Race Rundown: Hartlepool Marina 5M, 10th April 2022

Trigger warning: 1610 words

I’ve always enjoyed the taking part but I’ve never been very good at the winning. That’s okay though, because it’s the taking part that counts isn’t it? Obviously, in every race there’s only one winner and for most of us, even the better runners in the club, the chance to actually win doesn’t come along that often. Which is why I like the Grand Prix. Of course, I’m biased because I administer it, but I think it’s great for encouraging a bit of friendly competition and opening up the possibility of winning something meaningful for those of us who wouldn’t otherwise.

So, let me get this out of the way before I say anything else. Graham Darby is a sound guy. I really like him. He’s a good family man, always tries hard at training and he’s got a good sense of humour, which is lucky for him as he’s also a Sunderland fan. But this year is the year I decided I’m going to win. And he’s standing between me and my prestigious Division 4 title. Next race: Hartlepool Marina 5M.

I needed a plan. So I came up with a plan. It didn’t have a name at the time, but for historical reference I’ll call it “Plan A”.

“Plan A” involved running every other day and gradually increasing my distance until I was running 10k comfortably. For reasons I don’t want to go into, but not limited to the fact that I don’t really like running, I’ve not run more than 5k for about 3 years. Rather than get straight into it, I thought I’d alternate my longer runs with 5k runs. And wishing to avoid over-reaching and risking injury, I started out with a 5k run at what I quaintly call “race pace”. This was followed a couple of days later by a 6.5k slog. It felt good; I didn’t have to slow down that much and there was little to no reaction from my legs. Now Graham and I are friends (or whatever the Strava term is) on Strava and I didn’t want him to see me upping my training regime so I altered the visibility settings on my run and let out an evil plan laugh. While I was there, I thought I’d have a neb at what he’d been up to training-wise.

Since the start of the year he’d amassed 293.9km. I’d done 166.6km. Now, I am a computer programmer by trade so I have a logical mind, but I appreciate not everyone will be able to keep up with the complex maths involved so please take it on trust when I say that’s what we in the business call “almost twice as much”. This posed a threat to The Plan. The opposition had almost twice as many miles in his legs. I’d have to run a marathon every other day to catch up, which was clearly neither feasible nor indeed desirable. My plan needed to include a strategy.

I have two strategies when it comes to running – go out with the fast boys and girls and try and hold on for as long as possible or sit in the slipstream and pull out my lightning fast sprint finish when the time comes. While the first strategy has worked for several of my parkrun PBs, it’s something of a blunt instrument and I wasn’t convinced that leaving myself 5-6km of the holding on part was going to work. So at 0900 hours on 12 March, I tried sitting behind Graham at Sedgefield parkrun and testing my sophisticated “sitting in the slipstream” strategy. It worked! Although I didn’t execute the lightning fast sprint finish phase, I was comfortably within distance had I wanted to be. But I didn’t want to show my cards, so I hung back.

At 0900 hours on 19 March, I repeated the experiment, but this time I stayed a little closer. This was definitely doable. But I was running close to threshold and I got the impression that Graham wasn’t.

As race day approached, I noted with alarm that I’d never fully realised “Plan A”. Strava espionage revealed that Graham had run some mad 20M race around Kielder the week before. Did this mean that his legs would be shot or did it mean that he’d be looking at a 5M race the way I’d look at a 1km race? I was about to find out.

A swarm of Harriers

It was almost perfect running weather as we pulled in to the Mecca Bingo car park. (Those are words I never thought I’d write.) The collective noun for harriers is a swarm and there was a small swarm of Harriers on the other side of the bingo hall where the numbers were being handed out. I got mine (87 – or one fat lady doing karaoke), pinned my radio tags on my shorts and got my mum (Alda) to pin the number on my shirt. Harriers swarmed in and out of frame as the team photo was being taken. I wish I looked as happy in end of race photos as I do in pre-race photos, but it’s never going to happen. Even in this one, you can see I’m not quite fully committed to the smiling as part of my brain is trying to formulate a new plan.

After what seemed like a long time standing around (my sciatica was killing me), we were marshalled into the starting pen. I lined up right behind Graham (mwah-ha-ha!) and waited for the starting gun. When it came, everyone in front of me ran off at the same keen-o pace. My speedometer was clocking 5 minutes per km, which is way too fast me. I thought it would be way too fast for Graham too, so I watched him disappear into the distance and hoped that the tortoise might beat the hare. “Plan B” was set in motion.

How it started

After about 3km, it was clear that “Plan B” was not cutting the mustard. Graham was too far in front and while I was reasonably comfortable, I was running at a fast parkrun pace and the lack of miles in my legs augured ill for my chances of keeping it up. I engaged evil plan laugh mode and instigated “Plan C”. This was as dastardly as a dastardly thing with a side order of dastard sauce. The following facts were true:

    • The turnaround was coming up
    • Graham knew I was in the race and behind him
    • Graham was probably running towards the top end of his ability too

The evil plan conclusion to this was as follows – as soon as I saw Graham turn around, I would slow to a walk and start hobbling. Graham would see me, be lulled into a false sense of security and slow to a jog, leaving himself vulnerable to my lightning fast sprint finish. Mwah-ha-ha-haaaaa!

What actually happened was this – Graham either didn’t notice or didn’t care and continued at his accustomed pace. I meanwhile, having lost momentum in feigning injury, struggled to get back into my stride and went from running near my threshold to running like a little old man and being overtaken by several little old ladies as I slowed to a waddle.

Graham was now a distant dot, so I recalibrated my expectations. “Plan D” was to beat my PB, which I knew was about 48 something. But 48min divided by 8km (sorry about the maths again) is 6 min/km which is the pace I was doing on the way out, rather than on the way back.

“Plan E” was to catch up and overtake the little old lady that had gone past me around about the time “Plan C” came off the rails. But I’d lost heart as well as momentum and I had an attack of the walkies. Little old lady was now also a dot.

How it ended

“Plan F” was merely to waddle to the finish line and test whether, had I actually been able to keep up with Graham until the last, I would have been able to execute the lightning fast sprint finish. The results were inconclusive. I think I probably would have done, but going over my heart rate limit wasn’t worth it without the possibility of a meaningful victory, so I held off until the final 300 yards or so and only then gave it the beans.

A kindly marshall undid my radio tags and I waddled over to join the rest of the swarm and congratulate Graham on a race well run. I also wanted to find out the result of the Raine v Letts battle at the front. A victory for the middle aged, although I’m very sure it won’t be long before Rory is beasting the longer distances as well as the 5k.

The Marina 5M is one of my two favourite races, the other being the Old Monks. (Well done Burn Road Harriers.) I like it because it’s almost entirely flat but also because I can wave and shout encouragement at my fellow Harriers as they pass me on their way back to the finish line. Graham told me later that the shouting had helped give my position away. Evil plan laugh guy is a little embarrassed about the whole thing but I won’t let it inhibit my enjoyment next time.

And so, on to the next race, which I think I have free rein on, unless someone else steps up from Division 4. They say it’s a marathon not a sprint, which is a shame because I’m much better at sprinting. Let’s see what lies ahead. Maybe I’ll even try doing some more of that running thing.

Not all plans come together…

Club Dinner 2016

For the second year running, the Annual Dinner was held at Hardwick Hall Hotel. After dinner, Tracy Brown and Steve Foreman reminded the assembled guests about FoSH and the ways in which we could all help before conducting a fun game of heads or tails. Together with an auction for a pair of hand-crafted medal hangers generously donated by Ray Carmichael, £120 was raised for FoSH. Star of the night was Lisa Darby who added 4 trophies to her already bulging cabinet: Newcomer of the Year, Runner of the Year, Time Trial winner and Divison 1 Grand Prix winner. Justin Coxtook Performance of the Year for his superb York marathon and qualifying for England. For her astonishing return to sprinting, Frances Barlow took Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Supporter of the Year was won by Ray Carmichaelfor supporting other athletes despite being a very active competitor himself. Ray also won the Division 1 Grand Prix. For her fantastic work with the beginners’ groups and for her all round enthusiasm and generosity, Sheree Lyons was chosen by the committee as Volunteer of the Year. Club Member of the Year was awarded to Tracy Brown for her hard work behind the scenes with the minis and minors and her work with FoSH and co-organising the Serpentine race. The Grand Prix winners were: Division One – Ray Carmichael (men) and Lisa Darby (women); Division Two – Helen Letts(women) and David Round (men). Kieran Walker was the fastest man in the Time Trial and Lisa Darby took the women’s title.


Club Dinner 2015

A celebration of the first ten years of the club was held at Hardwick Hall Hotel. Archie Jenkins, secretary of NECAA was invited to speak and gave an enthusiastic assessment of all the club had achieved before proceeding to present the awards. Deb Pennick took Newcomer of the Year award after making strong improvements and representing the club in many races. Individual Performance of the Year was awarded to Gary Thwaites for his astonishing year of marathons which saw him complete his 50th marathon. Gary also took Club Runner of the Year. Track and Field Athlete was presented to James Oldfield for “having a go” at track and field and taking the club steeplechase and javelin records in the process. Kev Archbold took Supporter of the Year for his many hours of coaching and behind the scenes work. The committee chose Helen Letts as Volunteer of the Year. Helen gives up a lot of time to support the juniors as well as being actively involved in the beginners group and helping co-ordinate coaches and the club’s accreditations. Club Member of the Year was taken by Ean Parsons, in this the anniversary year, having previously ruled himself out of the voting. As it was the tenth anniversary of the club, two further awards were made: Club Runner of the First Ten Years of the Club was awarded to Ean Parsons. Club Member of the First Ten Years of the Club was award to Marie Walker. Additionally, the club presented three bespoke trophies made by Ray Carmichael to say #THX to three people who have been instrumental in building it to what it is today: Marie Walker, Scott Hydon and founder and chair for the first ten years, Ean Parsons. The grand prix winners were: Division One – Paul Weir (men) and Tracy Glaister (women); Division Two – Paul Glaister (men) and Deb Pennick (women). The Time Trial winners were James Oldfield (men) and Tracy Henderson (women).

The club also received a video message from Steve Cram and Daley Thompson congratulating the club on its first ten years.

We also paid our respects to Vicki Wetherspooon who was taken from us during the year.


Club Dinner 2014

The club Annual Dinner and Awards night was held at the Parish Hall in Sedgefield on Friday 14th November with guest speaker Alan Bell.  Chief International starter, Alan Bell describes himself as ‘I’m not famous but when I speak the world listens’.  He regaled the Harriers and their partners and guests with anecdotes form his long and illustrious career as an international athletics official including disqualifying Usain Bolt in the World Championships 100m final and about his unforgettable experiences at London 2012.  The evening was one of celebration for Sedgefield Harriers at which awards were made for performance and contribution to the club.  Paul Glaister was named as Supporter of the Year for supporting his daughters and his wife at competitions; James Oldfield was voted as Newcomer of the Year for his fantastic performances since joining the club; Jane Spink, Track and Field Athlete of the Year for competing in Javelin; Tracy Brown was voted by the club committee as Volunteer of the Year for all the work she does coaching juniors and in support of many club activities; Paula Warwick was voted by members as Club Member of the Year for competing and her contribution to the club generally; pride of place went to David Sawyer who was voted both Performance of the Year and Runner of the Year for his fantastic achievement of competing in 5 marathons, 5 half-marathons, 5 10k’s and 5 5k’s and if that wasn’t enough, running 98 miles between Sedgefield and Bamburgh on the last weekend of his challenge to race in the Castles Half Marathon – all in aid of Breast Cancer Research.  Christine Hearmon and Paul Weir received the annual club Grand Prix trophies and Abie Hearmon and James Oldfield were winners of the annual time trial trophies. There was a fantastic raffle and half the proceeds went to the club and half to Marie Curie Nursing Care, the clubs’ adopted charity for the next twelve months in memory of Club Secretary Gail Bell who sadly recently lost her personal battle with cancer.


Club Dinner 2013

The club dinner of 2013 was held in Sedgefield Parish Hall with guests Peter Barron , Editor of the Northern Echo, Mel Carr, Mayor of Sedgefield and John Stacey, England Athletics who all said a few words in praise of the club and made two awards each.  The award winners were; Marie Walker, Club Member of the Year (for the thrid time); Gary Thwaites, Club Runner of the Year; Kevin Archbold, Volunteer of the Year; Matthew Jones, Individual Athletic Performance of the Year; David Round, Newcomer of the Year; Alan Tait, Supporter of the Year.  The club also made a special presentation to Club Chair and Founder Ean Parsons in recognition of his on-going contribution to the the club.  There was a record list of nominations for awards and of votes cast; a list of the nominations is below.


Club Dinner 2012

The 2012 dinner was held on Thursday 29 November at Sedgefield Racecourse. Guest speaker was Olympian Alison Curbishley who talked about her experience the 2012 London Olympics. Funds were raised for the club as well as Alison’s partner Steve Cram’s charity, COCO. Club member of the year went to Jane Spink, Runner of the Year was Diane Baines and Volunteer of the Year was Tim Dredge.

Club Dinner 2011

Our club dinner in 2011 was held at the Hardwick Arms in Sedgefield.  Guest speaker was Olympic Marathon Bronze Medallist and current English marathon record holder, Charlie Spedding who comes originally from Ferryhill.  Charlie provided us with a mementous evening and made awards to Diane Baines for Club Member of the Year and Volunteer of the Year and to Jason ‘Ferryhill Flyer’ Catterall for Club Runner of the Year.