Race Rundown: Red Kite Trail Race, 10th July 2022

Derwent Valley Trail Race (8 miler)

Sunday 10th July 10.00 am start

Club: Derwent Valley Trail Runners

Location: Dipton Jubilee Centre

Diary notes…

Saturday 9th July. My best mate’s 50th birthday for beer and BBQ.

Sunday 10th July. Derwent Valley 8 Mile Trail Race.

Could the two events be completed without compromise? I seriously wanted to do both!

I am normally awake early on Sunday mornings for our Sunday Social, and my routine was no different. I was feeling a little fuzzy from a good few beers, burgers and sausages the day before, but all was good. Am I going over to Derwent Valley I asked myself? Damn right. It was 7.30am, the glorious sunshine and heat was already a given for the morning ahead as I supped on my coffee outside. I sorted my running gear and drinks belt out and got changed into my Sedgefield Harriers colours.

The drive over takes about 30 minutes, through Durham and Lanchester following the A691, winding your way up and across to Dipton, where the race is held. The views as I approached Dipton were stunning to the north and you could see for absolutely miles. In fact I could see scarily “down” for miles too. I parked up and made my way to Dipton Jubilee Centre, where I bumped into Sam Rudd and Karen Killingley. Both in good spirits we briefly chatted before I headed into the hall for race registration. I grabbed my number and pins and whilst I took in the breath-taking views across the valley, clocked a route map on the table. A quick study and the realisation hit home. Those stunning views right across and down the valley were only telling half the story…as I would eventually find out!

As we made our way to the village centre green on the Front Street, we were given our race briefing with some friendly welcome advice and safety info. I had a quiet laugh to myself inside, as the guy kept saying everything would be “aal reeet” at the end, I guess he was only too familiar with what lay ahead. And that was it, the whistle went and we were off.

I was on the front line of about a dozen runners and we headed along the street for 100 yards or so, and took a sharp right after the church onto the public foot-path. Straight down from here at quite a pace, this turned into a bumpy farmer’s track, a mixture of gravel and concrete towards Pontop Hall, passing a few runners. Bearing left at the bottom, it was uphill to the left side of a field, with a crest at the top to catch your breath, then another fast-paced 1km run down through the forestry track all the way to the bottom. “Wow this is brilliant I was thinking”, as I continued to snake along the track at the bottom, and then navigate the second climb. However, I knew then, that I was so far down the valley and Dipton was so far up the hill that this was going to be a really tough slog, and not to get carried away! Two runners were ahead of me from Washington #1 and Derwentside #2, and over the next few km, I kept pace with them, conscious of how bloody warm it was (understatement!). I passed #1 leading down to Southfield Farm, with my sights clocked on number two. As we entered the next field it was another long slow climb and I managed to sneak ahead of runner #2 with some great encouragement for us both from a family nearby (with two very cute dogs!).

At the end of the next track we entered the woods again, and the marshal kindly pointing out the logs and branches, as well as the stream and steep steps ahead. This was a superb technical section, but you really had to have your eyes open as it was so dark in places, otherwise you could come a cropper.

We exited the woods and onto the next section of tracks and woodland before heading over some glorious fields, over a stile and passing through Loft, a sharp hair-pin (photo opportunity) and then past Lintz Hall Farm. From this point on it was a gradual up-hill climb on a narrow road / track. I remember asking a marshal who was taking photos at the gate “What’s it looking like ahead?” To which he replied… “Don’t worry it doesn’t get any easier”. I took comfort from that to be honest. Why worry? My legs were really feeling it now though, with my watch buzzing on 9km. I just kept telling myself to dig deep. Some sections were slow, steep and undulating, so I changed my approach to big walking strides to try and gather some energy and collect my thoughts.

Taking a right turn at a farm crossing, the next section started to level off a touch now, as we made our way along the farm road, through the fields and meadows and across the stiles towards Upper Lintz. Ahead of me were a further two runners, Derwent Valley #3 and Derwentside #4. Could I catch them? Or better still could I make the top 10? I managed to open up the throttle a little and in time caught #3, but #4 was pulling away. A Blaydon Harrier #5 must have taken a wrong turn as I passed him with one final field on the cards, then it was a sharp right turn and steep grassy hill up into Dipton. I was struggling here (big strides needed again) but #3 was getting closer. One last stile and I could see the small crowd, and on to the tarmac I went, but as we got to the last right hander on Front Street, #3 was on my heels. “It’s all yours” I said, “take it away mate”. I had nothing left in the tank other than to bring it home.

I crossed the line just short of 1 hour and 1 minute, and collapsed on my knees. The heat was just unreal. I was jiggered. That was brutal. We all we congratulated each other, as I took in plenty of water. All done I thought…or was it? I heard a voice mention cupcakes. Damn right! And bloody lovely it was too.

I managed to pull myself together and waited for fellow Harrier Sam Rudd to cross the line. Another sterling effort by Sam in 1 hour and 29 minutes, as we congratulated each other and reflected on the race. An excellent run by Karen also.

Did I make the top 10? News came through on social media, that I had claimed 7th. I was absolutely chuffed. My smile was bigger than the Valley itself!!

Pete asked me for a Race Rundown, and I can honestly say the course ranks as one of the best trail races I have completed. Very similar to Old Monks but over 3km longer. It has everything. Derwent Valley put on a brilliant morning and this was a Covid re-scheduled race from 2020. Entry is £8 affiliated £10 unaffiliated, and you can’t beat it. The silhouette t-shirt is a superb souvenir also.

With more and more races coming up, I would honestly put this one in your diary for 2023. It really does deserve more entries, so I hope to see more Harriers there next year!

Thanks for reading

Mil Walton.

Race Rundown: Willow Miner Trail Race, 10th July 2019

Club: Organised by Elvet Striders

Distance 5.3 miles

The Willow Miner Trail run is organised by our local running neighbours Elvet Striders, and is a “must” race I have been wanting to do for a few years now, but have always left it too late to register! Not this year though…

This year’s entry fee was £7, and I was eager to taste the much-talked about buffet that would follow the race. Then at registration stage, I read the small print, there would be no buffet this year! Oh no, in Dave Walkers words: “it’s an unbelievable spread”…and this amazing supper had vanished in the blink of an eye. I had to read it again and again, even making the screen bigger. Not all was lost though, as a set meal of chilli con carne was on offer. Never mind I thought, I had to book and that was it.

The race terrain itself is a mix of woodland walks, field edges, grass paths, river banks, bridges and steps with a series of hard climbs and fast descents. Starting at the Houghall College sports field and running through Great High Wood to the south west, and on to Low Burnhall Woodland Trust, where the aptly named Willow Miner sits, you will loop back on yourself, twisting and winding home to the start / finish line, taking in all of the above features in one form or another – reaching the 5.3 mile race distance (approx. 8.4km).

With plenty of high grass, trees and branches to the sides, many of the grass paths towards the Willow Miner can be single file in places, so choosing that moment to pass (if you fancy it) can be tricky. Get it right though, and you’re away. There was a fantastic number of local family and friends supporting the runners and clubs on the night, and well marshalled across much of the course, all offering plenty of encouragement, well wishes and direction. Parking is very easy, with hundreds of spaces available to the rear of the Houghall College or opposite the main road at the Durham University Maiden Castle car park. Registration was easy too, simply follow the signs on the night to the old gym hall at the rear of the Houghall College.

The blue and white club vests were donned this year by Tracy Henderson, Rosie Warnett, Chris Hearmon, Marie and Dave Walker, Andy Featherstone and myself. This year I was a little worried that my race plans could be abandoned by a stiff neck 48 hours before race day, and was feeling pretty rubbish. Would a quick phone call to Neil at PPPT be successful? (More on that later). I persevered with Nurofen and my friend Deep Heat, as I was determined to go out and enjoy it at the very least.

Setting off from Coxhoe in plenty of time, I headed for Shincliffe, passing Tracy Henderson at Bowburn’s Jet Garage (she looked in the zone with her backpack), not realising she was en route to the event herself!

With parking and registration sorted I bumped into a few other Harriers and we headed out to the starting field. Then I got the urge, and a quick toilet stop was needed. No lock on the door. No lights…Well, as all ofus runners know, when you need to go, you need to go.

We all met in the start / finish field and headed over to the start line, where three gentlemen from Elvet Striders had gathered to say a few pre-race words. One Strider in particular, touched us all with his personal brain tumour journey and a moment to reflect. It certainly gave me a lump in my throat.

The start gun went, and we were off, and within a few hundred yards it was out of the field, up the steps and on to the Great High Wood paths, snaking through the various up and downs, and out at the top.  Dave Walker was a familiar partner in crime, and I was hot on his heels as we picked off various runners. Sadly, at 4k, a stitch was knocking on the door, and even though I tried to run it off, it wasn’t going to go away.

Never mind, “keep it going” I said to myself as we weaved around the tight single file river embankments, opening-up to the last big climb (or so I thought). I passed a Blaydon Harrier at the top and kept pressing, skirting around the edges of the fields, THEN it was the last big climb up a steep stepped hill (catching my breath with a brisk walk), and along the edge of the field footpath. This was familiar territory, as I headed down the steps (a reverse of the first kilometre) and back on to the woodland path again. Head down, weaving through the woods, I popped out at the end, down the steps and sprinted for the finish line (proper big strides too). DW was giving the big thumbs up…around the dog leg, and finish line in sight.

‘Proper big strides too’

Done. That was it. Hands on knees……water, water, I needed water.

I headed back up to the dog-leg corner and joined DW, as we congratulated each other, clapping and cheering our Harriers home. And then they hit us (no, not our Harriers). Bloody midges. Millions of them. It was so muggy and humid, the little buggers were everywhere…so we made a quick exit and headed to the finish line to cheer on. Marie was on another flyer too…was it those midges?!

It was at that point, I had that lightbulb moment! Neil from PPPT had his treatment table at the refreshment tent, so I headed over for 10 minutes of torture (nice torture though…god it was worth it)

Always good craic with Neil (no pun intended of course). But my neck needed it, and I instantly started to feel some relief. Barely off the table, the voices were calling me “Mil, Mil over here” – team photo time!!

Remembering that Tracy had run to the event, it was only fitting that she was given a lift home to Coxhoe after a great Harrier turn-out. Well done everyone. A great evening of running on a tricky and testing course on a very warm and muggy night.

On reflection:

A fantastic local race that seems to creep under the radar, and yet offers so much more, with plenty of excitement, local grass roots club participation and friendly rivalry on the night. It’s on your doorstep and offers similar terrain to what we are used to at the Harriers. At 8.4k it is also a great half-way distance (almost in the middle of a 5k and 10k). It reminds me a little bit of The Handicap (but without the handicap if you know what I mean) in that you can push the pace if you want too, but you might also get caught from behind as well, on the twisty narrow sections between the long grass and bushes. A little bit like one of our older Thursday night training sessions I guess – are you the rabbit, or are you the greyhound? It certainly keeps you on your toes. Not sure if the buffet will return in future years, but I am sure the chilli was just as good.

Put it on your race list for next year. An absolute must!


Results: https://racebest.com/results/973cw

The Angus Tait Hexhamshire Hobble 25th Anniversary 02/12/2018

10.5m Fell Race Organised by Allen Valley Striders

Sunday was race day. Coxhoe had been grey, wet and windy all week and waking up on Sunday morning it didn’t look any better, as I waited for my fellow harriers Dave Walker and Mark Raine to arrive. We set off at 9am for the one-hour drive to Allendale, via the A1 and A69. Knowing it could be a different world up there, we didn’t know what to expect as we drove through plenty of drizzle, low fog and really poor visibility on the B6295 from Hexham to Allendale. However once we drove through the village of Catton the weather cleared up almost instantly and we could see Allendale and the miles of hills – which brought much relief and smiles all round.

Registration was at Allendale Primary School Sports Hall, which was quick and effortless for the mandatory kit check (full waterproofs, whistle, compass, map and food bars). In return we were given a rather cool 25th Anniversary buff. Just the job.

This left us with about 45 minutes to spare with an 11am start, so essential toilet trips and running gear / kit bag options were deployed. Once all sorted, we chatted with a few runners and then entered the school for our race brief, fair itching to get out.

So, a bit about the Hobble. It is named after the late Angus Tait, a local runner who died suddenly in 2010, and this year the event was hosting its 25th anniversary with over 220 runners entering. Angus was a champion runner and fell runner who was well known in many local running clubs, winning numerous events. He won the first Hexhamshire Hobble, but apparently was so disappointed with the lack of trophy for his efforts he decided to dig out an old trainer, sprayed it gold and attached it to a wooden plinth – a bit of a memento I guess. Sentiment to this, Allen Valley Striders now wonderfully recreate Angus’s trophy with a beautifully cast trainer as a replica, presented to the first male and female winners.

The course is 10.5 miles, and this year was ran in reverse (clockwise direction). Starting on road (next to the school), a good mile road ascent takes you up to muddy Land Rover tracks which weave up and down to Westburnhope Farm. Back on to road and climbing steeply up to Cocker Shield Farm, switching back on to Land Rover tracks, and then, into the thick of it! Yes, grouse moorland, heather, deep bogs and beaten animal tracks with steep little climbs and descents with large rocks and puddles to navigate – onto Hangman Hill for a marshal race number check. Back onto track now, before a really steep descent, followed by a “hands and knees” crawl up the other side of the small stream. It was a moment to catch your breath here, as the summit at Stobbs Cross was in the distance and I could see the runners ahead snaking their way up through the moorland, with more and more rocks and deep bogs to contend with. I could safely say goodbye to my white socks at this point.

Reaching the summit, my neck and shoulders were really starting to ache, but thankfully the gentle farm track descent was yards away (photo time too), which would lead onto the tarmac again. At this point Marshalls were shouting “One mile to go Sedgefield. Well done – keep it up”. These words were a welcome relief and I knew the end was near. And then another surprise. The steepest hill I have ever run down, before skirting onto a green and back up the hill to the school. I heard a voice shouting behind me. Time to find another gear, before a sharp left turn, and quickly down to the finish line. He was a Birtley Harrier and we congratulated each other for our efforts.

Slowly starting to get my energy back, Dave and Mark were all smiles (all right for some) as we headed back to the school. Wow – what was in front of my eyes. The biggest cake selection I have ever witnessed as a Harrier. They were amazing, so I grabbed a big slice of coffee and walnut cake, which made the race that extra bit special before we entered the sports hall for the prize giving and raffle.

In summary. A cracking event and only an hour away, and with a £7 entry fee and stunning scenery across Hexham Common, it is a must race. But you will get your feet wet!

People have asked “What was it like, was it tough?”

Well, in the words of Dave Walker: “Tough? Well one guy lost the whole sole of his shoe, it was that tough!”

And it is true, he was a Low Fell Harrier and ran the last mile of tarmac in his socks!

Hope to see more Harriers there next year!

Mil Walton.

2018 Results: http://allenvalleystriders.co.uk/hobble/hobble-results-2018.pdf