Category Archives: Race Reports

Greater Manchester Marathon


Report submitted by Stuart Smith

The Event Greater Manchester Marathon
Overall Score (out of a possible 35) 30
PB Potential 5+ – Proper PB course.
Atmosphere 3.75 – Well supported by the locals.
Organisation 4.0
Scenery 3.0 – Suburbs of Manchester.
Value for Money 4.0 – A lot cheaper than the GNR.
Beginner Friendliness 5.0 – That’s if a Marathon is ever friendly.
Club Support & Social 4.0 – Not many supporting but Ab Fab were mint as were the rest of the supporting Bounders, and must mention our friends from Elvet, they are always good for cross club support.
In Short Really well organised and a cracker for anyone wanting to try Marathon running for the first time.

Bit of Background

 I entered this race with the ambition of running somewhere around 3:45 and getting a PB, as I had been told it was extremely flat and well worth a try. However, following bloody tonsillitis and being flattened at five weeks to go, ambitions were reassessed and I nearly didn’t run – but as our kid said, turn up with a smile, run and enjoy – and that’s what I did. Only other thing to add was after the Racecourse marathon, training changed – all “junk miles” were ditched and it was Stewy’s sessions on a Thursday, and if I couldn’t make that, it was Colin’s/Ian’s on a Wednesday.

The Route

The route claims to be the flattest marathon in the UK, and I have to say, apart from the Town Moor, it’s the flattest one I’ve done – even flatter than Edinburgh. The route goes through the suburbs of Greater Manchester, including Trafford, Sale, Carrington, Urmston, Stretford and Altringham. It’s lined with lots of support along most of the run, with intermittent bands and music being played which always helps. I did join in to an impromptu rendition of ‘Living on a Prayer’ but I still can’t sing for toffee and haven’t got the hair of a rock star anymore.

The Run

There were a few of us running – Amanda, Bianca, Aidan, and Caroline. As I headed to the start line I bumped into Caroline and Mike, she was in the same zone as me with the rest just behind. Caroline hasn’t been able to train much, so a massive “well done” to her for ‘Rocking’ up and running in a very, very, respectable finishing time.

We were off. I don’t really remember much of the route as all training things considered I was in the zone and just wanted to get round, but there are some things that stick in my mind.

Trying to stay with the 3:45 pacer for as long as I could, he disappeared into the distance just after half way!!! Grrrrr!!!

Mike Swainson and the “Camera Lady” (you know who you are) popping up everywhere.

Great support from Ab Fab and Jillian, and also just about remember the Dempseys at half way with the Bounders flags.

Reaching around 16 miles and hearing behind me a shout of go on “Blackhill”, this turned out to be Aidan who was just behind me at this point and I had no idea who it was.

Reaching 18 miles and wondering why I was still skipping along.

Getting to 19 miles and thinking reckon I could do over thirty today and become an ultra runner.

Getting to 20 miles looking at my Garmin and thinking **** me I’m heading for under four hours, which I never expected.

Getting to around 24/25 miles and seeing Jules and Ellie – what a lift!  Old Trafford never seemed to be getting any nearer!

Seeing Amanda and Bianca at the end, smiling, with two cracking times and a non alcoholic lager. The non alcoholic thing? Couldn’t bring myself to try it.


Excellent event, and well done to the other runners – fantastic effort. I ended up just under 3 minutes of my PB, there will always be another marathon to crack that. I’ve now done 5 marathons in 18 months since joining the Bounders, and would like to say thanks to everyone who I have run with and to those who have helped with training.

Just a couple of special mentions to wor kid, Amanda, Dave Anderson, Aidan Hughes and of course General Ian Young (yes, Sweet Cheeks, you’ve been promoted – Legend) for all the help in the early days, and for all the continued advice, and of course to Stewy’s sessions they are the business!

Next Target – Kielder.


Stuart Smith – 3:54:47

Bianca McElrue – 3:56:22

Amanda Phillips – 3:56:29

Aidan Huges – 4:05:22

Caroline Burdon – 4:16:55

All You Need to Know About Taking Part in Cross Country – By Neil Capstick


The X Country Season and its Part in my Downfall

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!

Great Winter Run – Edinburgh 5k – Sunday 11th January, 2015

winter run 2

Report submitted by Fiona Carvell

The Race Great Winter Run – Edinburgh 5k
Overall Score 4
Please score the following categories out of 5  
PB Potential 3
Atmosphere 4
Organisation 5
Scenery 5
Value for Money 5
Beginner Friendliness 5
Club Support & Social 3 – only us two Bounders, but we made the best of it!
Tell us more… A big hill, 40mph wind, hailstones and slush. Great!
In Short Fiona B & Fiona C take on Arthurs Seat
In FullThe sky was clear at 9am in Edinburgh on the morning of the run, but winds continued to whip through the city and it was very, very cold. I had persuaded hubby James to accompany me and make the run the start to a Edinburgh weekender minus kids, so we’d be looking forward to it!

This was the first time I had done this run and so didn’t quite know what to expect, but with recent improvements on my 5k times, I was feeling confident and looking forward to the views from the top.

James and I met Fiona Bell by the loos (as you do) near the start with her parents, who already looked half frozen. Much debate, changing of layers and clothing and taking of obligatory pre-race photos and we were set to start.

The ‘warm-up’ session ensured our limbs did not freeze and were still semi-moveable before heading off to make the climb. The atmosphere was good, if a little muted by the temperature; runners shivering and shifting with grim smiles. This was the first time I actually wanted to be wearing the fancy dress rabbit outfit in front of me. Did he know something I didn’t?

The first section is a gradual climb up around Arthurs Seat of around 1.5 miles, before levelling off and then going back down. Fiona B and I decided we’d take it easy for the climb up, see how we felt at the top and then kick. Going up, the 40mph wind was behind us and we kept each other going with pace checks and were doing well. Just before we reached the highest point, we were greeted by the sound of tambourines, played by a small, blue-lipped boy and his father.

They smiled and rattled as we passed.

“Hard bit done now Fi,” I said. Fiona B grunted a positive response as we shifted gear and headed into the flat.

I was wrong.

With the change of direction, the wind now blew towards us, which grew in strength as we headed towards our final decent. The sky darkened and snow , which had been gradually building since the start of the race, now took a nasty turn. “There’s the finish”, said Fiona B as she pushed on ahead of me. I felt ice pummel my face – tiny, sharp hailstones, “Go on Fiona!”, I yelled, but it was lost in the roar of wind as Edinburgh disappeared in a swirl of grey and white.

Through one eye I could see other runners adopting the same running position as me; slightly bent over, head down, hands on either side of the face and for a moment I forgot about running and just felt very pissed off with the Scottish weather. I had not been able to feel my legs for some time but now my feet experienced a new sensation as icy water seeped into my trainers. Looking down, the path was covered in slush and the hailstones softened to fat, wet, globs.

Being a Consett lass, with anti-freeze in her veins, Fiona B had the good sense to kick like hell and get out of it as quickly as possible. I could see her ahead of me and tried to push on, looking for James amongst the spectators, as I figured he must be finished by now.

“Go on Fi!”, I heard him yell, and just caught sight of the Bell family, now apparently completely frozen and motionless next to him. The end was in sight and the ordeal almost over. My Garmin said 35:18, which I was delighted about, but the official chip time later read 39 mins, which I was disappointed with to be honest. Fiona B finished in an excellent 35:01 and James managed just over 27 minutes.

This was the first of the Great Run series to be presented by the new sponsors – Morrisons, which may have been why the goody bag at the end was as full as a weekly shop. Copious amounts of chocolate, cereal bars, drinks, energy packs, massage gels as well as long sleeved t-shirt and medal.

It was an experience- the course is great and it would have been better if the weather had not been so rotten and yes, I will do it next year – not just to settle the time difference, but to see if wearing a rabbit suit for a 5k race would actually be beneficial.


winter run 3