Tag Archives: Steve Ellis

Heart of Eden Half Marathon, Eden Valley, Northern Pennines, Sunday, October 21, 2018

Steve Ellis

Nestling at foot of the North Pennines, Appleby, famous for its annual horse fair, hosts this race. Described as a tough run by some reports, I was about to find out.

The journey across from Durham was fraught with two major road closures, one in Barnard Castle and the other on the A66 at Brough (which I later discovered, much to annoyance, was only to HGVs). These closures nearly sent my Sat-Nav into an apoplectic rage and decided to send me off on a very interesting detour. I ended up in a cul-de-sac in an industrial estate in Kirby Steven at one point and finally along some very, very narrow lanes. However, I arrived in good time at Apply Grammar school where the race started and finished.

It is a low-key affair organised by the local Rotary Club and at the start, there were just over 100 runners. The forecast rain had kept away, so I opted to run without a jacket.

The course is all on roads with only the first few hundred meters marshalled. After that, it’s a matter of keeping to the left!

Down the main street into town and through the other side where a sharp left turn heralds the long slog up to Dufton. The hills are never ending but gradual so it is simply a matter of heads down and dig-in. The views came into their own as I climbed ever higher. Hereabouts are some of the finest Pennine walks to be had. Cross Fell, High cup Nick, all on the Pennine Way of course.

As I approached Dufton at about eight miles, I was quite tired and looking forward to some gravitational relief! However before that came, as I turned out of Dufton, there appeared a 100m steep hill. It nearly stopped me dead in my tracks and after a short walk I lumbered up to the top.

Now began the return; a long downhill stretch back to Appleby. Well, mainly downhill with a few sharp surprises thrown in, including, at mile 11 a short 5-minute storm which threw the dead autumn leaves high into towering vortexes and the rain lashed down. Then as soon as it came, it stopped. Quite bizarre.

The finish leads you right back to the school hall where a commemorative mug filled with soup is presented to you and very welcome it was too. My time was 2hrs 9 mins (although my Garmin begged to differ) which I was ok with. The official elevation figures site 262m and I won’t argue about that. Put into context, the GNR is approx. 107m, Coxhoe trail 114m, Brass Monkey 10m and Dent 220. So, all in all, I can’t be too disappointed.

I’m not sure if I would do this again but I recommend it from the point of view that it is well organised, well marshalled and all for a good cause in a beautiful part of the country and about 80 mins from Durham, normally!

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Reeth Trail 20k, Reeth, Swaledale, Sunday, April 30, 2017


Steve Ellis

I had entered this race last February in the spirit of trying more off-road race for a change. Two weeks All-Inclusive in Mexico 3 weeks before the race, I concede, was not the best preparation! However that was not to be my only problem! The Saturday before I pulled some muscle/tendon behind my knee practicing Long Jumps! OUCH!!A visit to Mr Sleemans House of torture assured me that no lasting damage had been done but some work would be needed. Or should I say KNEADED as I was given a thorough pummeling. It worked as by Saturday I was virtually pain free. And ready.

Jan and myself assembled chez Sygrove for our early morning embarkation to Reeth . We arrived in good time for the collection of numbers and a quick cuppa. The weather was bitty. A bit cloudy, a bit sunny, a bit windy etc. perfect for running.

Jan collected our outer garments and we assembled at the start for the briefing. After wishing each other best of’s we set off. Barely 100 meters into the race mine came to a sudden ignominious stop! WHAM!!!! I ran into a way- marker sign (see photos).Knocked clean off my feet, dazed and bloodied I tried to work out what had happened. Wearing my cap and my gaze fixed firmly downwards to avoid tangling with legs didn’t help. I was escorted back to the start to be quickly assessed by the race marshal. She accepted my assurances that I was ok and allowed me to continue. She suggested I might consider only completing the 10k course if I so wished. WHAT! 10k?? In the true spirit of Yorkshire I had paid to run 20 and that’s what I intended to do! So finally I set off again with the back marker.

The route follows the river for a while before turning left and heading upwards. The ascent is about 5 miles on mainly stony/ grassy trails with a bit of tarmac. By the top legs are screaming to be set free as mostly we had jogged then walked to the top. As the terrain leveled it became possible to get going! It was now more noticeably windy but welcome too as I was now quite warm. The views of this beautiful part of England spilled out in every direction. The geometric patterns of dry-stone walls tessellating across the hillsides only broken up by the odd stone built barn or house, sturdy and defiant in this austere land. The sheer scale of it all opened out all around and I had to be careful not to become to immersed as large rocks and boulders stuck out of the grassy paths tripping the unwary.

A water stop at about 11k was very welcome with the added bonus of jelly sweets! Immediately after the path turned sharply left another 1.5k climb loomed and I thought I had finished the ups today!

The final descent was long and tiredness crept in. grassy paths were order of the day for a while with a bit of road thrown in. Just before I reached that turn I was distracted again and tripped once more. Over I went, A over T, landed on my left shoulder and knee. Ouch  again. Bruised and muddied I picked myself up once more concerned that someone may have seen me! I felt such a idiot!

The end was in sight now as I zig-zagged down the road then across a couple of fields and finally over the bridge. Here I was meat by Malc and Kath and Jan who spurred me on up the final rise to the finish! They had al been very concerned for me but were equally relieved to see me finish! At this point Kathryn revealed her injury sustained near the race start too as she was constantly looking back to see if I was coming and tripped and badly cut her knee on a rock…..then ran 20k! Also she inflicted terminal damage to a pair of those spectacular tights she is so beloved of. Sorry Kath!

Finally we assembled for refreshments at a café and to compare notes and mishaps. I was delighted to have finished this race as it had not looked likely a week before or indeed after 2 minutes of the race itself! Still we live on to fight another day and meet the challenges head on…literally in my case.   Thanks to Malc and Kath for a great day out and equally good company…always a bonus to share these experiences I find, and thoroughly commend them to anyone wanting to have a go.

We had two other striders who did very well Dave and Chris (who very unluckily missed out on a podium place by dint of a misunderstanding I believe. ) I am sure there is a lot more to come from you two and feel  sure great thing lie ahead. Fantastic running.
Full results available here.

Finish Pos First Name Last Name Club Category Finish
1 Kieran Walker Sedgefield Harriers M 01:23:14.85
4 Chris Callan Elvet Striders M 01:35:47.25
17 David Hinton Elvet Striders M 01:51:17.45
60 Kathryn Sygrove Elvet Striders FV50 02:19:25.10
61 Malcolm Sygrove Elvet Striders MV50 02:19:26.20
84 Stephen Ellis Elvet Striders MV60 02:35:29.50
95 Finishers
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Turnpike Trot 10k, Whitby, Sunday, October 23, 2016

Steve Ellis

Set in the tranquil North Yorkshire moors, a mile or two off the main Whitby road this trot was advertised as a 10k (or thereabouts) event organised by the now burgeoning brand that is Hardmoors.

We arrived in plenty of time to get our numbers and ponder the relative merits of various clothing/ footwear combos. Malcolm had chosen his normal minimalist approach as can be seen on the photos! Hardmoors..phaa. I shall bear my chest and stride them tha hills! the rest of us choosing warmer garb. Each to their own . After registration the throng began to move out of the village and up a wooded path to the starting place where the finishing tent was also placed. After the now mandatory health and safety briefing we were off! The “trot” quickly turned into a pell-mell ,helter skelter pelt down a wet and slippery bumpy grassy slope. At the bottom the path became more narrow and muddy and eventually , after crossing a heavily saw dusted wooden bridge and some likewise saw dusted wooden platforms we began the 800 meter or so climb. Now we were back to trotting. The path was very narrow and hidden gullies and pot holes were waiting to catch the unwary. Progress was slow but steady to the top where a sharp left turn took us out onto the now flat moor. The paths were grassy and full of puddles which were circumnavigated by most and gave us the chance to now turn this trot into a run. The river crossing caused a bottleneck as runners found various ways to get across. Scampering down the little ravine most hopped over on the rocks. Some just plodged through….very hardmoors! After this brief hazard we resumed our grassy zig zag puddle avoiding run. At last a sharp downhill stretch loomed into view which was very rocky and very slippery. Not for the feint hearted as a wanton approach here could prove to be painful. At the bottom a sharp left-hand turn and the path began to climb again. It dragged on for a few hundred metres then crested to reveal a long grassy slalom back to the start line. And so the second lap began. We were now joined by the 5k Rabbit runners who had just set off and the trot continued much like the first lap. The moorlands here were reflecting the changeable nature of the weather. As we looked west across the bleak hills they were at once all monochrome greys and next greens and purple as the sun broke through. Wherever you looked the cloud bursts could be seen in the distance and we knew our turn would come! Mercifully short and light downpours.

At the finish a gathering purple phalanx continued to cheer all comers to the finish tent, admirably marshalled by our own Anna Seeley. A special cheer was saved for finishing striders. Once through the tent the chat turned to the rather lovely medal we’d earned. It looked like it was made of brass inviting one particular comment, proving once again the very sage Yorkshire life view, that were there’s muck there’s brass!

Malcolm was first strider home followed by Vicky. He was still resplendent in vest and shorts and showing true Yorkshire grit. On the way back to the cars I could swear I heard him turn to Katherine and say” eee lass it were greet o’nt top of them hills today tha nos, and me barr tat an all”….well maybe not The general consensus was a good day all round and to cap it off on the way home the rain really started . Sometimes our timing is just right..

Group Photo

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The Natural Ability Fell Race, Allenheads, Sunday, October 16, 2016

AS / 6.2m / 1148ft

Steve Ellis

fell-race-oct2016At my age I should know better! Well perhaps that’s true but new challenges and experiences are always attractive. This was to be a first Fell race for both
myself and Mark (Payne). I had read that this race was suitable for inexperienced and experienced fell runners alike, requiring no special
equipment, and this had persuaded us to give it a go.

Also it was cheap (£9) and set in a beautiful part of the country, the North Pennines. Camilla was
initially to be the designated driver but had to pull out at the eleventh hour with a cold and fortunately Diane(Watson) was able to step in as we negotiated our way along the Wear valley to Allenheads.

The forecast was bleak with rain due at 11am exactly matching the race start
time! Still these things are seldom accurate and anyway with our gung-ho
attitude proudly pinned to our purple attire we arrived in good time. Parking
was easy and we picked up our numbers. The temperature had plummeted and showed
6 degrees on the cars display. We also noted how the wind had picked up and was
blowing the tree tops. Discussions now concentrated on what to wear! Mark and
Diane chose to wear tights and jackets. I had no such choice as I had only come
with shorts, a decision I came to regret and my jacket is only
shower-proof…in other words porous! Diane again came to the rescue lending me
a suitable jacket.

After a warm up run we assembled for the start at about 10;50 and right on-cue
the rain announced its arrival. Ironically the guest race starter was ex-BBC
weather lady Hannah Bayman! So at 11 exactly, we set off. The first 4k took us
along the valley tracks, lanes and bumpy fields until we reached the river
itself. So far it had been “undulating” a word often used and greatly
misunderstood by runners! In this race it had been mainly flat with a few
inclines and stiles to negotiate. However things were now to change

At about 4k we had to cross the river. It was about 8 inches deep and freezing
cold. If your feet weren’t wet so far they would be now. Then up a steep road
section which led to us crossing another road and out onto the Fells. Ohh the
glorious sight of a 1 kilometre hill now stretched out before us and into the
teeth of a gathering gale! Most runners had now slowed to a walk as they
battled against the elements and the force of gravity. I tried to jog- walk my
way to the top but it was very hard going. The heavy rain was now
machine-gunning into my face and pinging my legs.(is this putting you off I
wonder?) However the thoughts you hang on to drive you forward. For example..”
come on now, we are over half way and its only a cross-country distance and we
are nearly at the highest point!! ” etc….well…I bet you talk to yourself
too! And so I crested the hill and alighted onto another rough puddled track
and the battle with the wind really began! It felt like someone was pushing you
backwards at times as it reached 40mph. It was also at this time I noticed how
cold my legs were! I guess they were moving by default and driven by idiocy!
Still the stoic runner battled forward and soon reached the very top of the
course and began the long descent for the finish.

As I gathered pace my legs warmed up and all was well and positive. The idea of
this being a race amused me a little as thus far I had only passed people who
were walking or standing still! Just then a lady from North Shields Poly
breezed past me and soon was 50 or so metres ahead. What! I can’t have that! As
we reached the road at the bottom of the hill I tried to keep her in sight and
crossing the road we descended on to the bumpy fields and stiles again
(remember those?). I now noticed that I was gaining a little on her as she
seemed less happy on this surface. Detecting this chink I her armour I got to
within 10 metres of her as we ran down the final bit of tarmac and onto the
final field. We could now see the finish in the far corner and battle
commenced. I bound past her and finished a couple of seconds ahead. So much for
it not being a race! Just as in harrier league fixtures the race is what you
make of it.

As I finished a small reception committee greeted you with “well dones” and
pats on the back as well as a goody bag, water and a sponsors t-shirt. Amazing
for such a cheap race and even more generous when you realise the race is named
after the wonderful charity it is organised by and for. The Natural Ability
fell race supports adults with special needs in enriching their lives.
Wonderful! And the marshals. My goodness what a task on such a day! The whole
race experience was fantastic, and put my bit of whining to shame!

After trudging back to the car to change ( Mark and Diane found much more
suitable places) we reconvened in the Allenheads Hotel bar for the prizes and a
welcome sandwich soup and coffee. Perhaps none of us had troubled the prize
givers but we had won in so many other ways. I personally found the challenge
tough but it didn’t defeat me and I would certainly go back! Next time fully
equipped for all eventualities. Don’t second guess the fells and the weather!

So far this year I have been chasing the clock in my attempts to post PBs and
tick off targets and I was a little bored with it all if I am truthful. One of
the reasons I fancied this race was to get away from all that and discover new
challenges. I can honestly say I did not check my time once until well after I
had finished. In some ways it is an irrelevance as the real challenge is the
course, the elements and occasionally the chance to chase down a shirt!

The real winners anyway were the organisers and marshalls and of course the
charity. Finally, as always the company and chat on the day with fellow
Striders is always a pleasure and this was no different, so thanks to Mark and
especially Diane who drove us there and back.. my turn to drive next time…now
I wonder where that will be?

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