Category Archives: running

Calderdale Hike

To say I was unprepared for this race would be an understatement.

Lately I’ve been rolling up for races, such as the CTS Northumberland Ultra, with a pretty good idea in my head of the route, maps and GPS ready, only to discover the entire race liberally sprinkled with bright yellow arrows. The Wooler Trail Marathon wasn’t much better. Despite its remoteness there was usually a bold arrow stapled to a fencepost pointing you on your way.

Trawling back through the race reports I was surprised to see that no one was owning up to having done the Calderdale Hike before, not even Dave Robson. Still, how hard could it be? The organisers had uploaded a ‘suggested’ GPX trail and I dutifully transferred it to my Garmin. This gave me a belt and braces Breadcrumb Trail. Just to be on the safe side, I uploaded it to my iPhone, overlayed it onto some proper OS maps (I like maps), and had a pixel perfect plan of the journey ahead. I also had a battery pack so the phone would easily last me all day. I also had a map and compass, because that was in the kit list, and you
had to carry that. Yawn.

For the last 5 years I’ve been the IT technician at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. I finished there on Friday the 31st of March. Some people mark these things with a night in the pub, or a big party. I decided to do an Ultra. So I asked if it was OK to leave early on my last day as I was off to do an Ultra (my Manager is also a runner, he understood), and so Friday evening found Roberta and me sitting in the New Hobbit Inn in Sowerby Bridge. We could’ve have chosen the Premier Inn, but, like wines, this place had a more interesting label. I was still a little preoccupied by leaving my job so I wasn’t giving this race the attention it deserved. I thought I was prepared though.

The next morning I was at the Start with bags of time to spare, but, sadly, not sufficient bags to go back to the hotel and collect my water bottles that were sitting next to the telly. Luckily Roberta found a bottle of 500ml bottle of water next to the spare wheel in the car, and, deciding not to think about it too much, I shoved it in my bum bag. Mildly unnerved, I wondered what else I might have forgotten or taken for granted.

The Calderdale HikIt was probably around here I lost my battery packe is a 37 mile trail ultra that covers a gorgeous variety of town, village and fell. I had very little idea of where I was going but had the trail programmed into my Garmin, my phone, and if the worst came to the worse, I even had a map and a list of the checkpoint grid references. I planned to follow the gadgies in front for a while and then just follow the pixels.

Away we went and then a mere 100 yards from the start something quite unexpected happened, the bunch of runners split into two. This, I had not expected, and, thinking quickly, tagged onto the the slightly bigger of the two bunches. Sticking with the slightly bigger herd I tootled along, getting dropped a bit earlier than I expected but no worries. I fished out my phone and followed myself on the map. This was fine. I’m not fast, but fast enough to be ahead of the cut-offs, so for the next couple of miles I took a few photos and admired the view. I wasn’t in a rush. 37 miles is a long way. I was feeling mellow.

The route was fascinating. Following the waterways and reservoirs with meanderings along roads and paths. It’s not a part of the country I’m familiar with and I was enjoying the scenery a lot. I noticed that with all the photos I was taking the charge on my phone was dropping rapidly, so I decided to fish out my battery pack to give it a boost. The battery pack, sadly, had fished itself out of its own accord at some place unknown when I’d left my bumbag unzipped, and with a pang of anxiety I realised that I would have to re-evaluate the reliance on the phone for the maps.

I switched it off to conserve power and gave my attention to the breadcrumb trail on my Garmin. It’s not perfect but at least you know if you’re going wildly of course. This served me fine for a good few miles and the only times I knew there was a checkpoint was when a tent appeared ahead. Checkpoint 5 was just south of the M62 and I followed a few intrepid runners who had decided to forego the fells in favour of the (still legal) jog up a major ‘A’ road as the weather had got a bit manky at this point. Back north over the motorway, and up over the moors, where things were beginning to feel a bit more grown up. Checkpoint 6 was about 13 miles at which point a divine cup of tea was available. It was like being at Swaledale.

Checkpoint 7 was at Sladen Fold, after which there was some great canal-side running before my breadcrumb trail brought me onto the moors. I was keeping a trio of runners in my sights but it was clear that we were all doing a bit of dead-reckoning to get across the soft tussocky moorland and it was tough going. After a while I found myself on a firm trod, and it teased me away to the left. I was fine with that. I can go left, or straight on. But I decided to ease left for a bit to enjoy the better surface, with a view to bearing right again when things firmed up.

The weather was undecided between, mist, sleet or sun, and I kept my eyes on the trod, and jogged steadily on a pleasantly downward slope. It didn’t feel right. I was veering too far to the left surely, but my Garmin breadcrumb trail was rock steady, and I decided to keep the faith.

But something wasn’t right. I was on my own. The runners ahead had disappeared. I looked again at my Garmin. It hadn’t changed. At all. Some Striders might remember the famous scene in the China Syndrome, where Jack Lemmon taps the dodgy gauge and it silently glides down the scale. This wasn’t a nuclear meltdown, although it felt like it. I realised my Garmin had frozen. It hadn’t moved for the last hour. I’d been following an illusion. In Orienteering terms, it was a classic ‘180 degree’ error. I was running in exactly the opposite direction to what I should have been.

Total distance: 46.84 km
Max elevation: 516 m
Min elevation: 155 m
Total climbing: 1465 m
Total descent: -1426 m
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I found myself at the bottom of a valley on a track with no idea where I was. The last clear waypoint where I’d been paying any real attention was when I crossed the M62. And that was well over an hour ago. I’d been following my Garmin in SatNav mentality with no real overall idea of where I was. Visibility was poor and the wind was getting up again. Shit, as they say, had just got real. Anxiety was bubbling up inside me. I got my map and compass out of my rucksack and started talking to myself. Ok, I said, which way is North …

It took me a good 15 minutes to work out where I was and then there was the small matter of locating the next checkpoint. I examined a rapidly disintegrating piece of paper and identified the general direction that I needed to go. Unfortunately I’d bled off a lot of height in my careless following of the nice trod, and that height had to be regained. I stood up and headed North West. Up.

Some time later, slightly calmer aOne more rain shower and this is historynd a lot humbler, I got to Checkpoint 8 at Coolam. I was still disoriented and paranoid, even more so when the way out from CP8 was the same as the way in. Another long, long look at the map, something that I should’ve done at home days before the race, another examination of what was left of the checkpoints sheet, and onwards and upwards to Checkpoint 9.

Gradually I regained confidence. My Garmin was working after I’d switched if off and on again (I did say I was an IT tech), the weather had improved, and, despite being slow, I was comfortable and content. I plodded on through checkpoint 10 and turned east on the home run to Sowerby Bridge. By the time I got to Checkppoint 11 at Cross Stones I was quite perky again. The sun was out, I was feeling fine, and I was settling down for the last 10 miles or whatever (I had no idea) to the finish.

They were very kind at checkpoint 11, when they told me I was being timed out. I was feeling fine, so asked if it was ok to continue unassisted, in the full knowledge that I was no longer part of the race. I could tell the marshall wasn’t wild about the idea (“there’s a nice bus”), but he could also see I wasn’t at the end of my tether. I asked him how far it was to go, what the paths were like, if there were many hills, and, even as I heard myself asking these questions, I thought, I don’t deserve to finish this race. This was all avoidable. I lost well over 30 minutes by going wrong on the tops. Not a huge amount perhaps, but I’m not a fast runner. I have the stamina, but I don’t have the speed. I can’t afford to make mistakes like that. If I hadn’t gone wrong, I would’ve have been timed out.

So I settled down to sit on a Somewhere nice to sit and admire the view while waiting for the BoSvery nice bench and admired the view while waiting for the Bus of Shame. It was a jolly journey back to base and when I later looked at the finish times of the last walkers I realised I would’ve actually caught them up if I had kept going. Provided, of course, I knew where I was going.

 

Next year is the 40th anniversary of the Calderdale Hike. It’s on Sat 14th of April 2018. It’s a fantastic race. I’ll be there. And I’ll be ready this time.

 

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MLN Orienteering Event

MLN Orienteering, Marne Training Area, 27th January

blue course

Dougie Nisbet

I wasn’t surprised to get no takers for my offer of a lift to Marne Barracks for a bit of orienteering. However, a last minute check of the email and I saw that Paul had decided to accompany me on this drizzly Wednesday for a trip down the A1 to run around an abandoned airfield.

We were somewhere south of Scotch Corner and we’d pretty much solved all of the world’s problems when I noticed the road noise through the roadworks was a bit excessive, and it seemed to be a bit bumpy too. A minute or two of this and I realised that this was just one possible interpretation of the noise and bumps that were hitting our senses. Another interpretation could be that we had a puncture. Yes, the more I thought about it, the more the puncture scenario seemed to fit the evidence, and driving along in a state of denial wasn’t going to change the facts.

Well there's no point both of us getting our knees dirty. I'll just keep an eye on things.

We pulled off the A1 and had a look at the tyres. One of them had a flat bit at the bottom and I knew that wasn’t good. I contemplated calling the AA but, despite being ok for time, wondered how long they’d take to attend a scene for two blokes too feeble to change a wheel. I mean, it couldn’t be that difficult, could it? I’m sure I’ve done it before. The first step was finding the spare wheel. We found it, eventually, under the back bit where I always assumed the fuel tank was. Trying to get the wheel out was a different manner. As an IT technician I then did something that pained me greatly, I had a look for the manual. I’d already tried switching the engine off and on again but that hadn’t helped. We got there eventually, except for the small matter of the jack, which we eventually found in a cubby hole in the car that I never knew existed. We were unstoppable now.

Man at Work.

A false start where we started trying to jack the car on one of the crunchy bits rather than the proper tough bit, but soon we were cruising. Well, I say we, it was mostly Paul. It had started raining so I spent most of the time standing in the bus shelter taking photos and making encouraging noises.

Back on the road and into Marne Barracks, where passports were shown, disclaimers were signed, and we were driving slowly down the old runway looking for somewhere to park. Speed bumps on a runway, no matter how obviously disused, are an incongruous sight. The last time I orienteered here registration had been at the end of the runway out of a transit van. This time it was inside a nice building, with toilets, drinks, warmth and a costcutter. It seemed a shame to go outside again.

choice: control 15 to 16Paul and I were both doing the same course and I went of first with the organisers observing a strict 90 second interval between starters. The first few controls were around the buildings and access roads and navigation was easy, and by the 3rd control I’d already been caught by the guy starting after me, which was pretty depressing. Then out into the woodland and the navigation got a bit more interesting. I bumped into Paul a few times which, given that he started about 6 minutes after me, meant two things. One, he was running a lot faster than me, and two, he must be making a few errors otherwise I’d only have seen him once.

At control 15 our paths crossed again and Paul sped of to the east, which, given that the control was due north, confused me a bit. I headed straight for the control, knowing that there was the small matter of a fence between it and me. Whether it was ‘crossable’ or ‘uncrossable’, I was about to find out. Thankfully it was the former, but Paul had decided to go for the fast long way round. We finished at the same time, which was handy, as Paul’s dibber had failed to work properly, and we could use my time minus the time that he’d started after me to work out his.

Our journey back up the A1 was less eventful than the outward journey and I had fully intended calling it a day until Paul said he was doing a ‘gentle’ ‘slow’ headtorch run that evening. The ‘gentle’ and ‘slow’ bit I liked the sound of. Turned out there was a bit of mis-selling going on there. Perhaps I should’ve offered to help a bit more changing that wheel …

The next army event is at Scarth Wood Moor, Osmotherley on Wednesday 10th Feb. It’s not somewhere I’ve orienteered before but it looks nice. I’ll be going if anyone wants to tag along. Must be good at changing wheels.

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North Eastern Counties Cross Country Championships, Sedgefield, 12th December

In the Bleak-Midwinter

Shelter from the storm
Photo © and Courtesy Karen Newton

Saturday started wet. The rain then turned to sleet, the sleet turned to wet snow, the wet snow to ‘full on’ snow and by the time the senior men’s race started there was a two inch carpet of snow on the course. Thus the scene was set for this year’s North East X/C Champs at Sedgefield.

As these races represent the North East Champs the senior men still get to start before the women and Striders were fielding a company of twelve of their finest brave men. As the young tend to know no fear Jack Lee went out at the front into the blizzard followed by two more senior comrades Neil Sleeman and Capt Evans. As some of you will know Neil hails from slightly warmer climes than Sedgefield in December but he took to the snow like a koala to a gum tree finishing second Strider home behind Jack and ahead of Capt E after an exciting tussle. Old Tom was next home holding off a challenge from the baseball hatted Aaron who was in turn followed in by James Garland making a welcome return to the fray.

Aaron fends of the snow with his baseball cap
Photo © and Courtesy Karen Newton

Innes must be benefiting from his own grass sessions as he had a good run as did newbies Alex W and Peter H, the latter supported by his understanding family. Shaun the Sheep’s trailer had been held up in the snow bound traffic so he came out of the pen some minutes behind the rest of the flock. Once other runners were nipping at his heals though he was soon trotting merrily along, although at the end, after braving the blizzard, it looked like he’d been ‘dipped’ if not sheared! The two Mikes made up the team with Mr Bennett resembling a festive Santa speeding round the snowy fields and Mr Hughes covered in the white stuff and thinking Sally had had the best of the conditions. And, as it turned out, she had – so well done lads, a great performance – it’s what the club is all about: great days out and shared experiences in face of adversity!

Well, if the men had to face adversity then the women were facing something even tougher! By now the snow was really meaning business not only covering the course in a thick blanket but also trying to bring down the Striders tent with a duvet size overlay. A field of over 220 snow women lined up for the start. Relieved to get under way Penny of the Antarctic skied off with the front runners followed by Elaine, Sarah and Mudwoman. Debs wasn’t far behind and the hangover she was suffering was soon “washed away like the snow in the rain” as she battled through the white stuff. There was no “compromising” either by any of the Striderettes today: Catherine Elliott made a determined effort to duck the snow flakes, Steph P was making a return to form as conditions become more to her liking, our debutant Fiona Wood smiling (or grimacing) in the knowledge that “things can only get better” and Rebecca serenely floating through the white mud dreaming of Mandalay.

Aaron Gourley's view of the Village

They all contributed to another great performance by the women’s team who, cheered on by Jan and many of the men’s team, finished in the top half of the table in a race where the first three finishers were all international runners and household names (they are in our household anyway). What a great day! Yes it was cold, wet and uncomfortable and the race was hard and tough but that’s what makes x/c so rewarding – the harder it is the more we enjoy that post race glass of wine or beer and the more we feel at one with our club mates. We can’t wait for the next time!

Results

U17/20 women

position bib name race time
1 516 Philippa Stone (Middlesbrough Athletic Club) 20:33
28 512 Sally Hughes 25:00

45 finishers.

men

position bib name race time
1 1498 Patrick Martin (Stockport Harriers) 40:53
175 1206 Jack Lee 54:14
187 1210 Neil Sleeman 54:30
197 1200 Paul Evans 54:50
243 1208 Tom Reeves 57:27
256 1202 Aaron Gourley 58:10
279 1201 James Garland 59:19
295 1198 Michael Bennett 1:00:19
301 1211 Alex Witty 1:00:42
329 1205 Mike Hughes 1:02:12
340 1209 Shaun Roberts 1:02:53
348 1204 Innes Hodgson 1:03:39
375 1203 Peter Hart 1:06:48

411 finishers.

ladies

position bib name race time
1 715 Rosie Smith (Durham City Harries &AC) 31.55
22 744 Penny Browell 37:50
58 743 Elaine Bisson 41:29
79 746 Sarah Davies 42:54
84 747 Susan Davis 43:28
113 750 Debra Goddard 45:01
135 752 Stephanie Piper 46:01
147 749 Catherine Elliott 47:08
193 754 Fiona Wood 52:35
209 748 Rebecca Devine 54:49

224 finishers.

Doctor’s Gate Fell Race

It was calm, sunny and warm in Hamsterley Forest as we milled restlessly around the start as the minutes ticked past 11am. I used the time to jab my finger at Shaun and tell him he was going to overheat if he ran with a base layer in this weather. He wisely stripped off with just a few seconds to spare. [ Dave Robson had decided not to run and had shrewdly put his running gear beyond use just in case he was tempted on this clear summer morning. After the pep talk from organiser Gerry Hehir we were shooed into the forest and the climbing began.

Amazed I used to run with a cotton t-shirt as a base layer. I soon discovered that I burned up pretty quickly
Amazed I used to run with a cotton t-shirt as a base layer. I soon discovered that I burned up pretty quickly

I kept Nigel in my sight for most of the climb and thinking I’d sussed his M.O. thought I might catch him somewhere on the ascent. It was not to be and he was just a distant purple splash by the time we reached the top. Feeling yesterday’s Harrier League heavy in my legs I settled for ticking over on the descent and lost quite a few places on the way down. On a fast downhill stretch just when I thought we were nearly home a discretely positioned arrow turned us right and up and the route took an unexpected meander over an extra hill. Many runners missed the arrow and therefore avoided this scenic detour, taking a more direct route back to the finish. Quite how many missed it, and how much time was saved or lost, will no doubt be discussed for decades to come.

This was my first time running this race and I was not disappointed. I like the variety and combination of open moorland, runnable forest track, twisty paths and a few fords. For my money it’s the most interesting Hamsterley Forest race, whatever route you choose.


Total distance: 10.8 km
Max elevation: 337 m
Min elevation: 173 m
Total climbing: 534 m
Total descent: -553 m
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PosNameClubCatPosTime
1Phil SandersonNFRM4043:34
2Will HorsleyNFRM45:06
7Karen RobertsonF40150:12
22Shaun RobertsM50355:48
30Geoff DavisM50757:00
38Nigel HeppellM501059:20
52Susan DavisF40464:38
52Dougie NisbetM401964:44

Kielder Borderer

The snow turned into hail as 45 runners huddled together outside Kielder Castle for the race briefing. All checkpoints would be manned. Fording the Kielder Burn after East Kielder farm would save about 5 minutes, we were told, and make finding the Kielder Head checkpoint more straightforward. With a casual wave of his arm and a cheery ‘off you go then’ the organiser bid us on our way and a kaleidoscopic collection of rucksacks, bum bags, jackets and hats headed cheerfully into the trees. The hail started to fall a bit harder but I wasn’t unduly concerned. Naivety is a handy state of mind and I thought myself well-prepared for most eventualities. I knew to expect remote and hostile conditions.

The first few miles were straightforward enough and it seemed no time at all before we were heading back down to the valley to head up to Kielder Head. Geoff and Susan’s red-clad NFR posse were a little ahead of me until this point, but they seemed a bit jittery about the river crossing. Like a hesitant straggle of blushing wildebeest they ran along the bank looking for a suitable crossing point. I was having none of this nonsense and plunged into the river with more bravado than brains. Slow and Shallow became Fast and Deep, and within a metre from the opposite bank I finally found myself up to (and including) my nadgers in freezing water. This was shocking enough in itself, but not quite as scary as suddenly being swept off my feet and only a frantic lunge for the grassy bank prevented me getting a full body soaking. We all hit the Kielder Head checkpoint around the same time, some of us with dryer undergarments than others.

Phil Green marshalling and taking my photo

Through the forest and up the fell to Grey Mares Knowe with the race sweeper never more than a few metres behind me. I was dried out and warmed up by now, and even though things were beginning to feel a little bit more grown-up, visibility was good and I was still pretty chirpy. An exchange of photos with NFR’s Phil Green at the checkpoint, then on to the border. With my GPS receiver, digital maps, and assortment of geostationary satellites, I followed my pixels to my preprogrammed waypoint that would put me smack on the trod. It doesn’t take much to see that all the military satellites in the cosmos don’t amount to a hill of beans in the crazy heather on the Kielder fells. A yell from the sweeper and a bit of pointing (I think) and I got onto the real trod, and started moving a bit faster, still with the red haze of Geoff and Susan’s group a little ahead.

I stumbled as I crossed Carry Burn and plunged both hands in the icy water to break my fall. It was here that my spirits began to drop. My hands were freezing, and were to stay that way for the next two hours. My Garmin was none too chuffed either and it decided to take no further interest in the race. I’m glad visibility was good as I was in no mood to fumble in my bum bag for my compass. Heading along the border fence and an undone shoe lace nearly had me in tears as I tried to retie it with numb hands. I must’ve looked pretty dejected as I crouched down in the heather because the race sweeper appeared from nowhere to check I was OK. Phil James was keeping an eye on all the stragglers like a good shepherd with what appeared to be the contents of a small General Store in his rucksack.

Around the Kielder Stone there’s a temptation to think you’re almost home, but there’s the grim exposed haul up to Peel Fell. A brief nod to the poor shivering marshall at the checkpoint and then a bit of runnable ridgeway arcs round to the spikey Deadwater Fell. One last climb up to the welcome sight of the Mountain Rescue crew at the final checkpoint, then, downhill all the way.

Running properly again for the first time in two hours, and whimpering a bit as circulation started to return to my hands, the last few miles down to the finish were almost luxurious. Geoff and Susan who had been a comfortable red glow ahead for the last four hours now leapt ahead, and I focused on the yellow hi-vis glow of the NFR runner just in front of me. After 17 miles and 3000 feet (plus VAT) I finished in a time of 4:49:25. A little slower than my Edinburgh Marathon time! Into the castle and endless cups of hot tea from a never emptying tea pot. What devilish magic is this?

A highly recommended, strangely humbling fell race over remote terrain with great views. Despite all my homework, maps and gadgets I can understand why runners still prefer to get out and reccie the reality. The bewildering heather clad fells have no respect for the neatly arranged contours on the map. It seems a shame that this race won’t run again until March 2011 and so I’m very glad I decided to give it a go. I’m looking forward to running it again.


Total distance: 28.76 km
Max elevation: 609 m
Min elevation: 192 m
Total climbing: 1694 m
Total descent: -1692 m
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PosNameClubCatPosTime
1Phil SandersonNFRM403:14:14
9Helen JacksonBingleyL13:39:39
30Geoff DavisM504:46:15
31Susan DavisL504:46:15
33Dougie NisbetM404:49:25

High Cup Nick Fell Race

Dufton is quite a bit further from Durham than you might think, and if you don’t want to arrive 15 minutes before race start in a bit of tizz, it’s worth being a bit more organised than I was. I registered, relaxed and looked around. Hallo, what’s this, another Striders vest! Nigel was being interrogated by an earnest lady who wanted to know whether he was looking forward to the race. They were having a bizarre conversation on wind when I bounded up and said “Hello”. He wasn’t looking too good. A bit peely-wally it has to be said, recovering from a persistent cold. But more on that story later.

We wandered the few yards from registration to start and I couldn’t help notice the abundance of base layers underneath everyone’s racing vests. I looked down at my bare arms and legs and then up at the clouds and realised that I may have committed a rather serious and extremely chilly logistical error. It was warm in my house when got up, so it’d be warm at High Cup Nick. Or something.

As we waited at the start we got into a bit of a bidding war about who had run the least over the last few weeks, who was feeling the most wretched, and whether Nigel’s cold could outbid my over-enthusiasm for steak and red wine the previous evening. We would find out. My race plan was to run, ‘speculatively’, and if throwing-up looked unlikely, pick up the tempo.

Off we went and off he went. Nigel soon became a speck and I settled down. As with many fell races you have the rather humbling view of seeing exactly where you’re heading unfolding before you. High Cup Gill drifted into view and the cloud loitered around the valley with mischief on its mind. As we climbed steadily up the valley I began to feel better and passed a fair few runners. I was feeling pretty comfortable. Nigel kept appearing on radar, walking, then he would break into a run and disappear again.

It was on the climb up to High Cup Nick itself that I passed Nigel. Feeling pretty pleased with myself I gathered ample photographic evidence just in case challenged later in court. It’s a dramatic broody climb up to the top and I loved it. Over the top and a furtive glance back and I had made good gaps over many of the runners I’d passed and was feeling pretty smug.

There’s some fantastic descending in this race. It’s mostly runnable. Charging down through the cloud with glimpses of other runners ahead was an exhilarating experience. It couldn’t get any better. And it didn’t. A steady trail of familiar vests that I thought I’d seen the last of filed past and I just couldn’t match their speed. And then, a few miles from the finish, Nigel sailed past with a cheery nod, looking a million times better than he did on the ascent. Not for the first time the phrase “Nigel, you bastard!” was heard to utter from a Strider’s gob. [Nor the last time either, I expect. Ed]

It was a good run into the finish and then just a few short yards to soup and warmth. The day was nicely rounded off with a photo shoot by a student who wanted to build a portfolio of portraits of Fell Runners “looking tired”. No shortage of volunteers there.


Total distance: 14.59 km
Max elevation: 601 m
Min elevation: 187 m
Total climbing: 718 m
Total descent: -718 m
Download
PosNameClubCatPosTime
1Darren KayHorwichM1:01:47
26Will HorsleyNFRM1:13:27
110Nigel HeppellMV501:35:58
113Dougie NisbetMV401:36:52

Simonside Cairns Fell Race

As an alternative to a certain long, muddy race further south in the country, Susan, Geoff and me ran a longish, muddy fell race in Northumberland. In contrast to the hard-packed ice of last week’s Hexham Shehobble, the Simonside Cairns fell race had a lot of freezing mud and slush. The snow lay round about, deep and squelchy and uneven.

This race was another first for me and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Navigation was straightforward as, running at the back, you simply follow the footsteps of those ahead who have thoughtfully pounded the trail into an ankle-deep mud-bath. Occasional spots of blood in the snow also helped mark the way, concentrate the mind and chill the soul. I had one Vicar of Dibley moment when the snow-packed boardwalk I thought I was running on veered playfully to the left and suddenly turned out not to be a boardwalk after all, a complete absence of boardwalk in fact, more like a nut-numbing pool of icy muddy water that insistently invited me in for some brief refreshment.

I was cold and bewildered when I crossed over the stile into the forest. A man appeared out of the shadows and waved me in with warm words of encouragement. I could hear Christmas carols playing and coloured lights lined the path. It was very soothing. All was calm. All was bright. Just as I was wondering whether this was the afterlife, I emerged from the forest, and there was Simonside Cairns. Ah yes, I’d forgotten about them. Unfortunately they were up there, mocking me, and I was down here, looking up. Oh well. Onward and upward.

The views from the top were astounding and set the mood for an exhilarating charge back down to Rothbury. Crossing the finish I didn’t think I’d done that well but was pleased to discover I was only a couple of minutes behind Susan, and on reflection I think I ran a better race than last week’s Hobble. Cosy chat, hot soup and Croutons washed down with a Deuchars IPA in the pub afterwards soon soothed away the cold toes.


Total distance: 17.98 km
Max elevation: 430 m
Min elevation: 66 m
Total climbing: 808 m
Total descent: -807 m
Download
PosNameClubCatPosTime
1N SwinburnNFR1:10:23
17Rachel VincentTynedaleL11.41.55
27Geoff DavisV501.47.05
62Susan DavisLV402.08.33
65Dougie NisbetV452.10.38

Crystal Palace Canter

I’d done my research. I’d planned my escape. While on a short break to London I sneaked out the hotel and walk/jogged from Cavendish Square the 9 miles to Crystal Palace. While the rest of my party were at the Wallace Collection gazing in wonderment at all the marvellous things that Mr Wallace collected, I had my own plans. At noon I arrived at (I am reliably informed) the highest point in London. It was here I met with the shadowy figures who take part in the monthly Crystal Palace Canter, a 3 mile 2 lap circuit around the parkland at Crystal Palace.

Everyone was very friendly and gave me the low-down on the course and the hills, turns and slidey bits. Just as well as the 1st lap was a squally sleety ordeal and I was seriously under dressed, although the parakeets screeching in the branches above seemed to find it warm enough. For such a low-key event there was some great competition and I swapped positions a few times in the two short laps. As the race started I naively thought I might get on the podium surrounded as I was by lots of M50+ runners, but I finished with depressing consistency more than halfway down the field. As I was running in a tiny midweek lunchtime race hundreds of miles from Durham I wasn’t hugely surprised to be the only one there in a Striders’ vest. But it’s a small friendly world, and Claire Wyngard of the Dulwich runners, instantly recognising my Striders’ vest, asked me if I knew her sister-in-Law Janet Wyngard who is also in the Striders!


Total distance: 16.06 km
Max elevation: 119 m
Min elevation: -29 m
Total climbing: 1543 m
Total descent: -1531 m
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Total distance: 4.83 km
Max elevation: 98 m
Min elevation: 54 m
Total climbing: 185 m
Total descent: -180 m
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Gibside Fruit Bowl Trail Race

Last night I dreamt I went to Gibside again. Which was prophetic, as this morning I set of with Fiona, Conrad and Mike to the place I spent the summer of 2007 working. It would be interesting charging around the trails and paths that were so familiar from the time I spent wandering along them with a notebook, camera, and a copy of ‘What Tree is This?’.

We arrived early and I was reassured to find the hall not in flames. We were so early there wasn’t even a queue for the toilets. As the start time approached more and more Striders appeared on the scene and formed a friendly purple haze around the avenue. The start itself is probably the widest one I can recall and it was good not having the usual corset-like squeeze that accompanies the beginning of most races. However at the end of the avenue we swung round a hairpin and the tree-lined superhighway became a narrow pot-holed soggy cart track. Moments later we stormed down the hard entrance road to the estate and the only downhill part of this trail race that could be described as ‘not very nice’.

Debs and me have been closely matched in recent race results and I was confident that I could steal the march on her in this event. Sure enough after about a mile I nudged past her and thought that was the end of the matter. As far as I was concerned the case was closed. This was at the bottom of the first hill. When we got to the top of the first hill Debs breezed by in what can only be described as ‘a lofty manner’, so I gritted my teeth, put my head down, and gave chase. For a short while she was in my sights but by the time we got to the half-way point and the drinks station she was nothing but a distant memory.

I’d heard many runners talk about the last long hill but the killer for me was the short steep chappie in the middle leading up to the monument. I try to subscribe to the Alan Purvis motto that states that Thy shalt not Walk any Hills so I settled for running up this one very very slowly. On the last hill I rallied a little and spied Debs ahead, but as we turned around the top corner she engaged full afterburner and stormed away to finish a good minute ahead of me.

We were all pretty much agreed that the finish was soul sapping. That long, long, long, straight, with the finish banner never getting any closer and the ground getting stickier with every step made it hard to keep the momentum going. A bit like the finish to the coastal run, but with less sand.

I joined the friendly splodge of purple that had cheered me in and watched the remainder of the Striders squelch home. A tough, well organised race with great scenery and variety.


Total distance: 10.02 km
Max elevation: 153 m
Min elevation: 40 m
Total climbing: 590 m
Total descent: -594 m
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PosNameClubCatPosTime
1Neil WilkinsonMorpeth H & ACMV40136:10
15Michelle HoltSunderland H & ACF141:09
38Fiona ShentonFV45343:47
45Michael BennettMV50344:18
65Geoff DavisMV50545:25
82Conrad WhiteMV50846:11
110Shaun RobertsMV501347:36
128John HutchinsonMV501948:09
142Graham DaglishMV502248:48
196Susan DavisFV451151:26
217Debra GoddardF4552:30
237Dougie NisbetMV4553:34
274Frank CoffieldMV601255:15
281Alan SmithMV601455:42
284Jean BradleyFV451555:47
327Amanda HunterFV4058:28
368Mary CoffieldFV5541:02:52
371Alan PurvisMV7031:03:06

Great North Run

Great North Run

It’s overblown, overhyped, overpriced and OTT, but I don’t care. I love it! I love the Great North Run! We may all be Brendan’s whores, but it’s good to feel dirty and sinful once in a while. Poor man’s gotta be able to feed his family after all. He can be my pimp any day.

This was my 2nd GNR and so I considered myself a seasoned pro. I knew there would be crowd trouble. I knew that there might be some congestion, occassional gridlock, and things would get sticky, especially at the lucozade stations. I had a rough race plan that, broadly speaking, involved getting as much out of my entrance fee as possible. I would go through every shower, drink every lucozade, listen to every band and high-five as many people as possible.

After disembarking from the coach I soon lost sight of my fellow Striders. Barrie and George waved their VIP cards and headed straight to the front of the field. Feeling part of a 52,000 sized family I wandered with camera in hand and soaked up the atmosphere. This year I was running for Shelter so I kept an eye open for other Shelter supporters. Not everyone took kindly to me bounding up and asking for my photo to be taken but a couple of charming friendly lassies were happy to pose with me.

I knew things would be busy but was surprised at just how chocka it turned out to be. Last year I was at the back of the last pen and it took me less than 15 minutes to the start. This year I climbed into the pen in front but we still crossed the start a good 28 minutes after the gun had fired. Chatting to Margaret in the pub later we both agreed that the second half of the race was the more congested – I don’t know if that ties in with what others found. My split times show mile three as being the fastest. Andy James had sponsored me on the understanding that I would hit a sub-2hr time, and at the half way mark I was on track. But it was pinball wizard all the way after that. Dodging, ducking, bouncing and ricocheting was hard work so I settled down to high-fiving and waving. Apart from spotting Dave Robson at the Fetchpoint I saw no-one else I recognised. I had a spell of staring accusingly at runners that I passed whose colours clearly had no relation to their prospective finish time. I trusted my glare translated as “How the hell are you in that colour when you’re walking up this teensy hill?”. I paused in my Hard Stare activities to high-five Elvis and, realising that the road ahead was blocked, settled down for an easy finish. At least this year I was not passed by any amusingly shaped vegetables.

Meeting up with Roberta at the finish was tricky due to the huge crowds and congested mobile network. We decided later than one of the nicest parts of the day was just sitting in the companionable coziness of the Look Out Inn having a quiet drink and waiting for the coach, listening to the day’s tales being told around us. After the frenetic buzz and crowds of the preceding hours it was a peaceful oasis of calm.


Total distance: 21.46 km
Max elevation: 148 m
Min elevation: 13 m
Total climbing: 612 m
Total descent: -653 m
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PosNameClubCatPosTime
1Tsegay KebedeEthiopia00:59:45
1Gete WamiEthiopiaF01:08:51
2330John Robson01:39:01
2958John Everett01:41:00
6831Jean Bradley*01:50:11
9228Barrie Evans01:54:30
13066Stephanie Barlow02:00:14
13094George Nicholson*02:00:17
14882Dougie Nisbet02:03:17
19235Andrew Glass02:10:31
21026Angela Proctor02:13:40
22468Mike Kitson02:16:26
23454Margaret Thompson02:18:21
24637Greta Jones02:20:42
24672Joe Thornton02:20:47
32088Kathryn Anne Larkin-Bramley02:42:08
34745Ann Westberg02:59:20