Race Rundown: NECAA (Royal Signals) Road Relay Championships, Hetton Country Park, 15th February 2020

I’ve never taken part in the Signals Relays before, although I know Sedgefield has quite a stong history with it. Last year, until it was postponed, there was a suggestion we might put some teams out including an over 50s veteran outfit. So it was on my radar this year (having joined that age category in the meantime) until I realised a few weeks ago that it clashed with a trip to see family in Derby. Shame, I thought when Chris Lines was recruiting, another time maybe.

Then earlier in the week leading up my trip to Derby was put off. So when Chris posted the day before that there were two spaces in the team, I became quite interested. I am not, however, in the same running league as Chris, Gary, Paul and Declan (the other team members) so I messaged him to say I’d be happy to make up the numbers to ensure we got a team out, but not offended if any of the faster lads wanted to run. Only Eric showed any interest (called himself slow on the facebook post, but quicker than me) so by teatime Chris confirmed I was in.

The race began at 1.15 so I went to marshal at parkrun beforehand (top of the hill if you remember the abuse/encouragement). This wasn’t a wholly altruistic gesture. My wife Deb had announced the day before that we were to be painting the lounge and dining room.

“Oh Deb, I’d love to help, but Ian needs me at parkrun and then the team needs me in the afternoon for the Signals Relay.”

At parkrun, I did notice that a few ‘unavailable’ fast lads were jauntily stretching their legs for two laps. Paul Weir also did parkrun and warmed up for the afternoon’s race with a gentle 20 minutes around Hardwick. Afterwards in the café I received great advice from two Signals veterans, Ray and Jane, both of whom thought it quite funny I was going to spend my afternoon with Storm Dennis running around those tough laps. The hill on each lap was made to sound like the north face of the Eiger by the end. The other runners (“it is the cream of the north east Pete”) were all unbelievably fast. I was so excited…

Deb was in full decorating mode when I called home briefly to change before going back out to pick up Eric. Eric was dressed much more for stormy weather and let me know it when he got in the car.

But then the first positive portent of the day. We parked up in Hetton-le-Hole and I managed, without any fuss, to get an electric charge for my car. I love finding a place to get a charge and I knew now that everything would be alright. I told Eric this on the short walk to the country park, on reclaimed colliery land, and the rendezvous with fellow Harriers.

Always a great day when there’s an electric charge.

Changing and toilet facilities were super, and although we’d had some serious rain earlier, we began to talk in hushed tones that maybe the conditions weren’t so bad. Very windy certainly, but not as wet as forecast. I’d agreed 4th leg in the team, running straight after Declan. Declan arrived about fifteen minutes before the start; result. The final runners of the earlier race (Women and Vet 50 men) were finishing as we began to assemble.

Eric on the lead-off leg.

With the two replacements, we were now a Vet 40 team and Eric led us off. He was followed by Gary and then Declan. I went to warm up on a side road with lots of fast lads. They were all wearing those canoe-shaped Nike shoes that make you bounce along like Buzz Aldrin on the moon. I did lots of fast-lad type side steps and stuff before heading down to the starting pen.

Flying feet Gary on leg 2.

Then I was off. Each leg is two laps around the park lake, 2.2 miles in total. I went off quite quickly but conscious of the wind and the impending Eiger, tried not blow up too quickly. Within the first few hundred metres several fast lads went past me but I wasn’t too bothered. The last of these was a guy in a Red Kite Runners top but once we were over the first hill (which really wasn’t as bad as predicted, quite hard work but not impossible) I realised that he wasn’t really stretching away.

3rd leg for Declan.

Towards the end of the first lap (and another bit of an uphill drag) I passed Karen Harland taking photos, and then our Chris doing the same. I managed a finger for them both I think. Chris also gave me some motivational news that West Brom were winning. No-one else in the park would have known the significance of this, but in our private Derby County-Nottingham Forest-local-football-rivalry world I knew this meant his beloved Forest was losing. Big of him, and it spurred me on.

Gasping for air on leg 4.

On the second lap several more fast lads came past me, but I continued to reel in one or two of my own, such that Red Kite man was almost caught on the Eiger. It’s great to have a marker when you’re racing but unfortunately he heard me and paced away on the downhill. Another wave (well tongue) to Karen on the final hill and I thought, I’m catching him again. We had about three hundred metres left. For a few strides I thought about just sitting on his shoulder but I felt good enough to give it a go. There were about ten metres between us by the time we finished, I was well chuffed. I heard Chris shout something like ‘well done Pete’, and he was off. I breathlessly thanked Red Kite man for the pacing and went off to find the others. Chris caught a few up before handing over to last man Paul who managed the same. Fast lads both.

Race face of the day for Chris on the 5th leg.

I have to say I really enjoyed it. My own performance wouldn’t have made the official race report but I ran well for me and was very pleased. Yes there were some seriously fast lads but it felt no different to cross country in that respect. The whole event was very much like the atmosphere of cross country actually, competitive, inclusive, but without the filth. I am a lousy cross country exponent; the roads around Hetton Park suited me much more. And 2.2 miles at full tilt is tiring, but it’s not even a parkrun. It was over quite quickly.

Final leg for Paul who was adamant (!) that the wind was at its strongest by this point.

Running as a team is a great experience, very bonding and it was a nice final act to call Karen over for an ‘official’ team photo. I really hope that Harriers enters a team or two again next year, I recommend it very strongly. Maybe a female and an over 50s too.

Incidentally Forest managed a late draw and later in the afternoon Derby finished even in their game too. All fair in running and football. I got home on a full electric charge and Deb stuck a roller in my hand soon after. She happily listened to my running stories as we painted together until late into the evening…


Results: a respectable 37th out of 66 in the race, and 5th out of 10 in the V40 category.


Race Rundown: Parkrunathon, 1st June 2019


This was my third Parkrunathon, having done one each in 2016 and 2017. They don’t get any easier. Previously they have been in support of Acorn Children’s Hospices and organised by George Nicholson. George is well known around the Durham sporting scene as a runner and former rugby player and rower. A really great guy, he is also one of the ever-presents in the Great North Run. I sat one place behind him on this year’s bus.

George and me at # 7 Riverside

This year, Elvet’s Catherine Smith took on the organising role and we decided to support local mental health and suicide prevention charity If U Care Share. Catherine will be familiar to many Sedgefield runners. She lives in Coxhoe and regularly runs or volunteers at Sedgefield parkrun. She did a great job.

With Catherine at the end of #5 South Shields

With mainly Elvet runners, the numbers grew in recent weeks and a coachload became an additional minibus became a fleet of cars. Via social media a group travelled up from Wakefield and at its fullest we had about 100 runners. Catherine gave me a few ‘picks’ and along came Ray as well as a Darlington (Quakers) friend Alistair plus a late call-up for Durham Harriers’ Diane Wood. Alistair bust his calf a few weeks ago so decided to do his bit by cycling the whole route instead. Diane photo-bombed our Sedgefield group at Wynyard last week; that’ll teach you!

Diane in typical photo bombing style, this time at #6 Windy Nook


Sedgefield junior parkrun

PK: 11.37              Ray: 11.16

A nice gentle jog around Hardwick lake started us off at 8.15. A marathon is 42km, so it needs this little extra to make the full distance. Steve Foreman (parkrun gaffer) was setting up around us, looking quite chilled as we all posed for initial photos.

Gaffer’s briefing


#1 Sedgefield parkrun

PK: 26.49              Ray: 26.43

What a spectacle. Runners streamed all around the lake like never seen before. 485 in total, a record by 101 I believe. Ray and I jogged around together, Steve still looking quite chilled at the end too.

A nice touch for me was that both my kids, Oliver and Grace, were on barcode scanning and managing quite well.

We posed for a few more photos afterwards and then got away on the bus. Nice to have the officially timed one of the day on home turf and I even managed a take-out coffee for us both before we left.


#2 Hartlepool parkrun

PK: 28.33              Ray: 25.40

Chatting with a Crook friend Amanda

The weather was still very nice at this point. I’ve never done Hartlepool before but know the seafront route well enough as it covers much of the same stretch as the Marina 5 Mile. I nipped into the public loos on the front, hence a slower time. Wee stops were to become a recurring theme…

Kerry-Anne (left) was one of the fabulous organisers


#3 Cotsford Fields parkrun

PK: 27.23              Ray:23.31

We didn’t have time to get a coffee from the accompanying van before we left Hartlepool, so Ray’s plan was to run this one quicker to be at the front of the queue at the end. It worked. I ran much of this one with Paul ‘Lord Smyth’ Smith. Many will know him for his running a mile a day (at least), for a decade or more and his eccentric outfits. I think he changed into red budgie-smuggler santa shorts for this one.

With Paul. Fortunately his shorts are out of shot.

Cotsford Fields is on National Trust coastal land near Horden and passes the metal sea bird sculpture on each of its two laps; beautiful on a day like we had, perhaps less so in the depths of winter. Coffee was enjoyed post run, as was some chocolate cake and away we went.

Ray got the coffee this time


#4 Sunderland parkrun

PK: 26.45              Ray: 26.39

Alistair, by now known to everyone as ‘Bike Man’ got a bit lost on his way to this one. ‘We’re at the bottom of the ski slope’ I text. ‘B********’ he replied, ‘wrong place’, but still got there on time to see us off.

Sunderland briefing

I’ve run this course on both previous Parkrunathons; it starts and finishes at the top near the ski slope and takes in two laps of the lake at Silksworth. Rain had appeared from nowhere and Ray and I had a wet run together. We had a nice chat with the Rodillian Runners of Wakefield. I needed the loo too!

We both look happy in the rain


#5 South Shields parkrun

PK: 31.05              Ray: 24.09

Ray and I also did this parkrun back in February as part of a recce morning for the Marathon Club’s Leazes event. It starts by the Sandancer pub and runs south along the coast path, almost as far as Marsden before turning back and following the road (Great North Run finish) for about a mile. Colin Robson is their run director, and just as in 2016, he joined us for the day. Before today Colin had only ever run Sedgefield parkrun once and that was GNR day in 2016 when their course was taken over. As a result of a chat that day I got a last minute place in the GNR; I digress but it shows the kinds of quirky occurrences that come as a result of running together.

Bike Man Alistair at the start of #5 South Shields

I also had to digress on the route at #5. I needed another wee badly from the start and so went down on the rocks. By the time I emerged I was well adrift of all the runners.

A bit of catching up to do…

I gradually caught up a few by the end. South Shields was also the first time I began to feel really quite stiff at the start. The Sunderland run had been quite pacey (well, for me) and the hill at the end had taken something out of my legs. By the end of #5 I knew I was certainly feeling it.

Catching up with George
Super refreshments at South Shields


#6 Windy Nook parkrun

PK: 29.00              Ray: 25.34

This is a semi-urban nature reserve in Gateshead, in the shadow of the Wrekenton cross country course. Experience told me that #6 is always the toughest, made especially so by this very hilly three lap route. The rain had stopped though and there was a full team of Windy Nook volunteers to guide us. This happened a number times throughout the day and was really welcoming and welcomed.

With Paul at Windy Nook

Keeping well hydrated I needed another wee before the start. By now Ray was inventing his own timing rules; either each one faster than the previous or under 27 minutes. Off you go mate. The route was hilly and twisty and 29 minutes doesn’t tell of how much effort I put in on this one. There was a series of steps on each lap and that was punishing.

A lovely 180 turn on a hill

Another member of our running group was Oliver’s A Level history and politics teacher, Mr Brown. I couldn’t quite manage to call him Alex. He’s a super fella and Oliver idolises him but ‘Mr B’ was as informal as I could muster. He tailed me all the way around this course and believing that he was going to pass me at any moment, I even managed to run the steps on lap 3. I finished ahead, job done Mr K.

After #6, with Mr B

Another wee stop in the nearby community centre, where they also provided us with very nice refreshments, and we were off. Just two to go.


#7 Riverside parkrun, Chester le Street

PK: 29.05              Ray: 23.28

The bus is getting quite fragrant by this point

This is normally a fast, flat course, but serious stiffness and another public toilet stop put paid to any kind of performance from me. Meanwhile Ray the machine was smashing it up somewhere near the front. I never got near enough to the front runners, but I think there was some competitiveness up there. Support from volunteers was lovely, including a nice shout out from our Aileen Henderson.

posing at the end of #7 with Colin (South Shields RD).


#8 Durham parkrun

PK: 26.00              Ray: 22.49

The home parkrun for many of our number, there was a great turnout as well as speeches before and after. Bike Man Alistair received warm applause before we started. His day had been a different challenge. Unlike for us on a sweaty coach and running together, his time was quite solitary; a great effort.

The Durham folks had also set it up as a ‘proper’ event with bar code scanning and everything. Just as well then that Ray and I got a sneaky wee in the cricket pavilion as we walked to the start.

Oooh away we go, quick start

Because of where I was standing for the briefing I was near the front for once when we started. I felt myself spring off with not too much stiffness and so I decided to run hard for the last one. Okay, so Ray and the quick guys soon came past but I was pleased to finish with a proper run. It felt quicker than 26 minutes but that’s what fatigue does to you I guess. The ‘new’ course at Durham which finishes along the river and back to the bandstand is lovely, but try as I might I couldn’t quite catch Paul Smith in his leopard skin shorts. The man is crackers, he drank a bottle of Peroni after each leg, but he can run.

Strong finish from Diane and Colin

We had a few more photos (Maggie Davison is a great photographer, and trailed us all day) and I led a few words to thank Catherine and Co. Diane even admitted after, that despite her protestations, she had really enjoyed it. I knew she would.

Parkrunathon is a great communal event and it was good to support a worthy cause. It is tiring and you do have to pace yourself a bit, but for me a normal marathon is tougher. We all hugged, shook hands and promised to do it all again soon. I hope we do.

A great day

The last hug and word went to Kerry Anne, one of Catherine’s lieutenants and run director for Cotsford Fields.

“Pete I think you should get your prostate checked out mate. I’ve never known someone have so many wees.”



Race Rundown: Druridge Bay Marathon, April 7th 2019

Here are some of my running stats:

  • Number of marathons completed ever:  4, all in 2017
  • Date of last marathon: September 2017, Hull
  • Number of times I’ve run further than half marathon distance in last 12 months: 1 (16 miles)
  • Months missed through injury in 2019: 2 (most of January and February)
  • Reason for entering Druridge Bay Marathon: Absolutely no idea

Well actually I do know why I entered, but nothing makes complete sense. I was inspired by Mike W running his first ever marathon at the Hardwick Winter Wonder in January, based on simply being in good running nick; I’ve been involved in a lot of marathon talk recently with the Manchester, London and York enthusiasts and it’s quite seductive (John H: “Camm on Pete, you’ve gotta do Yawk mayt”); I am a member of the North East Marathon Club, the clue is in the name; I didn’t take my free place at the Leas event nor was able to do the winter wonders due to injury, so I had this one for ‘free’; due to tide times at Druridge, those doing the full marathon had to set off an hour earlier than those doing the half, so I couldn’t start the half and just see if I could keep going, I had to state my aim.

But apart from being in decent running nick for me and racking up a few miles in March, I really hadn’t trained for it. I kept quiet about it, partly out of respect for those doing Manchester the proper way on the same morning, and made it to the start line.

I haven’t done Druridge Bay before, but it’s in keeping with NEMC’s events in that a number of attractive laps are repeated, four in total. Each lap was like a squiggly figure of 8, with a mid point (an interchange, enabling refreshments twice each lap). Those who have done Druridge cross country would recognise the lake to be orbited each time, but there were also really nice sections of path and closed road, all at easy gradients. The highlight of each circuit was the mile or so stretch on the beach, on hard sand with the wind behind, a lovely bay.

Conditions were chilly and damp, ideal for long distance running. After a quick briefing and ‘ready, steady go’ we were off. I can honestly say that the first two laps (half marathon) were a dream. I ran at a steady pace (just over two hours) and felt great. I made several new friends. Ryan was doing his first ever marathon, loping along in a very easy style; he lives up in Weardale, his wife works in M&S in Durham. It was only when I needed a wee at the end of the first lap that we were parted. Debbie D and her Peterlee friends were discussing HR issues at work. On lap two I caught up with David. Recently turned 50, he was training for an ultra in a couple of months’ time; should he go for a flat 47 miler or a Lakeland mountainous 32? We discussed the merits of each until I eased ahead of him on the second beach stretch.

In quieter moments I was also mentally writing my Rundown. At the halfway point it was all about how easy it was to run a marathon with no additional training. This new found revelation was despite me finding every long run difficult, ever, after about 16 miles…

There were no other Sedgefield runners in my race but I did spy Ben Smale at the interchange one time. He was doing the half, and flying along on his way to a brilliant 4th place and huge PB. Julia Atkinson-Tait was somewhere in the half field too. When I saw Ben, I bellowed a huge ‘Good luck Ben Smale!’ He told me later that he had heard and that it had really benefitted. The woman with the headphones alongside me that jumped out of her skin may have not felt so grateful. “Oh, sorry love”.

Lap 3 and I definitely started to stiffen up. I felt it first as I got onto the beach and by the end of the lap was finding it hard to keep moving. Stopping to empty my shoe of small stones was probably as much about taking a breather, but I did keep running overall.

The start of lap 4, coming back through the public area was really tough. Had it just been a more informal winter wonder type event, I would have called it a day then. I was knackered. But I kept going. A short way into lap 4, and I walked for the first time and so began the most miserable hour or so of running/walking since the closing stages of Hull, 18 months ago. The triumphant mood of an hour previous was long consigned and gradually many of the people who I had passed in the earlier stages, steadily came back past me. I was so full of self pity. I thought enviously of Chris and Ciaran doing 3000m at Middlesbrough. 3000m, now that would have been much more sensible. I began to rewrite this rundown in my head, recognising the stupidity of not training properly. I aimed for trees and puddles and any other landmarks to run (shuffle) to before walking again. I counted 100 running strides to 40 walking. My glutes said no, my pride whispered yes. The only person I had passed early on in this final lap was Noel. I only know his name through the results. His feet were killing him, he muttered. But not so much, because he stayed close for all the last 5 miles. We played slow motion cat and mouse all the way back; he catching me with a faster walk, my shuffle run slightly quicker. I never looked behind – now that would have betrayed my pretend nonchalance – but each time I heard him close I dragged myself into a jog. Once past the refreshment table (no final Haribo, I’ve had enough of those for a while!) I kept up a slow run for the last half a kilometre and thanked Noel once we’d both crossed the finish. 13 seconds separated us, he had really helped.

4 hours 31 is nothing to write home about, but neither was it a disaster. Feeling utterly fatigued I gratefully accepted both medals (yes two, one about ‘World Bamnation Weekend’. No idea what it means, neither does Google, but I deserved it). I had a photo with my lap 1 friend Ryan who also had suffered latterly and the briefest of chats with the likes of Mel, Ian and Omar from the club. I was so wrecked, that I just wanted to go home and curl up. Sitting on the boot lid of the car, wrestling with stiffness and the lining of my track bottoms, a member of the public came over and asked if I wanted some help. I must have looked that pathetic. I remember hearing myself say “Thanks, it’s okay. I’ve just run a marathon.”

The volunteer marshals were great as always: Karl & co hunkering down behind the concrete beach blocks, Andy swatting away midges for five hours, Chris on his camping chair in one corner of the park, Anna and her friend unable to take a photo because they were too cold, Christine on the refreshment table (who pointed out my bleeding nipples at about half way!). Others too. Heroes, all.

So would I recommend doing a marathon on minimal training? Absolutely not. Stupid idea. Running should be an enjoyable experience. Yet, as soon as I’d warmed up, grabbed a coffee, got a free electric charge at Stannington Services and thought about what I’d done, I realised I didn’t regret it. I’m so not a long distance runner, but I was quite pleased with myself. Marathon #5: third quickest (or slowest, if your glass is half empty).

I’m definitely not doing Yawk though John, before you ask again.

By Pete King

Results: https://www.trailoutlaws.com/tots/index.php

Race Rundown: Herrington Park Winter Wonder, 16th December 2018

This was part of the ‘Winter Wonder’ series organised by North East Marathon Club. I’ve been a member of NEMC for two years and enjoy their local, low key events. The Winter Wonders have generally been a Newcastle Town Moor fixture but this year have started to branch out to such places as Herrington and, next month, Hardwick Park. You don’t have to be a marathon runner to be a member of NEMC and the Winter Wonders are designed accordingly for runners of all distances. They tend to be multi-lap events, for participants to run as far as they wish within a six hour window. There are no finishing placings as such and sometimes runners’ own times are used as their ‘official’ time. I also like them because you get to run past the refreshment table for snacks and drinks every few miles, avoiding the need to carry your own kit.

Fellow Harriers Justin Cox and Ben Smale also took part. Justin needs no introduction. Ben is an unassuming guy from Coxhoe and a good runner (first Harrier at the Coxhoe Trail 10k the other month) and we shared a lift. Coxhoe, by the way, is a hotbed of running talent, just ask Mil Walton. Following Storm Deirdre and her freezing rain the previous day, this was a chilly but rather pleasant sunny morning for running. I chose road shoes based on the tarmac path at the start, but soon questioned that once we danced through some downhill icy slush. Despite having to stop twice to empty stones out of said shoes, it was a decent decision. Herrington Park, a colliery until 1985 with the largest spoil heap in the North East, is in the shadow of Penshaw Monument and the course was a 5km loop on good paths. There were several inclines but they served more to break up the run rather than tire out and it was an enjoyable event in good surroundings. I’m not training for anything in particular so was happy to call it a day after five laps and sixteen miles. Further ahead Ben had decided the same. He’s recently completed five marathons in five days at an event near Bolton so felt he didn’t to push himself too much. Justin lapped me on lap four, well ahead of anyone else. I happen to also know the guy in second place, Elvet’s Gareth Pritchard from Coxhoe (hotbed, I did say).

75 runners completed the event, each deciding their own distance, with 25 doing a full marathon or more. All entry monies were for charity too, raising an impressive £1,500 for Special Olympics Sunderland. For the record, I completed my five laps (16.2 miles) in 2hrs 27:40, and Ben in 2 hrs 17. I stiffened up on the last lap but was pleased overall. Justin ran 8 laps+, the full marathon distance in 3hrs 1:33; a great effort for a training run, eight minutes quicker than anyone else.

A bonus was that Herrington Park has an electric car charging station, which got me all the way home too. Result!

Full results from a very well organised event can be found at: http://www.northeastmarathonclub.co.uk/winter-wonder-runs.php

by Pete King

Race Rundown: Coxhoe Trail 10k 2018

Coxhoe Trail 10k, 23rd September 2018. A coolish but pleasant morning for racing. This run was re-established in 2014, with the original Coxhoe 10k on a different route dating back to the 1980s. The modern version was put together by local runner Iain Twaddle and our own Ean Parsons and attracts a decent number of Harriers. The course is a good one, an out and back along the old Kelloe railway line, with a loop around the plantation (‘pit heaps’) at the far end. This doesn’t really hint at the two or three taxing hills on the route, the last one a particular energy sapper, especially with another half mile still to go once back at the top before the finish. The finish area is where Coxhoe Hall used to stand (once the home of the Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning) and offers a good vantage of those struggling up the final hill. Well, I always struggle anyway.

Registration is down at Coxhoe Leisure Centre, followed by a fifteen minute walk up to the start/finish area in the woods. This year I got chatting to folks at the finish area for too long and only just got to the start in time. It meant I was right at the front and after just the briefest of intros we were away. I’ve never started a race so quickly. I dare not do anything other to avoid tripping other front runners and only eased off once we were halfway down the first hill. Turns out it was a successful tactic as normally I’m tripping over folks on this bit myself. I kept a decent pace throughout, for me, and beat my best time in five attempts at the course by a minute and a half. The organisers moved the date back three weeks this year, to avoid Tees Pride 10k, and I think the cooler morning helped too. Either way, I was pleased with my performance.

A record 200 runners completed the event this year. First Harrier was Ben Smale (a Coxhoe lad) and first female overall was Lisa Darby, a brilliant effort. A special mention also to 15 year old Daniel Avery-McAleese who finished 33rd overall in 44 minutes. Fifteen Harriers in total took part. It’s a great local event and even more next year would be super.

Full results can be found at: http://www.activelifecoxhoe.co.uk/downloads/Coxhoe%20Trail%2010k%20Results.pdf

by Pete King