Sunday, 27 December 2009

Fight or Flight: Whats that all about?

Fight or flight? Apparently this response is 'hard-wired' into our brains (whatever that means). It represents some crumb of genetic wisdom designed to protect us. Now I don't know about you, but when I'm having an 'off day' on 'the Fell' (like today, for instance), I know when I'm struggling and no amount of wiring is going to help.

The Guisborough Woods six mile fell race was a snowbound holiday delight run through a combination of trees and trail. The thermometer blindly groped its way above zero but the snow wasn't going anywhere. With a bumper crowd and 1000ft of ascent, I shouldn't have been thinking about John Rutter's latest festive choral arrangement. I shouldn't have been pondering what the Ribble 10k was like or whether I might have fitted in well at the 'Baldy Man 10k' at Wexford. My mind just wasn't on the job in hand; half a lap in and I was suffering and all for packing up (wiring-and-all) and heading home.

Now at this point my 'flight' response should have kicked in. But here's the paradox. According to the theory with the decision made to pack up I should have been able to turn tail and 'race away'. Trouble was, I was racing but all I wanted to do was stop racing.
According to the theory then my only option was to stand and 'fight'. But lets face it with a runners physique all I was going to get was snow kicked in my face (those Yorkshire squirrels are well 'ard. Have you seen their cheeks at this time of the year and their wild staring eyes - mad for nuts they are) - So on I went;

The third lap arrived and with the uphill part behind me I contrived to 'go-over-on-my-ankle' which, for me, is unknown. I ran down the hill without much speed or conviction and Knavesmire man got past comfortably near the finish.
Clearly my sequence of nerve cell firing and chemical releases are well out of sync. Perhaps I need to call in an electrician to check out my hard wiring or run a few diagnostic tests.

Anyroads, well done to the organisers, marshalls and supporters for giving us lads and lassies a run out. It was Sanderson (NFR: 40mins) from Elliot Jackson and Tom Danby (both New Markse:NMH). Cath Aspen (54mins,NMH) won the ladies race from Caroline Warrington (Knavesmire) and Sarah Rogers (NMH). NFR won the mens race, NMH the womens. Results and photos on the Esk Valley Site soon. Pass me my soldering kit.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Psalm 121

Out for a 40 minute canter around the slowly thawing woods today. An easy run was punctuated by the occasional overshooting of the path or by some poorly rehearsed Torville and Dean pirouette (more like Orville and Dean!) where the snow had turned to ice. It was a peaceful antidote to shopping.

There are a couple of tracks which always remind me of particular Christmas's in the dim and distant past. One is Pat Metheny's Psalm 121 from the Scheslinger film 'The Falcon and the Snowman'. It also features 'This is not America' composed with Lyle Mays and Bowie:

The other favourite is 'Snowbound' on the 'And Then There Were Three' Genesis album . Both hugely evocative tracks which strangely never seem to see the light of day on the airwaves. You can find both easily on Youtube. Anyway, this is beginning to turn into a music critique so its time for another mince pie....One or 2 more and I'll turn into one. Wonder if Santa's been to the running shop?

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Cold Start

Out for an hour today. Stuck to the woods as the streets were icy and full of muddled shoppers and heavy traffic. As the sky became more cloudy I waited for the snow, but it didn't show until later in the afternoon. I think it'll be a trip to the shops tomorrow, so an early start in subzero temperatures is on the cards. No Loftus this year, so its a toss up between Guisborough Woods and the Ayhope Skyline on the 27th.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Its grim up north

Managed 12 miles yesterday in the rain; and then wandered out in the evening to see some of the club guys vying to be top dog at the Christmas Handicap in the rain. Their commitment had to be admired as they drifted around 2 laps in the freezing hail (and rain). No running today, but should get out tomorrow for a good hour. Still contemplating the Loftus Poultry Run. Didn't manage it last year.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Simonside Cairns Fell Race 2009

A record 116 competitors (and a dog) lined up outside the Newcastle Arms, Rothbury for the Simonside Cairns Fell race. At 11am with the tolling of the bells, we were off. Yesterday as I watched Phil Sanderson, Will Horsley and a few others working hard around the Cross Country course, I felt a hopeful spark that they'd see sense and decide to miss out on the seasonal treats of Dove Crag, Spylaw and the like. A quick scan of the pack as it made its way up to Lordenshaw in the first few miles of this 11 mile race confirmed this to be the case.

It was left to Heaton's James Buis,winner of this years Pier-to-Pier run and 1st in September at Simonside, to lead the pack home today (1st-1:23:55). From a quick chat afterwards he seems to be quite enjoying the fell running scene. Who can resist, after all, the Siren-like attractions of sphagnum moss bogs, the reek of damp fell shoes and wagonloads of extra laundry.

As we climbed up the foothills of the Cheviot's out beside Simonside, I tried to sit in with Fletcher (2nd-1:25:55) of Wooler. Like me, he had started cautiously and we began picking off a few runners as we got onto the heather tracks. I thought I was around 6th at that point. The tracks were very wet and there was plenty of vaulting from one hummock to another in order to avoid losing footwear, ankles or small limbs in the dark depths of water filled hollows (or puddles for short!).

Around halfway and after a chase of 2 or 3 miles, I had caught up with the runner ahead. We stopped momentarily as we came to a dense pine wood. A runner behind, Chris Sanderson (NFR) , shouted 'straight on', and we entered a dark, eery world, illuminated halfway through by Christmas lights and music powered by a little genny (or by santa's magic - you choose!). Bizarre: At least it made me smile.

I hung onto NFR man for a couple of miles before he dropped back but I had to concentrate hard to maintain the pace during the last 2 miles along the road from Lordenshaw down to the finish beside the river. Lee Bennett (NFR) was a whisker behind me. It turned out that he (and possibly others) had gone for a little 'detour'. So it was a pleasant surprise to finish well up, snaffle a podium place (3rd-1:28:47) and a bottle of Merlot as a prize. Karen Roberston (NFR:1:35:59) comfortably won the women's race from Clare Jackson (Allen Valley:1:41:20) and Sarah Lister (Blackhill: 1:45:34).

Some of the runners had a paddle in the river afterwards and I thought this a good idea until I got in. Twenty seconds later I had an unbearable ice cream headache (but from the waist down) and got out of the icy water pretty sharpish.

It was lentil soup all round for the finishers ladled from the silver cauldron perched on the bar in the hotel afterwards followed by a small but perfectly formed Guinness. Definitely Santa's magic! Reports, photos and final placings of the NECCA/NEHRA 2009 Championships, no doubt soon, on the NFR Site.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

North East of England XC Championships, Darlington

Patrick Martin of Sunderland Harriers won today's North East England Cross Country Championships from Chris Sampson of Morpeth. Some fast performances in what appeared to be a decent field this year. More photos soon on the Flickr site (Mens race only). With plenty from the club there, I thought I'd save my energy for Simonside tomorrow. Results now at the Race-Results site

Saturday, 5 December 2009

East of Scotland XC Championships: Livingston

Adamant that my form's been off since the Ben Nevis debacle, I travelled up to Livingston to the East of Scotland Cross Country Championships to prove a point. The race registration was one of these new fangled schools with fences like Fort Knox and better facilities than a posh hotel. As they say in Jazz Club....nice!

The women and youths had been out earlier and sections of the course had been mangled up so badly that they had to re-check the Mens course using dental records.
At the appointed hour, 230 club seniors and old timers set off from the start for 3 laps of torture. No fun runners or unattached joe publics here. It was strictly club vests, head down and get on with it (Strictly club vests..mmm, that gives me an idea for a t.v. running dance programme).

I felt reasonable despite my recent bout of lurgy and I made my way with the bunch across the squidgy, thick and luxurious grass that circled the park. It was then north around Dechmont Law through the dark woods onto tracks covered in pine needles; I remarked to myself that it was an atmospheric, scenic and interesting course. Running through the woods I spluttered a few bronchial notes and wondered if this qualified as a 'rumble in the jungle' - I was passed by clubmates Des Crowe at the end of the first lap and then Stevie Mason at the end of the 2nd lap. Steve pointed out later that it wasn't a case of him speeding up, more to do with me slowing down (-yes, I thought that too, but its always nice to have it confirmed!)

I dragged my weary body round the last lap to eek out a sub 40minute time for 9.8km and an utterly bodacious 109th position.

The showers were tip-top though. They remained hot throughout the wash down; although, with all the clag, the floor looked like a scene from a John Carpenter film. As I made my way out I half expected to see 'the thing' start to form within the mud that had gathered on the previously immaculate floor from runners discarded clothes.
Tea in the modern school cafe was quite adequate, thank you and, on the way home, I celebrated with a kebab in Dalkeith (It didn't have much conversation). As I guiltily guzzled down the amorphous jalapeno strewn chilli treat, I could hear the coaches voice in my head saying 'are your opponents eating this, eh?) I know I must be weak.

Alistair Hay (Central) won in 31:54 from Smith of Aberdeen and Strain of HBT; I never saw any of them. I didn't even manage to figure as a counter for the club team event. Next time I might have the kebab before the run; see if that perks me up.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Rough Diamond

Well, whatever your views on blogging, when it comes to the end of the year, as a diary, it's a handy document to print out and file. In the pre-blogging days I used to collect race results and file them, but flicking through them was duller than a maths exam. There was nothing that reminded you of the day, how you felt or the little incidents or people that make something memorable (or for that matter forgettable!). A quick review of last November shows that, among other things, we had had loads of snow and that I had a cold. Sitting here with the Lemsip, I've just got shot of the cold, again. I was hoping to get out with the NFR lads last Sunday for a recce of the Simonside fell race course, but my nose was tripping me.

I was happy to get back out today for 6 miles offroad. I just still might manage up to Livingston to the East of Scotland XC Champs this weekend. I sound like Kenneth Williams, the Khasi of Khalabar in 'up the Khyber' ; all nasal, but by Saturday I hope to be a little better. I'll probably still be running like Sir Sidney Rough Diamond though. No...better make that Brother Belcher!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

NEHL Sunderland Cross Country 2009

The Sun was up and sky was blue. In these days of uncertain weather it was a call to arms and stepping over the door step armed with the Salomons, I took my light sabre and ventured to Wearside to the North East Harrier League Cross Country at Sunderland.

It's a narrow route and there was a bumper crowd in evidence. Its a good run out and I joined around 300 others for a wander through the sticky mud. Results up now on the RACE-RESULTS (link on the right-its a zipped file so you may need to download it first, then open it after). A few photos on link to the right!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Claybank West Fell Race

As the elite, club runners and fun runners stretched and imagineered their personal battle at the start line, I was, let's say 'taking in the view' elsewhere. As I passed the start line, organiser Dave Parry shouted 'you're 27 seconds down already'... It's a fell race, though, so it's about the placings not the time; right? at least that's what I thought as I made may way up Claybank past some of the backmarkers.

I did the Claybank West (5.5 miles, 1000ft of ascent on the edge of the North York Moors) 4 years ago and really enjoyed it. Its all on trail with easy gradients with only a little scrambling at one point.

I had my work cut out as I tried to claw back the lost time. There was a moderate breeze and some drizzle which together with the ponded water on the sandstone flags made for a Bon Jovi experience (slippery when wet-I know, show me the tumbleweeds). It didn't take much working out that the best route was the intermittent grassy track next to the flagstones and toward the end I passed a York Acorn and then a Wetherby runner. However, the next lad from NYM and whom I was gaining on was a little too far in front. Despite my best efforts to reel him in on the woodland track near the end, I finished just behind him at around 36.40 and 11th, also a little behind Minister (DFR) and well behind Steve Baldwin (Scarborough) who I beat earlier in the season at Mulgrave. It was still a good enough run though for a crate of Guinness at the prize-giving which was, as ever, very generous and puts many a road race to shame. Speke of Dark Peak won from a embattled Will Horsley(NFR). Caroline Pollared won the womens event from New Marske ladies Gordon and Neesam.

Saturday, 21 November 2009


We all deserve a treat now and again.

And probably, yes, you can get too much of a good thing, so I had some 'me-time' yesterday. It was a trip to the eye test woman followed soon after by a slouch to the dentist for a consultation. Lovely. Those frames that they put on you reminded me of a scene from the film Marathon Man. Thankfully she advised the eyes were good, although I would have to go some to develop superman-type vision. Now that would be excellent in foggy fell races where the mist is down or to see who's up front.

If only I could also discover the ability to freeze things with my breath I could stop all the speed merchants at the front of races and then mooch past nonchalantly, hands in pockets in my cape and red pants (on second thoughts superman probably hasn't got pockets in his pants - clearly didn't think that one through!) One website I perused suggests in a commentary on Superman that 'his ability to distinguish fields depends upon the signal-to-noise ratio between objects'. Some folk are really keen, eh?
Anyway, 50 miles this week and some of them even good quality miles, so I'm going to try a fell
race. The forecast for tomorrow is nonsense with lashing rain and high southerly winds, asteroids and swirling witches. Wonder if I should pack some kryptonite in my bumbag.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


Spent 40 minutes padding along the beach at Cresswell this morning much to the dogs delight. I even managed to introduce a small hill session in the form of 10 reps up a sand-dune.
Ok, it was a pretty lame attempt given that the dune was about 10 metres high, but I didn't want to overdo it. I realise that any form of running in the daylight is almost infinitely better than running round the town in darkness. It would have been nice to get a longer run on the sand in, but I ran out of time.

Monday, 16 November 2009

The bounce is gone

After an easy 14 miles with the lads yesterday I stole away in the early morning today for 10 miles around the country lanes in the rain. There seems some more weight to come off before I regain that whippet like physique and a face that my mother says 'needs a good feed'.
The bounce in my road shoes has now gone so a visit to the trainer shop is imminent. If the weeks training goes well I might have a run out at the Clay Bank Fell Race down on the edge of the North York Moors. I see there's a new club arrived called Esk Valley down that way.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Heaton Harriers Memorial 10k Results

Results from the Heaton Harriers Memorial Newcastle 10k can be found at

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Newcastle Memorial 10k

Morpeth's Johnny Taylor powered his way to a convincing win at the Newcastle Memorial 10K and left the 500 or so field standing. He won the event by what seemed like a huge margin in a time of 30:04 from Team mate Ross Floyd and James Buis of Heaton 3rd. Dave Kirkland of Alnwick was 4th.

The ladies race was won by Claire Simpson (Chester Le Street) going one better than her placing in this years Sunderland Pier to Pier race (Photos coming soon...)

Saturday, 7 November 2009


Instead of an exotic bus trip, I took a lift to the sleepy hollow of Seaton Burn and spent the 10 miles running home staring at my shadow. I never knew my legs were so long or my head so small!
As I lay in the bath afterwards perusing the Fell Runners Handbook (as you do) it seems that you can't put on a winter fell run unless you build in some alliteration (see last entry).
Now I don't want to be getting all obsessed with all this stressed syllable grammar malarkey but Three Tops, Wrekin Wrecker, Hexhamshire Hobble, Copeland Chase; I ask you, is there a secret code buried in this well fingered tome; are some of the marshalls who stand at the top of mountains in all weathers more than they seem and is there an ancient soiled relict buried deep along the way which holds a terrible secret (there's a joke in there somewhere!) - If I find it, will I be able to retire as a gazillionaire if I can crack the code.....I think we all know the answer to that one.

Friday, 6 November 2009

destination unknown...

Having looked at the photos of the Templeton 10 miler last Sunday, I think I got away lightly (and dry) when I decided not to race last weekend.
This weekend some of the guys are doing the Exhibition Memorial 10k in Newcastle, two 5km laps of a flat park run which, if the weather behaves itself, has solid PB potential. However, the weather seems to have an attitude on board at the moment and unless it starts to get with the programme, we may need to take it along for a consultation in a white room with a serious looking bespectacled professional. It may end in therapy.

Managed 10 miles yesterday lunchtime around the lanes and felt as fresh as a faded foto in a Falkirk fanzine (I love a bit of alliteration!). The thought of making the long trip to Tinto for a 30 minute hill race or Guisborough for the 3 Tops fell race filled me with dark thoughts of dread and despair, never mind trying to get the misfiring running machine round a leaf strewn Newcastle park in under 36 minutes. Now, in my present condition, that would be a laugh. So, instead, once again I'm contemplating a bus trip tomorrow and a long slow run back from an unknown destination. What excitement!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

R'n'R in Edinburgh

Spent the weekend in Edinburgh. After a few beers in Stockbridge on Friday night, jogged along the seafront down by Granton and Leith for an hour. In the afternoon it was a long trek up Carnethy and Scald Law before dipping down along the reservoir in the sun. The town was jumping in the evening with Halloween celebrations and loads of punters in fancy dress. Very entertaining.

Was tempted to do the Lasswade XC this afternoon, but with all the rain there was a distinct possibility of me submerging somewhere along the far end of the course which is muddy at the best of times; better get out for some miles soon.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

South Shields XC 2009

The course is always exposed but usually dry underfoot; Steady rain throughout the event. Not the best weather for action shots! (A handful more on flickr)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Border Reivers Half Marathon

A half lunchtime....on Thursday....ain't normal?!

The benefits of being self employed is that the boss is (usually) very approachable, even accommodating when it comes to asking for time off for running events.
Organised by those boys in blue, it was announced at the briefing that the prize for the 1st RAF team was £1000, with second prize a measly £750. Not bad; not bad at all.
Around 100 runners of whom some really should have been knuckling down, elsewhere, to help Gordons economy, turned out for the border reivers half marathon. Around 4 miles is on tarmac and the rest on gravelled forest roads which pass through moorland and forestry north of Gilsland. Its pretty much as far north in England as you can get.
The course goes north past Lowland Hill and Blackshaws Hill before turning west along Calf Rigg, Baron Pike and south past Butterburn Hill, Nick Hill, Kingwater Hill, Hill're getting the idea; its where the Everest Sherpas come for training!
At 3 miles there were 4 of us together with the leader well away, and for the next 5 miles we jockeyed for position; One lad got away at 8 miles and the eventual 3rd placed runner took off after him at 11 miles. I struggled on one or two of the rises in the latter half but managed to get it together at the end to finish 4th fighting off a runner who had held onto 2nd place for the first 4 miles.
I would have liked to stay for the refreshments and the presentation but they were planned for mid- afternoon and having started at 11 noon and taking 1:24:58 to get round I opted for refreshments on the way home. A suitably low key and enjoyable event, with mile markers, showers, T shirt and medal and the competent organization you would expect from the chaps. Wonder if I'll get a mention in dispatches?

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Hill Forts and Headaches 2009

Having enjoyed last years event, it was back down to Rothbury for the Hill Forts and Headaches Fell Run(see last years entry). My down-hilling attributes were given a day off as its 3 miles of uphill only from Rothbury High Street up through fields and clipped moorland onto the rocky Simonside Crags. Today it was bathed in crisp sunshine, no mud and the ground firm but rarely icy. Sixty two runners set off for the event. Their presence marked them out from 99% of the remaining population who, I thought, would be steadying themselves in the kitchen trying to find the kettle or an ice-pack at that time of the morning.
It was good to see a few juniors scattered in the field; except, that is, for the youngster wearing a Helm Hill Vest who spent the whole race about 10 seconds in front of me. I slipped from 6th to 8th in the last stretches as I was overhauled by Andy Kitchin (Lothian) whom I spent some time following in the 2007 Pentland Skyline. The other runner to get past was Graham Burns (DFR) who had a strong finish to take 7th place. Times were faster this year than last.

Nick Swinburn was expected to appear but had decided, instead, to run (and win) the Morpeth 11k later in the day; so it was left to his team-mate Phil Sanderson (NFR) to hare away from the pack to win in 22:32 from Will Horsley (and dog) and Clayton's Tim Edwards 3rd. Adam Fletcher (Berwick) also had a good run. Cath Davis (NFR) won the women's race from Claire Bruce (Morpeth) and Sarah Henry (Alnwick-pictured). A superb day for photos and this year the soup was creamy leek and potato. The first junior runner finished 5th overall and I reckoned he was about 15; talented lad (even if I say so myself!). I finished in 24:43 and a bit quicker than 2008, which lets face it, is progress. More photos to follow on Flickr...(Check out the camera trix underneath Phil in the group photo!)