Race Rundown: Windermere Marathon, 23rd May 2021

This race had been a long time coming, as I had entered Manchester Marathon in 2020 but we all know what happened there… fast forward a year and the appetite to want to run the marathon distance was still there.  With all the large races cancelled or likely to be with Covid restrictions I looked to see if there were any smaller races.  Windermere marathon seemed ideal, well except maybe for those hills, this is what the blurb says:

The Windermere Marathon has a reputation as one of the most challenging road marathons in the UK. Categorised by Runner’s World as ‘undulating’

I started out this training block hoping I’d get past the 12 week mark and thankfully about a month before the race they sent out the confirmation that the race would be happening, albeit under covid restrictions, numbers for the race were limited to 800 (~555 people ran on the day), there would be staggered starts and runners were encouraged to be more self sufficient with hydration and nutrition with fewer stations around the route.  It also meant no spectators or events put on at Brathay Hall which normally happen for the waiting family and Friends

The race starts and finishes at Brathay Hall and follows an anti-clockwise route, passing through Hawkshead, Newby Bridge, Bowness-on-Windermere and Ambleside.

I’d booked a start time of 8:45 and instructions were to not to turn up until ~15 minutes before the start time to get through registration.  Getting in and parked, and through to the start line was very easy, and one bonus of these staggered starts is no queues for the toilets!  It was all very relaxed at the start line, and although they said we’d go off in groups of 40, in reality once at the start line you could start when you were ready.  Certainly a lot less stressful this way, but a little underwhelming way to start!

The course lived up to the billing as ‘undulating’ right from the start but more rolling ups and down to ease us in and get the legs warmed up.  In the first half of the race I did have to contend with the rain – heavy downpours with some hail thrown in for good measure.  The showers would be spread out enough just enough to dry off and then get soaked again.

The big climb of the course came at mile 7 –known as the devil’s gallop, 200ft over half a mile, and keeping my sensible head on, took the approach of walk the steep parts and save those legs – a long way to go yet!

Luckily the next 4 or so miles were gradually downhill so a slight rest for the legs.  Simon and Chloe were waiting for me at Newby Bridge so time for a quick hug and words of encouragement and then time to head back up the lake.

There is usually a time during a race that I question why I do these things for ‘fun’ and the road back up towards Bowness-on-Windermere was certainly it, I can only describe it as a rollercoaster of hills – they just kept coming and even the downs weren’t that fun!

Once through Bowness-on-Windermere and the road levelled out. At this point I was also entering unchartered territory, having never run further than 21 miles before.  Fortunately the wall was never hit!  Coming up to around mile 24, I noticed a couple of spectators that looked familiar – Beth and Mark!  Gave me a great boost to see you cheering – thanks guys!

There was another quick hug from Chloe in Ambleside and then time for the last push back up to Brathay Hall.  By this time the legs were complaining quite loudly at any slight incline, bad news then that the finish was uphill – that’s just cruel!  However, as the 26 mile marker ticked by I was so so happy that I was going to make it and crossing the finish line in just over 4 hours and 21 minutes was an amazing feeling!

By Fay Uphill.

Race Rundowns: 22nd April Muddy Roads Pine Forest Trail 5k and 3rd May Muddy Roads Pizza 8k Trail

After a good few years of running either with Rosie or with my trusty old border collie Jess, and entering the odd running race and a few sprint triathlons for ‘fun’, Rosie finally convinced me to actually join the Harriers.

Pre-covid I was never able to attend any training sessions due to work commitments, but working from home meant that I no longer had that excuse, and with the gym pretty much shut I needed something to keep the wine and chocolate calories from piling on, so I signed up and joined a few Netpark & Hardwick Park sessions as well as some runs with Emma, Vicky and Fay.

I’m generally not very motivated if I don’t have something to ‘train’ for so I signed up for some races this year and the last 2 weeks have seen me wear my new vest not once but twice! And what beautiful settings for races they were. Both were Muddy Roads trail races and were extremely well organised, everyone was friendly, welcoming and really supportive. And Rosie was at both handing out race numbers along with lots of encouragement for me and the rest of the runners. Huge credit to Vicky Fawcett and the whole Muddy Roads team, you guys are awesome!!

So on to the races…..

Pine Forest is located at Flatts Lane in Middlesbrough and the race started on a beautiful Thursday evening at the visitor centre before climbing on a winding trail path up through the trees before opening up to stunning views of Roseberry Topping. I can’t say that after that climb I could see much of the view through the sweat in my eyes, but apparently it was there!

The lovely and encouraging marshals at the top cheered me on and I later found out they were the Harriers’ very own Bethany and Mark Raine. And thanks to Mark, there is photo evidence to prove that the view exists and you can see the happiness on my face at being at the top of the climb!

The run then undulates back through the forest with steep downhills and a long flat track before a small climb back up to the finish line. I managed a time of 25.56 which, for anyone who knows me, knows how much I hate hills, I was quite happy with!

http://www.chiptimed.com/results/muddy-roads/pine-forest-5k-april-2021/

The second race in my new vest took place on Bank Holiday Monday and was the Pizza 8k Trail at Errington Woods in New Maske  – and it was another hilly one  – but the draw of pizza at the end was enough to lure me in. And some other Harriers too!

We were lucky given the horrendous forecast for the day, that the weather was dry and cool for the race and the heavens only opened when we were on our way home.

The trail was similar to the first race with a start climb up through woods and then across dusty fields at the top with more stunning views of Roseberry Topping and also Saltburn cliffs and out to  the sea. The trail then heads back down through the woods, throw in a couple of boggy patches and another field and then on to the finish and the amazing wood fired pizza.

Both runs started under Covid safe rules in waves and having switched from wave 5 to wave 1 so Rosie and I could make a hasty getaway at the end (and nothing to do with getting our pizza before the queues started) I had the unexpected issue of being out at the front after the first mile – something I have never experienced before and probably never will again, so with no one to chase or follow it was an unusual ‘race’ for me and I was just trying to make sure I didn’t get lost and that none of the super fast runners from the next waves caught me. My time was 42.01 and I had to be pleased with that given those pesky hills and lone run. Note to self – don’t switch waves next time…..

A huge well done to the other Harriers who also ran – there were some truly impressive times!

Excellent 4th place overall for Mark

http://chiptimed.com/results/muddy-roads/pizza-8k/?fbclid=IwAR2On-_DWDUm1XCW08HTHPkB_BKXl6uUeA2Vtpb49ciq7uOD-M4RfR8ANcw

So I’ve got the race bug and I’ve even signed up for a few more Muddy Roads events although I am also keen to find a flatter race or two! And now Rosie has convinced me to join the Harriers, she now thinks she can convince me to train for an ultra…… but I think she first needs to join me in a few triathlons – that’s only fair isn’t it?!

By Claire Lee

Pictures credit: Karen Harland

Thanks Vicky, two more great events

Race Rundown: Pitstop 5k and 10k, 21st April 2021

By John Haycock.

The rearranged Pitstop 5k and 10k took place on Wednesday this week, having originally been scheduled for July 2020, and several Harriers made the short journey to the Croft Circuit to take part in the races.

What a pleasure!

It was a gorgeous sunny evening, with a cooling breeze – in fact near perfect conditions for posting some decent times.

Entrants had been asked for their projected times to facilitate a COVID friendly staggered start and this would be an acid test of actual post lockdown fitness as these had been declared over a year prior.

There had been junior races earlier on but, on my arrival, after a temperature check and a slick registration process, the 5k senior event took place.

Sedgefield were represented by Faye Uphill and Laura Wallace with some other familiar participants being Ciaran Lines (running for Houghton Harriers) and Helly Godfrey (Loftus & Whitby). The race began with competitors being set off in waves and in no time a string of runners could be seen across most of the circuit as they tackled their 1 and a bit laps.

Next up was the 10k with a bumper showing form Sedgefield and a field of nearly 200 runners. Again, the organisation was relaxed but slick, which was perhaps a sign of how used to we have got to the ‘new normal’, and we were soon organised into our waves for another staggered start at 10 second intervals.

DNF Dave? Achilles?

The circuit itself was smooth and flat, a complete contrast to the usual terrain offered up on a Sunday morning, and Blaine and I settled into a steady pace, resisting my usual temptation to blaze off too fast and burn out before the end.

After the usual internal mind games, counting off the kilometres, telling yourself your heading home after 5k, telling yourself only 1 lap to go after the first 2, I found myself feeling remarkably OK heading into the final kilometre. A rare feeling, this pacing training that Ean goes on about might have something in it!

Blaine passed me, but even that wasn’t getting me down and we finished with just 3 seconds between us in decent times.             …Well done Blaine

And, as it turned out, it was soon clear that several of the other Harriers had had a similar experience and were beaming, partly through their surprise times EVEN though there was a suspicion that the race was distance was over 10k, but also because of another welcome step back to normality.

One last special mention for Roger who never made it but was dedicated (and angry) enough to do a virtual Pitstop 10k in sub-40 time of 39:39!

Roll on the next event. Loved it!

(Thanks to Karen Harland for the great photos.)

Race Rundown: Lambton XC, 14th March 2020

By Matt Cooke.

Hello Harriers,

Since the corona virus mitigation measures had put paid to my afternoon sitting in a cold, half empty football stadium I took the opportunity to complete a cross country race around Lambton estate in Chester-le-Street. My third XC in about 30 years…

Big thanks to Ray Carmichael for driving myself, David Walker and David Bentley up there and finding the entrance (which apparently had eluded many others). I managed to squeeze into the back seat along with David B and a large carryall with half a dozen pairs of running shoes. He justified the large selection with a great quote ‘bring all your weapons to war!’. Can’t fault that logic and it definitely paid off later for DB!

Anyway, back to the Lambton Estate. The course is 3 laps totalling approximately 11km and we arrived in good time and met up with the rest of the Harriers. On the way into the car park we saw two muddy sections of the course, spikes we all thought. It was overcast and cold with a light breeze. After a reccy of the starting area we saw a fair amount of tarmac and other runners suggested trail shoes were definitely an option.

But this was a race with XC in the title and I had invested for spikes for XC, I was wearing them!

Christine and Sue competing for the ladies

David Walker said he was planning on just ‘tootling’ around as he had the Thirsk 10 the following day. I was also doing that race so the ‘tootle tactic’ sounded perfect. Ray C also said he was taking it easy, great I thought I’ll just follow these guys.

As the slow pack huddled at the start there were shouts of ‘No Coughing’ and ‘Spread out, 2 meters apart everyone please’… The race started and we set off into a slow shuffle around the opening bend. So far quite muddy, spikes a good choice! Within about 500m we came to the first ‘track’ which was hard standing, spikes not great! I opted to head onto the verge where I stayed for majority of the lap. The course descended down a steep tarmac road (I’m on the verge again), I nervously crossed this before heading down a steep tiered grass bank, this was more like it! The spikes allowing me to speed up a little while the course headed to towards the banks of the river Wear. Then it was another tarmac/cinder path, and onto the verge. I was keeping pace with Ray and David but I had obviously misunderstood the meaning of tootling….They were going at a fair lick on this first lap!?!

The highlight of the course is the long hill back to the estate. It starts gradually but has a really steep finish and turns a corner into a shallower climb for another hundred metres or so; that final little climb really takes it out of the legs. The spikes were again great for this hill. The last third of the lap was also great for spikes, muddy paths and big puddles which saw other runners fighting for drier edges. I loved ploughing on through the middle. It was around here where we reached the fallen tree. There were only 2 routes, either around the edge jumping over the trunk, less muddy, or under the tree through a bog… Easy choice, XC shoes, through the mud!

As I rounded the final bend you were separated from the spectators at the finish area by a wall. It was a nice feeling to emerge through a gate and have the crowd cheering. Big shout to Chris and Sue cheering us on.

By now David W had tootled into the distance, Ray C was just ahead of me and I was trying to keep up. After more zig zagging across the verges we were at the hill again… This time I went a little too fast and ended up having to walk the steepest 20m or so.

The 3rd lap as ever in these XC events was a real challenge but I managed to keep pace with Ray until the last mile or so where he found another gear. Heading through the gate the last time was a fantastic feeling, great noise from the crowds really spurred me on to produce a sprint finish (of sorts)!

Overall spikes were probably not the best choice of footwear. Next time a decent reccy of the track and listening to other runners advice is required!

I was chuffed to bits with a 10k record time on Strava and beating an old school friend. There were some great Harriers performances leading to a 3rd place finish for the team.

David Bentley’s shoe selection must have aided a tremendous 12th place overall and 4th in the division.

Race Rundown: Thirsk 10 Mile, 15th March 2020

It’s taken me a week to get around to writing this and what a week it’s been… Crazy times for everyone…To be honest I’m using this as a bit of an escape from events in the outside world, which have turned our normal lives upside down.

So rewinding a week to what was a great day out…

I had previously organised a lift to Thirsk with Mil and David W. Mil said he aimed to get there in good time and we did! The sun was nearly up when he arrived at mine. I think we beat most of the organisers to the course but this did result in an A1 position in the car park!

The race is centred at Thirsk Racecourse and the organisation from Thirsk and Sowerby Harriers was excellent. Efficient marshals were directing us to get our numbers from the large board outside before heading to the repurposed bar to get our numbers. With race number attached I went back outside and met several other Harriers who’d had the trip for the harrier league event.

It wasn’t until 20 or so minutes before the race that Pete King “asked” me in his best teacher’s manner to write the race rundown for this event. As this would be my first race rundown (he asked about doing the Lambton XC race rundown the following day…) I felt additional nerves as we ambled/jogged to the start line.

It was a cool, overcast day with fairly strong winds in parts. I’ll come back to this later… Around a thousand runners gathered at the start line, on a country lane at the far side of the racecourse. I was really impressed with the number of clubs/areas represented; from Wakefield to Saltwell, Scarborough to Tyne Bridge, a real northern mix. It was also nice to see a few familiar faces from my old club ‘Swiftees’.

As we stood in the cold, hopping around to keep warm I could feel the heaviness in my legs from the XC race the day before. Two races in two days, what was I thinking…?!? My thoughts now were a steady start and if I felt ok later I could pick up the pace a little.

The first mile or so was run along a lane with high hedges either side, not much of a view but no wind either! I had a chat with Emma (Who was flying btw, well done Emma!) and Andy F as we headed through the first few miles. Just keeping up with them at this point hurt… Sam Rudd skipped past at about miles 3 on his way to great 10M PB. The soreness was still niggling and I just had to concentrate on knocking off the next mile.

Suddenly, we left the shelter of the hedgerows and entered the much more open land either side of the A167. Ahhhh, now the wind was there! Especially up a few of the long gradual uphill sections which were really hard going. I was feeling a bit better now though and tucked in behind Andy F and a runner from Hartlepool Burn Road Harriers.

We reached the switchback at mile 5 (which I hadn’t realised until later) and I saw the race leaders looping back onto the 167. Incredible to see the pace they were going at. A lot of people hate switchbacks but I’ve got to say I quite liked this one… on the way out I was watching for other Harriers and shouted them on – Paul Weir, followed by Chris Lines, Gary Auston and Byron Walker. Only a minute or so behind them were David Walker and Mil Walton. We reached the end of the switchback turned and headed back, now I felt like I was being watched and had to kick on. I felt good and started to pick up my pace. Now other Harriers were shouting me on which was great to hear and kept me going!

At the end of the switchback I had my lowest low and highest high of the race…. I heard a marshal shout ‘that’s 5 miles’. I had lost track of markers and thought she was saying that to me not the people entering the switchback. My legs suddenly felt like lead, 5 more miles… No way! I need to slow down or I wasn’t going to finish this…. But then almost instantly the 7 mile marker appeared. Get in there! Only 3 to go, I could do this! With this in mind I tried to keep up the pace with aScarborough AC pair as we went through the little village of Sandhutton.

It was when we reached the roundabout and joined the A61 that I realised we were close to Thirsk again. I felt good and was able to push on again as we entered Carlton Miniott. Even better the wind that was the bane of the first half of the race was now on our backs! As the traffic increased all the runners had moved onto the pavement so I was nipping on and off the road as I slowly reeled in runners from Stockton, Knaresborough and Richmond.

I’m blaming it on the tired legs but during the next overtaking manoeuvre I stumbled when going back onto the pavement, ended up arms flaying, full aeroplane style for a few metres before getting back into my stride. I heard shouts of ‘are you ok?’, I was too tired (and embarrassed) to turn around and just gave a thumbs up.

Approaching the racecourse now and still keeping up the pace. Paul Lee really helped with encouragement as I began to slow going up and over the railway bridge. Last couple of hundred metres and I expected to get caught by a fast finisher. I dug deep and held on, entering the racecourse, lots of noise, held the sprint up around the finishing hairpin… It was a strange finish but it worked.

I joined up with the other Harriers who had posted some great times, especially given the headwind at the start of the race. Sam Rudd’s 1.10, superb and Mark Chapman picked up another PB. I downed my water in a few gulps before heading off for T-shirt. The lady handing out the shirts was telling everyone they were small fitting. I asked if a medium would fit, she smiled politely and said ‘you can always give it a go…’ The cheek! Speaking of the T-shirt I will be putting it aside for the dark winter nights, it would be hard to miss its ‘migraine’ orange colouring 😊.

I really enjoyed the day and the race. Little did we know it would be the last one for the near future…

A week after the Harriers sessions have closed I’m already missing the hills on Tuesday and NetPark Thursdays. Which is something I didn’t really think I’d ever say! It must be the good company that keeps me coming back…. And on that note everyone take care and hope to see you all on the other side…. Whenever that may be…..Who knows maybe we’ll have our orange Thirsk shirts on!

Stay safe,

Matt

Results: https://www.ukresults.net/2020/thirsk10.html 

Race Rundown: Northumberland Coastal Ultra, 22nd February 2020

By Eric Henderson

Thirty six miles along the beautiful Northumberland coastal paths, almost deserted beaches and through picturesque fishing villages, past ancient castles, and less ancient golf courses – What’s not to like about the EnduranceLife Northumberland Coastal Ultra?

Well the zero four hundred hours alarm call was the first thing I wasn’t overly enamoured with, and the sound of rain bouncing off the bedroom window was the second. But an easy drive on empty roads, cheap well marshalled parking and fairly slick sign on process improved matters. It had even stopped raining, although the wind most definitely remained.

Parking was on the links in sight of Bamburgh castle where the race HQ tent and toilet facilities were located. The castle was quite a sight as dawn broke slowly revealing the majesty of the structure and its location. Then, suitably briefed it was time to get on the buses that would take us to the start in Alnwick.

Chatter on the bus was an indication that I was perhaps a little out of my depth. From the ex-Marine, seated behind me swapping tales of ultras, ironmen and multiday stage races with his bus buddy, to the lady next to me regaling me with memories of the Wales 3000 (https://www.welsh3000s.co.uk) and her future plans for the Bob Graham Round.

The course would take us from Alnwick, out to Alnmouth then up the coast to Bamburgh. In the shadow of the castle the ultra course would split from the marathon course and head off on a loop north and around inland before rejoining the beach south of Bamburgh and retracing its earlier steps to the split point, this time turning south for the run into the finish.

We were kicked off the buses in view of Alnwick Castle, and not far from the Harrier League XC field. With three bus loads of runners, no toilets and not even many trees in the start field if you’re shy about bodily functions this may not be the race start for you. Preparations completed we all gathered between the two flags indicating the start line and in a (fortunately) brief rain squall we were off.

The first part of the course roughly follows the course of the river Aln down to Alnmouth over wet but none too technical terrain and the pack quickly spread out. Despite the strong wind and weak sunshine I was soon getting a bit warm, so juggling my backpack and jacket I tried, eventually successfully, to remove my arm warmers without having to stop. Just shy of six kilometres in came the first real obstacle, stepping stones across the river. Not enough water in the river to require a diversion but just enough to cover the stones by an inch or two ensuring wet feet – not ideal with fifty kilometres to go.

The kilometres out to Alnmouth were fairly uneventful and as we reached the mouth of the river and turned north to head up the coast, joy of joys a tail wind. The first feed station came and went with a tinge of disappointment. I know the organisers had stressed that the feed stations were only there to complement your own nutrition plans but a big bag of jelly sweets, a bowl of crisps and some bits of banana were not exactly an overwhelming selection of goodies. The feed stations were also acting as check points with each runner electronically recorded by the dibber attached to their wrist. Then a climb up along the edge of a golf course followed by a steep drop down onto the beach, where an unplanned diversion into the undergrowth whilst descending cost me a few cuts to my right knee.

I was still feeling okay at twenty one kilometres, albeit very conscious that there was still more than a full marathon to go. But half a kilometre later it started to go wrong. Rounding a turn onto an off-camber section of the path complete with strong cross wind, my feet went from under me and down I went. More surprised than hurt I got up, took a couple of paces, began to check I was okay and bang, down I went again. Two falls in the space of as many strides knocked the wind out of me a bit but thankfully it was mainly my pride that was dented.

By half way I was beginning to struggle. The wind was a huge factor. At times a tail wind, mostly a cross wind but in some sections a full on head wind and it was brutal. The conditions and the terrain, which was more awkward than out and out technical, were taking their toll. My legs were starting to hurt and my head was beginning to doubt. By the time I hit Beadnell Beach at about thirty four kilometres I was figuratively on my knees. I was walking more and more, beginning to cramp a bit and generally not really enjoying myself.

My mood was not helped by the fact that I had just managed to make it past the 10k start on the beach when the runners were released from there. So from then on in there was a fairly constant stream of people breezing past me, either motoring along at indecent pace or gently cruising past chatting away and making running look a lot easier than it felt to me.

Forty kilometres after I had started I hit the beach at Bamburgh, and the weather hit me, hard. Despite still heading in broadly the same direction as we had all day, the wind was full on in your face and blowing a hooly, the sand was scouring my legs and one of the few rain showers blew in. I was tired, cold and thoroughly disillusioned with long distance running. At that point, given my legs were really struggling and with the prospect of the weather closing in I made the decision that to head out on the extra ultra loop would be folly and that I would simply head for the finish at the split point.

That was still easier said than done. I still had about four kilometres to go to the split point and I covered them painfully slowly. It was one of those horrible scenarios, you can see where you are heading to but it just refuses to get any closer, until finally it did. Off the beach and up into the dunes, a small moment of indecision at the split point, I headed south for the finish and promptly had my decision vindicated by another bout of cramp that brought me to a halt, again.

Even the last kilometre or so from the split point to the finish took me an age and I was passed by several more runners until I finally crossed the line and my misery was almost ended.

Now, having done eight miles less than the intended course, but still a personal record of twenty eight miles, I arrived at the finish quickly enough for them to try to award me third place in the Ultra, but I duly declined and joined the queue to have my dibber cut off and get my race time print out. Getting a print out was to me an unnecessary delay, slowing down the queue of athletes as it did and forcing us to remain exposed to the wind for much longer than I found comfortable. By the time I got through to the mandatory kit check I was shivering and unable to even hold the pen to initial the check sheet. But that was the last of the formalities. I found my jacket that had been brought back from the start and went and sat in my car to warm up with tea and heated seats.

Although the run did not go as planned it probably went as I expected. I didn’t have enough training in my legs or desire in my heart to complete the full ultra, and I take my hat off to anybody who has, and I bow in admiration to anybody who thought a second one was a good idea, but by way of two falls and a submission this one beat me.

There is quite a lot to like about the Northumberland Coastal Ultra, (the trails, the scenery, the organisation but not the wind) if running long distances is your idea of fun but for me it was quite simply ten thousand steps too far.

Results: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Y76lN147y2NTLEJgetI547Y_lZVjXyAemRhQtgp-2s0/edit#gid=0

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: Hardmoors Saltburn Trail Half Marathon, 9th February 2020

Saltburn is the first race in the 26.2 series, which take place over the year.   I’d been looking forward to giving these races a go after reading so much about it on the facebook page….one small problem….storm Ciara!  A lot of looking at different weather forecast pages in the days before in the hope that the wind and rain would somehow miss the north east, however no such luck.  I was asked by a few people whether the race would be cancelled, I knew that wouldn’t be happening as this is Hardmoors!  The philosophy seems to be the worse the conditions the better the race.

We had heard before that there had to be some changes made to the route which would mean we wouldn’t be on the cliffs for as much of it.  It did mean we had lost some of the bonus Hardmoor miles – the races are always at least a couple of miles longer than the stated 13.1,  however I certainly wasn’t feeling short changed knowing the weather we would have to be running in.

Rosie and I travelled together to Saltburn and we met up with Nicky and Stuart when we arrived.  We picked up our numbers and checked out the new route and stayed inside in the warm for as long as we could before the race started.

We were ushered out onto the road by the leisure centre just before 10am and after a quick countdown we were off.  The first part of the route was through the Valley Gardens down to the sea front.  Then there was the first of the hills up on to the top of the cliffs.  Once at the top this was where we took the detour inland and there was a quite a long gradual uphill.  I was beginning to think ‘oh my god, what have I got into!’ The horizontal rain and wind was making it tough going.

Due to the changes in route we got to go up Warsett Hill (Yay!  So kind to add that in), a very steep incline where there was no chance of doing anything other than walk.  One bonus of the walking up hills is it does give you a chance to have a jelly baby or two.  What goes up must come down and heading down the other side was pretty exhilarating having the wind on your back (got to make the most of it while you can)

There was a section where we were right on the cliff edge which was a little hairy and then we headed down on to a beach just before Skinningrove.  This was the one point of the race where we were out of the wind.  It was a short lived respite and we were quickly back into the wind and rain and a steep upward incline.

At about 6 miles in and more soggy hills I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself and had one foot on the struggle bus.  By the time we reached the top I told Rosie to go on but got a ‘don’t be daft’ in reply and on we carried (thanks Rosie!).  As we moved inland the weather did seem to ease up – certainly on the rain front, and in turn the miles went by a little easier.

We’d been told that this was one of the most urban Hardmoors and the second half of the race went through some of the villages/towns along the coast.  Not the most scenic part but it was a little easier going under foot!  Before we got back into Saltburn there were more soggy fields, feeling like you were going backwards in the winds and oh, more hills but the miles ticked by and we then saw the welcome sight of Saltburn.  We came back into the top end of the Valley Gardens and weren’t sure exactly how far we had left, but once we reappeared on to the road where we had begun the race on we knew the end was in sight.  It was a little bit of an anti-climax after battling round for over 2 ½ hours…there was no finish line to cross, just a walk up the steps into the leisure centre hall and someone reading out your race number.  Never mind, we had finished!! Really tough going and I can’t say ‘I loved it’ like Nicky did but a definite sense of achievement having battled the elements and survived!

After picking up our medal and T-shirt we could get a hot cup of tea and cake and got to catch up with Emma and Ellen who had completed the ‘10K’ (~7.5 miles) race – much more sensible in those conditions! There was also an added bonus of being at a leisure centre – hot showers!

We won’t have that luxury at the next race – Wainstones in May, but let’s hope the weather is a lot kinder and that won’t matter!

By Fay Uphill

Results: https://www.hardmoors110.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Saltburn-Half-Marathon-2020-results-1.pdf

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.

https://necaa.weebly.com/uploads/6/4/8/5/64850927/2020_signals_relays_senior_men___v40_men_results.pdf 

Race Rundown 2: South Shields Winter Trail 5k, 2nd February 2020

Sunday saw the second race in this year’s Harriers Grand Prix. This race was a trail at South Shields. Unlike most other races in the series this one was only a 5k, a relative doddle me thinks, & listening this week to my fellow harriers making comments like ‘I’m not going all the way up there for a 5k’ maybe I’ll get a few points for this one. 

 

So out of bed at 7:00am & on the road at 8:00am after shovelling in a geet walla bowl of porridge. 

I was first to arrive at the White Horse pub, and soon after some of my fellow Harriers appeared. I started checking out who had shown up from division 2 to work out my expected points haul for the day.

Christine. Well there goes the maximum of 10. 

Ian. Well that’s 9 down the pan. 

Paul. Oh flip, remembering being passed in last year’s 400m. I decided I would have to be happy with 7, that’s assuming no one else turns up. 

Marie & some of the usual Sunday morning crew said they were doing a couple of miles warm up & a few miles after. This would count towards the other challenge a few of us are doing of 500 Sunday miles for the year.  

We set out on the course ready to enjoy the view down to the seafront. A few hundred yards in, there was an arrow indicating the direction… up, up & more up. It was mountainous. Needless to say my 2 mile warm up became 1 mile & I let the others go. 

Arriving back at the pub I had a little smirk to myself in the knowledge that my fellows at the registration desk did not have a clue what lay ahead – as if that gave me some form of advantage! 

So a gentle jog to the start, this time it was downhill which only meant one thing, with the finish being at the pub there was going to be more up than down and plenty of it! 

So the race started & we set off on a gentle climb knowing much worse was to come with a harassment of harriers strung out on the course. Soon I was onto the lung busting climbs and decided no one in their right mind would run up here, so like many others, the thought of having two feet off the ground became a distant memory and I began to ambulate (notice how I managed to avoid the ‘w’ word). 

The downhill bits weren’t much better as it wasn’t easy on the terrain, still I had my trail shoes on so I gave it my best shot on my already tired legs. And then there were the steps, these were impossible to run down – steep & completely the wrong pitch for my stride length. Towards the bottom I spotted a muddy path just to my right & thought I could have run down that instead. 

So with the expectation of more lung busting pain I started the second lap, this time our swarm was a bit more spread out & after nearly taking a wrong turn & not too soon I arrived at the steps again. I saw the top of the little path & decided that’s the route for me… Big mistake. The reasonably steep slope soon changed to what only can be described as north face of the Eiger, and I found myself careering down with arms flailing as if I was doing semaphore with a wasp up my shirt.

By the time I got to the bit I’d seen earlier all four limbs were now completely out of sync and my running style could only be described as demented. How I stayed upright heaven only knows. The marshal at the bottom was very impressed though, stating ‘you negotiated that well’.  (I’ve never really understood sarcasm).

One more hill & then on to the finish where I collapsed in the usual fashion – 

I survived. That’ll do for me. 

After a brief rest I set out with the aforementioned Sunday crew to complete this week’s instalment of the Proclaimers 500 club challenge – 6 more miles along the seafront making a total of 10.6 for the day. I was shattered & it was now raining.  Still I had a good day & the blister I discovered later on my little toe didn’t dampen the occasion.

Doddle… I think not. 

by Dave Round.

With the ‘Proclaimers Club’ (500 miles…) afterwards