Tag Archives: Simonside Cairns

Simonside Cairns, Sunday, December 10, 2017

11 miles/540 m

Scott Watson

Beautiful day for a fell race – but icy cold! So cold that I immediately regretted leaving my gloves in the bumbag as we ran up the tracks towards the fells. My fingers were absolutely numb though everything else felt perfectly OK.

As far as I can remember, this was my first fell race since my Bob Graham in July although I’ve trained on them (the fells) a couple of times. I felt really good after having two unplanned days off and just swimming yesterday (still quite a hard session though).

I started right at the back (also unplanned) as it’s a really restricted start in an alleyway and I turned up on the line later than I would have liked (last I think). However, the race very quickly reaches a road so there’s loads of opportunity to overtake without burning too many matches. If you’ve no chance of winning then starting at the back is often quite a good strategy because it makes you feel like a bit of a god, striding imperiously past mere mortals – until you hit the point where you belong.

Before then I passed Geoff Davis quietly going about his business in his own unmistakable style then further up onto the fell I passed Mark Davinson from Derwentside, so I felt that I was going quite well. In fact, I was running quite strongly up the initial slopes passing many who were already walking – and feeling much more relaxed than I’d expected.

When we hit the fells it was apparent what the theme of the race was going to be: ice! It was everywhere, often in wide sheets, very slippery and HARD! All of the water channels that typically run along and across upland paths had frozen solid in the minus temperatures and wind chill and to step on a smooth piece was always going to end in tears. I hit the deck a couple of times but with no damage other than to my pride.

My particular problem, as soon as I got onto the fells, turned out to be a basic error: I hadn’t put the all-important extra twist in my laces and both immediately came undone when the heather began tugging at them. By this time I was running competitively with a couple of guys from NFR and others and because my shoes still felt fairly secure (Inov-8 X-talon 200s – I love them) I decided to see how far I could get. If it had been boggy I’d have had to stop or I’d literally have lost them. Remarkably, whilst they certainly didn’t feel secure, neither did they feel like we were going to part company and so on I went.

By the time we got round to the back of the course and the climb over the cairns with its stunning views (which I never saw) three of us had broken away though it turns out that there was somebody behind me that was closer than I thought. I was going much better than I’d anticipated and whilst the other guys looked like they were basically faster than me I was right behind them on the climbs, still comfortably running where they were walking, although I had to continue likewise as it involved too much effort to get past in the heather. However, when we reached the tops they very gradually pulled away and that was that.

Much of the long descent to the finish is now on very good, constructed paths obviously put there to prevent further erosion to, what I remember as being, almost muddy tunnels when I last did this race. Now my quads really began to protest. It was simply lack of specific condition but it was more uncomfortable than I would have thought possible. To make matters worse I could hear this guy closing on me so it was going to be fast to the finish and bugger the quads – I’d have to find some other way of walking afterwards.

I pulled away a bit on the last major undulation where I passed a lone walker at the top of the descent of the final fell who for some reason felt the need to tell me that both shoelaces were undone. Blimey, I hadn’t realised! I was actually a bit more uncharitable than that (in my mind) but I’m sure she thought she was helping. Then, almost immediately afterwards, charging down the descent, I hit the deck again when my legs just shot from under me on unseen ice. I was back up almost immediately, shaken and stirred after uncomfortably wrenching a couple of bits and pieces. It was all the guy behind me needed to squeeze by but as we weren’t too far from the finish he must have realised he was going to have to put a shift in.

Personally, unless I was absolutely sure of the situation, I’d have waited until the last descent and raced to the narrow bridge over the river because there’s not much opportunity to pass after that and so you can shorten the race by a hundred metres or so. As so often happens though, once he’d come past it was relatively easy to sit in but I couldn’t help passing him on the last short climb. So I just thought, “get it all out and see what happens”. Nothing – was the answer. That’s the way it stayed until the bridge when the game was effectively over. I was perfectly ready to accept being pipped but was pleased to have only lost the two places after the race had begun in earnest.

Despite the vast amounts of nervous concentration required it was a really good event made all the more enjoyable by the conditions. Not sure where I came but I think I did OK and made third V50, beating the first V45 in the process (I was 13th out of 87 competitors & 3rd V50 in 1:38:51)! Came away smelling of Roses (the Cadbury’s variety).

1Matthew Seddon
M Sen1.24.00
23Emma Holt
F Sen1.42.56
13Scott WatsonM 501.38.51
31Geoff DaviesM 601.45.38

Simonside Cairns, Rothbury, Sunday, December 11, 2011

BM / 11M / 1772' (revised to 10.4M 1670' due to ice)

Phil Owen

Headed up to the lovely Rothbury for the Simonside Cairns fell race. It wasn’t that long ago I was near there doing the Thropton Show fell race, a shorter race that comes up from Thropton to the front ‘face’ of the rocky outcrop that is Simonside cairn. Mind this is a bit more of a fell being 11 mile and 1770ft ascent. Registration is at the Castle pub in the heart of Rothbury which is always a good sign of a great race in my book with the start and finish just outside. Mud people, Dougie and myself were running for Striders and a host of friends also entered so a lot of chat beforehand.

Dougie had said he was going to toddle along as his legs were feeling the previous days NE cross country championships. As usual I was in the same boat after giving my legs a pounding at football and then a late run on Saturday eve. Truth is I run these races for the scenery and training and rarely have fresh legs. When your main races are one hundred mile plus you need to gets used to running on tired legs.

Of we went through a narrow high walled lane and up a tarmac road with a fairly steep hill. I’m rubbish up hill and my legs didn’t want to know so I was soon behind. When we reached the Fells I picked up and started to pass folk. Two runners came past with in injured runner holding what looked like a cut above his eye. Quick chat and he was well looked after so I moved on.

The moors got very muddy which suits me and I was soon back in the fray. A look back and I could see a long line with Dougie lolling along as he said he would. I got to chatting to lass who was doing her first fell race here as we ploughed through the deep mud. As is usual with these fells its all uphill but it soon evened out at some woodlands. The lass I chatted as we flew down the woodland hill, loving the run, laughing and joking, not a care in the world including those pesky little bits of red and white tape which we completely missed!

After a mile of so we hit a track and bore left. Now before we hit the wood we were just behind a long single file group and after ten minutes running (and gabbing) we both thought, hang on, there should be folk behind us. Maps out and it was soon apparent we missed the turnoff in the woods. Never mind, the track we were on would lead us back to the route and sure enough it did.

Mind another runner was looking in the wood for the route and wouldn’t believe me it was the other way (I don’t blame him). Duly took his number and we moved on and soon came to the break in the trees with the Simonside cairn in view. At this point we could see some other runners and the lass shouted that was her mum who had to be beat so after plodding round we now put a spurt on. Passed her mum near the cairn and from here it was all downhill over lovely moor and forest trail with Christmas tree lights round the trees and carols playing on a little cd player. Soon back at the finish and into the pub for a nice pint after covering nearly 14 miles of the 11 mile race. Bonus miles! Happy days 🙂


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 James Taylor NFR M 1.18.15
16 Karen Robertson NFR FV40 1 1.29.19
56 Geoff Davis NFR MV50 1.44.50
68 Susan Davis NFR FV50 1 1.50.15
81 Dougie Nisbet DFR MV45 2.08.00
87 Phil Owen MV45 2.20.18

90 finishers.

Simonside Cairns, Rothbury, Sunday, January 16, 2011

BM / 11m / 1770'

Nigel Heppell

My first attempt at this, the rescheduled Simonside Cairns Race. I meet another first timer, Dave Shipman, just as low clouds obscure the Rothbury hills and the heavens open with a downpour strong enough to make me choose to take heavy duty wet weather gear. Fortunately the rain stops in time for the off and we are sent away down a tiny alley and over the very full River Coquet before slogging away uphill on roads and tracks to the moorside.

Up and over Lordenshaw is a steady walk/run on grassy slopes but soon we hit the moors proper and the track deteriorates to a mix of broken rock, soggy peat-filled runnels, and thick heather. This seems to go on forever as we plod head-on into the southwesterly wind , then a short, pleasant stretch sheltered amongst trees on soft woodland track before it’s back on to the moors again, this time with the wind behind us. Underfoot it gets deeper, wetter, boggier, and lumpier. A lot of this is unrunnable to me, and I’m not the only one.

Into another patch of very dark woodland then out onto the track below Simonside Cairns where we are met by very welcome jelly babies and cups of water. As Dougie said last year, ‘Onwards and upwards’. Climb the newly installed stone steps and then follow the stone-flagged path along the ridge. I’m no great fan of this as it seems to put more obstacles in the way and is hard on the feet and leg joints. On the way down off the ridge I find out just how hard it is when I unintentionally throw myself down onto the ground and leave a smidgen of flesh behind as a memento. I run out of steam on the final climb over Lordenshaw and find the tracks and roads back to Rothbury interminable. Straight into warm clothes, a cup of soup in the pub, and wait for the final few to arrive.

Upon reflection, I realise I’ve not run more than 10k since last July, so you can guess what my New Year’s resolution is going to be.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Alasdair Anthony Ochil M 1.21.53
2 Phil Sanderson NFR MV40 1.22.29
84 Nigel Heppell MV50 2.10.45
99 David Shipman MV50 2.32.36

102 finishers.

Simonside Cairns, Sunday, December 13, 2009

BM / 17.7km / 540m

The much hoped for snow failed to fall and the day was promising much milder temperatures than the sub-zero forecast so it was looking like another muddy day on the slopes of Simonside Cairns. I meandered around the runners at the start doing my usual kit check – looking at other runners to see what everyone else was wearing. Base Layer or not? Gloves? Hat? My suspicions were that it would be an unexpectedly mild and calm day and I was tempted to go with just a running vest. But with everyone looking snug in their base layers I didn’t have the nerve to risk it. Perhaps they knew something I didn’t.

A mile or two into the race and on the hill out of Whittondean and I’d had enough. I had to lose some layers or I was going to melt. I tucked into the crawler lane to let the perplexingly cooler runners through while I re-arranged my wardrobe. (I noticed from Phil Sanderson’s photos that Shaun had also felt the heat and shed a layer). Feeling much better for the time-out I picked up the pace and rounded the hill-forts before descending to the road crossing.

Once across the road the route squelches south-west towards Coquet Cairn and it feels like the warm-up is over and the race has begun. Free entertainment was being provided by NFR’s David Coxon who gave an exotic demonstration of a series of slips, trips and falls that would not look out of place on any risk assessment. They were, he assured me, “not as bad as they sounded”, a reference to the thunking noise his body made when he hit the deck after going A over T on a particularly slippy section of boardwalk. (I’m undecided about whether the wet boardwalks on Simonside Cairns are scarier to run on than the wet stones of the Cleveland Way. There’s not much in it).

Past Coquet Cairn a brief loop into the forest turns north bringing the race on a bearing to the Cairns. David seemed to have exhausted all his original moves and was now just doing repeats so I decided to get ahead. Confident from my prowess in the Farringdon Harrier League water jump I attempted an ambitious move where I jumped a small stream crossing while David rather sensibly took the bridge. What my move lacked in elegance it made up for in complexity and I stumbled ahead, licked my paws, and pretended it had all gone exactly to plan.

This section of the race is soft and heavy going and it’s a relief to cross over into the conifer woodland and head for the Christmas lights and listen to the carols. I’d been content to follow Susan across the bogs and let her find and clear the route before nipping passed amongst the lights. Susan was nursing a post-Darlington hamstring injury and not looking forward to the descent.

I enjoyed the scramble up to the Cairns and was feeling quite comfortable and looking forward to the charge home. There is a temptation to think that once the Cairns are over that it’s “downhill all the way” but it isn’t really. It’s a fast run home but there are a couple of bumps along the way. The hill-forts caught me out (and Susan) and I walked for a bit and drank some wonderjuice before preparing myself for final approach and back down to Rothbury.

John Metson, looking very fresh at a stile.

Photo courtesy and © Phil Sanderson

The soup favoured the faster runners and the first batch had gone by the time I got into the pub although more was promised (a ruse to make everyone stay for the prize ceremony?). Susan took first Lady V50 with NFR winning all the team prizes. I was pleased to be 8 minutes faster than last year. As the bar began to empty a new vat of soup arrived and I gladly joined in with the remaining die-hards in ensuring that it didn’t go to waste.

Shaun adds:

Congratulations to my mate Stu Ferguson of DFR who had a good run here, finishing over five minutes in front of me to win the NECAA MV50+ Northeastern fell championships. How I ended up in a position to challenge for this one from my usual position of mid-pack mediocrity, I will never know. Well done, too, John Metson – a great run here – he’s obviously putting his injuries behind him now and is back on form.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 James Buis Heaton Harriers M 1:23:55
18 Karen Robertson NFR F 1 1:35:59
54 John Metson NFR MV50 1:47:26
58 Shaun Roberts MV50 1:48:50
67 Geoff Davis NFR MV50 1:50:59
93 Dougie Nisbet DFR MV45 2:02:43
102 Susan Davis NFR FV50 2:11:10

116 finishers.

Simonside Cairns, Rothbury, Sunday, December 14, 2008

BM / 17.7km / 540m

Dougie Nisbet

Dougie in the snow.

As an alternative to a certain long, muddy race further south in the country, Susan, Geoff and me ran a longish, muddy fell race in Northumberland. In contrast to the hard-packed ice of last week’s Hexham Shehobble, the Simonside Cairns fell race had a lot of freezing mud and slush. The snow lay round about, deep and squelchy and uneven.

This race was another first for me and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Navigation was straightforward as, running at the back, you simply follow the footsteps of those ahead who have thoughtfully pounded the trail into an ankle-deep mud-bath. Occasional spots of blood in the snow also helped mark the way, concentrate the mind and chill the soul. I had one Vicar of Dibley moment when the snow-packed boardwalk I thought I was running on veered playfully to the left and suddenly turned out not to be a boardwalk after all, a complete absence of boardwalk in fact, more like a nut-numbing pool of icy muddy water that insistently invited me in for some brief refreshment.

I was cold and bewildered when I crossed over the stile into the forest. A man appeared out of the shadows and waved me in with warm words of encouragement. I could hear Christmas carols playing and coloured lights lined the path. It was very soothing. All was calm. All was bright. Just as I was wondering whether this was the afterlife, I emerged from the forest, and there was Simonside Cairns. Ah yes, I’d forgotten about them. Unfortunately they were up there, mocking me, and I was down here, looking up. Oh well. Onward and upward.

The views from the top were astounding and set the mood for an exhilarating charge back down to Rothbury. Crossing the finish I didn’t think I’d done that well but was pleased to discover I was only a couple of minutes behind Susan, and on reflection I think I ran a better race than last week’s Hobble. Cosy chat, hot soup and Croutons washed down with a Deuchars IPA in the pub afterwards soon soothed away the cold toes.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 N Swinburn NFR 1:10:23
17 Rachel Vincent Tynedale L 1 1.41.55
27 Geoff Davis V50 1.47.05
62 Susan Davis LV40 2.08.33
65 Dougie Nisbet V45 2.10.38

75 finishers.