Race Rundown: Gateshead Trail 10k, 10th August 2019

This was a first for me, but both Ray Carmichael and Andy Corfield have done it before and were able to convince me of its appeal. It was a very enjoyable run and one that I would like to repeat in the future. Because it takes place the same weekend as the Darlington 10k, the Harriers’ turnout was quite low (just half a dozen of us) but we all had a great time in a lovely setting.

The race is described by the organisers as “scenic, fun, fast with PB potential … (and) only a few inclines”, and some of this is true. “Inclines” is one of those words, like “undulating” which makes it sound much more benign that it really is. To my way of thinking and running, the two climbs would alone rule out any prospect of a fast time. But, to me at least, that wasn’t the point – this year I am going for scenic and this run certainly fits that description as it snakes through the Derwent Walk Country Park never far from the riverside.

Ray was kind enough to drive and to offer a lift to me and Andy, plus Rosie Warnett. Parking was free and easy and we made our way to the start/ finish area where there was plenty of entertainment, food and coffee outlets. This has become a big event now (it was a sell-out with 1600 entrants) and so a good atmosphere was already building, along with the rain clouds. It was a pleasure to meet up with Aileen Henderson and Karen Killingley, and Aileen’s partner took some great photos.

There had been some discussion about appropriate footwear and in view of the amount of recent rainfall and the likelihood of muddy patches I opted for trail shoes but to be honest you could have run in anything. Anything that can handle parkrun terrain can handle this. All the paths are good and surprisingly free of puddles.  As we made our way to the start line, the heavens opened and a good soaking appeared imminent. I was chatting to Andy at the time but he is more hardy than I am and continued on his way while I took shelter under the canopy of a burger van. There were a few other like-minded souls but the discussion about whether this warm dry area was the best place to spend the next hour or so never ventured beyond the purely hypothetical and eventually we trudged to the start. This meant that I started very near the back: didn’t matter at all as it was chip-timed, but it did mean that my first kilometre or so was very slow.

I thought that I was doing quite well until the first hill arrived when I realised that although the rain had stopped the weather remained very humid. About half way up I was passed by two women running together, one of whom said “There’s no air, is there”. At least, I think that’s what she said, although she may have been lamenting the absence of an heir or any hair. By the time I had enough breath to make enquiries to clarify this point, they had disappeared into the distance. I was soon able to pass Andy who just keeps going for mile after mile and is always very encouraging when I run out of puff towards the end of races.  Ray and Rosie, of course, were way in advance of us and I was not to see them for a long time…

The last 3K is gentle downhill and is tremendous. I will appreciate this more when I do the run again, as on this occasion I could not overcome my fear that there might be another of their famous “inclines”. But all was good; the finish line came into sight and although it is one of those runs where you appear to be at the finish and then realise you have to do another little loop round to it, I was feeling good again and able to look forward to that satisfying post-run coffee and very impressive medal.

By Mike Wood.

Race Rundown: Pier to Pier, 19th May 2019

The Pier to Pier (South Shields to Roker, around 7 miles depending how many short cuts you can take) was one of the first races I did and remains a firm favourite. OK, it’s a bit up-and down, there are a lot of people doing it so at times there are bottlenecks and you have to slow down or walk a bit (not a problem for me but maybe would annoy some…) and as it’s a point-to-point you have to work out parking and buses etc, but these are small matters compared to the many outstanding features, as follows: –

1. You can’t get lost. Find your way to South Shields beach, turn right and run, keeping the sea on your left, until you see lots of people milling about waiting for you to finish so they can go home.

2. It starts and finishes on a beach. This may not be to everyone’s taste but I love to run along a beach; at least it’s mostly flat.

3. The goody bag for this race is right up there with the very best. As an added bonus, this year it included beer. Well, it did for about 5 minutes.

4. It is always a very sociable event, as there are always a lot of friendly Harriers (is there any other kind?) around. To meet up at the start and compare anticipated times (somewhere between 1 and 1 and a half hours was the accurate prediction from the conversation I was in) and share reviews of the toilet facilities is a good start to the day, and then at the end, by the time I finish, there are always loads of the speedy types around doing their best not to look pointedly at their watches but instead providing much-needed support and encouragement.

5. They usually pick a good day. This year was no exception – plenty of sun without being TOO hot and a lighter wind than usual.

6. The refuelling opportunities post-run appear endless – this year, the call of the fish and chips from Latimer’s, washed down by a Minchella’s ice cream proved irresistible again, but I jogged back past a number of very tempting eateries and might even try something else next year.

7. I normally get to see a couple of photos of myself in which a sympathetic eye (mine) might discern a trace of athleticism. Unfortunately, the photographers this year were unable to capture this; their fault, not mine. 😊

8. The organisation and marshalling are superb.

My own personal performance was marred by my unfortunate tendency to go off too quick. This does have the advantage that I can have a chat with a number of my fellow runners as they overtake me and quickly pull away; yes, Paul Frame and Dave Round, I am thinking of you. I did also think of having a chat with Sue Dobson as she was about to pass me, but it was on the beach with only about 200 metres to go so I thought: no, I’m not having this and was able to push her into a convenient rock pool before continuing to stagger towards the finish line. My new watch I bought myself for my birthday said about 1 hour 4 minutes which is around average for me. I understand that many Harriers were able to knock minutes off their previous best and there were some cracking performances so congratulations to everyone who took part in a great morning’s entertainment.

By Mike Wood:

Full Results: https://my4.raceresult.com/108808/results#1_94D641

Even more photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/SLBv4sByU9bee2NE6