The next off-road Sunday Away Run, will take place on Easter Sunday – 5th April. Starting from Parkhead, at 8:30am.
For anyone who has done our Hanging Fox run, this will be a shortened version of approximately 10 miles over the fells, missing out the Rookhope section. The route is mostly on good tracks, and will involve crossing Stanhope Burn (which those of you who’ve done Stanhope Fell Race will be familiar with), so you will get wet feet!
Please make sure you come prepared for running the fells, with plenty of layers, and a waterproof/windproof jacket. The weather conditions can be completely different up there, compared to back home. Trail shoes are recommended, but an old pair of road shoes will do – please don’t wear your new ones, as they will get muddy!
Refreshments are available afterwards, in Parkhead Cafe.
My first X country season has ended and I have mixed feelings about mud, hills, elbows and running in general.
Of the seven fixtures, I ran in four: Cramlington, Aykley Heads, Wallington and Wrekenton.
Six months ago I lined up at Cramlington at my first ever X country. It was a hot day, the ground was firm and it was a fairly fast course, but it was tough – very tough. Cramlington was also the first time I ran in spikes, and it was to be the last. I found them very uncomfortable and so switched to Mudclaws for the remainder of the season. Thank goodness I did as Aykley Heads was muddy and I needed all the grip I could get! Still, I digress.
What have I learnt by running X country?
The X country scene in the North East is booming. There must have been in excess of 1,000 runners plus spectators at each event.
You don’t have to be a good runner to compete. It is accessible to all abilities and ages. All you need is a club membership and the £1 it costs to enter. One shiny pound for six races – where else do you receive that kind of value!
Running in mud is not actually all that bad. As long as you wear appropriate footwear it’s not really a problem and can be great fun.
Running in mud is awful. It saps your legs and tries to pull them from their sockets. Plus, dirty water can squirt in the most private of places.
The tents spread out across the field are a sight to behold. I imagine it is how medieval jousting competitions used to look and it is quite a spectacle.
You can never have enough Portaloos.
The races are great practice for running in tightly packed groups. You do have to be careful of elbows in the chest though; one chap took the wind from my sails at the beginning of Wrekenton, but it is useful for learning how to navigate slower runners (not too much of a problem in my case if I am being honest) and getting out of the way of faster ones. As someone a little smaller than average I also had occasion to dodge the odd elbow to the eye but normal sized people should not find this too much of an issue.
The races also teach you to pick where you place your feet. Uneven ground can catch the unwary and there were a couple of tumbles over the course of the season.
There are a lot of hills and because the ground is usually soft and muddy these hills are much tougher than when road running. The downhill sections are usually pretty steep too. You can hurl yourself a little faster down them because the ground is softer, but running fast downhill remains a buttock clenching activity.
Hills are character building and prepare you for summer racing.
Hills are not character building but are places where grown men’s dreams are crushed.
Women run two laps, men run three.
You cannot tell how fast someone is by looking at them. Unless they pass you and you are looking at the back of them. I have seen slow skinny runners and fast not so skinny runners.
All of the courses are three laps, at least the ones I did were. I personally find this adds to the challenge. Knowing that the hill I have conquered has to be tackled twice more saps my confidence and energy and I nearly pulled out at lap one on more than one occasion.
There are three ‘packs’ in the men’s races. The slow pack sets off first, then the medium and finally the fast pack. Being passed by fast pack runners can be a little demoralising but I consoled myself by being bitter and muttering oaths as they flew past.
As there are no age categories it means that older runners are competing with whippersnappers and coming 375th out of 500 is a sobering experience when you were under the illusion that you were a decent runner.
Road running times do not translate to the fields. I don’t mean because running fields is harder, which it is, but running technique plays more of a part than I expected. Most of my races are long distance and tend to be flat; these races are short and hilly so you need to learn how to run fast downhill but you must be able to climb too if you want to do well. As an over-pronator with inserts, soft ground slows me a little more than normal. That’s my excuse and I have a note from my Mum confirming it.
Friendly rivalry between clubs is well, friendly. Even though the running scene in the North East is large many runners know other club members and running against the same people week in week out builds mutual respect and friendships.
Camaraderie between team mates is good. Spread over several hours with several different categories of racing, the fixtures allow you time to speak to team mates and get to know people a little. The tent acts as a meeting point and social hub which is lacking in other races.
The support from others from the club is excellent. Cake baking, photography and cheering are all part of the day, and runners often help each other around the course by pacing or offering support as they pass. Whilst supporters mainly shout out for their own club there is no shortage of support generally, and most people are given encouragement if they are struggling a little.
Finally, cake is a fundamental ingredient of all runs and not just X country. The social nature of the races and the meeting at the tent prior to and following the races, mean that cake baking has become an event in itself. I know some of our club who have not run the race but have baked cakes and braved the freezing conditions to shout encouragement. It’s the same with those taking photographs and offering lifts, not to mention the club captains organising everyone. This is the real beauty of X country. The hills and mud may divide you and string you out across the course, but the cakes, the friendship and the feeling of belonging to the club unite everyone and this is what makes X country so special.
Will I be running next season? Probably, maybe… oh go on then, but I may have to work the weekend of Aykley Heads!
The next team relay event is The Good Friday Road Relays which is only a short distance away down on Newburn Industrial Estate.
This event is open to ALL abilities within the club. If you’d like to take part then please add your name to the Facebook post, or contact Ian Young, or Stewy Bell.
Date: Friday 3rd April 2015
10.30 am. Senior and Vets Women’s Relay Race (approx. 2.2 miles)
A minimum age of 15 years old on the day of the race.
Vets must be 35 years old or over on the day of the race.
3 persons to count as a qualifying team
Race fees £5 per runner = £15 per team.
11.30 am. Senior and Vet Men’s Relay race (approx. 2.2 miles)
A minimum age of 15 years old on the day of the race.
Vets must be 40 years old or over on the day of the race.
4 persons to count as a qualifying team.
Race fees £4.50 per runner = £18 per team.
Closing Date for entries: Monday 23rd March 2015
The club will pay your entry fee in advance, all we ask is that you pay us back on the day, and that you actually turn up for your race. No shows not only let their team mates down, but also risk the club not paying your entry fees in advance for any future events.
Some of us got caught up with traffic problems at the last relay event so please ensure you turn up in plenty time for your race. Teams have to be submitted 45 minutes before each race.For more information and important changes to parking at the venue this year please go to http://www.elswickharriers.org.uk/elswickharriers/?page_id=4020
Well done to Mike Gill for completing his “28 miles, for 28 years” run around the old 5 reservoirs anniversery run route, yesterday. He had company from Jason Taylor for pretty much all of the run, whilst various other Bounders dipped in and out along the way.
For anyone not familiar with the route, there’s an awful lot of up and down, over a mix of terrain, so it’s certainly not the easiest 28 miles you could run. The weather threw pretty much everything it had at the runners, too.
We even had a Junior Bounder representative, Faye Bousfield, who ran the Moorcock to Derwent Reservoir section – Well done, Faye!
Mike arrived back at Whitehall to a round of applause, and promptly broke out a flask of warm sangria, which was very welcome.
Thanks must go to the support crew, Ann Gill, Christine Murray, Ian Dilley, Mark & Nathan Phillips, and to anyone else who turned out along the way.
The next Gibside pastyrun will take place on Friday 6th March.
As usual, we’ll be departing from Shotley Bridge Station (on the Derwent Walk) at 6:30pm for a steady 6ish mile run down to Gibside. There may also be an option to start from Belle Vue at 6pm if anyone fancies it.
If the weather is kind we can sit outside around the braziers, but please fetch a change of clothing, or something warm to wear – There’s usually a car or two to transport bags down to Gibside. If the weather chooses to be unkind, we’ll be in the Potting Shed Cafe. You will need to bring pennies for a pasty and beer, and just in case there aren’t enough spaces in cars returning to Consett, you should also fetch your bus fare home.
Pasties need to be pre-ordered, so please leave a comment below. There is a choice of Cornish, or cheese and onion.
To keep the tradition going of running 1 mile for each year since Blackhill Bounders were formed, I will be running 28 miles. Anyone who wants to is welcome to join me for any part of the run. The route is a mix of road, track, field and moorland.
Starting at 07:00 from the Terris Novalis (the sculptures at the top of the track by Morrisons). Guess-timate pace will be an average of 11 minute miles, which allows for a gentle run. Possible joining points are marked below.
Whitehall Picnic Site
Smiddy Shaw Reservoir
Haverley Lodge (Muggleswick)
Past Haverley Lodge
To get a progress update on the morning, ring me on 07976 870718
Timings are a guess and will probably be a little quicker at the start and maybe the other way near the end!