Race Rundown: Gavin Duffy Memorial 5k, 24th November 2019

Trail shoes, cross country spikes, road shoes and football boots(!) were all around as I lined up for the Muddy Roads 5k race in memory of Gavin Duffy (Billingham Marsh House).  Caught up in the euphoria of completing the muddy cross country the previous day, I was encouraged by Ray to take part. David would pick me up so I was fast running out of excuses.

I’d never taken part in a Muddy Roads event so didn’t really know what to expect.  They operate a similar system to Parkrun with a barcode procedure being used so entry on the day was really straightforward.

After a minute’s silence for Gavin we were off.  It was quite a narrow and frantic start and I felt comfortable in the footwear choice as the runners in spikes darted off to the side to find some softer ground. I remember Ray mentioning there is a tight turn coming up and it gets congested which was why I suddenly felt him breathing down my neck. First tight left turn reached and my mild smugness regarding the footwear choice soon evaporated. The next section involved some serious mud and the spiked runners disappeared into the distance and away up the hill!

We’d been warned about the “slippery bit” on the downhill section of the hill which was soon upon me. Slipping and sliding around the corner like a cross country skier I was free from the ankle deep mud into just mud. One kilometre further along you started to pass some of the runners at the bottom of the hill (words/grunts of encouragement were exchanged) before turning towards the finish to start another lap and more mud (have I mentioned that yet?).

The finish was a friendly affair just like a Parkrun, with everyone queuing to have their barcode scanned, before Team Sedgefield (Lisa, Graham, David, Ray and myself) showed the others a clean pair of heels and headed to the visitors centre for the lovely finishers’ cake.

Well this was my first but certainly won’t be my last Muddy Roads event. It was well organised, friendly and great value for money. It was lovely to hear that over £700 was raised for local charities from the event.

*So how did the football boots fare I hear you ask? Well unfortunately I don’t know if they were the right choice of footwear (1st place went to spikes with wellies in second), so if anyone wants to give them a go, let us all know how you get on!

Thanks to Karen Harland for the pictures.

By Mark Raine

Results: http://trailraces.co.uk/results.php?event=27&race=74

Race Rundown: Slaley Hall 10k, 17th November 2019

Scrolling through Facebook I noticed that my good friend Andy Corfied had entered a 10k trail race to be held at Slaley hall. With my interest piqued I mentioned it at parkrun and with only modest arm twisting I was persuaded to enter.

The event is organised by Wild Deer events and is a multi terrain 10k trail race.

Andy and I travelled up on a very wet Sunday morning and met up with Karen Killingly there. We had arrived early, but killing time wasn’t an issue as we sat in the car park watching the concept of one way traffic destroyed, culminating in an amusing messy soft verge incident and exasperated officials.

Once the floor show had finished. It was time to address the ‘which shoes to wear?’ issue. With my spanking new Inov8 Trailtalons selected we made our way to the hall to collect our numbers and join the gathering athletes on the start line. On the start line a runner tells his friend he’ll be happy with sub 60 and I concur. That’s my target for today. The rain had mercifully stopped as we listened to the race briefing. The first time I’ve been asked not to make a mess of a golf course at a briefing.

The rain may have stopped, but as the race started it was clear it was going to be a clarty affair. The first 3 km was a steady climb. I took it very steady, being unsure of my own fitness or what to expect on the route. A short section of tarmac became a forestry road, then narrowing trails. The Trailtalons were awesome. A little further though and it was a different story. With a clarty mashed up field to cross the pace slowed and the Trailtalons were now diving boots coated in swarfega and ball bearings. Relief came in the form of another hard trail and at the top we enjoyed a long decent stretch through pine woods with what turned out to be the last of the serious clart on the other end.

A very enjoyable and rapid decent followed, along the edge of the golf course. As I ran I couldn’t help but wonder at who was daftest, us or the golfers hunched under their brollies and bags of golf bats. They were possibly as puzzled, but were very vocal and supportive.

We’ve reached about 6km now and it’s now a rollercoaster of very steep ups and downs for another 2km. We hit tarmac at 8km and with the scent of the finish in my nostrils I get a bit of a move on along this road. This turned out to be a cruel prank on the part of the organisers as a smiling marshal directed me back onto the clart for another 500m of ups and downs to 9km. From here in I can see that it’s an unrelenting climb back to the hall and I’m regretting my earlier exuberance. Still it’s nearly over and the Inov8s are returning to normal service. It’s a real slog in now and I don’t want to look at my watch at this point. There are a few more cruel twists and turns to negotiate before the now visible finish line can be reached, but I do in 57.27 and all of a sudden the world is a much nicer place.

Karen, Andy and myself regroup and adjourn to the hall for a well earned T shirt and sausages sandwich.

All in all a hard but very interesting route, well marshalled and organised. I’ll definitely give it another go. Thanks Andy and Karen for your great company.

By Paul Lee.


Race Rundown: Middlesbrough Mile, 6th November 2019

I am increasingly aware that my daughter will now beat me over any distance less than 5km (and after her 2 min parkrun PB at the weekend I’ll extend it to now include 5km). For now I’m safe in 10km and above, mainly because she’s too young to enter those distances. So when the Middlesbrough Mile gave Ellie an opportunity to have bragging rights over me (again) I was very surprised she passed it up in favour of attending the regular sprints session coached by Frances Barlow and David Walker. It just goes to show how much she values and enjoys these sessions. High praise indeed to our junior coaches.

I decided I would go anyway. The mile was delivered by Stride Out Events and the people organising it, Scott Hydon and Kieran Walker have been an integral part of our club for many years. Scott’s enthusiasm and expertise for athletics have benefited so many of our juniors in the past and continues to do so. We are very lucky to have him as part of our club.

A great one from the archives. Scott cheering Kieran on to bronze at the North East Cross Country Championships.

So, plans were made to take a car full and I picked up Thomas and Becky Rowe and Rory Letts on the way and the conversation soon turned to the topic of cake. How much can you eat before a run / after a run and somewhere in between.

Pre registration was essential for this race as each race was graded and so all who entered were put into a race with others of a similar ability. I was hoping to get sub 7 so entered 7 minutes and soon found myself up against Rosie, Lisa and Callum who are far faster than me. I revisited my goal to include the target not to be last!

Race 1.

The route utilised the cycle track at Prissick, a 1km loop which is mainly flat and fast with sweeping bends rather than tight corners as cycle racing demands. It is an ideal route for a PB if you are in form.

The first race set off at 7pm with a lead and tail bike although it was impossible to get lost. The finish times in that race ranged between 6.34 and 10.21 with the majority nearing the 10.21 finishing time. It does seem that someone was definitely quicker than they had anticipated!

Andy in race 2.

There was a great turn out of 13 harriers and the club was represented in race 2 by Paula, Andy Corfield and Graham Darby.

I was in race 3 and we were quickly heading off down the slight decline in the track and I was just thinking don’t get carried away in the first part. Having said that, both Lisa and Rosie definitely got carried away and shot off in front and by the end of the first bend Lisa was out of sight. Of course she maintained her pace (why wouldn’t she?) and finished as strong as ever in 6.21 only to be beaten by Callum who won our race in 6. Rosie put in a great performance of 6.30 and having not set off too fast I managed to finish in 6.48. I was very pleased with sub 7. I quite fancy having a crack at 6.45 next time!

As I headed off to watch Rosie make me a cup of tea (I was still out of breath) race 4 was underway. I liked the relaxed but organised atmosphere. Make your own tea and coffee, help yourself to biscuits and check your results (which are available immediately after the race) although published and linked to power of 10 the next day.

There were lots of great performances by Harriers. https://www.runbritainrankings.com/results/results.aspx?meetingid=329242&event=1M&venue=Middlesbrough&date=6-Nov-19

The next event (always held first Wednesday in the month, 4th December) in the series is a 5km. It’s fast, flat and PB potential. Get yourselves along.  Pre entry is essential so that you are allocated into the right event. The plan is for two races, the first for those who predict a finish time of sub 21 minutes and the second race for over 21 minutes. All abilities are welcome and encouraged to come along; don’t be put off by the sound of the second race (it sounds fast to me), I predict that finishing times will range to include 35 minutes plus….. I also predict that Ellie will beat me.

Enter here:

By Jane Spink

Another lovely one from the archives – even further back.

Race Rundown: York Marathon, 20th October 2019

Let me say before we get started, things have been very, very busy. And when something had to go this summer, it was training….marathon training. Marathon training, which apparently is very useful, if you’re planning on running a marathon.

So you get it…..I hadn’t trained.

Here we go – York Marathon Race Run Down.

I have previous with York Marathon. In 2016, after doing the training I might add, I hit the wall at 19 miles and spent the last 7 miles crying, watching my target of 4.45 slip away. I finished in 5 hours and 6 minutes. I had gone off too fast and not stuck to my plan. It was a rookie’s mistake and I knew better.

This year my mistake was to attempt the marathon on the back of only one long run, which was only 12 miles. But being a Yorkshire lass, and having paid my entrance fee, I was damn well going to get my money’s worth. And If time spent on the course is value for money, I was one of the richest ladies alive. Saying that, not training and knowing you’re going to just bimble round meant that I could at least enjoy a cheeky glass of vino the day before, and obviously, a huge slice of cake.

The morning of the marathon came, and it was time to line up. My goal was now to ‘run’ for as long as I could, and then to see what happened. I knew I had to slow it down in order to get as many miles as possible at a pace marginally quicker than speed walking. I managed 10, then 13, then I was at the start of the switch back at 16 miles….still running!! I met loads of people on the way, some like me, slogging it out, others were really cheerful. You know the type, annoyingly happy and really enjoying themselves, smiling, and all I could think was ‘If I’d trained for this run, I would be able to overtake you…but I can’t’. Fortunately, they overtook me instead.

Graham at the switchback

During the switchback I was having some serious conversations with myself. My knees hurt, my hips hurt, I had managed to run much further than in my training and I was chuffed with that, but the wheels were starting to come off. I tried to convince myself of the many benefits of dropping out. These included getting to the pub quicker, increased likelihood of being able to walk in the morning, going for some lunch, and it would be nice for Steve to not have to stand in the cold rainy weather. Yes, I am always thinking of others.

Lisa on her way to a Sedgefield record!

At 19 miles I discussed this with Steve as we walked together. Through the tears I justified my many, many reasons for not continuing. He didn’t buy it one bit. And by the time I’d got through my tear stained excuses he said ‘Well, we’re at 20 miles now, you’ve only got a 10k to go’.

So I did. It was painful, and I had to walk parts of the last 6 miles, and I got a bit emotional as I passed the brass band playing in the rain, the supporters still out cheering us on, and all the marshals who must have been freezing, but still clapped and whooped as we came into the last 5k. Through the villages, passed the pubs, and finally, that hill. You know the one. I was determined to run the last mile. And suddenly, there was the finish line, and not a moment too soon. I was cold, soaked through, and in a lot of pain, but I had done it. And I was very pleased. I managed 5 hours and 22 minutes. See, I got my money’s worth.

I didn’t make it to the pub that night, and I couldn’t walk the next day, but it did make me think, if I actually did some training, maybe I can achieve 4.45 for a marathon. Good job I’ve already entered Manchester in the Spring.

By Tracy Foreman

Marathon Results: https://www.chiptiming.co.uk/events/asda-foundation-yorkshire-marathon-2019/

10 Mile Results: https://www.chiptiming.co.uk/events/asda-foundation-yorkshire-10-mile-2019/


Race Rundown: Kielder Marathon, 13th October 2019

Kielder Marathon Weekend
12th/13th October
Stick to the plan, man

I have taken part in races at the Kielder Marathon weekend every year since the event was launched in 2010. In that time, I have been part of a relay team in all of the Kielder Run-Bike-Runs, usually as part of the ‘Sedgefield Specials’ with Roger Whitehill and cyclist Ian Dunn. In recent years, I’ve also returned to Kielder on the Sunday to tackle the half marathon. I love both events; being part of a team in the run-bike-run is always fun, while the half (added to the weekend about four years ago) follows a challenging, but attractive route that includes parts of the full marathon course.

However, until this year, I had never tackled ‘Britain’s most beautiful marathon’. For the tenth event, I made a late decision to scratch that particular itch and booked a place a few weeks out. On the Saturday, Rog, Ian and I travelled up to Northumberland for our annual date at the Kielder Run-Bike-Run. This year, ours wasn’t the only Sedgefield team in the race. David Bentley, Rob Spink and Mark Raine grabbed third overall with an impressive performance, while we were a respectable fifth. Young guns Ciaran Lines, Tom Hearmon and George Hampson also finished in the top ten. Meanwhile, Tracy Henderson was second overall in the women’s individual race, a place higher than last year’s excellent result. On the same day, Karen Killingley and Jennifer Chaytor completed the Kielder 10K.

I was back up at Kielder early the following morning for the start of the marathon, along with Gary Thwaites (for his 98th marathon!), Ray Carmichael, Dave Walker and Lisa Darby. I had already decided to not put pressure on myself by targeting a fast time, partly because I had always intended to really push myself in my 11K leg the previous day, partly because I knew it was a tough course, and partly because I hadn’t been training for a marathon. However, I wanted to aim for somewhere between 3:30 and 3:45. Chatting to Gary, Ray and Dave ahead of the start, I established that they had important targets in York the following week, so were planning to run a steady pace, aiming to finish in a little under four hours. I was tempted to join them in that, but decided to stick with my plan and set off with that in mind. This meant that I went out a bit faster than my fellow Harriers, but I soon found myself running in other good company.

The opening few miles were very familiar, following the same route as the first leg of the run-bike-run, and establishing a familiar pattern of undulations and the occasional challenging switchback hill, all in stunning surroundings, even on that dreich day. For regular participants in Kielder Marathon events, there has been an in joke for years about Northumbrian Water’s ‘Steep Incline Ahead’ and ‘Steep Decline Ahead’ signs, which used to appear with alarming frequency along the course (and featured on the finishers’ t-shirts one year). Although those signs are no longer employed as zealously as in the past, they do pop up every so often and are a fairly regular reminder that running around Kielder Water doesn’t involve following a straightforward, flat lakeside path. It’s lumpy up there.

Despite the remoteness of the location, there were spectators out along the route, offering encouragement alongside the ever-brilliant volunteer marshals. I settled into a comfortable pace that I was able to maintain and then moved onto a section of the route that I hadn’t run before, around the north west corner of the reservoir, before heading east along the northern shore. It was during miles seven to 17 that I really started to appreciate just how beautiful the setting is, and that certainly seemed to help me along.

For me, one of the biggest challenges in a marathon relates to nutrition. I can’t digest sucrose or maltose, which really limits my options for energy replacement. I still haven’t found anything that can do the job of a gel, so if I ‘bonk’, then I’m in big trouble as I can’t take anything to give me a quick boost. Earlier this year, I managed to find a Swedish brand called Nick’s that makes genuinely sugar free chocolate and some of the company’s products incorporate seeds and nuts. So, I carried a few of those and maintained a discipline of eating one about every hour during the race, managing to coincide each with the lead up to a water station for washing down the chocolatey goodness. For possibly the first time for me in a marathon, this plan seemed to work as intended and I don’t think that I ever really properly hit the wall. I was certainly knackered towards the end of the run, but that was more due to the fact that I hadn’t run anywhere near the distance since January and my limbs were screaming blue murder.

Anyway, back to the marathon course. I had been warned that one of the tough sections was at around 14 miles. So it proved, with a tasty, sustained switchback climb through the woods. Being prepared for it helped and I worked hard to not work too hard, if that makes sense. After that, I enjoyed (genuinely – look at the uncharacteristic smile in the pic!) several scenic miles heading towards the dam, gradually gaining a few places along the way. I was also caught by a couple of runners, who trotted off ahead of me, but I didn’t try to stay with them like I might have done in a shorter event. Stick to the plan Chris, stick to the plan.

By the time I reached the dam (the only significant flat stretch of the day), I was back on familiar territory, as the marathon was by now sharing a route with the half. Psychologically, this was a double-edged sword. On one hand, I knew what was ahead in the last eight miles and could prepare myself for that. On the other, I therefore also knew that this included a brutal, multiple switchback climb in the 22nd mile, the toughest section of the whole marathon. At least it didn’t come as a surprise!

By this time, the weather had closed in and it was raining steadily, but that didn’t concern me. I reached that crux hill still feeling okay and, crucially, I managed to run from bottom to top without slowing to a walk (even if my pace was barely above a walk, my method of movement was a run and in my mind, that was very important). Once I reached the top without any ‘damage’, I knew that I was going to be okay. Complacency is very dangerous in a marathon and can easily happen when you’re tired and struggling to concentrate, but I kept my head and continued to stick to the plan, eating my last bar of chocolate despite not feeling like I needed to.

The last four miles were tough and my lack of training/marathon conditioning did slow me down a bit, but some of the runners ahead of me were slowing even more and I gained a few places between miles 22 and 25, including one of those who had overtaken me about nine miles earlier. Again, that helped my head. The last mile and 192 yards were actually enjoyable. I caught the other person who had passed me earlier, along with another runner, and even managed to put in a modest sort-of-sprint for the line. I finished in 3:34:39, which was towards the faster end of my target ‘window’, and therefore more than satisfactory. All of the Harriers who were taking part in the 2019 Kielder Marathon finished in times of under four hours, which was great running all round. I think that Lisa got around in just under 3:41, only a week ahead of her brilliant club record in York. Meanwhile, Marie Walker, Ian Hedley, Emma Featherstone and Christine Hearmon also ran well in the Kielder Half Marathon.

I can heartily recommend the Kielder Marathon, not for a PB (unless you haven’t run a marathon before!), but certainly for the atmosphere and the amazing scenery, which definitely lives up to the billing. And If you don’t want to tackle the full marathon, there are plenty of other events to choose from over the weekend. Next year’s events will be on 3rd and 4th October. Find out more at www.kieldermarathon.com, and make sure that you have a plan…

Chris Lines.

Race Rundown: Penshaw 10k, 6th October 2019

Trail Outlaws organises an Urban Trail series of 5 trail races across the summer with Penshaw 10K the last in the series. All of the Trail Outlaw events are really well organised, friendly and you always get a medal and some goodies at the end. They are also well known to be challenging and have a sting in the tail, the 2 Penshaw races being the toughest of the series.

My race day didn’t start well when i saw the forecast for torrential rain and looked out at 6am to see it pouring down. The thought of not turning up crossed my mind many times but I had run all the others in the series so wanted to finish it. My support team (Paul and the boys) refused to come because of the weather so I set off on my own.


The weather was grim. After collecting my number, like most of the other runners I sat in the car with the heaters on trying to find some motivation to get out. Although I had my waterproof on, I was so cold by the time the race started my legs refused to function and it took a couple of miles before I warmed up. The course was challenging but totally off road which I loved.

After starting at the bottom of the hill and running around the Penshaw Monument we flew down over the fields to the the old railway line. Two people running alongside me had already fallen by this time and I hoped I would finish with my ankles intact. The route then headed towards Washington, along the river and then back across the fields. The organisers had to change the finish due to the weather and instead of climbing all the way back to the monument we cut back down to the start, although it wasn’t any easier running down the steps. I bet the course would be quite lovely in the middle of summer, but I could barely see past the rain and at some points the water was up to my knees.

By the time we finished I was just glad it was over, but also quite pleased I had actually turned up. I quickly popped into the visitor centre to get my medal, some cherryade and sweets and then was in the car in dry clothes driving away within two minutes. Quick Costa drive-through stop on the way back to warm up and hot bath when I got home.

You know its been a tough race when you are eating piping hot tomato soup in the bath, with your woolly hat still on.

by Rosie Warnett.

Results: https://urbantrails.co.uk/penshaw-10k-results-2019.php

Editor’s note: Rosie finished 6th female overall, out of 156, a very good effort.

Race Rundown: The Princess Challenge (Ravenscar), 31st August 2019

On the Harriers page Emma Featherstone asked if anybody would be up to do the Princess Challenge which was at Ravenscar on the 31 August. It immediatley caught my attention with the title PRINCESS however I didn’t realise it was 17.5miles!!!

On the site they encouraged you to dress as a princess, wear tutus or tiaras and not just for the ladies. I have never seen as many men in tutus There were 3 distances: 8.5 miles, in the middle 17.5 and the long one which was 31 miles. You also got rewarded with chip butties at the end and they also encouraged you to bring cake as this is shared at the end. Race sold (cake and chip butties).

I have never ever run 17.5 miles in my life!!! but thought I would still like to give it a go as it was off road which I enjoy. This was not a marshaled event, you had check points to show your number. You also had to carry a certain kit and a map (this is something that I have never done before however wasn’t too bad) and my husband bought me a new lightweight Montane running coat so I was in a win win situation.

Race day arrived. Me, Emma Featherstone and Marie Walker were travelling together and meeting Nicki Blackett at the start. We set off at 6.30 in the morning to ensure that we were there and ready in plenty time. They completed a kit check before we started and provided us with a map (Map!! I get lost on our Sunday morning runs round Sedgefield area never mind through woods where I have ever been before).

I got talking to a local man about the course and how anxious I was about running 17.5 miles and what he basically said put me at ease and changed my mindset. The start point was a community centre and that was the centre point; he said just think it is approx 4 miles to the right then back again, then 4 miles to the left then back again….hmm this sounded a lot better then 17.5 miles.

The route was absolutely stunning. There was no pressure on how fast you could run it was so relaxed. We stopped, took some selfies and a few photos of the breath taking views . When we had hills (which there were a fair few) everybody walked up and down to reserve their energy. The only down side, there were no markers on the route. Thank goodness for Emma and her map reading skills. The four of us all stayed together through the run from start to finish which was lovely. Not sure that I would ever do one of these runs on my own due to my very poor navigation skills. We all finished the race within seconds of each other.

I really enjoyed the race and to think I ran that distance I was buzzing. Definitely on the top of my list for next year.

by Lisa Martin.

Results: https://racebest.com/results/6zfh8

Race Rundown: Trail Outlaws RAF Spadeadam Half Marathon, 22nd September 2019

by Graham Darby

“I’ll get round to it, sorry, it’s been ages!”
That’s my mantra and I’ve been repeating it to Pete King almost daily while he’s been chasing me for a race rundown of Spadeadam Half Marathon. There’s only so long you can say this before it becomes harder and harder to put off…and before Pete becomes less and less understanding, too.

So, where to start?
1. Obligatory trip to Starbucks on the way up? (Check, Ray is like a coffee ninja, knowing where every coffee shop is on the route to races).
2. Logistics all organised so Callum can get to football?
(Check, and he scored too…gutted to have missed that).
3. Training honed to perfection, so I can reach the goal of beating last years’ time? (Erm, no check. Terrible training and nervous about getting round at all let alone beating last year).
4. Glorious sunny day and perfect running conditions? (Definitely no check. It was “persistently” raining from about mile 5 onwards.)

This is a race that I’ve done a couple of times now and really enjoy. It’s best described as undulating, which is trail run speak for “up, then down, then up, then down, then up, then a bit of flat (0.5m), then up, then down (then stop)”.
As you can see from this screenshot the flat bit comes at about 6 miles, so you’re nicely warmed up when it arrives.

This is an active RAF Base, so simply getting onto the base requires you to register in advance and take ID and it’s an adventure from start off. Following the admin of it all, the Race director (base commander) set us off with the advice that “this is an operational base, which tests weaponry out, so if you see something unusual on the floor as you are running, don’t pick it up”. It is highly unlikely that anyone adds extra weight to themselves, generally, so he clearly knows nothing about runners.

The first mile or so is up the service roads and gives us some nice views of large concrete structures which look like something out of Mad Max (a reference for the kids of today, ha ha). I’m assuming these are for target practice but we are soon steered past them and onto the trails around the base and the rain starts to come down. The rain obviously ruins my chance to win, so I let the speedier runners who cope with rain better than me disappear into the distance and I settle into my run. I chat to a runner from Darlington who I used to work with and we start talking about…you guessed it, running. It’s pure deflection tactics to avoid thinking about running by talking about running, while running.

[By the way, he recommended a half marathon in Seville to me – one for the Grand Prix next year, perhaps? Maybe a bit far to travel, though.]

I’m struggling to remember much of the middle bit of the race – it rained right through until I reached about 13m so I didn’t see much to be fair. I was keeping an eye out for any new technology, perhaps a strike fighter or unmanned drone, but no luck. The run sets you a good challenge as the uphills are enough to keep you working hard but not crazy steep enough that you need crampons and climbing gear. All good, but the problem with that is that you never quite feel that it’s OK to take it easy on a hill, perhaps even to walk one or two.

At about eight miles or so, I pass the second feed station. The first one went by in a blur as I was concentrating on not thinking about running, while running and talking about running with my ex-work mate, who’s long gone up the road by now.

Happy days at eight miles though as they have jelly babies (my all-time favourite jelly sweet) and red cola! Red cola is a trail running staple. Road runners won’t really appreciate the benefits of slightly fizzy red cola in a plastic cup, in the rain. I’m sure I am adding a filling or three to my teeth by doing these trail runs but it’s a small price to pay in my view.

The feed station disappears and my group of three head off upwards (seems like it’s all been upwards) towards the highest point of the race. The marshal sets us off with a happy “last big hill then it’s all down from the top”. My experience is not to believe marshals, who generally lie through their teeth to runners (I know I do when I marshal) but this one turns out to be – almost – right. PS: apart from those at the pointy end, you always end up running in a group on trail runs, another added benefit. Thanks for the help up that hill, whoever you were. Downhill we go and I start to enjoy myself again (I like running downhill), plus I have a sneaky plan for the end of the race.

As we hit the downhill sections, we come across quite a bit of military kit/equipment which I wonder whether they are there for target practice or just careless RAF personnel have forgotten the keys. I have to confess that I didn’t take many photos and I’ve mixed some in from the previous years run here.

2019, Mile 1
A picture from 2018, when it wasn’t raining! Why do they insist on having the missiles pointing upwards, I wonder? Hmmm…

I’m blaming the weather and my obsession with being quicker than last year for the rookie photo gaps.

I saved my last burst of (relative) speed for the last mile and know there’s a kicker in the run that anyone running it for the first time won’t have known. I know the secret that those who are doing this for the first time don’t…its actually 14.1 miles not a “traditional” half marathon of 13.2. So I’m chuckling to myself as the 13.2 marker beeps off on peoples watches and they start saying that they should be bloody well done by now but don’t recognise anywhere around them. No-one swears with as much feeling as a trail runner, I think.
I paid a heavy price last year, but am ready for the extra mile this time around. It is my fastest mile – 9.28m per mile. Not quick by any stretch, but OK after 13 miles, I think. It’s quick enough for me to bag at least half a dozen as I sail past them looking at their hurting faces and shaking their watches. I don’t stop to help or offer encouragement, of course.

Last year I did it in 2hrs 39 minutes…this year I’m aiming for 2hrs 30…but I’m cutting it fine so I push on to try and get in under that time.
For the stats fans I came in at 2hrs 31 minutes (and 34 seconds) so not quite but eight minutes quicker isn’t bad, I don’t think. You can do a lot in eight minutes! 🙂

A race I’ve enjoyed in a masochistic sort of way, so if you like climbing hills and descending hills and looking at tanks and rockets…it could be one for you?

Special thanks to Eileen for marshaling and Ray for the lift…not to forget Lisa, either, for getting into this running business in the first place!

Race Rundown: Berlin Marathon, 29th September 2019

by Justin Cox.

Gary Thwaites and I took the trip out to Germany for the BMW Berlin Marathon, one of the Marathon Majors to tick off.  Arriving on Friday we went straight to registration at the wonderfully restored but disused Tempelhof Airport. Those familiar with London will recognise the exhibition that runs alongside but this time supplemented with beer and sausage stalls outside the terminal building on the old aircraft stands.

The real action started early on Saturday morning with the free Breakfast run starting at the Charlottenburg Palace and running to the Olympic stadium.  The pre event atmosphere was amazing, people gathered from every part of the world and many in fancy dress (including a couple of Danes dressed as a part of the male anatomy – photo not included in this report!).  Those hoping for a fast 6km run would be disappointed, a field of BMWs at the front booming out music and marshals linked across the front, keep the pace at a very social level and make for a wonderful pre marathon jog.

As we neared the Olympic stadium and saw the 5 rings suspended between 2 huge towers the atmosphere really built up, everyone cheering and singing through the tunnels before we ran under the stands and into the stadium, absolutely fantastic!!

Everyone does a lap of the track before climbing up the steps to the original part of the stadium complete with roll of honour from the 1936 Olympics.

If that wasn’t good enough the organisers then give everyone a free breakfast of doughnuts, croissants, yoghurt, fruit and drinks!


Saturday afternoon was spent visiting various sites including a trip to “Curry by the Wall” which as the name implies sells Currywurst next to the Berlin Wall – not the usual pre marathon nutrition for “Mr Nutrition” – Gary!  An exhibition running alongside a large section of the Wall dedicated to the city of Warsaw and in particular the suffering of the Poles during the war, made for sobering reading and time to reflect on the fortune of living where and when we do.

As Gary was raising money for Get Kids Going we went along to their pre-event reception which included a Q & A with Paralympic athletes David Weir, Shelly Woods and Justin Levene.  All were great company and it was great to get an insight into their athletic lives.

Finally race morning (cool and dry at least for now) and a short walk to the start with an excellent bag drop off similar to London, although the start and finish are at the same point.

The pre event atmosphere really built up and then after the wheelchair and handbike starts we were off.  I started OK but knew quite early on that a hip issue was probably going to bite later on.  Gary ran at a metronomic pace and passed me at about 9 mile.  Gary went on to run consistent 20:30-20:50 5km splits, a second half 5 seconds faster than the first half and a finishing time of 2:54:37.  That was a lesson on marathon running if ever there was one!  This marked off marathon number 97 for him with only Kielder, Yorkshire and then the Town Moor left before the end of the year so please don’t forget his VIRGINMONEYGIVING site !  My leg finally gave up at mile 21 but after walking for a couple of miles I was determined to run the last mile and finished in 3.19.  After losing my little brother to cancer a few weeks before it was an emotional end and I was just so grateful to be able to enjoy experiences such as this.

After indulging in post-race beer and chocolate the trip home on Monday was made more eventful when a fast looking bloke sat next to me at Berlin’s departure lounge.  When I asked him what time he’d ran he said 2:06 and finished in 4th place.  His name was Jonathan Korir from Kenya, training partner and friend to Eliud Kipchoge – his next run is the Ineos 2 hour challenge in Vienna as a pacer!  Amazing and so humble, he was happy to talk with us about all things running, a real inspiration.

Gary with Jonathan Korir
and then with David Weir

A great end to a marvellous weekend.  Berlin is possibly not quite at London’s level of crowd support and organisation but don’t let that put you off trying to get an entry.  The route takes in a city that has seen such changes and devastation, however the event is packed with a truly international field of runners all coming together to celebrate the joy that is running.

Race Rundown: Chippenham Half Marathon, 8th September 2019

I decided this year to take on a slightly quieter road half marathon, rather than enter the ballot again for the GNR.  On a trip home to visit the parents, chat turned to running and the Chippenham half marathon was mentioned. As it passed the front door of the house I grew up in for 18 years and I knew this was one race that Simon and Chloe might actually get to see me run past, I decided it would be one to target.

The race is organised by Chippenham Harriers (whose club vest bears a very close resemblance to the Sedgefield one – even more so than South Shields!) and is billed as a fast and predominantly flat course through Chippenham and local villages and hamlets.

The race village was set up at Chippenham sports club, and everything was well organised – no queue for the bag drop off and plenty of portaloos, so only a short wait in line there!

Race start was 9:30am and just over 1300 runners toed the line.  After a few words from the race director we were off and the first mile or so was through the town centre on closed roads. There were a good number of people out supporting which always gets you off to a good start (and probably a little too quick on my part, will I ever learn?).

Following this stretch the race headed out to the surrounding villages and along the country lanes. The roads weren’t closed for this section so every now and again you’d get a shout of ‘car’ and people would move over to the left to let them pass.  It was also at this point that I heard a shout of Sedgefield, as in Durham?  I shouted a Yes over my shoulder, which was returned by a ‘blimey, that’s a distance’. Probably a bit of a surprise to see someone from the other end of the country racing and also a surprise for me to see someone in Chippenham that knows where Sedgefield is!  I did also get a few shouts along the way of ‘well done Chippenham’ followed by an ‘oh, what club is that?’ and a quizzical look my way.

For the first 6-7 miles I was feeling good, and I was enjoying running on the lanes that I had cycled round on rides as a kid.  The sun was out and it was getting warm, so the water stations were a welcome sight. The organisers tried to be as eco-friendly as possible so no plastic bottles, instead, bio-degradable water spheres, made using a seaweed coating.  I found they were easy to use and really good for a quick re-hydrate.

At mile 8 there was a ‘smile and wave’ photo opportunity. Even with a sign up to warn runners that photos would be taken I still managed to get captured looking less than my best – is there ever a good running photo?!  This was also about the point that my pace began to slow a little, not too much but each mile a little slower than the last.  We’d then also reached the start of a couple of miles of incline, no hills as such, just enough to really test the legs at the back end of a half marathon.

At around mile 11 it was back into Chippenham and onto closed roads again. It was also the part that I knew was going to give me a boost, running down the road I grew up on and it was great to be able to wave and say hello to Simon, Chloe and Mum as I passed.  Then it was head down and concentrating on trying to keep the legs moving as fast as I could to the finish.  After one last small incline the last half mile was all downhill which was a great way to finish, although the finish line was a bit further round on the sports club field than I’d first hoped – that ‘sprint’ finish had to keep going a bit longer than anticipated!

At the beginning of the year I’d set myself some running goals. One of them was to get as close to 1hr50 for my half marathon time as possible, and although initially a little disappointed with myself that I had only managed 1:53:52 I had a quick word with myself that I should be more positive and I was soon happy that I had achieved a 6 minute PB!  Although, I still have that 1:50 mark in my sight…

I know this is one race that will not likely be on many Harriers’ race calendars, but if you do happen to be in Wiltshire at the beginning of September then this is an enjoyable race to do.

By Fay Uphill

Results: https://www.sportsystems.co.uk/ss/results/Chippenham%20Half%20Marathon/4177