Race Rundown: Muddy Roads Pie and Peas 5k Trail, 18th February 2020

A few of the Tuesday night Harriers were talking about this race at training and I think it was Mark that asked if I’d entered. I hadn’t heard about it until then but signed up as soon as I got home. It was very reasonably priced, a nice short distance, local and you got your supper at the end.

Mark was the 1st Harrier I saw as I approached the entrance to Trimdon Grange Community Centre closely followed by Pete loitering outside the gents. Registration was super quick and straight forward and as I returned to Mark and Pete, the headmaster’s infamous finger wagged in my direction and decreed that I’d be doing the race rundown homework for this one. You can’t say no to sir, can you?

The start line was a 10-minute walk from registration, and I’m pleased I was with Andrew following Rosie and Fay to the start line as, even with directions, I wouldn’t have had a clue where to go. It’s been a very wet and stormy winter so as soon as we left the path onto the field the ground became very soft. Thankfully the rain held off for the night and there was a clear, moonlit sky. It was however very windy on top of the hill and bitterly cold. Everybody appeared to be huddled together like a waddle of penguins, maybe subconsciously shielding each other from the elements. I hadn’t taken part in the recce run but had been told that it was muddy in places and this was reiterated it the pre run brief.

I was close to the front at the off and I think that worked as an advantage. We careered down the sodden grassy field and through gate onto the road before a pinch point onto the trail. I guess further down the field, the tight entrance could have slowed a few runners down. It was soon after here that I remembered to start my watch. The ground wasn’t too bad here, firm with a few avoidable puddles. Three or four came past me and I passed a few too. As we left this path and turned to the right to climb a dozen or so steps I was right behind Rosie and as the trail turned left and began to climb up a hill I passed her and another guy. At the top of the climb I passed one other runner and from that point on it was a solitary run. Other than the helpful marshals and the odd glimpse of a head torch in the distance I was alone. The trail became much more slippery as we entered the first section of woods. It twisted and turned through the trees and my stride shortened considerably as the soles of my trail shoes struggled for grip. My senses were on high alert and I was placing my feet carefully as I could, only being able to see the square meter in front of me lit by my torch. At the same time trying not to slide over, crash into the undergrowth and follow the painted arrows. I made it out of the first section of woods, crossed the road to the start of the second section and the ground became even more claggy. My toe struck what felt like a tree stump and I stumbled down onto one knee and slid a little but managed to get straight back up and carry on. I’m sure I won’t have been the only one to take a tumble.

I also almost took a tumble where the route ran alongside a ditch. The ditch was on the left then there was a crossover point which put the ditch on the right somehow. This crossing disorientated me and I almost toppled in. The course made its way back down to the start finish field, weaving through more trees and more mud and I sensed that somebody was closing in on me. As I passed the last marshal entering the field, I hadn’t heard their instruction and carried on straight into the darkness before hearing their shout to go right. This allowed the guy behind me to close the gap further but I had enough left in my legs to hold him off over the finish line. Mil, Declan, Ray and David Bentley were already finished, David clutching his prize for 2nd place and Rosie was very close behind me with her 3rd woman prize so it was a great night of performances from the Harriers.

Back at the community centre the pie and peas were being served up. Again, being at the front was an advantage as there was an ever-growing queue for the delicious, warming and welcome supper. All those waiting in line looked happy and despite the treacherous conditions seemed to have really enjoyed the different challenge a head torch lit night trail race offered. A tough but thoroughly enjoyable, inclusive and sociable event.

By Sam Rudd

Results: http://trailraces.co.uk/results.php?event=29

Race Rundown: Bamburgh 10k, 2nd June

I booked up for this race and Marie quickly decided it would be a good idea for us to ditch the kids at the in-laws and have a nice night away together. As race day approached I wasn’t too optimistic about how I might perform but was looking forward to a night away none the less.

Sunday 26th May

Took part in the Whitsun woodland trail run, although relatively pleased with my time there I found it a real effort and had to use every last drop of energy to cross the line without a flourish.

Tuesday 28th May

Felt awful at Harriers training session. Lost all energy after 2 hill reps and only about 5 minutes in. My feet felt like lumps of lead, my lungs couldn’t grasp the air I was asking them for and I felt dizzy at the top of each hill having to stop a couple of times until the stars stopped floating around in my vision.

Saturday 1st June

0900 – Harriers time trial, 1st kilometre was ok then, as on Tuesday, my body wasn’t as willing as my attitude to run fast.

1400 – Visiting family had left after a visit for lunch so it was time to pack our overnight bags. Realising that none of my current running shorts had made it through the wash I had to dig to the bottom of the wardrobe for an old pair which had no elastic left and a bust zip on the pocket.

1600 – Drop the kids off and set off for Bamburgh.

1730 – Arrived at The Mizen Head hotel and checked in to a lovely room with a view of the castle over the rooftop (if you were over 6 foot tall) and the sea in the distance.

1900 – We went out for our tea at The Lord Crew hotel down the road. I had a very tasty chicken, chilli and chorizo linguini, Marie chose a burger, we filled up with a dessert each then we had a wander down the road to suss out where the event start was.

2030 – Heading back to the hotel and out of the blue I had the sudden realisation that I’d left my running shoes at home! I’d completely forgotten to pack them. We quickly thought through all possibilities of how I might get hold of them. My brother was planning on coming to spectate so if he set off earlier he could pick up our spare house key from the in-laws, collect them and drop them off. No, that was asking too much of him so we ruled that out. I could set off home to pick them up but it would be a 3 hour round trip, meaning I’d not be back at the hotel until too late so ruled that out too. I resigned myself to the fact that I’d have to run in the casual trainers I was wearing.

2230 – Lights out for an early night and a lie in in the morning so I might wake feeling revitalised after a kid free night’s sleep.

Sunday 2nd June

0515 – No lie in then.

0800 – We’re 1st in the queue for breakfast as I’m feeling anxious about the timings for the morning. An hour and a half to have breakfast, get ready and packed up, check out and walk a mile to the start. I should learn to be more relaxed as we made it to the registration 20 minutes before the start.

0920 – I believe the race used to start up at the castle but this year the start and finish was at a non-descript car park about half a mile down the road. I didn’t feel too optimistic about having a great race, with a poor week of running leading up to this, the wrong shorts, the wrong shoes, a poor night’s sleep and being all flustered getting there so placed myself towards the front of the middle of the pack, expecting to finish anywhere between 50 minutes to an hour.

0930 – The race began with a 3/4 lap of the car park before heading back towards the village on the main road. The 1st 100m was a bit of a shuffle but it opened up and I found myself in plenty of space to get going. I kept to the right of the pack, ducking back onto the left hand side of the road as traffic headed towards us on the open roads as we approached the imposing Bamburgh castle. The only hill was from the start and through the village and as I reached the left turn at The Victoria pub onto the back straight country lane section of the course I felt surprisingly good. It felt like my feet were gliding across the ground, my legs felt light and free and my breathing was steady and rhythmic, in sync with every 4 strides. The course was as described, undulating, but it didn’t seem to break my rhythm on the inclines and the last kilometre was a downward incline so I managed to finish with a sprint.

I crossed the line, stopped my watch and checked the time, 44:38!! A new PB for me by a whopping 3 minutes! Unbelievable! To paraphrase Sir Alex Ferguson, “running, bloody hell”.

Race results – https://runnation.co.uk/results/bamburgh10k2019

By Sam Rudd.

Race Rundown: Forestry 100 running series – Hamsterley 10k – 7th April 2019

I entered this race earlier in the year not really knowing what to expect. I spent a lot of time there as a child so was well aware of the multi-terrain possibilities of the course. My fear after entering was that it was all going to be off road, uphill, through mud and over tree roots (some people’s cup of tea but I’ve done my share of Tough Mudders).

The weather forecast the night before was for drizzle and the met office wasn’t wrong. I arrived in good time for the start of the race so had a little walk from the parking area to the start line to see what was going on. It was all very subdued, a hand full of people milling around, the registration tent, the finish line and a solitary burger van, the only sound was that of a nearby stream and the van’s generator. I headed back to the car to keep warm, pin my number to my top and take on a few sips of water.

15 minutes to start and I ventured out of the car towards the start. Steve Cram had followed me up the road to the start line and offered a courteous “good morning.” There were a few more people there now and a bit more of an atmosphere was building. I had a little jog out of the back to the finish line to warm up then we were soon called to the start. Steve Cram started the race with a speech about the important work of Forestry England and the benefit of physical activity in these areas. He was supposed to be running but claimed he’d sustained a hamstring injury in training earlier in the week (I think he probably didn’t feel he was being paid enough to run back up the hill that we had to drive down to get to the start).

The race was under way, I made a very steady start as I knew from the run route signs on my way in that after the 200m flat to the first bend it was going to be a steep climb for at least a few hundred metres. Luckily for me the route was all forest track so solid under foot but there was no sight of the top of the hill as we passed the car entry road. A dozen or so runners, obviously more adept at running up hills, passed me on the way up. We reached the 1k marker and were still climbing. First mile passed in 9:07 mins of quad burning pain and 255 feet of ascent but soon after it levelled out a little, the damp mist and drizzle had subsided and the trees cleared to reveal a view of the forest below. It was a very scenic panorama of the valley below, the evergreen treetops and Weardale in the distance.

Another 194 feet of ascent through the 8:22 2nd mile and 176 feet up in the 8:44 3rd mile had my legs screaming for some downhill at the half way point. Soon after passing the 5k marker, which the drinks marshal had enthusiastically claimed “was just around the corner,” but was in fact around the corner, down a dip, up the other side of the dip and around another bend on the top of another rise, the descent began. My legs loosened up surprisingly quickly and the miles passed by quickly as the route meandered through the trees back down to the finish line. My legs were more adept at running downhill and flat than those who passed me going up as I steadily re-passed the dozen or so runners that passed me on the way up on the sprint to the finish, (7:16, 7:11 and 6:42 for miles 4, 5 and 6 respectively and a 1:20 ¼ mile sprint to the finish). I crossed the line in 48:56 which I was more that happy with especially considering the punishing nature of the first half of the race. Mr Cram was handing out the wooden finisher medals and the “well dones” at the finish and I helped myself to a cup of water and a Jaffa Cake from the refreshment table while I caught my breath and watched a number of other runners finishing the course.

I thoroughly enjoyed this race, the sense of achievement in not giving in on the inclines, the interesting surroundings and tranquil, traffic free route made it different from the races I usually enter and I’d sign up to enter again next year (with a little more hill training under my belt).




by Sam Rudd.