Category Archives: Jacquie Robson

Druridge Bay Inaugural parkrun, Saturday, August 9, 2014

Jacquie Robson

Normally, I miss out on local inaugural parkruns to stay behind at Durham while Alister gets to go and enjoy a bit of parkrun tourism as part of his NE parkrun Ambassador role. The large number of volunteers at Durham (thanks, folks) last week, however, meant I could accompany Alister to the first running of the (now) most northern parkrun in England.

Druridge Bay parkrun, the first Northumberland parkrun, is a welcome addition to the NE parkrun family. It starts and finishes at the visitor centre and the route consists of two laps of the beautiful Ladyburn Lake on good quality trail and path. It was fairly dry and suitable for road shoes even after a good downpour overnight, and the route is pretty flat with only a few gradients on the way around the lake. Warm and pleasant conditions meant that the run times were pretty good for most participants, and it was great to see lots of friendly faces. Event Director and Alnwick Harrier Mark Doctor has a great team established and already there’s a friendly and community feel to the event. The visitor centre cafe is also rather fantastic, supplying top notch bacon butties or(and?) full English breakfasts as well as a wide choice of cake!

Alister attempting to fly.

Plenty of other Striders came along for a spot of parkrun tourism, and it was no surprise to see Paul Pascoe and Angela Coates among them, as they needed to complete Druridge Bay to keep their 100% NE parkrun completion record going! There is a £1.40 car park charge when visiting this parkrun, but we made the most of our visit with a kayaking trip out on the lake before we left. Other parkrunners had taken along their wetsuits and fitted in a bit of triathlon open-water swimming training, whilst more sedentary types brought their dog and went for a walk along the beautiful beach afterwards. I’ll definitely be back to Druridge Bay – but next week it’s a return to Durham parkrun to celebrate the 3rd Anniversary.

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Medoc Marathon, Bordeaux, France, Saturday, September 7, 2013

Jacquie Robson

Set in the vineyards of the Medoc region on the Gironde coast north-west of Bordeaux, this marathon has a tagline of ‘the longest marathon in the world’. I can vouch for the fact that this race is the same 26.2 miles in length as other marathons, but it certainly takes a longer time than most if you do it ‘properly’! I can also vouch for the fact that the whole thing is bonkers. Totally bonkers!

Runners sensibly enjoying a beverage before the race.

Eleven Striders lined up on the start line in science-fiction-themed fancy dress (as suggested in the race literature) all looking a little bit bewildered by the whole thing. A fair few of us were not really in the best shape to be running a marathon, still feeling a bit hungover from the pasta party the night before which was a rather impressive marquee-based party with four-course dinner prepared by celebrated French chefs, music and dancing, magnums of local (and really really good) red wine on the tables and as much bread as you could eat followed by an impressive fireworks display in the grounds of the rather beautiful Chateau Lamothe-Cissac. The other participants standing around awaiting the start of the marathon the next morning looked as sleep-deprived, as crazily-dressed and as bewildered as us. Especially when a huge pirate ship was wheeled past with an associated group of about 10 pirate-runners shouting “Attention le bateau!” VERY loudly every 2 minutes, followed closely by a rather large car-sized flying saucer pushed by 10 runners dressed in lime-green alien outfits. This was clearly going to be no normal race!

Parched runners.

The starting gun saw fountains of gold ticker tape, deafening cheering and jets of stage smoke explode over the waiting runners and we made our way slowly towards the timing mats. It was a very crowded start, but eventually we headed off into the Medoc countryside along rural roads past vineyard after vineyard and made our way through the crowds to the first chateau. There were over 50 chateaux visible throughout the race, and we ran past or through 29 of them who were kind enough to provide their own red wine for the runners to sample along the way. The first wine-tasting stop was after about 2k, before we’d barely got to jogging pace due to the congestion at the start, and we queued the mobbed ‘refreshment’ table for our first Medoc wine sample. Served in a plastic cup, we all had about ‘two fingers’ of the wine, and then jogged on to the next chateau. At this stage, Angela, John Hutch, Mike and Sue had split off from the group I was in, and Alister, me, Greta, John G, Emma Detch, Bill Ford and birthday girl Jill Ford (what a way to spend your birthday!) stuck together in our train and tried desperately not to lose each other in the crowds. The race continued in that way for the whole 26.2 miles: jog to chateau, stop and drink wine, occasionally drink some water, repeat. There was also a selection of nibbles available along the route including bananas, oranges, flapjack, energy biscuits, chips, cheese, bread, ham and cheese sandwiches, chocolate, ice cream, steak and oysters (yes, oysters – but with white wine, of course) on offer for the runners.

Really, really parched runner!

As we hit halfway, I was finding the going quite tough (the stopping and starting was really quite difficult!) so decided to get more into the spirit of things and attack the wine stops with more gusto (well, it was Jill’s birthday!). By 18 miles I was definitely feeling the Medoc spirit! The chateau ‘refreshment’ stops were getting more rowdy, with runners stopping to dance with the bands that were playing, and one particularly memorable one where runners were sitting on the floor passing other runners over their heads (I don’t quite recall why, but it all seemed very amusing at the time!). Alister joined me in the change of approach, but it turns out that, while I’m seemingly powered by red wine, it does all sorts of bad things to Alister, so by 21 miles I was singing, chattering, smiling and laughing, jogging backwards and skipping to try and encourage him along, while Alister’s woeful cries of ‘Jonesy, I’ve got nothing. NOTHING!’ rang out regularly across our (now really quite) merry bunch. The seven of us finally staggered across the finish line, hand in hand, in around 6 hours 20, give or take, making it round within the cut-off of 6 hours 30 and having sampled the wares at every single chateau. You can imagine how pleased we were to be presented with one of the prizes: a box of red Medoc wine! They obviously knew it was Jill’s birthday, though, because she got a rather wonderful one from the Lafite Rothschild vineyard. Very nice! We got the medals around our necks and, after meeting up with the remaining Striders, had the obligatory photo and then, after a wait for Alister to claim his free beer from the congested refreshment tent, made our way back to the accommodation. Apparently we did some more celebrating at the house that night with more Medoc red wine and lots of cheese, but I don’t quite recall…

All finished ... time for a drink ...

You’d think that would be enough Medoc wine for any person but it really is very nice! Which is lucky, because the final part of our ‘marathon package’ was the 9k recovery walk followed by another lunch the day after. Again back at the Chateau Lamothe-Cissac, we arrived to be presented with a silver keepsake Medoc Marathon wine-tasting vessel and headed off back out into the countryside. After tasting a lot more of the wine at a more sedate pace, we were then treated to yet another slap-up meal in the banqueting marquee in the grounds of the chateau. There was more wine in bottles on the table, and, if it ran out, two enormous barrels from which you could help yourself and re-stock. These barrels were so big they could hold a whole Strider on top of them (see pictures!).

All in all a truly unforgettable experience (well, excepting the red wine blanks, of course). But overwhelmingly crackers. Crazy! Totally bonkers! I LOVED it!

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Great North Swim, Windermere, Saturday, June 15, 2013

1 mile

Jacquie Robson

The beautiful Windermere provided somewhat different swimming conditions to Ellerton Lake, the venue for the Elvet Otters’ two training swims this month. The Ellerton-based beginners’ training session, run by Donna James (thanks, Donna!), was held in bright sunshine in the lake with barely a ripple on the surface of the water, giving swimming conditions much like an indoor pool (but in wetsuits). Last Saturday’s informal practice swim was much the same, with the Otters enjoying blazing sunshine and a post-swim barbeque. I guess it was too much to hope that there’d be barely a ripple on the surface of Windermere when we arrived at the Great North Swim venue. I’d received inside information from Rachel Terry, who was lakeside to watch husband (and Elvet Strider) Michael’s 11.30am swim, that it was a bit windy and choppy, but Michael’s finishing time was great (32.50)so I remained optimistic.

Striders in Swimsuits ... I can see a Calendar in this. For charity, obviously, and in the best possible taste ...

Arriving at Bowness nice and early, Alister and I looked carefully at the lake surface as we enjoyed the ‘park and sail’ ferry along Windermere to make our way to the swim start (well, I enjoyed the ferry – I’m sure Mr R won’t mind me saying that he was more than a little bit nervous…). There was certainly more than ‘just a ripple’ on the surface of the lake but at 1.30pm and from a vantage point high up on the ferry it didn’t look too bad. As the afternoon progressed, however, I could see the waves on the lake increase in size as the wind picked up and I realised we’d be in for a bit of a hard slog to stay on course during the swim. Joined by the other Otters at the swim village, I hoped they hadn’t noticed the swell because it was clear that there were an awful lot of nerves among the first-time open water swimmers, so after watching the ‘yellow’ wave enter the water, and checking out the course (all well signposted by enormous yellow or orange buoys), we quickly got our wetsuits on and made our way to the starting pen. The bloke acting as MC for the starting pen warned us that the water was a bit choppy for the first 100m, but he said it was OK after that because when we turned towards the 200m buoy we’d put the waves behind us, but as I looked out over the lake I could see all the route buoys jumping around in the waves and was sure he was lying! It was going to be a bumpy ride!

Rosie Lindsay (daughter of Striders Fiona S and Steve L and honorary Otter) and I positioned ourselves in the start pen near the line, ready to jostle for position during the sprint in to the lake, whereas the more cautious swimmers moved towards the back for a more gentle and sedate entry to the water. As the hooter went, Rosie and I legged it for the water and I was chuffed to be the first to dive in from our side of the entrance slipway. Within seconds, though, Rosie streaked past me and disappeared into the waves ahead of me and that was the last I saw of her. I busied myself with wrestling for position with the big lads who were trying to swim over the top of me while I tried to outsprint them to the first buoy and the sharp right turn. Some were clearly not expecting the ride to be so bumpy and there were a few taking on lungfulls of water, needing to stop and breaststroke to clear their airways, and I got a few bumps and bashes (and gave a few back) as their legs kicked out, but I ploughed on and found some space at the first buoy. It was really rough, and I began to pant as I couldn’t take my breaths when I needed them due to the waves breaking over my head, so I took an inside line towards the 200m buoy so I could breathe facing inland with no-one swimming inside me to produce any more swell.

Good to be back on dry land, methinks.

From 100-200m, the swimming was tough and I drank a few litres of Windermere, needing to tread water a couple of times to clear my lungs, but I bounced along, struggling to spot the 5ft high-viz route markers ahead of me over the swell but managing to track the swimmers around me and make good progress. Trying to keep swimming in a straight line occupied most of the first half of the swim, but I soon started to gain on the orange triangular buoy marking halfway. The waves were still so big I was able to body-surf around the halfway buoy, and I hoped the second half would be easier for me as I could breathe to my more comfortable side. The swimming definitely got a bit less scrappy, but staying in a straight line was tough as I tried to claw my way through the waves to make up some of the time I’d lost in the first half. Like the last time I did the GNS, I got off course at the same point, nearly swimming into the front door of a green lakeside cottage, and I was a bit miffed that I’d given myself extra distance to swim. Once back on course, I pushed hard for home. A couple of big lads behind me were trying to draft off my feet for an easier swim, so I kicked hard to keep them away and sprinted in towards the finishing buoys, managing to hold them off. Finally I made it underneath the finish gantry and was hauled out of the water by the very obliging life guards (I hope their backs are OK this morning, having hauled many hundreds of disoriented swimmers out of the lake!) and I ran over the timing mat to stop the clock (35.35).

The first person I spotted was Bill Ford, taking pictures and cheering us coming in, and I was chuffed to see I’d made it round faster than my first attempt two years earlier, even despite the rough conditions. I quickly made it round through to the exit area, collecting my medal and T-shirt, and bumped into Fiona Shenton, who was quite understandably very proud of her daughter Rosie who’d managed to win the entire wave with a storming swim. Her time was so fantastic (22.34), she finished 9th overall for the whole day, out of almost 3500 swimmers, and finishing 2nd lady overall. A phenomenal achievement! I also bumped into Angela and Sue who had had a rough time (quite literally) in the water and had withdrawn, getting a lift back to shore via kayak and safety boat. I made it back around to Bill’s viewing position by the edge of the lake to watch the other Otters come in safely, and to watch for Alister who I was quite concerned about. A non-swimmer just 18 months ago, he’s targeting a decent length triathlon sometime soon and so has worked really, really hard on his swimming, but he’s no real fan of the water (especially open water) and I admit I was quite concerned about him making it back! But I needn’t have worried! I missed Otter Louise Billcliffe finishing as she came in while I was collecting my T-shirt (40.03), but I made it round in time to cheer in Rachael Bullock, all smiles and having a Great Swim indeed (42.05), followed by Flip (43.03) and Jill (43.58). Flip had struggled with cramps in the choppy water, but Jill emerged smiling triumphantly, still elegant in her pink goggles, of course, and posing for photos! Carolyn Bray (44.27), David McKinney (46.57) and Camilla Lauren-Maatta (47.18) all made it out looking tired but elated to have finished, and John Greathead completed in good time (50.05).


I was beginning to worry, but then a friend came to tell me he’d sighted Alister with his binoculars and we spotted him coming in towards the orange finishing buoys. I was really worried he’d be exhausted but he came powering in like a steam train, overtaking swimmers on the race to the finishing gantry and emerging from the water at speed. Unsure where the timing mats were, he sprinted up the ramp towards us, looking every inch the triathlete racing to the bike transition (52.02). Once we’d got him to stop and pose for a photo, he was elated and grinning widely and I was a very proud wife! Not far behind Alister was Emma Detchon (58.59), who has been unable to do any preparation for the swim due to recent eye surgery, but who came steaming in well within the hour despite only putting her wetsuit on for the first time that year at the start of the race.

Congratulations to all the Otters who competed – it was great to have so many Striders/Otters involved. Open water swimming doesn’t get much tougher than that in my (limited) experience. Who’s up for next year’s challenge? You never know, the lake might be calm and still … !

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Poole parkrun, Poole park, Dorset, Saturday, May 25, 2013

Jacquie Robson

Down in Dorset for a wedding, I fully expected Alister to ID the local parkrun. And so it was that we arrived at the very pretty Poole Park at 8.30am on a sunny Saturday morning. We parked at totally the wrong end of the park so was able to warm up by walking across it, admiring the picturesque boating lake and very flat terrain. We were expecting a large parkrun but arrived near the start at 8.45am just before the first timers briefing to see only 20 or 30 people milling about. We joined the first timers and were briefed on the route and the swan hazards and and then began to make our way to the start. On looking around, well over 400 people had joined us in the 5 minutes before the start.

On the gun, Alister raced off at speed, aiming for a good time, whereas I hadn’t run for 3 weeks due to injury so set off at a gentle jog. It was good to hear all the little groups of parkrun friends catching up about their week and chatting about the weather and the route, which headed out towards the boating lake. After two full laps of the edge of the lake, I was a little surprised to need to do a bit of car dodging as some traffic moved in and out of a car park that was supposedly closed until 10am (I’m not sure the NE parkrun ambassador would be impressed with that happening on his patch. Mind, he was on holiday…). After that, we headed back towards the start and added in a smaller lap of the cricket pitch before hitting the finishing funnel. I felt a little bit out of sorts after such a long running layoff, and I could tell from Alister’s face that I looked like I was really not enjoying myself in the warm sunshine, but I was pleased to come through in sub-30 and chuffed with another parkrun finish – still heading slowly but surely for the elusive 100 club T-shirt. Alister enjoyed the route but was a little disappointed with his time – the 11 hour car journey to Dorset the day before can’t have helped!

Still, in the right conditions, this is probably a PB course on a good day (but it’s possibly a little far to travel if you’re not passing that way anyway!). Not sure about the car dodging, but certainly one to visit if you’re down there!

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Marathon of the North, Sunderland, Sunday, April 28, 2013

Jacquie Robson and Rachel Terry

Jacquie Robson …

There was a time when I swore I’d never do a marathon. Then I swore I’d never do one again after finding myself sobbing just over 21 miles in to last year’s Marathon of the North. Then, after entering the MOTN again in January of this year, I got injured and ill and injured again during my training, so thought it best to withdraw. So I told everyone that I wasn’t doing it. But then Boston happened, and then I watched the London Marathon. And I’m a Strider. So I thought ‘Hey, I could just START the marathon and see how it goes. What’s the worst that could happen?’. And the day before the marathon I found myself quite excited at the prospect, and self-declared driver of my very own running train: the slow train to completion. Jill Ford and Katie Butler, running in their first marathon, had already decided that a run-walk strategy was a sensible approach, and we took advice from Emma Detchon who did the ‘run a mile, walk a minute’ to perfection last year. Settling on this as our race plan, we gained a few extra passengers: Rob Clark, also looking to get his first marathon under his belt, Sue Jennings and Jo Porter, looking to complete their second marathon in just over a week, both having PB’d at London, and Jo Richardson who accompanied Emma on the run-walk strategy the year before and knew it worked and was planning on running round with Jo P. Other Striders sorted themselves into other ‘trains’ – the ’10 minute mile train’ (driven by Greta) and the 8min 30 mile train, driven by experienced marathon train driver Alister, and all trains (as well as plenty of Striders ‘lone wolves’) had their photo taken in then assembled in purple clusters waiting for the start. After the minute’s silence to remember those affected by the Boston bombings, we were soon away. I was a bit overcome at the start and began chanting some of the inspirational marathon quotes I’d looked up during the week (such as: ‘Run the first part with your brain, the second with your personality and the last part with your heart’ and ‘In the first half don’t be an idiot, in the second half don’t be a wimp!’) before I thought I’d better shut up before the others tripped me up and ran away without me!

The first mile rocketed by. We were supposed to be jogging at 11 minute 30 pace each mile, but it felt so slow that we kept having to rein it in (well, rein Jill in – she was off like a whippet! ‘Rein it in, Mrs F – you’ll thank us for it at 20 miles’, ‘I know, I know, sorry!). We got some strange looks when all seven of us came to a halt at the Mile 1 marker and took our minute’s march, but we kept reassuring spectators that it was all part of the race plan. Mile 2 and 3 ticked by quickly, too, and we picked up a couple of extra passengers – Mike Elliott got on and off the train throughout the first part of the course, and we acquired a lovely lady called Ally who was nervously running her first half-marathon and stuck with us for a while. We collected drinks at each drink stop, managing in most cases to navigate the weird water pouches that choke the unwary drinker, and chomped down some gels or chews ready for later. We enjoyed seeing the other Striders pass us on the switch-back sections, and had a good shout and cheer every time we saw someone we knew. We smiled for all the cameras and thanked all the marshals, high-fived a few kids and generally had a jolly time. At about 8 miles we saw both the other trains pass us and gave them a big shout out – smiles all round at that stage. Unfortunately at about 9 miles we lost Ally – she stopped to see her husband and fell off the back of the train – I hope she finished OK as she was doing great up to that point.

Train crossing ...

On hitting Barnes Park the conversation had gone a bit flat, so Jill started a game of ‘the ABC of wine’ to keep our mind off things, and we enjoyed a couple of big cheers from spectators Jan and Tony – thanks, guys! Before long, we were heading back towards the Stadium and were approaching halfway, all feeling pretty good with the jog a mile-walk a minute working out exactly as planned. Last year, the route came right past the stadium at about the 18 mile marker so we got to see the front runners coming in, but this year the first loop was shorter and we cut around away from the stadium and away from the finishing half-marathoners, being cheered on by some Striders and a couple of Crook AC runners as we passed. Just before 14 miles we spotted Katherine and Mark Preston and we unloaded some kit onto Katherine and posed for some of Mark’s fantastic photos (thank you, Mark!). All was still well at that stage. I was a bit apprehensive approaching the coast as this was where I fell apart last year, but things felt fine and the company was great. As we came up to Sunderland Uni, Jill suddenly realised that she was running a marathon (she hadn’t realised this during the previous 15 miles!) and she had a little moment, and we kept smiling. The loop up and down to the waterside at around 15 -16 miles, however, was quite tough and we took a couple of extra walks to try to keep the train together.

We stuck it out until about 17/18 miles, heading along the coast, when the rain started to come down and the train started to splinter. Jill and I were finding the walking hard going on our knees, and a couple of others were finding the running hard going so the train was no more. I headed off with Jill up the hill and into the horrible downpour, on target for about 5 hours 10 minutes, which was great going for what we had planned. Once the rain stopped we found a good pace and we ploughed on. We spotted Neil Sleeman on his way back towards the stadium and gave him a big cheer (and got one in return) and we pressed on past 19 miles. I braced myself for the wall that hit me (fell on me?) last year, but mile 20 and 21 ticked past, still walking a minute in every mile (and a bit extra up hills) and still making good progress with no hysterical crying. By 22 miles we know we were going to finish, and even though we each had a really tough mile, by the time we reached 24 we started to speed up on the running sections, but still took the walks when we needed them! Realising we were at mile 25 was a great feeling and we started to grin. It was fantastic to see Sunderland parkrun’s David Whitmore waiting for us just before we had the Stadium in sight, and he escorted us for a bit on our run in. Then it was around the corner and up the hill and we could finally see the finish and the great crowd of Striders cheering us in. You can see from Mark’s photos how pleased we were! We were both a bit emotional as we crossed the line (some of us more than others…), and very shocked when we realised we’d come in in just over 5 hours. This was only 10 minutes slower than last year for me – and a heck of a lot less painful – and a more-than-respectable first marathon finish time for Mrs Ford that she’s sure to smash in her next marathon. Sue followed us in not long after – bloomin’ amazing after her sterling efforts at London the week before – then the two Jo’s and Mike. We got back around to the Striders cheer point just in time to cheer in Katie and Rob, both proudly finishing their first ever marathons with Striders smiles on their faces.

Great company, a great atmosphere and a great Striders day out. My London Marathon entry’s in for next year!

… and Rachel Terry

Completing a marathon has been an ambition of mine for quite some time. After recently joining Elvet Striders and having a big birthday this year I thought 2013 should be the year I gave it a go. Being a newcomer to racing I really hadn’t a clue where to start looking for a marathon so thought I would take a look at the Grand Prix races on the Striders website and saw there was a marathon at Sunderland. Perfect … close to home, bound to attract lots of Striders and their supporters and the bonus of GP points up for grabs!

The week before the marathon I was feeling quite nervous, unprepared and not quite sure how to tackle this gruelling race. Furthermore I had developed a worrying pain in my calf. However, after a super pep talk by the lovely Jacquie, including a few inspirational quotes and foam roller advice, I was feeling confident that I could finish this race and maybe even enjoy it.

Race day came and I was up bright and early and jogged round to my friend’s house (thanks Michael!) for a pre-race massage to try to help loosen my sore calf … gosh physio before a race. I felt like an elite athlete! I met up with some other Striders at the Duke and we were on our way! We parked right outside the Stadium of Light, soon met up with a sea of purple for a photo and then I found myself on the start line of a marathon on a rather cold and blustery day! After a minute’s silence to remember those affected by the Boston bombings, we were off!

The first mile was a bit of a blur but I remember having to hold on to my hat in the wind and thinking that this was not going to be easy. I settled into my target race pace (8:15) and began to relax. I had decided to split the race into 5 mile chunks and not to think how far I still had to go. The first 5 miles passed by quickly and I ‘rewarded’ myself with a delicious gel. I’d much rather eat a lovely piece of cake or flapjack but figured I’d soon get fed up carrying a rucksack full of treats so gels it had to be! Heading towards the 10k marker I got a cheer from a friend running in the relay which picked me up and this was soon followed by waves from fellow Striders Neil and Matt already heading back along a switch back section.

I soon found myself entering the lovely Barnes Park and once again saw Matt running in the opposite direction! By this point (mile 10) I wasn’t feeling as fresh as I had hoped and little doubts were being to creep in … but then I had a cheer from Alister’s 8:30 train … and suddenly I found the lovely Jan running beside me forcing a jelly baby into my hand and saying to everyone ‘Sorry I’ve only got enough for Striders … you’re looking great Rach!’ Thanks for your support Jan – much appreciated!

After leaving the Park I got back into my stride and exchanged waves with Greta’s train and a few more Striders along the route. I also got chatting to another marathon first timer which helped pass the time before heading towards the Stadium and the half-way point. I was a little concerned at how I might feel when I split off from the half marathoners but as the bodies thinned out I felt I was running well and started to feel a bit more confident. Around mile 14 I was greeted by cheers and waves from Katherine and Mark Preston. Thanks guys and great photos! I enjoyed the next downhill section to the waterside and spotted Alister’s train again as I struggled back up the hill.

Heading down to the coast was the most enjoyable part of the race for me. The wind was behind me, so I felt I was flying down that hill! I knew I had to make the most of it as I’d soon be running back up, so I lengthened my stride and really enjoyed the run down. I soon settled back into a sensible pace along the seafront and enjoyed the views and fond memories of a wonderful day spent with my children on that very stretch last September. Turning round at the switch-back was a cruel awakening as the wind hit me like a brick wall and I battled back along the seafront. I made it to 20 miles, refuelled and took on some more water. I don’t know how many of those damn water pouches I opened but I never did find the right technique as they either sprayed all over my glasses or I could barely get anything out of them or so much shot out that I choked!

Once I reached mile 22 I was confident I was going to finish. I passed Alister and Graham at a switch back around 23 miles, waved and got a ‘just a park run to go’ from Alister. Shortly after a lady shot passed me and, although I knew I couldn’t catch her, I thought I would try to kick on and my legs responded. Glancing down at my Garmin as I ran through Roker park I was at 7:30 pace … didn’t last long! Turning back along the seafront I hit that wind again and everything came to a grinding halt. There were quite a few men ahead so I dug deep and tried a technique I used in rowing … the ‘hook and wind’ … pick a target ahead, throw an imaginary hook and wind them works for me and I managed to overtake a few people! Katherine and Mark were at the top of the hill cheering me on … sorry no smiles this time, just a determined race face! Then it was a final kick to the stadium, helped along by a few ‘looking strong Strider’ cheers. That last 400m hurt but what a fantastic feeling to cross that finish line! I had completed a marathon and was pretty chuffed with my time too! Would I do it again … well as I got a ‘good for age’ time to qualify for London it would be rude not to!


Pos Name Club Cat Time
1 Jake Harrison Leicester Tri Club M 02:42:23
47 Neil Sleeman M 03:12:09
73 Jess Riches Chester-le-Street F 03:20:46
122 Matt Claydon M 03:28:32
168 Rachel Terry F 03:34:36
213 Graeme Walton M 03:42:10
223 Anna Seeley F 03:42:51
237 Alister Robson M 03:44:00
273 Megan Bell F 03:49:03
351 Jane Ives F 03:55:45
421 Zoe Evans F 04:04:58
450 Andrew Thompson M 04:08:12
526 Angela Proctor F 04:18:32
527 Phil Owen M 04:18:43
529 Kate Thomas M 04:19:04
536 Paul Beal M 04:20:19
548 Jackie Mckenna F 04:22:03
559 John Hutchinson M 04:23:43
560 Jean Bradley F 04:23:43
561 Sarah Fawcett F 04:23:43
573 Brian Ford M 04:25:59
589 Greta Jones F 04:28:22
624 John Greathead M 04:34:24
629 Dave Robson M 04:34:55
718 Jill Ford F 05:01:27
719 Jacquie Robson F 05:01:28
730 Susan Jennings F 05:08:10
737 Joanne Richardson F 05:11:13
738 Joanne Porter F 05:11:14
740 Mike Elliott M 05:12:20
760 Katie Butler F 05:27:56
763 Robert Clark M 05:36:25

781 finishers.

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Bolton parkrun, Leverhulme Park, Bolton, Saturday, March 30, 2013

Jacquie Robson

Down in Bolton for a friend’s wedding, there was I thinking we’d have a quiet weekend in a nice spa hotel with maybe a bit of swimming and time in the steam rooms. But of course Alister can’t go on a road trip without a parkrun and it turns out the hotel was only 5 miles from Bolton parkrun, so I had no chance of avoiding it 🙂

One of the Event Directors at Bolton, David Ardill, originally worked with Alister to establish Durham parkrun what seems like a lifetime ago now, but he moved back to the NW shortly after Durham started. We were hoping to catch up with him but he was away visiting family for the Easter weekend. We made sure to get the inside info on the course, though, with Alister (at my request) asking ‘Is it flat?’. The response invited a sharp intake of breath from Alister and a ‘are you sure you want to know…?’. I took in the brief overview of the text message: a couple of laps, including twice up something ominously called ‘Cruella de Hill’. Gulp!

The venue was the rather lovely Leverhulme Park, and we met at the running track and leisure centre adjacent to the parkland. After a bit of parkrun mingling and showing off our 50 t-shirts (roll on the black 100 t-shirt – there weren’t many of them there and I’d love to have paraded one!), and meeting the day’s run director, Andrew, we got underway. Beginning with a lap of the track, Alister shot off ahead and I decided I’d keep with the 25 minute pacer for the first part then see how I got on up the hills, as my pace recently has been way down on my best. After the lap of the track, though, I glanced at my Garmin as it all felt a bit speedy – the Garmin had us on for a 6:55 first mile which isn’t ever in my plans for anything!! I slowed off the ‘pacer’ and enjoyed a decent downhill section and a run along a trail past a lovely stream giving me time to admire the scenery before the first attack of Cruella. She really wasn’t a very nice hill – long, steep and reminiscent of ‘Cardiac Hill’ on the science site in Durham. I had a moment at the top where I very much regretted the full English breakfast earlier on, but I managed to hold onto it as I staggered along on jelly legs at a snail’s pace while my legs recovered from the shock. I wound it up again and pushed on hard on the flat section as I was beginning to feel quite good. Despite the pain of the hill, I’d picked a few off and so I strode out down the next bit to pick off a few more and psyched myself up for the second attack of Cruella. Again, it was a tough struggle but I picked off a few (some clearly use this as their ‘walking’ section) and again managed to just about hang on to my breakfast – there were others at the top not so lucky… A decent out and back for the last kilometre, with another hill thrown in for luck, along with a glory sprint finish (well, sort of) on the track saw me finish a scenic but bloomin’ tough parkrun a few minutes down on my usual parkrun time.

I’ve shied away from Gateshead or Hackworth parkrun because I’ve heard they’re ‘not flat’, but, according to Alister, this was the toughest parkrun he’s ever done. It’s certainly a tester! Running wise, I’m pretty sure it was my best performance for a few weeks, but was a good couple of minutes off where I’d have expected it to be. Killer hill, but nice park and, as usual, a lovely parkrun welcome! No café as such, but hot tea was provided at the end by some of the volunteers. Oh, and the wedding later that day was lovely, too!

(Visited 30 times, 1 visits today)

Major Stone Half-Marathon, Lockington, East Yorks, Sunday, September 9, 2012

Jacquie Robson

A weekend’s not a weekend in the Robson household at the moment without a parkrun, some other parkrun-related activity and either a stupidly long run or bike ride! So I found myself travelling down to my mum and dad’s in East Yorkshire for a visit this particular Saturday (post-Durham-parkrun, obviously) ready to watch Alister complete the Lockington half-marathon on the Sunday morning and planning to later accompany him on a walk around a park in Hull that is, apparently, just perfect for a parkrun (all parks are, according to Mr R!). But then I figured that, as I was missing my long slow run from Broompark with the Sunday morning crew, I should probably not just stand and watch. Then Alister kindly informed me that there were entries on the day at Lockington. And in the spirit of Dave Robson’s famous advice (’the best way to train for a marathon is to run lots of marathons’ ), I decided that the best way to check if I was ready for the Great North Run the following week was to run a test event. This one! Although I was a bit apprehensive about it (Alister’s reassurance that ‘it’s not flat, but it’s not THAT hilly’ wasn’t overly reassuring), I contacted my friend Jo who lives locally to find she would be happy to run with me and off we went to the pretty little village hall to enter!

A Sea of, err ... Yellow! There were pre-race sports massages on offer outside so I asked the nice lady to see if she could iron out my calf muscle which has been a bit problematic recently (again, I was not overly reassured by the shouts of ‘wow, that’s REALLY tight’ from the experienced physio kneading my leg!). I sniggered a bit when she apologised for being a bit rough (she’s clearly not familiar with the ‘Neil Sleeman School of Physiomasochism’) but she got my leg loosened off and ready to start with minimal bruising!

Lined up on the start line, Jo and I were gossiping away and totally missed the starting gun – there were more people than I expected. Lockington’s a sleepy little village between Beverley and Driffield, on the edge of Yorkshire Wolds, (bizarrely nowhere near East Hull, despite being organised by the East Hull Harriers – which, incidentally, is the ex-club of Jane Spink, the Sedgefield parkrun event director. Small world!) . The run route took us along country roads and the odd path along the side of farmers’ fields. The weather was beautiful, but way too hot for running half marathons and I’d foolishly neglected to put on any suncream (who would expect sunshine in Yorkshire in September?), but it meant that some of the views were particularly nice. It was quite an undulating course but not as hilly as I was expecting after Alister’s description earlier. Although I clearly now have a ‘County Durham’ definition of hilly as the locals running around me complained quite a bit about the ‘hills’. Jo and I made steady progress and we chatted as we ran and ate ShotBloks and drank juice, gently pootling around the course with huge support from the marshalls. I have to admit, it was a nice change to set off in a race determined to jog around and enjoy the atmosphere and have a chat, rather than do my normal ‘go off like a scalded cat and then hang on by your fingernails’ tactic so I have to say I very much enjoyed the run. The route crossed back over itself a couple of times, but it was, in effect, one large loop and even passing back through the edge of Lockington village about three miles to the finish didn’t feel too soul-destroying as the cut-back was far enough away from the finish that you couldn’t see the winners enjoying their post-race cuppa. Soon enough, we jogged back into Lockington to cross the finish line, thanking the extremely friendly East Hull Harrier marshalls as we went. The T-shirt was a nice high-viz yellow tech tee – perfect for these dark nights that are looming in. Every entrant also got a voucher to the rather lovely tea rooms in the village hall, but the queue for the delicious-looking cakes was too long by the time Jo and I strolled in and Alister, who’d been waiting for us for nigh on 45 minutes after having a good run, was itching to go and walk in his park. A couple of years ago, the thought of entering a half-marathon on-the-day wouldn’t have crossed my mind, so I was pleased I’d done it.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Steve BATESON East Hull Harriers M 1 1:12:27
14 Jackie LORD City of Hull AC F 1 1:26:37
75 Alister ROBSON MV40 1:46:28
177 Jacquie ROBSON FV40 2:26:14

189 finishers

(Visited 44 times, 1 visits today)

Sunderland Marathon, Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dougie Nisbet …

Today was a good day to be a Strider. I’d just like to say well-done and thank you to everyone who was out today for the companionship and support, for the 10K and the marathon, and all the Strider support around the course. It really was something.

Before the off ... And a special congratulations has to go to all the first-time marathon runners. Today was not an easy course, physically or psychologically. Lots of dog-legs and switch-backs and a surprising number of nippy hills. In a particularly cruel twist the organisers decided to parallel run the finishing straight with the 18-19 mile mark – a point where many are hitting the wall. All Striders finished despite the hideous temptation of passing the finish with 7 miles to go! Well done, especially the first-time marathoners! I hit the proverbial at 22.35 miles and if this had happened around 18 miles, I’m pretty certain I would have bailed.

... and the winner in the 'Most Disorienting Marathon of the Year' Category is ... Sunderland!

… Greta Jones …

It was an early start for my very first marathon. Mike Elliott kindly offered to be the driver for the day and picked up myself and my friend Denise who had trained and stretched in anticipation of cheering loudly. We met with John G, John H, Sue Jennings and Emma Detchon at Angela’s house and headed off in convoy to the Stadium of Light.

On arrival several striders were already present and collectively we were a very impressive sea of purple. Many of those doing the 10K starting at 10am also joined us and we managed a very impressive team photo. The mood was very upbeat and supportive, especially for those of us doing our first marathon, which included myself, Jacquie, Emma, Jo Richardson, and John G. George Nick a veteran of many runs gave us all a hug and encouragement, he was planning on running his own race with Sarah Kelly to support her round the course in aid of St Oswald’s Hospice.

Not a bad turnout.

The original idea was to run the race at 10.5 minute miles, the aim, to finish around 4 hours 35 minutes. We called this the 4.35 bus; however as bus is a dirty word in Sunderland it then became the 4.35 train. What an experience that was. We started really well and were consistent, thanks to Alister’s impressive pacing. If you have never joined a pacing group I can highly recommend it. The team held together really well and offered support not only to each other but also to those we passed and the locals who came out to cheer us on. We were joined for many miles by a chap called Scott who was running for a cancer charity and who’s aim was to run 12 marathons in 12 months, thanks to him I managed to work out how to open those sachets of water.

Due to the nature of the course which looped back on itself at many points we were able to cheer on other Striders as they passed us heading for the finish. We managed to see Paul, James and Matt quite early on as they lead the field of striders. Then came our first female Fiona, followed by John Hutch who we managed to cheer, at a couple of locations, then came Dougie, who was closely followed by the lovely Anna, whose partner Flip was not running in the marathon but was found lounging about on a park bench taking photos as we passed. Barrie Evans and Jan and Tony Young also turned out to show their support at the Barnes park area.

Angela was having a cracking run and had left the train at around mile 15. The remaining train finally splintered at around mile 16. I felt really comfortable at the 18 mile mark, but was at this time running with Dave Robson. Going past the stadium where several striders who had run the 10k and my family made loads of noise and gave such incredible support which gave me a boost. However by mile 19 I began to wonder why I was doing this and why I had bothered to make a polite enquiry. My lower spine ached but at least I could not feel any blisters on my feet. By mile 20 Sue Jennings had caught me up and the pair of us decided to run/walk for a while. If it had not been for Sue I am sure the next 4 miles would have been harder than they were.

Sue got the smell of home in her nostrils and I was unable to keep up with her but managed to continue the run/walk plan. By mile 25 if anyone mentioned another marathon I would have happily tripped them up if I had had the energy. Just as I was flagging I heard the cry of ‘Jonsey get running as we are heading for sub 5 hours,’ from Alister and Jacquie Robson as they were gaining on me. This gave me some incentive to push on. At mile 26 I was joined by the lovely Dave Whitmore fellow park runner and Sunderland Harrier who was marshalling at this point, and could see my struggle so ran with me up the final hill and lead me to a sea of cheering purple which included Denise, Jane Ives, Yusuf, Victoria, Louise, Mel and Rob closely followed by Jo Porter and Ethan as well as Mike Elliott chasing every photo opportunity. That is just what you need at the finish of a marathon and it gave me such a feeling of euphoria when I crossed the line in the official time of 4 hours 50 minutes and 34 Seconds.

“Never again, but then again …”

… Alister Robson …

It hasn’t been a great month or so for provincial marathons as a friend of mine remarked the other day. Hull was plagued with organisational issues and doubts remain over the distance, meaning that the official results have been scrubbed from the record books. Promised road closures didn’t materialise and there was a distinct lack of marshals. Milton Keynes and the Shakespeare Marathon at Stratford had torrential rain, the latter being cut to half distance. Manchester had torrential rain and baggage issues with some shivering for almost an hour at the finish for their warm clothes to arrive.

I was a little bit apprehensive then about the inaugural Marathon of the North at Sunderland, but I needn’t have worried. The wet cold weather that had been around all week started to clear towards Saturday evening and it became clear, bright and still. Perfect conditions for marathon running in fact. We arrived at the Stadium of Light nice and early and it was immediately remarkable how nice a morning it was and how many people we knew. I grabbed a quick coffee in the Aquatic Centre and as we came round the corner past the start line we were welcomed by a sea of purple – those hoodies really do stand out a mile don’t they? Before long I’d been volunteered to be on the radio (thanks Jane Ives, I think!) and it was time to assemble at 8.45 for the group photo. A whopping 24 Striders assembled for the group shot (+1 guest Durham Tri) and we still didn’t manage to get everyone in.

It was only two weeks after the London Marathon for me and so I didn’t want to try running it at full speed (although I knew quite a few who did!) and I also knew that there were a load of first timers, including my wife, Jacquie, who were aiming at 4.30ish pace. With that I volunteered to pace them as far round as possible at 10.30 minute miles pace. It was brilliant! I think a lot of the gang were surprised by how slow 10.30 feels like when you’re fit and raring to go, and I very often had to pull them back a bit. I gave them the benefit of my huge marathon experience (two previous VLM’s) and I’m sure after a while they got sick of hearing “Heads up for the photographers”, “Steady going up this hill”, “Thanks Marshal!” etc.

However it seemed to work and going through half way we were all a merry lot, all still sticking together and all still feeling relatively fresh. We’d gathered in a few extra runners into the little group over the course. Some nice ladies from Quakers, a friend of Emma’s Hazel, a guy called Scott who’s doing 12 marathons in 12 weeks (this was his 4th) for Cancer Research, all were welcome aboard the 4.35 train, the more the merrier. At about 16 miles we started to hit the buffers. I tripped over a gatepost going into Barnes Park, and Jacquie’s shoulder started to cramp up, probably from carrying her water bottle. Hazel and Angela started to pull away at the front, looking very comfortable and Jacquie and I fell back a bit as I could tell that she was starting to suffer. It was great to see Jan and Phil and Barrie out on the course and indeed the spectators and marshals (including our own Jo & Ethan and Anita) were brilliant. It was great for them that the weather was so good, and so much better for the runners out on the course.

At about 17 miles I had to stop for an unscheduled ‘comfort break’ and after heading back through town and over the bridge, it was back to the Stadium. Dougie’s report said he found that demoralising which is interesting as I found the opposite. I loved being able to cheer James ,Fiona and Matt and some others home and it gave me a boost as we headed out on the last loop out towards the coast. Jacquie had an undeniably tough time from about 21 miles to about 24 but we kept going forward (if walking) and once through Roker Park I think we ran all the rest of it back. We caught Greta and hopefully inspired her home and at the last corner back at the Stadium were the marshals from Sunderland parkrun, Jane, David and Katie and most of the Striders 10k runners.

From here it was just a few hundred meters to the finish line where the rest of the fantastic Striders support was ready to cheer us in and we could collect our medals and goodie bags. All in all the organisation was pretty good, not quite up to London’s standards but a great first effort. It wasn’t perfect, the first corner was far too tight causing the whole field to bunch up just after we’d set off running properly, the secure baggage area wasn’t. A train whistle, I'm guessing ... I had no problem in making off with Jacquie’s bag without her number and the finish line was a little bit out of the way tucked around the corner – it would have been better to finish in the stadium itself, but they also did a lot of things very right. Starting at the Stadium with all its toilets etc was a masterstroke, there were loads of great marshals and the water and isotonic drink stops were frequent and well placed. It was reasonably priced and had a tech tee in the goodie bag. Maybe Steve can have a word with Brendan?

… and Jacquie Robson:

I was nervous. Very nervous. REALLY nervous. Even the day before the race. And I was cross with myself for even thinking I could do something as daft as a marathon after vowing I’d never even dream of entering. But I have to admit it was nice to arrive at the start at the Stadium of Light to see a sea of purple, and I would have felt a bit like I was missing out if I hadn’t entered what turned out to be a fantastic Striders event. There really were Striders everywhere you looked, and friends from Sunderland and Durham parkrun everywhere else! The Striders 10k runners arrived on time to wish us all well, and we all assembled in surprisingly pleasant sunny weather for a photo of the Striders and friends before the start. After a last minute kit change from my cold weather long fleecy sleeved top to a t-shirt, it seemed like no time at all until we heard the hooter and we were away. James, Paul, Fiona and Matt shot out of sight with the front runners, and Dougie and John Hutchinson bounded off, smiles on their faces and a spring in their step. Anna went on ahead, too, despite claiming she was only going to run-walk at first and would probably drop out after 15k. We didn’t believe you, Ms Seeley!

Our ‘running train’ was made up of many of the Sunday morning crew (myself, Greta, Sue, Angela, John G and Dave R) and some welcome guests, including the tri club’s Vicky Mattless, Emma’s friend Hazel and a few others we’d picked up at the start, with train-driver Alister leading the way and keeping us steady at a gentle pace. Jo and Emma hung back a bit, wanting to set off a bit slower, and George stayed back to run with lady from the BBC. It all seemed a bit surreal during the first mile when I had to remind myself I was actually running a marathon. A BLOOMIN’ MARATHON, for heaven’s sake!

The atmosphere was great, with lots of support as we looped the stadium and headed out across the Wearmouth Bridge, with Alister reminding us to slow down every time we got carried away (‘Oi, Jonesy, get back here!’), and lots of smiles for the cameras and banter with the marshals as we passed. The first 5k (the first ‘parkrun’ of just over 8!) was out of the way in no time and the first drinks station was upon us before we really needed it, but Coach Al insisted we all take some just in case. The water was supplied in weird little plastic pouches and the next mile was spent discussing how best to get the liquid out of them. Some were handed over already opened, some needed opening, and, even when open, it seemed you had to squeeze them very hard to get the water out. Sue and I both found the water had a tendency to suddenly jet out of the pack causing us to cough and splutter, and a few people managed to drench themselves or those around them! Still, the frequent drinks stations were welcome in the bright sunshine. I was glad I’d made the last minute change to a t-shirt but regretted not digging out the Factor 30!

Before we knew it, we were past 10k and all jogging along happily. Conversation still flowed pretty freely and the pace felt comfortable. The miles ticked by. There were some sections along a dual carriageway where we could see the front runners running the other way on the opposite side of the road, and we had fun cheering them along, going bananas when we saw fellow Striders Paul, Fiona, Matt and James pass by. A long section along the coast near 10 miles saw some of our ‘train’ stop for a toilet break and they then had to push the pace to catch us back up. Others were just starting to feel the first aches in their legs. Either way, the first struggles began for some of us around 10 or 11 miles. Gels and sweets and drinks were taken on board (Coach Al reminded us every time they were due), but it was at this point where I really started to notice that this was not a flat course. At all! Some of the downhill sections were quite nice on the legs, but the uphills were starting to feel a bit like hard work (although Coach Al kept reminding us to take it easy up the hills – easy for him as he bounded up them like a mountain goat, varying his pace with infuriating ease to switch to the other side of the running pack to cheer for people and chat to the marshals). I seem to remember that we saw the welcome sight of Anita somewhere near here, shouting her encouragement to us whilst simultaneously fending off some feral creatures from the nearby habitats, and it was a real boost to see a friendly face so far away from the stadium – thanks, Anita. Passing halfway I began to enjoy myself again and kept the pace up with ease. But it was not to last long! I could feel the heat beating down and was getting quite thirsty despite taking water and gel sweets on board, and towards 15 miles I began to feel a bit sick. But we all managed to stay together. We’d picked up (well, Alister had) some fellow passengers as we’d run around the course, including Scott, the Chairman of Wombwell AC who was doing one of his 12 planned marathons in an impressive fundraising effort. He seemed to enjoy our company! I really began to flag as we headed past 16 miles, and Vicky was struggling too. She dropped her pace a little and, tempted as I was to go with her, I hung on in there on the ‘train’ a bit longer. It was another fantastic boost to see Barrie Evans just after 15 miles, shouting us all on and giving us lots of encouragement. Thanks, Barrie! Shortly after this, we entered one of a number of picturesque parks (every one of which had Alister start planning a new parkrun!) and saw Flip Owen, reclining on a park bench and snapping photos of us, looking incredibly relaxed in the sunshine. Another boost for us as the hard slog was beginning. I realised that I was going to have to let the rest of the ‘train’ go on without me at this point – just after 16 miles – because Angela and Hazel, both seasoned marathoners, had picked up the pace a little, and Greta, Sue and Dave Robson looked comfortable so I felt quite depressed to have to let them go but I knew I was starting to struggle. Alister dropped back to stay with me which, before the race, I was convinced I didn’t want him to (I didn’t want to get divorced before mile 25!) but I was very glad of his chivalry and company. Plus he knows me well enough to realise that the set of my jaw and the look on my face meant he should just jog alongside me and not say much!!! I shovelled some more gel sweets and some more liquid into my mouth and tried to enjoy the pretty park. Luckily, there was another big boost for us in the form of Jan, who shouted and cheered and gave us great encouragement. Thanks, Jan – you’ve no idea how much you helped me through a really tough mile! As we popped out of the park at about 17 miles, we saw Flip again, who skipped along with us and took photos (I actually look very happy on the photos – I wasn’t!) and gave us some shouts.

At 17.5 miles I found my stride again and, although my pace was slowing, I felt quite comfortable. As we reached the Stadium of Light at 19 miles, we saw the wonderful Sea of Purple out to support us, having completed their 10k runs in many cases, but shouting loud encouragement. I also got to shout James Garland in to the finishing straight, which was nice. It was wonderful to also see David Whitmore and Jane Niven from Sunderland parkrun, shouting their support, as well as Blackhill Bounder parkrun friends Sara Sarginson and Murphy-the-Beagle, and Katherine Preston. By mile 20, however, it was getting tough. Really tough. I remember saying to Alister at just over 20 miles that I was finding it really hard, and he told me I was doing really well and he was really proud of me. This brought a lump to my throat – quite unlike me – and quite telling of what was to come. At the 21 mile marker, I didn’t feel all there and began having a rather surreal almost out-of-body experience. I looked down to find that my legs had stopped running and I was walking. I didn’t seem to remember taking any conscious decision to do this, but it happened. I put more sugar in my body and marched along, trying to run, but I began to feel extremely peculiar and a little unsteady. As we came around onto the seafront, running towards Roker, I saw all the people coming back towards me on the opposite side of the road, up an enormous hill. Psychologically, I think that broke me and my world caved in just a little bit. Alister clearly sensed that I was really struggling and again gave me some gentle encouragement and, much to my surprise, my reponse was a strange wailing, crying, hiccupping noise accompanied by floods of tears. It carried on much like that to about 24 miles – those two to three miles felt like the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. Thank goodness Alister was there with me or I honestly think I’d have ended up sitting on the floor at the 23 mile marker, refusing to move until a car was sent for me! And thank goodness he resisted the urge to roll his eyes and tell me to sort myself out! He just smiled alongside me, making encouraging noises and making sure I was drinking and eating enough.

We spotted Sue and Greta coming back towards us on the opposite side of the road and I remember them telling us that they were beginning to struggle a bit, too, but to me they still looked fresh as a daisy! After a long walk up the nasty drag up to 24 miles I began to get the feeling I was making progress when the route cruelly turned off the main road to force us around a mile long loop of yet another park. This was again enough to reduce me to sobbing, but I did hear Yusef shouting encouragement just as we entered the park (although I couldn’t quite work out how he’d got to that point – turns out 10k is not long enough for him any more, so he’d done an extra 7-8 miles. Like you do!). I jogged quite a bit around the park with some determined marching in between and began to feel a little more human. As we left the park, I pulled myself together and realised that the quickest way to get this over and done with was to run. So I did. Slowly. But sure enough, we passed the 40k marker and, knowing there was only 2k to go, I felt a bit better. We sighted Greta up ahead, still struggling a bit, but she jogged along with us until the wonderful sight of the stadium up ahead and the lovely David Whitmore who shouted us along and then joined Greta to run her in, leaving Alister to accompany me. To huge cheering by the Striders, we made our way down the final stretch to the finish, Alister and I crossing the line together.

The relief to have finished was enormous, but, upon stopping and leaning on the barrier, I was puzzled as to why the pain hadn’t stopped. I stood up straight, doubled over again and then rested on the barrier for a while in all manner of strange agony! Mike very kindly captured this moment on video – my pain is clear to see! I managed to stagger over to Greta and Sue to congratulate them, but I have no recollection of this and only know I did it because of the video! Walking through the stadium to collect my goody bag, t-shirt and medal was equally painful and the ramp up and out of to the main concourse was nothing short of torture! It wasn’t until I got my trainers off and started cheering others in that the agony faded and elation started to set in. I’d done it! We’d done it! I’ve done a marathon!!!! Yippeeeeeeee!!! I said I’d never do one. Then I said I’d only do one. Hmmmm. When’s the next one??


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Paul Wilson Hartlepool Burn Road Harriers M 1 2:43:32
32 Paul Evans M 21 3:04:17
77 James Garland M 43 3:20:09
95 Susanne Hunter Blyth Running Club F 1 3:24:51
120 Matthew Claydon M 53 3:28:23
123 Fiona Shenton FV50 1 3:28:43
319 John Hutchinson MV50 25 3:52:02
532 Dougie Nisbet MV40 176 4:12:22
614 Anna Seeley M 65 4:20:02
749 Angela Proctor F 91 4:33:33
781 Dave Robson MV60 12 4:36:56
860 Susan Jennings FV40 77 4:48:08
876 Greta Jones FV40 79 4:50:34
881 Alister Robson MV40 264 4:51:02
882 Jacquie Robson F 111 4:51:02
979 Joanne Richardson F 130 5:08:01
980 Emma Detchon F 131 5:08:21
981 John Greathead M 344 5:08:31
1049 George Nicholson MV60 17 5:37:50

1085 finishers.

(Visited 44 times, 1 visits today)

Neptune Relays, Hardwick Park, Sedgefield, Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Jacquie Robson

I’d heard fantastic things about this team relay event, and I remember Alister saying that the 2011 event was a very friendly affair bathed in sunshine. So when Will Horsley emailed around to organise teams, I was keen to pull on the Striders vest and have a go. Alister was less sure this year, however, as he knew he was likely to have wonky legs after the London Marathon the Sunday before. As it turns out, however, he was fresh as a daisy, so we got signed up and arranged to share lifts.

Huddlin'. Wednesday morning dawned grey and wet and cold. No sign of last year’s sunshine. As the day pressed on it got wetter and wetter, and it looked ominously like we’d be running in the torrential rain and splodgy mud we’d encountered at the club handicap the week before. Ah, well, at least we knew what we were letting ourselves in for and had trained for the conditions! As last year, there were a number of Striders turning out to represent the club for the first time, so there were no thoughts of pulling out of the event, just a general foreboding as the clouds darkened and the rain got heavier as I drove Alister, Anna and Adam (also now known as Smiley-Dan) down to Sedgefield. It’s a good job Will had emailed the teams around beforehand – I think there’d have been a lot of no shows (me included!) if he hadn’t organised us all so efficiently!

The car park was full on arrival – of both cars and water – and we sploshed across towards the cafe to find Will, our teams and our numbers. I was teamed with Greta, Anna and new member Alex Probert, but didn’t manage to find Greta and our numbers at first. To be honest, I was struggling to see anyone as the rain really was pelting down. Alister, Anna and Adam headed off to the start and I tried to find Alex and Pippa who had turned up on my recommendation, and was so caught up with feeling guilty that I’d dragged them out in the rain that I lost track of time and realised there was no-one left at the cafe and that the start was in a couple of minutes time. I splashed over to a soggy-looking marshal and got directions to the start, and ran towards the large monument that was to give us a bit of shelter. I barely had time to find Greta and realise that I was the first leg runner before I heard the final call for the start. I struggled to pin my number on and wrestled myself out of my now-drenched hoody to get to the start line just in time. I saw James Garland making his way towards the front of the pack and I joined Claire Readey and Louise Miller in a huddle further back, and joined in the pre-race discussion about what the hell we were thinking of to be out in this rain without waterproofs, umbrellas, wellingtons and/or wetsuits.

Once underway, the going underfoot wasn’t as appalling as I’d expected. The route is very similar to one lap of the Sedgefield parkrun course that shares the venue and, had I been able to see anything past the enormous raindrops that were pelting me from all angles, I would have enjoyed the view of the beautiful Hardwick Hall and the ornamental grounds and lake. As it was, I squinted and blinked through the wall of water that was attacking me just enough to follow the route and avoid a number of duck-hazards and other varieties of waterfowl who were busy setting up home in the fresh puddles. The grass sections were squelchy but less muddy than I’d expected, but there was a good smattering of swamp-like mud on the path on the way back to the finish. I caught sight of Dave Shipman and Carolyn Bray up ahead of me, and decided to have a go at catching Dave but he must have sensed me coming and broke me on the slippery slope up to the finishing area. I slid about and bounced off the potholes and molehills, while Dave skipped up like a mountain goat and I lost him on the final corner. 'Sometimes I just cannot for the life of me see the point.'. Still, I was buoyed by the loud support from the third and fourth leg team runners huddling for warmth in the monument above the route and managed a sprint finish to hand over to Greta, who set off at an impressive pace. It was only a 3k leg, but I was pretty pleased with it (although I might have gone faster had I not spent so much time zig-zagging around the puddles and mud!).

As the second leg runners sped off, I reclaimed my hoody and joined the cheering crew. It must have been bitterly cold for those standing waiting for third and fourth legs, and, although I was a bit miffed to see the rain easing off as the third leg runners heading out, I think I got the best of it with a first leg run and was less cold than some of the others. It was fantastic to see such a huge number of Striders and great to feel a part of the teams as everyone cheered for everyone else. Particular well-dones for new member Sarah Tulip who only joined us for the first time time on club handicap night (in the rain), and must have wondered what on earth she was doing turning out in torrential rain for the second time in two weeks, and to Alex Probert and Pippa who pulled on the purple and green for their first team event. Congratulations also to Victoria Stott who came along in case we were short of runners and still decided to have a run artound, despite the weather, accompanying Sue Jennings on her leg.

It was a good event to be a part of. But can someone book the sunshine for next year, please?

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London Marathon, Sunday, April 22, 2012

Jacquie Robson

A Spectator’s Report

For the second time in two years I found myself in the supporting role at the Virgin London Marathon. As a rather long(!) point-to-point race with tens of thousands of runners and many more supporters crowding the streets of London, being a spectator at the right point at the right time to cheer on your runner is a sport in itself.

Jacquie on the DLR ...

Last year, I deposited a rather nervous Alister at the Blue start, having escorted him to Blackheath station (on the south of the river Thames) via the very efficient Transport for London train/tube system and up onto the Common. I was then lucky enough to have a friend escort me around London to ensure I didn’t get lost. We legged it back to Blackheath station and made our way to Shadwell tube station. A short walk from here, you can watch the runners go past at 13 miles. It’s just past Tower Bridge for the runners (and they see you on their right), then, once you’ve spotted your targets, you can run/walk/push past the spectators to the underpass to get on the other side of the dual carriageway and wave, shout and cheer again at 20 miles (again on the runners’ right). I made my way to the Acorns’ charity cheering post last year and stayed with them so Alister could spot me (although the Striders hoody is great for that purpose), but I found myself waiting for well over two hours. I then had a mad rush to try to get to the finish. I chose Westminster tube station and found myself on the wrong side of the marathon route. This meant me and about 5000 other people were all trying to cross the race at a designated crossing point and it took AGES. I missed any chance I had of seeing Alister run along the finishing straight, managing to make my way to the well-marked meeting area along Horseguards Parade well after he’d finished to find him slumped on a kerb, grinning like a mad man and halfway down his first can of London Pride. Good lad!

This year, I decided to try and spot Alister four times along the course and to do it more effectively. I again deposited him at the start, the Red start this time, but we still arrived via Blackheath so Alister could enjoy the approach to the Common the same as last year. I hung about with him, meeting Barrie and watching for other purple hoodies, until he wanted to get sorted in his Red start area (which spectators can’t enter). I escorted him to the entrance and wished him luck. He was definitely more relaxed than last year. Lesson 1 from last year: TELL YOUR RUNNERS WHERE YOU’LL TRY TO SPOT THEM. There are so many people both running nd spectating it helps if you’re watching out for each other. I told him I’d try to be between 6 and 7 miles, just by the Cutty Sark.

Transition 1: Blackheath starting area to Greenwich (walking)
I headed off, clutching my Transport for London travelcard (well worth the money!) and walking as fast as I could, following a rather useless map provided in the marathon pack in the general direction of Greenwich and the Cutty Sark. It’s important to plan ahead and check out your next transition as you can get trapped in by the marathon route and struggle to make your next rendez-vous, and I knew I needed to be near the Cutty Sark DLR (Docklands Light Railway) station. After a few wrong turns and a few policemen who only seemed to be able to direct me to New Cross (“sorry, love, we’re normally motorway cops.” Thanks, fellas!), I spotted the cones and police cordons indicating the route ahead of me and stumbled upon Greenwich the long way round. I’d made it there before the first runners (always the Elite Women – they set off first) came past so had some time to get myself in position. I walked through a bit of Greenwich, avoided the Cutty Sark itself (apparently, it’s quite common to get trapped in the route there) and made my way to the correct DLR station. From there, I went the shortest way back to the route and positioned myself near the barrier at about 6.75 miles. No loitering in a pub or grabbing any breakfast for me – I learned last year that if you see a bit of barrier, grab it – it’s usually about 4 people deep by the time the runners come past and you’ll have no chance of spotting anyone. There was about 15 minutes to wait before the Elite Women came past so I updated Facebook for people following Alister and the other Striders at home, and let my mum and dad know where to watch out for me on the telly! My dad was also a dab hand with the live tracking of the runners, and he texted me when Alister passed key points throughout the race so I knew when to expect him at my viewing point. This was incredibly useful throughout the marathon as my phone internet signal was not great due to the huge number of people. Another advantage of going to Greenwich is that they have lots of ‘Spectator Marshals’ who give advice as to where to stand, and give out ‘Spectator Information’ booklets with tube maps and route maps and advice for spectators (such as what times to expect the runners through each mile marker) which was great. Lesson 2: GRAB A SPECTATOR INFORMATION BROCHURE QUICKLY – THEY SOON RUN OUT.

After cheering on the Elite Women (including the northeast’s Aly Dixon) and the wheelchair athletes it wasn’t long until I spotted Nell McAndrew (who gave me a wave to acknowledge my ‘Go on, Nell’ as she passed at some considerable speed!) and then Anna, Ian Spencer and Alister. Anna didn’t hear me shouting (Lesson 3: ALWAYS SHOUT FIRST NAME AND SURNAME OF YOUR RUNNER, OR THEY’LL ASSUME IT’S GENERAL SUPPORT OR SUPPORT FOR SOMEONE ELSE AND THEY WON’T TURN AROUND!) but I got a smile and a wave from Ian and Alister. Knowing my next transition needed to be quick, I ran off before I’d seen anyone else, updating Facebook as I went. Dad texted to confirm Alister had passed 10k (which I’d already established!) and updated me on his pace – spot on target! Good going, Mr Robson! I Facebooked an update as I ran.

Transition 2: Greenwich Cutty Sark DLR to Shadwell DLR
On running into the DLR station, it was HEAVING with people, but marshals were less-than-helpfully directing some unsuspecting travellers to other DLR stations. I joined the queue to get in and listened to the announcements. The sheer volume of people trying to make their way around the same route means that the most popular Tube stations get extremely busy and I listened carefully for news about Shadwell. Sure enough “Shadwell tube station is currently closed due to reaching maximum capacity. Expect delays”. Plan B it is, then!

Transition 2: Plan B: Greenwich Cutty Sark DLR to Limehouse DLR
I’d been put on to an alternative viewing point by someone before the run, and, checking in my invaluable spectator guide, I found that if I made my way to Docklands, I could watch the runners come past at just after 14 miles to begin the Docklands loop then, after seeing them, walk 100 yards down the road to see them again as they completed the loop at 20 miles. I made it onto a DLR train (see Alister’s photos for what fun the DLR trains can be if you’re a 10 year old wannabe train driver. Or if you’re Alister) and studied my Spectator Information. I needed to aim for ‘Narrow Street’ round the corner from Limehouse DLR station just after 14 miles of the route. It seemed this was a reasonably well kept secret as most of the train travellers continued on towards Shadwell (good luck with that!) and I got off with about 20 others at Limehouse. I asked a Spectator Marshal helpfully kitted out in HiViz and a friendly smile where I could find Narrow Street. “14 miles marker, love, down that road there” and pointed me towards a large board outside the DLR station saying ‘Narrow Street this way’. Very helpful! It was less than 2 minutes walk and I seemed to be one of the first ones there, straight onto a patch of barrier (claimed as my on very quickly with rucksack tied to the railing and hand spread widely onto the barrier – similar tactics can be employed to get to the front of a very busy bar!). I’d missed the Elite Women but spotted Nell McAndrew storming past. I struck up a conversation with friendly people on either side of me at the barrier – one couple watching for their son who was hoping to run a similar time to Alister, so I updated them on the pace and when their son would likely pass, and a gentleman to my right waiting for his daughter who was completing her first marathon to raise money for a cancer charity in memory of her late mum. Very emotional! I started enjoying myself, shouting for everyone who had a name on their vest. It wasn’t long before the gentleman enquired as to how I knew so many people – I explained that I only knew a few who had yet to go past but that I was just offering my general support to people who had probably put their names on their vests to get encouragement shouted to them. He liked this idea very much and he joined my shouting; we soon had the whole barrier shouting out the names of everyone passing us, trying to make sure everyone got a shout-out, with special joint shout-outs to those who looked like they were beginning to struggle. I went a bit bonkers when Anna went past, and even more when I saw Alister, who turned towards me as he spotted me in the crowd. I thought he was going to come towards me for a kiss, but instead he kindly threw me his very hot, wet and sweaty fluorescent yellow hat which, as I caught it, splattered me and those around me. Thanks, love! It’s a good job I’d made friends with my barrier-mates by then!! The son of the couple next to me went past just after Alister and I joined them in cheering him on. I also managed to spot Ian Spencer a bit further back but must have missed Jane Ives and Barrie. I did manage to spot Anthony Corbett from Quakers, a Durham parkrunner. I waited just long enough for Claire Readey to spot me – good job I had the hoody on or she’d have missed me and I didn’t spot her as she was at the other side of the road. She looked quite strong, chugging down a sports drink as she passed, and she sounded quite chipper as she shouted back to me. I jogged a little bit with her, then turned around to get to the 21 mile point before Al arrived.

Transition 3: 14 mile point to 21 mile point
An easy one, this – a 100 yard walk across Narrow Street and back towards the Limehouse DLR station. The only problem was that the crowds were now 4-5 deep at the barrier. I wandered along the route looking for a weak spot in the crowd and spotted my chance, edging in towards the barrier. I managed to claim a small section before any of our runners went past and, within minutes, spotted Anna Seeley. She acknowledged my cheers with a smile then an ominous raise of her eyebrows. The lady next to me commented on how fresh Anna appeared to be, but I know Ms Seeley well enough to know that those eyebrows meant ‘I’m not enjoying this very much’. Still, she was ahead of Alister and I wasn’t worried about her – but I knew she wouldn’t be happy with her time. Only a few minutes later Alister came jogging past (the gloves were spotted well in advance) and he veered across the crowds to come over and give me a sweaty kiss, nearly tripping over the kerb in his exuberance! He was still grinning so I was relieved! He was still running at PB pace. I waited a few minutes longer to try to catch some of the others, but when a mum with two kids came past, desperately trying to get to the barrier for the kids to shout for their Dad, I let them in to my spot and ran off towards the DLR to try to get to the finish to watch Alister come along Birdcage Walk.

Transition 4: Limehouse DLR to Westminster tube station
The DLR station was still reasonably quiet and well staffed with Spectator Marshals. Unfortunately, the second I made it to the platform, I heard that Westminster tube station was overcrowded and experiencing long delays, so I knew I’d need another change of plan to make it to the finish for Alister. Plan C!

Transition 4: Plan C: Limehouse DLR to Piccadilly tube station
I knew I could run to the finish from Piccadilly tube station, which was on the correct side of the run route for the finish and about a mile away, but the journey there involved a few stops and changes. I plotted what I thought would be a quick route there, but warnings of delays meant I changed my options a few times, finally making it to Piccadilly to find a hugely busy station. It took about 10 minutes to get out onto the street, but then I took off running towards the finish. Texts from my Dad, however, told me Al was past 25 miles and I knew I wouldn’t make it in time to see him finish, so I headed straight for the meeting area. This is a long, wide area along Horseguards Parade, round the corner from Admiralty Arch, and consists of an avenue of trees, each one labelled very clearly with a letter of the alphabet. Despite the crowds, it’s surprisingly easy to spot people you know, and I was pleased to see Ian, our host for the weekend, waiting there to congratulate Alister. He’d been tracking him live on the website, too, so knew he was doing well. Within minutes I had a text from my Dad to say that Alister had crossed the finish line in a new PB, knocking 9 minutes off his time from last year. I knew I’d be meeting a happy husband! It took Al a while to wind his way round to us from the finish area (although it’s incredibly well organised, with runners’ kit bags given directly to them within 50m of the finish line), and I soon saw him approaching us with can of London Pride in hand and big grin firmly plastered on his face. Anna wasn’t far behind, and we wandered through Admiralty Arch to Trafalgar Square and on to a pub for a few beers before making our way home.

So, in summary, the spectating is an adventure in itself and I really enjoyed it, despite being on my own. The atmosphere at London really is something else – the cheering, the camaradarie and the support extend to all the supporters and you leave feeling you’ve been a part of something really special. If you fancy trying the supporting role, my main advice would be to plan your route, buy a travelcard, and make friends along the way!!

Oh, and stay over on the Sunday night so you don’t have to fight your way back across London with a runner with sore legs and tube stations packed to capacity. And don’t use East Coast trains – two journeys to the VLM in two years, both with over 5 hours delays….

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