The Big Apple – 7 years in the making

The start

5am and the alarm goes off, what the hell am I doing is my first thought.  True to form all my gear had been laid out the night before, at this ungodly hour I want to have the minimum of fuss, so a quick toilet break and change and myself and Woody set off for our journey to the start.
A few blocks down from our hotel is Times Square, 5am and the lights are still glowing bright.  There’s people milling around even at this hour taking selfies, there’s a man preaching about Jesus the saviour, even he can’t help me now, I think.
A quick left turn and we’re heading towards the city library, the meeting point for our lifts to the start. We gather into the wave of runners heading towards the large queues that are forming, beside us are some English blokes, typical all this way and you’re next to an Englishman in New York, there’s very much something Sting-esh about this.  His cockney accent seems more cockney as the time goes by and at this early hour it’s starting to grind on me.
After about 15 or so minutes we’re funnelled onto the bus and the cockney bloke seems a distant memory and so begins the 90 minute journey….I wonder if I can sleep.  Nb – I couldn’t sleep.
After what seems an eternity we arrive at the start point, hordes of people filing off buses to join yet another queue, this time an airport style pat down. Show your number, put everything in a clear bag we’re told, there’s the army and many (well) armed police, I’m co-operating, I’m thinking. 
Despite the significant police/army presence no one is tense, this is a happy place.  People are smiling and laughing, we look down at our watches, its 7.15am.  My waves starts at 10.15am, ‘argh balls’ I say, ‘only another 3 hours to kill!’.
The beginning is well organised, free bagels, tea/coffee, energy bars, even some stress reducing dogs to pet and more toilets than the eye could see, Sarah Garrett would be in heaven.  To be honest I’m pretty chuffed too, off I pop for my second toilet break…
Oh, just a note for those future NYC marathon entrees so that you are not unprepared.  I unlike my colleague, Woody, took the sensible option and brought a jumper, you may want to consider this when standing/walking around. However, we were dwarfed in comparison to those people who brought lilos and blankets to have a kip, I did envy them.
Skip to another toilet break and it’s time to get into the starting pens (just so you know I’ve worked out that 3 trips to the toilet is the optimum amount).  After a bit of asking around Woody’s allowed to join me in Wave 2 (he initially put down for Wave 1) and after a couple of minutes the elite athletes are lining up, predictably the American National anthem pipes up, they’re properly belting it out hand on chest and everything.  I’m kinda envious of the whole national pride thing but nethertheless I don’t join in. Just as it’s in full flow 3 huge American helicopters fly over in formation, it’s no Red arrows but it’s still impressive.  A few seconds later and from out of nowhere 2 huge cannons are set off, everyone thinks wtf and the first wave is off.
Cue another 15 minutes and its Wave 2’s turn, everyone shuffles towards the start, repeat as wave 1, national anthem, 2 cannon and Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York starts bellowing out, we’re finally off!


The middle bit aka the marathon
The fist mile and a half is over Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, everyone’s jostling to find some space, Woody decides to be unconventional and darts onto the skirt of the bridge, I follow.  We think we’ve found the perfect place, oh no other people have thought the same and it’s not long before we’re once again jostling amongst the masses.
A few mile on the freeway (motorway to you and me) and we’re into the first housing estate, its adorned with typical styled American houses, the type you’ve seen in the films. It seems as is the American people have come out in force, hundreds line the streets shouting and waving flags and banners, I note one says ‘ONLY 23miles to go’….ONLY.
Another mile or so and we’re funnelled into the path of the other waves we’re now on 4th Avenue, only another 6 or so mile on this road…great.  Like a vanilla ice song, bumper to bumper the avenue was packed (substitute people for bumpers) they’re on either side of the four lane road, two or three deep all shouting and cheering, all wanting high fives, holding up placards with witty comments on, I’m so busy looking around that I cannot remember any but some did make me chuckle.&nbsp

The street is littered with the typical red brick houses with large staircases to the front door. Families are out, sitting on each and every step, hip hop blasting from the boom box, people are dancing and everyone’s cheering.  This is why I wanted to do it I thought.
Further down the street there’s a preacher outside a church, the end is nigh, says the huge bed blanket banner.  I hope not mate, I’ve got a race to finish.
With each pounding foot we move ever closer to towards half way, this time on the side of the street is someone rapping, it sounds awesome and as if possessed I unwittingly give him a black panther style fist in the air.  The whitest guy in the NY marathon from the most northern city in England giving him a fight the power sign, I think we’re all caught up in the moment, he gives me the thumbs up and shouts go on Saltwell.  We both move on, I just got a shout out from a street rapper, I’m made up, my brothers would be proud, if not a little embarrassed.
The next set of miles go by, each as entertaining as the rest. I’m slowly regretting my decision to take a drink from every drinks station (every mile btw), the gatorade has went right through me, I try to put it off, no use, toilet break it is.  It’s at this point I feel sorry for Woody, who is basically standing around waiting for me to pee, he doesn’t complain.  He’s been having too much fun running in and out of people trying to high five them on the side of the road. We set off again.
There’s three points during the race that I’ll never forgot, the first of which comes soon after the pee break (the others I’ll get to).
We turn into what can only be described as the Jesmond of Brooklyn, there’s posh coffee and cake shops, mini little stores, it looks high class and the posh people look as if they want to watch the poor run, maybe it reminds them of the time they released the hounds on the beggars coming to their door, who knows!  The locals start encroaching on the course but unlike most races no one minds, they’re three or four deep and screaming encouragement.  I can only describe it akin to being on the tour de france people are in front and to the side of you shouting encouragement, patting you on your back and high fiving you.  I don’t mind admitting I choked up a little, this was better than I could have ever imagined and I’d been waiting a long time to run it. The moment went over all too fast.
At about the 15 mile mark woody gets a message, Linda and Gemma are at the 16 mile mark. Unbeknown to Woody, albeit I was trying to hold him back more for pace purposes, I was struggling. As usual it was more mental than physical, 16 mile is always a difficult one for me, all those miles down and still double digits to go.  The thought of seeing our support gave me a little lift.
The next part of the race is my second memory.  We were fast approaching the 16 mile marker, we were coming off a bridge where there was next to no support (there were no sidewalks – pavements for Phil Askew) and coming down a hill to turn back on ourselves for the next stint when there was a massive wall of cheering people, it was at least 5 or 6 deep.  People were up on boxes or anything they could find to get a better view, I was scanning the crowds left to right to see if I could find our support.  We were passing fast, I’ve missed them I thought.
From out of nowhere two beaming faces popped up above the crowds shouting and screaming ‘Darren, Woody, Saltwell’, it was Gemma and Linda. Me and Woody both spotted them, I was particularly happy to see them both, it came at the perfect time for me just as I was struggling. I must have looked like an idiot for the next 2 minutes with my grinning face.
I knew that the next part of the race was a virtual 5 mile straight upto the Bronx, as with all the race there was plenty of support either side of the road.  I felt good after seeing the girls and then it happened, the dread for any runner, the twinge. I tried to put it from my mind but I couldn’t. I could sense my slowing down, I turned to Woody and simply said, ‘I’m sorry mate, I think this is me’.
He tried his best to encourage and I tried to go a little further but I thought that I needed to maintain at a slower pace and it seemed unfair to Woody who had clearly been running within himself besides me for the previous 19/20 mile, ‘nah mate, you go on’.
I walked for a minute or two and set off again.  About a half a mile up the road there was a turning point where you came back on yourself I saw Woody through a gap in the buildings, he’s not too far ahead I thought maybe I can catch up.  That’s the mindset of a runner right there.

No sooner as I got to the point where I had seen Woody that I got cramp.  For whatever reason it always seems to happen around 20/22 mile, I got cramp in my knees both of them.  Let me tell you, it hurts! 

I had thought by drinking at every water station and taking on board food during the race that this time it might not happen.  Unfortunately it did.  This is the one, not regret, but slight disappointment of my marathon, the fact that I couldn’t run it all the way.  I had secretly hoped I could still get under 4 hours and as the pacers slowly went past me, the runner in me still thought I could still get under 4 hours, I reluctantly admitted to myself it was no longer possible.  It was time to get over myself and enjoy the remainder of the race and soak up the atmosphere.
The last mile or so came into sight, the finish was in central park and you dipped in for about 3 quarters of a mile then went back on the outside of the park along the road. It was at this point I met some runners from Middlesbrough a.c, ‘alright Saltwell, how you doing, do you want to run in with us?’, ‘im injured’, came the reply, ‘just crack on’, ‘nah, so’s the misses just come in with us’ he said.  After about a minute of running came, ‘so do you know James May?’, I laughed, you can’t go anywhere without someone knowing a hoop!
The last mile was basically a procession, my new found Middlesbrough a.c mates kept me on the right path and we all encouraged each other, none of us stopping.  I even had the pleasure of seeing the support crew of Linda and Gemma just before turning onto the final straight shouting and waving, once again me grinning from ear to ear, this time however I didn’t require as much encouragement as the finish was insight, I’d just about done it.
Now comes my third memory the final straight.
As you can imagine, and a general theme within this report, the final straight was packed to the rafters people from all walks shouting and encouraging, ‘nearly there’. I know I thought I can see and my legs are telling me too!
The expected arms loft didn’t quite materialise and, as someone commented, it looked more like I was doing jazz hands and for Claire Lloyd, you now know who I was hugging at the end, it was my new found Middlesbrough mates helping me through the last mile. 

As I finally crossed the line and there was someone waiting with my medal.  This is the point I most came to crying, even now writing this I can feel some emotion coming through remembering that feeling. I had finally done it, after 7 years of trying I had finally realised my dream of running the New York marathon.  I looked down at my medal and let it sink in for a minute or so and then the biggest smile came over my face.
I had finished in 4 hours 8 minutes and 19 seconds. 


The last bit, usually called the conclusion
I think back to the start when I turned to Woody after seeing a guy wearing a gopro and remember saying ‘who’d want to look back at four hours of running’? The answer, I now know, was me.
Heading back to the hotel, I had no phone or way of contacting anyone, my thoughts turned to whether or not I could have done better.  Maybe. With marathons cramp is my nemesis, I felt fit and I’d gotten over my mental barrier on mile 16 but what the hell, I do not have a single regret. This was my dream and I thought I’m not wasting time on what could have or might have been. 

On the way back I bumped into Craig who was waiting for me, we messaged the girls and agreed to meet at a point further down the road. The girls were as happy to see us as us were to see them.
The walk back to the hotel was a recant of the sights and sounds of the previous 26.2 mile and we couldn’t resist getting a hotdog from a vendor, after all when in New York. The conversation then turned to what to do tonight, ‘What do you think, let’s drink, we’ve all earned it!!!’ was the reply.
I think this is supposed to be the point, in my best Jerry Springer style summarisation, I give some meaningful, poignant last words and I’ll try….
For me, New York is one of the best places on the Earth.  We all have a perception of American people from films and the News and I can safely say its rubbish.  You couldn’t meet a bunch of more friendly and genuine people anywhere, say for Newcastle (I know my audience). The whole of New York made my dream more special than I could have imagined and I’m also thankful that I had the best company anyone could have hoped for to share it with in Craig, Gemma and Linda.
Since I’ve come back I’ve been asked are you doing another marathon and to a person I’ve replied that I think I’ve only got 1 marathon left in me.  After writing this and reliving some of my memories, perhaps that may stretch to two……. 😉


Darren Smiley




White Rose Ultra Race Report

After supporting Phil James and Naz on their 60 mile White rose ultra last year I decided I wanted to do one. So after chatting with a few people who have done ultra marathons I decided to join some of my fellow hoops and signed up for the 30 mile White rose ultra.
Team Saltwell consisted of Naz and his side kick Phil James, Lois, lisa Stephenson, Rob Masson, Harra the Legend, Scott, John Longstaff, The two Joannes, Barry and paul who are mates of Harra and Phil James and me. The night before the race we decided to register and collect our numbers from the race HQ. So glad we did as we realised the hotel was further away than we thought.
The night before was mainly fueling and resting before the big day. Race day started with a 5:30am wake up and leaving the hotel at 6:30am to make our way to race HQ. Standing in a room at the race HQ surrounded hundreds of ultra runners I felt a bit out of my depth but after a few hugs and manly hugs from my team mates, I was ready. It was already decided that the two Joannes would stay with me on the race. Our tatics were to walk the hills and run the down hills and the flat. Team photo done, it was time for the race to start. Off we went straight up a hill. Walking it seemed to be most peoples race tactic too.
Phil James’ mate Paul decided to run with me and the two Joannes. After a couple of miles of walking up hills and running down hills I thought to myself, I’m enjoying this. Then It came to the long slog up the highest point of the race where the first water point was. It was windy and cold at this point which showed why we needed the kit. What I can remember of the first 10 miles was hills, more hills and mud. We had a great support crew of young swanny and Steve Anderson on their bikes for 27 miles of this race. We reached the first check point and we welcomed by Alison Slaymaker, quick re fuel and we were off again.
15 miles into the race we had to walk up a massive hill that just kept on going and getting steeper. By this point I was getting tired, my legs were hurting and I was sick of going up hills. My good mood had started to go and I was finding it tough. We reached the top of this hill to have to go down a steep muddy path. I knew from supporting at the race last year that we had to go around some pylons and we could see them but everytime we seemed to get close to them there would be a sign to go a different way.
We eventualy reached about mile 18 and Alison was there with food for us. At this point I was feeling sick, tired and in pain from all the steep hills and steep down hills. I realy wanted to quit. Ive never felt so down in a race. We plodded on walking up the hills and running when we could. The terrain in some parts was horrible and hard even to walk on. At mile 26.2 Joanne Anderson asked if I had ever done a marathon. My reply was no. Then her reply was you have now. For some reason I got my second wind and I was starting to enjoy it again. Then we realised we only had 3 miles to go. By this time Joanne Wollaston was struggling and in pain. Then at 28 miles she told us to go ahead and leave her in the safe hands of young swanny to support her to the finish.
So off we went thinking get in, we have done it, until we turned a corner at mile 29 and there it was another massive hill to climb. I mean, what person puts a massive steep hill that close to a finish of a race? Do they not think we have gone up enough hills? We got to the top and I was struggling to keep up with Paul and Joanne and struggling to not be sick, so I told them to go on without me.
Afer a quick spew in a bush I was off again but the last half mile I was getting pulled along by two ladies who we had kept overtaking for most of the race. It was a case of saying to each other “come on we can do this” with a few swear words. This last half mile we overtook a few other runners and I was thinking where the hell is this finish. Then all of a sudden Phil James appeared and told me I had only 100 metres to go.
The two ladies and I managed to find enough speed and energy to look good over the finish line. I thought to myself, yes, Ive done it. I was in so much pain and so tired but could not believe that I had just done my first marathon and ultra marathon in the same day on such a hilly brutal course. Now it was time to get hugs from my team mates.
I would like to thank everyone who has trained with me and given me advice and to all the very generous people who have sponsored me to do this event. As I type this I have raised £1000 for the Huntingtons disease association. During this event I met loads of lovely people. Cant wait to do it again next year to beat this year’s time.
Phil Askew

Galloway dark skies race report.

So as a bit of background… this one I didn’t train for and I entered 3 days before the race. I had absolutely no goals, no idea what it would be like. I had limited knowledge of night running and really didn’t know what I was entering. The day I entered the forecast for race day was good and I just decided to do it for fun. My mileage had remained high after my marathon in July so I knew I had the distance in my legs I was fairly confident I could do it. 
As the week progressed the weather started to look more and more ropey. I prepped by pretending the race wasn’t happening and instead caned 2 days of all you can eat buffets at the Lego Hotel with my kids. At one point I was dipping cake into a pint of melted chocolate I had liberated from a chocolate fountain. This was a particular low point in nutritional strategy and taking carb loading to a whole new level. 
The day of the race came and Adrian my running buddy and I set off for Galloway. About 3 hrs away. Race HQ was a lovely cafe in Galloway forest park. We had our kit checked (less required than most other races I have entered) and registered. I then hastily wolfed down a sausage roll as I’d had no lunch .
The race briefing was all about being careful, staying warm, how to call for help, the markers and some warnings of some ‘boggy areas’ and a stream crossing. We were also told the first checkpoint had a very strict cut off and if we didn’t make it we wouldn’t be allowed to continue.
We set off at 4.30pm. With 1.5 hrs to sunset. The first two miles were absolutely AWFUL. I was too hot, I got a stitch, I had heartburn from the sausage roll, it was uphill and Ade was beasting it. I am certain this was because he was unsure about the cut off time at the first checkpoint and he was wanting to make the most of the smooth track before things got difficult. I struggled to keep up. We were pelting up hill at what felt like tempo pace and I hated it. We were passing multiple runners and soon there was just us and a hardcore pack ahead of us.
We hit a boggy hill and slowed to a fast walk. This saved me as by now I was feeling like dropping out I was so unhappy. A little negative voice was saying ‘no not today, just stop, you can’t do this’ I tried to get it to shut up but I wasn’t in a good place at all. We trudged uphill on waterlogged grass until we came to a more solid surface and started to run again. The track opened up onto stunning moorland and we trotted over it for a few miles in pretty good spirits.
Then the path became less clear and we followed the flag markers over boggy terrain for a mile or so. I ran where I could until a wrong step had me up to my thigh in mud. I climbed out of the pit I had inadvertently stepped in (using some choice language) I decided walking might be more prudent at this stage.
It was starting to get dark and I was twitchy about the cut off time. Two women passed us at here. They were clearly experienced on the difficult landscape and hopped through it with ease. The path led through a deep violently flowing stream about 2m wide. It was too wide to jump so I just waded through it. Adrian was a little behind me so I waited for him to reach it, to shout a bit of encouragement and give him a hand. We had a steep slope to climb to a tree line, there were gullies in the moor full of rushing water that we had to run and leap over. These would have been death traps in the dark and I could see why they wanted us to get through this section before night fell.
We reached the first checkpoint with 10 minutes to spare. And hit a wide forest track. We ran here a couple of fast paced miles to the second checkpoint. We took stock and changed our strategy a bit as we knew we were too fast paced for a 30 mile run. We walked swiftly up a very steep and endless hill then pelted down the other side to the 16 mile checkpoint. We stopped to chat to the marshals and we were told the first 6 miles were such a slog they’d had to extend the cut off or half the field would have been unable to finish.
We ploughed on running the flats and the downhills and fast walking the ups until mile 18, I was starting to tire and the familiar long distance ache in my legs was setting in. They felt heavy and I was struggling a bit on the hard trail. Then the path narrowed to a single track and led down a steep hill. It was flooded with calf deep water running down it like a stream. It was too dangerous to run down so we walked down it. It went on forever. My slowing down meant I started to feel very very cold. My feet were numb and the rain was pelting down. The two lady runners caught us again and flew past us.
I became a bit hysterical at this point. I found the situation comedic and my bog trudging was peppered with profanities and laughter in equal measures. It kept getting more and more ridiculous. There were great pits full of muddy water you had to walk through and all sorts of obstacles to get round. All in pitch black with a head torch to guide the way.
We came to a stream we had to wade across. Followed by a series of blown over pine trees that needed climbing over. Then there was a 3m wide steam that was thigh deep with a raging current. And a tree trunk to steady yourself with. A marshal helped us out and we were at the 20 mile checkpoint. I grabbed some sweets and a cup of coke and knocked off two very fast miles. Both to bring my body temperature back up and to try and lose the other runners, we had caught back up with the lady runners here. It is unnerving running with head-torches as someone behind you casts strange shadows and it feels intrusive so I was determined to leave them behind if I could.
I could sense Ade struggling and he had a bit of a tummy issue which he managed to sort out while I walked slowly up a steep bank. He caught me up and we carried on. My legs felt great and we got into a nice easy running pace. Mile 23 the sky cleared and we turned off our head torches and just took in all the stars. It was breathtaking. And it kind of felt like we were being cut a bit of slack. It kept our spirits up until we bombed into the 24 mile checkpoint.
I was handed a caramel slice and we had a bit of banter with Karl and Hippie the two marshals. The markers were a bit tricky to spot here but we found our way. We ran on. Pretty much bang on 26 miles I tripped and flew along the gravel spectacularly. I managed to keep the chia charge bar I was clutching completely intact and pristine. Quite an accomplishment considering the force I hit the ground with.
I regrouped and trotted on. I wasn’t physically that tired but the concentration I needed to watch the path in-front, in a torch-beam, was waning.
At mile 27 we knew we were on the home stretch and just ran. We ran fast. There were 3 cattle grids to prance across which were taxing at that stage but we did it. And we sprint finished. I was so pleased we were done! I stood there beaming and saying to the organisers how much fun I’d had and how fantastic it was. When one of them came up to me and said ‘you are First Lady in’ I was absolutely astonished. I didn’t believe it and I was certain there must have been a mistake.
So what do I think now it is over?
  1. I loved night running, I had thought I would hate it but it is a strangely cathartic experience that focuses your mind and I think not seeing what is to come really helps you mentally at long distance.
  2. Bad weather is fine if you have decent waterproofs
  3. Sometimes a rubbish start doesn’t necessarily mean a bad race.
Would I do it again? Hell yes!! It was extremely well organised, well marked and a cracking route. One of my favourite races to date! I highly recommend it if you want to step just beyond your comfort zone and go on an adventure.



Laura Gledhill
102 Sheriffs Highway
Tyne and Wear


10k Road Race 2017

The date for this years Ronnie Walker 10k Road  Race is Saturday 23rd December starting at 11.30am.
Entries are open now via the following link :


Cross Country Registration

Everyone please note that the closing date to be registered for the XC is Sunday 24th September.  Those who have not paid their subs, spoken to Graham Harrison regarding the payment of subs and/or have not filled out their membership form will not be eligible to be registered for the XC.

Cross country training has also started on weekends where there is not a XC race – meet at the Old Co-op car park in Wrekenton at 09.30 for a 45 minute session.

Everyone is most welcome (absolutely no previous experience required) – this is a great introduction to cross country

Please dress for the weather with suitable footwear, eg fell or trail shoes, or cross country Spikes



Cross Country Season 2017/2-18

The cross country season is nearly upon us again – below are the dates/venues:

30th Sept – Wrekenton
8th Oct – Druridge Bay
28th Oct – Sherman Cup – Temple Park (S/Shields)
18th Nov – Aykley Heads, Durham
6th Jan – Herrington Country Park, Sunderland
10th Feb – Thornley Farm, Durham
3rd Mar – Alnwick Castle
Championship dates:
9th Dec – North Easterns – Redcar
27th Jan – Northerns – Leeds
24th Feb – Nationals – London

Bob Graham Round Report

Well all good things must come to an end and my Bob Graham journey came to an end when I climbed the stairs and touched the door of the Moot Hall in Keswick at 7:19pm Saturday 24th June.

It was the culmination of 7 months of training and around 5 years of planning, procrastinating, talking and preparation – to say I was happy is an understatement.
I was working on a 22 hour schedule and my training had went well so I was confident going into round.
The forecast was mixed – wind increasing through the day and intermittent cloud, 70% of cloud free summits. At least I wasn’t going to be roasting in the 30 degree heat we’d had the previous weekend.
Upon arriving at the Denton House hostel where everyone was staying I was treated to a rousing rendition of happy birthday (yes it wasn’t a coincidence that I was doing my round on my 42nd birthday), and after having some food at Wetherspoons I tried to get some last minute rest in the dorm.
Leg 1 Keswick to Threlkeld
There was only myself and Bob Neil on the first leg. I felt a little guilty as it meant that he’d have to carry all my kit/food etc but Bob is a machine and I told I would return the favour when he decides to do a round of his own.
Harra, Phil James, Decca and Catherine Vicarage were planning on meeting us at the top of Great Calva where Harra had promised me a Custard Tart to celebrate my birthday.
I set off at 10pm at which point it was still light and we made good progress, passing Harra and co just after Latrigg Car Park. About half way up Jenkin Hill we were into the clag – no big deal as the path up Skiddaw is like a motorway but the temperature dropped and it started to rain so it was time for my waterproof and buff.
We reached the top around 5 minutes up on schedule and conditions had deteriorated again. The wind was gusting across the top blowing the rain into our faces and there was no point in putting our head torches on as the light just reflected straight back at us.
We dropped down to the right of the path to find the fence line and style which we did no problem and crossed over and picked up the grassy trod. It was now like being in a different world, we were sheltered from the wind, the clag had lifted and it had even stopped raining.
It was the usual quagmire going over Hare Crag but we made good progress and reached the top of Calva without any issues, however we were alone and it was clear enough to see that there was no-one else around. I was a little worried but took comfort from the fact that there were 4 of them and assumed they must have turned back. Harra and Jamsie have been to Calva before and with their years of experience they would make sure nothing bad happened…
Coming off Calva we found the trod no problem and started the slog up Mungrisdale Common on the way to Blencathra. I had decided to descent via Doddick Fell instead of Halls Fell as I’ve always been quicker coming down that way. Although not as bad as Skiddaw the clag was still blowing in and out and the rocks were greasy so my mind was definitely made up.
Coming down from Blencathra we slightly overshot the turn off to Doddick Fell and had to retrace our steps but I realised straight away so a few minutes lost but no big deal.
Before I knew it we were running through Threlkeld and into the first changeover. I said goodbye to Bob who was again going home to do his post round. I had lost the time I made on Skiddaw on the decent from Blencathra but was bang on schedule and I felt great.
Gillian, Steve and John were waiting for me and made sure I had food and drinks available – I quickly had a sandwich, cup of coffee and took a banana for the road.

Leg 2 – Threlkeld to Dunmail Raise
Accompanying me on the next leg were Iain Armstrong, Jim Thompson and Chris Redfern and we set off at a gentle jog towards the next big climb of Clough Head. My biggest strength is probably my climbing, especially the really big steep climbs of which Clough Head is one. Unfortunately, this was bad news for Chris who had dropped off the back and as we once more entered the clag again near the top we lost sight of him.
We reached the top without him and I made the decision to push on instead of waiting. I did feel bad about this but it had become colder so I didn’t want to hang around and I also still felt good and wanted to keep moving as there is good time to be made on this section. Chris had done the leg before so I hoped he would be able to get back down ok.
Once at the top it is possible to take a more direct line through the Dodds as a shortcut so he may have been able to catch us up, however it was still dark and the clag was down so it would have been difficult for him to find that line.
We proceeded to the next fell, Great Dodd but descending from there we veered a little too far to the left and had to make up some ground so lost a few minutes but just like Doddick Fell nothing to be concerned about.
The Dodds are easy to navigate in good weather but in mist they can be tricky and Jim did a great job in getting me through them whilst Iain was feeding me Kendal Mint Cake.

As we reached Helvellyn Lower Man the wind was getting stronger and I was becoming increasingly colder. Jim must have sensed this as he asked how I was doing. He suggested stopping at the shelter on Helvellyn to put some more layers on but I wanted to push on – I knew that in around half an hour we would descend to Grisedale Tarn and it would be significantly warmer and more sheltered down there so I didn’t mind being uncomfortable until then.
We descended Dollywagon Pike via the fenceline down to the tarn and I was warm again. The clag had also cleared and for the first time I was able to take in and enjoy the magnificent views. Ticking off Fairfield amd Seat Sandal, the last peak on the leg we then made good time on the lovely grassy descent to Dunmail Raise and leg 2 was done and dusted – 17 minutes ahead of schedule.
I was glad to see Chris there. He had made it back safely despite being sent the wrong way by another BGR group and visiting the summit of Clough Head twice.
My right hip had been hurting a little on the descents on this leg so I took some painkillers which seemed to sort it out as it didn’t bother me again. My foot was also hurting so I hoped the painkillers would help that too.
Again I was overwhelmed by the amount of food and drink that Gillian & Steve had prepared for me. I had some baked beans+sausages, pasta, coffee and flat coke and some chia seeds. Keith took a few sandwiches for me for the climb up Steel Fell and then we were away.

Leg 3, Dunmail Raise to Wasdale
Peter and Gemma had set of about 10 minutes before us and we reconvened at the top of Steel Fell. This next section was very boggy but Keith took some good lines to try and avoid the worst of it.

When we reached the top of High Raise we could see another group of walkers who looked like they were taking part in some sort of organised challenge. It turns out they were competing in a 10 peak challenge and we encountered many more of them during the remainder of this leg and the next.

We pressed on and by the time we reached the Langdale Pikes Keith told me I was 15 minutes up on schedule and suggested we have a quick break which we did.

Looking over we could see the Scafells shrouded in mist which was going to make the next section tricky. This section between Bowfell and Scafell is the most technical and rocky of the round and also the most difficult to navigate – Ill Crag and Broad Crag are huge boulder fields which are seldom visited because of their proximity to Scafell Pike.

The climb up Bowfell is biggest on this leg but I’ve always enjoyed it and we made swift progress to the top and into the clag which would last until Scafell.
Esk Pike was ticked off and then we set off towards Great End. In good conditions you can take a more direct line to the top, however Keith told me because of the conditions he preferred to stick to the path as the summit is quite flat so finding the summit cairn would be tricky in the clag.
Progress over Ill Crag and Broad Crag was very slow because of the slippery rocks (it’s difficult to make fast progress at the best of times) – there are deep gaps between some of the huge boulders in which you could easily break a leg if you slipped so I was very cautious. There were a lot of the 10 peaks walkers on this section -at the top of Scafell Pike Keith told them I was doing 42 peaks and I got a round of applause which was nice.

Descending towards Mickledore Keith was a little concerned we were on the right track and we stopped for a few minutes just to check bearings and look at a more detailed map. Within a minute of continuing we were at the stretcher box, confirming our position and I was relieved – I have complete faith in Keith’s navigation and he had gotten me through the toughest part in very poor conditions.
I had originally planned to climb Broad Stand but unfortunately Jonny’s daughter had netball trials so he had to pull out so we went via Lords Rake and the West Wall Traverse instead whilst Gemma and Peter descended on the tourist path to meet us at Wasdale. For anyone who has not done this route I would thoroughly recommend it – it’s one of the most exhilarating ways to a mountain top up a very steep scree slope which cuts across Scafell Crag and then another steep traverse to the summit – you really get the feeling you are inside the mountain.
Keith wanted to stop for a few minutes at the top of Scafell which we did, before the long descent to Wasdale. We came down the 2nd scree shoot from Rakehead Crag which was much better than the 1st scree shoot I had come down a few months earlier and I really enjoyed the descent. I think I spent most of the steep grassy section after the scree coming down on my arse – it was certainly faster than running!

Gemma and Peter met us at the stream and we all ran into the National Trust car park together to complete the leg.

Wasdale is a pivotal point in the round and a one where many people give up – the long descent from Scafell is a real quad thrasher and the next climb up Yewbarrow is probably the most brutal of the round – it’s extremely steep and relentless so it was good to be coming in still feeling really strong. Paul Richardson informed me that we were going to play a game of the tortoise and the hare, his way of telling me that he was setting off up Yewbarrow before me.
Steve washed my feet for me and Gillian cleaned my shoes and got all the scree out of them. I also brushed my teeth to stave off any potential ulcers from all the sweet stuff I’d been eating (a problem Jim told me he had suffered with).
I’d lost 35 minutes on leg 3 – a combination of going via Lords Rake instead of Broad Stand, and the poor conditions. This combined with a longer than scheduled stop meant I was 33 minutes down on schedule leaving Wasdale. This didn’t concern me at all though as I still had an hour and a half contingency and I was still feeling strong and moving well.


Leg 4, Wasdale to Honister

As well as Paul who had already set off John Butters and Fred Smith were also accompanying me on this leg. John set a good pace going up Yewbarrow (or Yew-B**tard as he calls it) and half way up Fred informed me that we were on 36 minute pace and not 47 minute pace (per my schedule) but it felt comfortable and I made 12 minutes on the climb and another 6 on the next climb to Red Pike at which point we were back in the clag again.

This might have taken its toll on me as for the first time I started to feel a little tired and my foot was also hurting again. Luckily it didn’t last long and a cup of tea from Fred, slice of maltloaf, a gel and some painkillers after Steeple sorted me out.

Descending from Pillar the clag cleared revealing fantastic views down into Wasdale and Ennerdale – Paul commented that “you can see the pub from here”.

You could certainly see the Wasdale Head Inn but I still had a long way to reach the pubs of Keswick. We ascended Kirk Fell via the Ennerdale race gulley at which point we stopped for a quick snack and admired the views.


On the top of Kirk Fell we were joined by Jim Thompson, Dave Bradburn and Simon Long who had ran in from Honister via Moses Trod to run the final section of the leg with me. Iain had also planned on meeting me here but I learnt later that he had been in some pain on leg 2 so decided against it which was totally understandable.
There was only one big climb left now up to Great Gable which I enjoyed and Paul took a good line on the descent, bearing right of the path to avoid the rocky scramble.

The next section over Green Gable, Brandreth and Grey Knotts was good running – unbeknown to us Satch was waiting for us on the top to Grey Knotts but unfortunately none of us saw him.

Another fast descent and I was running into Honister feeling absolutely fantastic. There was never a point when I thought that I wasn’t going to make it but it still felt good to running into the last changeover and seeing everyone there waiting for me.

As well as my support team my friends Malcom Lewis and Helen Stephenson were also at Honister and it was great to see them although I wasn’t able to speak to them much – save that for Keswick…
I had made 38 minutes on the leg which meant I was now 5 minutes up on schedule.


Leg 5, Honister to Keswick

John Walton, Harra, Phil James, Simon Long, Andrew Softly and Catherine Vicarage set off shortly after I arrived at Honister to get a head start.
After a quick toilet stop I set off up the final big climb of Dale Head with Tim Forster, Dave Bradburn and John Butters. catching up with the rest of the team at the top and Malcolm who had also walked up.

Some of the team went straight on and cut out Hindsgarth which is pretty much an out and back. Then it was time for the final climb and the final peak, Robinson. It felt fantastic to touch the last cairn – number 42 – just the run in to Keswick to go now.

I had previously told Tim that I wanted to take the grassy alternative to the rocky scramble at the top of Robinson so we veered off the path. We went a little too far to the right and ended up at the top of the crags and had to come back up a little but it wasn’t a big deal. Soon we were descending the lovely grassy descent down to the tarn where I paused with John B. Looking back up I could see everyone coming down but there was no sign of John W. Someone shouted that he had rolled his ankle and that Dave B had went back up for him.
Tim told me to push on so I did down the path and eventually joining the road. As we approached Little Town we spotted Steve and Gillian waiting by the road up ahead –  I think were surprised to see us so early and raced off ahead to get back to the car park before us.

A quick change into road shoes and my Saltwell vest and it was time for the final 4.5 miles along the road. I still felt great so made good time on this section running with John B and Andrew with the others following behind and before I knew it we were on the outskirts of Keswick.
The feeling of running up Keswick high street with everyone cheering me on was incredible and I raced up the steps to touch the door of the Moot Hall 21 hours and 19 minutes after setting off from there the previous night.

Steve handed me a pint and I stood at the top of the steps and tried to contemplate what I had just achieved – 66 miles, 42 peaks and 27,000ft of ascent.

Iain was one of the first to congratulate me and welcome me to the club which was a fantastic feeling after all the training we have done together and supporting him on his round 4 weeks previously.

The rest of the team then started to come in, first Phil, then Tim , Harra, Catherine & Simon , Dave and finally John W who’d valiantly pushed on and completed the run in – I was glad to see him and relieved that he was ok.


Gemma told me I needed to have something to eat so we retreated to the Kings Arms and she very kindly bought me some Fish and Chips, although I only managed about half of them. I stayed in the pub for another hour or so before walking back to the Hostel and finally getting some much awaited sleep.



So what are the main things I learnt from my round? For me the hardest part was constantly eating and drinking. It’s totally different to the way I train and I had to force myself to keep taking fuel on board. I did feel a bit sickly a few times because of all the sugar but it didn’t affect my running & passed after a while.
One of the pieces of advice Keith gave me beforehand was to enjoy the day and I can honestly say that I enjoyed every last second of it. Amazingly I didn’t have a bad patch and never had a single negative thought enter my mind. I never thought about how long or far I had left to go or what climbs were left – on every leg I just looked forward to seeing my support crew at the changeovers and running with them.
I’ve probably done more training than most people would for a round and I think this was the biggest factor in why I felt so good on the day and didn’t have any issues. I was also able to regularly eat and drink, even though most of the time I didn’t really feel like it.
I didn’t have any soreness in my legs at all which meant I could take the descents (relatively) fast – the only problem I had was my soreness in the balls of feet which I’ve had for months and I was able to run through that.
I must also give a massive thanks to all my support team. Amongst others I had the 2 reigning winners (male and female) of the Chevy Chase and 6 people who have previously completed the round running with me. I simply could not have a better team and I want to especially thank Steve, Gillian and John – it was a very long day for them too and they couldn’t have looked after me any better.
I would thoroughly recommend anyone who has an interest in fell running to give the round a go – as long as you can get the right training in beforehand then you are definitely in with a shout.
I wrote a blog in preparation which is here and my strava route is here

Oh, and if you’re wondering what happened to the Calva Party…. Well they missed the turn off and ended going half way up Skiddaw. No-one had a map but luckily Catherine was able to use an app on her phone to pinpoint their location and after attempting to pick up the right path they decided to call it a night and retreat back to the car.


Rob Brooks

Scafell Pike race report

I entered this race on a whim. I was aware of how challenging it was likely to be as a running CV was required for entry to check you were capable of it. This was my third marathon. My first was Windermere, a hilly road race and my second was the St. Oswald’s ultra, a flat trail race. I put these down hoping it would be enough to get me a place. It did. 
In hindsight had I known exactly what it would entail I am not sure I would have entered. 
My training, I thought, was good. I managed a few long training runs on hilly trails, I also spent a lot of time walking up my stairs to try and get my climbing muscles strengthened. One day I climbed 3000 feet just going up and down stairs. On reflection, post race, I think it was the best it could be considering my need to stay local (I don’t drive), injury free and fit it around family and work life.
Race day came, It was a 4am start and I had no sleep the night before. I woke up at 2am and plotted the route on my ordinance survey app on my phone as a back up just in case Adrian (my running buddy) had a problem with his gpx file. This was a Godsend as his watch conked out at mile 5 and we had no navigation. 
There was a 3-mile walk to the start, a beautiful cafe on the edge of the lake. Seeing the other runners made me realise I was perhaps a little out of my depth. For most races, you get a mixture of people in varying shapes, sizes and kit. This lot all looked built for fell running and extremely experienced. There was maybe 200 of us. 
The race started with an easy bit of flat running along the shores of the lake. I actually found this extremely hard. I couldn’t get my pace right and my backpack had about 7kg of stuff in it. I hadn’t anticipated how hard running my usual pace would be carrying the mandatory kit, a kilo of food and 2.5L of fluid. (The fluid may seem excessive but it saved me later on) Naz my fellow Harrier quickly found his own stride and ploughed on ahead. 
The scenery was absolutely stunning, it felt like running through Jurassic Park. I was still struggling, my heart rate wouldn’t drop below peak and I was finding it difficult to run at a 9-10 minute mile. I think had I been on my own at this point I would have slowed to regroup but I was also conscious that the many experienced runners around us seemed to be belting along and we were amongst the slowest. 
I was saved by our first climb about 5 miles in, it was only 500ft but was steep and I could walk it. This brought my heart rate down and I felt better for it. Though it did make me chuckle in hindsight that the first ‘bump’ was the same elevation as running from the Team Valley to Tanfield Railway (my longest hill in training). For members of the club who might not have ran that, the same elevation is running the Team Valley to the top of Sheriff hill. 
Once at the top the views were stunning, Naz was with us for a while but ran on ahead as I had decided to walk some of the more technical uphill sections after seeing some runners go over on their ankles. The downhill back into the valley was fun but steep and my Saltwell Harriers downhill running training really helped here until the road section where I let loose and felt my familiar left glute/IT band niggle that always appears around mile 8 and psyches me out. 
We picked up the pace on the road section and caught up with Naz again at the feed station at Seathwaite. I started drinking at this point and had my first bit of food for the day. 
The ground from then on was not what I would class as ‘trail’ it was littered with boulders, loose rocks, tree roots, streams. It was hard to run on and we were uphill into the wind. I decided to walk bits of it as the extra effort running wouldn’t have gained us much time and I was conscious of what was to come. We stumbled along the valley at the tail end of the pack until we reached the little bridge and the beginning of our ascent. 
We met up with a lovely woman who was really struggling with cramp and Adrian gave her some electrolytes. She was contemplating dropping out. Adrian had brought along a single cheat stick with his two (its partner had been lost at the top of Scafell Pike the year before) which he got out for me at this point. It took about half an hour to get my head around how to use it but it was very very welcome to take some pressure off my glute which was very sore. 
The ascent of Scafell Pike was relentless. I have never found anything so tough. I struggled with being really small as my decreased stride length meant I had more steps to take and couldn’t get up the steeper crags in one stride having to go on all fours. The wind was in our faces and being able to see how far up we still had to travel was demoralising. I am pretty much the fittest and strongest I have ever been but this was something else in terms of the relentless physical slog. 
Halfway up Ade lost his footing and fell into a waterfall. He badly hurt both knees and fractured his fingers. Any other time it would have been a trip to the hospital but halfway up Scafell you just have to suck it up. This set us back a few minutes whilst we regrouped but we ploughed on. 
The ascent continued, making slow progress and scrambling up sharp vertical cliffs in places. I can honestly say I was genuinely frightened for my life on a few occasions. The approach to the summit was awash with annoying tourists in bobble hats eating Hula Hoops and playing on their mobile phones. At this point, I wanted to murder someone as I couldn’t handle the Instagram fest going on at the top or how any of them were physically capable of getting up there after the horror I had just endured. 
We reached the summit where a medic saw to Adrian’s hand and told us if we didn’t get a move on we were woefully close to not meeting the cut off time at the Seathwaite check in. 
I went into panic mode and pegged it. My foot got stuck in a boulder and I almost broke my ankle. I was absolutely exhausted, my nutrition had screwed up as I had forgotten to eat and drink on the ascent and I honestly thought I couldn’t carry on. The path came down an almost vertical drop of loose muddy gravel peppered with large boulders which were difficult to get traction on and made slow progress. We then had to climb a few hundred feet over another ridge and across a huge boulder field to start our descent. 
This bit was mint! I just let go, the trail was uneven but manageable and not too steep. I just legged it down the side of the mountain. I realised this path had been the one the Hula Hoop eaters had climbed the mountain on as it was a gentle climb up. I ran down mentally pulling Adrian along behind me. I realised at this point that what had hindered me climbing was my advantage when descending. Being little with short strides and a low centre of gravity meant I could skip between boulders and run fast downhill on technical terrain. 
We reached the stretcher box halfway down and checked in, then continued into the valley. Here electrolyte lady caught up with us and thanked us for getting her up the mountain. Because of Ade’s electrolytes, she got past her cramp and made it up. She was clearly a strong runner and left us behind here. 
We carried on along the valley back to Seathwaite for 3pm, well within cut off. I was so relieved, I stuffed my face and drank everything they had. I had a water bottle with me I refilled with juice and we set back off in good spirits. 
I found the last third the hardest I think. I was a whirlwind of emotions. The path was uneven and hard to run on and I was really tired. We started running and slogged along through beautiful countryside and hundreds of gated fields. It became a bit of a running joke that I had shut down my cognitive skills as lost the ability to work out how to open gates. I literally couldn’t do it. 
Then we had a couple of miles talking about how much we hated it and that we were never doing it again and what were we thinking? Then at mile 21, there was a hill that was pretty much a half mile vertical climb. I just lost it here. I was fighting back tears, my legs were on fire and I was unable to cope emotionally or physically. Adrian was way ahead of me as he is much stronger at climbing than I am and I remember him reaching the top and fist bumping the sky to say we were there. I followed and rounded the corner shouting the worst swear words you can imagine only to find myself face to face wth a shocked family of walkers, I hope I apologised, I can’t remember if I did or not.
The next section was also hard as the downhills were too technical to run well on, they were very steep and rocky. My lack of experience showed on all these stretches as I couldn’t let loose. I knew how far we had come and how close we were to the finish to risk injury. Once the path levelled out I started running again and began overtaking other runners. I saw the final aid station ahead and SPRINTED to it so I could eat maximum rocky road and cookies before Adrian appeared. The marshal then told us we had 6k left.
“THATS JUST A RACE FOR LIFE OR A PARK RUN!” I screamed manically at Adrian. “Let’s imagine we are in pink tutus and just get this done!”
I was like a woman possessed. I was running an 8-minute mile in places as we had a brief road section. I was pelting past other runners, with Adrian pegging it along behind. We caught electrolytes lady who fell in with us. There was a long stretch along the edge of a cliff face but the terrain was ok so I ran most of it. The final mile was along the edge of the lake and I just sprinted. I knew Jon was at the end and I needed a cuddle so I just went as fast as I could. I sprinted over the finish and collapsed. I found Naz in a similar state who had come in 15 minutes ahead of me. There is something special about sharing an experience like that. 


I have never found anything so tough in my whole life and this includes a 72-hour labour with twins. It was a truly humbling experience and made me realise what a close relationship both the mental and physical side of running have to each other. It is mentally exhausting running on uneven terrain as you have to anticipate every footfall before it happens and concentrate completely. I urge everyone to get off road once in a while to run… but perhaps don’t run up Kibblesworth / Tanfield bank and then decide you can run up Scafell Pike.

Laura Gledhill – 9th of July 2017

Saltwell Fell Race Results 2017

15 JONA AAL U/A M SEN 54.51
24 PHIL GREEN NFR M45 56.20
30 GEOFF DAVIS NFR M60 57.50
32 STEVE LUMB DFR M55 58.20
38 MICK MONKMAN U/A M40 59.07
48 ALLON WELSH NFR M50 60.35
52 EDDIE PEAT DFR M55 60.45
54 MARK LATHAM NFR M55 60.52
55 MARK BAXTER U/A M40 60.55
66 MARTIN CROOKS U/A M45 62.25
73 JON PUNSHON NFR M60 73.58
76 FIONA KNOX U/A W50 76.30
81 LEAH HOBSON U/A W40 77.49
82 JIM MURPHY U/A M60 78.25
83 PHIL OWEN U/A M50 79.09

Bob Graham Round Blog 8

This is my final blog post before my round on Friday.
In my first blog I outlined the 4 main concerns I had so now seems like a good time to revisit them:

  1. Conditions on the day
  2. Still a concern, but during my training I’ve ran in gale force winds, torrential rain and horizontal snow/sleet, mist, knee deep snow, knee deep bogs, freezing conditions, roasting hot conditions. It can’t possibly be any worse on the day than what I’ve previously had to endure and I’m confident my support team have the navigational skills and experience to get me round.

  3. Being able to fit in the training I need to do
  4. I feel like I’ve pretty much nailed this, I don’t think I could or would have done anything differently or any more than what I’ve been able to achieve.

  5. My ability to traverse steep and technical terrain (especially technical descents)
  6. Whilst I’ll never be a natural fell runner or a good descender I feel like I’ve definitely improved enough in this area for it not to be a concern as I will be moving at a significantly slower pace than I would be in a race.


  7. I’m also not an ultra-runner and have limited experience in running any further than marathon distance.
  8. Whilst this is still true I’ve done some long training days or up to 10 hours, and 32 miles and not felt too bad at the end of any of them. I know on the day I’m going to have to more than double these figures but this does give me some confidence.

Time will tell how effective my training has been but based on what I know now I’d say the 3 most important factors are getting plenty climbing and descending in your legs, spending long periods of time on your feet and the ability to keep moving when you’re tired and sore.
Finally a few facts an figures. The official start of my BGR training was when I did leg 4 with Iain on 15th November last year. Since then I’ve :
Ran 1,517 miles

Climbed 277,641 feet

21 run in the Lake District

17 runs in the Cheviots

3 along Hadrians Wall

1 in the Pennines

1 in the Yorkshire Dales

1 in Simonside Hills

Accumulated 7 pairs of fell shoes


I’ve been round every leg of the round on numerous occasions and had some epic days in the fells, sometimes on my own and on other occasions with some great company. I’ve enjoyed training for this challenge more than I ever have for anything I’ve previously done and I can’t wait for Friday to arrive.
One of the things I’ve came to realise is how lucky I am to have the experience and support from everyone who is helping me out in my round. This absolutely makes a massive difference and I’m humbled that so many people have taken time out of their lives to be part of this journey and look forward to supporting as many of them as I can in their rounds in the future (you know who you are…).
Roll on June 23rd……..