Category Archives: running

Top of the Forest Fell Race

  • Hamsterley Forest
  • BM / 12.1km / 381m

The DFR Top of the Forest race does pretty much what it says. Starting from the Grove car park the route meanders west then north, climbing steadily to around 427m (1440 feet). The surface is pretty much hard-packed forest drive and upon reflection I think I would’ve been better in road shoes than trail shoes. There are a couple of interesting stretches on footpaths and a jolly bit of descending amongst some tussocky heather, but for the most part, it’s all tracks.

I started at the back of the 30 or so field and passed a couple of runners in the first few hundred yards. Then a few minutes later I passed someone else. Then, well, that was about it. The remainder of the 8.5 mile course was a pretty lonely affair. I nearly caught someone just before the top but he deftly stayed away by the clever ploy of having very long legs, which he unfolded at the top and disappeared John-Cleese-like leaving me on my own again. I finished fourth (last) in a time of 76:10 – a result I was pretty happy with, and I believe Will Horsley was around somewhere (near the front). I was cheered on into the finish by Tom Reeves who suddenly appeared slightly surreally on a bicycle. The prize (a can of Caffreys) appeared to be very democratically awarded to all runners regardless of ability, a decision I have absolutely no problem with, and believe all race prizes should operate this way.

There was a certain satisfaction in the steady climb and feeling of being at the top of the forest but for me the handicap course is far more interesting. I mean, there wasn’t even any mud! How can you call it a fell race if there’s no mud?

Total distance: 13.38 km
Max elevation: 437 m
Min elevation: 187 m
Total climbing: 815 m
Total descent: -805 m
1Joe CharlesClwydian rangeM50:09
18Sarah ListerBlackhillF59:23
28Dougie NisbetM4070:10

Parachute Regiment 10M

The Para’s 10 was a bit of a mystery. An unknown quantity. What would it be like? We couldn’t ask anyone who’d run it before, because no-one had run it before. At least not for at least 20 years when it was last held at Aldershot in 1993.

Peter, Lindsey, Shaun and me wandered around at the start surrounded by paras in full military clothing. After some prodding from Shaun I nervously approached one who didn’t look too threatening and asked him if I could try lifting his Bergen. He happily obliged and I found it wasn’t too bad to carry. For about 30 seconds. However the thought of running with one for a couple of hours (while wearing boots) comes well down on my list of fun things to do.

The start of the race was a classy affair. As the website says, “Be the Breast” (I don’t get it) and bubbly Sun page 3 beauty Peta honked the horn that started the race while the photographer seemed to want to get Peta to pose in some very intriguing positions. Probably something to do with getting the light right.

Peter was running steadily and was just in my sights for the first three miles after which he put the foot down and was soon lost from view. I was surprised to suddenly catch him around the 8 mile mark where he was struggling up a steep hill. The decent thing to do at this point would be to nod some encouragement and speed by, but moments like this don’t happen to me very often so I decided to slow down and milk it. After making a show of holding back so that he could keep up with me he soon suggested that “You go on without me, I’ll only slow you down”, or something like that anyway. It may have been something else entirely. I knew I hadn’t been getting faster and it was obvious that the course had not been kind to Peter’s achilles.

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I found the steep descents on the smooth concrete sections made my shins sting, and the cattle grids (of which there were many) were a tricky affair. There was a short, brutal climb a mile or so from the finish which caught many by surprise. The course itself was quite scenic with trees, glades, flowers, ponds, birds, burnt-out tanks, army patrols and occasional sounds of gunfire. Being passed by runners in full military gear and carrying full packs can do strange things to one’s self-esteem. It’s an impressive feat but I’m sticking with running vest, shorts and trainers.

Shaun had been in a full 10 minutes when I arrived at the finish and Peter arrived (not that I was counting you understand) at least four minutes after me cautiously nursing some tender ankles and thinking of Berlin.

This was a very interesting race with variable terrain. No flat bits. I would probably do it again. Our garmins all measured it as closer to 9.5 than 10 miles. Most of it I really liked but the steep smooth downhill stretches on the smooth concrete and the cattle grids were unpleasant. If the Jelly Tea and Para’s 10 are on the same day next year it’ll probably come down to the toss of a coin.

Total distance: 15.4 km
Max elevation: 295 m
Min elevation: 190 m
Total climbing: 556 m
Total descent: -551 m
1Julian MAWSONOtley ACM1:01:58
2Mary WILKINSONBingley HarriersF11:01:59
24Shaun ROBERTSM501:10:38
158Dougie NISBETM401:27:42
168Peter BROOKSM1:29:54

Durham Fell Runners Summer Handicap: Race 4

If it hadn’t been for Jan’s announcement on Wednesday’s club night I would’ve missed this steep and cheerful race. I was having second thoughts right up until the last minute about tackling something this tough, but the temptation was too strong and the weather too sunny to let it pass by.

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Around 10 minutes before the start, just as I was beginning to think I was the only Strider there, I saw a dash of purple as Debs bounded up to Registration. We gave our 10K times, which were processed through a random number generator and converted into start times.

At 13 minutes past something-or-other I set of in a group of four and settled into a steady pace. The weather was great and the scenery superb. I was enjoying this leap into the unknown, with little idea what lay ahead. Probably just as well. After a mile or two of steady climbing and following the arrows we had a steep descent. I gleefully charged down through the conifers to emerge on a forest road. Looking optimistically around for more arrows I was soon joined by other reckless descenders. In a matter of seconds there was soon a jolly little party of about a dozen head-scratchers, all vigorously agreeing that we didn’t know where we were, or which way to go. The seconds ticked by as we elected a foreman of the jury and started weighing up the evidence. Soon sub-committees formed as people became restless. I looked around and noticed we all had ‘big numbers’ on, which meant we were all new kids in the race (the old-timers get small numbers). It wasn’t long before people started wandering of in various directions and I decided to cautiously retrace the route back up the hill. Almost immediately I spotted someone with a small number – an old hand – and gave chase. I was back on course! (Debs said later that she had made the same wrong turning but someone had shouted after her before she got too far away).

This was fun! I’d lost a couple of minutes on the detour but who cared! I passed someone that I’d passed some time earlier, somewhat to his bewilderment, and charged on.

We dropped down the valley and started up the other side. I started walking up the steep slopes and the flies began to take an interest. I tried to run again to get away from the flies, but my lungs and legs didn’t like it. I settled for the flies and slogged up the hillside as they buzzed mockingly around my head.

A long, relaxing level bit then another arrow, left. Well, not so much left, as left and UP. Up the soul-sapping boggy moor to Doctors Gate Quarry. I could see specks of colour away in the distance of the runners ahead and this gave me something to go for.

Once on the tops there were fantastic views and few flies before the return to the valley floor. I was feeling quite reckless on the steep paths down to the finish and even enjoyed the rare, no, UNKNOWN experience of another runner stepping aside to let me past!

This was a great fun event. Like the handicap, but with more mud. Much more mud. (And a can of Carling).

Total distance: 11.45 km
Max elevation: 307 m
Min elevation: 153 m
Total climbing: 793 m
Total descent: -786 m
James Herriot Trail Run

James Herriot Trail Run

What a stunning race. The route took us up high from the start and then left us on the tops until a few miles from the finish. For most of the race we had great views over the surrounding hills and valleys although it was difficult to appreciate them while being blasted by a fierce sun.

approaching the finish

In what is becoming a standard MO for me, I started well, and ran steadily and comfortably until about half-way. Thereafter I ran unsteadily and increasingly uncomfortably until shuffling across the finish line in a pretty disappointing time.

I loved the first brutal climb straight up the grassy hillside and didn’t feel too bad. However all the time my temperature gauge was creeping upwards, and at the half-way hill Phil and Dave cruised by with their Climate Control still apparently working well. By the time we’d crested the half-way hill the heat had gone from being mildly uncomfortable to slightly frightening. There was a palpable texture to the sunshine that I found quite unnerving and I took my foot right off the gas. I walked more of this run than any race I’ve done before. Even flat bits.

Water stations were a bit congested but that was hardly surprising given the weather. Overall it was a well organised straightforward event with an interesting and challenging route and I’m already looking forward to doing it again next year.

Shaun adds: special mentions to Barrie Evans whose new knee got him round a full fourteen minutes faster than last year, and to Alan Purvis who was the only Strider who actually ran the whole course! Good runs, too, for ex-Striders Stewart Gardner (74.42) and Charlotte Roberts (90.33), now running for Calder Valley.

1Gary DunnThirsk & Sowerby53.17
8Sarah TunstallKendal ACF160.21
79Shaun RobertsM5077.02
85Stephen OwenUnattachedM4077.43
142Barrie EvansM6083.05
165Phil OwenM4085.15
168Dave RobsonM5085.32
217Dougie NisbetM4093.09
248Alan PurvisM60102.30

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Angel View Run

A row of cars along the roadside indicated the location of the Angel Inn hotel, but a couple of signs would’ve helped find the Registration and Start. There was no real problem as the time-honoured tradition of following people who seemed to know where they were going did the trick. The Start was a little muddled as we were shuffled around until a white line on the gravel footpath was settled on.

I’d had a long hard stare at the course route at registration and it looked very wiggly with a series of chicanes, loops and flyovers that made memorising impossible. Any reservations I had were quickly dispelled as all the marshalling was excellent with loads of encouragement and lots of “Come on Elvet!” which gave me a boost. There is one soul-destroying energy-sapping long, straight and narrow nettle-sided climb that is punctuated by brief moments of excitement and fear as the demented Elite runners charge down towards you having turned at the top.

Even though much of the run is on leafy footpaths I have a disproportionate impression and recollection of grimy unlit underpasses and suburban pavements. And I’d like to have seen more of the Angel than the brief rear-end view as we scrambled past before heading for the road. Having said that it was a good friendly race and I’d do it again.

Total distance: 7.87 km
Max elevation: 154 m
Min elevation: 70 m
Total climbing: 240 m
Total descent: -234 m


Results courtesy of Chris Hassell who had hung on to a copy.
Results (thanks to Chris Hassell)

Burn Valley Half Marathon

I’m still relatively new to running and so every race brings something unexpected and lessons to be learnt. This was my first wet-weather race and by the time we’d walked from the car park to the start everyone was soaked through. I was warm, clammy and uncomfortable, and I hadn’t run a step. I had a sense of foreboding that leaving the Lanacane at home was a bad idea.

I’d read Dave’s report from last year and studied the route so had a pretty good idea what to expect. (I find the old race reports very useful and always check them out before running a new race.) The bunch left the market square and I instantly spotted the stonewashed running vest of Alan Purvis, and we ran the first mile together discussing the course and how bored our wives would be while we were away, perhaps sitting in a nice DRY tea shop in the town.

The course is described as hilly, and so it is. It undulates outwards and upwards for about 6 miles, and then it undulates backwards and downwards back to the finish, overlapping some of the outward route. Sometimes it undulates quite considerably and provides a fascinating study in biomechanics and the different shapes of runners. I found I wasn’t a strider, but a climber. I would pass people on the climbs, only to be passed a few minutes later by the same runners as they strode past me on the descents. Some of the descents were just a little too steep to ‘let go’ completely and I could feel the thumping on my upper thighs as I tried to balance speed against stability.

On the subject of thighs, by the end of the race the insides were rubbed raw, a sort of sandpaper pink, and a lesson was learnt. And it stung like a bee when I stepped into the shower a few hours later. I’m already considering the ‘Shaun Roberts look’ and getting myself a pair of long shorts to wear under my short shorts.

Alan wasn’t the first person to approach the finish and ask the crowd where it was. The approach is clear enough but there was nothing as vulgar as a big banner proclaiming FINISH. It was discretely nestling in a bottleneck in the alley next to the school, and many weary runners ran optimistically rather than specifically in the direction of where they thought the finish must be.

This is one of my favourite races to date (although I’ve got my eye on the Chevy Chase for next year). With the varied terrain and hills it offers a complete body workout. It was quite atmospheric and broody with the mist lurking around the upper slopes. The crowd and marshals and support were all great with plenty of water stations and even a sponge stop.

Total distance: 21.13 km
Max elevation: 245 m
Min elevation: 84 m
Total climbing: 412 m
Total descent: -413 m
1Gary DunnThirsk & Sowerby Harriers1:14:33
10Jo WaitesF11:26:49
205Dougie NisbetM402:05:22
244Alan PurvisM702:18:25

Newburn River Run

Having concluded that being prepared for a race didn’t produce results I decided to give being unprepared a try. Starting with an afternoon nap, I woke up a couple of hours before the race feeling decidedly peckish. Hmmm, a dilemma. To eat, or not to eat, that was the question. A bit of cheese on toast wouldn’t do any harm. It’s only 6.5 miles for goodness sake. A nice big, no a bit bigger, bit of Welsh Wizard with lots of tomato ketchup. Great.

A few wrong turnings found me arriving at the start with a couple of minutes to spare. The whistle was blown and I walked forward looking for the start line so that I could start my watch. After a brief discussion with a neighbouring prospective-watch-starter, we concluded that no start line existed, so we synchronized watch-starting and of we went. (I liked the start, but my favourite start so far has to be the Snods 6 where someone just shouted GO!).

I like starting at the back. It makes me feel fast! I steadily passed other runners while my various internal organs gurgled happily to one another about the Welsh Wizard and whether or not the ketchup was organic. I peered optimistically (and naively) ahead for more purple vests, but as Father Ted might say, these runners are close, but your clubmates are very far away.

It’s a lovely course. Starting on a quiet road that turns into a track that turns into a path that turns into a bridge. After the bridge there was an unexpected fork on the otherwise well-marshalled route. Left or Right? I cunningly solved the problem by following everyone else. The river is never far away, and is your soothing constant companion as you stride along the leafy elm-lined paths. My favourite moment was passing the baffled horses that looked over the fence in the last mile.

Phil, Mike and Dave had already had their supper and beer when I sauntered nonchalantly into the bar pretending I’d run a slow race on purpose. It was a good atmosphere and a good race and I’ll be back next year.

Total distance: 10.54 km
Max elevation: 29 m
Min elevation: -2 m
Total climbing: 330 m
Total descent: -337 m
1Darren PurvisChester-Le-Street & Dist AC34:34
74Mike BennettV55143:19
187Dave RobsonV551350:47
228Phil OwenV403853:01
302Dougie NisbetV45271:00:14

Edinburgh Marathon

Good Grief that was tough. Really tough. I mean I knew marathons were hard and I was expecting it to be hard and I’d done the training and everything for this, my first marathon, but it was still a lot, lot harder than I expected.

I didn’t start too briskly, being passed by Phil before we’d even reached the start line. I had a mild shin strain so I took it very easy for the first few miles. After 5 miles it had eased away so that was one less excuse, and it was time to start lifting my pace and running to my plan. I was also being driven slowly insane by a manic Scot dressed head to foot in tartan with a bizarre selection of Tupperware dishes under his vest. When he wasn’t telling everyone in the crowd he loved them he was singing at the top of his voice; mostly a selection of Beach Boys numbers but also a surprisingly poignant version of the theme song to the 70’s TV series White Horses. Thankfully at around 7 miles he spontaneously combusted and things went quiet for a while.

Black base layer. What was I thinking …

I kept trying to lift my pace and my pace was consistently refusing to be lifted. As we slogged east into a stiff wind along the seafront things got a little tactical. Unfortunately for the Harlem Globetrotter look-a-like who was surging away into the wind the tactics involved forming a beautiful echelon in his slipstream. He took the wind and sand in the face while behind him we lined up obediently like geese flying in formation.

Around the 12 mile mark I began to get worried. I was well down on my planned pace. And I felt rubbish. I did have a bit of a sniffle the night before. Chest infection or something. Probably full-blown flu in fact. Yes, that’s what it’d be. I was alarmed that before even reaching half-way I was feeling sluggish and tired. I was drinking my potions and eating my gels, but there was no magic surge of energy. That’d probably come when I turned around and had the wind on my back.

After an eternity the psychologically crucial turn was reached, and it was a straight home run with the wind behind me. I was still hopeful that I’d be overcome by some magical visitation of energy and I’d power back to the finish and be on my target time. The wind started prodding me in the back, telling me to get a move on. The advice I’d read was to start unwinding in the last few miles back to the finish. Unwind or unravel? I wasn’t sure. I really was beginning to feel quite wretched. Pain reports were coming in from all decks, shields were down, and a hull breach looked imminent. I was going to have to walk.

So walk I did. At the next water stop I walked for a bit, and it wasn’t so bad. I could get used to this. It was the starting to run again after walking that I found to be quite complicated. I foolishly assumed that it would just be a matter of speeding up until I was no longer walking, but that didn’t seem to work. Eventually I managed to hop, skip and jump and I was running again. Well, when I say running, I mean moving faster than the people around me who were walking. Most of them anyway.

This was my first marathon and I found it a rawer, more emotional affair than anything I’ve done so far. I felt quite tearful at the end. I thought I was ready for it, but perhaps I wasn’t. A few more months basic stamina training wouldn’t have gone amiss. The lady at the finish had a hard time putting the medal around my neck as I was gripping her shoulders, staring wildly at her, and repeating over and over again, That was SO hard!.

Total distance: 42.55 km
Max elevation: 66 m
Min elevation: -2 m
Total climbing: 1130 m
Total descent: -1190 m
1Paul McNamara2:25:05
4759Phil OwenM404:36:39
4935Dougie NisbetM454:41:12
5668Margaret ThompsonF555:02:05
5976Leena Leinonen-DooleyF505:17:18
Redcar Half Marathon

Redcar Half Marathon

The weather was warmer and calmer than I was expecting and I turned up in good time despite a mad dash back home to discover that the timing chip I thought I’d left behind had mysteriously velcroed itself to my running vest. Everything was well organised and I was soon parked and at the start. Bumped into Alan Purvis who was wearing the coolest faded running vest I’ve ever seen. It looked like denim. I want one of those. They should be manufactured to a specification so that they look like they’ve done a few marathons rather than just walked out of a sports shop.

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As I stood amongst the gently dripping wild garlic wondering what all this liquid fertilizer was doing to the delicate ecological balance of the woodland, I felt pretty good. Dennis, my perfectly pixellated virtual enemy was going for the elusive sub 1:50. That would be a new PB by 10 minutes, but I was feeling confident.

I started fast but the course wasn’t quite as flat as I expected. I began to have doubts about things on the long, straight hill that seemed to go on for ever into the wind from mile 5 to 7, and Dennis, who I thought I’d left way behind, edged past me as we reached the top. It was around here that I was passed by the mandatory Man pushing a Pram with Small Child Inside that no race is complete without, and I began to think I’d pushed too hard too early.

The stretch along the coast was fine, and my pace picked up. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I love the surreal petrochemical skyline of Teesside. Dennis gradually lost his 300 feet advantage and I counted 12 oil tankers queued up across the bay. This didn’t help my pace so I chased the Man with the Pram instead. I caught Dennis, the smug git, at mile 11, and was already wondering how much I was going to smash the 1:50 barrier by.

The thing about cracking of course is there’s no point doing it half-heartedly. If you’re going to crack, do it properly. Much to my astonishment, and within 2 miles of the finish, I crumpled. I groaned and whimpered and may even have called faintly for my mummy. My pace time started bobbing enthusiastically into double figures. Dennis showed me a pixel perfect two-fingered salute and surged ahead, the digits showing his increasing lead spinning over like a cartoon speedometer. I was conscious of pitying heads shaking in the crowd and at one point I was convinced I was going to throw-up at the feet of a St John’s Ambulance crew. People who I’d coasted past earlier now passed me like I was standing still, with their smug, smug, backs. I had no idea backs could look smug, but there you go.

I still got in with a respectable 1:51:16 that’s a new PB for me by a lot. However I definitely ran too fast too early and perhaps if I’d run my own race, rather than Dennis’s, I might have done a bit better. It was good to see Greta and Mike at the finish and I spotted Alan again. Don’t know if there were any more Striders there though.

Total distance: 21.07 km
Max elevation: 53 m
Min elevation: 1 m
Total climbing: 410 m
Total descent: -417 m
1Zak KiharaKenya1:07:00
15Pauline PowellBlackburn HarriersF11:15:15
580Dougie Nisbet1:51:37
785Mike Elliott2:03:29
795Greta Jones2:04:01
841Alan Purvis2:07:06