in running! My watch showed even-pacing, which boosted my confidence as I didn’t look at it. And I love my medal with its Bakewell pudding on!

Extract from the book Running My Way by Tamsin Imber with permission from Pitch Publishing.

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