Ben Nevis Race Report

Ben NevisAs the year draws to a close it’s a good time to reflect on the past years running achievements and look forward to next years. Signing off this year is a race report from Iain Armstrong from the Ben Nevis Fell Race he completed earlier in the year – hope you enjoy it and happy new year to everyone.


Saturday 6th September 2014


Ascent/descent – 1300m (approx)


Distance 9 miles (approx)


I had always fancied doing this race as it is one of the “classic” fell races. So, in January I got my entry in as soon as possible (the race always fills up straight away).


This gave me plenty of time to train doing a few fell races over the Spring and Summer along with a lot of training.


The good thing about this race is that it provides an opportunity to stay for a few days in the Highlands with the family and we had a good few days in the Fort William area.


The race starts from the football ground (Claggan Park) in Fort William, with a lap of the pitch then a mile or so along the road to the foot of the mountain, straight up to the summit and back again. Sounds simple but you have to remember that Fort William is at sea level so you have the full 1300m climb to the summit and all the way back!


Arriving for registration there was a real buzz about the place, with lots of runners hanging around and other events going on such as a Shinty match! Picked up my “goody bag” which included a t-shirt and best of all a miniature bottle of whisky which I was tempted to take a swig of to give me some bravado for the race! Conditions were pretty good with it having stopped raining shortly before the start and temperatures being coolish. However, the tops were all shrouded in cloud.


Anyway, to the race and first of all you have to march behind a pipe band to the start line in true Braveheart style, then the starting gun went and we were off! The first section of the race is pretty easy running along the road and the initial climb up the mountain is not too steep and pretty runnable although there are some sections of scrambling up earth banks to cut out the switchbacks of the path.


At around 600 metres you cross the Red Burn at just under halfway up. From here the race route leaves the main footpath which has a gentler gradient and goes directly up very steep ground. From here it is hands on knees and trying to ignore your screaming lungs and calves! The ground is very rough with a mixture of scree and boulders. My stomach sank at the thought of having to run down this!


Nearer the top you start to see the leading runners haring down at breakneck speed which gets the adrenaline pumping even further! A around 1100 metres the gradient starts to ease off which made going a bit easier, although you feel the full force of the wind, and I was able to run the rest of the way to the summit before handing my race band into the marshall and heading straight back down.


Now comes the hardest part of the race and I tried to put in action the fell runners mantra for running downhill fast – “brakes off, brain off”! Unfortunately I had my first fall on the first steep section after the summit which resulted in a couple of spectacular rolls and some nice cuts and bruises. Fortunately no real damage done and I got down to the Red Burn ok on the very difficult ground. After the Red Burn you descend the famous “grassy bank” which is exactly as described but with a ridiculously steep gradient. I managed this section mostly by my newly found method of sliding down on my backside!


I was then back to the main tourist path and had my second fall when I embarrassingly went over spectacularly in front of a handful of alarmed tourists going up and down the mountain at a more sedate pace! Again, thankfully there was no real damage apart from some more cuts and some wounded pride. It was then a simple run back to the road. I had been warned about the road section on the descent by Keith Wood with stories of legs turning to jelly after the stress of the descent! Thankfully I coped better than I expected and reeled in a few other runners in the mile or so back to the finish.


I felt a good sense of pride at the finish, particularly being proud of my “war wounds” and having to visit the first aid tent to get my cuts cleaned up. My finishing time was 2 hours 57 minutes which achieved my aim of getting under 3 hours but I still had a niggling disappointment as I felt I could have got closer to 2 hours 30 with better descending and starting nearer the front as the field gets bunched.


Anyway, I would thoroughly recommend this race, great atmosphere and camaraderie amongst the runners plus immense satisfaction of going up and down the highest mountain in the British Isles!


Member Profiles : Becky and Lyndsey



This artice is the first of a number of member profiles so that hopefully everyone in the club gets the chance to know each other a little better.
First up Becky Horsefal and Lyndsey Stephenson
1. How long have you been running?

Lyndsey:  I started running on my own just over 10 years ago and I could barely make it 100 yards without being out of breath.  But I stuck at it and kept going out every couple of days until I built it up to a mile, then 3 mile, then 5 and then eventually my first race – the Great North Run in 2005.  Since then I have always continued to run regularly.
Becky: I started running in 2008 when I was training for my first Great North Run. I was studying hard at the time and wanted something to help me ‘switch off’ and also keep fit. Before this I hadn’t really run before and I agree with Lyndsey – it’s hard at first but with every time you go out it gets that little bit easier. I’ve been running regularly ever since to varying degrees.


2. Why did you start running?
Lyndsey: initially is started running as I wanted to lose weight, but then I actually wanted to be able to say that I could run.  Running is never as easy as people think it and you have to work very hard to keep it up.
Becky: As mentioned it was to get fit and as a form of stress relief. I find running a great tension buster and I almost always feel better even if I’ve been out for a short run. Having a goal, like the Great North Run, helps to keep motivated in the early days. As Lyndsey mentioned it is hard at first when you feel your legs won’t carry you and you can’t get your breath. However, it does get easier and it bring a great sense of achievement.


3. Why did you join the club?
Lyndsey: My husband ran with the club already and his running had improved massively so I wanted to give it a try.  Another thing for me was to have some company whilst running and to feel safe on dark nights as you are always with a crowd of people.  The biggest bonus for me joining the club is not that I have improved my running (which I have) but that I have made some brilliant friends.
Becky: My husband was also part of the club and it was really making a real difference to his running. I joined in October, when I find it particularly hard to get motivated to run on dark nights. I thought joining the club would be an incentive to get myself out in the winter months and it did the trick! The sessions go so much quicker when you run with a group. As well as focusing on your running you get to catch up with friends and all of a sudden running in the dark doesn’t seem such a chore anymore!


4. What is your greatest running achievement?
Lyndsey: I never thought it possible that I would be able to run a marathon, but people at the club believed that I could so I set myself the challenge of running the Edinburgh Marathon in May 2014.  It was a lot of hard work and very time consuming, but I completed it in sub 4 hours so I was over the moon.  A real achievement for me.
Becky: I did my first Great North Run in 1 hour 50 and it felt so amazing! I couldn’t believe what I had achieved. I also did my first Harrier League Cross Country season last year which I was proud of as I hated cross country at school. Turning up at the start line was a big achievement in itself and I found it to be strangely enjoyable!


5. An interesting non running fact about yourself?
Lyndsey: I’m a very keen baker so running has always helped me be able to have that extra slice of cake!
Becky: That’s really hard! I’m obsessed with budgies and totally freaked out by baked beans?


6. You are both pregnant, how has your running been affected?
Lyndsey:  The first trimester was very hard as I felt sickly and tired and my running suffered.  It was also extra hard as I couldn’t tell people why!  But once the first trimester was out of the way, I felt much better and my running continued – I am not as fast as I was and I cannot always do all the efforts, hills or sprints but I am still managing to run a couple of times per week.
Becky:The first twelve weeks were difficult for me and it was a struggle. I found that I was tired, nauseous and dizzy. However, I kept coming to the club as I knew I would be well looked after even if people didn’t know in the early days. At 18 weeks pregnant I’ve moved on from that stage and find it easier to run although I am slowing down with the extra weight. However, everyone is really supportive at the club so it isn’t an issue.


7. Is it safe to run whilst pregnant and how long can you run for?
Lyndsey: One of the first things I checked when I found out I was pregnant was whether it was still safe and yes it is.  As I was a runner already it was fine to continue.  The medical advice is to just be sensible and not work to the point where you feel light headed or faint.  In fact, the doctors say that running whilst pregnant is better for Mum and for baby!
Becky: My midwife advised that if I’ve run previously I am fine to carry on as long as I take it easy and listen t my body. The general advice for exercise in pregnancy is not to start a sport for the first time and no contact sport for obvious reasons. I’ve read that as long as you can still hold a conversation when running then this is the right intensity. If I’m too out of breath to talk I need to slow down!


8. How long will you continue to run before the baby is born?
Lyndsey:  I’m nearly 28 weeks now and managing OK at the moment, I can feel that I get a little slower each week, but I plan to run for as long as I can.  The midwife has said that I am fine to run for as long as I can and that is what I plan to do.  And the best thing is that there are two doctors who run at the club and a crowd of people who look out for you each night.  I feel completely safe.
Becky: Lyndsey is an inspiration and I hope to follow her example. I hope to run as long as I can. Running during pregnancy is meant to be good for the birth and my post-birth recovery so will keep at it. Everyone is supportive at the club and looks after me so that’s really reassuring.


9. Any plans for running after the baby?
Lyndsey: I’m looking at running prams so fingers crossed I will get back to it as soon as I can.  But I’m under no illusion that things will change a lot in my life so I plan to just try and go with the flow.

Becky: I was training hard for this years Harrier League cross country season before I found out I was pregnant. The start of the league coincided with my worst pregnancy symptoms so decided to give it a miss all together. I hope to build up the running slowly after the birth and with an aim to do at least one cross country next season. That’s the plan anyway – we’ll see how it goes!

Saltwell 10k Team Results

Mens Teams


Mens Vet Teams


Ladies Teams


Unclaimed prizes


Lesley Jackson Bell PB Fitness 1st V50F
Judith Thirlwell Sunderland Harriers & AC 1st V40F
Philip Sanderson Elswick 1st V45M


The above runners have until 31st January 2015 to claim their prize.


Please contact Graham Harrison to make arrangements to
collect your prize.


Ross Anderson number 77 has been disqualified for wearing a club vest vest
and entering as a UKA club member when he is not registered as a UKA club
member. Disqualification decision made by race referee.



Saltwell 10k Race Report

10474669_777328915676103_5355137534274415971_nToday was my 33rd and final race of the year, and it was a race I wanted to do well in. This was the first race I entered back when I started running again in 2009 (before I joined the club) and I also ran it last year.


I wasn’t aiming for a specific time, it’s definitely not a PB course and I knew there was no chance I’d beat the 35:41 I ran on the town moor a few months back but it would be interesting to see how much slower this course was.


As we lined up I spotted Matt Alderson who I’ve ran with in a number of races and Parkruns so we got chatting. I’d say we are pretty evenly matched – I’ve beat him in a number of races and he’s beat me in a few. I think it’s always good to run against people you are evenly matched with as it generally makes you push and try that little bit harder to try and beat them – healthy competition is a great thing.


The race started and everyone was away, tearing up East Park Road and then turning into the park for the fast downhill section down to the lake. Matt started pulling away at this point and the gap between us was getting larger. I think that one of the most important skills to master in racing is to be able to hold back in the early stages of a race when you are still fresh and you may feel like you could push harder. This is increasingly important the longer the race, and critical in the marathon.


Having raced against Matt a number of times I knew he always starts the race fast, but then I’ve sometimes been able to catch him later in the race so I decided to let him go as there were plenty more miles to be ran at this point.


After the lake the race drops down into the Dene for another fast section before turning at the well the park derives its name from for the first hill. Some people like hills, others don’t and in this race there are 2 to negotiate on each lap.


I think there are a number skills you need to master in order to be run hills well. Firstly if you want to race hills then  you have to run hills in training, and a good reccie of the course beforehand is always helpful. Also, when you get to a hill you shouldn’t expect to be able to maintain the same pace that you are running on the flat – your pace will slow but your level of effort/intensity should be the same. A lot of people slow down once they reach the top of a hill, but the top of a hill is often followed by the best part of a hill – the descent. This is a good place to overtake other runners – you’ve worked hard to reach the top of a hill so don’t let people take you down on the descent.


The route then goes out of the park and turns up Joicey Road for the 2nd hill. Even though this hill is longer and higher than the first one it always seems easier to run as it’s not quite as steep and twisty so you can maintain a more even pace.


At this point I was starting to close the gap on Matt and I sensed he was tiring so I made a move to go past him as we ran along East Park Road back to the start again.


One of the great things about the race is the support of all the marshals around the course and it really helped me get through some of the tougher parts of the course. Well apart from Graeme telling me I was getting beat by a girl at one point. That girl was Aly Dixon though (and Rosie Smith) so I can’t complain about that 🙂


On the second lap I started to lap some of the other runners, one notably dressed as a Reindeer and I spotted someone else dressed as Spiderman.


I held my position for the next lap, but on the third as I ran down the downhill section to the lake I sensed another runner just behind me trying to overtake – I thought it must have been Matt as he was the only other runner I have overtook.


I then had to make a decision – should I try to stick with them, or let them go past. My competitive streak wanted to stick with them and not let them overtake me, however I was tiring at this point and it was becoming difficult to maintain my pace.


They went past and it wasn’t Matt, it was Ross Anderson. I’ve ran against Ross before in a parkrun and managed to hold him off that day (incidentally Matt wont the race). I sensed he was strong today though and had paced his race better than I had.


I tried to stick with him but he was away, and overtaking another runner in front of me before long.


After negotiating the hills for a final time it was back onto East Park Road for the final run into the finish. I tried to pick up my pace and catch the other runner in front of me now (Phil Sanderson). I gained a fair bit of ground on him in this stage, but as we went round the lake he also picked up his pace and I couldn’t quite catch him.


So I finished in 19th place in 36:44, a minute and 10 seconds faster than last year which I was happy with – I don’t think I could have ran it any faster on the day.


Nat came in 2nd Saltwell in 39:11, Scott 3rd in 41:32 and Gemma came in first lady (41:48), followed by Sarah (48:27) and Claire (53:34). Well done to all who ran on a tough course. I’d again like to thank all the marshalls for the fantastic support around the course, and everyone from the club who made the race possible.


Full results are at





Ronnie Walker Saltwell 10k

Start time 11.30am.
All runners should collect their race number from race registration which will be open from 10.00am and is located in the Pavilion on the Broadwalk in Saltwell  Park. Limited parking is available at Saltwell Park car park and Gateshead leisure centre.

Enjoy your race.

‘Strictly Come Hobbling’ or ‘Dancing on Allendale Common’: A report on the Hexhamshire Hobble

photo 2It was that time of year again … time to dust off the fell shoes, get out the buff, hat, gloves, waterproof (jacket and trousers), Saltwell vest, map and compass and head off to my favourite race of the year – The Hexhamshire Hobble.


This was a race I first ran in 2011 then again in 2012 so having missed a year, I was looking forward to once again ‘dancing’ on the common – which is so often what it feels like when you’re avoiding ice, bogs and deep water – well if that other favourite of mine could be a waltz (the Anniversary Waltz) why couldn’t this be a jive, samba or a cha cha?  There certainly felt like a lot of rhythmic change and careful placing of feet during the course of the run!


The day began with a rendezvous between myself, Jamie Ferguson – who kindly offered to drive us there (well … Leigh did on his behalf), Rob Brooks and Chris Kennedy.  As the temperature gauge dropped in the car, thoughts turned to the course, the possibility of snow, the strong winds and, of course, the fact that Jamie was only wearing shorts!


We arrived in good time to find Jim and Gemma already there.  They had been regaled with stories of how awful the course was this year – full of 7ft deep water holes and lots and lots of mud!  This was confirmed by other runners taking delight in telling us what lay ahead.


Thoughts then turned to what to wear. Should we start with the waterproof on or off?  That was the question.  Whether to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous weather (and Hamlet thought HE suffered!) or whether to cover up in full waterproof garb.  As Rob and I looked around, we realised that we felt positively underdressed.  And I was, at the time, looking like Dick Turpin with hat, gloves and full face cover!


The race began swiftly, after the obligatory Saltwell ‘before’ photo, and made its way out of the school field, down through the village and up and up and up and up on a tarmac hill towards Allendale Common.  It was freezing but I still hadn’t removed any clothing by the time we got to the top which is usually the case for me.  Confronted with mud and lots of water and stones and boulders, we picked our way up towards Stobb Cross then on towards Ladle Well where it was particularly muddy – multicoloured mud at that!

photo 3

As I began to approach Hangman Hill we experienced the beginnings of snow and the wind was becoming brutal.  It was hood up and push on time.  Jumping from one side of the water to another to avoid the boggy areas, it was difficult to look ahead to see what was coming.  I shouted my number to the marshal – 24 … it’s 24 –  who then shouted it to another marshal who had her back turned to protect her from the biting conditions.  A left turn took us along to King’s Law which saw blizzard conditions as we were running along through the heather.  Runners were regularly stopping to zip up coats, re acquaint themselves with their gloves and hats and fasten laces.  I was so pleased that there was someone in front of me with a bright red jacket so I could use that as a beacon in the whiteout.


photo 4

As we ran through the trenches between the heather, I managed to have my first fall of the day when I took my eye of the ground for a second and tripped over a large stone – not recommended!


By the time I had reached King’s Law, the sun had returned and I managed to have a chat with another runner who had run off road in other countries but was a first time hobbler.  She was looking much fitter than I felt.


The next part was a tarmac road which was a bit of relief before we reached the dreaded hill near to Westburnhope.  This was a killer!  Reaching the top, I heard someone say that we’d reached 7.5 miles … another 3 miles to go and the wind was now blowing me backwards – yes, you guessed … one step forwards, one step to the side and one step back … it was the waltz, at last!  Although it didn’t feel anywhere near as serene as a waltz and I certainly didn’t have that lovely straight upright core position that so many dancers have – more like the image of a bent over, knock kneed hag from Owen’s World War I poem, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’!


I struggled on as if in a drunken stupor then, at last, like a mirage on the horizon, I saw it … the gate that led to the tarmac road that led to the descent that led to the finish line! Hurrah!  Suddenly, I had a new lease of life.


I ran past some people at the aforementioned gate and headed for home to be met by Gemma, Rob, Chris, Jamie and Jim who had stoically waited in the cold for me to return.  Chris had arrived first in 1:23:08, closely followed by Rob in 1:23:49, then Gemma, who gave an outstanding performance as the second senior lady home in 1:26:49, Jamie in 1:37:40 then little ol’ me in 2:06:40 – and I didn’t feel like jiving at the end!  A great Saltwell performance.


It wasn’t my best time but it’s still my favourite race and it was great to meet and make friends with Saltwellians who I hadn’t known previous to the event.


Oh, and just in case you’re wondering … Jim stayed at the school and ate all the cake!




photo 1

Wallington Cross Country Race Report 2014


Another week, another xc race, this time the venue being Wallington Hall. I really enjoyed this fixture last year – another great xc course with a good mixture of hills, mud and fast sections.

I drove up with Fred and his daughter Aofie who was running in the U17 race. Conditions on the day were good again – mild, dry (the skies at least, not underfoot) and not a whiff of wind.

Gemma took the win in the womens race with another great performance, and second place went to Sandra in her debut xc race – a fantastic achievement. Jacqui came in third and Sarah fourth to record a great team performance which solidifies our 16th position in the league (out of 37 clubs)


Then there was a great moment at the start of the men’s race when the last 2  runners in the women’s race went past and received rapturous applause from all of the male runners on the start line. This was then followed by a comical moment when the starting gun went off any everyone was suddenly turning round and charging up the field leaving Jim and I to wait the 2 and a half minutes before we set off from the medium pack.


The start line was further down than last year which meant a slightly longer incline before a sharp left hand turn and long straight where we could see the back of the pack.


Its very different starting from the medium pack as opposed to the slow pack. Generally speaking the best way to run a race is not making the classic mistake of starting too fast then blowing up later in the race but rather to  try to maintain an even pace throughout the race.


In cross country races where there is no chip timing this rule goes out of the window and the strategy everyone from the slow pack who wants to run a fast race adopts is to try and get as close to the start of the line  and then sprint off to try and gap everyone else. The main reason for this is that it can be incredibly difficult to get past people especially on narrower courses where there are bottlenecks and you can waste a lot of time and energy doing so. Imagine Mo Farah starting at the back of the Great North run and trying to get past 56,000 people.


So running from the medium pack it isn’t as important to follow this strategy because there are fewer runners, however you soon catch the back end of the slow pack and then the ducking and diving begins.

The course is a figure of 8 with the first half being pretty straightforward – the ground was softer and muddier than last year although no as muddier than Aykley.


After a short stretch along a cinder path the course takes a sharp turn downhill and I decided to run outside the course markers through the long grass so I could get a clear run and avoid the other runners trying to navigate the thick mud on the main route. There is then a short incline, followed by a steeper incline on another cinder path through the woods and over a few bridges at the top. This is another bottleneck on the course and very difficult to get past people so I just had to sit tight until I got to the top and was able to get a bit more room.


There’s then a flat  muddy section and your back at the start again, ready to do it all again another 2 times.


I have to say I felt a lot better during the race this week than I did on last weeks run, especially on the 2nd lap. I can’t say this was down to anything in particular – sometimes that’s just the way things work out.


As the laps went by the field started to thin out a little so it makes it a little easier to get past people, but then you also have people from the fast pack coming through too so its a bit of a free for all.


In the end I caught everyone apart from Fred again, although I was a bit closer to him this week – I’ve got him in my sights for Jarrow 🙂

Ben pipped Dave this time to come in third, with Dave following closely behind to take 4th place. Jim and Iain were our remaining counters.


As a team we finished 7th, which is the best so far but we’re still rooted to the bottom of the league so the next few races are going to be critical if we want to avoid relegation.

Results can be found here