Tag Archives: Anita Dunseith

Harrier League, Aykley Heads, Saturday, November 22, 2014

Harrier League X-Country Returns To Durham!

Anita Dunseith …

Anita prepares herself for the REALLY hard bit ahead!As the majority of people who know me will be aware I unashamedly and vociferously love XC and Saturday’s ‘home’ fixture at Aykley Heads was the best XC race I’ve ever been lucky enough to compete in.

I acknowledge I’m utterly biased but I thought the course was absolutely brilliant. It had everything, even a Grand National style jump that my hubby has christened ‘The Chair’. There were a surprising number of hills crammed into the 2 mile lap; ‘brutal’ is the word I’ve heard repeatedly to describe the course by its competitors; ‘unrelenting’ and ‘a proper cross country course’ are a couple of others.

The initial part on the field was tricky given the large mounds of grass, then we descended quite gradually for a while enjoying the view over the railway and across the valley. Turn left and it was up a surprisingly steep hill to then turn right and along to ‘The Chair’ (a jump Desert Orchid would have felt at home with). Down again, this time VERY muddy and with a great hairpin right turn at the bottom, disappointingly few seem to have fallen here though! A long gradual ascent along the railway then a steeper climb (with you guessed it, mud!).

We turned left on the ascent to more of the thick brown stuff and struggled through the quagmire desperately trying to keep our shoes on until we reached the ‘piece de resistance’ of the course – a short steep descent put in purely for the privilege of running (crawling) back out of it again four seconds later! A true lung buster with the kind of mud XC is renowned for (Mudwoman’s rain dancing has worked wonders this week). After the ascent it was time for recovery back on the divetty (if it’s not a word it should be) field and on to the second lap!

The atmosphere was absolutely brilliant – the tents and banners were out in force and with pride as usual. There was purple and green face paint (war paint or go faster stripes depending on your outlook), the sun was shining, there was loads of mud, friendly marshals, many of them in purple, offering support all the way round, hugs, chats, so many laughs and even some tears.

Course marshals gather before the action begins at Aykley Heads

One of the really great things about XC for me is that there’s competition at every point in the field. From the pointy elbowed whippets at the front to the super enthusiastic springer spaniels in the middle and us strong determined bull mastiffs bringing up the rear (thanks Kerry for the dog analogies), we all have someone we’re keeping an eye on at each fixture to pit ourselves against. Some days you come out on top and others it’s your nemesis who goes home grinning but (usually!) as you cross the line it’s a handshake or a quick hug of ‘well done’ before more hill reps in time for the next fixture.

There are many times in my life I have complained about how easy gents have it compared to us ladies – they can wee standing up, they don’t have crazy hormones to deal with and will never have their whole day’s mood dictated by whether their ‘bum looks big in this’. But, as I was midway through my second lap on Saturday I looked up at the clear blue sky and heaped thanks on the running gods and the wonderful officials at Harrier League that I wouldn’t have to do a third gruelling lap.

I didn’t run any faster than normal, nothing was particularly different to anything I’d normally do but Saturday was one of those days where everything ‘clicked’ and I absolutely loved every step.

I, Anita Dunseith am a XC addict.

… Danny Lim …

Aykley Heads was transformed into a running festival. A city of tents had sprung up and yards of marking tape snaked around the course. I arrived just as the women’s race was under way. Their faces were etched with grim, unsmiling expressions: “Second lap?” I asked a fellow spectator, “no, just the first!” she replied. The ladies were clearly pulling out all the stops. I was inspired (terrified) to see them cross the finish, as if they were about to pass out.

It was a great course with obstacles to challenge the most seasoned runners. There was the “bad step”, a three-foot vertical bank we had to vault up. In true Grand National style, there was “the bench”, though no runners had to be put down yesterday. “Hairpin Corner” saw many a runner take an impromptu mud-bath. And who can forget the “Slide of Death”, where I suicidally sprinted down before slamming into a fellow runner and crashing into the bushes. This was finished off by that final hill, reminiscent of Geoff Davies’ “Burma road” hill sessions. At the finish there was quality male bonding as I dry-retched with Jon Ayres and David Brown, knees on the ground.

But the pain was neutralised by the phenomenal support from spectators and marshals. There seemed to be a cheering Strider at every turn, really it was unbelievable! My name was being called out so much that my fellow competitors asked, “Are you the famous Danny?” For a moment, I felt like Mo Farah as he raced to Olympic gold at London. A wall of purple chanted loudly in unison as I made my final muddy climb to the finish. I was embarrassed by it all but it made the pain all so much more bearable. Thank you all!

Most memorable of all was the hard work made by the small army of volunteers from the club, including parking attendants, marshals and course constructors, many of whom had been there since early morning. You are the unsung heroes of the day. What an honour it is to be part of such a warm and supportive club.

Car-parking marshals can't wait to start putting up their signs at Aykley Heads

Stephen Jackson, in his XC debut, was the first Strider to storm back home followed closely by Gareth Pritchard. Paul Evans who started in the medium pack, came in at an impressive third place. In the ladies’ race, Penny Browell made a stellar performance, coming home seventeenth, from a medium pack start. She was followed closely by Elaine Bisson and Susan Davis.

Sally Hughes made her debut in the fast pack and gave it her all in the women’s U17/U20. But youngest Strider award must go to Zak McGowan in the U13; way to go Zak! Helen Allen, Claire-Louise Wells, Laura Jackson, Stacey Brannan and Karen Hooper also made their first XC appearances, and what a tough start it was!

The senior ladies team put in an excellent performance which saw them promoted to third in Division One. Although the men had improved slightly, we are perched precariously near the bottom of the second divison. In the words of Geoff Davis, XC captain, “things are very tight at the bottom of the table and we’ve got to pull out all the stops to stay afloat!”. So come on then, see you all at the next fixture, it’s all hands to the pump!

… Geoff Davis …

There was a magnificent turn out of current Striders at Saturday’s event but Aykley Heads was also graced by a posse of former, or less active, Striders who were once as familiar a sight at Maiden Castle as Jacquie Robson and Phil Owen are today! They included:

Alan Purvis – the founder of Striders’ website and one of the initiators of the club’s involvement in the Harrier League. Alan was a frequent ‘counter’ in the HL keeping us out of the 3rd Division right up to his late 60s.

Kim Hall – once the queen of triathlon winning many prizes at events in the UK and abroad. Would tour Europe with husband Mike picking up gongs as they went!

Linda McDermott – wonderful Linda – a veteran of the HL when the women’s field was no bigger than the Striders’ committee. Competed in road races all over the place including the Coniston 14.

Peter McDermott – Linda’s other half and a man of many, many marathons. Always happy to help new runners with his vast experience.

Tony Young – Jan’s better half and a top notch runner in his day. Achieved Fast Pack status at the HL, something most of us just dream about, and a keen runner over the fells. A man still missed by all who ran with him.

Pam Kirkup – a now retired teacher and Striders’ secretary for many a year. Kept the club on an even keel while the rest of us were busy running up and down mountains. If she was a stick of rock and you snapped her in two – you’d see the words ELVET STRIDERS running right through her!

It was great to see them all – let’s hope we see more of them at other races or Strider events.

… Paul Evans

Saturday was a long day, with the anticipation spanning many hours thanks to our hosting of Durham’s first cross-country fixture in over a decade. A true club effort in the car park and around the course saw us provide the vast majority of the volunteers needed to make it happen and, logistically, the day ran smoothly; it did, however, prolong the pre-race agony, as did the delights of seeing the thundering pack of Striders ladies attacking/churning-up the course. The pain etched on their faces did not bode well.

A further two and a half minutes extended the wait further as the male race began; as a medium pack runner I find it impossible to watch the starting pack disappear into the distance without mentally calculating how far they will have gone and how long it will be before even the smallest inroads can be made into them. The time dragged…and then it didn’t. As a slow starter I struggle to keep up with what is always a rapid burst of effort in the first few hundred metres, knowing with my head that 3 x 2.1m = ‘a long way to catch people’ yet feeling with something else that the pack must be stayed with (fellow Striders particularly), even if it goes against the way I run in any other environment.

Aykley Heads is not just any environment and this was not just any day. This was a perfect course, long enough to stretch people, well-watered enough to suck shoes from the ill-prepared, hilly enough to sap legs on the ascents and destroy balance on the downhill and overwhelmingly beautiful, lit by a low, wintry sun. This was a course that beckoned you to attack, whatever your relative strengths, and rewarded you when you did so; both relentless plod and downhill gamble saw me gain places throughout the first lap, eventually catching the first Striders with Jerry Lloyd on my shoulder and Rob Everson somewhere ahead.

There was still no sign of Simon, James, Geoff or Rob in front and Gareth and Stephen were clearly flying from the slow pack, but more and more purple vests continued to be caught and passed, one by one, a brief grunt was all the breath that could be spared in encouragement. Danny, Scott, David, Mike, Jon and Graeme were all running well but were peripheral to what was now a very personal run-off, conducted to what seemed to be a solid wall of noise from the spectators with Strider voices loudest amongst them.

Elswick; Tynedale; Gosforth; Blackhill; Crook; Alnwick; Strollers; Birtley; Jarrow: runner by runner, vest by vest, we worked our way around the course, same but different by now, as each turn was all the more treacherous on the last lap of the day. Jerry still led me down to the hairpin, though he was less steady on his feet by now. Unfortunately I was no better and slightly rolled an ankle whilst dancing past a competitor for the privilege of reaching the grabbing tree one position ahead of him. I stayed upright and the dance went on – down to the railway (where Anita drowned out the passing trains), up the drag where I caught and overtook him, then on, up the big climb (which had finally turned some runners into walkers) and into a new contest with Geoff now in sight.

Paul overhauls Geoff in 'the decisive moment'

A forward lean into the nasty corner descent (knowing he’d be doing the same and letting gravity work for him), a slight over-shoot and up the hill, aware that Geoff, Jerry and an Elswick Harrier were somewhere not far away. Then the final grassy stretch opened up: one right hand turn, with lungs and legs competing but failing to scream louder than the purple horde and it was over!

This was not a nice race. It was a perfect race that demanded all you had and asked for more. It was hard, brutal, elemental running, elegant in its simplicity, treating all who competed equally. Several runners did not finish with falls and sprains demonstrating the risks of this form of running. This was no parkrun or ultra trudge with tea and cake halfway round. Fine margins gained by single runner contests decide Harrier League places and the efforts of both ladies (an outstanding third on the day in the first division) and men (an improved eighth, by a mere 260 points to Elswick’s 263) were just reward for the suffering endured – though we’re still second-bottom in the second division and more will be required if we’re to stay up.

This is a personal account and says nothing of the trials of Helen Allen, Laura Jackson, Karen Hooper, Catherine Smith, Stacey Brannan, Claire-Louise Wells, Stephen Jackson (first male counter) and any other newcomer who picked both the best and worst of XC races in which to make their debuts. It says little of the lovely camaraderie post-race and is not in any way a comprehensive account of a day which will probably prove the best XC fixture of the season in many ways. Finally, it also says nothing of what Jerry Lloyd experienced; Jerry, my thanks for an unforgettable (I hope for you also) 6.3 miles.

Results

Men
Pos Name Club Cat Time
1 Tim Goulding Birtley AC S Sen 37:04
36 Stephen Jackson S Sen 41:33
63 Gareth Pritchard S Sen 42:44
175 Paul Evans M Sen 45:15
182 Geoff Davis S Vet 45:26
191 Jerry Lloyd M Vet 45:32
209 Matthew Crow S Sen 46:08
216 Graeme Walton S Vet 46:24
239 Scott Watson S Vet 46:59
252 Matthew Archer S Sen 47:22
255 James Garland S Sen 47:27
268 David Gibson S Vet 48:02
270 Michael Hughes S Vet 48:02
277 Dave Halligan S Vet 48:15
281 David Brown S Sen 48:22
283 Jon Ayres S Vet 48:27
302 Danny Lim S Sen 48:56
327 Conrad White S Vet 49:52
329 Marc Jones S Sen 49:56
344 John Metson S Vet 50:18
354 Jon Steed S Vet 50:36
406 David Lumsdon S Vet 52:19
424 David Selby S Vet 52:55
430 Eric Green S Vet 53:08
478 Ari Hodgson S Sen 55:23
490 Innes Hodgson S Vet 56:24
500 Andy Short S Vet 57:12
508 Mark Dunseith S Sen 57:50
512 Phil Owen S Vet 58:09
517 Peter McGowan S Vet 58:31
519 David Spence S Vet 58:34
528 Nick Jones S Sen 60:09
538 Dave Robson S Vet 61:39
541 Lindsay Rodgers S Vet 62:41
544 Stephen Ellis S Vet 65:15
549 Andrew Thurston S Vet 67:19

557 finishers.

Women
Pos Name Club Cat Time
1 Jo Ritson Durham City Harriers S Sen 28:23
17 Penny Browell M Vet 32:31 *
23 Elaine Bisson S Vet 32:49
38 Susan Davis S Vet 33:23
48 Rachael Bullock M Sen 33:40
53 Lucy Cowton S Sen 33:44
58 Mandy Dawson S Vet 33:53
70 Camilla Lauren-Maatta S Vet 34:09
81 Helen Tones M Vet 34:31
93 Sarah Davies S Vet 34:48
96 Fiona Jones S Vet 34:54
111 Rachel Terry M Vet 35:21
116 Lesley Charman S Vet 35:23
130 Fiona Shenton M Vet 35:37
137 Debra Goddard S Vet 35:53
151 Juliet Percival M Vet 35:58
160 Melanie Hudson S Vet 36:13
174 Helen Williams S Vet 36:44
177 Stephanie Piper S Sen 36:54
198 Jane Ives S Vet 37:36
200 Jan Young S Vet 37:36
246 Jean Bradley S Vet 39:32
248 Nina Mason S Vet 39:38
264 Kate MacPherson S Vet 40:22
268 Katherine Preston S Vet 40:31
280 Joanne Porter S Vet 41:22
286 Anja Fechtner S Vet 41:53
287 Claire-Louise Wells S Vet 41:56
295 Jacquie Robson S Vet 42:14
300 Stacey Brannan S Vet 42:37
311 Catherine Smith S Vet 43:56
317 Louise Billcliffe S Vet 44:27
321 Karen Hooper S Vet 45:27
322 Denise Benvin S Vet 45:43
323 Diane Watson S Vet 45:57
334 Helen Allen S Vet 46:51
347 Kerry Lister S Vet 51:14
348 Anita Dunseith S Sen 51:18
353 Claire Galloway S Sen 55:40
354 Laura Jackson S Vet 61:32

* Promoted to Fast Pack

354 finishers.

U17 & U20 Girls
Pos Name Club Cat Time
1 Lydia Sharpe Durham City Harriers S U20 19:49
27 Sally Hughes F U20 28:02

34 finishers.

U13 Boys
Pos Name Club Cat Time
1 Ben Wardle Gateshead Harriers S U13 13:51
27 Zak McGowan S U13 16:29

52 finishers.

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Stranraer 10K, Saturday, November 1, 2014

Anita Dunseith

This was a fixture I was keen to do as a test of how far I’ve come because this was my first ‘proper race’ a year ago.

The weather was a quite windy but a lot nicer than last year (thunder, lightning, hailstones, rain and wind) which made for a positive start.

So what does this year's T-shirt look like?If ever a route was made for a negative split this is it, the whole first half of the race is a steady climb up onto the fields above the town with a gorgeous view of the loch to the left and the endless fields of ‘coos’ to the right. 3km has the infamous Gallow (Galla) Hill which is a stinker, not dissimilar to Redhills bank in that it just keeps going, ever upwards! Last year I walked this beast. My lovely mother-in-law took pity on me and kept me company as I dragged myself up it. This year she was waiting at the top to cheer me on, I didn’t quite manage to run all the way today but I got up it in a fraction of last year’s time.

Once at the top it was a case of dodging the farmers and their trailers while taking in the view and making the most of the descent back into town and the rather less scenic industrial estate. The final mile and a half is a long straight road (it feels about five miles long) that takes you back to Stranraer Academy. The lovely thing about this race is that because it’s quite small (less than 200 runners) you get a personalised cheer from the Race Director as you enter the running track for the final 100 metres.

I was chuffed to bits to overtake two people who had been ahead of me for quite some time with about 1.5 miles to go and one lady in the final 200m. As I ran the final straight listening to Mark, his mum and her best friend cheer me from the left I (very randomly) heard ‘Oh! She runs for Elvet Striders’. I thought no more of it until I crossed the line and a guy came over to Mark and I and asked us to name check him because he loves reading Elvet Striders’ race reports so much and thinks our website is great! So here you go – David Beattie, Secretary of Galloway Harriers, this is your shout out! [David is also namechecked in Colin Blackburn’s 2011 Kielder Marathon Report – Ed.]

Although the official results aren’t out yet I’m over the moon to have knocked about 15 minutes off last year’s time and about two and a half minutes per mile. It’s been a hard year but this has helped put a couple of demons to rest and shown me that hard work and determination do pay off.

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Pieces of 8 10K, Penshaw Monument, Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mark Brodie, Anita Dunseith

Mark Brodie …

Penshaw Monument. So like all races I enter, I never find them myself, in fact my very presence on the start line is almost always a product of peer-pressure and this was no different! A situation I came to regret very quickly (in a sort of pleasantly knackered sort of a way)!

Looking around the car park at the start, there seemed to be a strong field of ‘folk in the know’ but the sprinkling of ‘strider purple’ was very reassuring.

I decided to run the 10km route; a very wise decision indeed! The race starts with sharp climb up towards the monument, sweeping round the back to the top and then dropping down. There is a series of steps and an exhilarating down-hill through the paddock to follow. I enjoyed it while it lasted but I knew only too soon would I be crawling back up it!

The route drops down to the river and follows it along towards the A19. Heading along the river you get a brief glimpse of fellow competitors running the half-marathon route on the opposite bank. The pleasant trot is soon interrupted with a sharp right onto the ‘infamous’ steps. As we were told at the briefing, they are steep and they just keep going! A selection of ‘witty’ quotes mark the route up the steps, offering a brief reprieve!

A short flat section breaks up the hills, but worry not the next hill is soon to follow. Reaching the brow of the hill I was greeted with the smiley faces of Mark & Anita, grabbing a cup of water on the move and I was ready for the final slog; I mean hill! A pleasant section along a disused railway and then for the ‘biggie’! It was a slog; but a satisfying one! The reward was for sure, to finish on the monument! Awesome! So how would I describe the race in a nutshell, well the word ‘brutal’ was thrown around a lot at the finish. Over the top you might say; most definitely not! My only advice for anyone thinking about this next year would be to make sure you to get to the start line sharpish; they don’t hang around after the briefing!

… and Anita Dunseith

We often see race reports from runners but hubby and I realised not much is said from the perspective of the marshals without whom the race couldn’t happen so here’s my experience of marshalling the first ever Pieces of Eight Penshaw Monument trail race.

Sunday 31st August 2014 saw the inaugural run in a new urban trail series from Phill Turton and Tim Bateson, part of the Hardmoors family. From what I understand their aim for this series is to promote trail running in the North East and show runners routes (and hills!) they may not have been aware of before.

A marshal's viewpoint ...

Mark and I arrived at race HQ nice and early to get our marshal kit of hi-vis vests, route description, jelly babies and LOADS of water. We also received a bottle of wine each (NB this isn’t guaranteed every time you marshal!)

We pulled up to our checkpoint and had a conversation with the local farmer about where to park our car (and ended up moving it to avoid his wrath!) set up our table; filling the cups with water, setting out the jelly babies and Pringles and putting a handful of peanuts in some more of the cups (we always like to bring a few alternative treats because it’s easy to get sick of jelly babies and savoury snacks are always appreciated after supping on gels during a run). The day was really warm and sunny so we sat on our camping chairs and waited for the runners to arrive. They didn’t disappoint and started to arrive steadily, some of the fast runners flying through without even looking at our beautifully laid out table, others stopping for a quick drink and a handful of jelly babies and others for a good long chinwag. Aside from our lovely Striders friends our favourite runner was a guy in a Sunderland Harriers t-shirt who’d ironed his name STEVEN across the front yet was genuinely perplexed as to how we knew his name as we cheered him through!

After Megan and Katherine went through we waited a while for the final runner and tail runner but to no avail. We rang the RD to check they were still running to be told yes but we would have to time her out because it would take her too long to get to the finish and the first aid cover had to leave. We were genuinely gutted to hear this, especially as we were the last checkpoint and it was only a couple of miles to the finish. On a personal note I am often last and have made friends with a number of sweepers and know how devastated I would be to get timed out. I know this has to happen and for all the right reasons but it’s sad when it does. The final runner arrived and I had a quiet word with Jon the sweeper to tell him this to which he responded “no way, I’ll get her in” and off they went.

Mark and I packed up our table, did a sweep of the village to check for rogue plastic cups and headed back to race HQ in time for the prize giving. We were over the moon to hear the final lady did finish, particularly when we heard she’d left Manchester at 4am that morning to run her first ever trail race (cue me crying my eyes out when I heard this!)

For me running is the best thing in the whole world and it’s nice to help out sometimes to give other people the chance to run their race and experience how awesome this sport is. Be nice to your marshals and SMILE because there’s always a good chance we’ve got a camera. Oh, and DON’T DROP YOUR PLASTIC CUPS/BOTTLES!! If for whatever reason you’re unable to run; injured, resting or just having a day off; marshalling really is the next best thing 😉

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Hardmoors Rosedale Trail Marathon, Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hutton-le-Hole, North Yorkshire

Anita Dunseith

Everyone has their own reason and motivations for running. Mine is because it gives me a chance to switch my brain off. For as long as I’m out running I’m not stressing or letting my depression take hold of me. Running focuses my mind completely on the moment and what my body is experiencing right there and then which is a gift to me and something I cherish more than a lot of people can understand. I’m not a big talker and for me there’s nothing more wonderful than being out in the countryside and the fresh air looking at the vastness of the surrounding countryside and just “being”.

I had had a couple of attempts at running in the past but never really ‘got into it’ fully until I had a miscarriage last October which was devastating for both me and my husband Mark and I started to run again to empty my head and give me something else to focus my energy on other than what had happened. I completed Durham parkrun two weeks later, Stranraer 10K shortly after then Brampton to Carlisle 10M a week after that. I also tackled XC over the coming months, coming last three times but succeeding in beating people on my fourth and fifth outings which I was so proud of and which Susan (Mud Woman) was kind enough to send me a lovely email to congratulate me on. I continued to run various races of different types to keep me motivated but truly fell in love with trail running thanks to the Hardmoors series. I have completed four of the 10Ks and was looking for a bigger challenge for this month’s race so was considering the half marathon. Anna Seeley mentioned of all the HM series Rosedale is the ‘most runnable’, the marathon being more so than the half so Mark and I signed up for the marathon a couple of months ago.

I bought a fabulous new pair of shoes (Inovate Roc Lites) which are comfortable and a great trail shoe especially for the event and a kit bag with a bladder which I was very excited about, mainly because it had a built in whistle!

Saturday night came and I was getting prepared, filled my bladder, turned it upside down and DISASTER, it started to leak. Frantic discussions ensued about what I could fix it with at 10pm on a Saturday night at which point I turned to my trusted friend Facebook and asked the good people of Hardmoors if anyone could help. I then lined up mine and Mark’s trainers on the doormat so we wouldn’t forget them the next morning. Sunday alarm at 5.30am beeped with the message MARATHON TIME and after a couple of snoozes we got up, had breakfast, collected our kit, pulled back the curtain that covers the front door, opened the door, carried our things to the car and off we went.

We arrived in good time which was unusual for us picked up our bags and started to head to registration. At which point I asked Mark “Where are my trainers?” Mark – “On your feet?” Me – “No silly, the ones I’m wearing to run in, my TRAIL shoes I bought especially for today.” Mark – “I don’t know”. At which point I raced back to the car with a very sinking feeling, to discover NO TRAINERS. After a very heated discussion and a lot of swearing from me we surmised they must have got hidden behind the curtain and left on the doormat. At which point I almost had a coronary. I was wearing some retro 1970s Nike Airs with very little grip and even less support which meant I was going to attempt my first marathon in shoes that were one step up from plimsolls. I’m only glad it was raining when we left the house because I had fully intended to wear my flipflops in the car! We arrived at registration with me still in a foul mood (my apologies to the people I growled at en route!) where Race Director Shirley Steele handed me a bladder which a complete stranger had brought to lend me after he saw my post on Facebook the previous night which helped my mood slightly; such kindness. The race briefing was delivered by Jon Steele in his “Man of Steel” Superman outfit kindly bought for him by his good mate for his birthday earlier in the week. I didn’t really hear it from the back of the room but Mark was right at the front so I had to trust he was listening (for once in his life!)Still Smiling, despite the retro shoes! We set off outside for a few Strider photos and hugs and off we went a minute or two after 9am. My sole aim for the race was getting round within the 8 hour cut off so when we completed the first 8 miles in two hours we were doing well for time. Mark was amused to see some Galloway Belties (cows from the Dumfries area) in the first mile or so because he had grown up with them all around him in Stranraer. We spotted Jamie from Summit Fever photography and gave him a wave in the hope of a good race photo and continued on our way. A couple of small hills but nothing too taxing. The half marathoners started to pass us and at the first checkpoint we separated from them to head up onto the moors.

The views were fairly subdued due to low clouds but it was beautiful in a bleak kind of way. This stretch was fairly challenging because it was about 3 or 4 miles of climb, nothing too steep but fairly unforgiving terrain and quite monotonous on quite a straight track up to Bloworth Crossing and the second checkpoint which was quite windy by the time we got to the top. We grabbed a few jelly babies and a fizzy drink before heading off again with the sweepers in close pursuit. We passed a number of walkers taking part in the Rosedale Walking Festival all of whom were very encouraging as we continued on the path and came out onto a large valley which we were to run round the edge of. I know it was lovely but I can’t remember too much of this point because this is where it started to hurt, I got a knot in my calf which required some serious Neil Sleeman style poking and prodding to release it and I was starting to feel like this run was never going to end. We saw Sue Jennings about half a mile ahead who was running strongly, especially given that she had completed Swaledale the day before!

By about mile 16 I was completely fed up, my leg hurt, I was desperate for the loo and I was stressing out about the sweepers being right behind us. We took a left turn and headed up the hill and back out of the valley. This was another decent hill, but no worse than any I’ve tackled before but I was struggling to get my brain to tell my legs to move and this mile took me twice as long as the rest. At the top of the hill we turned right at which point I heard the unmistakeable accent of Denise Benvin shouting “Come on Anita, you can do it” and Flip Owen along with the third checkpoint. This genuinely couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I popped into the pub to use the loo and took a few moments to psyche myself back up. I went back outside, had some food and another big hug off Denise who told me the only thing stopping me is in my head and I could do this. I’ll be eternally grateful to Denise for this support because it was exactly what I needed to hear.

We set off down into the next valley and saw Sue again who was unsure of the route because the yellow tape was missing so the sweepers pointed us in the right direction and off we went again. We ran with Sue for a while, her and Mark chatting while I kept my head down and dug deep to try and find my mettle again. Sue headed off and I picked up my pace to encouragement from Mark. At this point I would have loved my trail shoes because it was very muddy and the extra grip and support would have come in useful. Again it was fairly flat round this section, which is very unusual for a Hardmoors which meant slight monotony but at least I could get into a rhythm. We rounded a corner and were treated to a truly spectacular view of the ruined Rosedale Abbey Kilns. This was my favourite part of the course for the sheer expanse of scenery in front of us. It was wonderful. Another couple of corners round the ridge and we descended to the bottom of the valley next to a small river. It was a very steep descent in the wrong shoes which I think will cost me at least two toenails over the coming weeks. Inevitably after a steep descent into a valley there will be a deep ascent out of it and there certainly was! Up and across a few farmer’s fields and up the steepest hill of the course we went. This was slow going and a lung burster which was exactly why I love the Hardmoors series. We got to the top, took a left turn and set off along a million miles of disused railway tracks. I’m sure the view was lovely here too but my head was down pretty much the whole time watching the surface beneath my feet which isn’t my usual running style at all. At the end of the lines we reached the final checkpoint where we were told it was still 3.5 miles to the finish (Garmin said 25.5ish miles here) so we took a deep breath and set off on the final stretch along a road before turning right onto the moors again where we would run through heather and more difficult surface underfoot until the village finally came into sight again.

I had managed to keep on top of my emotions really well all day until one of the sweepers shouted from behind “well done, there’s your marathon!” At which point Mark pointed out it was less than a year since I had graduated Kate McPherson’s Couch to 5K group and I burst into tears. I pulled myself together again until he asked “did you ever think you’d do a marathon?” My answer was a resounding no and even more tears! We kept running through the heather until finally the car park came into view which meant less than half a mile to the finish line! We turned the corner into the village and saw Dave Robson and Melanie Hudson sitting on a bank waiting for us to finish to clap us in and cheer us, at which point I burst into tears again at their kindness; we don’t even know them that well but here they were sat cheering us on. I pulled myself together for the final push and we saw Sue coming back out of the village hall wearing her medal and a huge smile. We waved at her and headed into the hall where Anna and another marshal applauded us in. I approached the desk to announce our arrival ten minutes inside cut off and was given my medal at which point I burst into tears for the fourth time in about two miles! Mark thanked the sweepers for us because I wasn’t really functioning all that well and I was really touched at all the congratulations and hugs I got, although this wasn’t helping my teardrop count! So far I’m up to eleven lots of tears since I finished but I’m sure there will be more!

A well earned medal. I know this is a long report and if you are still reading it then thank you! This race has marked an important point in my recovery from a journey to hell and back this past year but thanks to my wonderful husband Mark and all the truly wonderful Striders, Pilates Helen, the parkrun and Hardmoors people I have achieved something truly incredible that I would never have thought possible even just a few months ago. I would recommend a marathon to absolutely every runner. It’s so hard to keep moving when everything hurts and your brain is begging you to stop but on reaching the finish line with the knowledge that you have completed a marathon is something very special that no one will ever be able to take away from you.

I, Anita Dunseith, am a marathon runner

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Hardmoors Wedding Celebration Run, North York Moors, Sunday, June 1, 2014

Anita Dunseith

Mark and I have taken part in a number of Hardmoors 10Ks (which are usually about 8 miles long!) and were over the moon to be invited along to the race directors Jon and Shirley’s wedding celebration run.

The bride and groom Jon and Shirley Steele.

Invitation stated dress code as bow ties and frilly dresses. Yikes, neither of us had the correct kit! Last minute shopping trip to Tesco and Mark bought an “ahem” fetching waistcoat and I rooted through my holiday dresses for something I may be able to run in.

Today dawned gloriously sunny and warm so we knew we were in some some spectacular views of the North Yorkshire Moors, and we’d be able to see Middlesbrough too. We arrived with about 20 minutes until the start which is very good going for us and saw with some amount of relief that the majority of runners were also adhering to the dress code.

Fairly quick race briefing from Jon; follow the fast people and the yellow tape and try not to die en route and spoil our weekend was the general gist of it.

Under starter’s orders and we were off, up a hill! God bless you Hardmoors. Just under about a hundred runners followed the narrow trail away from Lordstones car park and out onto the hills. The scenery was absolutely incredible today, you just can’t ask for better, we could see for miles and miles. What we thought was quite cool was that we were actually running higher than a helicopter was flying. Some great outfits on show, one guy in a kilt and a tam o’shanter who put my hubby Mark “I love being Scottish” Dunseith to shame as well as a couple of verrrry fit topless guys wearing bow ties. Yes, there are definitely worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Mr and Mrs Dunseith in their finery.

So, being a Hardmoors run there were hills, trust me when I say there’s nothing better than reaching the summit of a whopping great hill to see the next whopping great hill you’re going to be climbing after some serious mountain goat efforts on the descent. Aaaahhh yes, nothing better!

When you’re running over the moors in a flowery dress and your hubby is in shirt, tie and waistcoat you draw some questioning looks but what I found refreshing was discovering there is always someone out there who is even crazier than us. Today it was a guy on his mountain bike who was bombing down the hills and CARRYING his BIKE back up them. Officially mental in my book.

The route took in the Wainstones which require actual clambering because you can’t go round them; you have to go through them. This is genuinely hard work but once at their summit there’s a fairly flat section to catch your breath for the final couple of hills before the turnaround point. Jelly babies and cold water never tasted so good. We turned round and went back up the hill from Claybank and did all the lovely hills again, in reverse (we’re sitting trying to remember how many hills they were and we lost count!) Legs were tired on the final ascent but when we saw the big white tent in the distance we knew we were almost done which gave us the spur we needed to finish to a big round of applause which is always great.

This was a really lovely event organised by two great people and attended by some ultra running royalty who are genuinely nice people. I even met Shelli Gordon who was first lady and second overall at last week’s inaugural Hardmoors 160mile ultra marathon. I played it supercool when I met her and told her she was a rock star. Ohhhh yeah, that’s how cool I am.

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Stranraer 10K, Saturday, November 2, 2013

Anita Dunseith

It’s a bit early for New Year’s resolutions but I have made a decision to stop convincing myself I can’t do things and get off my backside and give them a go instead. With this new resolve I decided to enter the Stranraer 10k on Saturday that Mark was already signed up for. We were travelling 180 miles to get there so why not?

It was a noon start which meant we had a long time to lie in and listen to the howling wind and rain. Nonetheless, given how far we’d travelled we got up and headed to the start.

Another classic T-shirt design makes a debut ...

I signed up and got my number and we had a slow jog to the start line. The rain hadn’t let up so we were a soggy bunch who set off on through the industrial estate and then onto one of the housing estates. The pack started to spread and Mark left me to my iPod. A steady pace for the first 3km and then a sharp left turn brought me to the Gallowhill. I’d been warned about this and the horror stories were all true! A km long, steep and with a few twists and turns it was a killer. Add to that a shower of rain and hail coming in sideways and I was starting to wonder what on earth I’d let myself in for. My mother in law who lives at the bottom of the hill (and who is lovely by the way) jogged and walked with me on the way up to keep me motivated – I think she felt a bit sorry for me! At the top I picked up the pace and started to look around at the lovely scenery. My friend has a saying when he’s running “smell the roses” by which he means taking time to enjoy the world around you while you’re running. This came to mind as I ran along the country lane at the top of the town looking at the fields and the loch as I dropped down the next hill back into civilisation. 7km done as I turned back into the industrial estate and headed for the finish. The rain got heavier and there was another hailstorm which stung as it blew in sideways. Like Dory says in Finding Nemo ‘just keep swimming, swimming, swimming’ so I kept plodding on. In the distance I could see Mark coming back to find me which was a welcome sight. He ran with me as thunder and lightning split the sky. Not far now. Final corner and the school (and finish line) were in sight. I stepped up the pace until I saw the track and used what little reserves I had left for my sprint finish.

My aim was to finish, ideally not last and within 90 minutes. I did all of these things, I was 170/178 and crossed the line in 1.20.11 (Mark achieved 52.53, about four minutes outside his PB) I got my medal and a well deserved hug from my hubby, at which point he said ‘I wish I could tell you that will be your hardest 10k but we’re doing the Hardmoor Trail 10k next weekend’ …

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