Race Rundown: Valencia Marathon, 4th December 2022

By Beth Raine.

So, rewind to December last year when this photo pops up on Facebook from Justin and Gary. Raving about how good the marathon was in Valencia and recommending it to Harriers looking for some winter sun…

A mere month later in January 2022, following one of their training runs, Mark and Lisa suggest a meal together at the Raines’ house to discuss a proposal with myself and Graham.

“How about we go to Valencia to do the marathon in December”? Mark suggests.

“Sounds good” says Lisa.

Now Graham and I were on the spot but having had a few drinks and it being 11 months down the line, we both said yes and promptly put it to the back of our minds. After all, we had plenty of time to train for it and there was the small matter of the Grand Prix to contend with (note Mark, Lisa and Graham all won their respective Divisions – just me that couldn’t make it a full house because of that pesky Dave Round)!

We had a few more “planning” evenings which were code for beer, cider or in my case, wine whilst we loosely discussed arrangements for the fast-approaching race.

However, when August came, I realised December would come along quickly and I really ought to do some training that meant running over a 10k!

Training for us all had its ups and downs. Lisa suffered with injury and did Chester whilst she wasn’t fully fit. Mark picked up an injury too and was laid low for a while. My training was going okay until I got a cold at the end of October which kept me out of the game for a couple of weeks (more of that later).

Luckily for me, I had the benefit of company on longer training runs with Georgina Letts being a particular star and nagging me to make sure I drank and ate enough on the longer ones. But I also had the company of Tracy F, Sue D and Anna on my last long one which was a 20 miler.

Friday 2nd December arrived and an early start to get us on a flight to Alicante then a hire car to Valencia.

We arrived and went to the Expo to collect our bibs, t-shirts and goody bags (I love a race that gives out the t-shirt before you do the race, means you can back out)!

The finish area looked amazing, and we were excited to see what it would be like on raceday.

It soon became clear that perhaps Graham and I (Lisa and Mark are the speedy ones so they were okay) had bitten off more than we could chew. Everyone looked like an elite runner, and we also discovered the cut off was 5 hours 30 mins so it wasn’t full of “fun runners” like at UK based marathons, everyone here meant business.

That feeling was compounded on the Saturday morning when we did the 5k Breakfast Run when again, everyone else looked like they were Eliud Kipchoge wannabes, and I was out of my depth!

However, it was good to get a few miles in the legs the day before and of course, we had to run there so it was 5 miles in total.

Pre-race fuelling involved pizza, cider and wine (Lisa Darby’s tried and tested method) and an early night.

Now what I have omitted to mention is that the cold I had got in October (the one I mentioned earlier) hadn’t really shifted and Mark had picked it up in the meantime. This meant neither Mark or I were feeling on top form but neither of us intended on missing this opportunity, so we decided to do just do our best and see how we got on. My aim of beating my 2019 London Marathon time of 4:53 looked optimistic and Mark’s target of 3:15 was in the balance too.

However, Race Day arrived, perfect conditions….dry, sunny and an 8:25am start meant it wasn’t too hot. After a slight panic of where we all needed to be (Lisa missed her wave but the marshals let her head off before the next wave, so she had some clear traffic) we all set off. Lisa first, then Mark, then Graham and I bringing up the rear in the over 4 hour wave.

My plan was to NOT do what. I did at London, and set off too quickly. 10:30min/mile pace was the aim and I pretty much stuck to it. The question is, without Paula dragging me round the last 12 miles, could I do this on my own or would I crash and burn?

Now let’s talk about the course. Whenever I saw Justin or Gary at Cross Country in the months leading up to the race, we would talk about Valencia. Both still raved about their experience months later and reassured me it was pancake flat. They weren’t wrong. It was super flat and as I am not a fun of any incline (or bumps in the road as Mark likes to call them), this suited me down to the ground. The support on the course was great and although my Spanish is not great, I realised that chants of “animo, animo, animo” were words of encouragement which helped push me along.

I felt good, I felt strong and I made a deal with myself that providing I got to 20 miles by 3:30, I had an hour and 15 minutes to shuffle the last 6.2 miles to get me in on my new target of 4:45.

I knew that Mark and Lisa would have finished their races by then and would be tracking me and Graham so I didn’t want to let them down.

20 miles came after 3:27 but whilst I knew I would slow down, I tried to hold on to some sort of pace, praying to avoid hitting “the wall”. Now it’s at this point, my previous marathon experience helped. I knew it was going to hurt, I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty, but I’d managed it before, I could manage it again.

The last few miles were brutal but the approach to the finish area was around the centre of the city where the support was the loudest. With 400m to go, you drop down onto a blue carpet and it looks like you are running on the water that surrounds you. I suddenly heard screams of “Beth Beth” from above and it was Mark and Lisa on the bridge cheering me in. I managed a smile and arm wave and even a sprint finish (I have no idea where it came from). I looked up at the time and it was 4:38 gun time and on my watch it was 4:37:54! I was so happy!

With the second goody bag of the weekend collected (with some unusual offerings which included broccoli) it was time to find Mark and Lisa to see how their races had gone…had they hit their targets?

It was never in doubt, a 3:11:29 for Mark, 3:15 dead for Lisa and Graham… (having deployed Jane’s run walk strategy) he came in at 5:12:32. PBs for everyone!

So if you fancy some winter sun in a beautiful city on a pancake flat course, I would thoroughly recommend Valencia!

Race Rundown: London Royal Parks Half Marathon, 9th October 2022

By Tony Barrass

The weekend got off to an inauspicious start at 6am on Saturday morning…

What was to have been a leisurely 2 hrs 50 min Durham to Kings Cross train journey became a 7 hour marathon Sunderland Park Lane to London Victoria via Megabus courtesy of the rail strike…most definitely a bus but not entirely convinced by its “Mega” credentials….

But no matter!  Mrs B (Christine, a former Harrier herself some may recall …) and I were in London on a glorious early Autumn weekend and after a pleasant evening in our Waterloo hotel and a very early light brekkie we set off to Hyde Park for the 9am start of the Royal Parks Half Marathon. This was an event that had long been on the to do list but we had not yet taken the Chance to do.

We lined up with c16000 fellow runners on South Carriage Drive and were soon away with our blue wave compadres. The route is a tourist’s dream, taking in three of the Royal Parks (Hyde, Green and St James) and many of the classic landmarks. Kicking off through Wellington Arch and down Constitution Hill to Buckingham Palace brought back recent memories – hard to believe what had taken place here less than three weeks ago. A few of the floral tributes still remained in Green Park but looking rather sad for themselves now.

The weather was perfect. Sunny but with a cooling early morning breeze.  It was even possible to do a bit of celebrity spotting, if you can count Dermot O’Leary, Sian Williams along with Eastenders star Natalie Cassidy and Love Island’s Priya Gopaldas as such….

And a bit of reverse celebrity spotting back from the crowds too with people shouting “that looks like Pete King’s Harriers vest!”…and they were right – it was!  as a spare had been generously loaned to me for the big day.

There was so much to see it was quite easy to forget about running at times. Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Whitehall (accompanied by random chants from the field of “Tories out” which in my mind required a prefix of “Oggie, Oggie, Oggie”… ). Into mile 4 and  just like Roxy Music we did the Strand although I doubt Bryan Ferry did it this way. Quick double back past Trafalgar Square and out onto the Mall for first water stop and energy gel.

Following that was the only real incline of the course as we headed back up Constitution Hill and back into Hyde Park which is where we would remain for the last 7 miles or so.

Ahead of the race this was the part that concerned me most as it consists of various loops around the park. Would it be boring?, would there be anyone watching? I couldn’t have been more wrong – It was great – with surprises at each turn and huge support from the sides.

At around 8 miles I developed a bout of phantom cramp. I am prone to cramp in longer events and occasionally the thought of it can actually make it a physical reality, which is what I feared was happening. But I pushed on, getting to the  9 mile water station was the Name of the Game, and thankfully by then I was running freely, if not particularly speedily, pushing comfortably through the psychological 10 mile mark.

The remaining 3 miles in the park passed by trouble free, the finishing straight back along South Carriage Drive past the Albert Hall was long but an absolute joy with crowds a la Great North run.

I finished in a time of 2:09 which I was pleased with and pretty much par for me at the moment. The day was as much about enjoyment as achievement When All Is Said and Done.

Christine came in a short time later which was cracking effort given her recent injury and limited training. At least One of Us was happy!

Being Eco warriors (….?) we had opted to “plant a tree” rather than take the usual T shirt. The race really pushes its sustainability credentials, we got a wooden medal too but somehow still ended up with a Royal Bank of Canada cuddly lion and Snood. Ah well, a nice change from Haribo and inedible energy bars.

So that concludes my first Harriers race rundown, no more words to say, no more ace to play, the Winner Doesn’t Always Take It All  – it was a fabulous event and one that will live long in the memory. Interest for next year already registered!

We completed the day by going along to Stratford on the evening to see the Abba Voyage show, but you may have guessed that by now…. 😊

Race Rundown – Lochaber 80 Ultra Trail World Championship Series, 17th September 2022

Those blasted pork pies

An ultra adventure in the Scottish Highlands

by Chris Lines

I’m not a big fan of pork pies. I rarely eat them. In fact, I very rarely eat them. It’s not that I actively dislike them, but they are not high on my list of preferred pastries. So, when I look back and consider that I recently carried four of the ruddy things for 57km, I am led to start questioning some of my choices in life. I carried them, but did not eat any of them. This, I feel, was a tactical error during my participation in the Lochaber 80 Trail Ultra. However, I think it might have been the only tactical error that I made during the event.

Ultra running is not really my thing and I have no ambition to change that. There are other members of Sedgefield Harriers who excel at covering very long distances with apparent ease and comfort. I doff my cap to them, but don’t intend to join their ranks. The reason for my temporary lapse is linked to the Great North Run. I take part in the world’s largest half marathon every year, but was unable to secure a place for 2022 via the lottery and hadn’t forked out even more money to guarantee a place through Great Run membership. I gratefully accepted a charity place from Durham Wildlife Trust, but it felt a bit cheeky to ask people to sponsor me at an event that I’d participate in anyway. In a moment of weakness, I decided to up the stakes by tackling the treble of a half marathon, full marathon and ultra marathon. Alongside the Great North Run, I knew which event would be the marathon – Kielder Marathon at the start of October. However, I needed to find an autumn ultra.

As it happens, I do some work for the company that organises the Salomon Skyline Scotland weekend, which this year was going to see the addition of some new trail races, including an 80km monster. Without giving myself the time to reconsider, I took the plunge and secured a place on the Lochaber 80, which would also be part of the Spartan Trail Ultra World Championship. I had actually known this, but had forgotten until I noted the names of some others who had entered. Suddenly, I was daunted by more than just the distance and elevation ahead.

Salomon Skyline Scotland is an annual event based up in Kinlochleven in the Scottish Highlands, in the shadow of the Ben Nevis range. The weekend includes a series of skyrunning and trail races, with distances from 5km to 80km. The toughest of these are ultras, in the form of two of the three skyruns, the 52km Ben Nevis Ultra (with 4,000m of ascent) and the 52km Glencoe Skyline (with 4,750m of ascent) – definitely not for me! Alongside the Mamores Stalker 27km Trail Race, the Lochaber 80 made its debut this year. Unlike the two 52km skyruns, the race was designed to be much more ‘runnable’ for most of its distance, with a route that weaved its way through the glens, rather than head to the summits. Nevertheless, there was plenty of technical terrain to tackle (especially in the first 25km), and the significant matter of 2,000m of ascent, including a long slog up the flanks of Ben Nevis at around 50km into the run.

I didn’t enter the event until the end of July, so my training for the Lochaber 80 was limited in its scope. While on holiday, I managed to fit in a 21-mile run with about 220m of ascent, but that was as far as I got in actual running preparation. As race day approached, I felt a bit nervous, but one way or another, it was going to be an adventure in a glorious part of the world, so I was excited too.

In the build up to the event, I was clear in my own mind that my first priority was to complete the 80km within the time limit allowed. The Lochaber 80 was advertised as an ultra with generous cut-off times. The race started at 7:00am and the first cut-off at 19km was 12:00pm. The second at 33km was 2:00pm, the third at 57km was 6:30pm, and participants were required to complete the run by 10:00pm. On the face of it, those times are indeed generous, but 80km is a long way and much of it would be unknown territory for me. However, I did allow myself a more ambitious stretch target, which was to get around in 12 hours. Mrs Lines was good enough to join me for the trip to Scotland and so we set off for the Highlands.

The mandatory kit list for the event was relatively extensive; waterproof jacket and overtrousers, insulated top, extra baselayer, hat and gloves, survival bag, head torch, water bottle/hydration system, whistle, and sufficient food. Ahead of packing everything for the weekend, I popped to a shop for a few bits and bobs and it was there that I spotted the mini pork pies. They promised a succulent filling, all encased in beautiful golden crusty pastry. I’d read plenty of accounts from ultra runners who ended up craving proper comfort food like that during a race, and I knew from my limited experience of longer events in the past that a good old fashioned pork pie or two could prove to be very useful. So, when I lined up nervously early on the morning of Saturday 17th September, I had four of the beggars stuffed into a pocket in my race vest.

A piper sent us on our way at the allotted time, and the racing snakes at the front rapidly disappeared off along the first trail. I focused on getting into the right mindset and rhythm for a very long run, making sure that my pace was comfortably sustainable. The first section presented the most technical underfoot conditions, which was actually helpful in discouraging me from going too fast. I had the route downloaded to my watch, which started counting down the distance from the start (this was not massively helpful from a psychological point of view in the early stages!), but there was no navigation involved, as the entire route was marked by red flags (all of which were removed afterwards, leaving no trace).

At around 14km in, I passed a first casualty, a runner who had stopped for some reason, but he wasn’t in distress and assured me that he was okay. Only 200m or so further along the trail, I met a member of the event support team who was heading back to find him, either alerted by another participant or by the runner himself sending a message. This moment was typical of the organisers’ approach to managing the race and the safety of those taking part – exemplary throughout.

I reached the first support point in about two hours and twenty minutes. I knew that the first cut-off time was very generous, but this still felt great! And I felt really good too, boosted by chatting to the two volunteers there, and the snacks that they had on offer – I helped myself to cheese, potatoes and some crisps, and refilled my water bottle. A fellow runner arrived just after me and then we set off on the next 14km section together.

What followed was really odd. About one kilometre along the trail, my legs started feeling really heavy and my energy level dipped. That coincided with a tussocky, boggy, ill defined section of the route, and at one point I mis-stepped and found myself up to my waist in water and mud for a few seconds. I kept pace with my temporary running companion for a few more kilometres, but still felt lethargic and ushered him on his way. Then I was joined and passed by one of the UK’s leading ultra runners, Elaine Bisson. By now, we were back on a wide gravelly track, heading gently downhill. At one point, Elaine took a tumble just in front of me, but thankfully, she wasn’t hurt and was soon moving ahead of me again. I started to feel a bit better during the last three or four kilometres to the next support point – whether the issue had been physical or psychological or both I don’t know, but I was definitely stronger as I approached another table covered in salty and sweet goodies. Noting that I’d reached the 33km point in about four and a quarter hours cheered me up no end too, as I’d got there even before the cut-off time for the previous support point.

Elaine and the other runner were still there when I arrived, preparing to leave, but I didn’t attempt to set off with them. I took some time to do some faffing and eat some of the cheese sandwiches that were on the table, and some more crisps. Just I was about to set off again, the next runner arrived. I left a couple of minutes ahead of him.

In my mind, I had always considered that the next section of the run would be the crux for me. If I could get to the final support point at 57km in just about one piece and with enough time in the bank, then I was confident that I would be able to drag my body around the final half marathon. Of course, ‘if’ was the operative word, as I was heading into uncharted territory and a sustained climb up to the climbers’ hut beneath the towering buttresses of Ben Nevis. Leaving the second support point, I experienced another dip in energy and mood – the fact that I still had nearly 50km to go probably had something to do with that! A couple of other participants went past me.

With the knowledge that the long ascent to the hut was a little over 10km ahead, I deliberately slowed down, trying to reserve some energy for that specific challenge. And a challenge it was! The path wasn’t particularly steep, but took me steadily (and slowly) uphill for over three kilometres. I could see the hut from a long way off, but it didn’t seem to get any closer until I was a few hundred metres away. My relief at reaching it was matched by my delight at finding a fast running stream close by, where I could refill a bottle.

Then it was an about turn and a welcome gentle downhill on the other side of the glen, followed by another short climb before the long descent to the next support point in the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre car park. It was getting on to mid-afternoon at this point, which presented a new challenge. The path down to the visitor centre is very rocky and not great for running on, but more than that, this seemed to be peak time for folk returning after a morning ascent of the main tourist route up the Ben. It was like the congestion at the start of the Great North Run (sort of)! After a steep, careful descent, the sight of the team at the final support point was very welcome. It wasn’t quite 3:00pm and I was still in one piece.

At this moment, I started to believe that not only would I complete the Lochaber 80, but that I could even achieve my stretch target. But I was careful to not get complacent – after all, there was still more than half a marathon to get through. The team at the support point cheerfully reassured me that much of the final section was very runnable. I joked with them that this was a lovely thought in theory, but unlikely for me in practice. Nevertheless, I got stuck into some final faffing ahead of the last push, aiming to lighten the load and ditch any provisions that I no longer needed. And that takes me back to those pork pies.

I’d carried them for 57km in the belief that they could provide me with vital sustenance at a crucial moment. But now that I’d reached that third support point, I had no appetite for them and I really didn’t see the point in carrying them for another 23km. So I waved them a wistful goodbye, wondering whether they were as tasty as they looked, as I headed along the next trail.

I left that final support point knowing that to complete the run in 12 hours, I had four hours to get to Kinlochleven – by no means rapid for 23km, but this was after already completing almost three half marathons. While I felt relatively okay, the mileage was taking its toll on body and mind. It was time to dig in and keep repeating the mantra ‘run when you can, walk when you have to’.

About seven kilometres into that final leg, as drizzle started to turn to persistent rain, I began to feel a bit light headed and hankered for some substantial food, something like an emergency pork pie for example! In the absence of that option, I had to suffice with an ‘infusion’ of nuts. Thankfully, that did the job, and miraculously, it turned out that even in my knackered state, significant stretches of the last 10km were indeed runnable, albeit at a very reduced pace. Slowly and surely, I could sense that the finishing line was threatening to loom.

I actually enjoyed the last three kilometres, which took runners steadily downhill and back into Kinlochleven. Although my main aim from the start had always been to simply get round, rather than race anyone, by now I was keen to not ship any more places, so pushed as much as I could, and my pace for the final 500 metres was my fastest of the entire run. I even managed something that a generous observer might describe as almost like a sprint finish. The reception for every runner at the end was fantastic, made even more special for me by Catherine being part of it. And as I crossed the line, Neil Young’s ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ was blasting out over the PA. Bonus! It turned out that the next runners were only two and three minutes behind me respectively, so that final effort was worth at least two places.

It was the end of a memorable day and a thoroughly rewarding experience. Reflecting on it since, I am pretty happy with how I planned and executed my run. While my pastry tactic didn’t work out, I did manage my nutrition pretty well, setting an alarm on my watch to go off every hour as a reminder to eat, and then obeying that reminder. And when my pace slowed at those moments when I was struggling a bit, or a fellow participant floated past, I didn’t allow myself to worry unduly and just kept plodding on, giving myself the occasional pep talk as I went. Those pep talks were almost all out loud while in splendid isolation. I’m quite content running on my own. In fact, I think that I preferred it to those moments when I had company.

Oh, and one other point. For various reasons, I’m always cautious about recommending running footwear to people, but if you have narrow feet like me, I’d certainly suggest considering Saucony products. I invested in a pair of the brand’s Peregrine 12 trail shoes. If truth be told, I left that purchase a bit too close to the event for comfort and had only worn them twice beforehand, for a parkrun and a Wednesday evening training session. So, that could have become a problem, but they performed brilliantly in terms of grip, traction and comfort up in Scotland. Amazingly, when I removed them after the race – now thoroughly soaked and caked in mud – my feet were entirely blister and blemish free. I was astounded.

I finished the Lochaber 80 in 11 hours, eight minutes and 24 seconds. For some perspective, the winner – Sweden’s Simen Hjalmar Wästlund – was nearly four hours ahead of me. Nevertheless, I was delighted, particularly when I discovered that I’d finished 20th overall and first in the V50-59 category. I still wouldn’t describe myself as an ultra runner, but I’m telling no porky pie when I state that I’ve completed an ultra run in a world championship series. Which is nice.

And if you want to contribute to my fundraising for Durham Wildlife Trust, please head along to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ChrisJLines.

Race Rundown: Schöppingen Volkslauf 5k, 25th August 2022

Race Rundown: Schoppingen Volkslauf 5k 

25 August 2022

by Jonathan Wallace

As many of you will know, over the last few years, a number of Harriers have travelled to Hamminkeln to take part in the CityLauf, a series of 5k and 10k races around our pretty twin town in North-West Germany. We have always been made very welcome by our hosts at Hamminkeln SV, who have also enjoyed several visits to Sedgefield to take part in the Serpentine race.

A number of us were planning to return to Hamminkeln for the first time since 2019 when the news broke that the CityLauf had been cancelled. However, one of our regular hosts, Rolf Lindau, suggested that we try an alternative race, the Schöppinger Volkslauf, which was taking place the same weekend, and so a group of us – Alda and Phil Houghton, Susan Wallace and I – decided to take on the challenge!

The race was on the Friday evening but Susan and I travelled a day early, enjoying an overnight stay in Duisburg and then visiting Duisburg’s most famous attraction, the Landschaftpark on Friday – an area previously used for coal mining and steel-making which, over the last 30 years has been transformed into a leisure park which celebrates rather than hides its industrial past.

After an interesting visit – and the obligatory Currywurst – we made the journey up to Schoppingen for the race, where we met Alda, Phil and Rolf, and made our way down to the Vechtestadion where the race was due to start.

The start time for the 5k race was a slightly unusual 17:10 -as it was nestled in among a series of other races, including a fiercely competitive junior race around a cinder track – and we were there in good time. However, in sharp contrast to our previous experiences at the CityLauf, the race was late in starting – by over half an hour! Despite the myth, not everything in Germany runs on time!

When the race got started, at about 5:45, the temperature was around 24C – quite normal for northern Germany in August (and a lot cooler than the 34C on the day we arrived) but still pretty warm to me and therefore a race where I would need to pace myself! However, I’ve never been great at sticking to a race plan, and as we set off, I saw Rolf Lindau just ahead of me, and decided on a new plan – try and stick with Rolf!

That worked quite well for the first mile… but then Rolf pulled away – and when we hit the first real incline, I fell further behind and spent the rest of the race trying to keep him in sight! Rolf finished in 21:55, which he later told us was a new PB for 5k! I obviously picked the wrong race to try and keep up with him but finished in 23:08 – well off Rolf’s pace but still a decent run out.

However, my “battle” with Rolf was only the warm-up for the main event – Houghton v Houghton! Building on his recent good running, Phil set the pace with an excellent start. However, despite protestations beforehand that she hasn’t been running well, Alda’s competitive instinct meant that she hung in for the first couple of miles, before showing a turn of pace and edging past Phil with about a mile to go. Once in front there was no stopping her and she romped home in a great time of 28:12, with Phil following shortly afterwards in a very respectable 29:16. She hadn’t realised during the race, but Alda was also First Lady – a fitting reward for a great run, which made the headlines in the local paper!

Taking part in her first event since her hip op a couple of years ago, Susan competed in the 5km walking race, finishing in third place – and ahead of some of the 5km runners, capping a successful race for the Sedgefield contingent.

After the race, we dashed back to join our friends from Hamminken SV at a BBQ. It was great to lots of familiar faces, including Hermann Terrhorst – previously the organiser of the CityLauf and a regular visitor to Sedgefield over the years. Ever since his last visit – when Pete King introduced him to darts at Coxhoe WMC – Hermann has set up his own Darts Team – the Ally Polly’s! He plans to bring his new team when he next visits Sedgefield and challenged us to a match – so we need to form a team and get some practice in!

We spent the rest of the weekend with our hosts – Thomas, Andrea, Doris and Friedel – for a cycle tour on Saturday – finishing the ride with a round of Crazy Golf (where we were comprehensively beaten by our ever-competitive German hosts, Andrea and Thomas!) before we headed to the Küpper Gasthof, a lovely old German pub / restaurant in Dingden near Hamminkeln.

Susan and I had an early start the following day – heading back to Duisburg to watch Thomas compete in a Half Ironman event at the Duisburg Sportpark. Perhaps inspired by our sporting achievements earlier in the weekend (!), Thomas rose to the occasion, completing the event in 4 hrs 58 mins and 34 seconds – well within his sub 5 hours target.

So, another great weekend in Germany, and another very warm welcome from our German friends. Hopefully we will see them all next year – in Sedgefield and in Hamminkeln.

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

Derwent Valley Trail Race (8 miler)

Sunday 10th July 10.00 am start

Club: Derwent Valley Trail Runners

Location: Dipton Jubilee Centre

Diary notes…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading

Mil Walton.

Race Rundown: Blaydon Race, 9th June 2022

by Elaine Noakes

Blaydon Race has been on my “to do list” since I started running in 2017 but I’ve never managed to get a place. So, when they released a few more places recently, I was over the moon to get one. Everyone has told me the atmosphere is brilliant and its worth it for the beer and ham and pease pudding sarnie at the end, although can’t say I’m a fan of pease pudding (I’m a southerner, well midlands really, and never heard of it until I moved North!!).

I was nervously excited all day. This is only my second race in a Harriers vest and I feel like a bit of an imposter, I haven’t been running as much lately so really hoped I would have a good run and my only aim was to finish and hopefully not be last. I got there early, making sure I had plenty of time for my ritual pre-race coffee and no doubt numerous loo trips I would need. I found my friends from Durham Mums, and after dropping our bags we walked over the Millennium Bridge to the Quayside where the race start has moved to. Everything I’ve been told was true, the atmosphere was buzzing and it was good to see some other harriers, I bumped into Emma Featherstone and her dad, and then Ian & Helen Hedley.


After getting some photos we gathered on the road, waiting for the start, which seemed to take forever. Eventually the Blaydon Races song was played and then everyone started shuffling forward, and soon we were across the start line. I started with a few friends, but we soon got separated amongst the crowds, as we ran through the streets. So many people lined the route, and it was great to hear the cheers of support.

I was conscious not to get dragged along too quickly at the start, as I really wanted to try and run as much as could without walking. I soon started to regret not bringing my water bottle with me though as it was quite muggy, and I was counting down to the water stations at the halfway point. I expected the support to dwindle as we got out of the town centre, but there were people all along the route and they spurred me on to keep running.


I was pleased to get the water station without walking, grabbed a cup of water, spilling half of it before drinking the rest, and then started running again. I finally seemed to settle into a rhythm and kept going, slowing for the inclines but managing to keep running. Even though I was on my own, the crowds and other runners were great in keeping me going, and there was a band which really helped too.

As we got to the first point when you turn back on yourself, I saw my friend Alison, who had shot off at the start and lost me, she was still going strong, and then I saw Helen again, who was also still going really well. That gave me another little boost, especially when the turn-around point meant another incline L. I got to about 4.5 miles and was really starting to tire, my knee and hip were starting to feel sore, I’m not used to road running so much now, as I tend to do more trail races, but I kept telling myself it’s not much further now, just try and keep running. I thought if I walked, I probably wouldn’t get going again!! There was also a steel band who were fantastic.

As we came up over a flyover, I could see another turn around point and was hoping that this would be chance to see Alison and Helen again. I missed Alison (she was still flying along) but did see Helen again which gave me another boost. I looked at my watch and had about half mile to go. As we came round past Morrison’s I was really started to flag but soon saw a 300m to go sign so I was determined not to walk now. When I got to the 100m  sign I tried to spur myself on to go a bit faster and passed a few people to the finish line, although I think I went a bit too fast as I nearly passed out when I stopped!! Thankfully I saw Alison and then Emma who looked after me until I felt a bit better.

I was pleased to get my goody bag, complete with can of beer and sandwich, and thankfully I ended up with the veggie option of a cheese sarnie so dodged the pease pudding.

Once I had recovered, I found my friend, and headed for the bus queue to go back to town for a well earned pint in BrewDog, and then had a nice walk along the quayside back to the car. The Millennium bridge looks great at night when it’s all lit up.


All in all, Blaydon definitely lived up to the hype. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and my time of 01:06:50 was only 2 minutes off my 10k pb, which I’m really chuffed with. I’m never going to be speedy, but I do feel a bit more comfortable wearing a Harriers vest now.

Race Rundown: Boston Marathon, 18th April 2022

The Boston Marathon is so flat that it makes pancakes look hilly, flat fish look like sharks and flat tyres look firm and bouncy. It’s flat then. That’s one reason why I wanted to do it. Another is the look on people’s faces when I tell them that I’m doing ‘The Boston Marathon.’

It’s the look that says, ‘how did that lardy git get a qualifying time?’ Naturally, I would then explain that this is Boston in Lincolnshire, which has no qualifying time and where some 17th Century religious dissenters started their journey, culminating in the voyage of the Mayflower and the founding of Boston Massachusetts, where, I understand, they also run a marathon on the same day but one which requires a sub 3:15 qualifying time.

It was my 61st birthday and I wanted to mark it with about four and a half hours of running (4 hours, 37 minutes and 27 seconds to be precise), followed by a hot bath and enough beer to alarm a public health physician.

Boston is an interesting and beautiful place. The town rests on a tidal river, so there are boats and who doesn’t like boats? The ‘Boston Stump’, St Botolph’s Church, is the largest parish church in England (according to Wikipedia) and well worth a look. There are also some other fine buildings. The imposing Century Methodist Church attests to the fact that there still a dissenter tradition in Boston. Other forms of God botherer are available.

The other thing that makes it interesting is that there are two distinct populations: a white British one and an East European one. The latter picks fruit and veg in the farms that surround the town. The former voted for Brexit by about 75%. Well, probably not the farmers who depend on the East Europeans to pick the fruit and veg but I’m just guessing.

In the evening, the East Europeans, promenade around the town or play football in the lovely central park, where the marathon runners assemble. The native Bostonians seem to go to pubs adorned with the flag of St George. Other flags are also available. These are to be found on all the East European delicatessens. So, if you want to run a marathon and pick up some Polish sausage and beer (recommended) then this is the one for you.

The race is extremely well organised. Covid precautions mean assembling in the park and being led to staggered starts in the market square, where there is still a market on Wednesday and Saturday. It’s all chip timed, and you literally get your finish time text to you as you cross the line. Impressive. The route is mostly on small country lanes. It’s not traffic free but there is so little traffic, it may as well be. There are also a half-marathon and fun-run options. The half marathon starts after the marathon, which is handy if one doesn’t want to hang about too long after the show. Both end at the local college, which is a short walk back to the town centre and pubs aplenty.

At the end you get a medal and a tee-shirt. The tee shirt is a work of art… if Dadaists made race tee shirts. Nothing sums up the supreme endeavour of running a marathon as a tractor, vegetables and some random runners. At least it has a Union Jack, just to make sure that no one thinks you ran the other Boston Marathon.

The men’s race was won by William Strangeway in 2:25:11 and the ladies’ race was won by Natasha White in 2:59:07. Show offs.

By Ian Spencer.

Race Rundown: Hartlepool Marina 5M, 10th April 2022

Trigger warning: 1610 words

I’ve always enjoyed the taking part but I’ve never been very good at the winning. That’s okay though, because it’s the taking part that counts isn’t it? Obviously, in every race there’s only one winner and for most of us, even the better runners in the club, the chance to actually win doesn’t come along that often. Which is why I like the Grand Prix. Of course, I’m biased because I administer it, but I think it’s great for encouraging a bit of friendly competition and opening up the possibility of winning something meaningful for those of us who wouldn’t otherwise.

So, let me get this out of the way before I say anything else. Graham Darby is a sound guy. I really like him. He’s a good family man, always tries hard at training and he’s got a good sense of humour, which is lucky for him as he’s also a Sunderland fan. But this year is the year I decided I’m going to win. And he’s standing between me and my prestigious Division 4 title. Next race: Hartlepool Marina 5M.

I needed a plan. So I came up with a plan. It didn’t have a name at the time, but for historical reference I’ll call it “Plan A”.

“Plan A” involved running every other day and gradually increasing my distance until I was running 10k comfortably. For reasons I don’t want to go into, but not limited to the fact that I don’t really like running, I’ve not run more than 5k for about 3 years. Rather than get straight into it, I thought I’d alternate my longer runs with 5k runs. And wishing to avoid over-reaching and risking injury, I started out with a 5k run at what I quaintly call “race pace”. This was followed a couple of days later by a 6.5k slog. It felt good; I didn’t have to slow down that much and there was little to no reaction from my legs. Now Graham and I are friends (or whatever the Strava term is) on Strava and I didn’t want him to see me upping my training regime so I altered the visibility settings on my run and let out an evil plan laugh. While I was there, I thought I’d have a neb at what he’d been up to training-wise.

Since the start of the year he’d amassed 293.9km. I’d done 166.6km. Now, I am a computer programmer by trade so I have a logical mind, but I appreciate not everyone will be able to keep up with the complex maths involved so please take it on trust when I say that’s what we in the business call “almost twice as much”. This posed a threat to The Plan. The opposition had almost twice as many miles in his legs. I’d have to run a marathon every other day to catch up, which was clearly neither feasible nor indeed desirable. My plan needed to include a strategy.

I have two strategies when it comes to running – go out with the fast boys and girls and try and hold on for as long as possible or sit in the slipstream and pull out my lightning fast sprint finish when the time comes. While the first strategy has worked for several of my parkrun PBs, it’s something of a blunt instrument and I wasn’t convinced that leaving myself 5-6km of the holding on part was going to work. So at 0900 hours on 12 March, I tried sitting behind Graham at Sedgefield parkrun and testing my sophisticated “sitting in the slipstream” strategy. It worked! Although I didn’t execute the lightning fast sprint finish phase, I was comfortably within distance had I wanted to be. But I didn’t want to show my cards, so I hung back.

At 0900 hours on 19 March, I repeated the experiment, but this time I stayed a little closer. This was definitely doable. But I was running close to threshold and I got the impression that Graham wasn’t.

As race day approached, I noted with alarm that I’d never fully realised “Plan A”. Strava espionage revealed that Graham had run some mad 20M race around Kielder the week before. Did this mean that his legs would be shot or did it mean that he’d be looking at a 5M race the way I’d look at a 1km race? I was about to find out.

A swarm of Harriers

It was almost perfect running weather as we pulled in to the Mecca Bingo car park. (Those are words I never thought I’d write.) The collective noun for harriers is a swarm and there was a small swarm of Harriers on the other side of the bingo hall where the numbers were being handed out. I got mine (87 – or one fat lady doing karaoke), pinned my radio tags on my shorts and got my mum (Alda) to pin the number on my shirt. Harriers swarmed in and out of frame as the team photo was being taken. I wish I looked as happy in end of race photos as I do in pre-race photos, but it’s never going to happen. Even in this one, you can see I’m not quite fully committed to the smiling as part of my brain is trying to formulate a new plan.

After what seemed like a long time standing around (my sciatica was killing me), we were marshalled into the starting pen. I lined up right behind Graham (mwah-ha-ha!) and waited for the starting gun. When it came, everyone in front of me ran off at the same keen-o pace. My speedometer was clocking 5 minutes per km, which is way too fast me. I thought it would be way too fast for Graham too, so I watched him disappear into the distance and hoped that the tortoise might beat the hare. “Plan B” was set in motion.

How it started

After about 3km, it was clear that “Plan B” was not cutting the mustard. Graham was too far in front and while I was reasonably comfortable, I was running at a fast parkrun pace and the lack of miles in my legs augured ill for my chances of keeping it up. I engaged evil plan laugh mode and instigated “Plan C”. This was as dastardly as a dastardly thing with a side order of dastard sauce. The following facts were true:

    • The turnaround was coming up
    • Graham knew I was in the race and behind him
    • Graham was probably running towards the top end of his ability too

The evil plan conclusion to this was as follows – as soon as I saw Graham turn around, I would slow to a walk and start hobbling. Graham would see me, be lulled into a false sense of security and slow to a jog, leaving himself vulnerable to my lightning fast sprint finish. Mwah-ha-ha-haaaaa!

What actually happened was this – Graham either didn’t notice or didn’t care and continued at his accustomed pace. I meanwhile, having lost momentum in feigning injury, struggled to get back into my stride and went from running near my threshold to running like a little old man and being overtaken by several little old ladies as I slowed to a waddle.

Graham was now a distant dot, so I recalibrated my expectations. “Plan D” was to beat my PB, which I knew was about 48 something. But 48min divided by 8km (sorry about the maths again) is 6 min/km which is the pace I was doing on the way out, rather than on the way back.

“Plan E” was to catch up and overtake the little old lady that had gone past me around about the time “Plan C” came off the rails. But I’d lost heart as well as momentum and I had an attack of the walkies. Little old lady was now also a dot.

How it ended

“Plan F” was merely to waddle to the finish line and test whether, had I actually been able to keep up with Graham until the last, I would have been able to execute the lightning fast sprint finish. The results were inconclusive. I think I probably would have done, but going over my heart rate limit wasn’t worth it without the possibility of a meaningful victory, so I held off until the final 300 yards or so and only then gave it the beans.

A kindly marshall undid my radio tags and I waddled over to join the rest of the swarm and congratulate Graham on a race well run. I also wanted to find out the result of the Raine v Letts battle at the front. A victory for the middle aged, although I’m very sure it won’t be long before Rory is beasting the longer distances as well as the 5k.

The Marina 5M is one of my two favourite races, the other being the Old Monks. (Well done Burn Road Harriers.) I like it because it’s almost entirely flat but also because I can wave and shout encouragement at my fellow Harriers as they pass me on their way back to the finish line. Graham told me later that the shouting had helped give my position away. Evil plan laugh guy is a little embarrassed about the whole thing but I won’t let it inhibit my enjoyment next time.

And so, on to the next race, which I think I have free rein on, unless someone else steps up from Division 4. They say it’s a marathon not a sprint, which is a shame because I’m much better at sprinting. Let’s see what lies ahead. Maybe I’ll even try doing some more of that running thing.

Not all plans come together…

Race Rundown: Thirsk 10 Mile, 13th March 2022

By Kathryn Forster.


I woke up early this morning, with feelings of both excitement and dread,

“Will I finish?”, “Will I make a fool of myself?” were the crazy thoughts spinning round in my head.

For some, bashing out a non-stop 16k is executed with the greatest of ease,

But, for me (with being a tad crazy!) it was never going to be a breeze.

I’d set myself the realistic target of finishing inside an hour and a half,

Hopefully, with minimal (if any) need to urinate, faint or barf!

I’d carefully crafted a playlist so euphoric it would make anyone be high

As a kite being flown during Storm Eunice, ensuring those miles passed swiftly by.

But I discovered that headphones were “illegal props” from chatting with Lisa Darby,

It was a bloody good job, therefore, that we’d loaded up on a tea that was good ‘n’ carby!

To get there we chose to go in the van and promote Lost Robot wide and far,

This meant splashing out on over-priced fuel and rejecting Pete King’s offer of a “free” electric car.

I remembered back to Old Monks in Hart; my very first time in a Harriers vest,

I’d layered it on top of another tee and my core temperature soared past its optimal best.

So, I opted for the ‘vest only’ look today, to keep me cool for the entire duration,

And, I have to say, despite the Yorkshire winds, I’d dressed well for the occasion.

Off the gun went bang on 10am and like a randy soldier on leave,

I went off a little too eager and fast! “Wow” I thought, “At this rate I could over-achieve!”

5.04 was my first k and even Gazbo was still in my sight,

“Slow the hell down, Kathryn!” I told myself, “And do this bloody thing right!”

After 5k had lapsed I found myself in a steady rhythm that would be hard to break,

But, lo and behold, what did I find round the bend……a bridge – FFS!!!!

My average pace dropped below 5.10 and I thought, “Well, this a damn shame….

…If I don’t make up for this dip in pace, I may not actually beat Mark Raine!”

And there in the distance – the switchback, engulfed by marshals galore,

So, I took my illegal right earphone out and stashed it until they were no more.

Little did I know the switchback would last forever and a day,

However, it was nice to pass other fellow Harriers and get the opportunity to say…….

“Well done!” to all those passing by proudly adorning white vests with blue hoops round the chest

But, there were so many other clubs wearing these too so I cheered them all on to do their best.

It was lovely to pass my hubby as I could inform him of my current fast pace.

Then, up ahead in the distance I could see a familiar face,

Hobbling along in a Harriers vest was the legend that is Mark C,

I overtook him, turned round and chanted, “Come on fella, now you overtake me!”

And just like that he sped right past like an Olympic pace-setter,

Clearly, my encouraging pep talk worked as his ankle was instantly better.

10km had now gone by and the filthy switchback was complete,

So, back in the illegal right earphone went and we continued running up the windy street.

My euphoric tunes were working well, but to the rules I must adhere,

So, when I saw marshals at the pub up ahead I removed it from my right ear.

Once safely round the bend and marshal-free I popped the little bugger back in,

‘Perfect Symmetry’ by the almighty Keane was where my musical euphoria was to begin.

But alas, the volume was apparently way too high and an angry Apple watch was born.

Clearly, this was my punishment as they really should never have been worn.

So, out it came for the last time and the rest of the race was done sans tunes,

Instead of melodic euphoria I was left with sounds reminiscent of being in a Wetherspoons.

The final kilometre was upon me and my target I was clearly going to meet,

But, there he was, a constant 50m ahead – Mark Chapman whom I secretly hoped to beat.

And there it was – the final stretch of the course where my husband said he would be to cheer,

Me on to the finishing line and then present me with a well-earned beer!

1.25 and 26 seconds!!!!!! I was so pleased I could’ve cried,

But, I couldn’t find Gary anywhere to share my overwhelming pride.

Little did I know he WAS there at the end taking pictures of little ole me,

I was soon to be met with a big proud hug as he too shared his own 1.15 51 PB!

All in all, a great running event and a repeat next year most certainly beckons,

But one thing’s for sure, there’s no freakin’ way Chappers will beat me by two measly seconds!

Race (Season) Rundown: Cross Country 2021-22

Cross Country Season Round up 2021-22

Men’s Harrier League


By Justin Cox

A record year for Sedgefield Harrier’s Men’s cross country team with 1st position in Division 3 and promotion but also a record year of participation with 24 runners registered and 22 of those actively competing at some point.

It all started in the balmy sunshine of Wrekenton on the 25th September.  It was such a great feeling to finally have normal mass participation running back on and the start was preceded by a one minute applause for all those lost over the Covid pandemic.

The Harrier League runs a handicap system with the majority of runners starting a season in the ‘Slow’ pack. If they finish in the top 10% then promotion is gained to the next pack, usually starting about 90 seconds behind.  With most of Sedgefield in the slow pack and a team of 11 runners we were hopeful of a good finish but not expecting 1st place in Division 3, and by some margin – a sign of things to come.  James Oldfield came in 6th overall and Stuart Ord an excellent 21st, a bit too good as it turned out; Stuart was disqualified for starting in the wrong pack, a legacy of his registration with his previous club.

Next up was picturesque Druridge Bay, the long journey often makes it a weak event for Sedgefield but again an excellent field of 11 runners including some relatively new boys in Pete Summerbell, Matthew Cooke and Mark Chapman.  Another excellent Oldfield performance strongly backed up by Mil Walton and David Walker meant another 1st place finish.  This was looking good !

Lambton Estate was next at the end of October and a brutal course was laid out with 2 seriously steep climbs negotiated 3 times.  Step forward the 2 mountain goats of Chris Lines and Gary Thwaites who along with David Bentley making the trip and excellent performances from David Walker and Mil Walton, meant another comfortable win.  With 17 runners we almost had a full C team and even the B team finished in the top 10 in the division.  Was Sedgefield becoming the next Morpeth Harriers?

27th November brought Storm Arwen so what better time to run cross country at Akley Heads.  Incredibly we got 12 runners and with many clubs struggling to get full teams it meant another win and a strong B team result.

Into 2022 and our ‘home’ fixture of Thornley.  It didn’t disappoint, the extreme mud trying it’s best to remove shoes at various points with Razza kindly marshalling at just about the worst point and clearly not missing joining in!

An added steeplechase jump before the woods caught a few out but Sedgefield triumphed again with 12 runners being led home by Mark ‘too fast’ Raine.  We only accumulated 82 points for the first 6 runners making it the best performance of the season.  A quick bit of maths and it seemed that provided 6 runners crossed the line at Alnwick the division was ours.

So to the final fixture, the long trip to Alnwick but a pleasant sunny day brought smiles all round.  Sadly the cracks in the team were evident with half of our 10 runners bringing injuries to the start line.  Despite James’ insistence (some would say threats!) that we don’t break our 100% winning record it wasn’t to be, a 6th place result but Chris Lines’ obvious pain getting over the line with 3 cracked ribs and the cheers greeting final finisher Ray evidence of the amazing effort and camaraderie we’ve had this year.

A bet was made that if we got promoted everyone would get a Mars Bar and so it proved along with a swig of champagne.

So many thanks to everybody that has run this year, even if just for a single event and of course the fabulous team that run the Harrier League.  If you haven’t already tried cross country come and join us next year – it’s actually ever so slightly better than you might fear!