Distance: 10k (ish)
Terrain: Mainly off road on farm tracks, footpaths and the disused railway line. Dry and good surface.
Weather: Dry, bright sun, cold, but extremely windy which made the run quite challenging.
I love the Gerry Kearsley Handicaps, they are a really friendly free event, running through beautiful countryside and I always get to set off first. I have run not run a winter handicap for a number of years as I have invariably had a cold over Christmas but having avoided the usual illnesses I was raring to go on Sunday 13th January.
This start of the Handicap was particularly poignant due to the recent death of Peggy Kearsley who was such a fantastic supporter of the event, Sedgefield Harriers and was a lovely lady. Ean paid a very moving tribute which was followed by a 30 second silence.
A key section of the usual route from Fishburn along the River Skerne was closed. This meant that as an alternative the Handicap was a two lap course starting from the Community Centre in Bishop Middleham. Almost immediately after setting off there was a steep climb through the village, past a farm and houses. Once at the top the road dips down, giving me a chance to recover before turning left heading out into the countryside around Bishop Middleham and following a track to the River Skerne. This route immediately gives the runner beautiful views and passes historic landmarks, the castle ruins and medieval wall.
The route continued along the track, over a footbridge crossing the River Skerne, then turning left to carry on along the disused railway line. This is a good steady section with flat running before turning left again over the river and climbing back towards the village. This was the tough section running uphill into a very strong wind. At one point I thought I was running backwards! Once through the fields it’s down then up and down again into the village. If that’s your first lap then you have to do it all over again.
I found it a tough run because of the wind but I was really pleased with my performance. I didn’t have quite so many runners overtaking me as normal so maybe others found that last couple of miles quite challenging. It was a great atmosphere before and after the run with the enjoyable presentation ceremony at the end. The Handicap is a really inclusive event where different runners can succeed and get their hands on a bottle of wine and their name on the shield.
I hope to be back in July for the next one.
By Anne Gladwin.