Tag Archives: Andrew Davies

Stamfordham 10K, Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Andrew Davies

I’ve been keeping my eye out for mid-week 10ks as an alternative to the normal Sunday morning ones. Having said that, I’ve entered a lot of Sunday morning 10ks!

Stamfordham 10k is a Run Nation race and is expensive, as a consequence (£16.50). It’s chip timed, with a nice medal but no t-shirt. I’m not sure where the money goes. They’re always well organised and friendly though.

Stamfordham is a small Northumberland village off the A69 on the way to Hexham. Very convenient for me. I had plenty of time to get there from Gosforth for the civilised 7:30 pm start.

The postcode took me to the middle of nowhere before I’d realise I’d entered the road name ‘B6309’, not a postcode. Anyway, a quick Google of Stamfordham Village Hall showed I was 4 miles away with plenty of time.

The weather was perfect. It’d been warm recently but tonight there was just enough cloud cover to keep the heat away. This was lucky, I was wearing my long sleeve Striders top, with the sleeves rolled up. This was my fourth race in ten days and the vest hadn’t made it through the washing cycle this time. Bit of a blessing as I think it’s shrinking and looks more like a training bra.

The roads weren’t closed for the race but I saw a max of five cars out there. Two of them were the organiser and photographer. There was loads of space to park in the village. Just over 100 runners gathered around the village hall, picking up their numbers and chatting. Nice building with loads of toilets. This is when I heard about the last kilometre. Apparently, it was quite a drop; a really speedy way to finish. And I could believe it because I could see the slope coming into the village to the finish outside the hall. I was then concerned about the climb we’d need to do. But I shouldn’t have worried too much.

At 7:20 pm, after a good warm-up, we all headed to the start, about 500 yards towards the other side of the village. There was a quick briefing from Angelos Epithemiou from Shooting Stars. Then we were off.

We headed out of the village on the country road and turned left. The course is one large rectangle of country roads. It’s a beautiful part of the world but you don’t get to see too much of it. The roads are long, straight and lined with large hedges and trees.

It’s officially undulating but none of the individual rises are anything to worry about. However, it does slowly rise on average all the way from the start to beyond 9k. Getting steadily worse after 6k. So my strategy was to make the most of the downs by picking up speed and carry it through the ups and generally dig in. I heard someone say they hadn’t run for a while and were taking it easy and aiming for 45 minutes. I’ve been running loads recently, was going eyeballs out and aiming for 45 minutes so I thought I’d keep her in sight.

I had a good first half and left her and her friend behind. In fact, behind them, there was a big gap opening up to the rest. I think we were a lead group of about thirty. 5k time was good but it was net downhill. I dug in and tried to keep as much speed as possible before the harder rises later. The girl and bloke went past me but I left him well behind over the last few kilometres. The field had spread out and it was getting difficult to reel anyone in. However, I passed a couple of guys I had in my sights while one or two were too fast and I think someone powered past me.

But where was this famous drop to the finish? Some say it’s a mile long, others a kilometre. Pffft my watch said 9.4k before the gradient changed. But it changed a lot. Not the steepest hill I’d ever run down but not far off. Had to hold back. Didn’t want to face plant on tarmac. But it was an exciting, high-speed finish. First and last Strider home.

I finished 28th. Happy with 45:41. Not a PB but this isn’t a PB course. I’d had a small ‘mare on Sunday at Newton Aycliffe, 47:00, which has worse rises. But was happy with 44:00 the previous Wednesday at Newburn River run which is 9.7k, exactly 6 miles.

I might be doing too many races too close together to get a PB but that won’t stop me trying at Kirkley 10k next Wednesday.

Stamfordham is a good 10k if you can afford it and can get there.

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Windy Nook Inaugural parkrun, Saturday, December 2, 2017

5km

Andrew Davies

First Striders at Windy NookI’ve been trying to be ‘Great North Done’. That’s what everyone calls it when you’ve run all the parkruns in the North East. What do you mean you’ve never heard of it? It’s not like I’ve just made it up!

It’s all the parkruns from Druridge Bay down to Darlington. There are 23 now, I think. I might count Catterick and Northallerton as bonuses.

After finally getting to Gibside last week (which is great by the way), I only had Druridge Bay for the set. I’d even got to the sneaky new one at Newbiggin not long after it started. That’s another good one, as our captains will testify to after today, I’m sure. Coincidently I bumped into Paul and Dylan Swinburne there, as I did today at Windy Nook. Yep, another new North East parkrun. We’re spoiled for them up here.

I rolled over in bed to see how many more hours I had to luxuriate when I noticed it was 07:58 and my 07:30 alarm had failed! Luckily I’d got my uniform ready the night before, as if I was a school kid, and was dressed in minutes and out the door before 08:20. This gave me plenty of time to do the 25-minute trip to Gateshead.

The postcode (NE108XU) sends you to Whitehills Community Centre where’s there’s space to park. From there you need to walk 500 yards through a housing estate to Windy Nook Nature Park. The organisers emphasised how we shouldn’t park in the housing estate to avoid annoying the residents. There was free tea and coffee in the Centre after. I expect it won’t always be free.

There was a lot of snow and ice left around the North East and Facebook was peppered with parkruns being cancelled. Luckily not Windy Nook. Coincidentally, my Daughter was supposed to be playing footy at Hill Top School half a mile away but that was cancelled too. The course is not far from Wrekenton XC so that should tell you what to expect. The snow had turned to slush which flowed down the paths and turned the off-road bits into slippy bogs. I’d packed my fell shoes but made the mistake of wearing my brand new Brooks instead. They’d be fine for this course normally but not today.

I was expecting lots of tourists from the cancelled runs. There were 215 runners, in the end. I suspect this parkrun will attract around 150-200 most weeks, but what do I know?
The organisers did a great job welcoming everyone, explaining the route and bad conditions and to expect some hiccups.

The course is complicated. At least it was today. There was a hiccup and we went the wrong way on the first lap (I’ll have to go again to be sure). It’s a three-lap course; you start and finish at the same point. Before the first lap, you set off around a small path loop in the wrong direction then you start the laps. Halfway around, there are 14 steps. But there are two sets of steps in the park and we went up the wrong ones first-time, I’m sure. The real lap has a long wood chip incline with the real steps and a muddy bank. It’s great to do it three times. It’s not as bad as the inclines and hill at Flatts Lane but the mud made it almost impossible to run up today (in Brooks).

Windy Nook is not a PB course. I was saving myself for Sunderland Strollers Half on Sunday and I took nearly 28-mins. I’ll be going back to get under 25 minutes soon. But I don’t think I’ll get very far under.

It’s a fine addition to the ‘Great North Done’ set and all the Striders should get there soon before any more parkruns appear (I’m looking at you Kerry in a Peterlee type direction).

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FlaminGo 10K, Kirby Misperton, Malton, North Yorkshire, Saturday, March 5, 2016

Andrew Davies

Not a Flamingo in sight.

The hail started as we drove up Sutton Bank and I knew we were in for a dramatic day. We were on our way to Flamingo Land. I’d dragged the family out of bed at 6:30am to get there for 9:30am. They were not happy. The zoo was open but none of the major rides would be (until the next week).

I was heading for the second, and my first, running of FlaminGo 10k. In aid of the Udzungwa Forest Project, apparently. Yes, it’s a real place. In Tanzania.

This race wouldn’t have appeared on my radar but we were on our way to meet our friends, Sarah and Jamie, who own a caravan in the park and suggested I enter. I’m glad they did. They’re both quite fit, Sarah is a swimmer and Jamie loves cycling. He’s a pretty fast parkrunner and might have the edge on me over 10k.

We met in the car park and they snook Vicki and Annabelle in to Flamingo Land. Then we warmed up with the other 250 runners. The weather couldn’t decide between freezing hail, sideways rain or bright sunshine.

There was more club shirts than I expected. I was the only Strider but there was New Marske Harriers, Wallsend Harriers, Easingwold Running Club, Redcar Running Club and Tyne Bridge Harriers amongst more Southern clubs.

There was a loud and excitable radio-DJ-style announcer on the mic, calling the tunes and organising the whole event. We set off at 10am on the dot.

The race was 2 identical laps that snaked through the park and camp site and around the outside of a ridiculously muddy golf course. There was a couple of small rises but other than that it was flat. It was the most twisty 10k I’ve ever run and the muddy golf course slowed everyone down. Not as badly as you guys doing Alnwick XC I imagine.

I got around in 48:26 and beat my friend Jamie by a couple of minutes, which is all that really matters.

The race was won by Tristan Learoyd of New Marske Harriers who seems to win a lot races I enter. He did it in 35:14. First woman was, with a time of 40:28, was Kay Neesam also of New Marske Harriers.

Time for the cleanup.

Runners were allowed free entry to the park but they were generally too wet and muddy to really make the most of it. Luckily we cleaned up in Sarah’s caravan and had the afternoon in the park. The rhinos and giraffes were impressive but there was only a couple of small rides open for the kids.

It was a fun 10k with novel scenery. I’ll probably do it again next year but might not drag the family along. Maybe I could drag some other Striders?

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