NEHL Aykley Heads – A Hobbit’s Tale

Report submitted by Neil Capstick

The race Aykley Heads X Country
Overall score 25
PB potential 0 – Not a chance! Too many hills and too much mud.
Atmosphere 4 – Very well attended.
Organisation 5 – Spot on and the results are posted quickly considering the numbers. Good car parking too.
Scenery 4 – Pretty good but when running your head will be pointed at the floor.
Value for money 5 – It’s a quid! Cheap as chips from the really cheap chip shop.
Beginner friendliness 2 – Not for the faint hearted.
Club support and social 5 – Well supported with lots of cheering especially from the Junior Bounders
In short A character building run, with mud, hills and more mud and hills.

Hobbit in the Mud

The day started reasonably well. I had a little bit of a lie in, was picked up punctually and travelled to the course in good time to see some of the Juniors’ race, and all of the Ladies’.

It was all downhill from there really – or should that be uphill? Either way, I was about to experience the hardest run of my life.

I was not initially going to run Aykley Heads as I did not really think X Country was for me. I had run at Cramlington and it all seemed a lot of fuss and a lot of time for a relatively short six miles. A couple of days before the event one of the Bounders walked the course and posted some photographs on FaceBook, saying it would be muddy; very muddy indeed. This made me rethink. X Country is supposed to be about mud and Cramlington had been like the Sahara so I figured that I should have one more go before making my mind up completely.

I had run Cramlington in spikes and I didn’t fancy running in them again to be honest. They had hurt my foot a little and I prefer more cushioning. I undertook a little research and after a last minute Friday afternoon dash to Start Fitness, bought some Mud Claws.

Here I was, lined up at the start, ready to go. I had positioned myself near the finish line of the Ladies’ race to watch them storm home and to offer some encouragement. I was a little surprised to see them coming in looking so tired. Some were covered from head to toe in mud but all of them looked completely wiped out. I mean, how hard could it be?

The gun went off and I was caught off guard. I was positioned right at the back and so had some ground to make up. The first mile was a doddle and I really enjoyed it. After about a mile there was a really steep downhill section. It was covered in mud, and at the bottom of the hill was a hairpin right hand turn straight into a very steep incline. Laps 2 and 3 saw the Bounders “Ladies” standing here allegedly cheering everyone on. In reality they had selected the spot most likely to end in a near death experience for any over-confident male runner who slipped – oh how they laughed/cackled! Like the mythical Sirens, they gave men the power to destroy themselves by screaming encouragement to them to run faster down the hill only to laugh themselves into an incontinent fit when someone fell.

At the first hill I flung myself into it. I mean, I really, really went for it. The guy in the shop had said there was no way I would slip with Mud Claws, so I figured I would chance it. It was exhilarating to say the least and I flew down the hill passing lots of tiptoeing runners and never slid a millimetre. Down to the bottom I went, swinging right, past the cackling “support” group (with a disappointed look on their faces as my footing remained intact) and into the hill.

Then the worst race of my life began. I don’t know if I had overdone my run the day before, whether it was the much lower heel drop of the Mud Claws, or just the hills, but my calf muscles began to scream. So bad was it that I had to slow and so it remained for the rest of the lap, the only respite being another very steep muddy downhill section which I enjoyed enormously.

At the end of lap one I was finished and wanted to stop. There was absolutely no way I was going to make it. My legs were aching and I just couldn’t see any way of mustering up the energy to complete the race. I ran on but slowed considerably.

The pain lasted until about a third of the way round the second lap, until I hit the downhill section. Relief was short lived though because as soon as I had to climb the pain returned. This pattern was repeated at every up and downhill section and how I finished the race I don’t know. Running along the finishing straight I was a spent force and I was in the last 25% of finishers. This race was the hardest I have ever run and I have run marathons and ultras!

A special thanks must go to the supporters who cheered the runners all along the course. I do know that one set of Bounders who were shouting encouragement at me were met by a very harsh glare and a stream of sweat as I turned my head. Sorry, but it was a bad day at the office.


The Mud

My report would not be complete without a description of the mud. There was lots of it. The depth varied from about an inch to perhaps six inches in places. The mud was not soaking wet, squirt up your leg mud, but more of a paste which grabbed your foot. The mud did not try to pull your shoe off like the wet stuff but closed in over your foot and made it difficult to stride. On the hills and corners the mud was lethal, not as deep but cleverer. It laid in wait and surprised you, like a naughty child that pokes its leg out to trip you and then giggles and runs off. Only the mud did not run off, it just waited for the next lap.

I slipped a lot on the uphill but I don’t blame the Mud Claws. I have an unusual running style which means my feet point out a little more than most and this meant I kept losing my footing as my foot slipped behind and to the side of me.

When I had finished the race my spirits were lifted a little when I heard everyone say they too had found it very hard. I reviewed the results later and it was with some disappointment that I discovered my very poor placing. I guess I will stick to road running; at least there I don’t disgrace myself.

On the other Hobbit foot, perhaps I should go to Wallington Hall this weekend…

NEHL Wallington – Saturday 29th November 2014

griffinsThe next Harrier League fixture is this coming Saturday (29th November),  hosted by Morpeth Harriers, in the grounds of Wallington Hall – another superb “proper” Cross Country course.

The program of races follows the usual pattern. More infomation and directions can be found here.

There will be car sharing from the sports centre at 10:30am. Those who wish to go later will have to make their own arrangements.

NEHL Aykley Heads – Saturday 22nd November, 2014


Report submitted by Elizabeth Mitchell

The Race NEHL Cross Country – Aykley Heads, Saturday 22nd November, 2014
Overall Score 31
Please score the following categories out of 5  
PB Potential 2
Atmosphere 5
Organisation 5
Scenery 4
Value for Money 5
Beginner Friendliness 5
Club Support & Social 5
Tell us more…  
In Short A little bit tougher than the Blackhill Parkrun !
In FullSaturday 22nd November started like any other Saturday in the Mitchell household. A frantic dash to get everyone ready and everything organised so that we could make it out in time. Only this Saturday we were off to Aykley Heads Cross Country and not the usual Parkrun!We arrived at Aykley Heads in good time and observed the gathering of tribes setting up on the same field I had been watching with trepidation from the office window all week.   The weather had been favourable, rain in the preceding days which seemed to be holding off for the event. This could only mean one thing…….. mud, and plenty of it!

There was enough time before the race for the nerves to set in and my stomach was beginning to feel like a washing machine on the spin cycle. I joined the other Bounder ladies at the start line for the obligatory photograph (not forgetting those jazz hands) and then took a few steps back to take my familiar place. One thing I noticed about this race was that the start line was wide and I didn’t need to step back quite so far!

The tension was mounting just as the gun sounded and the girls were off across the field before curving to the left. At this stage I began wondering why I had entered. The ground underfoot was very uneven and I was concentrating on staying upright whilst teetering along with a drunken swagger.

By chance, the ground seemed to even out, my nerves calmed and my breathing steadied. I began to enjoy the differing terrain. The route was varied and had a good smattering of hills, fortunately for me, not all of them up!

After a steady ascent to “the Hurdle”, I could see a sharp downhill. The ground appeared to soften and I saw the mud! I knew that if there was a place to fall, this was going to be it. I could hear Dave Mitchell telling me “be confident, don’t hold back.” So….. I went for it! I ran down the hill, managing to slow down enough at the bottom to get me around the tight right hand hairpin. Result!

I continued around the course with a smile on my face until I reached the last uphill. This was a short incline which seemed to get steeper the further up you went.


Throughout the race the support was amazing. There were bounders lined up all along the route cheering you on (especially where there was a chance of a spectacular tumble!). The marshalls were encouraging the athletes along their way and the event was extremely well organised.

Lap 2 began a little easier as the ground seemed to have been evened out by the stampede of 354 lady runners. The mud was a little muddier but this added to the fun (this was never going to be a quick race!)

As I began the incline from the railway line, I was starting to tire. I knew what was ahead of me and I was dreading that final hill. As I approached I was at the stage where I was thinking I was going to have to walk. Then I heard them…. The junior bounders were all lined up shouting support and encouragement. There was no way I was walking now. With a modicum of emotion I attacked the hill and battled my way to the top. Hill conquered, I fought my way to the finish line thinking of those supporters and proud to be a bounder!

Leeds Abbey Dash – Sunday 16th November 2014

Report submitted by Chris Playle

The Race The Leeds Abby Dash
Overall Score 25
PB Potential 5 – Fast flat out and back course
Atmosphere 4 – 1000s of people there
Organisation 5 – Slick and professional
Scenery 3 – Not the best Leeds has to offer but by no means the worst
Value for Money 3 – It’s a long way to go for just a 10k
Beginner Friendliness 4
Club Support & Social 1 Not many of us there to be honest. (S Bell, G Wallace)
In Short As my brother lives in Leeds I thought I would give this fast flat course a go get the PB down a bit
In Full: Built up as a flat fast course I thought I would give this a blast, and with my brother living just ten minutes away from the start line then this was a no brainer.

 Having arrived in Leeds on the Saturday afternoon, I and two excited kids set off for Thought Bubble at the royal armouries. Which to the uneducated is a Comic Book and Sci-FI convention, and for those that know of my geekish love all thing comics and super heroes, (Remember Bounder Man), I knew this was going to be a good weekend.

 Sunday Morning I woke to the slate Grey skies that only Yorkshire could provide, and with a light drizzle and no wind the day was set for a crack at the PB, which was set just the week previous at the town moor memorial 10k in Newcastle.

 My training over the past year has been interrupted by both running and non-running related issues but heading to the start line I was confident. And this was helped by seeing some familiar faces from both Crook A C and also Sedgefield Harriers, who had travelled down in numbers.

 And soon we were off heading up a slight incline for the first 5k. This is a mass participation event and numbers are in the 1000s, so building any momentum was difficult. This was also a race in which I was not using my Garmin to monitor my pace. It was all about feel and effort. So it was with great surprise and a tad frustration I made it to the half-way point feeling fresh and as if I could have ran it faster. But soon after and the opening up of the roads as well as the slight decline in the road my pace picked up nicely. And apart from a tiny hump in the road I maintained this strong pace to the finish looking down at a 42m 09s on the stop watch, which was further reduced to 42m 07s.


I have no doubt in my mind that by this race next year I will be running under 40m for 10k and will target this race to do it in.

Yes it’s a long way to go for a 10k, but with a city centre finish, a German Market, and plenty of pubs nearby, maybe one or two more will make the journey next year! HEP & DAWSON, the race is on!


Town Moor Marathon – Sunday 2nd November 2014

town moor

Report submitted by Stuart Smith

The Race Town Moor Marathon
Overall Score 28
PB Potential 4.5 (if the wind doesn’t blow 5+)
Atmosphere 3.5
Organisation 5.0
Scenery 3.5 – You get five views of a shabby football stadium and the XC hills
Value for Money 4.5
Beginner Friendliness 5
Club Support & Social 1.0 (The only bounder running, but for one lap the score was 5)
In Short Brilliantly organised and a cracker for anyone wanting to try marathon running for the first time
In Full: Bit of Background

I’d been thinking about doing this race earlier on in the year after chatting to Ian Middlemas and using it to follow on from the Kielder Marathon to keep the long distance miles up and to use it as time on my legs in preparation for the Hardmoors 30. I had no idea at this time that a small incident in early August would dash my running plans for the rest of the year.

 After being given the go ahead to run again and enjoying a slow ten mile run with John Hopps I decided I would enter not even knowing whether I would turn up. Another week went by and a 14 mile run with Nicola done thoughts turned to actually making it to the end of lap four.

 I never really mentioned doing this run to anyone as I still wasn’t sure about taking it on but after a chat with Ian after the park run the day before my mind was made up, I was going to give it ago and if it was a DNF it wouldn’t really matter it would just be good getting some miles in and enjoying the run.

 The Route

 The 5.25 mile course is a fairly steady flattish first mile, with a flattish second mile which then turns into a headwind that is always there making it a slow hard mile, those who have done the Memorial 10k or park run here will have experienced the wind. A long slow uphill third mile follows with a testing half a mile uphill on grass. The route then clatters downhill back to the start in Exhibition Park. The course is 5 laps which was ideal for me or anyone wanting to try marathon running because if you drop out race HQ and your car are nearby.


The Run

 I started off right at the back with my friend and work colleague, Brian ‘Bill’ Ford, and a few other Striders who were aiming to get under 5hrs. I’d written 5hrs finish time on the entry form and knowing this was going to get hard after 18 miles due to lack of training starting the first lap with them was just the job and at 11 minute miles even I can chat without being out of breath.

 There was a canny few from Elvet running and they had brought support which was much appreciated as Alister and the crew gave me a massive shout every time I passed

 Lap one was pretty easy and part way through lap two I was joined by Ian Young on his bike who had come down to give a bit of moral support, I had pulled away from the Striders by this time and the rest of the lap and into my third flew by while chatting to Captain Young, I do remember him saying as we went up the grassy hill that it would pull on the calves on the last lap, he was just out it was the fourth lap that bloody hurt!! Cheers for turning up Ian it was great to have the support but please don’t mention Sarbucks next time ha ha.

 I passed half way with 2hr 15 minutes on the watch and was running alone, however with the course being laps there is always someone close and the support from the other runners was fantastic and the marshals from the North East Marathon club were good sport.

 Things got really tough on lap four 18-21 miles it was a shuffle more than a jog and it was mind over matter getting one foot in front of the other, thoughts turned to my crazy brother shuffling through the middle part of the MDS with dodgy guts and I thought well I’ve got it easy really. I thought about stopping at the end of lap 4 but the shout from the Elvet crew who were by the start finish line and the fact it was just over a park run to go made my mind up I just thought bollocks to it I’ve come this far may as well carry on. I remember looking at my Garmin at 20 miles with 3hrs 35mins on the clock thinking just over an hour to go, well it turned out to be a little longer, I crossed the line in 4hrs 51minutes beaming with nearly a tear in my eye couldn’t believe id got all the way round !! The run has healed few mental scars and I was well chuffed.

 4hrs 51 minutes is a long time to be on your feet and gives you a little insight into what ultra running could be mentally, not sure I’ll make the HM30 this time but there’s always 2016 and maybe parkrun then pub on New Year’s Day will be a good choice.

 Many thanks to the Bounder Family for the kind words and support over the last 12 weeks, it’s definitely time to draw a line in the sand “Onwards and Upwards”.  

Annual “Deck the Tree” Run – Sunday 14th December 2014

Christmas-Tree-Snow-ForestSunday 14th December sees the return of the annual “Deck the Tree” run.

It’s a run of approximately 12 miles, at an easy pace, starting from the Punch Bowl in Edmundbyers at 8:00am. Running out to a lone tree at the foot of Bolts Law Fell, which is then decked with baubles and tinsel. If we’re lucky, we’ll be met at the tree by Bounders bearing sweet mince pies and mulled wine to refuel for the return journey.

It is mainly across fells, moorland and fields, and although mostly on good tracks, it will be very wet and boggy in places, so again, please come prepared for the terrain and possible adverse weather conditions, with trail shoes (or old trainers), plenty of layers and a waterproof. Also, a change of clothing for afterwards will be handy, as you will get wet and muddy! 

If you are unsure where the meeting point in Edmundbyers is, then we can arrange a meeting at Belle Vue for car sharing, or to head over in convoy.

Don’t forget to bring some baubles and tinsel, and as always, festive hats are a must!

Annual Remembrance Day Run to High Cup Nick – Sunday 9th November

PoppiesA reminder that on Sunday 9th of November there will be the annual Remembrance Day run from Cow Green Reservoir, across the fells to High Cup Nick, stopping at 11am to place poppies and hold a two minute silence to remember those who lived and died serving their country.

 This is a run of approximately 14 miles, but it will be ran at an easy pace, with plenty of stops to take in the scenery – mainly across fells and moorland, using parts of the Pennine Way. Please come prepared for the terrain and possible adverse weather conditions, with trail shoes (or old trainers), plenty of layers and a waterproof. Also, bring a change of clothing for afterwards as you will get wet and muddy! Legend has it (as some people are yet to see it for themselves, as it’s often shrouded in fog), that High Cup Nick is a massive glacial valley on the edge of the Pennines. If the weather is in our favour, it is a pretty spectacular view. 
As it will take roughly an hour to get to Cow Green Reservoir, it will
 be an early start. Meeting at 7.30am at the old Queens Road Surgery car park, in Blackhill. We usually stop off at the Langdon Beck Hotel afterwards for refreshments, so bring some pennies, and more importantly… don’t forget your poppies!

“It’s a Knockout” Charity Tournament – 3rd May 2015

Ian Atkinson from Tesco Consett has been in touch to invite Blackhill Bounders to take part in a charity “It’s a Knockout” tournament, on Sunday May 3rd 2015.

Please see his letter here, for further details.

If anyone fancies getting a team of 10 together, then please get in touch with Ian as soon as possible. They are also looking for suggestions of worthy charities to support.

London Marathon Club Draw

VLMJust to keep you all updated, the London Marathon Club draw will be made at the Awards Night, at Blackhill Club, on November 22nd.

Speaking of which, there are still a few tickets left for the End of Year Awards Night. For the price of £10 you’ll get a hot buffet, band and disco. If you’d like to come and help us celebrate what has been another fantastic year for the club, see me (Sara), or Dave Anderson for tickets.

Entries for the North Eastern Cross Country Championships

 For anyone interested in taking part in this year’s North Eastern Cross Country Championships, the details can be found here.
If you wish to be entered, then please give your name and payment (£4 for juniors, and £5 for seniors), to your XC team manager.
  • Sarah Lister for the ladies
  • Ian Young for the men
  • Stewy Bell for the juniors

Names and payment must be with the team managers by the 10th of November.

If anyone has any queries or problems, please get in touch with Stewy Bell at