Race Reports+

The Duegar Nightcrawl - Saturday 24th February 2018. - Author - Nic Nicholson

When I signed up to this night crawl months ago, I don’t hink I really appreciated what I was letting myself in for. But the panic soon set in. How on earth would a relatively new runner (who could barely get up Hammerite bank without passing out), run 10 miles through the Simonside hills, in the dark and up the equivalent of about 7 Hammerites in the first 4 miles? I
won’t lie, I nearly backed out a few times - but I did it, I survived and I would thoroughly recommend it.

Standing at the starting line, with my borrowed trail pack full of borrowed essentials on my back and with my Strider buddies by my side - my panic thankfully turned to excited energy (and maybe a little hysteria). As we set off - immediately uphill - we were passed by 99 percent of the crowd.  Me and my running buddy, Louise, were pretty much last within 2 minutes of starting. Plodding up the first hill we quickly agreed on our strategy: walk / run when we can on the way up, and make up time
on the way back down. 

The way up was slow going, but largely uneventful. We climbed up a few country lanes, crossed some very muddy fields to get to the 2 mile cheering squad consisting of the lovely Kathryn Russell and pooch. Onward and upward on narrow stone paths and rugged steps, we climbed and levelled, climbed and levelled… and climbed some more.  Although we couldn’t appreciate the views in the dark, the trail of head torches snaking up the hill ahead of us and then the lights of Rothbury down below us was quite an amazing sight. We were slow and steady but took great pride in squeezing past quite a lot of dawdling “runners” who had clearly overcooked the hills. I do think poor Louise, however, was a tad sick of hearing me say “this MUST be the top now”, only to find yet another climb ahead.

It was, unfortunately, at this point I realized that my bargain £6 head torch was not up to the challenge as it faded to a dim glow. But luckily, having laughed at the start about being over prepared with a head torch and a chest torch, I wasn’t plunged into complete darkness. 

So, after passing a lonely but dedicated marshal with a dog and a little speaker sending out spooky noises (the Duegar??), we had finally reached the top! Hoorah! Time to pick up the pace! 

Or maybe not. Time to carefully pick our way down what was a very steep “technical descent” of icy stones and jagged rocks, with the added joy of having to manually point my chest torch downwards to check my footing. But we did have a good giggle when we realised we had reached the dizzying pace of 26 minute miles at this point!

The next adventure, after almost missing a turn (I believe a few did actually go in the wrong direction for a while), was what seemed to be a trail/stream towards a forest. We tried pick up the pace but slowed again after I hit the floor with a graceful skid on a patch of thick ice. But once into the forest, we were finally into the type of trail running I was more used to. We had to concentrate to spot the guide flags as by this point we were completely alone. No sign of anyone either in front or behind. It was quite eerie but still strangely enjoyable. Unfortunately I slipped again and landed like a not so graceful sack of spuds this time. I knew I wasn’t really injured but I did need a minute or so to pull myself together, get off the floor, and assess the damage (luckily no more than a badly bruised behind!).  I like to think I am generally quite sure footed, but this definitely brought home the potential risks of trail running, and reinforced the necessity of carrying the emergency kit - just in case.

By this point we had been running and chatting quite merrily by ourselves for quite a while - and I have to admit it is all a bit of a blur. I remember running on roads for a while, searching for flags and doubting our route. I remember spotting a vague light behind us and feeling annoyed that someone may be catching us up (they didn’t!!). And then I remember the lovely marshals at the water station who provided us with words of encouragement and jelly babies.

What I do remember well is the little mini celebration we had at 8.2 miles - my longest distance EVER!!!!! Just before my watch battery died.

As we headed back down the final icy hill towards the end, it became apparent that our cheering squad had quite rightly got sick and gone home! A few hardy volunteers pointed us in the right direction (which was a bit unclear) and cheered us over an anticlimactic finish line.  So we had finished without collapsing on the hills, falling off a cliff, getting lost in the woods or being eaten by a Duegar - and it was great!

After finishing, we joined in with the buzzing atmosphere at the Tomlinson café for a celebratory hot chocolate and slice of cake (we forgot to ask for our free mulled wine…) before heading home.

Overall it was a challenging experience - but at no point did I feel out of my depth. It was well organised with some very dedicated and hardy volunteers / marshals dotted around the course.  I would maybe hope for a few more flags,
better finish line and bigger t-shirts for next year (I had to sweet talk the lovely lady to give me a larger ladies t-shirt after failing miserably to squeeze into the medium I had ordered L). But all in all it left me with a huge sense of achievement and some cracking bruises to be proud of. 

Would I recommend it YES. Will I be doing it again- definitely.

I must give huge kudos to the runners/mountain goats who were able to fly around the course with blistering times – including our very own striders Hezzy, Paul, Mark, and Jo (with the lovely Leila by her side). Credit also to Mr Kelleher (who stepped up to fill a poorly Hollys shoes, who had stepped up, in turn, up to fill an injured Janes shoes) who came an impressive 7th. But biggest shout out goes to Louise. Thanks for getting me round and lighting the way with your head torch. 

Same time next year?

Endurance Life Northumberland Coastal Marathon 24th February 2018 - Author: David Leat

This was planned as part of my training for the Paris Marathon on 8th April – a chance to prove I can run the
distance, as I sometimes doubt it.  In fact it is 27 miles.  For Paris I am running for Team Kenya https://www.teamkenya.org.uk/, a NE charity that works for girls’ education and economic and social
empowerment for women, so any sponsorship very welcome https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/david-leat-oap.

You register at Bamburgh Castle and get transported to Alnwick Castle.  It is a trail race so you have to carry essential items such as drink, hat/buff, phone and money. It was a cold day, with most people in 2-3 layers, including mandatory wind proof jacket. 2 people were running with dogs, including a lady with 2 French ‘Bloodhounds’, who did an unplanned sprint start - the dogs seemed to have found a scent!

‘Take it steady’ is always my mantra, so from a slow start I gradually picked up some places on the section to Alnmouth
(check point 1).  Then it is straight north up the coast to further checkpoints at Howick and Newton.  I always grab some jelly beans, biscuit, banana etc. and a drink as it is so easy to run out of energy, but at the Newton checkpoint (18 miles, so 9 to go) the dunes through Embleton and Low Newton had taken their toll and I wondered if I would finish.  My strategy in such circumstances is to count my steps – it is about 640 left footsteps to a mile.  The other thing I try is chatting to people you catch up, it distracts you and them. 

At Seahouses before the official checkpoint, I stopped for a longer drink, and then topped up at the checkpoint with about 2.5 miles to go. It was mostly windswept hard sand from here. Once back at Bamburgh you have to climb the dunes. 
I was walking up them when the photographer appeared over a dune, so I had to pretend I could still run, before reverting to a hands-on-knees crawl up the last incline and then my imitation of a sprint to the finish line inside the castle.  Elation.  I was given an immediate print out of my time, 4.22.13, less than a minute slower than last year, so I will take that. To get back to the car park you have to head south – straight into the biting cold wind, so I was shivering once I reached the car.  I am so glad we had not been running into the wind.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this event, it is well organized and has great scenery.  There are also half marathon and
ultra-marathon options, but being a trail race you have to accept that times are probably 20-25% slower than a road race. Before and after photos below.


Send your reports to David Reed