Gibside Marathon – Saturday 11th June

Overall Score (out of a possible 35) 30
PB Potential 0 – Zero with a double “0”
Atmosphere 3.0 – The wildlife’s evening chorus was amazing
Organisation 5.0 – All the NEMC events are well organised
Scenery 4.5– Beautiful Gibside Estate
Value for Money 5.0 – Cheap as chips
Beginner Friendliness 1 – Not for the faint hearted, unless you’re Lisa Taylor
Club Support & Social 1 – No club support this year apart from Mike and Shaun who were also running but the marshals were ace.
In Short A lovely challenging Marathon right on the doorstep with 3,500ft of elevation.

 

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Bit of Background

 After last year I said to myself “never again”, but the lure of 26.2 miles right on the doorstep, with no travel or accommodation costs, proved too much – and it’s another step towards the bronze award for 25 Marathons. Another plus is it’s an amazingly beautiful place to run. After running London recently, the two races are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of route and spectators, but both are equally rewarding for very different reasons. One, the biggest Marathon in the world, the other, contains just a few elite athletes, or is that “crazy”!

This year saw the run opened up so people could run as many laps as they liked. There were 23 finishers in the Marathon, who all did 5 laps of the course. 4 runners did 4 laps, 6 runners did 3 laps, 3 runners did 2 laps, and 4 runners did 1 lap.

The Route

Many of the Bounders reading this will have done the Fruit Bowl and will be familiar with the course as it’s remarkably similar.

The start is at the end of the walled garden – where the parkrun starts. You then head off down the hill, to where the sign-in office is at the entrance. You then take a sharp left and the first hill. You stay right, and go up, up, and up, till you reach the top. The trail flattens a little then rises again, and again, until it falls as you end up at the bottom of the octagonal pond. Round the edge of the pond you go, and once again you go up, up, and up, all the way to the top of the skyline – where Nigel is normally stood at the Fruit bowl. Then comes the lovely long clatter down, and down, till you hit the sharp left that takes you past the drift mine and the most horrible little click on the whole course – it saps your legs like no other little incline!

The path then emerges at the octagonal pond again, where you turn right, then right again, for another long stretch of downhill – past the monument, all the way to the sharp left turn through the trees, and onto the riverside path. Thankfully you pass the Fruit Bowl climb up from the river, and continue over the new bridge till you get to a sharp left, then up the path to the steps past the Ice House and back onto the avenue.

Now comes the sadistic bit! You then turn left and run along to the corner where you then turn back on yourself (this little loop is just not right!) then back along the avenue to the walled garden and the start/finish line.

You do this another four times!

The Run

Turned up at registration around 4:15 and had a bit crack with some familiar faces. Our very own Shaun; Lynne, David and Louise from the Derwent Valley Trail Runners, and Anna Seeley from Elvet, who has become a bit of a running companion of mine at these NEMC events.

As I looked around once again, the field was full of crazy ultra runners, and it made me feel a little nervous. My mind however reminded me that after HM30, I am now one myself – even if it’s not quite the Lakeland 50, the HM110, or the Comrades.

Start time was 5pm but they were letting people start earlier if they wanted to – so a quick check in at the start with George Routledge, and me, David, Lynne, and a couple of others, were off 15 minutes early. Mike Gill was just dropping his bag off when we started.

David disappeared off into the distance – oh to have youth on one’s side! I pulled away from Lynne after the first hill and found myself running and chatting to a guy called Paul, from Ponteland, who had been running just a little longer than me. We chatted all the way round the first lap which was a little on the quick side and he was telling me all about running from Glasgow to Edinburgh along the canals (now there’s a thought!) He left me at the water station at the start finish line, where I gulped down the water and started the 2nd lap.

From now on I was on my own, apart from passing the odd runner and being passed by the faster guys, including Shaun, who started at 5pm. Laps 2 and 3 passed without incident and I walked the click up from the Lead Mine each time (a horrible short hill). Lap 4 was a different story as the legs began to tire the Achilles began to scream, and my hamstrings were in overdrive. However, despite that I kept going. The evening bird song was a delight and the intermittent light rain was lovely – as were the downhill sections.

Lap 4 done, now lap 5. The year before, me and Steve Collins were joined by Ian Young, and if Ian hadn’t been there I may have walked most of it. This year I ran nearly all of it, even if it was more of a shuffle than a run, knowing I was on course to beat last year’s time. I crossed the line in 4:29 (4:30 including the wee stops… too much information?), which I was pretty happy with. I saw Mike a couple of times at the pond during the race, which was a huge boost. Another 26.2 miles completed, and I was remarkably in good shape at the end.

Summary

Excellent event, and well done to Mike and Shaun. Will I do this one again? Probably, but there won’t be any PB’s involved. After running 3:43 in London, and being around 3:50 at both Manchester and Edinburgh, the 4:30 here shows how tough the course is – but its a belter, a proper belter – if you don’t mind laps! You notice something different about the estate and its wildlife on each lap.

This is a must do race for anyone who enjoys long trail runs, and who loves a challenge – it surely is a unique race.

Results

Shaun Edwards 4:03,

Stuart Smith 4:30

Mike Gill  5:07