Tag Archives: David Brown

Montane Trail 26 – A trail of two halves, Grizedale Forest, Lake District, Sunday, February 5, 2017

26.2 miles

David Brown

 

It wasn’t intentional that I would find myself at Grizedale Forest, 07:30 on a cold wet February morning. I had originally booked myself on another of the Trail 26 events, but as life got in the way I was unable to partake, so the good people at Trail 26 transferred my entry to the Grizedale Marathon without hesitation.

Due to the unpredictability of the Great British weather in early February I didn’t fancy a stupid o clock journey down the A66. As such I booked myself into Brathay Hall the night before. A decision I would recommend, and will certainly go there again ahead of any other Lakeland adventures!

I woke refreshed and rested, and left out the side door to misty drizzle and followed the winding roads to Grizedale Forest Visitors Centre. Marshalls were already present and smiling, a 10 minute walk to registration allowed me to feel the cold, so I returned and sat in the car until nearer the start.

I hadn’t trained nearly enough to offer any form of threat to fellow runners. I’d hoped that I had enough to just get round and have an enjoyable day out on trails new to me. As such I huddled mid-pack, wrapped up in several layers and with enough food for a family picnic; a small bunch of serious looking, lithe runners made their way to the front wearing vest and pants, essential kit stuffed into little bum bags.

The route is made of two loops, the first half marathon is good running amongst the pine trees, undulating over forest trails and gravel paths, with glorious views over Coniston, with still enough hills to test the half marathon runners and option for some fast downhills. Runners soon spread out and I enjoyed the ups and downs, taking it all in, thankful I was able to do what I loved. I ran side by side with a lady from Lymm Runners for most of the first half which kept me at a steady pace, finishing the half marathon in spot on 2 hours.

The first half finishes back at the visitors centre, yet the marathon makes a sharp right turn to a flap jack stand. I heard my name call over the tannoy, and gave a little wave before I set off on the second loop.

The second half is polar opposite, upon exiting the visitors centre you immediately climb up a gnarly trail. This loop offers over 3700ft of ascent compared to 1600ft in the first. You’re presented with mixed terrain through technical mountain bike trails, with some mountainous climbs and descents. There’s also a section of road which I struggled with after bouncing on the soft underfoot for 13 miles.

It was a head down get on with it second half, at times finding myself isolated and struggling, but soaking up the views of lake Windermere. Happily around 21 miles I was caught by a group of 5 or so runners, so chatted with them as we scrambled up rocks and slip sided for a few miles. Fairly soon supporters began appearing over the course, letting me know the finish was in sight. I realised I was clambering down the gnarly rock we had climbed up some hours earlier, and heard murmurs from the finish.

A final run through the visitors centre, the second half an hour longer than the first,  under the red arch with my name called to a rumpus applause from the soggy spectators. I was handed a medal and a bottle of water and caught up with the lassie from Lymm runners, who was back and changed by the time I finished!

For half marathon runners I would recommend racing the first loop, it starts 20 minutes after the full which makes for a great chase to catch the marathon runners. For those tackling the marathon it would be well worth a recce of the second loop. Overall a great day out, a brilliantly organised event with a mammoth sting in the tail.

(Visited 55 times, 1 visits today)

Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra Marathon, Saturday, October 29, 2016

38M / 3000ft

David Brown

The Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra starts in the shadow of the 12th century abbey, and winds along forest tracks, hillsides, country lanes, and various bridges new and old. The route hugs the River Tweed, passing through St Boswells, Melrose, and passing Rhymer’s Stone. Runners are then faced with three extinct volcanoes known as the Eildon Hills which offer panoramic views of the Scottish Borders. A brief passing through the villages of Bowden and Newton St Boswells, before following the Tweed back to the start / finish.

Eildons

A 04:00 alarm saw me up and ready for 05:00 drive up to Jedburgh, with the tune of Highland Cathedral blasting through my car stereo as I crossed the border, in tribute to my late Grandad Angus. Still dark, I arrived at registration with plenty time to faff around in the car boot and use each of the toilets. It was mild, so I opted for short sleeve, before huddling inside the hall in anticipation for the set off. A quick briefing which suggested runners, “remove headphones when asked, and don’t be a dick”.

07:45 and we were ushered over to a grassy mound, where the enthusiastic RD’s and a squirrel warmed us up with a YMCA dance routine, runners shuffled their feet feigning any sort of dance, before a countdown, and we were off.

As usual with any long race I was aware of everyone flying off, I was aware not to be hasty, knowing I had up to 8 hours ahead, but still away they sped. Mild concern dragged me with them, but sense prevailed and I knew I’d be seeing a lot of them later.

I was running alone and settled into a gentle pace, it was a beautiful morning, crisp and clear, with fantastic autumnal colours. We were quite packed as we left the road and started onto the single tracks. We passed a newly built bridge after a couple of miles, and I made a note that the next time I crossed the bridge I’d be nearly home.

Running up that Hill.

On we went, open fields allowing the packs to disperse, yet stiles and gates still causing bottlenecks. It wasn’t long before we caught sight of the three peaks of the Eildons, and it was here that the journey there and back again truly started.

I was easing along nicely until Maxton and the cp at 10 miles; this race allows for three drop bags, somewhat excessive maybe for an ultra of this distance, but I thought I’d make use of them nonetheless. I grabbed some peanuts and a snack bar, and topped up with Tailwind, stuffed them in my pack and went on my way.

Before I had chance to eat anything the nausea started, mild panic came over me, I was now only 11 miles in and started to feel sick. I had eaten well all week, my breakfast was as standard to all race days – sweet tea / porridge – so this unsettling feeling came as shock so early on.

Thankfully I had a multipack of Polo’s in my vest pocket, and so popped two into my mouth and let them do their minty thing. Immediate result as the nausea and panic left as quickly as they came.

Onwards, and after 17 miles we arrived at cp2 Rhymer’s Stone.

“The Rhymer’s Stone marks the spot on which the fabled Eildon Tree once grew. It was under this tree that Thomas the Rhymer took a fateful nap while hunting on the estate of Melrose Abbey. He was awakened by the Queen of Elfland, who he kissed. He then spent seven years with her in the Land of the Elves before returning to his home in Earlston for seven years, then disappearing for good: presumably back to the Land of the Elves.”

We were now in the shadow of the Eildons. I was warm, but had kept my short sleeve tee on in case the true Scottish weather presented itself, it did not, and just before the first climb I stopped and removed my shirt, just down to a vest.

Eildon Top

As the first Eildon towered over us, runners, became walkers, bent double; hands on knees, knees on scree. Occasionally pausing in awe at the conical mountain ahead. The track was sloppy, with prints from the lugs of runners sliding in the mud, loose rocks trickled down, and ramblers cheered us on behind the safety of their thermos.

At the first peak we were offered a superb panoramic view of the Scottish borders, and one could not help but smile at the beauty before a technical descent onto the saddle between the first and second Eildon. One or two runners already limping, casualties of the peaks.

The second peak was much the same, Border Search and Rescue Unit sat patiently with their stout dogs; collies that clearly new better than us fools, just waiting to do their jobs. The seriousness of their work apparent as the land rover sat waiting some way up the peaks, of which an unsuspecting number of runners would be treated to a ride in.

Reaching the final peak I realised we were halfway through the adventure; all that was left to do was leave the Eildons unscathed, and begin our journey back again. This filled me with delight, and I was able to play with numbers in my head. I also realised at this point that my target of 8 hours was going to be met as long as I kept moving forward, at reasonable(ish) pace for a further 19 miles.

Where once the field was packed, we were now spread out. As I scrambled down the final descent I began to overtake runners that had flew past me in the first miles. And as much as my pace never quickened, this was to be for the remainder of the race.

I was safely down from the peaks, and started my journey back. I always knew even before the start that once I got to this point I just had a trail race to go, pressure was relieved and I started my solitary venture back. However I was now tired, the Eildons had sapped my legs, and as much as they were still turning, my head wanted a rest, just to lie down in the shadow of the trees amongst the leaves.

I needed a focus, as usual and in times of trouble I don’t always find comfort in the scenery, I needed facts to settle and focus my mind. I decided if I ran to 25 miles, that would give me 13 miles to go, and so from this point I would be able to fathom my ETA.

I’ll point out here (as I can’t recall what happened around this section) that the marshals for this race were the most enthusiastic, friendly, welcoming folk I have ever met, race or otherwise. Every cp I passed through I was made to feel like a Brownlee, the drop bags were handed professionally, and words of encouragement, comfort, and praise were delivered with gusto.

Jed ParkThis race does not come without a sense of humour, as we passed through Bowden around 22 miles in, the markers took us up and over a play park, climbing the frame, over a bridge and down a slide, grown men whooping as they slid on their backsides!

Drop bag collected at the final cp, which was Maxton again at 27 miles, I refilled the Tailwind and took a jam piece from my drop bag, a handful of peanuts and a swig of coke. The cp was filled with supporters, applauding as runners fumbled with their overly packed bags. I was aware of half a dozen runners bent double, either through nausea or cramp. Not me though, ten miles to go and I wanted to go home.

This is where it started to go awry, and the enthusiasm started to be replaced with doubt, not that I wouldn’t finish, but the voices in my head just wanted me to stop. They didn’t understand, they tried in vain to make sense of the numbers but nothing they worked out was reassuring. Ten miles? At this pace we may be talking about another 2 hours on the trails. In future this is where I need to improve.

I was aware of cramping up in previous races, so began a routine of peanuts and Polos. This was a strict procedure that got me through the next 8 miles. I would grab a handful of peanuts from my pack, munch them, swill them, swallow them, then take a Polo. Each pattern got me through one mile.

Six miles to go and I hadn’t seen anyone for 4 miles, I saw a runner up ahead who was cramping as he attempted to haul himself over a stile, a brief greeting and vague words of encouragement were shared before he stepped aside and I past stealthily.

Jed River

Fields, rivers, bridges, forests. All of that happened and it was beautiful, I’m sure it was beautiful as I’d seen it on the way out, it looked different now though. The winding steps, the tree roots, the sound of the river, all started to seem unreal. I started to shout out loud, words not to be repeated.

I past another two runners in the forest, cramp again being the victor as they leaned against trees in attempt to stretch out their demons, an attempt at uttering came out my mouth but we just glanced at each other like forest animals going about their way. No acknowledgement that we were in the same race. Was I even in a race?

Woodland

As we left the forest I encountered life by way of marshals guiding us across the road. Such a welcome sight, and again the enthusiasm wasn’t wearing thin, these Scots must have a brilliant marshal academy somewhere. I was led to a table with refreshments, water, coke, and sweeties. Such a delight as I wasn’t aware of it being here. I was advised two and a half miles to go, and those words were like Christmas morning.

As I left that small humble table on the side of the road, I began my way up the road. I could see two runners as the road stretched, not running now but mimicking extras from The Walking Dead. I caught up with the runners one at a time, both of them glancing over their shoulders as I crept up behind them, at first attempting to run before admitting defeat and letting me past before turning back onto the trails.

Finally the bridge, the very bridge I had seen at the beginning, still there, still standing, what a sight it was. Less than 2 miles to go, and I picked up my pace. I’m not aware of how it happened but suddenly the trail was wide and ran adjacent to the road, I was a solo runner approaching Jedburgh, and the finish. I glanced behind me just in case I was being hunted, once happy I was alone I began my final mile.

As I approached Jedburgh signs and cars built up, folk milled in and out their houses, I caught view of two figures gazing confusingly into my path. My mother and wife, I had estimated to them I would be finished in 8 hours, but the clock was ticking just after 7 hours so they had wandered from the finish to applaud runners, not expecting to see me just yet.

How fantastic to see them, inside I was jumping and throwing my arms around them, but I knew I still had to finish the thing, so I powered on.

The Abbey came into distance, as did the mound on which we started, cow bells and rattles and applause echoed down the road as I ran up the mound, my name was called out to whoops and whistles, up the mound, across the line, medal, goody bag, done. Finished in 7hrs 15, and position 63rd / 193 from 230 starters.

I stumbled around the place, fiddled with my Garmin, found my supporters, and felt overwhelmed at what had happened.

We crossed the road and into the rugby club, I inspected toe nails (two down), and showered, downed the free beer, and slurped the soup. There was a buzz in the hall as runners staggered about the place, some looking fresher than others, wearing their new race tees and hoodies, or slumped still in their race gear, unable to figure out what to do next.

I said it during the race, after the race, and still say it now; this was the greatest race I have ever ran, indeed the weather helped, but everything from the pre-race information, the atmosphere that built on the Facebook page, the route, the goody bag, to the friendliness and enthusiasm of the marshals and runners, it would take a very dreich day to wash away such a positive atmosphere. I cannot praise this race enough, if you’re looking for a braw day on the trails, then I’ll see you in Jedburgh next year!

(Visited 31 times, 1 visits today)

Red Kite Trail Race, Dipton, County Durham, Sunday, July 3, 2016

8 miles

David Brown

Photo of David Brown crossing river.This 8 mile undulating, circular route was brilliantly executed by Derwent Valley Trail Runners, a relatively new club dedicated to running the trails and whose website proclaims that: “we are all free spirits and adventurers at heart and the countryside is there to be enjoyed by everyone”, well said that club.

Parking was organised swiftly, and numbers collected in the community centre. I proceeded with my usual pre-race warm up of wandering aimlessly around the place, and missing the group photograph. Decent chats with fellow Striders, until we were huddled onto a grass verge for our get set go.

The race starts along a street and in mild confusion of not knowing which direction we were going I found myself in the middle of the field. We swiftly took a sharp left turn and immediately bottle-necked as there were stiles to cross. I frustratingly watched the lead pack disappear into the distance as I danced about like a coiled spring.

I spent the rest of the race attempting to move up the field, but without room to manoeuvre along the overgrown single-tracks I was held back, which became annoying especially on the downhills, and whilst trying to pass runners wearing headphones. The route opened up through tracks and fields so I was able to overtake, picking runners off along the way.

The first half is relatively downhill, with a flatish bit, and then the last few miles climb ever onwards to the finish. I was able to slowly catch runners on the incline and work my way further up, but not as far as I would have liked. Due to the recent British summer the route was muddy, so my choice of fell over trail shoes sat well, especially as I pranced through the woods and rivers.

Photo of group of Striders.

There was great encouragement from families and locals who had wandered out to shout us up the final climb, we joined the street on which we started and ran it home. Finishing in 16th positon out of around 160, I was fairly pleased. Refreshments by way of hot drink, soup, and cake were available in the community centre, donations welcome.

Jennings across the river assisting.

This is a brilliant route for both experienced and novice runners, with a chance to run some fantastic local trails at £4 a pop this is one not to miss.

(Visited 9 times, 1 visits today)

Humbleton Fell Race, Hayden Bridge, Wednesday, June 22, 2016

BS / 5.3m / 787ft

David Brown

After two consecutive DNS’s for varying strains and splutters, I was becoming restless and fearful that my racing pants would ne’er be soiled again. I chanced upon this fell race via a rather delightful little flyer, described as a ‘lovely route in rural Tynedale’, I scraped the Harrier League muck off my fell shoes, and trundled over after work .

Fell Race Start
Blue skies awaited me and I was greeted into the school, superb organisation saw signs direct me to my destination, which appeased any anxieties about finding the place. I changed into my kit as the school yard slowly filled, before signing a short form and handing over £6 in exchange for a number AND safety pins. There was a ten minute walk to the start line (field) again well marked and I trotted along with a couple other runners. Being rather early I started a few effortless drills up and down the starting hill, before cheering on the juniors, a great sight to see and some fantastic efforts shown on their little faces.

The starting pen (corner of field, behind the cow muck/nettles) started to fill up, as I glanced at vests emblazoned with words such as ‘Keswick’, my dreams of a podium finish were dashed (apparently they have good hills to play on). Brief instructions from the race director (“duck under barbed wire, don’t get run over, don’t break your ankle”) a blow on the whistle and we were off, upwards being the direction. We began the climb up and around the hill and into the woods, continuously climbing in single file, with respite coming by form of kissing gates and stiles.

Due to a recent chest plague I was wary not to kill myself going up, so I held back a little to set the scene and figure out the probabilities of me dropping down dead (fair to middling). Still we climbed, forever upwards, however my legs felt strong and I kept my position. The field had spread out rapidly, and by the time we reached the open fells there was a fair gap betwixt runners. As I steadily climbed, and realised I was likely to see my family again, I decided to press on. There was a Tynedale lass about 50 m ahead, she would be my first target, and I changed up a gear and overtook just as we neared the highest point.

It’s up here we get our numbers crossed with red felt tip from the race directors mother, and begin our descent. Guided only by small markers I spied one runner ahead, a civilian not belonging to a club. With around 2 miles to go I now wanted to race, and somewhat regretted taking it easy in the early stages. I began hurtling myself through the overgrown fells, unsure where my feet were landing, with the occasional bog adding a refreshing surprise. The civilian began nervously descending, and politely stepped aside as I put on my best ‘I know what I’m doing’ face and sprinted past him, arms flailing like an octopus in a tank top.

As we looped back toward the woods, I glanced back and noticed a pack had given chase, amongst them lads from Elswick and Morpeth, we crossed stiles and began the race down the wooded single tracks, no room to overtake and I was leading the pack. Around a mile to go I was galloping over roots, winding my way down and down with exhilarating speed (I thought so anyway). No idea where I was in regards to position, but I pretty soon got my Harrier League head on, and there was no way either of these lads were passing me, it wasn’t going to happen. As we were spat out of the woods, into the open and onto the road, my cushion-less fell shoes turned to stone as we raced toward the finish and I held off the pack as promised, to a hero’s welcome.

I finished in a time of 45.45, and 23rd out of 60. This was indeed a ‘lovely route’, and a one to look out for next year. The size of the field was small enough to remain friendly, and big enough to spread across all abilities – but I couldn’t help thinking some of our faster lads and lasses should get over there to race some fantastic runners and push themselves on the fells, maybe Keswick will be the ones shaking at the start.

(Visited 14 times, 1 visits today)

Penshaw Hill Race, Wednesday, June 4, 2014

3 miles

David Brown

This was the 24th edition of this race held by Sunderland Harriers, it’s a stone’s throw from my house yet I’ve never ran it, as the evening was pleasant I decided on a last minute hill race. I’ve spent the last few months running long miles on the fells, and what with the introduction of Geoff’s vomit inducing, yet strangely satisfying endurance sessions, I wanted to test the legs.

Samsonite Striders. I usually spend far too long preparing for a race, but as this was a hurried decision I turned up with whatever kit was in my boot. After parking up and purchasing a number (£7 EOD – bit pricey / mile [still cheaper than Roseberry Topping! Ed.]) from a parked up car, I located a handful of Striders and eyed up the field. I became a tad concerned as lithe youngsters were returning to their cars to swap trail shoes for spikes. A few mumbles and we huddled together behind a flag at the bottom of the hill. Race director spoke some indistinguishable instructions as we awaited the off. I realised we would need to filter into almost single file so I edged close up the pack. Off we went through the long grass and scrambled up the first hill, which soon levelled out as we made our way round, then up the monument, round the monument and back down past those running up. Still running single file I was pleased of my position as I let myself go down the hill (again – skills mastered from Geoff’s endurance sesh). The route took us through the woods, and it was here I regretted my shoe choice, the floor was slippery and trail shoes just weren’t gripping, so my pace slowed.

I was occasionally passed by a couple of runners as the trail levelled, but found strength on the uphill and was able to pull my place back. The route follows 2 laps of the woods, then finishes with a steep climb back up to the top of the monument. I was aware that Simon Gardner was somewhere very close and expected him to fly past me at any moment, but with one final push I just managed edge forward for a photo finish.

This was a fantastic no frills race, short, sharp and full of hills to test the legs. Good support, mainly from Sunderland Harriers placed around the course. A great race to hone your skills, and in a fantastic setting. Great for those wanting to go off-road without heading into the wilderness. I finished 35th / 110 which I was fairly pleased with, I certainly recommend this race and will be back next year. Well done to all other Striders – Simon, Nigel, Flip, Kelly, Helen, Denise, and Kerry. Photobombed by a Folly.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Catpos Time
1 Scott Ellis North Shields Poly 17:09
21 Angela McGurk Jarr & Heb 20:54
35 David Brown 21:53
36 Simon Gardner 21:54
64 Nigel Heppell 24:14
97 Phil Owen 28:11
104 Kelly Collier 30:43
107 Helen Allen 32:13
109 Denise Venison 32:40
110 Kerry Lister 36:53

111 finishers

(Visited 20 times, 1 visits today)

Hardmoors Trail Marathon Series, Saturday, November 9, 2013

David Brown and Phil Owen

David Brown …

David and Jules.Not for the first time this season I was woken abruptly by a shrill alarm at some ungodly hour. I stumbled noisily through the house to locate a coffee pot, where I proceeded to swallow the contents in an effort to remind myself why  I was sat in the dark at 5am.

Today’s trip would see me heading to the North York Moors National Park, and to the sleepy town of Goathland (pop fact – Goathland features as the village of Aidensfield in the 1960s police series, Heartbeat), to take part in the somewhat low-key, but ever growing Hardmoors.

The Hardmoors 26.2 trail marathon series is made up of five challenging, yet beautiful trail marathons, half marathons, and 10k’s based in various locations around the stunningly wild North Yorkshire Moors. Along with several Striders I’d signed up for the half(ish) marathon, with other purple representation in the 10k, and Phil Owen taking on the full distance.

Still dark as I made my way into Durham, collected a sleepy Jules, and we were on our way. A steady drive across as the sun eventually rose, and the scenery changed from greying towns to high woodlands and moors. Winding our away through the surrounding hamlets, avoiding local grouse on their early morning plod, traffic noise replaced by the crossbill and nuthatch (possibly)

We arrived, early, at the village hall in Goathland, greeted by the somewhat intimidating frame of race director John Steele. A few folk were milling around looking busy, making coffee, putting up signs. We took a seat in the hall, compared flapjack, and discussed how many more layers we’d wear on the run (all of them). Fairly soon the hall was bustling, Anna was busying away and Hardmoors veteran Phil was telling stories of past endeavours. Essential kit was checked (waterproof jacket, hat, gloves, whistle, water) and following a race briefing we reluctantly removed our several coats and made our way outside.

The marathon set off first, and we watched the fine group of athletes wind their way downhill (the first and last) out of Goathland. The half(ish) and 10k set off together 15 minutes later. A fantastic friendly atmosphere as we mingled on the start, another briefing from JS, a countdown, fanfare, and we were off. After 10 yards the shivering ceased and I instantly regretted wearing quite so many thermals and hats…

..we continued downhill out of Goathland, joined onto a track toward neighbouring Beck Hole, into woodland where we scrambled over rocks and navigated waterfalls. A series of steep steps saw us clamber out of the woodland, as we climbed higher, up onto the moors with spectacular views of Howl Moor and surroundings, which would be our route home. Now though we continued to climb. The field quickly thinned and soon Jules and myself were running alone, with the faint glimpse of fluorescent jackets on the horizon.

Due to the steps, rocks and mud in the first few miles it took us some time to find our pace. But find it we did, and the race became increasingly enjoyable with every step. Once into the open moors I was glad to be wearing the layers, and welcomed brief shelter as we passed farm buildings and areas of woodland. Even a brief moment of hilarity ensued as I foolishly stepped waist deep into a stagnant bog, which at least provided a brief warmth to one leg.

The greatest part of the race for myself was approaching the cairns on the highest peak, stunning surroundings and biting winds. Heads down we ran together up to the final, brave marshals camping on the moors. We were advised of three miles to go, and all downhill. Suddenly the legs were released, and any energy that may have been sapped on the early climbs returned as we bounded down the non-existent paths, through the heathers and passing bemused walkers. Joining the road and a strong finish back into Goathland and the village hall.

A warm welcome, a medal, a selection of cake, tea and coffee. Various tales of injury, ecstasy, and relief all swam around the now muddy hall as runners arrived one by one.  Jerry had a great run, finishing 4th in the half(ish), Phil completed (and finely documented) the full, Zoe and Jane arrived safely back with smiles on their faces, and Mark and Anita Dunseith braved the challenging 10k.

Once again, fantastic company and a great run from Jules, my newly adopted running buddy. However the main stars of this race were the marshals, standing for hours in the open moors, including fellow Strider Aaron who greeted us with smiles and a camera as we passed. Visually this race was stunning, but it was the friendliness of the runners, marshals and organisers that made it memorable.

Hardmoors by name, and nature, these are fantastically wild events that celebrate this majestic area of natural beauty. I look forward to the next, and to stepping up to the full distance.

What's not to like?

… Phil Owen

I love the Hardmoors events but I’m a bit biased as I’ve been with them almost since the beginning when the only race was the 110 mile event. Dave Robson and I supported a friend doing the inaugural 110 mile race back in 2008 and the following year I ran it with Dave and Anna as my support. Jon has become a good friend & now among other things I run the social media and edit the website for Hardmoors and part of a core team that helps the RD. Since then the series of Hardmoors events & the Hardmoors ‘family’ have grown out of all recognition but still managed to retain its informal friendly atmosphere. In this the marathons, halves and 10K’s inaugural year I’d promised to marshal them all as I’m running the ultras. However while I was ready with my flask of hot chocolate and camping chair Jon the race director decided he’d ‘let’ me run. Git.

Anna and I went over early and we were immediately put to work, Anna on the kit check and then results and me sorting out parking. (Note: 2nd place in the Half marathon was DQ’d when it was spotted someone else was carrying her kit!) .

At 9am we were off and out onto a path leading to a fast flowing beck and rocky climb. A lovelier start you could not imagine. For the first 10 miles or so I was running ahead of folk and taking pics for the FB, website and to use in promotional stuff. I let folk pass then ran ahead again overtaking and doing the same. I didn’t have a Garmin on but I guess I ran far more than the official 27.5 miles. (Hardmoors events are always over the billed distance).

I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. The route was soon on the beautiful moors and although this was billed as one of the flattest of the new marathons I found it quite hilly. At 10 miles I had chaffing due to a hole in my shorts and ended up putting my buff around my leg to stop it & at about 15 miles my knee had stiffened up quite a bit and I was a bit worried about it. I guess my bit of time off recently meant my legs weren’t used to it. Stuff like this often happens though and by 5 miles later it started to ease and was almost gone by the end. Bridleways, fell , single track, county road, mud & bogs all followed and we finally heading towards Flyindales on Snod hill before heading back inland, crossing the moors road and back to Goathland.

One of the things I love about these events (and Esk valley fell races) is getting to explore the North York Moors. It’s the biggest expense of continual heathland in England, right on our doorstep & such a wonderful place to run. Great to see some many striders represented across all three races, particularly Mark & Anita doing the tough 10K route only a week after Anita’s very first 10K! Aaron was a brave & cold marshal on them moors and Anna did the results for all three races.

We all celebrated the race success & the Race director Jon’s partner completing her 100th Marathon along with Dave Kamis being the first person to join the 1000 Hardmoors race miles club in the local Hotel bar to round off a wonderful day.

(Visited 10 times, 1 visits today)

Kielder Marathon, Sunday, October 6, 2013

David Brown

This was my first marathon, it was not intended to be my first. I had signed up for Edinburgh 2013, completed the training, the long 20 mile runs, then fell at the last hurdle, a nasty virus hit me one week before the big day, knocking me out of action for over a month.

Devastated, but unperturbed, I picked myself up, dusted myself down, and signed up for Kielder. Once more I began a gruelling 18 month schedule. Thankfully this time the seasons were on my side, as most of my runs are on an evening, the lighter nights allowed me to complete my weekday runs on Waldridge fells, with a handful of long runs, including a final 21 miler, along the beautiful Northumberland coastal paths.

Striders adding Purple to Kielder's autumnal hues.

The day soon arrived, the combination of hilly fell runs, and long undulating coastal terrains ensured I was fit, strong, and ready to respect the challenge of the Kielder marathon. And so it was I set the alarm early. Too early it seemed as I sat attempting to force porridge into my face, under the bemused glare of a hound in slumber.

After packing, unpacking, rechecking, removing, checking again, and one final time, I loaded up the truck and set off on a solo road trip to Kielder. It was a fine drive down, quiet and peaceful. With music my company, I focussed on my months of training, played back recent races and psyched myself up. Made my way to the free park and ride service, and used the first of many available portaloos.

The bus ride was filled with sombre looking faces as we rode across the dam, the 18 mile marker teasing us unapologetically. Alighted the bus, located a second group of portaloos, then delighted to meet up with fellow Striders huddled over teas, coffees and various pre-marathon snacks. One hour until race start. I felt the atmosphere before a marathon was somewhat subdued compared to shorter events, it was serious, anxious, and curious. Half hour to race start, I made my way to the secure baggage area, changed, considered sleeves, declined sleeves, checked Vaseline was applied, applied some more, then reluctantly made my way outside, to portaloo number 3.

Met up with concerned looking Striders on the start, with Bill cajoling us into believing we were having a good time. Without warning the horn sounded, a shuffle, and I made the first steps on the marathon. A steady pace, run slower than I want to I thought, shoulders relaxed, we’re good to go. And go we did.

We stayed in a group for the first mile, dodging other runners so I didn’t become separated from the clan. The crowded runners began to thin, and I settled into a comfortable pace. A pace I noticed not too far behind Juliet, I made a conscious decision to stay near, knowing our previous times were pretty similar. The first few miles ticked over nicely, and very soon we had reached 6 miles, only 20 and a bit to go I thought.

I remained with Jules as 10 miles came and went, by now we had swapped game plans, previous race histories, biographies, favourite pre-race meals, top 5 artists, and a brief rundown of how we ended up running around Kielder reservoir in the rain. She also uttered something about incessant babbling, but I didn’t catch that, I was too busy running a marathon and trying to breath. We soldiered on. Halfway. Wow. This was actually happening! Look ma, I’m running a marathon!

Kielder at its moody best.

And into no man’s land. I had read about this in my ‘Big Book of Marathons’, the period between 13 and 20 miles, where you are tired, yet still with a long way to go, too early to start thinking about how long is left. Time to focus on posture, form, pace. I followed my game plan, which was to take a gel every 5 miles, this seemed to be working well. The constant undulations coasted us past more mile markers, numbers, just numbers now, every now and then.

We approached the dam, strange to be running on flat road after the soft cushioning of the tracks. After the dam was a very welcoming spectator point with buses and cheering, jelly babies and water. We picked up pace and smiled, although reminding ourselves we still had 7 plus miles to go. But we were in it now, deep inside the belly of the marathon. Still running together, still running strong. 21 miles passed, this was it, I had never ran over 21 miles in all of my running life. I waited in anticipation for something to drop off, a leg perhaps. It didn’t, there was a questionable incident occurring inside my shoe, which I briefly brought to the table, but we chose to ignore it.

Now, now we can start the countdown, now we can read the numbers. Now the race was inside our heads (it was mine anyway, Jules seemed quite happy jogging along discussing the merits of her granola bar, my Kendal mint cake, and our collective inability to see anything through the rain). 22 miles came, by now my thighs were screaming, my toe throbbing, something was happening in my hip but I couldn’t figure it out, again one to ignore. A tactical walk here, up a steep zig zag path, I urged Jules to go ahead, surely I was holding her back, but thankfully she stayed, I may have just curled up right there had she left.

23 miles, the numbers are on our side, just a parkrun to go, this didn’t help, as between us we had completed one singular parkrun. Never mind, not the point here. And here we are now, 23 miles into our marathon discussing why we have only attended one parkrun, too many excuses to name here (namely both afraid of fierce competition that early on a Saturday, combined with a choosing of a steady fell run at Waldridge, shh, the marathon!).

Something happened here, ah yes, we caught up with Andrew, we chatted about times, I grunted something inexplicable about just wanting to finish, until he sped off again into the woods. That’s part of the beauty of this race, the woods, the landscape, you become one as you run, as it shelters you and offers protection from whatever demons you’re facing.

20 minutes to go. 20 more minutes of running, more numbers. We had picked up pace now, 25 miles past. A spirituous sight. Our pace remained ,we were again strong. 10 minutes left of running. Jules talked of adrenalin, how it will come back and carry us, I waited for its arrival. A sign for 800m, here it was, the adrenalin, so welcome. The pain subsided as we seemingly flowed through the woods, we could hear the crowds, the cheer, the loudspeaker.

The woods turned into a path, a hill, we powered up it, the sudden incline not effecting our pace. Suddenly a voice, “come on, get up that hill”. It was my dad, the original marathon runner. I recognised his frame emerging from the shadows, his voice inspired me as I fought back tears, as we pushed on, I heard my wife, then my mother, their welcome screams recognisable through the heavy crowds. Our pace was swift now, the narrow finishing straight acting as a stage for every runner, each with their own stories and pain. Jules and I sprinted together, and crossed the line together, just as we had started. Time on the clock 4 hours 18.

The Kielder Marathon Weight-Loss programme.

It was over, it was done. The months of training paid off, the course challenging, tough, but fantastic. The organisation unfaultable, with its plentiful water stations and encouraging marshals. Congratulations also to Camilla and Anita, who completed their first marathon in arduous conditions!

Had I not ran with Jules, or more so had Jules not stayed with me, I’m certain I would have added 30 mins onto that time. And I’m honoured and thankful that she became such a massive part of my first marathon, she was a truly fantastic running partner. I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed it half as much. Enjoyed, interesting word, but none so truer. I was proud of myself, proud of the dedication, proud I had done it, and done it well. Proud to wear the Strider colours.

This was my first marathon, it certainly won’t be my last!

Results

Pos Name Cat Time
1 Ceri Rees M 02:43:58
34 Victoria Nealon F 03:23:33
176 Mike Hughes V50 03:50:40
395 Andrew Thompson V40 04:18:02
407 Jules Percival V40 04:18:19
408 David Brown Senior 04:18:20
514 Melanie Hudson Senior 04:30:24
513 Paul Beal V50 04:30:25
601 Dave Robson V60 04:44:12
705 Sue Jennings V40 05:05:52
727 Anita Clementson V40 05:14:33
731 Camilla Lauren-Maatta V40 05:15:53
743 Bill Ford V40 05:20:26
768 Margaret Thompson V60 05:31:21
811 Robert Clark Senior 06:03:28

826 finishers.

(Visited 9 times, 1 visits today)

Derwentwater Lakeland Trail Races, Keswick, Saturday, September 7, 2013

15km

David Brown

The Lakeland Trails describe themselves as, “Some of the most inspiring trail running and walking events in the UK, all held within the spectacular landscape of the Lake District National Park”. Courses range from 10k -18k, through to half and full marathon distances. There is a choice of running the challenge or the race. The challenge starts earlier and is aimed at the less competitive runner, apparently.

I selected to run the challenge over the race simply due to the earlier start of 13:00, that and I was to spend the week ‘carb loading’ in the nearby Dog & Gun. Race HQ was in Fitz Park, Keswick, a small friendly setting with stalls selling running gear, ice creams, hog roast and a fun run for kids of all ages and all receiving a medal. In typical Lake District fashion the rain visited frequently throughout the morning, so the carnival style atmosphere was somewhat dampened.

David on the descent ...

After pacing around for hours and making several uses of the onsite portaloos, we were huddled into the starting area where I chatted with some lads from Meltham AC regarding the combination of purple and green on our vests. Facing us were the Batala Lancaster samba band, who psyched us up in an almost Haka style, with foot stomping and rhythmic movements, brilliant stuff. The band parted and the crowd counted us down, as we set off through the small avenue of spectators.

It was a fast start, and the lugs of trail shoes struggled on the wet tarmac as we wound our way out of Keswick, becoming more comfortable as we followed the abandoned railway and crossed a boarded walkway. The next 5k were uphill, and already the hares that darted off were being picked up, I at once felt the benefit from the many evenings spent running Waldridge Fell.

We continued to climb, through becks and bogs, carefully selecting our footing as many bogs appeared bottomless, or at least waist deep. We passed through a farm and explored the almost sublime valley of Glenderaterra, with the summit of Skiddaw in the distance. At 8k we were at the highest point of the race, as the path evened out the pace quickened. From 9k it was downhill, with views overlooking the Northern Fells.

The course was fantastic, with excellent support from marshals, each one shouting encouragement for the Strider vest. As we descended swiftly I was aware due to marshals yelling that the first lady was closing in, I held the gate for her and she was off. It was here I was advised I was in 39th position, I had never found myself so far up a field (of 400) before, and as much as this was the ‘challenge’ and not the race, I now wanted to race!

The final 3k was a battle downhill, shoulder to shoulder, the stronger runners who had held back started to close in, and equally I picked up a few places. I could hear the crowd in the distance, and aware that my boy would be waiting I put everything I had for a strong finish. With chants of ‘Da-ddy, Da-ddy’as I ran past the family, this was a cherished moment.

A tech t-shirt, and a goody bag with a sweat band, ginger pudding and tiny tub of vas awaited each runner.

This was a fantastic event, in a truly magnificent setting, family friendly and with great entertainment. Any doubt I had about the challenge being intended for the ‘B team’ swiftly vanished as we battled down them hills. I’ll certainly be back for another of the Lakeland Trails.

Hats off to fellow Strider Tom who did indeed compete in the ‘race’, although I didn’t see him on the day but understand he finished in a great time in a very strong field.

(Visited 9 times, 1 visits today)

Coastal Run, Beadnell to Alnmouth, Sunday, July 14, 2013

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. Endurance Champion Race - click flag for more information. 14 miles (depending on tides)

David Brown

Grand Prix Race. Endurance Champion Race.  I’ve spent many years running, camping and wandering along the Northumberland Coastline, the paths and dunes are familiar and I see it as my second home. Some years ago I spent time with the National Trust along the shoreline where I viewed in awe the bold men and women hurtling along the beach as part of the Coastal run. It was time for me to join them.

My God, didn't we have a lot of Striders at this one! The day before the run I was out in the dive boat just off the Farnes, the visibility was clear and you were able to view the route from Beadnell, follow it to the majestically silhouetted Dunstanburgh Castle. We were in the middle of a heat wave (or ‘summer’ as it’s often called) and so I was very aware that this added a slight air of seriousness to the run, I sat in the boat sipping my electrolyte drink, with seals to one side, and mackerel tugging the line below.

Race day, and I woke to a very welcome drizzle, and a not so welcome mist that ate away at the views. At least the morning was cool, so there was little energy wasted as I strolled to the beach. I spent some time before the start looking up and down the beach, stretching, and selecting the most suitable path through the rocks where they chose to put the start line (unsure why they did this as surely they could have just moved the finish 20 yards back?). A chat with fellow Striders, and as 10:30 approached we huddled on the beach awaiting the off.

I selected to start as near to the sea as possible, thinking the sand was harder and I could run a straight, shorter line to the end of the first beach. Hooter sounds and we’re off, hurtling over the rocks as we’re sent into battle! The sound of 1800 feet galloping through sea and sand is immense, to be part of that is exhilarating. First 100 yards over, time to settle down, long way to go yet.

Further down the beach we dipped in the nanny, then past the nesting shorebirds, African and Arctic terns as they swooped down in anticipation of this sudden attack upon their colony. End of the beach and slight bottleneck as we left the beach and joined the road into Newton where a friend and fellow runner was supporting from his garden having had to pull out due to injury. Welcomed water station and another jaunt onto the beach.

Life on the beach.

It’s here I realised I had set off far too fast (which Alister pointed out as he sailed past me … along with what felt like the rest of the field). I was struggling, and we were only 4 miles or so in, I had to have a word with myself, concentrate on my form, and remember how much I loved running these beaches. The love finally returned as we left the beach, clambered the rocks to Dunstanburgh castle and followed the coastal paths. I felt strong on the paths and started picking off runners on the uphill.

Fantastic support as we ran through Craster, and past the ‘about half way’ sign. Having no distance markers forced me to mentally measure how far I’d ran and how far to go, ‘about half way, about 7 miles, last beach is about 2 miles from finish, so about 5 miles to the beach’.

Sun was back, and heat was apparent, I was thankful of some shaded paths as we passed Howick and made our way to Boulmer. When we hit the roads I slowed in my trail shoes, an executive decision I made to wear whilst on recce of the course some weeks earlier, I slowed with each step as the lugs were almost sucked onto the hot tarmac. I was aware that the final stretch was approaching and heard murmurs from locals and runners advising of such.

And so it came, the 2nd and final distance marker ‘about 2 miles to go’, as we joined the beach at Alnmouth. I was aware not to get too excited, and at least wanted to wait until I could see the finish before I upped the pace. I concentrated on my form and posture. I was aware that somewhere my wife and son were waiting so I scanned the horizon, ensuring I looked my best … this was to be the first time my son would see me run, and the first for my wife since 2009, so I started getting a wee bit emotional as I saw them in the distance. I approached them strongly with a vast smile, I took hold of Willow, my faithful hound, and she joined me on the last mile. I felt no need to power home now, for the feeling of running that final mile with my best mate is far greater than any PB!

I finished under 2 hours, which was my aim. But for this race, time is irrelevant, just to be part of it and to finish is enough. There is an almost ecstatic emotion, one of pride which emulates through all the competitors and supporters alike as they stand together on the beach, cheering for all the runners as they power down that beach and head for home.

As I say, time is irrelevant for this race, its beauty is enough, and I’ll be back next year on Beadnell beach, I have to, I’ve been challenged to a sub 1:50 …

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Time
1 Tony Carter Tyne Bridge Harriers M 1:21:49
8 Jo Gascoigne-Owens Alnwick Harriers F 1:27:01
93 James Garland M 01:40:04
152 David Gibson MV40 01:44:32
165 Michael Bennett MV50 01:45:16
223 Rachel Terry FV40 01:48:26
316 Graeme Walton MV40 01:54:16
347 Matthew Crow M 01:55:29
349 Katy Walton FV40 01:55:29
359 Alister Robson MV40 01:56:03
364 David Brown M 01:56:26
383 Megan Bell FV35 01:57:25
452 John Hutchinson MV50 02:02:09
468 David Spence MV60 02:03:17
507 Anna Seeley F 02:05:45
511 Colin Blackburn MV50 02:05:58
544 Alan Smith MV60 02:08:11
550 Dougie Nisbet MV50 02:08:56
552 Brian Ford MV40 02:09:02
566 Camilla Lauren-maatta FV40 02:10:26
571 Paul Beal MV50 02:10:49
572 Juliet Percival FV40 02:10:50
573 Carolyn Bray FV35 02:10:50
574 Danny Lim M 02:10:58
575 Dave Catterick MV50 02:11:01
583 Jackie McKenna F 02:11:18
597 Greta Jones FV40 02:12:30
609 Melanie Hudson FV35 02:13:29
614 Jane Ives FV40 02:13:44
616 Dave Robson MV60 02:13:46
623 Phil Owen M 02:14:09
639 Katherine Preston FV40 02:15:36
650 Sarah Fawcett FV50 02:16:31
678 John Greathead M 02:17:48
687 Rebecca Fisher FV35 02:18:16
688 Richard Hall 2 M 02:18:16
691 Anita Clementson FV40 02:18:25
696 George Nicholson MV60 02:18:53
762 Barrie Evans MV60 02:24:43
769 Karen Chalkley FV50 02:25:42
804 Jill Ford FV40 02:31:22
813 Jacquie Robson FV35 02:33:24
822 Christine Farnsworth FV60 02:35:46
839 Angela Proctor FV35 02:38:02
840 Sue Jennings FV40 02:38:02
848 Robert Clark M 02:42:25
850 Emma Detchon F 02:42:44
877 Margaret Thompson FV60 02:57:01

887 finishers.

(Visited 11 times, 1 visits today)

Gribdale Gallop, North York Moors, Sunday, July 7, 2013

BM / 7.1M / 1,750'

David Brown

Five Striders packed into a car and once again drove to North Yorkshire for another of the NEHRA Summer Series. Graded category A, the steepest of the races, vague excitement, or was it panic filled up the car. At least it was for myself and Danny, for this was our first A category – the other passengers David, Mike and Jan were seasoned fell runners, whose main concern was where to get fish and chips on the way back.

Talk of heavy rain was soon confirmed as we wound our way up country lanes for the race HQ at the base of Cockshaw Hill. Small queue to register and it was a brief warm up before we huddled under the trees to await our start. A small field gathered and I positioned myself back from centre, which is where I remained for most of the race.

Roseberry Topping.

We were off immediately ascending the main track to Captain Cook’s Monument, already heart started racing and legs burning with no ease into the hills. We levelled out and found good pace as we turned along the Cleveland Way, before descending past farm buildings. Gentle rising paths took us up, and up. Wind began to nip and visibility became very poor and rain came down. Local knowledge a massive advantage especially as the field thinned out and crossroads were placed before you.

Passed Hanging Stone rock, and onward to Roseberry Topping itself. We made our way up the face of Roseberry Top, clambering on the slippery rocks, at times gasping on all fours with the wind beating us from all sides. The lead runners were fearlessly hurtling towards us as they made their descent, soon after Mike followed looking strong. Once at the peak I glanced around at the majestic views, before throwing myself into the mercy of gravity and slip sliding, wide eyed down the rocks. Met Danny on his way up, bid a polite ‘fancy seeing you here’ type greeting as I thankfully made it back onto safe ground.

Once upright again I was able to find my stride and enjoy the run, weaving in and out of the trees, down the trails. Through Slack’s Wood, High Intake Plantation and down the steps to the car park area where we started.

Sodden, bruised, and nettled, all Striders arrived home safe and well, happy with our individual efforts. Another fantastic evening, a great race in beautiful countryside and good company. These are exhilarating races that really test skills you never knew you had, whilst giving you a wonderful tour of ‘desolate’ North East. I look forward to the next one.

(Visited 5 times, 1 visits today)