Another wonderful morning of running through the streets of Darlington. It’s a race I look out for during my summer in the UK. A break in the wet weekend and an early gathering around the Town Hall with lots of fellow Harriers amongst the 2000+ entrants. The course route is a cruising two laps of the town, starting on Houndsgate and heading uphill to join the first of two loops anticlockwise around the residential areas west of the centre. The race finishes back in the town with a sprint along Skinnergate that needs to be sustained along High Row.
For many, the first chance to get to know your fellow runner and their preparation is in ever the growing toilet queue, curtesy of the Dolphin Centre. Lots of t-shirts from previous years. A few people talking of last night’s beers, or alternatively PBs. It’s that type of course.
It’s a narrow holding pen and a bit of optimism with your starting position goes a long way. The Rocky theme tune Eye of the Tiger gets us underway, but as always, its quickly drowned out by the crowds of locals that line the first 500m.
The racers quickly thin out, but the crowds generally hold strong. I’ve hit a 39 min target in previous years, but becoming a daddy in the past few months allowed me to relax and take what comes. I had family waiting at the 3 and 6km mark, and it never fails to spur you on. Lifting the knees, a little higher and getting ahead of the guys in front to hola a happy birthday to a family member. Thanks for the support!
Despite two laps, it feels like a gradual uphill all the way. The relief comes when the course route breaks from the loop and peels off toward the centre. Just less than a km to go. It’s a great finishing dash and one to hold your nerve on the wet cobbles and sharp bends as Skinnergate turns into Bondgate, and Bondgate into High Row. Loads of support and a dash to the finish. Destroyed, and only 6 seconds ahead of my older bro. Still, I can’t let him beat me.
Thank you to the race organisers and all the volunteers who make it a top race, year after year. A shout out to the young quiet lad who stood in the toilet queue, and was smiling at the end with a PB and a time of 36mins. Didn’t catch a name, but top running!
This was a first for me, but both Ray Carmichael and Andy Corfield have done it before and were able to convince me of its appeal. It was a very enjoyable run and one that I would like to repeat in the future. Because it takes place the same weekend as the Darlington 10k, the Harriers’ turnout was quite low (just half a dozen of us) but we all had a great time in a lovely setting.
The race is described by the organisers as “scenic, fun, fast with PB potential … (and) only a few inclines”, and some of this is true. “Inclines” is one of those words, like “undulating” which makes it sound much more benign that it really is. To my way of thinking and running, the two climbs would alone rule out any prospect of a fast time. But, to me at least, that wasn’t the point – this year I am going for scenic and this run certainly fits that description as it snakes through the Derwent Walk Country Park never far from the riverside.
Ray was kind enough to drive and to offer a lift to me and Andy, plus Rosie Warnett. Parking was free and easy and we made our way to the start/ finish area where there was plenty of entertainment, food and coffee outlets. This has become a big event now (it was a sell-out with 1600 entrants) and so a good atmosphere was already building, along with the rain clouds. It was a pleasure to meet up with Aileen Henderson and Karen Killingley, and Aileen’s partner took some great photos.
There had been some discussion about appropriate footwear and in view of the amount of recent rainfall and the likelihood of muddy patches I opted for trail shoes but to be honest you could have run in anything. Anything that can handle parkrun terrain can handle this. All the paths are good and surprisingly free of puddles. As we made our way to the start line, the heavens opened and a good soaking appeared imminent. I was chatting to Andy at the time but he is more hardy than I am and continued on his way while I took shelter under the canopy of a burger van. There were a few other like-minded souls but the discussion about whether this warm dry area was the best place to spend the next hour or so never ventured beyond the purely hypothetical and eventually we trudged to the start. This meant that I started very near the back: didn’t matter at all as it was chip-timed, but it did mean that my first kilometre or so was very slow.
I thought that I was doing quite well until the first hill arrived when I realised that although the rain had stopped the weather remained very humid. About half way up I was passed by two women running together, one of whom said “There’s no air, is there”. At least, I think that’s what she said, although she may have been lamenting the absence of an heir or any hair. By the time I had enough breath to make enquiries to clarify this point, they had disappeared into the distance. I was soon able to pass Andy who just keeps going for mile after mile and is always very encouraging when I run out of puff towards the end of races. Ray and Rosie, of course, were way in advance of us and I was not to see them for a long time…
The last 3K is gentle downhill and is tremendous. I will appreciate this more when I do the run again, as on this occasion I could not overcome my fear that there might be another of their famous “inclines”. But all was good; the finish line came into sight and although it is one of those runs where you appear to be at the finish and then realise you have to do another little loop round to it, I was feeling good again and able to look forward to that satisfying post-run coffee and very impressive medal.
This is a lovely, popular race, (500 entry limit) and is a fantastic challenge on multi terrain, including trails, grass, coastal paths and also pavement/cycleway due to a short diversion as a result of costal erosion. Some paths are narrow, so overtaking can be tricky!
The course starts with a 1-mile loop to the south of Souter Lighthouse, then heads north round to the end of Marsden Bay. There are then two loops from the north end of Marsden Bay, along the Leas towards South Shields and back, then you run south to Souter Lighthouse and complete the final mile loop, which is more or less the same as the first mile. It’s loopy!
The event is well organised and parking was easy (£3) but the race started about 5 minutes late……and did last year too, because there is always a long queue at the ladies’ loos. The weather forecasters said it was only 20oC, but I’m sure they were wrong and it was hotter. That said, and because of the loops, there was plenty of water available, and in places, a lovely sea breeze.
The route hugs the coast and there are reportedly dolphin sightings regularly, so it is a pleasure to run. Though the coastline seemed pretty calm on Sunday, the treacherous reefs & rocks have shaped a long history of smuggling as many ships have run aground, hence the lighthouse was opened in 1871. There’s lots to investigate when the race is over, Marsden Rock and Grotto and Souter Lighthouse, now a National Trust property, with a very nice tearoom. A rewarding place for the finish of a great race.
I crossed the finish line in 83 minutes and 18 seconds, cheered on by the locals who were convinced I was running for South Shields, very happy with my time, and I think first lady over 50.
I suspect that Ciaran and I share a ritual with many Harriers. When the Lines mob is planning a holiday, one of the items on the list of priorities is to find a parkrun that is local to wherever we’re staying. Another is to speculatively check whether there happen to be any appealing races in the area while we’re in the vicinity. I should add that this ritual only applies to Ciaran and me, and not the rest of the family!
This year, the parkrun fix was provided by Penrhyn parkrun, which is set in an impressive National Trust property – Penrhyn Castle is an imposing, relatively modern (for a castle) landmark near Bangor. As ever, parkrun was a welcoming and friendly experience and the perfect way to start a weekend.
However, for me, the following day delivered the running highlight of the holiday. I had spotted that the North Wales Half Marathon was taking place during our trip, but hadn’t got round to entering before the online deadline. Luckily, the organisers confirmed that a few places would be available on the day. So, I rocked up in Conwy at 7:30am and managed to secure one of the last numbers.
The race started on the beach at 9:00am (it was being set up when I first arrived) and the first mile was on the sand, which I found to be a little softer and more challenging than the similar surface during the recent Northumberland Coastal Run. Then, we followed a fairly flat route west for four miles, along a tarmac path by the sea. This was great for finding a rhythm and comfortable pace. One guy from Kirkby Milers eased past me, but I picked off a couple of runners who had set off a little too fast. I reckoned that I was placed somewhere in the top 20. At about five miles, we turned, crossed a footbridge and headed into the village of Penmaenmawr (I’m glad that I only had to type that and not pronounce it!). By this time, after taking turns to lead the other for a little while, I had got ahead of the Kirby runner again.
Then the hard work began. A series of longish steady climbs took us towards Sychant Pass and the eighth mile was the crux of the race – a steep and sustained section on road and trail up to Conwy Mountain (a grand name for a modest sized hill really, but a very tough part of the race nonetheless). By this time, I was on my own, but could see about eight runners not far behind me (including Kirkby man and a local runner who seemed to be enjoying himself far too much). I managed to stay ahead of all of them during the final climb, as my delighted expression near the summit testifies.
After that high point, there were some lovely undulating trails, during which runners were rewarded with a fantastic view of Conwy and its majestic castle. I glanced back a couple of times and Kirkby guy and happy Welsh runner were still on my tail. Then, we started the steep descent back into Conwy, which worked well for me. I gained distance on my pursuers and got ahead of another runner who was being cautious during the downhill section.
By the time I got back onto more level ground, I was 10 miles into the race. I was about 150 metres ahead of Kirkby man, who had also got ahead of the guy I passed during the descent, but that lead didn’t feel secure as I was starting to get pretty tired. We headed west for a couple of miles, before turning right and back onto the beach for the final mile. Once again, I found the sand section to be tough and Kirkby man started to gain on me quite quickly, along with the runner who we had both passed during the downhill, who had recovered well. Thankfully, for me, I was able to find enough energy to increase my pace for the last few hundred metres and crossed the line about 50 metres ahead of the other two, in a time of 1:32:14. My watch shows the distance as a little under 13 miles, but it was definitely a harder race than most half marathons that I have completed.
I finished seventh overall (higher than I thought I had, which is always nice!), out of 365 finishers. It was a thoroughly enjoyable race, which was very well marshalled. Miles seven and eight were particularly tough, but that seemed to work in my favour on this occasion, and this was a run during which there were times when I could really appreciate the setting. I didn’t know anyone else who was running and as always in such races, I tried to find someone to match myself against, and aim to beat. The Kirkby runner was that person this time and it was satisfying to win that personal battle.
If you’re ever in North Wales in early August (and assuming the race is run again), I’d certainly recommend the event. More details at www.runwales.com.
After 4 years of no racing other than the occasional parkrun (possibly due to having a bigger commitment to the uni lifestyle) I made the decision to take on my first half marathon – the Northumberland Coastal Run.
Having never run the distance previously, during the lead up to the race I found myself asking many people what to expect. The two main responses seemed to be “you’ll enjoy the views” or “that’s a tough one”, the latter usually being accompanied by a very concerned look.
Whilst I should have been preparing myself for the distance and the difficult terrain, as some may know I was enjoying the last month or so of my year abroad, which was then followed by a month of being reunited with friends and family. I think it’s fair to say I spent a bit too much time drinking wine and not enough time putting the miles in!
But with 10km the max distance I’d covered since the start of May, I decided to give it a go anyway, and my only goal was to get across the finish line.
The day arrived with the promise of some sunshine and a bit of a headwind, almost perfect compared to last years conditions! After a long drive, I made my way to the car park in Beadnell to find the rest of the Harriers. Although some looked surprised to see me actually racing for once, many reassured me that it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought. As we walked to the start on the beach, I realised the terrain would be a little harder than I imagined. With a long stretch of sand ahead of us that had only just been uncovered by the tide, the stampede of 1000 runners set off towards what was referred to as “the bottleneck”.
Completely scrapping my plan to start off easy, I attempted to keep up with Marie, who was much chattier than me as I was trying not to twist my ankle on the hard uneven sand! The pace slowed as we got off the beach, and my legs felt a little relief to be back on an even surface. Unfortunately this feeling didn’t last for very long, as we soon arrived at another stretch of sand passing Dunstanburgh golf course. For me this was one of the toughest parts of the course (painful flashbacks of Scott Hydon’s Seaton Carew sessions came to mind) as I hadn’t expected so much of the race to be on the beach!
It was shortly after passing Dunstanburgh Castle that I got the little bit of extra motivation I needed as I passed my mum and got to the halfway point in Craster. The temptation to stop at a restaurant we visited there last year whilst on holiday was all too real! The views from the coastal path after passing through Craster were stunning as promised, but as my lack of training got the better of me I decided to adopt the run/walk approach.
For me the next few miles were spent wondering why my calves felt like they were on fire (thank you, sand) but I was determined to get to the end. Around Boulmer, a few fellow Harriers tried to drag me along with them – thanks for trying Tracy and Beth! Shortly after, I received some more motivation from Dave, who reassured me that we only had the parkrun distance left to do.
Eventually we arrived at another beach (not again!) but this time it was the final mile and a half stretch to the finish. I could see the finish line in the distance, and for a long while it seemed like it wasn’t getting any closer, but I soon heard some familiar voices cheering me on. I finished in a time of 2 hours 22 minutes, feeling like I never wanted to do the race again – anyone who was with me at the finish can confirm this! However a few hours later, like any typical runner, I decided that I would sign up again next year to try and improve my time.
Upon finishing I found out about some of the other fantastic performances from Sedgefield. To name a few, Marie completed the race in under 2 hours, Clair did 2 hours 28 minutes despite being worried about the cut off time, and of course Chris did a very speedy 1 hour 33 minutes to finish in 48th place. All Harriers did brilliantly on such a tough course, which was rewarded with a variety of cakes at the end.
Although I may have thrown myself in at the deep end in order to get back into racing, I did enjoy challenging myself again. I would recommend the race to anyone who wants to put themselves to the test, and to anyone that really likes sand!
The Willow Miner Trail run is organised by our local running neighbours Elvet Striders, and is a “must” race I have been wanting to do for a few years now, but have always left it too late to register! Not this year though…
This year’s entry fee was £7, and I was eager to taste the much-talked about buffet that would follow the race. Then at registration stage, I read the small print, there would be no buffet this year! Oh no, in Dave Walkers words: “it’s an unbelievable spread”…and this amazing supper had vanished in the blink of an eye. I had to read it again and again, even making the screen bigger. Not all was lost though, as a set meal of chilli con carne was on offer. Never mind I thought, I had to book and that was it.
The race terrain itself is a mix of woodland walks, field edges, grass paths, river banks, bridges and steps with a series of hard climbs and fast descents. Starting at the Houghall College sports field and running through Great High Wood to the south west, and on to Low Burnhall Woodland Trust, where the aptly named Willow Miner sits, you will loop back on yourself, twisting and winding home to the start / finish line, taking in all of the above features in one form or another – reaching the 5.3 mile race distance (approx. 8.4km).
With plenty of high grass, trees and branches to the sides, many of the grass paths towards the Willow Miner can be single file in places, so choosing that moment to pass (if you fancy it) can be tricky. Get it right though, and you’re away. There was a fantastic number of local family and friends supporting the runners and clubs on the night, and well marshalled across much of the course, all offering plenty of encouragement, well wishes and direction. Parking is very easy, with hundreds of spaces available to the rear of the Houghall College or opposite the main road at the Durham University Maiden Castle car park. Registration was easy too, simply follow the signs on the night to the old gym hall at the rear of the Houghall College.
The blue and white club vests were donned this year by Tracy Henderson, Rosie Warnett, Chris Hearmon, Marie and Dave Walker, Andy Featherstone and myself. This year I was a little worried that my race plans could be abandoned by a stiff neck 48 hours before race day, and was feeling pretty rubbish. Would a quick phone call to Neil at PPPT be successful? (More on that later). I persevered with Nurofen and my friend Deep Heat, as I was determined to go out and enjoy it at the very least.
Setting off from Coxhoe in plenty of time, I headed for Shincliffe, passing Tracy Henderson at Bowburn’s Jet Garage (she looked in the zone with her backpack), not realising she was en route to the event herself!
With parking and registration sorted I bumped into a few other Harriers and we headed out to the starting field. Then I got the urge, and a quick toilet stop was needed. No lock on the door. No lights…Well, as all ofus runners know, when you need to go, you need to go.
We all met in the start / finish field and headed over to the start line, where three gentlemen from Elvet Striders had gathered to say a few pre-race words. One Strider in particular, touched us all with his personal brain tumour journey and a moment to reflect. It certainly gave me a lump in my throat.
The start gun went, and we were off, and within a few hundred yards it was out of the field, up the steps and on to the Great High Wood paths, snaking through the various up and downs, and out at the top. Dave Walker was a familiar partner in crime, and I was hot on his heels as we picked off various runners. Sadly, at 4k, a stitch was knocking on the door, and even though I tried to run it off, it wasn’t going to go away.
Never mind, “keep it going” I said to myself as we weaved around the tight single file river embankments, opening-up to the last big climb (or so I thought). I passed a Blaydon Harrier at the top and kept pressing, skirting around the edges of the fields, THEN it was the last big climb up a steep stepped hill (catching my breath with a brisk walk), and along the edge of the field footpath. This was familiar territory, as I headed down the steps (a reverse of the first kilometre) and back on to the woodland path again. Head down, weaving through the woods, I popped out at the end, down the steps and sprinted for the finish line (proper big strides too). DW was giving the big thumbs up…around the dog leg, and finish line in sight.
Done. That was it. Hands on knees……water, water, I needed water.
I headed back up to the dog-leg corner and joined DW, as we congratulated each other, clapping and cheering our Harriers home. And then they hit us (no, not our Harriers). Bloody midges. Millions of them. It was so muggy and humid, the little buggers were everywhere…so we made a quick exit and headed to the finish line to cheer on. Marie was on another flyer too…was it those midges?!
It was at that point, I had that lightbulb moment! Neil from PPPT had his treatment table at the refreshment tent, so I headed over for 10 minutes of torture (nice torture though…god it was worth it)
Always good craic with Neil (no pun intended of course). But my neck needed it, and I instantly started to feel some relief. Barely off the table, the voices were calling me “Mil, Mil over here” – team photo time!!
Remembering that Tracy had run to the event, it was only fitting that she was given a lift home to Coxhoe after a great Harrier turn-out. Well done everyone. A great evening of running on a tricky and testing course on a very warm and muggy night.
A fantastic local race that seems to creep under the radar, and yet offers so much more, with plenty of excitement, local grass roots club participation and friendly rivalry on the night. It’s on your doorstep and offers similar terrain to what we are used to at the Harriers. At 8.4k it is also a great half-way distance (almost in the middle of a 5k and 10k). It reminds me a little bit of The Handicap (but without the handicap if you know what I mean) in that you can push the pace if you want too, but you might also get caught from behind as well, on the twisty narrow sections between the long grass and bushes. A little bit like one of our older Thursday night training sessions I guess – are you the rabbit, or are you the greyhound? It certainly keeps you on your toes. Not sure if the buffet will return in future years, but I am sure the chilli was just as good.
Put it on your race list for next year. An absolute must!
As a local-ish Grand Prix race I thought I should give it a go and booked up a couple of months ago. I forgot to write it in my diary, then about a month later the Willow Miner Race at Durham opened for entries, which I do like, yes hilly, hard but a great run. I spread the word on Facebook because I know a few Harriers also like the Willow Miner and it does fill up fast. It was about 2 weeks later when I was wondering why many Harriers hadn’t entered the Willow Minor the penny dropped, the Sunderland 5K Grand Prix race was the next day! Oh well I’ll take it easy at the Willow Miner! (Did I heck!)
So back to Sunderland.
First race 6.45pm. Ladies and senior men (over 50s)
Second race 7.20pm. Everyone else, or in other words the fast lads!
Car parking was no problem as there was a large overflow car park, but I’m guessing anyone arriving late may not agree with me, the sports complex has a lot going on. The evening was VERY warm and windy unfortunately, not a cold wind; the good news it was a lot more downhill than up (start at 240ft, finish at 184ft) BUT the main downhill was the first 600m so you were forced in to a fast start!
After chatting to a few Harriers before we set off about the normal stuff like why we won’t be running so fast and not expecting to do well because of …….. heat, wind, tired legs, lack of sleep, not feeling good, injuries, narrow start, the normal stuff, we set off fast downhill (it felt fast which is not good at the start of a race). It was quite a crowded start and because of the hill it felt like you needed space to let your legs go and take advantage of the hill but maybe it was good that there were people in the way to slow you down a bit.
Once on the flat for start of the small loop the wind hit you head on and it made it really hard work to keep your pace going, not good less than 15% into the race. A small hill was the turning point for the small loop but you didn’t get any benefit of the wind due to the trees on the way back round.
The second loop took you a bit further out, so longer into the head wind but I did feel the wind behind me for a small part of the way back but it didn’t help!
For a warm night with a cruel wind, most of the Harriers had a brilliant run, but I know some suffered from the fast start.
A highlight for me was while we walked back to the car having to stand to the side to let the “fast lads” run past on their fast downhill start; the speed and the cool breeze it created was wonderful! Also brilliant to watch the start of a race as you are normally running it. (Yes Declan, Paul, Mark and Sam you were the “fast lads!”)
The race was well organised. I also liked the option of bringing your own bottle which they left crates out for you to put them in on the way to the start, then they carried them to the finish for you to collect. The crates were marked by club names, or for the clubs with not so many entries (like us) you were in the “others” crate.
How did I do? Well not bad, the fastest 5k since 2009, but only 12 seconds faster than my recent PB at Sedgefield parkrun which definitely has just as many up hills as it does down! Yes I do wonder if it was a cooler night and if I hadn’t run the night before would I have beaten my best ever time of 22.01????
Sunday Morning runs are good for many things, fresh air, exercise and coming up with slightly crazy ideas. It was on one Sunday morning that I decided that it would be a great idea to lure my fellow Harriers into a relay for 24 hours. Garnering interest was, for some inexplicable reason, not as easy as I predicted. Underhand tactics were required for a few while at least one person volunteered. At one point I thought we might get enough for two teams but fate (good sense) intervened and on race weekend, five brave Harriers made it to Gibside.
Eric Henderson, Mark Chapman, Mark Raine, Peter King and Stuart Park
The first mile was getting from the car park to the start of the race. Raine was “pulling a Bentley” but managed to get there for the first lap with 5 minutes to spare. The plan was to all run the first lap together and get a feel for the course. All lined up on the start with the dedicated 24 hour runners, a short count down and we were off, well four of us. Ella decided that she wanted to run and was not going to be denied. We were lagging behind quickly and after 100 m turned back to return her to the start. My second start was to a fanfare of tears as I sprinted away to catch the others.
The sprint start soon deteriorated when I hit the first hill, it did not seem too bad though and I caught up to the pack, most were running together at this point. We then turned THE corner and the first hill loomed into the distance. Sensible runners started to walk at this point as it was a very long race. Mark R, Eric and I were still running together with Pete and Mark C behind.
A long section of downhill took us past the stables and then turned up into an unending climb, a slow draining climb that while runnable was mental torture. Finally at the top there was a beautiful view down the valley to a spire in the distance. The descent, while welcome, was not as easy as it could have been, a bit steep and it gave a good jarring to the knees.
The bottom of the hill was at mile 3 and a sharp turn brought us into a nice path along the woods, past the bear cave and up, up, up the last climb (A short sharp affair). The last half a mile was a meander through the woods past the spire (Salute to Liberte) and back to the finish. We stopped to wave Mark R on his way round the second lap (his prize for being the last to arrive).
A well-earned rest ensued with ice cream. The hardest part of the weekend was then getting all the stuff from the car to the camping area. I might have over-packed and with a full cool bag of food (most of which never got eaten) it was a lot to carry.
Lap two soon came around. My first chance to run alone, I walked the hills this time but set myself targets of where to get to and when to start again. This worked out well and lap two passed (without seeing another runner) in a similar time to lap one. Mark C and Pete decided to run a few laps together just so that we would all be able to do a few extra miles (Thanks guys).
We had gathered a crowd of supporters by this stage, Gary, Ray and Jane were running the evening marathon and team Spinks had arrived in full force. Paula and Amy were also present for support.
The big decision now was what to have for dinner, pizza was top of everyone’s list and Beth very kindly offered to go out and get it. Timing was not too great though; my third lap was due to start and no sign of Beth. Pete and Mark arrived back before the pizza so I headed out. Less than half a mile in I saw Beth Struggling under 10 pizza boxes and knew that it was going to be cold before I got back. It pushed me round though and I stuck to the markers I had planned from the previous run. Even slightly cold the pizza was worth the wait.
During this rest, night was starting to descend. Our supporters had vanished and marathon runners were starting to finish. Waiting in the dark it was very hard to tell when Mark C was coming in. All runners look the same in the dark with a head torch on. Ray and Jane finished their marathon while I was waiting and then Mark arrived. Off I went with head torch on. It was dark and a bit misty which gave the course an eerie feel. Hit my markers but was a bit slower on this lap. Mark R was a welcome site at the finish as was the knowledge that I would have about 6 hours off before my next run. We were switching to double laps for the night to give a bit more rest.
Change of clothes, food, a quick wash and then try to get some rest. Tent was too warm and was feeling a bit claustrophobic so moved my mat and sleeping bag outside. The night was nice and who doesn’t like sleeping under the stars? I managed about 3 hours of interrupted sleep and woke as Mark C started his two laps. I counted that I would have about 1 hour 40 mins before I was to run so a couple of slices of cold pizza and a cup of tea were in order.
The double lap was hard. There was enough light that I did not need a head torch and it was cool to run in but going past the start and keeping going seemed wrong. The second of the two involved a bit more walking. The course was quiet at that time and I hardly saw anyone else. A chat and walk with Harrier Ben Smale kept me going (He was starting to struggle at this point having not really stopped for 18 hours) on lap two and there was a small deer on the track, my reaction time allowed it to go before I got the phone out for a selfie but it was nice to see. Mark R again a lovely sight waiting at the finish to get going.
Bit of a rest and some porridge but not much time before the penultimate run. Feeling OK at this stage and ran well on this one, only walking the two hills at the designated spots. Running into the finish waiting to see Mark for his last run, where was he? Stopped at the start line and looked down to the tents and there was a half-naked Mark with no shoes on. He seemed a bit flustered but then put in the fastest lap of the team, an amazing 31:38.
At this point I was starting to feel a bit ropey. Sitting around waiting was not good and I could not eat anything. Last lap of the course with about 55 minutes to go. Mark C and I were running together and Beth decided to join us. Started off fine. Beth sprinting ahead and stopping to take pictures, me slowly learning the true meaning of hate. Both Mark C and Beth were spurring me on up the hills but after the last steep climb I was done. Decision time, try running and not make it or walk back. Sense prevailed and I let Mark and Beth go on ahead. Coming along the last bit, one by one the team came back to drag me across the line and I even managed a short jog on the final straight. Thanks Team.
We celebrated with some Champagne but the thought of tidying up was too much and getting all the stuff back to the car required a bus. Champagne did not stay down for long and I was asleep in the car before we left the car park.
Would I do it again? Don’t tell Emily but Yes, It was a great weekend, helped a lot by the weather and the company. A very social run and I would recommend it to everyone.
Official laps – 33
Official distance – 132 miles
Actual laps – 40
Actual distance – 160 miles
Distance each – 32 miles
Fastest Lap – Mark R 31:38
Most Consistent – Eric 37:26 (Standard deviation 1min 33 seconds)
Finally, a word about Melanie Horan from the Marathon Club. She was the only one of the solo 24 hour runners to keep going for the full duration. She completed 100 miles, 25 laps, with three seconds to spare. On that course – very impressive.
As with many challenges, this was first discussed some months back in a pub. Put simply, run a 10K every 3 hours for 24 hours. Do as many as you want, either consecutively or as a pair running every other one. It’s only a 10K, and you get over 2 hours rest between runs. How hard could it be? In the words of one Captain George Mainwaring, “Stupid boy!!”
I arrived for the safety briefing at race HQ (Barton Village Hall), which also doubled as our accommodation for the event, and learnt that there would be 18 of us setting off. A number were only there for a couple of the runs and others would join us during the night. I managed to find a gym mat in the corner of the hall and dragged it across to a quiet corner, strategising as to how to get undisturbed rest between runs and leave me fresh and race ready, “Stupid boy”.
So 6pm came and we set off for the first time on the 10k route, taking us on a short loop around the village (choice of through the ford or over the footbridge), before heading out along very quiet undulating country lanes. Just a couple of hills as we headed into Middleton Tyas and then a lovely gentle 2 miles downhill back into Barton, easy “Stupid boy”.
Straight back to the village hall to get some pasta, a doughnut (food of champions) and some water down my neck as quickly as possible so that I didn’t run out of steam later on and stayed hydrated. I began to think at this point that I would be fine, and that my concerns about nutritional requirements for prolonged period of effort were unfounded, “Stupid boy”.
The atmosphere within the village hall was pretty good, and 9pm came around quickly. Off we set, at a modest pace, completing the route in just under an hour. I resisted the temptation to join a couple of the others in the pub and after some food and a baby wipe body wash, settled in to my sleeping bag to get some rest. I failed miserably to get to sleep so got myself ready in high vis gear and headtorch for the midnight run.
I really struggled with the 3am run and as we finished the 6am run I knew I couldn’t make another, the breaks after every circuit were taking their toll on my legs and to be fair my mileage for the event was higher than my weekly average.
A great event, where you get to know the name and toilet habits of every single competitor – I’ll certainly be back if its repeated, but without the doughnuts, “Stupid boy”.
This race started for me back at the Tees Barrage trail race in Stockton when I got talking to another club runner about sub 40 minute 10ks and fast 10k courses. We were running around the same time on the 5ks and he said he had managed to get under at Dishforth last year (just!) and I should give it a go.
Chasing people around the x-country races for the last few months has helped with the endurance but I needed more speed so I printed off a 10k training guide to put a bit of science behind my training.
From there on I sort of stuck to a plan (see attached guide / hieroglyphs)
Around this point I thought it would be good to recruit a training partner with a similar goal and I mentioned the race to John Haycock who with a bit of persuasion took up the challenge
My 7 weeks training went sort of to plan with the odd race and X/C thrown in but John was suffering with various injuries that really knocked his training. In the weeks running up to the race he did not think he was going to make the start at all.
Race day came and me, John and Simon travelled down together to a clear, sunny but windy Dishforth
As you passed the entrance to the main camp I noticed the armed guards (note, don’t upset the marshals on this race). There was no problem parking but there was a long queue for the numbers so not much time for a warm up if you were in the S-Z line.
The race got under way and we all set off in quite a tight bunch and with words of encouragement (or that’s what I hope they were shouting) we all settled into our own races.
My guide was just to keep as close to a 4 min/k as possible and try not to go off too fast but the wind was going to be a problem as there is no shelter on an airfield apart from the other runners.
The 1st lap went to plan and with other runners still in bunches you got a bit of a rest from the head wind down the 1k straight but on the 2nd lap the runners were spreading out and I had a decision to make, whether to tuck in behind a runner down the long straight and hope to pick up the pace again on the return. So that’s what I did, but as it turned out I only followed the runner half way then had to go past, as I watched the pace falling away (you can see the result on my heart rate on the right of the details below! Not sure what happened when it goes off the scale, must have been thinking about the sprint finish!)
I spent the rest of lap just trying to get my average pace back to 4 min/k and looking for other runner to act as a wind break as I turned back into the wind for the finish,
I did find one at about 8.5k but he pulled up with a hobble before the final straight (obviously oblivious to his new role as my wind break!)
I managed to get over the line in 40.12 chip time which was the closest I have been to a sub 40 10k and this is definitely a quick 10k course given the right conditions (no wind!)
So the chase goes on I just need a straight, downhill, course with a following wind on the day!
Episode 3: Marske 10k (Everybody Active), 9th June 2019
Scenic, flat course
Sunny 15 degree, windy
Attendance Me, John, Roger, Janet, Julia
Well after the previous two attempts were scuppered by the prevailing weather, conditions and undulating courses, this was probably going to be the last attempt at a sub 40 before September, due to increasing temperatures and triathlon training.
John had come across this race via Roger who had raced it numerous times in the past and set some of his 10k PBs on the course, so after finding it I duly signed up and watched the weather forecast with fingers crossed.
As race day arrived we boarded the crew bus (Thanks for the lift Roger) and headed off for the race, I was informed from John I had a new mascot (Roger) on this 3rd attempt. I think John was feeling the pressure of the previous two attempts, even though I did say to him I would not force him to go to every flat 10k until I made it.
We made the start in good time, picked up the numbers, bumped into Julia and Janet for a chat and made the final obligatory toilet stop before the short walk to the start.
The route was a loop around the housing estate, out onto the seafront towards Redcar, with a double loop on the end then back down the front to Marske with the finish flag on the seafront.
After the race director’s quick talk (make sure you run over the timing mat and avoid the traffic) we wished each other well and were off.
Roger said he was not 100% but set off like a rocket leaving me and John setting a pace close to 4min/km. My plan was the same as the other races as I thought I would be looking at just getting under the time, so I would try to get to 9km as economically as possible at a 4min pace, then hope I had enough left to keep pushing to the finish.
When we got onto the front I found myself running with a New Marske Harrier who looked to be running the same pace and I guessed he knew the course, he also made a good wind break on the way out.
Up to about 8 km there was not much to say. I ran, checked the pace, ran, checked the heart rate, ran. It was about this point when I caught Roger and as I passed he gave me some words of encouragement (I was hoping he was still on for a sub 40) as my watch was not beeping on the km markers any more so left me wondering if it was going to affect the pacing.
As I got to the 9km I remember thinking ‘well I have got this far’ and the pace was about right. It was all about the last kilometre and I didn’t fancy doing it all again if I end up at 40:00. Should I look at my pace or heart rate? Would I slow down if it said 200 BPM? Not likely!
As the Marske Harrier slowly pulled away, another group formed around me (it’s funny how you feel you’re running well if you’re one stride ahead but hanging on if you’re one stride behind) so I decided the best course of action was just to run as fast as I bloody could to the flag. If they came past, well I could not complain.
The last few metres were caught on camera, me with a definite grimace on my face but the runners around me looking fine. Still, they all helped keep me going or pushing me on in some way on the day.
All the Sedgefield Harriers appeared to have good runs on the day and it was a nice spot to finish on the sea front (see below for results).
As it turned out when I looked at my watch I had gone under by some way but I had a double check with Roger after the race: another sub forty to add to his list (job done!!!) now what next? Well a pacer for Mr Haycock would be a good start!
It’s funny not that long ago sub 40 was not something I gave much thought to as knocking 5 or 10 seconds off a PB could take some time. But I surprised myself a couple of times last year with 10k times and you start to think, well maybe I can?
If you have a goal in mind just keep chipping away at it, you might just surprise yourself too.
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