Category Archives: Race Reports

TCS NYC Marathon

Race report by Stu Smith

 

The Event TCS New York City Marathon
Overall Score (out of a possible 35) Adds up to 26 but despite a few short comings in the round I would give it top marks 35
PB Potential 2.5 – Even the elite runners are slower round this course
Atmosphere 5.0 – Similar to London
Organisation 5.0
Scenery 4.0 – The five Boroughs, views from some of the Bridges are fabulous.
Value for Money 3.5 – £300 entry – This doesn’t include flights, accommodation, spending money and taking the family.
Beginner Friendliness 5.0 – That’s if a Marathon is ever friendly, high score due to the event being one of the Big Six and the atmosphere.
Club Support & Social 1.0 – Too far to travel, but a big Geordie voice from the crowd did shout ‘Gan On’ on Blackhill at one point.
In Short Fantastic, Amazing, Awesome, Tough Route, get it on the ‘Bucket’ list.

Bit of Background

I entered the ballot for this race after a bottle of Rioja and somehow forgot to tell Jules. Not really a recommended approach to race entry but sometimes needs must. I got in from work the day I got the email saying I had been successful wondering how to break the news but thankfully she had already seen the entry fee on the credit card statement so Job done. An interesting conversation followed and we were all going to New York.

This race has always been on my list since my second marathon in Edinburgh and I really couldn’t believe I was actually going to run or in my case shuffle after struggling a little for the last twelve month. Third time lucky in the ballot still can’t believe it.

Getting to the Start

Getting to the start was the only thing about this experience that made me really nervous. There are two ways to get to the start, one is to get the ferry across to Staten Island and then a bus to the start village or the option I went for which was the official bus transport from the Public Library which means an early start.

The alarm went off at 4am but wasn’t really needed. Following a strong cup of coffee and some porridge and a quick kit check I was out onto the streets of Manhattan with a walk of around 25 minutes.

The only things moving were the homeless in the shadows and the steam that really does come out of the ground. As I got closer to the Library there were more people around mostly fellow runners and the NYPD were everywhere. My bus time was 6am. Following the security check they were just loading the buses as people turned up so this meant a longer wait in the start village but I didn’t mind that, I would be there with no more nerves, so pleased I got to the Library early.

The bus journey passed quickly with the main topic of conversation being ultra running which was a little surprising and it was really interesting hearing about some of the races in the USA and having ticked that box and with the intent to do a much longer one in the future it interested me even more. If anyone is interested in doing this race I recommend this transport option but get there early as the later buses took much longer than the 40 minutes it took me.

I had around a three hour wait at the start village before I entered my start pen, the free coffee, doughnuts and warm hat helped as did the second layer of clothes I took to keep warm as it was cold also chatting to the other runners made the time pass relatively quickly. Soon it was time to go, I chequed my bag, chucked my additional clothes into the charity bin and I was in the pen for 9am with a 9:50 start time. The start pens contained loads of toilets which is the first time I have seen this and an extremely good idea.

We soon moved forward onto the start area which is the Varrazano Narrows Bridge. I found myself next to a couple of Middleborough and Cleveland harriers who gave our Parkrun a big thumbs up and I’m bound to bump into Mark again, probably on the Yorkshire Moors. The American National Anthem was played and we knew it was nearly time to go.

The gun went, loads of NYPD helicopters flew overhead, Frank Sinatra was belting out New York New York from the sound system and we were off.

The Run

The TCS New York City Marathon course runs through all five of New York City’s boroughs: Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan’s iconic Central Park and isn’t flat I saw parts of NYC that a tourist probably wouldn’t normally see.

The race starts on the very edge of the Varrazano Narrows Bridge and with the sound of Sinatra in our ears we were off and over the suspension bridge and into the first neighbourhood of Brooklyn. As we moved further into the borough the noise and intensity of the crowds grew and grew and I was moving along pretty steady and feeling good.

You pass through Brooklyn and the three starts come together at around 8 miles, then into Queens which is an experience I will never forget, the long stretches of road, the Crowds, Bands, Gospel Choirs and at one point a sound system playing Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind and all the runners in unison were singing along ‘Concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can do, now your in New York’, this nearly brought a tear to the eye as the emotion of running the event was definitely getting to me.

The route then goes from Greenpoint over the Pulaski Bridge and into Long Island City then onto the Queensboro Bridge at around 15 miles. The Queensboro Bridge joins Queens with Manhattan and is the longest bridge spanning the East River. It also has a pretty steep long ascent which pretty much drained me for the rest of the run and seemed to go on forever before the quick clatter down the other side. That hurt reminded me of the hills of Gibside even if the surroundings were very different and the fact the Fruitbowl would have already finished. It had also started to rain and it was a bit blowy.

The route then goes up 1st Avenue which isn’t short and goes from 59th street to 125th street and across the Willis Avenue Bridge which takes you into the Bronx. Once again the streets were lined with people and bands and again another bridge which takes you back into Manhattan. This is around 21 miles and you then run down 5th Avenue where I heard a Geordie voice shout ‘Gan On’ Blackhill which was really nice and wondered if it was someone with the Saltwell Harriers crew who I had met on a training run on the Waskwerly way around 6 weeks earlier. By this time I was walking the length of the water stations as weariness was beginning to kick in. The route then goes into central park which defo isn’t flat as I discovered when I walked the finishing part of the run the following day and the run finished in the park.

Great feeling crossing the line thinking I want a bit more of this; I want to complete the Six Stars! Next stop hopefully Berlin.

Summary

I hope this gives you a small insight into what was an excellent event and an amazing experience and I can’t recommend it highly enough and for me just slightly better than London which was also a tremendous race. I will also always be grateful to some you, who are to blame, or is that to thank, for my love of 26.2 miles. I finished in 4:26:55. The run wasn’t about times or checking the Garmin for pace every few minutes it was about absorbing one of the World’s Greatest Races and I certainly managed that. Looking forward to running again with the NEMC over the coming months even if the races are at the other end of the scale they are for me, always enjoyable, and its been a while.

One last thing, congratulations to Rachel Edmunds who also completed the race, cracking effort and to my friends Brian and Jill Ford who also completed the run and forgive me for the grammatical errors I’m still buzzing. Ha’Way the Bounders !!

 

 

 

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

Kielder 10k – Beat the Bull 2015

Report submitted by Sarah Juliff

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There’s one word always seems to sum up the experience of running at Kielder for me – surreal. If you’re wanting to dip your toe into the world of trail running, or just looking for an alternative to pounding the pavements along your local streets, this one really is fab.

I did the 10k race last year as one of my first, and loved it enough to sign up on opening day this year. There’s something really special about running here, it is not by any stretch of the imagination flat, but it is probably the quietest race I’ve ever done and with such a gorgeous setting it really is one to kick back and enjoy.

course map

I’d turned up in 2014 with no real preconceptions as to what to expect, quietly hoping to beat my last 10k best I’d set at the Gateshead Trail 2 months before, and looking forward to running somewhere new – it was the first time I’d been to Kielder after being on the ‘investigate’ list for a while.

There is a very prominent feature in the Kielder 10k route around the peninsula…and I don’t mean the lake. Between the 1km and 2km mark is a very long, rather steep hill – traveled in the up direction. Last year, I thought that was me done and seriously considered bailing out and heading back to the start line thinking the whole thing was going to be like that and it would be the end of me. I made it (slowly) to the top – where the kind marshal souls had set up a water station – and wrote off all possible thoughts of a pb, focused my mind on getting round and set off again. It was the most zen 8k I’ve ever ran. I just switched off, enjoyed the views and the woodland stretches, and made it to the finish line – 2 mins quicker than my last pb. Take that, hill!

elevation

This year, I was set up to take a similar approach – this is a course route to be enjoyed not just completed. I would do whatever I had to to get up that hill just so I could run the rest of it again. As it happens, my memories of the hill from last year had made it much steeper than I found it this year with something to look forward to. It was still there, still a hill, and still long, but it was conquerable. Get it out the way and you can enjoy the rest. Get up it any way you have to – run, jog, power-walk, walk, stagger, crawl. It’s ONE hill and then you’re onto ‘undulating’ :) That’s your reward.

I loved every minute of this year – even the hill. I don’t actually know where the first 3km went before they seemed to be behind me. It felt like it took so much less time than the year before. I had my eye on another Bounder vest that had left me behind by the 7km mark at the Gateshead Trail and I was determined to keep it in sight at the very least this time! There were quite a few of us there this year, and more on the half and full marathon courses for Sunday.

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(Photo stolen from Beryl)

One of the things that reminded me how special this route was to me last year, was how well I remembered it – I’d done it once and haven’t been back on my own since, but I remembered stretches of it like I’d been there last week. Many races have stretches of spectators cheering you on at stretches, the route at Leaplish Park doesn’t really lend itself to this – the marshals are great for waving you on, but the spectators tend to stay at the start/finish area. It makes this a really quiet course – there’s no traffic noise, most runners were in their own little worlds or concentrating on keeping their breathing steady, even the wildlife was quiet (which in the case of the last of the midges was a blessing!).

Just in case you’ve gotten a little too zen with me in the woods, the course will bring you back into race mode in the last 3km – wake up for those last few short hills, the photographer’s watching, you’re pretty sure you can see the finish line marquees around that last corner of the lake, it really can’t be far now, you must be nearly there! Nah, you have to go round this corner through the woods first – but it’s OK, because there’s motivating music playing at you! You can hear the guy on the tannoy cheering people across the finish line! He’s saying your name! Do you have a sprint finish left in your legs before you turn into a jelly pile in the finisher’s tent? Of course you do! Even if it’s just to get you across the line that little bit sooner. You made it. You’ve just completed a run that will become your favourite 10k course – if it doesn’t, you need to share because you’re obviously running somewhere incredibly special and I want in on it!

 

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Seriously, most visible person in Northumberland in this.

Kielder medals are always fab, and if you’d been there this year you’d have this bad boy to hang up when you got home. This year, they’re really looking out for you coming into the winter too – your apparel swag is a bright orange t-shirt, no-one is going to miss you coming, and maybe if you were really unlucky that ‘Steep Decline’ sign will remind you of an inadvertent tumble on the gravel – I know there were one or two skinned knees across the weekend this year! You can run this in road shoes (I did – intact!) – the paths are good and firm, but trail shoes can give you just that little bit of extra grip on any loose gravel sections!

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(Photo stolen from Beryl)

We all made it round just about in one piece (a few dents and a broken watch between us); bananas, drinks and Mars bars all round! I can also really recommend the cake tent – I filled my face with orange sponge and it was delicious – and all homemade too!

Have you signed up for 2016 yet?! Because you really should! See you there!