Hadrian’s Wall Half Marathon Race Report

hw3We had arrived nice and early on Sunday morning at the start with thanks to Frank’s sat nav. It was freezing cold and windy and I think we all had one of those moments asking each other “Why are we doing this again?”. This was not helped by looking enviously on at spectators, drinking tea and eating bacon sandwiches. Dave, however was being very optimistic with sunglasses and suncream.
You know a race must be serious when mountain rescue are there with at least 3 vehicles and 10 members of crew. Myself and Jacqui laughed nervously that neither of us could fall over. We gathered at the start and weirdly we all picked up GPS on our watches straightaway, quicker than at training on a Tuesday night, even though we were literally in the middle of nowhere.
Before we knew it, we were off. The first couple of miles were on road with some very steep hills. At mile 2 and 3, I was already feeling it in my legs (as you can see from the course profile below) and was thinking with a sinking heart, can I really do 10 more miles of this. Eventually we turned off the road and we were on grass/rocky trail which also included lots of marshland. I came across some stepping stones and water, and thought there is no way to get around it, I’ve got to go for it. Unfortunately at the same time, a random guy also had the same idea, and we ended up clinging onto each other laughing as neither of us wanted to fall in.
Around 5/6 miles we followed the Penine Way, where the scenery was spectacular and we were running through a meadow with long grass and buttercups. The only downside being that we then had to find some energy to climb up and over a stile (Although where else in the UK would you cross over a stile in a half marathon race). Up until this point I had been really struggling with heavy legs, stepping over rocks and climbing endless hills, until something popped into my mind. It was an image that Sam Robertson (Sorry, Sam, hope you don’t mind!) had posted previously on Facebook. It had simply written, the words “You’ve got this”. I was thinking to myself, I’ve definitely got this; this was only the 4th half marathon that I had done, I only took up running a few years ago, with the amount of leg fractures that I’ve had, I reminded myself that I was lucky to even run at all and that most people with my condition (brittle bone disease) are in a wheelchair.
With these thoughts in mind, I continued on and eventually came to opening of the forest (5 mile section of the race) with of course a hill to climb up, thankfully there was a water station here. The water stations throughout the race were excellent placed around every 5km with cups (biodegradable!) of water. Again, we came to another hilly section of the course, which looking at the course profile went on for at least 2 miles. The weather whilst running through the forest was horrendous with torrential rain and strong winds. It was so bad that one lady in front of myself started running backwards to see if it would help at all! Around mile 8, a marshall shouted “You are almost there!”. luckily one of the mountain rescue crew was more realistic with a shout of “Well done, you are over half way now”.
After what seemed like an eternity, we eventually came out of the forest and followed a track/road, until mile 12 we could see the cars and tents back at the start. This was the first race I had encountered where the finish was uphill however the support from other people and my fellow hoops was brilliant.
Spot prizes (decent running socks and accessories) were given out at the end with various categories of non-club runner and the most muddiest runner etc. Dave was lucky enough to win one of these. We then got changed and headed off looking for somewhere for Sunday lunch. We decided upon The George Hotel at Chollerford, although initially we were a bit giddy and none of us could stop laughing at the way we were dressed, hobbling across the car park and thinking would they actually let us in. Luckily they were very welcoming and we finished off a brilliant day out with a lovely Sunday lunch and a few well earned drinks.
We have all decided that we are definitely going to tackle it next year, but possibly without our Garmin watches on (!) to just enjoy the scenery and running without worrying about pacing. Hopefully we can get more of Saltwell Harriers involved next year.

184      Jacqui Candlish                       2:03:44

190      Frank Wilkinson                      2:04:20

201      Dave Candlish                         2:05:32

343      Charlotte Proud                      2:26:25



Newburn River Run – Ladies Captain’s Race 2015

A huge well done to the 23 Saltwellians who ran the 6.5 miles at the Newburn River Run on a beautiful summer evening on Wednesday 17th of June.
In particular, well done to Stephen Rhodes who was first Saltwell home in 44.46. And well done also to Ria Chaston who had a great race finishing in 46.18 to win the ladies race and to finish 6th female overall.
Lots of other great performances and a great night – particularly to celebrate the strong running of our girls!
Full results can be found at the following link http://www.elswickharriers.org.uk/elswickharriers/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/senior-results.pdf

Liverpool Rock n Roll half race report

mar3I’d been looking forward to this one for ages with dreams of smashing my PB in my head.  I’ll admit as the event approached I realised that I felt less prepared than for previous halfs. 
The training plan I’d been following is geared for getting me around the Berlin marathon in September so I didn’t think I had enough long runs in my legs but I adjusted it a little, went out for some longer runs and convinced myself I could do it.  Then a week before I was ill. Filled with anti-biotics I lined up at Blaydon to see what I was capable of and ran out of my skin.  In hindsight maybe I was a little bit over-enthusiastic but that’s enough excuses for now.
The race itself starts on the Albert Docks just by the Echo Arena which serves as the race base & baggage drop.  You start off in some fairly narrow streets by the water.  I guess being squeezed into smaller “corrals” served to make it feel more populated than it was as there was apparently only around 5000 running the half.
We set off at 9 with the Marathon following at 10.  For what is meant to be an event all about the atmosphere and the music I was disappointed.  There was hardly anyone on the course to support, maybe this was the 9am Sunday morning start as I’ve heard the Marathon was better attended.  Not a patch on the GNR in terms of crowds.  The bands were spaced quite far apart and you don’t hear them for very long as you run past.  Speakers along the route would have been a good idea.  In between bands it was quite quiet.
My favourite of the en route entertainment was definitely the woman they had dragged out of the Chinese Karaeoke restaurant to entertain us as we went through the chinese arches.  A truely terrible singer!
The route travels from the docks, past the famous Liver building, a quick tour around the city centre to take in Matthew Street & the Cavern club before heading back the way you came along past the docks to then climb out of the city centre.  This was the only real hill of the course and having lived in Liverpool for 3 years at Uni I had a fair idea what the route was like.  My plan was to try and run steadily for the first half which had a couple of “bumps” and then try to keep up the pace on the 2nd half when it was totally flat.
Once out of the city centre the next few miles is a chain of parks joined together by a brief run up Penny Lane  (the band there must have gotten sick of playing that on loop all day!).  Then at mile 8ish you head down onto the riverside for a straight run all the way back to the arena.  This is where I really started to struggle. I hadn’t felt comfortable at any point but I was on course for my target of 1:50 until then but on the banks of the Mersey though the wind just killed me.  This was the longest 4 miles I’ve ever ran in my life. I had absolutely nothing left in the tank and even stopped to walk twice in the last mile!  Once I could see the finish line I managed to sprint past a few people to grab a PB by just 30 seconds.
I was pretty disappointed by my performance.  I know it’s a PB but I don’t think I ran well at all. It was comforting to have Michelle Nolan of Gateshead Harriers, who won it, tell me that she found the wind tough too and her pace slowed down at the same point.
Despite how tough I found it, all in all it’s a great event.  You get a beer token on the bottom of your number which you exchange for a free pint at the end and the atmosphere in the finishing area is buzzing with bands performing into the middle of the afternoon.  The bling is really good too.
I’ll have another crack at it next year and it would be good to see some more Hoops down there.  I got excited everytime I saw Knowsley Harriers but it wasn’t quite the same.
Claire Lloyd


Yetholm Race Report

borderhotel-450Had never done this race before and as it was relatively close by decided to have a go. The race starts in a quiet valley just outside Kirk Yetholm and just over the Scottish border. Also doing the race were Keith, Jim, Gemma and John Longstaff.
The race was a nice, informal relaxed affair with only around 40 entrants. The weather was nice and sunny although a bit windy. At the start I got in with the leading pack as we had to hop over a fence, go through what I can only describe as a ploughed field and up a steep climb to the first summit.
I felt pretty tired on this climb and at the top there was an undulating grassy run over a few more tops and some traversing over the side of other hills. At this stage I was pretty close behind Keith and Jim but was starting to feel a bit fatigued and sick and they gradually pulled away. The course was really tough at this point with a series of steep ups and downs over rough ground and I had to dig in over the seemingly never ending climb up The Curr. From the top the route runs along the border ridge and the Pennine Way for around 4 miles to the finish.
I thought this would be a nice part of the course with a nice run-in but I couldn’t seem to get going and my pace was getting slower and slower and I was also trying to ignore the waves of nausea and I did not enjoy the next few miles in the slightest! Just as I was nearing the finish Gemma came flying past me-she looked in great shape. I had no chance of staying with her and she was out of site in a few seconds! She is a natural to fell running!
Gemma apparently had an exciting finish and did a flying impression on the finish line which involved a few cuts and bruises and a trip to the medical van! Thankfully there didn’t seem to be any serious damage and I trundled in in less spectacular fashion soon after.
At the end I still felt quite nauseous so forced down some crisps which made me feel slightly better.
At the prize giving Saltwell nearly cleaned up as we won the team prize, Gemma was second female and Jim was first V40. A mention for Keith who was first Saltwell back and looks in great form after his injury lay offs. A special mention to John Longstaff as this was only his second fell race (after Borrowdale!). John you sure pick some tough races!
The next few days after the race I felt lots of aches and pains and generally run down so I think my poor performance was in part due to a virus I had picked up. This was made up for by the success we had as a team! Time for a little rest period I think!
Anyway, this is a fantastic low key race in a beautiful location with a friendly atmosphere and I would certainly recommend it!
Kind regards

Penshaw Pieces of 8 Marathon Race Report


I had always had this race on my radar for this year, having done the half last year and enjoyed the course.
Although I had got a good block of training in earlier in the year, I’ve lost my mojo a little in the last month and haven’t been feeling very well in the past couple of weeks so I was even considering dropping down to the half or 10k.

I woke up on Sunday morning to be greeted by persistent rain and cold conditions. To be honest I prefer running longer distances in this type of weather as least I know dehydration isn’t going to be a problem and it wasn’t too windy.

Hanging around before the race start I got talking to a guy who informed me (and everyone else around) that he has spent the previous night sleeping in a phone box because he couldn’t find any local accommodation (the extent of his efforts appearing to be limited to the pub beside race HQ). Yeah its characters like this that makes your day.
After the race briefing 15 of us made our way to the start line at the bottom of the monument to be set off by Tim, one of the race organisers. I had decided before the race that I wasn’t going to put any pressure on myself for this race, or aim for a specific time – I just wanted to enjoy it as much as I could. For that reason I set off on a deliberately comfortable pace and climbed to the top of the monument before dropping down the steep descent down some steps and onto a wide path.

I was leading by this point, but a few minutes after joining the path I had a bad feeling I’d went the wrong way. From last year I can remember the route going pretty much straight down the bank to a group of houses which I was now running away from. My suspicions were confirmed when I reached a road which I definitely couldn’t remember from last year and a stile with no tape. Damn, how could I make a mistake like this so early in the race.


Turning round I could see that a number of other runners had followed me and were now looking around bemused. There was only one thing for it – back up the way we’d came to find the right turn off. I could now see other runners half way down the bank, either they had seen us coming back up and realised our mistake or just been more observant and took the correct turn off first time. We all piled over a style and set off in hot pursuit and I found myself in the strange situation of being in both first and last place at different points in a race.


By the time we had reached the bottom of the bank and the first crossing of the bridge I had regained the lead again, and I began to wonder if I’d be able to stay there. I ran the half marathon last year and was leading for around the first 4 miles, but I couldn’t sustain it and Steve Rankin passed me to win the race (although I did manage to hold on for 2nd place).


There’s a little loop round to the left and then the path hugs the river before climbing round the edge of the waterfowl park and dropping back down to the river and “Tim’s favourite bit”. I’m not sure this would be Tim’s favourite bit if he was actually racing the marathon, especially the 2nd time round and it certainly wasn’t mine. It’s basically a very technical single track muddy section of just over a mile which involves steep ascents/descents, off camber running with sheer drops down to the river below & thick vegetation both on the ground and above/at the sides which is especially a problem for someone as tall as myself. It also ensured I was soaked through by the time I fought my way through it all.


Some easier running followed, although I did take a small miss-step where the trail runs parallel to the A1231, taking a line through some tall and wet grass instead of the parallel trail which I thought was blocked by a metal fence the first time round.

Coming out of that section I was greeted by the “happy station” marshals, and they certainly were happy, clapping and cheering me on. The route then doubles back on itself back to the bridge where some of the runners from the other race were crossing in the opposite direction.


Its then time for the loop round the river on the south side, hugging it for a few miles before you are greeted with a sign proclaiming “Say goodbye to your lungs”. Yeah, I remember this from last year – the climb up to Offerton village. Steep at first, then even steeper up a seemingly never ending set of steps until you finally reach the top. Or at least you think you’re a the top, but the climb then goes on, not as steep as the steps but still a challenge before the village is reached.


This is where I had my only drink of water during the race, half a cup of it. I didn’t really feel like I needed it but though I would take advantage while I could.


At this point you are more or less at the same elevation as the monument but agonisingly you have to drop back down again to the old railway track. This is a very long straight section & looking back I couldn’t see anyone behind me so I thought I must have a canny lead.

Then another big climb , up “mountain goat hill” toward the monument and the path I had descended earlier.
And then I was there, at the top of the monument! – I’d done it!
Erm, except for one slight detail
This was only the first lap – I’d got it all to do again….
So back down the path, taking the right turn this time – how could I have missed it the first time (unless someone had removed the tape, which Tim mentioned people had done before the race, someone even having deliberately moved some tape to send people the wrong way).

I’d say that’s the biggest problem with a race like this, because it’s still relatively new and has a small field (especially for the marathon) you can easily find yourself running alone for long stretches and have to be constantly vigilant. All races rely on volunteers and it would be extremely difficult to fully marshal the full course, especially when you consider they might need to be out there for over 8 hours (the marathon cut off time).
Having said that, I’d say the race was very well organised with marshals around the key points on the course where you could go wrong, and I’d prefer this problem to the carnage of something like the Blaydon race or Great North Run where you’re packed in like sardines and it’s almost impossible to run for the first hundred metres or more.

On the way back down I passed runners coming back up the other way from the other races including Chris Redfern who was doing the 10k (and put in a fantastic performance to come 6th overall and 1st V50).

I then took my 2nd diversion of the day, missing another turn off to arrive at the bridge from the opposite direction, not as disastrous as the first but still adding a little extra to my route.

After crossing the bridge for a second time I was faced with my next challenge – hundreds of bike riders, obviously on some sort of organised event which resulted in a few close calls, especially on some of the steeper sections.

I was now around 16 miles into the race, and it’s always around this point I know if I’ve overcooked it and how much I’m going to suffer for the rest of the race. My plan to conserve energy at the start seemed to be working as although I felt tired I could still comfortably hold the pace I was running at.

Back round the river again ad past the marshals for the 2nd time. In fact some of them I went past 4 times on the sections that loop back on themselves.

One of them shouted some encouragement – “you’re doing really well – only 4 of you have come through so far”. “How far back is 2nd” I asked. “Miles” was the response “At least 10 minutes”.

Back to the bridge again and more shouts of encouragement from the marshals “You’re on the last section now, only 5 or 6 miles to go”. Hmm, I had about 22 miles on my Garmin so I should have about 4 miles to go, but I knew the diversion at the start would mean I’d run more than 26.2. Surely not another 6 though….

I tried to push the thought to the back of my mind and kept telling myself I just had 4 more miles to go. It’s at this point I tried to break the remainder of the race up to get through the mental battle.

Right, this stretch along the river is easy running, not take me long to get thought this.

Ok, yeah it’s a hill but it breaks the pace up a bit you can run slower.

You’re at the top of the hill now, easy descent to the bottom.

It’s all flat along this railway track, just keep going its almost over.

Yes another hill, but this one’s the last one- one more push and you’re there.

And so I finally got to “Robs favourite bit” – the finish line at the top of the monument (literally on the monument itself). 27.1 miles on my Garmin in 3:40:44 and almost 1,800ft of ascent– that’s more than many fell races.

I would have hung around for a while to welcome 2nd place but it was pretty cold up there once I stopped running and I could feel myself beginning to seize up so I retreated to the warmth of race HQ below.

So my first race victory other than a parkrun – probably the smallest field I’ve raced in but still nice to take the win. It’s a great event and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone – I’ll certainly be back next year.

Finally for anyone reading this who followed me the wrong way – apologies, but at least you’ll have a good chance of beating your time if you do the race again next year, and you can also now say you have ran an ultra!

Here’s my Strava map of the route for anyone who wants to reccie the course and take the right directions https://www.strava.com/activities/325195734


Full results can be found here http://www.trailoutlaws.com/results.html

Border Raiders

Saltwell Harriers won the team prize at Yetholm Fell race on Sunday. The team led home by Keith in 7th place followed by Jim, then Gemma who despite her tumble at the finish collected the prize for 2nd lady.


Iain and John Longstaff made up the closing team positions. This was the first time Saltwell had been present at this race and everyone agreed it was an excellent route run around some stunning mountain terrain.


Definately a race to revisit