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Windy Gyle Fell Race Plus Extra Trot

Windy Gyle Trot

It’s 18th June and the temperature is the highest recorded of the year so far. Blue skies above and very little wind in the valley mean that the meeting point just north of Barrowburn in the Coquet Valley was particularly warm. Today I’m out with North of Tyne Mountain Rescue covering the Windy Gyle Fell Race. Organised by Phil Green and his crew from Heaton Harriers, it could be viewed as a special kind of hot weather torture on this occassion. A proper fell race with rugged hills and no nonsense running.

Windy Gyle Fell Race

Having come back to vague fitness I thought it would be a good idea to sweep run and had friend Paul Eggleston Brown join me for the loop. Soon enough the cars arrived and there was very little in the way of nervous pre-run chatter. That tells me that everyone here is pretty capable and this 8 mile course will be despatched nice and quickly. Some familiar faces are in the crowd with Mr Speedy himself John Butters alongside Richard Garland and others.

10:30 rolled around and Phil’s gun was shooting blanks as legs started pumping off to the first hill. Eventually the gun gives a crack and surprises some of the people towards the back of the grid. Trooping off down the road we were soon heading on to dirt tracks as we hooked up with the Border County Ride heading north towards Murder Cleugh. If you thought I did evil starts then I have nothing on Phil Green! This section is midway in the Breamish Behemoth and as any rider will tell you it’s an absolute leg burner.

Near the top of this came the first retiree with a strained calf muscle. He now had the joy of sitting in the sun and watching proceedings. Meanwhile we’d caught up with a lady who was feeling a bit wiped out but was cajoled into continuing by her friends. Having climbed the first super steep hill it would have been rude not to continue so she pressed on. Soon we reached Kev and co at checkpoint 1, opened a few gates and hit the second rather nasty hill of the day.

We’d slowed to a walk here and intercepted a runner coming back the other way who was feeling a bit tired. He was soon talked back into it and soon enough he set off up to the summit with renewed vigour. Once we’d all reached the summit of Windy Gyle it was effectively all down hill from there. However, getting to that summt is a bit of a pain as the steep gradient is held for a solid 300m and lactic acid is building up. Eventually it’s panoramic views in all directions as the high pressure allows for the famous views. It’s not hard to see who I include this spot is so many events.

After a brief chat with Rachel, Mark and his daughter it was time to get going. The fact that they were up on this high summit in just t-shirts and shorts told you everything you needed to know about the weather. Now the ladies we had been walking with had seen the descent and were off running again. Paul and I stopped to chat to a few Pennine Way walkers who were out in force and having a great time. Crossing over to The Street we paused to chat with Stef and co manning checkpoint 3 before heading off down to Slymefoot.

To get there the track is essentially downhill but with a few little undulations thrown in to keep people on their toes. To tired legs these undulations are like mountains and some spare water was dished out to keep people going. Psychology is a wonderful thing though and with the final rise conquoured the finish could clearly be seen and the runners legs sprung into action. The stifling heat brought out the sweat and by the time we reached the team Land Rover the race was run and everyone accounted for. £305 was raised and duly donated to North of Tyne – many thanks Phil and co for their selfless efforts. Plenty of runners took the chance to cool off in the river and that was noted for later.

Not satisfied with the Windy Gyle Fell race the aim was always to head out for another trot to get the miles in. As everyone headed off Paul and I plotted a route which incorporated some of the best tracks in the area. We’d jog down the road, cross over the river at Wedders Leap and then circuvent the massive bulk of Shillhope Law using the sheep track opposite the road. This tight little track needs concentration as it weaves in and out of ferns, long grass and plenty of decent sized rocks and escarpments. We passed a couple of good swimming points and took the opportunity to stick our hats in the water and get cooled off a bit.

shillhope circular

We joined the road south of Bygate and pressed on to Shillmoor farm. Our options were up and over Shillhope Law or keep it steady up Usway Burn. Given that the Usway Burn is one of the greatest little sweeping valleys in the Cheviots it was an easy choice. After a quick trot it was clear Paul was feeling the heat and the strain of running so it was time to cool down. About 50m short of the first bridge a lively natural spa was located and soon we’d dunked ourselves in it. The water was cool but in no way cold and I could have stayed there for a long time. The water crashed in off the rocks and created a natural bubble bath which revitalised the soul and the soles.

Duely rested it was time to press on. The sun dried us out in about ten minutes and given that this track is one huge gradual ascent it would be rude not to run most of it and only walk when needed. Rounding Battlesheil the track turned to grass and we closed in and crossed the section with a nice drop down to the left. We came across two mountain bikers heading the other way and reminded me of why this is in the Breamish Behemoth. I watched closely as they came unstuck at that one tricky off camber rock drop whihc ALWAYS catches me out. It’s reassuring to know that others struggle with it as well.

Into the trees and some light relief from the sun. Trees give atmosphere as they work the light, splitting its rays and making them dance around on the floor. A small breeze kept any midges at bay and before long we’d guided ourselves through the last chunks of rock sprawling across the path and popped out at the white house of Fairhaugh. As witnessed at the last Clennell Colossus, there’s some serious forestry operations going on here at present. A sign of a constantly evolving landscape and a brief look back at what this place used to look like before the land was aquired for trees.

We strolled up to the Fairhaugh gate that sits not too far from Kyloe Shin. A now familiar track leading down to The Deer Hut and Barrowburn beyond unfolded. My body was feeling strong so we’d agreed to finish this at our own pace and I set off running down the hill. Sheep made a deliberate effort to run down the hill and trip me up instead of just stepping off the side of the track. I’m pretty sure they get training for this. After slipping through the accommodation I stopped for an intellectual chat with the Barrowburn pigs. Passers by clearly were not as fluent as I in the art of snorting and cast some questioning glances.

A short jog up the road back to the car and a wait for Paul to return. As soon as he showed up we joined three others having a dip in the river and cooled down. Like the old people we are becoming, we lamented the fact that kids should do more of this and less staring at screens. That was a perfect finish to a lovely 17 miles of running. My feet were blistered but then again they always are. A chilled can of coke from Clennell Hall filled our stomachs and then we headed off back to home having filled our heads with more great Cheviot memories.

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Skye Trail Ultra 2017

“I’m only going as far as Portree.”

Oh how those words would come back at me. I had in fact decided that going as far as Portree would be my limit and with good reason. Not long after the 2016 Skye Trail Ultra I came down with quinsy that literally knocked me off my feet. The following 11 months were a series of bad respiritory related illnesses including some rather serious stuff that involved hospital time. A month prior to the Skye Trail Ultra and I could barely walk up the stairs without being knackered.

And then it happened. A tiny chink of recovery and my body started to come back to life. My sights were shifted from just marshaling at Skye to doing the first section and then marshaling. The Duntulm to Portree section is nails so even to do this I set about training like a madman without over doing it. Three weeks of pretty much back to back training sessions followed by a week off before the trip.

Let’s just review what it’s all about.  69 miles (more like 74), lots and lots of climbing and seemingly all in the first 22 miles, self navigated ultra on remote Skye.

Somewhere deep down there must have been a hope that my body could go further because I dutifully packed food for all the checkpoints. Spare socks (a must), spare t-shirt (they all got stinky) and boat loads of food. Ultras really are just one long picnic. The car was fully loaded and with child care arrangements made I looked forward to the journey north of the border.

I’d forgotten just how far away Skye bloody is! Bad traffic on the A9 slowed things further and eventually after 8 hours of solid driving I pulled up at Broadford hotel just in time. The delightful Jeff Smith was briefing runners on the course and lots of keenly interested faces looked on. Little phrases I remembered from last year were picked out such as “you might die here” and “don’t fall off the 500 foot cliff”. All the little titbits you need to know :-)

After a catch up with Jeff, Patricia, Fiona and her sister it was time to try and get some sleep. Like many people, my mind works overtime the night before a big event. Crossing to the other side of the island I parked at the inlet near Torrin alongside a few other campers. The group next to me were on the beers and chatting all night. The thought of shoving one of those bottles up their jacksie to shut them up did go through my mind. At some time around 11:30pm, under the shadow of Bla Bhienn, I got to sleep.

Beep beep. Beep beep. 1:30am and the alarm is going off. The mind is not working as I’m wondering what I’m doing here sleeping in the back of my car. Oh yeah, a little run down Skye. Whipping on the shorts and kit for the day I headed back to the village hall to be met by similarly tired faces. A huge drive followed by next to no sleep and then straight into a nearly 3 hour coach trip to Duntulm to begin a 74 mile run back to Broadford. Yeah…sleep will be an issue.

The runners on the way up were all in good spirits and they all looked in very good shape. The darkness was beginning to lift and all the talk was about the weather changing later in the day. The info signs on the way in reminded us of the amber weather warning for the area. However, at 5am in the morning in northern Skye the air was clear and the Hebrides were seen clear as day just over the water. A customary count from Jeff and then we were off and on our way.

Due to lack of fitness I’d preformed a planin my head. It was called: slow. As the rest of the pack headed off into the distance I turned my own wick down to minimum with a slow jog and then set off after them. Luckily two ladies had exactly the same idea and I settled just being in front of them. The start is lovely. Jog along a road, hook a right and then Jeff points you across a marsh filled field towards the first climb of the day. The boggy ground reminded me of home in the Cheviots so no great shakes. It was here I met a scouser who termed the phrase “my bum is pulling tongues” when we mentioned we both needed the toilet. Classic.

Skye Trail Ultra

A steady walk up Sron Vourlin reminded meof when I saw an eagle here last year. 12 months ago I was one of the first up here. This year I’m one of the last. Never mind, all part of the plan. A bit further along the top and it was time to drop down into the Quirang and get past The Needle. If Carlsberg did stunning starts to ultras then this would be it. By the time we popped out at the road to see the marshals I’ll admit to feeling completely shattered and could not envisage even getting to Portree.

Skye Trail ultra

What’s next? Oh yeah the Trotternish Ridge. I LOVE it! It’s brutal and drains the legs but it’s also stunning, atmospheric and on days like this there are stunning views. Patricia’s Rassay seemed like it was in touching distance. Looking back there were mighty cliff faces, looking forward it was just the same. The ridge is like one mad practical joke. Take a series of huge mountains, let the runner be able to see the next one but then tell them you need to go really far down before you get to go up again. And repeat but make the hills bigger each and every time until finally you’re faced with The Storr.

In keeping with the strategy I zig-zagged my way up the Storr at walking pace, neevr trying to have my heart beating out my chest. After bumping in to Neil MacRitchie and another marshal the summit reared into view along with a group of walkers who must have though “what the feck are you doing?”. After taking 5 at the top I set off towards Ben Dearg only to bump into another runner at the bottom who ha dbeen searching for water. His girlfriend is an Asian lass called Emma but I can’t recall his. We had both a lusting for plain water after the sickly taste of energy drinks in the hot sun. I left his contemplating his life choices before setting off.

Skye Trail ultra

Ben Dearg is a place of fear from last year. In 2016 I didn’t traverse along enough and headed up the shale covered side only to end up semi crag fast as it was so steep and loose. This year I could see the guy in front of me taking a straight line up the side, teetering above the sheer drop on the left whilst standing on shale that could give way at any point. I sat with my heart in my mouth and waited until he was safely at the top before continuing around the long (but safe) way.

I’d actually mentally blocked the next bit. It must have been so insufferable last time that my mind went into complete denial. 3 miles of, no other way to put it, shite. Ferns, clumps of long grass and bog do their best to suck you permanently into the peat bogs of the area. Eventually I just set a course for where I knew it would end and straight lined it. Popping out on to the road resulted in a minor celebration and a bit of a dance.

Running down and through Portree is surreal. You’re on this mad endurance test with sweat coming out of every oriface and the place is packed with tourists wandering this way and that. I have come to the conclusion that Chinese tourists simply have no concept of spacial awareness as I nearly ran several over. Out the other side and on to the checkpoint. The first leg had been done in extreme heat but eventually the temperature cooled when I hit the checkpoint. The reception was friendly as usual and after an assessment of my fitness I decided to continue to Slig to recce the route for next year. My legs were OK and a slow shuffle would get my round the headland no problem I reckoned.

The rain started to spit at I wandered through the tidal area onto a long road section. In the distance was another runner called Ruiridh (will call him Big R from now on) who little would I know it would play a big part in the rest of the journey. I caught him at a junction before Peinachorrain and we chatted for a while. He was young but looked fit and had a good sense of humour. Having already told him I was pulling out at Slig he went on ahead.

Turning the corner at the headland and seeing Slig was both a joy and a curse. My ultimate phsychological battle is when you can see your objective but it never seems to get any closer! There’s a spot on the West Highland Way after Kinlochleven just like it. Negative thoughts pervade my mind and it’s hard to snap out of it. By the time I hit to campsite next to Slig I’d caught big R again and we arrived together. He looked knackered but determined to press on. I don’t know if it was him looking so knackered that gave me heart or if I was worried about him doing a night section with some dangerous bits in near Elgol. Whatever it was, I changed my mind and pressed on.

The Slig Glen is stunning. There’s no other way to describe it. A solid track takes you to places that only your feet can get you. Towering mountains on both sies and though the gaps you can make out the cuillins standing imperiously just out of reach. Big R and I discussed the need to get a shift on through the glen so that we’d hit the scary stuff before Elgol with some light. This we did and the stretch after Camasunary was some of the scariest stuff I’ve done. I don’t have a head for heights and this stretch involved a steep hill on your left, fresh air and a huge drop on your right and a tiny sheep track. Ducking in and out of trees I was actually delighted to get down to that bloody shore and start the final bit to Elgol. A small bit of navigating and we were at the checkpoint.

I actually remember manning this checkpoint with Karen last year after I’d pulled out with a dodgy knee. She was an absolute superstar and whilst big R took on several strong coffees I resupplied my food, socks and batteries. Blisters were becoming an issue and several plasters were applied. Wierdly my body was fellng stronger now than it did at the start and the decision had been made to press on to the end. With some final advice from Karen the pair of us set out into the night.

This is where it all slowed down. A walk up and past the transmission tower was easy and soon we had hit the off road sections past Glasnikile and Drinan. The rain started getting heavier and the wind was picking up. Every time we stopped a swarm of bastard bloody sucking medges would descend on us. Unfortunatey this was also the time when big R’s body was just about shutting down. Stops were frequent, his leg and hip causing massive pain and on more than one occassion he was fast asleep in the middle of the road in the dead on night in the pouring rain. Becoming even more concerned for him, encouragement was needed to get to the final checkpoint.

A full crew awaited us, guided in by a flashing light and a lovely warm campervan. Big R fell asleep as soon as he sat down and stayed that way for 25 minutes. I ate, drank a lovely hot coffee and restocked for the final leg. The marshals talked big R into doing the final section and so it was that we and our new friend Andy the sweep guided us in. Predictably it turned into a long, slow walk but it did give plenty of time to chat with Andy who is incredibly knowledgable about the area. It’s history and geogrpahy were well covered.

Boreraig would have been interesting to find in the dark but otherwise navigation was simple as the track led all the way back to Broadford. Big R dragged his knackered, bruised and battered body all the way to the finish and deserved massive respect for doing so. For myself it was a pleasure finishing the run but there was a little bit of me wanting to put the record straight for taking so long. If all things go well and the I stay healthy then I’ll be back to do exactly that next year.

In summary the Skye Trail Ultra is just amazing. The views are stunning and if you can just hang on in after the first section over the Trotternish Ridge then you have a cracking chance of completing the whole thing. Given the slow strategy I had hardly seen anyone all day other then big R and the marshals. The scenery is just fantastic and the super enthusiastic marshals help you in every which way they can. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a proepr challenge in their life.

Any tips? If you can navigate then you don’t really need to do a recce. I never felt lost once. Take boat loads of food and eat as often as you can. Have a plan at the start and stick to it – pacing is important so don’t get drawn into the speed of the person in front. Take spare socks and blister kit – my feet were wrecked by the end. Plan to sleep somewhere local as you really don’t want to try and drive home afterwards.

Tahnks again to Jeff and all the team for seeing me through the full distance. After all, I only wanted to go to Portree.

Thrunton Thriller ’17 – What A Day!

It’s the end of the 2016 Thrunton Thriller as everyone has left after an exhilarating run through the trees, high routes and low routes of Thrunton Woods. The event had sold out with 200 people and it was clear that it’s current setup has some logistical constrains, in particular around parking. It also took over the main public car park and blocked access for any other users. And so it was decided that to allow more people to participate in this flagship trail run some deep thinking was needed.

Step up Mr Jonathan Farries, local beat officer for the Forestry Commission. The north road ha been identified as being slightly wider than all the others and due to its length it could accommodate a large number of vehicles. Some people would have a nice long walk to register but as the saying goes: the early bird gets the worm! A limit of 400 runners was set in place as a test for 2017 and we were off and running. 2 months were left on the clock and entries slammed shut.

The altered location meant that the routes needed to be reviewed. Clearly the description of the distances mean little to me as the actual distances can vary quite a bit. However, the quality of the overall run and the way it strings together is very important. Having a good knowledge of the area and doing some further exploratory sessions revealed a route which I was more than happy with.

Fast forward to the weekend of the event and it’s time to stop the months of planning and move into the delivery phase. Fellow organiser Paul Kemp and friends Paul Eggleston Brown and Mick Barker were on hand for a spot of course marking and marquee erection. I would have said this is the “erection team” but something about that doesn’t sound quite right :-) With the marquee now in place it was now a matter of getting all the gear setup and thanks goes to Dad for bringing up an extra load of stuff in his car.

Walking the route is something I always enjoy when setting up. The thought that a load of marauding trail runners will soon be ploughing their way through the same tracks makes me smile. Crossing the river and seeing the mud bank brough out a chuckle for sure. The weather decided to rain all day but eventually there was about 500 markers out on the course in the form of either yellow signs or red and white tape. Fingers crossed that no-one needed a map.

Eggers cooked some serious stakes in the marquee with the radio on and after a chat and a hot chocolate (rock and roll) it was time to get comfortable on a nice gravel and mud combo floor. My dog Bob cosied in beside me and we listened as the wind picked up and blew hard against the sides. Given such loud noises from the wind and the rain sleep was at a premium. However, I didn’t mind this too much as the pitter-patter of precipitation against the roof were remarkably soothing.

Steak time

5:30am and the alarm goes off. Time to get up and get started with final prep before runners start turning up. Marshals start arriving and the workload is spread out with the planning docuemnt taking care of pre-defined roles. It wasn’t long until the first runner turned up and I could get to see first hand what the parking was going to be like. Very sensibly they parked as far over as they could and it was evident that there would be loads of space for vehicles to come in and out.

Within an hour the arrival of cars had become a steady stream and it was nice to walk past so many smiling faces on my way in the opposite direction. Some were familiar and others were new and everyone was equally welcome. My cousin Alan Wilson did a sterling job of getting everyone parked up as soon as possible when they came in so many thanks to him for that.  David Wilson, chief radio man, got to take my car through the forest for some 4×4 action.

Thrunton Thriller 17

I wandered off to chat with Mountain Rescue and meet the medics who were meeting at the usual public car park. After a few phone calls all was well and the event could take place. I headed back down to the marquee area and was delighted to see so many people kitted up and ready for action. The queue to the toilets was not so long and various heads were seen bobbing in the trees as alternative toilets were found. A 15 minute delay was enforced to give people more of a chance to reach the start area from their cars.

Over the barking of the dogs the safety briefing was nice and short. The time was set and the marshals headed off into place to deliver the news that when it came to directions. The countdown was on. Nervous anticipation was in the air. For those who conquered last years run it all about the challenge. For newbies it was a step into the unknown.

3 2 1 and “go” said the kids which initiated 345 runners to set off down the road on their own journeys. The two distances split early on with the short route having a bit of forest track action before an early start learnign the art of muddy ascents. The long route gained a surprise section at the start which was akin to the forests of Cambodia. Had I not mentioned the required machete in the mandatory kit list? After slip-sliding through here everyone was back on the forest trails and going up the same hill as the short route.

Thrunton Thriller 17

I love that first hill leading up to Thrunton Crags. It resembles the Endor forest in Star Wars and I expect a few Ewoks to come pouncing out at any time. The climbs begins with a gentle climb that is lined with rocks and mud. This is just a precursor to the real deal as the path turns sharply right and reveals a gradient fit only for those with grappling hooks and ropes. Heart rates were sent soaring and anyone who thought this would be a PB day now had this thought well and truly blown out of the water.

Eventually the gaggle of runners popped out at the top to be greeted by Helen Kemp and her dog Tilly. A quick point of an arm sent people on a most welcome gentle down hill before bike marshal Keith Fawcett delivered the crushing blow of another ascent. Not too long this time and only until you saw bike marshal Mick Barker who was the man to guide you all the way from here to the first check point.

The trails to checkpoint one are a technical trail runners delight. Bounding down mountain bike tracks, your eyes constantly searching for the next place to stop a foot. Watching out for roots and rocks that can have you flat on your face in an instant. At the same time avoiding tree branches that reached out to scrape your face and legs. I adore these sections and a huge thanks needs to be given to Thrunton Trail Builders who make and maintain them.

In 2016 cehckpoint 1 was a mere distraction as most runners thundered past and on with their day. This year it was the place to be with Brian Kemp dishing out water, sweets ans flapjacks like they were going out of fashion. Water needed to be resupplied as you got through so much of it! The other marshal George Wilson positioned himself just inside the trees on the other side of the river and snapped away as people tackled the muddy river bank with looks of shock and anquish plastered on their faces.

Thrunton Thriller 17

People who refuelled at checkpoint one were wise to do so. What followed was appropriately named the “Hill of Doom”, a long winding journey of increasing severity that eventually popped out onto the crags some 200m higher up than when you started. I’d imagined that a few of those flapjacks eaten at the foot of the hill were thinking about working their way back up.

The darkness of the trees came into stark contrast as the open moorland of the rocky crags revealed themselves. Jim Imber was positioned on high and smiled at all the runners who ran, walked or crawled on their way past. To the right was a fantastic vista of the mighty Cheviots in the distance. Hedgehope, Cheviot and Bloodybush prominent on the skyline. The moisture in the air even created a beautiful rainbow as captured by a few pics I’ve seen on social media. The end of the rainbow seemed to indicate the pot of gold lay somewhere in the bogs just before checkpoint 2.

High up on these crags the wind had found its force and blew with vigour into the faces of the runners. This time mud mingled with heather and rock so only the brave or the foolish would be looking up at the scenery for too long. It’s a nice long trot along the top but all good things must come to an end. After passing Mark Stephenson people dropped off the rather steep western end of the crags and tip-toed their way down to the valley. This track is a proper muddy dream but only a gentle pre-cursor of what was to come.

Thrunton thriller 17

Crossing the river and dragging yourself up the side of a fence was only just to get you back to the edge of the forest. The up hill section has had its fair share of erosion with ruts forming all over the place. Luckily the ground is fairly solid and some decent progress can be made. As for the next bit however, the same cannot be said.

You can’t beat a it of bog to get people laughing at themselves. Even the most seasoned of runners such as John Butters have an inner grin when faced with something that really tests people. The undulating ground is dotted with wet patches that can consume a full lower leg and I’m betting more than a few people found this out first hand. The worst of it happens as checkpoint 2 comes within touching distance and by the time bedraggled runners reached David Wilson, his some and Lucy Imber they were in need of some refreshment!

Checkpoint 2 is where the two routes split once more. The short route deviate straight past the tent then to the left whilst the long route took a right turn and headed once more into the valley. The long section is a bit of a beautiful bonus as the mud strewn pathway arcs its way downwards and running can be come rhythmical and fast. Touching the bottom of the valley people had to take a sharp left and traverse treacle esque mud before popping back onto the solid forest tracks.

This firm base was not to last long though. Brian and George had the delightful task of pointing people off into the trees once more as runners had to battle their way up a mountain bike trail. A route had been set through the myriad of trails that had people scanning and searching for the next marker. Sunlight couldn’t penetrate in here and it wasn’t until a clearing half way through before illumination joined the party. Scrambling up a few rocks was the final task before the relief of seeing the lovely long forest track.

Thrunton Thriller 17

It’s exactly this kind of long frest track that sucks the life out of me. One where you can see it miles off into the distance and it never seems to get any bloody nearer! The Allendale Challenge has a stretch just like it. Runners trundled along, probably grateful for the switch to firm ground and then arrived back at the checkpoint tent to meet back up with the short route.

Following on from the checkpoint 2 tent was a section that can best be described as “off a cliff”. To tackle this the main ingredient was a sense of humour and some good solid grip on your shoes. I had the pleasure of walking back up this and had a few choice comments from those coming the other way. Luckily the majority of people shimmied down the steep banks and stayed upright.

Thrunton Thriller 17

From here it was just a mere kilometre to the finish. There was a report of a sign missing, a right turn that led to a handful of people doing an extra loop which was the reverse of the start for the long route. I have no explantion why this happened. I put the yellow sign in place myself after the runners went through and when I received a call on the radio about runners saying they had took a wrong turn i went down and checked it and it was still there. It may have fallen over and someone put it back in place or maybe two signs are needed next time. Whatever the explanation, I apologise for those who burnt those extra calories.

As suspected by regular High Fell Events participants there would be a sting in the tail. My cousin Alan had the delightful task of delivering the news to already tired souls. By some miracle no-one punched him in the face and everyone took on the challenge of the final forest slog. There was no track to follow, just join up the dots of the markers and suddenly pop out at the finish line and your day was done.

The fast people came in spread out but soon enough the momentum gathered and a stream of runners piled into the marquee area. Little Alfie dished out the medals as Drew Swinburne and Debra Hedley took the timings. A lot of people chose to stay and watch people emerge out of the shrubbery at the finish area, others chose to collect their t-shirts from Allison Kemp and Alison Chalk (Cotswold Outdoors). Most people made a bee line for the coffee and cake served by Yvonne Kemp and Eileen Wilson and a well earned rest.

The final places were a bit confused and I didn’t figure this out until after. This only effected the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of half marathon and one of the age categories but the evening after the run I received several emails from people saying they had switched distances or allowed someone else to run in their place and the replacement was a different category. No wonder I was confused! Merrell, Mountain Fuel and Cotswold Outdoors all supplied extra pries so many thanks to them. Pedaling Squares supplied free coffee leaflets and who doesn’t love free coffee?

As the organiser it’s this finish area that I very rarely get to see. It was excellent to stop and chat with a runners to find out what they liked and didn’t like. Some of the personal stories are always good and seeing the camaraderie from club members such as the Vegan Runners or AHRC lifts my spirits.

Thrunton Thriller 17

A massive well done to all involved. You took on one of the regions most technical and challenging half marathons and kicked its butt. There were no doubt a few tired legs afterwards but that’s all part of the event. I wonder how many people will be back to tame Thrunton once again next year and I wonder if I can think of any more sneaky endings?

When the place was deserted of runners the clean up commenced. I say clean up but it should more appropriately be named mu-up as everywhere was covered in a think layer of gloopy mud laced with sand from the forest track. My brother Paul, Alan, Eileen, Yvonne, Brian and George dismantled the marquee in super quick time and piled it in the back of my car. It’s safe to say it needs another outing to be cleaned! After several hours all the cars were packed to the roof and it was time to leave. Some kit would have to be picked up the net day but for now it was time for a well earned rest.

The following day I headed back alone. There is something serene and satisfying about the day after. The kit was quickly cleared and the toilets picked up by Nixon Hire. All that was left was to walk the course and clear the signs. Most had been collected already by Mark Stephenson, Mick Barker and the sweeps for the day Andrew Clark and his wife. Tracking over the route I look down at the footprints and imagine what it’s been like for those who ran through here the previous day. On Monday I had similar views and sat several times to appreciate just how beautiful the place is.

After a long walk with the dog we had completed the loop and that was it for another year. A donation has been made to the Thrunton Trail Builders and I need to repeat that the mountain bike trails used in this event are not for the general public – please keep off them. The whole High Fell Events team and everyone else concerned hopes you had an excellent day out and enjoyed the running. If you have any feedback or suggested changes for next year please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Now how do I find a neck deep mud pit for next year…

If you liked the Thrunton Thriller then take a look at the Cragside Cracker in October as it has similar terrain.  For runs on the open fells have a look at the Ingram Trail Run or the Clennell Trail Run.

Results can be found here:

Merrell All Out Crush and All Out Charge

Mud, and water, an ever present in trail running, how you footwear deals with it can make the experience wholly more or less enjoyable. The All Out Crush from Merrell is designed not to keep the water out; because that’s inevitable surely, but to deal with mud and water efficiently. This is achieved through a quick drying mesh upper and drainage ports on either side of the shoe. At 218 grams per half pair it’s one of the lightest shoes in Merrell’s range. This lightweight minimalist design promotes speed and mobility while the rock plate and toe cap offer protection from impact and trail debris. This shoe is designed for tearing up softer ground such as hillside wooded trails, and off piste. Uses range from obstacle course racing and competition running, to trails and mid-distance running events.

Merrell All Out Crush

For the more defined trails the Merrell All Out Charge offers more stability for a neutral running style while still performing on the trail and when it gets muddy. The HyperWrap 360 Fit System of the Merrell All Out Charge keeps the foot in place for agility and natural stability, as well as allowing a more efficient stride by keeping the foot in contact with the shoe.

Merrell All Out Charge

These trail shoes from Merrell utilise M- Select Grip outsoles specifically designed to deliver durable performance and traction with specialized angled lugs releasing dirt on the move. The stacked circular lugs on the All Out Charge are spaced to disperse debris and enable quick directional changes. As are the softer pinwheel lugs of the All Out Crush.

Both these shoes are built upon Merrell’s Unique Unifly midsole. Unifly technology consist of a resilient EVA foam midsole to reduce compression and enhance the shoes performance lifespan, as well as significantly reducing weight. This is coupled with shock pods placed in the heel and forefoot contact zones, to disperse impact and increase connectivity. Unifly aims to be soft against the ground for cushioning and terrain absorption, and firm against the foot for stability and agility.

The Merrell All Out Crush and All Out Charge have that out the box comfort synonymous with Merrell footwear but are of a minimalist design, no air cushion here, this means great responsiveness and feel when on the move promoting a more natural style. Merrell also caters for the ethically conscious of us with these styles being fully Vegan friendly in there construction.

The particular products illustrating this article have been used on moorland trails, muddy hillside and wooded rooty tracks around the North Yorkshire Moors National Park over the last 5 months.

These Shoes and other Merrell products will be at High Fell Event’s Thrunton Thriller on the 19th of March 2017 along with some Technical Reps to offer advice on the latest gear from Merrell.

See these products and the full range at www.merrell.com.

Merrell Trail Shoes

Thrunton Thriller T-Shirts

A very exciting post this one.  Maybe not.  Everyone gets a medal but t-shirts were an optional extra.

Here is a list of all entrants on whether they ordered a t-shirt or not.  Blank spaces did not.

Participant First Name Participant Last Name T-Shirt Size
Jona Aal
Alison Ainsley Small
Aaron Aisbitt Large
Jill Anderson Medium
Steve Anderson Large
James Andrews
Chris Appleby
Paul Appleby Medium
Paul Archer Small
Milly Archibald
Vicky Armitage Medium
Darren Armstrong
Caroline Armstrong
David Asquith Large
Sid Astbury
Heather Bacon
James Bailand Small
Lisa Baker
Caroline Balsdon Medium
Paul Banks Medium
Matthew Banner Extra Large
Jennifer Barnes Small
Emma Barnett
Lisa Baston Small
Jason Bateman Large
Glenn Batey
Karl Baxter Large
Ailsa Beattie Small
Martin Bell Large
April Bell Small
Paul Bellingham Medium
Marnie Bennett Medium
Colin Best
Tricia Best Medium
James Bewley
Caroline Billis
Suzette Birch Small
Alastair Black
Hannah Blacknell
Gary Blanks
David Bond
Alison Bone Medium
Laura Bothoms Large
Amy Bound Small
Lyn Boyle
Gemma Bradley
Craig Bradshaw
Joanne Brannen Small
Vikki Brewer Small
Tara Broadfoot Medium
Anthony Brockbank Medium
Kim Bronze
Ian Brooks
Belinda Brown Small
Nick Brown
Lalage Brown Small
David Brown
Greg Brown
Michael Brown
Jane Buckingham
Howard Buckingham
Tony Bullock Medium
Helen Bullock Small
Julie Burns Medium
John Butters
Kate Butterworth Small
Ann Byers Extra Large
Greg Cameron Medium
Mairi Campbell
Karen Campbell Small
David Canner Medium
Katherine Carman
Alison Chalk
Chris Chase
Louise Chicken Medium
Samantha Clappison Medium
Emma Clark
Scott Clelland Large
Krista Clubb Small
Shelley Coates
Andrew Cobb Large
Ellen Cole
Christopher Coleman Medium
Jamie Collin Medium
Deborah Collins Small
Georgia Collins
Julie Collinson Small
Nichola Conlon
Sharon Cook Small
Alex Cook Medium
Julie Cook
Paula Cromar Medium
Martyn Crooks Medium
Jason Crosby
Andrew Cruddas
John Culpin
Victoria Curry
Vanessa Cutter
Lee Daglish
Alan Dalgarno Large
Tamela Davison
Kyle Day Medium
Frances Dembele Small
John Dennis
Vicki Deritis
Claire Diamond-Howe
Julie Dick Small
Ian Dixon
Jon Dixon Medium
Corrinne Dockwray
Charlotte Dodds Small
Paul Dolphin Medium
Maureen Donkin Small
Clare Douglas Small
Lee Drummond Large
Bill Duff Large
Andrew Duggan Extra Large
Julie Dumpleton
Lucy Dunlop Small
Nicola Dunn
Christopher Dunn
Matthew Dutton
Sue Edwards Extra Large
Carl Ellison Extra Large
Anthony Erskine
Alys Evans
Peter Ewart Medium
Rich Fawcett Small
Michelle Fawcett Small
Mark Ferg Large
Catherine Fish
Haydn Ford Medium
Chris Ford
Colin Foster Large
Vincent Foster Medium
Martin France
Mitchell Fraser
Rosie Frater
Lindsay Freeman Small
Anna French Small
Jenny Friend
Nathan Fuller Medium
Stefan Gabor Medium
Richard Garland Medium
David Garrick Large
Jessica Garrick Small
Julie Gascoigne Medium
Johannes Gausden Medium
Jeanette Geldart
Melanie George
Graeme Gidney Medium
Nicholas Gilbert Medium
Paul Gillen Medium
David Gilroy Medium
David Gilthorpe Extra Extra Large
Jenny Glossop Medium
Kelly Grady
Ian Graham
Andrew Graham Small
Shirley Gravett Small
Phil Green
Ian Grey
Laura Grundy Small
Kevin Gunn
Joyce Guthrie Small
David Haigh
James Halton Large
Paul Hamilton Large
Blair Hamilton Medium
Neil Hamilton Small
Tasmin Hardy Medium
Matthew Hargraves Medium
John Harris
Steve Haswell Extra Large
Alison Havery Medium
Jason Heads
Lee Hemlsey Large
Kelly Henretty Large
Amy Herdman Small
Kurt Heron Small
Andrew Hewitt Large
Tom Hill Small
Clare Hiscok Small
Leah Hobson Medium
Kerry Hodgson Medium
Wendy Hodgson Medium
Dieter Hofmann
Victoria Holliday Large
Richard Holloway Medium
Mike Hoppe
Barry Hornsby Extra Extra Large
Colin Horton Small
Michael Howe
Nigel Howitt
Angela Huddleston Small
Yvonne Huebner
James Humberstone
William Humphrey Large
Fabian Hurbin Large
Andrew Hutton Medium
Berit Inkster
Jane Irvine Medium
Philip Irwin Medium
Catherine Isaac Small
Keith Jackson Large
Bernie James Small
Alison Janes
Nina Jensen
Terni Jhooti Medium
Kirsten Johnson
Alan Johnson
Steven Johnson Medium
Jackie Johnson
Philip Johnston Large
Emy Jones Small
Chris Jones Extra Large
Duncan Jordan
Alexa Jury
Christopher Kell
Lorna Kelly Small
Luke Kennedy Medium
Richard Kent
Reece Kesson
Sarah Kidd
Craig Kingston Extra Large
Richard Kirby
Andrea Kirton Small
Gary Knox Medium
Philip Kreczak
Aileen Lambie Small
Camilla Lauren-Maatta Small
Jackie Law Small
Tracey Lawman-Charters Medium
Lesley Leeson
Gary Leonard Medium
Nicola Leonard Small
Paul Lewington
Sarah Lewington
Michael Lewis Medium
Graham Lewis-Dale
Suzanne Lewis-Dale
Mark Linsley Medium
Wendy Little
Michael Lloyd Large
Maxine Lock
Stephen Locker Medium
Catarina Loureiro
Vicky Lowrie Small
Joanne Lucking
Philip Luscombe Large
Chris Macdonald Extra Large
Sonya Macdonald Small
Nicola Macdonald Medium
Martin MacDonald
Helen Macpherson Small
Ian Maddison
Adam Malloy
Marc Marce Medium
Lynsey Marcon Small
Gary Mason Extra Large
David Massie Medium
Suzanne Mavir Small
Martin Mawer Medium
Andrew Maxwell
Emma Mcclurey
Simon McClurey
Becky McCormick
Paddy McDonald
Fran McGrath Large
Bob McKay
Elaine McKechnie Small
Sharon McKee
Norrie McKinley Large
John McLean Medium
Michael McNally Medium
Frank Mcpartland
Vicky Meaby Medium
Graeme Mearns
Ben Miglinczy Large
Joanne Mitchinson Small
Paul Mitchison Large
David Moore Large
Kate Mosettig Small
Eric Murphy Medium
Frances Naylor Medium
Tim Neighbour Large
Bob Neill
Ian Nesbitt Extra Large
James Nettleton
Lynsey Nichol Small
Debra Nichol Medium
Darren Nicholson
Debbie Noble
Sean O’Brien Extra Large
Robert O’Connor
David O’Farrell Medium
Hilary O’Shea
Peter Oldham
Lynne Parlett Small
Joanne Parnaby Small
Carol Parry Small
Garry Paxton Medium
Duncan Paylor Large
Martin Paylor Large
Jack Pellew Large
Andrew Pennington Large
Stacey Pope Medium
Ivor Potter Medium
Tony Priest
Darren Prime Large
Andrew Pringle Large
Christopher Pringle
Steve Proud
Richard Purdy
Michael Rafferty Medium
Iain Ralphson Medium
Andy Reay
Alice Redfern Small
Gill Rice
Audrey Richardson Large
Colin Ridgway Medium
James Roake
Tara Robb Small
Andrew Robertshaw
Ross Robertson Large
Andy Robertson Large
Thomas Robshaw
John Robson Medium
Jo Robson Small
David Rochester Large
Tom Rogers
Nicola Roper
Benjamin Ross Medium
Elaine Rudman Small
Mark Rutherford Large
Ryan Sample
David Sanders
Emma Sanderson Large
Stephen Sayer Medium
Jennifer Scarlett Small
Derek Scott Large
Shaun Scott Extra Large
Gemma Scott Small
Garry Scott Large
Jenny Search
Karen Shaw Small
Brian Shiel Large
Ryan Shiel Medium
Ian Sills
Jane Sills Medium
Rebecca Amy Simpson Medium
Duncan Simpson Medium
Adele Sinclair Small
Michelle Smart Medium
Judith Smith Medium
Allan Smith
Andy Smith
Tim Snowdon Extra Large
Adele Southern Small
Karen Spence
Karen Spencer Small
Rachael Spowart Medium
Will Stageman
Cheryl Stanley
Rachael Steel Small
Mel Steer
Lynn Stephenson Medium
Lee Stephenson
Ian Stephenson Extra Large
Mike Steven
Wim Stevenson Medium
Jakki Stewart
Janice Stewart Small
Sharon Storey Large
Peter Storey
Steven Studley
George Surrey
Lyndsey Surrey
Kerry Swindon Medium
Lisa Tang
David Telford Extra Extra Large
Alice Tetley-Paul
Leahn Theedam Parry Medium
James Thompson Medium
John Thompson Medium
Lee Thompson Large
Julie Thompson Small
Graeme Thompson Medium
Gemma Thompson Medium
Stephen Thompson
Craig Thomson Medium
John Tollitt Small
Iain Turnbull Large
Lindsay Turnbull
Ian Turnbull Medium
Kerri Turner Large
David Turpin
Liz Turrell Medium
Garry Twist Medium
Libby Unsworth
Alan Unsworth
Jacinta Wake Small
Clare Walker Small
Liz Wallace Small
Alan Wallace
Gillian Wallace Small
Elaine Walls
Adam Walton Large
Scott Watson Medium
Carole Watt Large
Deborah Watts
Helen Weatherall
Robbie Weir Large
Clare Weir
John Welford Large
Sarah Welsh Medium
Holly White
Kris White Large
Sally Wilkinson Small
Sally Williams Medium
Owen Williams
Steve Williams
Gareth Williams Large
Megan Williams
Lee Williams
Michael Williams
Deborah Williams
Mark Wilson Medium
Claire Wood
Neil Wood-Mitchell
Jason Woodhouse Large
Nancy Worsley Medium
Edwin Wright Large
Christopher Wright Extra Large
Paul Yeadon Medium
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Thrunton Bits n Bobs

Here are a couple of bits of info for the Thrunton Thriller I’m getting out early.  Don’t worry though, they’ll be covered again in the info pack.

1. Parking

As many of you will be aware parking using the regular Thrunton car park was a bit of a hassle last year.  We restricted the numbers to 200 for that exact reason.  It also meant that the general public could not park in the main car park area as we had completely taken it over!  We’re sold out again but this time it’s 400+ runners lined up for the challenge so after a bit of a long sit down with the Forestry Commission the decision was taken to move the start/finish area and make the event self contained within a certain park of the woods.  This area is behind a locked FC gate so if you want to have a look you’ll need to use those legs of yours.

The map below shows a map of basic parking info:

Thrunton parking

Points to note:

  1. The majority of people will be in the main parking are marked above.  This is a wide forest track.  You will need to park your cars as far to one side as possible to allow other vehicles to pass in the opposite direction at the end of the event (or emergency vehicles).  Cars and campervans only here please.  Parking staff will point you to a suitable spot – please do not pick a place for yourself as you may well block other traffic.
  2. Extra large vehicles will need to go to the area marked “PARKING AREA 2″ on the map.  This is actually just the usual car park.  Motorhomes will block access if they go down the main parking forest track so they are required to park in parking area 2.
  3. The start/finish area is at the end of the main parking forest track.  The earlier you get there, the closer you will be.
  4. Share cars if possible.
  5. Parking opens 7am onwards.

2. Prizes

There are going to be a lot more prizes on offer this year for age categories.  There are shown below and are for both distances:

  • 1st, 2nd, 3rd male
  • 1st, 2nd 3rd female
  • 1st MV40
  • 1st FV40
  • 1st MV50
  • 1st FV50
  • 1st MV60
  • 1st FV60
  • 1st MV70 (no female 70+ entered)

The presentation will be made, subject to no incidents requiring attention,  at 1pm when the majority of runners are back.  This will be at the start/finish area in the marquee.  I realise a few people will be waiting around for some time so we will have some hot drinks for sale along with some cakes cooked by a local small company.

Hedgehope Winter Wipeout report by Mountain Fuel

The prizes were presented by Rupert Bonington, owner of Mountain Fuel nutrition.  Here is his take on the Hedgehope run:

Rupert Bonnington - Mountain Fuel

Rupert Bonnington – Mountain Fuel

Being based in the Lakes and surrounded by arguably some of the best running hills in the country it’s a hard task to get us to travel outside of the county for a race. However a combination of Barry asking Mountain Fuel to be nutrition sponsor and a desire to see how boggy the Cheviots really can be we decided it would be worth the 2 1/2 hour drive and we were not disappointed.

As we drove to Ingram we were a little worried as we couldn’t see many hills and we wondered if the route would suit your road runners more than a fell runner however we then saw the Cheviots hills and while they weren’t as steep as we were used to there was enough climb in them to slow down those speedy road runners :-)

The atmosphere at the start was nice and relaxed and everyone was happily chatting away and raring to go. Looking around, if I was going to comment I would suggest to those that are new to the fells you soon get warmed up when you hit the hills and over heating drains your energy levels. I would consider starting off feeling a little chilly, a tee or long sleeve with hat and gloves is often enough even on a day with minus temperatures as long as there is no wind. You can always quickly put your jacket on if you haven’t warmed up after the first hill.

The race itself was tough, we like our hills in the Lakes and we do have our boggy bits but the relentless bog and heather hopping made for a hard run and scramble in places. The temperature change too as you climbed up Hedgehope certainly perked you up too and hats off to the marshals at the top.

Mark Lamb - Mountain Fuel

Winner: Mark Lamb – Mountain Fuel

The marshals definitely need a thank you they gave ots of great encouragement and support, which is all very welcome when your legs are burning. My only complaint was that when I asked for a piggy back no one took me up on the request!

Once we’d reached the top it was all down hill (well nearly) but often descending can be tougher going than climbing, especially on your quads. The slippy, slidey descent was fun but you had to keep your concentration the whole time to avoid a muddy slide! I quite enjoy out and backs as you get to congratulate and encourage runners who are ahead and those that are still on the way out. Despite this being a seriously tough challenge everyone had an encouraging word to say and that for me makes a great event.

The finish, well what can we say! I’m sure it surprised more than just me, first time through the river I was up to my waist and I thought, that’s a l’al bit fresh… haha and then I looked ahead and saw there were two more crossings. I’ve never finished a race with such clean trainers and legs so thank you Barry, that was a nice touch albeit a tad chilly. Next year if you could please make sure the hot tap is on too that would be appreciated :-)

Lee Newton - Mountain Fuel

Lee Newton – Mountain Fuel

Well done to Barry, the marshals and all the competitors. Not forgetting the cafe staff and their nice hot soup which was a good touch too; top day and look forward to coming back again next year.

I’d just like to finish with, don’t forget to give your Mountain Fuel samples a go and if you like it make the most of your 15% discount by using the code ‘HighFellEvents’ at the check out ( www.mountainfuel.co.uk ). We’re not a big faceless brand, we’re based in the Lake District and live and breathe what we do, have a look at our website for reviews and the rest of the products and if you love a good running video in the hills check out our facebook page for inspiration

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Hexhamshire Hobble 2016

I’ve always wanted to do the Hexham Hobble but it’s nearly always clashed with something else so I could never get along.  Well not this year!  With Phil Green confirming that entries could be made on the day then the only thing left to do was turn up and run it.  Cohort for the day was Paul Eggleston Brown who was training for some crazy Pen Y Fan challenge in Jan.

The journey way about an hour and it’s always a pleasure driving through the North Pennines AONB.  It could easily be considered quite bleak but I find a certain beauty and romance to such exposed and remote terrain.  It’s places like this where the weather will not tolerate fools gladly.  On this occasion however there was no snow on the hills and the temperature was cool but nothing to worry about.  The signs were good.

Adam Malloy n friendsThe event takes place at the first school within Allendale.  It’s not unusual to be here having completed the Allendale Challenge on many occasions.  Parking was painless and soon we were inside the school hall ready for some registration action.  After a strict kit check we then had a coffee which would have ramifications as the event grew closer.  With an hour to kill it was nice to see plenty of familiar faces on show with Phil Green, Paul Appleby, Jon Butters, Adam Malloy, Chris Chase, Mike Gill and many, many more.

The clock ticked closer to 11 and it was time to strip off and prepare for the run.  T-shirt with a thin waterproof on top and some gloves was enough to deal with conditions today.  Keys and phone were locked in the bag and the only thing left was to lose some ballast from the bladder.  And here is the afore mentioned ramification – the coffee needed to get out and there were a very limited number of toilets for 150 people.  So myself, Appleby and Peter Reed found an external sprinkling point to reach running weight.

The safety briefing was full of strict rules and consequences but once out of the way all runners streamed out of the hall to the start line.  We were there for no more than 30 seconds and then it was time to get moving.  Anyone who has done the Allendale Challenge will know about the long and steep descent back into the Allendale at the end of the run.  Well this time we were running up it and it didn’t take long before some people had opted to walk.  that may well be a wise strategy but for today I was determined to run the whole route so stuck my head down and chugged away.

hexham_hobble_routeOnce up the road we all hooked a left onto a bridleway that lasted for 3 miles or so.  Personally it’s way more preferable to dance across this stony and boggy ground than a flat open track.  By now the leaders were way out of sight and I was sitting into a comfortable mid to -back of pack position.  Still the track went onwards and upwards and to be honest my body was in a sense of shock and trying to figure out why it was suddenly having to work so hard.

Hitting the first checkpoint was a relief as the short bit of wide track once more gave way to some small singletrack.  This traverse across to the checkpoint 2 suited me well with people leaping from rock to rock and avoiding deep bogs.  Great fun if ever there was!  This was to be the last of the tricky stuff as following on from checkpoint 2 was a stretch of road.  Although downhill it was a psychological blow and my pace dropped a little.  The tarmac ended with a cruel short but sharp hill and at the summit was a finger post stating 3 miles to Allendale.

With the end within sniffing distance it was time to make use of the long legs and stretch things out.  Clearly not enough stretching was being done as a short lady came flying past.  After this it was a solo run all the way to the finish and although there are no results at the time of writing my phone said I’d taken just over 1:40.  I’ll take that even though it’s 30+ minutes behind winner Jon Butters!  The route was excellent, the weather could not have been better and the marshals were tip top.  I hung around with a coffee to see Paul come in beaming from ear to ear.  He’s more than prepared for his next challenge.

Prizes were handed out inside and Northumberland Fell runners had a very strong showing taking 1st male, 1st female, 1st male team and 1st female team.  Once the day was done Paul and I headed into Allendale square to the tea rooms to donate to the local economy.  Suitable sustained it was time for the journey home.  The legs will need a good soak tonight.  Paul Appleby suggested doing the Simonside Cairns fell race next weekend.  Erm…maybe.

Cragside 2016

The wonder of Cragside! Given the fact that the weather destroyed the 2015 event it was a great relief to see good weather lined up a few days prior to the Cragside Christmas Cracker Fun Trail run this year. When setting the route on on Saturday the air was so calm there was a picture perfect reflection in the lakes at the top end of the route. But enough of the setting up, it’s the big day people are interested in.

I was up in the dark at around 5:30am and left from Clennell Hall to arrive nice and early at Cragside. There was a nip in the air but the anticipation of a great day was palpable. More helpers arrived on the scene and soon Jim Imber was off putting up some feather flags, Joanne Richardson setting up the registration tables and plenty of other people buzzing this way and that. Head ranger Duncan was up and about and couldn’t have been more helpful if he tried.

Christmas cracker turkeyOn the car side of the lake the first headlights were pulling into the Cragside Estate and making their way up to the main car park. Soon enough the first runners were signing on and walkign away with their numbers all ready for action. I wonder how many just went back to their cars and fell straight asleep! It was lovely to catch up with old friends and new and superb to see so many people in fancy dress: Christmas turkeys, Michael Jackson, reindeers etc etc. Top effort everyone!

The minutes counted down and registration seemed to take forever to me. After the crisis of toilet queues (the same everywhere) all runners made it out to the front and edged closer to the off. The safety briefing was delivered and with a whiz pop bang my daughter Lucy got everyone away and the hordes of runners charged off up the road and round the lake.

To see so many people go by was heartening. The human snake spread out further with the fast runners steaming off past the exit and rythmically striding their way up towards the house. The slower ones found their own pace and stuck with it. The only competition on this day was with yourself.

After the classic stone arches of the house the runners had a hundred metres of road to contend with before seeing Clare Douglas and diving left and letting the fun begin. The first single track was a nice and long and suitably juicy section all the way up to Cragend. A solid rock start game way to more mud and roots as the track wound its way around the southern edge of the estate before eventually popping people out at the edge of Cragend car park and the Sheperds Hut.

The small hut from years gone by was just a fleeting sight as now muddy feet scrambled for grip on their way up to the Boat House. By this point I’m guessing runners had twigged as to what kind of terrain was on offer here. The kind that needs attention and the ability to pick a line from a picture of gloopy mud, unstable rocks and randomly placed roots. Once out of here you were greeted by the smiling faces of Andrea and Graham Pogson who guided you on a lovely loop up to the old dam that held in the water for the old boating lake. This is the same dam that burst during Armstongs years and flooded Rothbury.

After that short loop a stretch of road sent revellers up to the lakes for a trot around the edges. By this time the sun had warmed things up and the views on offer were pretty special. Not that runners needed any warming up, the inner glow brought on by effort now in full effect. A full circuit of the route ended in crossing the road and hitting the feed station.

Now feed stations should stick in peoples minds. Yvonne Kemp goes to extraordinary lengths with home cooking and a huge range of sweets, nuts and fruit to ticle your fancy. Gluten free and vegan options are also available. Plenty of people stopped to stuff their faces and chat to Joanne and Keith Fawcett who manned the spot whilst the kids played in the park.

From the feed station things got a bit serious in the centre section of the run. Dropping down via Trim Trail it was all about hooking up a number of the inner trails to form one flowing track. Up and down with a short bit of level. Repeat. Throw in some cracking stone climbs and plenty of mud and surely it was time to smile. The real ball acher was the when you ran down a path and saw people a long way in front of you coming back up the other way. Special. At least marshal Jim Imber was there to laugh at you.

Floating around the edge of the Labrynth runners then scated over the top of the rocks before diving past Paul Egglestone Brown into the small track alongside the Flume. One of the many wonders of the estate, it’s a marvel of engineering. That it may be but it is also a very clarty path and I stopped for a while to see people slipping and sliding their way up the track at the end. Paul Appleby sent you through the car park and down a root filled spiral to Moorside car park where Brian Kemp waited to point you down the road.

Cragside runnersNo matter how many times you tell people, they never believe the phrase “it’s all down hill from here”. I can appreciate the sceptical side in people and those who have done past events know there is always the chance of something evil lurking near the end. This time however there was no such sting in the tail and soon the runners had turned back into the trails where Clare once more pointed people down hill and momentum took its course all the way to the finish line.

Through the feather flags and then a medal was put round peoples necks and t-shirts could then be found in the cafe area. The most pleasing part of any event is to see smiles and a sense of achievement. It doesn’t matter of you’re a dedicated runner or walked the whole thing, everyone who takes part in something like this has proven something only to themselves.

The feedback following the run was incredibly positive and that includes that from the Cragside team themsevles. David Wilson was sweep and clearing the route and didn’t find a single bit of litter all the way round – a massive thanks for not dropping any. Talks will start soon on arranging the 2017 event and I look forward to seeing you all again next year.

Simonside Fell Race

Simonside Fell RaceIf you’re looking for a running fix then you can do worse than to take on the Simonside Fell Race on 17th September. Part of the Thropton show (another good reason to go) it provides a huge variety of terrain as you plot as straight a line as possible to the nearby jutting crags of Simonside from Thropton. Not for the faint hearted we may add as along the way you will confront two river crossings, super steep slimbs and bambi-on-ice style descents should you want to go quickly.

As usual on these races you’ll get a friendly atmosphere as local runners from all clubs turn up for a good days run. Afterwards you can search out the nearest food stall or maybe slip into the beer tent for some rehydration. Whatever you fancy, your legs will know they’ve had a good session in them there hills!