January 2019. I
shouldn’t have looked back at my race notebook (doesn’t every running
geek have one?!). It has been 8 years since I last ran the Old Monks
(now called the Stuart Pailor memorial run) and I was having one of
those ‘why did you enter this’ moments. If I wasn’t getting
picked up I might have feigned illness. I’ve been in the Sedgefield
Harriers since the beginning but MIA for most of the last 7 years
since 3 small people have arrived and caused havoc with my running
schedule. I’ve only completed a handful of races over the last few
years and I’m a bit race ‘rusty’.
remember Old Monks to be freezing (well it is the beginning of Jan
and yes it was, but not as bad as some previous years), brutally
hilly through the dene (yes and need to remember you go through the
dene twice and save some energy for the second hill) and fast on the
roads on the way back (or as fast as tired legs can go). There were
294 runners which is 5 times as many as the last time I ran it but it
still has the friendly feel of a local trail race. The village hall
is lovely and warm, serving coffee and cake. It’s well organised
and relaxed and once we had set off all nerves disappeared and it was
great to blow the Christmas and New Year cobwebs away (powered by
child free euphoria and caffeine).
Sedgefield Harriers took part which is a fantastic turn out with some
amazing results. David Bentley was 4th Male overall, Justin Cox was
1st male Vet45, Ciaran Lines was 1st U20 and I was an unexpected 1st
female Vet 35 (which I think was more down to luck that there were
not many V35 runners rather than speed). The prize money will be just
about enough to pay for my next Costa coffee and I’ll be back next
year, as like a true running geek, I loved every second!
The McTaggart Trot is unique. Teams of three, more or less randomly
deranged, set off at the pace of the slowest runner to cover the
first leg of four miles. They (the first leg runner) are then free to
go back on the bus of leisure, where canapés are served by a
liveried flunky (not really), run the four miles back to the start,
complete the second leg of seven and a half miles, before dropping
out, or run the whole 11 miles. The second leg runner is faced with
similar choices at 7.5 miles while the final leg runner is obliged,
on pain of death, to finish the 11 mile scenic, undulating, route
around t’country lanes of Yorkshire.
the final leg runner has the ‘chip’ on their ankle (I had to be
content with the one on my shoulder). So, the 11 miler could just
blast round on their own but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of the
event. And this event is all about spirit. Fancy dress is optional
but almost universal and it’s all for charity, mate. The whole
thing is in aid of St. Theresa’s Hospice and probably raised about
£2000, as most chip-in more than the £8 entry fee. This event is
steadily growing and deserves to. This year 75 teams, with no other
ambition but to enjoy thems-elves dressed in a variety of suitably
festive gear, apart from one bewildering Power-Ranger or whatever and
a very sparse sprinkling of people whose countenance screamed ‘bah!
Harriers were represented by Jayne ‘Santa’ Freeman, who took the
first leg of our team 19. I ran the 2nd leg, as an elf
with a pituitary gland disorder and our 3rd leg runner
(not a Harrier) ran as the ghost of Christmas can’t be arsed. Pete
King hedged his bets by running faster than any of us in team 62,
wearing Santa’s tropical kit.
organisational team is superb under the admirable captaincy of Grant
McTaggart and results in a race that just makes you feel good and
brings forth a mountain of cake at the end.
Times? Who cares?
But, for the record, the race was ‘won’ by Team 54 (Abbie
McCartin, Pauline Brown and Peter Armstrong) in 1:22:09. Their split
times were: 32:25, 26:26 and 23:18, respectively.
Team 19 (Jayne
Freeman, Ian Spencer and Sarah Guy) 1:40:07 in 44th place.
Our split times were 40:08, 31:40 and 28:18.
Team 62 (Susan
New, Julie Whinn and Pete King) 1:40:57 in 47th place.
Split times 28:08, 45:48 and 27:01.
We’ll be back
next year, having found a way of making sure our costumes don’t
was part of the ‘Winter Wonder’ series organised by North East
Marathon Club. I’ve been a member of NEMC for two years and enjoy
their local, low key events. The Winter Wonders have generally been a
Newcastle Town Moor fixture but this year have started to branch out
to such places as Herrington and, next month, Hardwick Park. You
don’t have to be a marathon runner to be a member of NEMC and the
Winter Wonders are designed accordingly for runners of all distances.
They tend to be multi-lap events, for participants to run as far as
they wish within a six hour window. There are no finishing placings
as such and sometimes runners’ own times are used as their
‘official’ time. I also like them because you get to run past the
refreshment table for snacks and drinks every few miles, avoiding the
need to carry your own kit.
Fellow Harriers Justin Cox and
Ben Smale also took part. Justin needs no introduction. Ben is an
unassuming guy from Coxhoe and a good runner (first Harrier at the
Coxhoe Trail 10k the other month) and we shared a lift. Coxhoe, by
the way, is a hotbed of running talent, just ask Mil Walton.
Following Storm Deirdre and her freezing rain the previous day, this
was a chilly but rather pleasant sunny morning for running. I chose
road shoes based on the tarmac path at the start, but soon questioned
that once we danced through some downhill icy slush. Despite having
to stop twice to empty stones out of said shoes, it was a decent
decision. Herrington Park, a colliery until 1985 with the largest
spoil heap in the North East, is in the shadow of Penshaw Monument
and the course was a 5km loop on good paths. There were several
inclines but they served more to break up the run rather than tire
out and it was an enjoyable event in good surroundings. I’m not
training for anything in particular so was happy to call it a day
after five laps and sixteen miles. Further ahead Ben had decided the
same. He’s recently completed five marathons in five days at an
event near Bolton so felt he didn’t to push himself too much.
Justin lapped me on lap four, well ahead of anyone else. I happen to
also know the guy in second place, Elvet’s Gareth Pritchard from
Coxhoe (hotbed, I did say).
runners completed the event, each deciding their own distance, with
25 doing a full marathon or more. All entry monies were for charity
too, raising an impressive £1,500 for Special Olympics Sunderland.
For the record, I completed my five laps (16.2 miles) in 2hrs 27:40,
and Ben in 2 hrs 17. I stiffened up on the last lap but was pleased
overall. Justin ran 8 laps+, the full marathon distance in 3hrs 1:33;
a great effort for a training run, eight minutes quicker than anyone
bonus was that Herrington Park has an electric car charging station,
which got me all the way home too. Result!
10.5m Fell Race Organised by Allen Valley Striders
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.
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
Anniversary buff. Just the job.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
have asked “What was it like, was it tough?”
in the words of Dave Walker: “Tough? Well one guy lost the whole
sole of his shoe, it was that tough!”
it is true, he was a Low Fell Harrier and ran the last mile of tarmac
in his socks!
Trail 10k, 23rd September 2018. A coolish but pleasant morning for
racing. This run was re-established in 2014, with the original Coxhoe
10k on a different route dating back to the 1980s. The modern version
was put together by local runner Iain Twaddle and our own Ean Parsons
and attracts a decent number of Harriers. The course is a good one,
an out and back along the old Kelloe railway line, with a loop around
the plantation (‘pit heaps’) at the far end. This doesn’t really
hint at the two or three taxing hills on the route, the last one a
particular energy sapper, especially with another half mile still to
go once back at the top before the finish. The finish area is where
Coxhoe Hall used to stand (once the home of the Victorian poet
Elizabeth Barrett Browning) and offers a good vantage of those
struggling up the final hill. Well, I always struggle anyway.
is down at Coxhoe Leisure Centre, followed by a fifteen minute walk
up to the start/finish area in the woods. This year I got chatting to
folks at the finish area for too long and only just got to the start
in time. It meant I was right at the front and after just the
briefest of intros we were away. I’ve never started a race so
quickly. I dare not do anything other to avoid tripping other front
runners and only eased off once we were halfway down the first hill.
Turns out it was a successful tactic as normally I’m tripping over
folks on this bit myself. I kept a decent pace throughout, for me,
and beat my best time in five attempts at the course by a minute and
a half. The organisers moved the date back three weeks this year, to
avoid Tees Pride 10k, and I think the cooler morning helped too.
Either way, I was pleased with my performance.
record 200 runners completed the event this year. First Harrier was
Ben Smale (a Coxhoe lad) and first female overall was Lisa Darby, a
brilliant effort. A special mention also to 15 year old Daniel
Avery-McAleese who finished 33rd
overall in 44 minutes. Fifteen Harriers in total took part. It’s a
great local event and even more next year would be super.
This race doesn’t
need much of an introduction, with it being perhaps one of the most
iconic half marathon races in the world. Being a fairly novice
runner I wanted to set myself a challenge and with the race pretty
much on the doorstep I thought why not enter the ballot?! Training
in earnest started in June and I gradually built up the miles through
the weeks. Then came race day – my first attempt at 13.1 miles! I
think I was more nervous in the morning about getting to the start
line having read a lot about busy metro lines but in the end it all
went smoothly and I even had time to meet up with friends from work
who were also racing.
After that, it
was time to go to the start along with approximately 43,000 other
people, unfortunately I didn’t see any of the other 21 Harriers who
were also racing. It is quite an experience to be lined up with that
many people and to know I was in the same race as Mo Farah!
I crossed the
start line 12 minutes after the gun went off, I thought it was going
to be busy at the start but we were all pretty well spread out. I
went off too fast (definitely need to work on my race pacing) but as
I got down towards the Tyne bridge I tried to settle into it, however
that proved tricky with so many people on the road. This wasn’t
helped by people starting to walk at around 3 miles, if you’re
doing a half marathon do some training!
By mile 7, the
legs were starting to complain, time to dig in, and focus, however
easier said than done with everything going on and the heat. Had to
make use of all the water stations and the showers and by mile 10 I
was beginning to slow, the long drag uphill really does take it out
of you. It was quite a relief when it levelled out. Then there was
the short downhill to the sea front, round the corner and then the
end was finally in sight, but that last stretch, it felt so far. I
never thought the finish line would come but getting closer I took
one final look at my watch, saw there was a chance to still get under
2 hours and just went as fast as I could (admittedly not that fast at
the end of 13 miles) but crossed the line exhausted in 1:59:47. I’d
done it, first half marathon completed and really pleased to meet my
goal of sub 2 hours, even if it was only by 13 seconds!
I am glad I can
tick the Great North Run off the list, but I won’t be entering the
ballot this year – too many people and the logistics of trying to
find the family afterwards and getting home put a bit of a dampener
on the day. However, it certainly gave me the bug for running, I’m
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