Race Rundown: Herrington Park Winter Wonder, 16th December 2018

This 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).

75 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 else.

A bonus was that Herrington Park has an electric car charging station, which got me all the way home too. Result!

Full results from a very well organised event can be found at: http://www.northeastmarathonclub.co.uk/winter-wonder-runs.php

by Pete King

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

10.5m Fell Race Organised by Allen Valley Striders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope to see more Harriers there next year!

Mil Walton.

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

Race Rundown: Coxhoe Trail 10k 2018

Coxhoe 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.

Registration 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.

A 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.

Full results can be found at: http://www.activelifecoxhoe.co.uk/downloads/Coxhoe%20Trail%2010k%20Results.pdf

by Pete King

Race Rundown: Great North Run – 9th September 2018

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 hooked now!

By Fay Uphill

Link to results: https://www.greatrun.org/myresults