Saturday, 26 June 2010

Eildon Hill Race: The Georgia Nesbitt show

Just back from 'up north' and I'm pleased to report that I've improved on last years 23rd place.

Hot and humid at the start, 78 of us ran up the Main Street in Melrose then right, up Dingleton Mains where the course goes off road, through a short wood and up around 30 wooden steps before coming out across a field.
The real hard work begins as you hit the first of 2 hills which are short and steep, covered in blaeberry and heather and patches of red Felsite scree. This year all but one of the runners in front went right. I went straight up with only a lad from the host club Gala Harriers in front choosing this route, though plenty followed.

Halfway up gasping like a beached goldfish and working my Salomons hard, I heard a gentle voice on my shoulder ask 'can I get past please' and, as I pulled to the side for a nanosecond, it was Georgia Nesbitt (Gala) who whisked past and was gone (more on her later).

A few others passed by including an Ochil as we reached the first summit and I came down the dip between the two peaks with Steve Cairns (HBT), so I'm guessing there must have been some fun and games on the route selection front. Saying that, both of us then took an unnecessary dog leg which cost us a few seconds but made little difference really. He cleared off sharpish in front.

The second peak was a little easier and upon reaching the top I hung onto the back of another Gala runner before clambering down the steep drop and back the way we came. Kenny Stuart holds the record for this 4.5 mile race (25 minutes) and it looks pretty safe.

I lost one place halfway back, but then gained one as Rachel Fagan (Gala) who passed me on the way up the second hill returned via another path and I guess it was a little slower as she ended up behind me.

By the time you hit the high street and are faced with a lap of the Melrose Rugby pitch there's very little left in the tank and my technique looked like a car crash. I was pleased to see the finish line in 10th place at 35 minutes.
Mike McGovern (Moorfoot:33:50) won the race from Keith Murray (Teviot) by 2 seconds with Carnethy's Faulkner 3rd. Fourth was Georgia whose up-hilling looked effortless and she swept the prize board big style at the presentation. But by then I had my face in a cake and was surrounded by spent polystyrene tea cups. Heaven.
Next year is the 50th anniversary of this race and I quite fancy another crack at the record. Only 10 minutes to shave off this baby!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Windy Gyle Fell Race

The Windy Gyle Fell Race. I recall a chat in the supermarket with the organiser a while ago. As someone who runs better on trail rather than the steeper fells he suggested 'The Windy Gyle' , but until today I'd never managed to run it.

It turned out to be a 9 mile delight of rolling Cheviot Hills and wide grassy tracks. Coming down one hill on the dry peat was like running down a 300 metre trampoline with conditions as dry as my old auntie Aggie's sense of humour.

There was a good turnout of runners with plenty of Northumberland Fell Runners at the start. I suppose it is their home patch. We kicked off around 10:30a.m on a beautiful day for a run that took me across hills I'd never been on before.

There were sheep everywhere basking on the road and tracks, lying on the grass and generally not doing very much at all. I heard a rumour that in this part of the Cheviots the lambs are pretty nifty and like nothing better than a good sprint. It was difficult to believe until I saw the signs!

I had an easy first 4 miles stopping periodically to snap the stunning countryside. I ran with Chris Waugh (Morpeth:2nd M50), M50 winner Neil Cassidy (Tynedale) and Keith Murray of Teviotdale.

About halfway through I was still feeling quite fresh so decided to give it some welly and worked up a bit of a lather to eventually finish in 1:06.28 and 8th. Spent 15 minutes in the stream. No repeat of sore or tired legs compared to 2 weeks ago.

Sanderson beat teammate Jones (NFR) from 3rd Place Horsley. Karen Robertson (NFR) came out tops in the Ladies event.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Rothley Castle & Crags, Northumberland

Finishing some work in Otterburn, I came back via Elsdon and seeing Rothley Castle in the distance I couldn't resist a quick 20 minute detour past Scots Gap to take a couple of snaps. Its a 18th Century folly - looks like the real deal though! I dare say there's an old hill fort somewhere close. If I didn't live around here, I'd have to come for a holiday! Maybe I should work for the tourist board.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Things to do before you die No. 43: The Black Rock 5

The impulse I had last Sunday that resulted in my decision to run at Yetholm later that afternoon was perhaps not my best. Having done virtually no hillwork in the last 5 months, I thought I could fast track my legs to the form on the fells I had last year.

I had a similar rush of blood to the head sometime in 2006, I recall, when I entered the British Cycling Hill Climb Championships that were to be held in the area and spent a month furiously thrashing the old jalope up and down some hilly lane somewhere near. Even when I used to race in the days when I was a junior I was rubbish at climbing hills on a bike.

The big day came when I lined up with the cream of British talent (-well, actually it was a time trial so I didn't really line up with anyone, but you know what I mean). There were old Pro's, new Pro's, Pro's Pro's, youngsters with all the gear bound for the Continent, youngsters with no gear but legs like a gazelle's and local clubsters alike.
After 10 minutes of lung shredding, eye popping effort as I weaved and fought my way through the noisy excited throngs lining the Gibbet, shouting 'Ally' (I was later told they were shouting 'Allez'; some continental nonsense or the like) I collapsed over the line to finish eighth. 8th....
Eighth last that is. So where is this all going?
It was the Black Rock 5 last night. This is a 4.5 mile beach race starting and finishing at Kinghorn on the Fife coast. It's a tremendous race which has grown annually with 750 eager runners this year. The race finishes up a narrow very steep hill in the centre of the village beside the Ship Tavern. I think it can claim to have the best atmosphere of any race. Its the great white shark of the beach race scene. I've ran it 3 out of last 4 years with a best time of 26:56 in 2006.
Last night I lined up at the front and belted out a very reasonable first mile. Then last weeks hill race sprang out of the murky shallow waters like a latter day Jaws and my legs went all Amity Island. Its an out and back race where the turn is a large rocky outcrop with knee high water below and a piper playing above. The wail of the pipers lament sucked whatever dregs of energy my legs had retained and all I could hear was the voice on the megaphone shouting 'Get out of the water, Get out of the water!'

I was passed by around 12 runners over the final 2 miles. Near the finish as you go under the viaduct the crowd let out a huge yell and as I hit the finishing hill it was only the knowledge that their shouts were unmistakably for the first woman who must have been on my shoulder, kept me going to the line. It was the Gibbet all over again. I was Hooper in the shark proof cage with something pounding at the bars.

With an estimated time of 28:59 I've clearly got some work to do and other than the Eildon Two Hills on the 26th June (See last years blog entry on this debacle), its no more racing till I regain some form. Next year, if you fancy a different challenge from your local 10k, this is the one for you. Oh, they give you a banana and a bottle of beer at the end as well and its not too far to walk to the burger tent or bar. Still the best race of the year.
Info results etc at

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Blaydon Race 2010

It was a dark, wet and cold night for the 4000 runners at tonight's Blaydon Race. Good for running; pants for photographs.

Here's a few images from the Scotswood Bridge where, at the time, Ian Hudspith (Morpeth), last years winner, was in 3rd spot. Results out in due course. PHOTOS NOW UPLOADED - CLICK ON COLLECTION LINK ON THE RIGHT MARGIN ....!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Yetholm Hill Race (2010)

Pulling back the curtains this morning it was too nice a day to waste and having ran the Yetholm Hill Race 3 times previously in the last 4 years, I gathered up the gear, hunted out my fell shoes and set off up the road for Yetholm. At around 9 miles and with 2500ft of ascent, this race is a real test for the quads with 50 minutes of roller coaster hill work before the final 25 minutes or so of grassy downhill where the route picks up the Pennine Way. Located in the Cheviots on the Scottish Borders, it attracts a right mix of runners which always livens things up.

Early on after the start up yon big hill with the odd name, I found myself with Jill Mykura (Carnethy), Tim McCall (Norham) and another as we picked our way through the low cloud. Visibility was poor and it was cool and calm. Ideal running weather really. There was no chance, however, of seeing who was in front unless you happened to be wearing a pair of murk-goggles.

I felt heavy going up hill. Could it be the after effects of the marathon, gravity, or more likely the after effects of a big Friday night out. It took me around 45 minutes to get it together, but come the long downhill stretch which is a pleasure, I dropped my companions and finished in the rain just behind Wull Hynd (Moorfoot) whom I hadn't realised was just up in front.

Gary Jones (NFR) won after having to wait for a while for a few others at one junction just to make sure he was on the right route. Tom Hobbs and Mike McGovern (Moorfoots) were 2nd and 3rd. Jill won the women's race from Eilidh Wardlaw (HBT) and Julie Connor of Moorfoot (3rd).
Finished in 10th place in 1:19:02. Sat in the stream for 10 minutes after the race. A cup of tea would have been nice. (Pictures from the top -1st, 2nd and 3rd lady)

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Bamburgh, Northumberland

I count myself lucky to have this on the doorstep Jogged four miles along the spectacular golden beach.
Whenever I come to the ancient capital of the bygone Northumbrian Kingdom its easy to imagine the long history of Lindisfarne, the hooded monks, the grating of chainmail against steel, the menacing longships stealing in at early dawn and drawing up on the sand and the Norse invasion of 793 A.D. in the air.