Tag Archives: Hadrian’s Wall Half Marathon

Hadrian’s Wall Half Marathon, Haltwhistle, Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mark Payne

This event was suggested to me by an old university friend from Edinburgh who’d already entered it early in the year. Having got back into running over the last six months after something of a gap it seemed like a good time to try a half marathon again, my last having been in 2008. So I managed to pick up one of the last few places available.

The start of the race was on a hillside near Haltwhistle and gives you a good vantage point to get some appreciation of what’s in store. I took the not-recommended warm-up approach of standing around chatting to my friend Tim, freshly recovered(?) from the previous weekend’s Edinburgh Seven Hills race, then put myself somewhere in the middle of the assembling pack and assumed I’d start slow and warm into it. After a low-key start (‘I think we’ve started – or maybe everyone’s just bunching up – oh no hang on we have started’) we got underway.

I’m happy to say that since the first year of this race (reported on by Striders Dougie Nisbet and Ian Spencer) it has been gaining in popularity, with 434 runners home compared to 49 in 2011. The route has also undergone some revision, with more tarmac featuring overall. It divided up quite neatly into four sections, starting by climbing along undulating country lanes which even felt a bit crowded for the first mile or two as the pack thinned out.

Views available.

The route turned off the road at the first water station to head East, parallel to, but some distance from, Hadrian’s Wall itself. The way undulated over grassy ground which was generally good underfoot and allowed us to take in the scenery around one of the most picturesque bits of the wall, before taking a left down the Pennine way towards the trees of Wark Forest. This part was the most challenging underfoot with an occasional line of stone flags placed through the bog requiring particular care. Unlike some runners I managed to resist the opportunity to take a mud bath and pressed on to the second water station and stage three, through the trees.

Once in Wark Forest the route stuck to logging roads but continued in its undulating ways enough to stay interesting. Tim and I had taken to running together by this point, and knew we were averaging just over eight minutes a mile when we emerged onto the road for the last mile and a half, net downhill on tarmac. This let us increase the pace a bit. Soon the ‘Hadrian’s Wall of Cars’ formed by all the runners’ vehicles at the start came into view and we could see we were on the home straight and could prepare ourselves for the final small steep uphill that we knew was coming. Pushing through that we crossed the line at the same time, finishers 61 and 62.

I haven’t yet had chance to run many of the other trail and forest-type races that feature more prominently in the Striders calendar so I can’t really make a comparison, but this half marathon was much more fun than the all-tarmac events I’ve done in the past, and I would say well worth a look next year.

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Hadrians Wall Half Marathon, Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sarah Fawcett

Jackie McKenna persuaded me that we should do this half marathon as our first off roader, (although she slipped in a sneaky Durham Costal last Sunday so this wasn’t her first), and it was not without some trepidation that we approached this “multi-terrain trail race”. Having looked at the route profile on the website and the previous two years results, where only 49 and 69 participants’ results were listed, we both separately worried last night that we would come in last today if there was such a small field.

My husband and daughter came up with us so that they could do some cycling while we did our run and we arrived in good time, at a cold and windy hilltop at Edges Green near Once Brewed. Race HQ was two small tented shelters and half a dozen portaloos. We were relieved to see that there were lots of people beginning to assemble and I know that they had sold their 300 maximum places, although I always assume 20% don’t turn up on the day for any race. So we might not come last after all!

I was slightly concerned by the two Mountain Rescue Land Rovers that were at HQ and hoped that none of us would need them. As we lined up at the start banner the main hazard was the copious sheep poo underfoot. The starting horn sounded and we were off, down a quiet road, in a chilly wind with a few dark clouds looming. The undulating road section was a pleasant, familiar surface to a road runner like myself and I began to settle in to a comfortable stride. Jacquie soon pulled away from me, striding well, then we turned on to a farm track and the grassy moors that the website promised us.

As promised, the sheep had been mowing well and the relatively dry period we have had recently meant that the surface was pretty comfortable. Out of the wind it began to get really warm and I risked a hidden long distance lens as I peeled off a layer and then replaced my Striders vest whilst running along.

I can’t recall the exact order of the route but I know that the firm grass moorland gave way to steep stony descents and ascents, stepping stones, limestone paving , timber decking and very soggy bogland, before coming out at a welcome water station and the cooling forest track.

I was pleased to be back on surer footing as I hadn’t been able to admire the spectacular views fully whilst watching where my feet were landing. We hadn’t seen much of Hadrian’s Wall itself although it was above us on the crag tops at one point, but the countryside around is beautiful. We finished with a road section and a sprint finish over a cattle grid, up a winding corner and back across the sheep decorated grass. It had been an up and down route; hard work but not brutal by fell running standards.

Jacquie beat me in in an admirable 2 hours 14 mins, and I was a minute and a half behind her. We were both very pleased with our results. We received good quality tee shirts and the organizers gave out prizes including some lovely Hadrian’s Wall china mugs to those who had travelled furthest etc.

I felt that the organization of the event was faultless. The marshalling, signposts, water stops, pre race information, car parking, indeed all the elements that go to make a successful event were here today. It was an excellent morning.

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Hadrian’s Wall Half Marathon, Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dougie Nisbet …

If it hadn’t cost 23 quid and involved a new, interesting, off-road and quirky sounding race, I would simply have pressed the big-button on the alarm clock, turned over and gone back to sleep. The curiosity and cost combo were too great, however, and I dragged myself out of bed to the espresso maker and checked the weather forecast. Mindful of my senior-moment the previous day in which I was convinced the Allendale 8 started 30 minutes later than it did, I checked and rechecked the details and soon we were sneering our way past the Metro centre and onwards to Hadrian’s Wall.

Lately I’ve noticed several races taking ‘entries on the day’ for events that were initially thought would be over-subscribed. The Hadrian’s Wall Half Marathon had a limit of 300; as it happened, they got 50. Which is a shame given the great location and potential of this course. Poor publicity, price tag, weather, location? Who knows. We parked next to the campsite and believed the marshall who said it was a ‘slow 20 minute’ walk to the start. I’d bumped into Ian Spencer who was also running but as we headed for the Start, and the minutes ticked by on the improbably long and steep walk we both had to abandon our spouses and jog ahead as the clock ticked towards 10AM.

Ian and Dougie. At 10:08 I exchanged pleasantries with the sweeper (always a good idea in my book!) and grumbled to Ian about my hurty knee. Perhaps it was the thundering road descents in yesterday’s race what done it, but by knee was a bit twingy and I assumed it would loosen and warm up in the first couple of miles. Starting races with a twinge or two that disappear after a few miles is pretty much routine for me.

Away we went on an agreeably squashy and mixed terrain. It reminded me of Swaledale in some respects as it’s truly mixed-terrain with a lot of trail, grass and mud. For a mile or two I was keeping Ian in my sights about a minute ahead and he was providing a good pace marker for me. We were accompanied on stretches by large fearsome looking cattle who bellowed and belched their encouragement, and occasionally just stood in the way looking simultaneously glaikit and malevolent. A few miles in and at the first water station I was running steadily but my performance was nothing amazing. A bit of lethargy had set in and my knee was giving me concern. I walked at the water station and munched a glucose tablet or two, pausing to stretch my knee and, in the process, lose a few places in the field.

Into the forest and a series of short climbs that I tackled without any great enthusiasm and it dawned on me that, in a nutshell, my heart really wasn’t in it. I walked a little and on the next climb, when my knee started complaining again, I paused to consider my options. It’s Swaledale next week, and I really would like to do that. I’d lost a lot of places from walking and stretching. There were still around 8 miles to go. And I had a hurty knee, that was getting hurtier by the mile. It didn’t feel like a “run-through” twinge, it just felt wrong.

There’s a first time for everything and today was to be my first DNF. I turned round and jogged back towards the sweeper. This didn’t take long and I explained to her that I was going to retire and planned to just jog gently back to the start. She was having none of this and immediately produced a space-blanket and got on the radio to St John Ambulance and I heard “We have an injured runner” being passed down the line. I don’t know if the next words were “Man Down! Man Down!” but I was beginning to feel a bit of a fraud and insisted I was an experienced club runner who was just retiring as a precaution. The sweeper waited with me until a medic cycled up and he escorted me back to the sweep car where I was placed gently in the back seat by Paul and Emily. Paul put a jacket around me and a grandad-stylee travel rug over my knees and I felt a right twit. I felt like shouting “I’ve done Britain’s Worst Fell Race, you know!”, but as it turned out, they were right and I was wrong. I “run hot” and was in a singlet with no base layer. I fell into the classic mistake of forgetting that as soon as you stop moving, you cool down, and within minutes I was very grateful for the extra insulation. So if you’re reading this Paul and Emily, thank you for looking after me.

I then had a very interesting ‘behind the scenes’ view of the race as we drove round just behind the sweeper, collecting the signs and talking to the marshalls. At some point I jumped vehicles and got a fast lift back to race HQ with another marshall (thanks John!) at which point I headed for my car only to discover I’d left my car key in Paul and Emily’s car. No matter, I’ll give Roberta a ring. No signal. I thought, if I was Roberta, on a damp drizzly day in the middle of nowhere, what would I do? Where would I be? Sure enough, there she was, in the campsite tea room, where they did a mean bacon and egg roll.

Perhaps the most interesting moment of the day was when sitting in the tea room, still in my racing kit, Ian walked in. I affected nonchalance and asked him if he hadn’t noticed the point during the race at which I’d overtaken him. His puzzlement lasted the briefest of moments (but it was there!) until he twigged that I couldn’t possibly have overtaken him in a supersonic blur. Worth a try though!

This has all the potential to be a really cracking race and it’s a shame that it didn’t attract more runners than it did. There’s shades of James Herriot and Swaledale in there, and the mixture of track, trail and fell really appealed to me. I watched the back-markers run home in pouring rain on the final straggly descent and felt a pang of envy. There’s a lot of multi-terrain diversity in this course and it pitches a nice balance between trail and fell. I hope it runs again as I’ll certainly be back for more.

… and Ian Spencer

This is a race that deserves to grow and one day reach its ambitious upper limit of 300 runners. Sadly, this day, only 49 finished, which must have been disappointing for the organisers and their chosen charity, Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue.

The organisers went out of their way to ensure a safe and well marshalled event. St. John’s Ambulance were out in force. The course was well chosen and, except for trek to the start and the last mile, the course was well marked, scenic and a pleasure to run. Also, don’t be alarmed, but the mile markers don’t start until mile 5.

The race HQ was at a nice campsite, which included free, hot showers and a tea room. However, the runners email stated ‘please allow 18 minutes to get to the start.’ That turned out to be a wee bit optimistic. True, a fit runner could do that but if any supporters wanted to come and see you off, it would have been better to allow 30 minutes, given that it was up a steep hill. Still, given the small field, they waited for the stragglers. The alternative was to have an uphill start. What’s wrong with that?

It would be better to think of this as a 13.1 mile fell race anyway. The website’s statement that; ‘the only significant climbs being along the wall itself’ was the sort of thing a dyed-in-the-wool fell-runner would say. I really want to do this race again. It is very enjoyable but, next year, I’m going to take the sort of kit that I would always have on a long fell run: full body cover (carried if not worn), whistle, energy drink, phone and possibly a button compass. Even in June, the rain, visibility and temperature can’t be guaranteed.

The only other fly in the ointment is that quite a few people ended up getting lost in the last mile, as well-marked trails gave way to open moor, marked with bits of white tape attached to stakes. I wasn’t alone in wondering whether I’d followed the official course at the end or got mixed up with the course markers from the start. Up to mile 12, I was pretty sure I’d finish in under two hours. I ended up coming in after 2 hours, 9 minutes and 30 seconds. I’ll wear the Garmin next year.

The men’s race was won by Les Smith in 1:34:14. The ladies race was won by Laura Davies in 1:54:41, neither of whom seem to be in a club.

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