The Angel View Run 2018A report by Aisling
This year’s Low Fell Angel View run took place on a roasting hot Thursday in June, and seven Frontrunners set their sights on conquering the 5.17 mile course.The race started behind the Angel Inn, with views of Gateshead and the Angel itself creating a fairly dramatic backdrop to the proceedings.
The run is a two and a half loop course, which someone feeling kind described as “undulating” – we all know with that description you should read between the lines and just acknowledge that it’s hilly. The initial hill in the first loop was pleasant enough, and (what goes up must come down) was followed immediately by a quick downhill dip through the underpass, followed by a short ascent on a forest trail path. With a sense of direction such as mine, I had no idea where I was headed, and so was pleasantly surprised upon exiting the forest to be rewarded by a worm’s-eye view (like a bird’s-eye view, but from below!) of the Angel towering above me. It was lovely to experience such an iconic structure from a novel perspective.A quick trot past the Angel, then it was time to double back along the main road and head back through the underpass towards the second loop.The second loop was less forgiving than the first, and contained one epic, seemingly never-ending ascent (I should note at this point that most of us had joined in the NFR hill rep session the night before – poor planning or perfect preparation, depending on perspective, or whether you’re at the top or bottom of the hill!). At one point I thought I had reached the top, only to find that there was an additional bit of hill hidden behind the bushes, followed by a football pitch-sized field that you had to run around before you could enjoy the long run back down.After that, the rest was a breeze. Up and over, through the forest, wave hi to the Angel, and onto the home straight (I did panic slightly at this point when the Marshall told me I still had another lap of hills to go – either he was having a laugh or had a twisted sense of humour!).The race finished back where it had started, with the Angel in all its glory standing out against the sunset sky. As always, there was a finish line fan club, with the other (faster!) NFR members cheering everyone on as we each made it to the end.There was time for some mingling and liquid refreshments back at race HQ before a short awards ceremony, a token gesture of a free buffet (insider tip: stand near the buffet table – they refill the chips when they run out!), and a decent sized raffle, in which Stevie G bagged himself a substantial bottle of vodka!All in all, it was a tough run, but the friendly atmosphere, scenic setting, and sense of smugness at the end made it all worthwhile. Definitely one to put in the diary for 2019!
My attendance at the Herrington Park Cross-Country race of approx. 10k was one of those things that seems to happens by-proxy! I definitely think the cake induced euphoria (NFR members bake exceptionally good treats) and endorphin rush of a five mile run played some part in confusing my senses and over inflating my confidence. By and large though, I admit I was distracted trying to sample all the different treats, greedily acquire a second pair of rainbow laces and…I think someone made a stirring comment about needing a volunteer for a local rugby team, which had me picturing myself holding George Ford’s kit bag (not the innuendo you might think)… Meaning I left that night with a vague memory of committing to something the following Saturday. It’s exactly this kind of lack of attention to detail that finds people driving home, face covered in chocolate, with an urgent need to buy trail shoes.
So I was only mildly surprised when I checked Facebook and found I’d been added to the Harriers cross-country team, or later, when instructions arrived by text about the Herrington Run, along with advice about which shoes might be good to buy.
I should clarify, up until this point I’d seen trail and cross-country runners as a group apart; hardier, athletic and often far more expressive about the joy of running than I have ever managed. Just look at the photo on the Harrier League homepage! Couple that with the fact I now routinely head indoors from October through March; and seem to only manage a ‘good’ outdoor run on a mild, breezy but sunny day, and you can see the disconnect between what was about to happen and what I was mentally prepared for. So, glucose-shame in toe, I headed to buy some cheap trail shoes (I was sure I would hate it, and I wasn’t about to invest in something I would try only once). It started to hail on my way to the shop but fortunately the svelte, sinewy and tall shop assistant fervently explained how great it was to run ‘off road’ in a manner that was actually quite infectious, but did nothing to convince me that my body shape isn’t designed for anything but tarmac.
I did a fair amount of pre-run ‘googling’ trying to allay my fears; finding extracts about runners first trail and off road experiences, which were overwhelmingly positive. I also did a quick practice run in my new shoes, which did seem excellent, despite being bought without the usual meta-analysis of reviews.
The day arrived and I’d convinced myself I’d be there for the start of the women’s race, but possibly only arrived just in time for the men’s to actually begin. There were already NFR members there, cheering everyone on. It was absolutely freezing but the team had a tent, picnic table and mulled wine! What more could you want on a wintery and muddy day? There were lots of treats, cakes and plenty of encouragement and supporting words from everyone. Although somehow the ‘run’ had become a ‘race’ in the time it took me to walk past ‘Hogg Heaven’ and regret not bringing actual money.
Herrington Park, has views of of my favourite landmarks including Penshaw Monument and Durham Cathedral, and is a really outstanding area; you probably couldn’t ask for a better place to have your first experience of cross country. When I arrived I could see the women’s race in the distance and hear the cheers. Most noticeable was the mud, which was everywhere and seemed to have a magnetic attraction to humans, particularly running shoes. Confirmed when some of our team came back looking like they were wearing camouflage and talking about how much messier things had been on the second lap. At this point I heard someone mention that the men’s race was actually three laps. I took this to be a macabre joke and we all set off for the start line.
Unbelievably, most people seemed to be wearing vests and racing shorts, which made me feel slightly out of place in three layers and a coat, but I was insulated and felt toasty warm! I joined the mess of people all waiting to run and a few more words of encouragement were issued (I may have looked terrified) before the race set off.
The initial lap felt ok/manageable/I didn’t cry or sneak away. It was incredibly muddy and I had never before realised how much I relied on the bounce and push-back of my trainers from the pavement; I’m only acutely aware of this now because 500 meters in, I wondered why my legs were so tired and realised I was actually having to lift them out of mud and clarts, which added far more work to the effort of running than I’m used to. There were a lot of uphill struggles and careering out of control on the downhill sections. I thought the man behind me was having an asthma attack until I realised I’d been listening to my own breathing.
The uphill sections wind their way around a number of small hills, but this meant the gradient was always on the lefthand side and caused an instability which was discomforting. One half of my body got a good workout though. At about 2.5k you start to run downhill and through a wooded trail, which actually felt exciting, especially as it was strewn with branches and logs to add additional, mildly-perilous obstacles to the whole experience. It was actually quite peaceful and dry in the wood, and you could hear the rhythmic breathing and pounding steps of the other runners. I seemed to be transported back to school cross country, and how much I disliked running then. But here today, part of a team, it felt great. The more athletic runners bounded through this section, vaulting over the logs and capering through as they overtook the slower amongst us. I felt it was enough to stay upright, having long abandoned my twin aims of staying dry and maintaining my dignity.
Emerging from the wooded area, I heard someone shouting my name and nearly fell with joy as I tried to scan the crowd for someone I might know. Taking my eyes off the ground to look at my vest, checking to see if my name was printed there, caused me to stumble and collide with a very attractive man; proving every catastrophe does indeed bring a small gift. I will, in future, always wear aftershave to race days. It occurred to me later that it was likely someone from the women’s team or another member, who had come to support the NFR runners; very dedicated on the cold and wintery Saturday. Perhaps they had knowledge of the mulled wine and brownie situation. Although my sense of the club so far suggests they didn’t, and would have been there wind or hail, to support their fellows. As I have only just joined, and am not well known nor been to many of the outdoor runs, socials or any other events, this felt incredibly kind and heartening. Unfortunately I didn’t catch who shouted, but your encouragement kept me going until at least kilometre five and I am very grateful.
At kilometre five I had the disheartening realisation that the person who mentioned the mens race is three laps was likely not lying. I had just started the second uphill section and it became painfully obvious that there was no way the remaining course, plus back to the start, would cover another 5k. I struggled for the remainder of the second lap and noted that things seemed to be getting muddier and wetter. I also seemed to be falling further behind. The green of the grass was now long lost to the brown and squelching mud, and there were far fewer ‘dryer’ spots to run on whilst going uphill. I found I was loosing my footing more on the approach to the wooded area, which was essentially waterlogged, with the ground now a good few centimetres below water in parts. I wasn’t brave enough to attempt to avoid these by pivoting or jumping around them, instead ploughing straight through but feeling quite jubilant about this, like a child jumping in puddles. Only children very rarely have to clean the mud out of their own thermal layers and coat, and might not take such an insouciant attitude to life if they did.
The third lap uphill sections were much more difficult again. My legs were aching, it felt hard to keep up even a jogging pace and my breathing, not great in lap one, now sounded like the wind section of a symphony orchestra. My watch had also started to chime in, warning me that a heart rate of more than 200 is unlikely a sign of great health or physical prowess. However, it was the last lap, and there was mulled wine and coffee to be had! The people around me seemed to be finding their energy and drawing upon their reserves as we raced to the finish. In the glade I found my own second wind and sped up a little, running in the tracks made by the other runners. I could see the evidence and work of hundreds of runners before me, compacting the ground and mud. Sadly I lost this little reserve from my own, undersized, tank when I rounded the corner before the finish line and noticed another 600-700m of uphill to go. I heard cheering, saw the jubilant celebrations (read: relief) of those already finished and thought about the hot tub of my gym. I chose to ignore the older lady who was running up the hill, her cool down pace outstripping my own race finish by miles. Finally it was over and I was welcomed back by the runners who had already finished and were staying to cheer those still to come.
I’ve still not made sense of how I felt abut the whole experience. It was equal parts much harder than I thought, exhilarating and yet also reminded me of times I was younger and things were novel, or when I’ve been walking (saying nothing about my pace) outdoors with friends or family, collectively working together to achieve something, or be part of something that is just inherently good fun. I guess I don’t need to decide now, and will instead take the advice of everyone I’ve spoke to since…just wait until Thornley Hall Farm in February…
Race Report by Jasmine Hazlehurst, June 2017
When I entered The Hadrian’s Wall Half Marathon I didn’t believe that I could do it. I thought it would be beautiful, interesting, challenging and if nothing else an enjoyable day out. The big day arrived and as we drove to the start on the top of a very steep hill my stomach began to knot. I was terrified! What had I let myself in for? Things did not get better as I got out of the car to find the sunshine of Newcastle had turned into an icy whipping of northern winds. Super fit looking fell runners were carrying out Monty Pythonesque walks and forward lunges. As I walked past the cars to get an unobstructed photograph of the view I overheard a gentleman saying to his friend “Oh my running is so much better since I had my heart attack. The stent has really helped improve my running!” Yep, I had stumbled into the fertile land of the zealous, ardent and crazy. My not so internal monologue was yelling “Prosecco why did I listen to you? I am so out of my depth. Get me out of here!”
The race started and after a few metres my left lace came undone. I stopped to sort it. I ran a few more metres and the other came undone. Last before I even got started. The super fit became dots on the horizon and the slower runners seemed to get further ahead. I stopped trying to run at their pace and settled into my own stride. I felt calmer. The cold winds had calmed as soon as we left the hill top and was replaced by a pleasant gentle breeze with intermittent bursts of sunshine. Soon enough I turned off and were running along the fells. I recalled advice from fellow runners. “Think of this as three separate races. A road race, a fell race and a forest trail”. One runner was already turning back. An old injury maybe? He wished me luck as I passed and I carried on. The views were amazing. At one point a tail runner called out to me to point out the famous Sycamore Gap on the opposite hills. I stopped to admire the view then continued on my way negotiating tussocks, contemplating sheep and melodramatically wondering if the ram I had spotted was of the psychopathic rambler killing ilk that I had read about? Not today it seemed. I ran some more crossing some styles that resembled sturdy looking ladders. Much more civilised than the barbed wire, electric fence ensconced styles I have encountered in the Lake District. I was beginning to enjoy myself. I could only see one other runner running several minutes ahead of me. I spent the next three miles catching her up. I passed another marshal point and saw runner wrapped in a foil blanket. Injured. As I ran down the hill followed by the two tail runners they told me that this year the course was dry so we would be fine but on previous years this section gets very boggy and runners lose their shoes.
We approached the second water stop and the female tail runner from the Tyne Bridge Harriers took my water bottle and sachet of Isogel and ran ahead to fill my bottle for me. How is that for service! We entered the woodland trail which felt great. It marked the beginning of the third and longest race. Once I finished this section I would only have a mile or two of road running before the end. I felt happy. I began to notice wild orchids on the road sides. One of the tail runners warned me that at mile 8 her partner would be waiting with a large sign that often provoked swear words and uncouth comments from passing runners. When I approached it the sign made me smile. It said “This is not the end. Keep going!”
From the point that I entered the forest trail the Mountain Rescue Team and The Water Station Marshals waited for me with offers of water. They waited for me to pass then over took me and drove off ahead in their two Land Rovers to wait at the next mile marker. It became a friendly toggle and a beacon of hope knowing that once I reached them I had not only checked off another mile but had a refill of water if I needed it OR a lift back to the finish line. At mile 12 the water marshal held the mile marker whilst jumping up and down to encourage me. It was great. The tail marshals encouraged me saying that this is the quickest they have completed this run in the past three years of tail running. As I neared the top of the final hill three fellow Frontrunners ran back towards me and accompanied me towards the finish line. I also had an entourage of Frontrunners, two tail runners cross the line with me, a mountain rescue man on his bike and the water marshal congratulate me on my efforts. This really has been my favourite race to date. It was well organised, friendly, supportive and scenic but also came with an immense feeling of accomplishment knowing that all of the runners that took part have achieved something very special. I came last but am so happy to have finished having ran the whole thing that I really don’t care. I would happily run this race again and recommend it to other runners. If I could say anything to encourage others run a race like this it would be that you don’t know what you can do until you try, and don’t forget to enjoy it!
I once read an article by a well-respected OCR runner, who said his strategy for dealing with tough races was to allow himself to walk whenever he wanted, except when going up hills. The theory was that by the time he reached the top, he’d feel a great sense of achievement and would no longer want to walk. I’ve tested this rule a few times, and it mostly works, but then most races don’t have quite as many hills as the Pieces of Eight half-marathon.
The organisers say the race is ‘challenging’ and on ‘proper trails’. None of the Frontrunners I was with had taken part in a Trail Outlaws event before, so this description was open to interpretation. Not knowing quite what to expect out on the course, most of my fellow Frontrunners sensibly opted for the 10K option. However, once the half-marathon number was pinned to my vest, there was no turning back.
The race begins at the foot of Penshaw Hill looking up at the monument. The Race Director’s final words before the off were to stick to the trails, but that immediately went out the window as 300 people jostled for position. I started charging up the hill, ducking under flailing arms and cutting through the long grass on either side of the steps. Considering the 27°C heat, ‘challenging’ soon began to feel like a bit of an understatement. Lapping around the back of the Monument and down the other side, things quickly settled down as the pack started to spread out, giving everyone a chance to take in the stunning views down to the River Wear.
For the first few miles the track ran down through fields and onto gravelled country park trails, before crossing over the river and following the bank to the west. This is where things started to get interesting. The trail narrowed with jutting tree roots and loose rocks underfoot, and thorny branches restricting the view ahead. The ‘proper trails’ as promised. I promptly tripped, falling to my knees and narrowly avoiding sliding down the bank into the river.
Battered and bruised, I emerged back into the sun to follow the undulating trail alongside the motorway before turning back towards the river. The gravelled track here was more forgiving and even, peppered with steep, wonky steps leading back towards the bridge. On the other side the terrain varied between wide bridleways, muddy bankside tracks and fields of long grass. As my Garmin ticked over the nine-mile mark, the path turned giving a spectacular view of Penshaw Monument shimmering on the horizon. A beautiful scene, but by that point my legs were feeling too weary from constant inclines to appreciate it. Four miles suddenly felt like an awfully long way to go.
By mile 11, the going really got tough. A steep incline stretched off into the distance before turning under the cover of trees and ending at the foot of a severe set of wooden steps set into the mud (which I later found out are nicknamed ‘Satan’s Steps’). I told myself that it would be quicker to walk up them, but mainly because running at that point wasn’t an option. At the top, the sight of a long, relatively smooth decent felt like seeing an oasis in the desert.
The final mile wound along the edge of a grassy field, building up the incline gradually before the final ascent up the back side of Penshaw Hill. With teasing glimpses of the Monument bobbing over the tree line, the end was in sight. Only the small matter of a large hill, a stile to climb over, then some more steep steps and I’d be done. My legs felt like lead and my sunburned arms were starting to sting, but the sight of NFR tops cheering at the finish gave me a much needed boost to power up the hill and across the line.
Someone handed me a bottle of water and someone else gave me jelly sweets. My head was swimming. All I could think about was sitting down. Another person asked to see my medal, which I hadn’t realised I’d been given. The ground felt cool as I rolled onto my back, and I smiled at the realisation that I didn’t have to run up any more hills. ‘Challenging’ was definitely an understatement, but I’ll be back for more next year. And next time, I’ll not fall over. Probably.
New member Kirsten has only ever run Newcastle parkrun before joining our club. Read below her experience of going with the club to a different run…
Saturday’s parkrun was a different experience for running, but I really enjoyed it, and best of all meeting other NFR members giving support and encouragement.
When I signed up for the Valentines 10k I was excited. I’d joined Northern Frontrunners at the beginning of January and with the support of the friendly Sunday morning runners I’d managed a slow 6 mile run after only 3 weeks with the club. Prior to joining I’d been a fair weather and intermittent jogger at best.
Then at the start of last week it started getting colder, I missed Wednesday’s club session and had a rather miserable Parkrun on Saturday. This didn’t fit with my fair weather running. I wasn’t feeling quite so excited anymore and after checking the weather forecast for the race I was beginning to think about pulling out. Then I remembered all of the encouragement I’ve had from the club leaders and other members and how I’d feel if I didn’t give it a go. Sunday dawned and it was bitterly cold but as I queued with the other runners to collect my race number I started to feel excited and nervous in almost equal measure. I said hello to all the other Frontrunners and Allen then offered to run with me and settled my nerves by telling me to think of it as a regular Sunday outing. I’m sure everyone has their own experience of their first 10k but things I remember are; having someone to run with is great, Allen was full of practical advice for the run and distracted me when I was struggling, being lapped by the really fast runners was awe inspiring, seeing the Frontrunners waiting at the finish line gave me the burst of energy I needed to speed up over the line and I then got to clap and cheer other runners as they came in too. I had an amazing time and was buzzing for the rest of day.
BANG!! And it begins, hundreds of runners are off, jostling for position in the crucial first few hundred metres before the race becomes a slow grind of passing one runner at a time.
I came into running only as an adult at the age of 36, so never grew up with cross-country or running events. I joined Northern Frontrunners only in 2013 as my first running club, and we were too small to field teams in NEHL. We were focused on road running and parkruns, and most of us didn’t have any idea what cross-country even was. We read with awe the updates from our friends in other clubs, discussing how many millimeters of spike they planned to wear, or what pack they were starting in.
Having grown to 100 members, over the summer this year we asked if there was any interest in NEHL, and to our surprise got 8 men and 8 women to sign up. Following an inaugural run at Wrekenton, we turned out again at Druridge on October 9th. Having got the bug, we are now addicted and our hearts started beating faster as soon as we turned off the A1068 at the sign for “XC Race”. Seeing the avenue of club tents was so uplifting – we had arrived again.
Our advance party had set up the tent right next to the finish straight, and what better way to enjoy the ridiculously hot conditions than in a deck chair with a cup of coffee, watching runners fight their way uphill in a final lunge for position.
Our biggest concern this time was not the mud but the hardness of the ground. One wrong step on the rutted path under the grass could mean a twisted ankle. Two of our runners tumbled on the terrain, but thankfully no lasting damage was done.
The organisation was smooth, the marshalls cheery to a fault, and the views from the top of the hill down over the lake and country park stunning. We are thoroughly enjoying this league, and whether we finish bottom or win promotion we will be back next year.
Glasgow Frontrunners OUTrun Weekend Report
“Tune” shouted Graeme as Florence and the Machine blasted out of the stereo in the minibus. It was getting to that stage of the trip when half of the 16 runners on board had polished off copious alcoholic drinks and were getting boisterous. The demands for louder and better music had become incessant, and Florence hit the spot (as did Rihanna, Mark Ronson – and Gretna Services!)
We had visited Glasgow in 2015 for the local Frontrunners 5th birthday, for which they had organised their first ever race. It is an unusual distance – 5 miles – and an interesting route as it wends its way through Kelvingrove Park, crossing from side to side of the Kelvin river. It takes place on the weekend of Glasgow Pride, so a colourful time to be in this fair city. Knowing it was a good event, we promoted it heavily amongst club members and the 2016 version became our biggest ever away trip, with 25 runners and supporters making the journey.
There was an intimate get-together of the various Frontrunner clubs on the Friday night when we first arrived, with a smattering of members from Manchester, London, Glasgow, Dublin and our newest addition Liverpool chatting over a drink.
Saturday morning dawned clear, but as the minibus made its way to the start the sky darkened, and on arrival at Kelvingrove the heavens opened. We collected our numbers at the great backdrop which is the bandstand arena, and hurriedly retreated to the shelter of the minibus.
By the time the race was due to start the rain had cleared, and suddenly everyone appeared from whatever shelter they had found. A mass warm-up ensued, led energetically from the stage of the bandstand by Kerry Murdoch from Troon Dynamic Fitness (http://heygyms.co.uk/0786843/Troon_Dynamic_Fitness_-_TDF) , and then we walked to the bridge where the race starts. We had been joined by members of Leeds and Edinburgh Frontrunners overnight, meaning the whole UK & Ireland contingent took part.
After a few words from Race Director Richard Allwood, we were off. 300 runners – an increase of 100 on last year – took part, and quickly became strung out along the course. Around 500m in we rounded the top of a hill and were serenaded by female drumming outfit SheBoom, giving a bit of motivation to tired legs. Then it was down to the river and a 3 miles or so of out-and-back section amongst tree-lined paths, including a lovely section where the leaders turn back and retrace their steps past the following pack, so everyone gets to see and shout out for their pals.
At 4 miles we knew what was coming, as we had run down it earlier – the hill from hell. Even those who had taken part last year found this tough going, but words of encouragement from fellow runners helped (in my case Joe Carne from Manchester Frontrunners), and before you knew it SheBoom were in sight (and sound) once more. Joanna even found time to stop and take photos while enjoying the tunes, being a member of Newcastle’s own Bangshees drumming band. The last 500m is a pelt downhill, a run through the kids’ swings, and a final sprint over the bridge to the start, where Richard was doing a great job of reading people’s names from their race numbers and announcing them across the line – a very nice touch.
Goodie bags featured several snacks (I particularly liked my Worcester-sauce flavoured popcorn), and a great t-shirt in fluorescent orange. The award ceremony was kept mercifully short by Jason, the President, but long enough for me to collect a prize as fastest over-50 (though in truth I was second – the true winner, an amazing runner called Ken, was also first of all Frontrunners and took that prize). We posed with our orange tops, and then it was a dash back into town to get ready for the afternoon.
We took part in a soggy Pride Parade, and a few people attended the afternoon’s Pride events, but most chose to keep warm in the amazing West pub where we managed to find a table big enough to take all the NFRs present, with a side-table of EFR.
In the evening there was a Frontrunners ceilidh at the Tron Theatre, and it’s a good job there aren’t separate men’s and women’s roles, as we had trouble mastering the simplest of moves – but had a hoot. As we get to know more of more of the other Frontrunner clubs, these events become like birthday parties where everywhere you look there is another familiar face. This weekend we were rejoined by former member Gary McCreadie who now runs for Liverpool FR.
The die-hards continued partying into the small hours at the Polo Lounge and other spots, while the sensible (boring?) ones went to bed by midnight. On Sunday morning 3 of us joined GFR for their Sunday run along the Caledonian canal, and then we met up for a final brunch before hitting the road south. Great memories, and looking forward to 2017 already.
In the drier days in the autumn of 2015, we decided it would be a great way to see in the New Year to add the Resolution Run on Newcastle’s Town Moor to our Grand Prix again. Little did we know that we would then suffer 40 days and 40 nights of rain…
The day dawned cold, with a touch of frost on the ground and icy windscreens, but not a breath of wind – almost perfect conditions for a race. 8 plucky Frontrunners came to the boathouse by the Exhibition Park lake to register, joining 165 others, mostly from other local clubs – Heaton Harriers (est. 1880), Saltwell Harriers (est. 1880)…all the famous names. It’s always a proud moment to see our young club running amongst the big league sides.
As is traditional for this run, the organiser set it off with the firing of a rocket – the starting signal was when the rocket banged in the sky. We were off, initially on gravel track, but very soon plodging through muddy puddles as we ran around the perimeter of the Moor, in the opposite direction of the parkrun. Unlike parkrun, as we approached the gate on Grandstand road, we turned left and stayed within the Moor, running on the muddy grass for the first time. It was a quagmire – feet sunk in to their ankles in places, and all runners were soon weighed down with what felt like concrete boots. As if this wasn’t enough of a hindrance, we then had to contend with an ascent of both of the Cow Hills, with a sneaky photographer on top of one ready to catch our grimaces and travails on the muddy climb.
The descent in other years has been a mixed blessing for our club – those with standard trainers slip-sliding gingerly down, while Club Chair Russell in his studded fell shoes bounds down. Not this year, as his confidence got the better of him, and he lost a shoe in the mud. Lifted foot up – shoe stayed put – foot landed in mud – tried to put muddy foot into mud-filled shoe, not an easy task. All part of the challenge of a cross-country race though.
The rest of the runners all held on to their shoes, and their dignity, with no-one falling on their rears in the mud, though there were some close calls. And after the second descent and run along the path to the start, it was second lap time. At least we knew what to expect, and some of the other runners started to tire so there was some changing of positions. Russell was especially pleased, having fought a cat-and-dog battle with a young Blackhill Bounder – who trains on hills every day of the week – to beat him in the home straight and get an 18th place for Northern Frontrunners.
There were a number of Personal Bests from NFRs who had run it previously, and slaps on the back all round at the finish, where we all supported each other and took the obligatory muddy-feet-in-a-circle photo. Mark admitted that, whilst he had hated it, he hated it marginally less than the previous year, which is a result in itself. Right now I bet none of us want to do it again next year. Yet somehow I have a feeling that we will…
Three brave (or foolhardy?) Northern Frontrunners travelled down to the picturesque village of Castleton, a settlement nestling serenely in the Esk valley in the wild and rolling North Yorkshire Moors. The three runners, Allen, Russell, and Mark had arrived to take part in the ‘Castleton Show Run’, which is a 10k race described as a ‘fell run’ for road runners and a ‘road run’ for fell runners. It was clear from the surrounding hills that this course would have its ups and downs.
After drawing some psychological strength for the task ahead by observing a display of some very magnificent and calm birds of prey, including a beautiful eagle owl, it was time for the race to begin. The weather conditions were warm and mild, with some passing showers lasting a few minutes and a gentle breeze.
Forty two local and hardy runners and three Northern Frontrunners set off on a course that started pretty much immediately on an uphill trajectory, and continued for the first half of the course with a series of long challenging up hill stretches, followed by steep down hill descents. Luckily, an ambulance was strategically positioned at the summit of one particularly arduous up hill stretch, obviously an attempt to create a sense of calmness and serenity in the minds of those runners in the process of making the ascent! The second half of the circuit was more gently undulating and ended with a very satisfying down hill descent to the finish line in Castleton. Every runner finishing was greeted to a cheer from the local crowd and their name read out on the megaphone.
The course was extremely scenic, including stretches surrounded by moorland, and well marshalled. The organisers and locals were very welcoming and friendly and a good atmosphere was created. Congratulations go to Russell for winning a bottle of wine for finishing first in his age category. After completing this exhausting course, the three Frontrunners could now relax by listening to the Downe and Outs jazz band, and looking at some prize winning local vegetables and handicrafts, including some particularly impressive looking potatoes