The first of this year's Dales Trail Series, the DT 20 took place on April 2nd. These three races are organised by Swaledale Outdoors in Reeth and club members, led by Ros Blackmore, are heavily involved in marshalling.
Eleven club members were among the 206 finishers at this years race, with Pocklington based Stu Smith first club finisher in 7th place in 99.55. Less than a minute separated the next three members, with Derek Parrington 13th in 104.30, Tim Grimwood 14th in 104.55 and Ian Oldham 15th in 105.07. Next came Martin Randall, 22nd in 108.09, followed by Caitlin Pearson, 6th woman in 116.50. Other club times - Mike Warren 130.08, Ray Crabbe 133.55, Sue Crabbe 136.51, Adele Marshall 139.28 and Grace Gilpin 178.21.
With so many runners busy in Reeth, Abi Player was the only member in Parkrun action last weekend, recording 25.47 in the Darlington event.
There was an excellent turnout of 14 Swaledale runners at the Thirsk 10 mile race on March 20th. Dave Atkinson was first club finisher in 123rd place from 877 runners, with a time of 65.19. Martin Randall runs consistently well and was next home in 68.09. He was followed by James Taylor in 76.50 and Ronan Walsh in 80.19. Carol Murray was the first Swaledale woman in 81.17. Other club finishers - Alan Mackay 82.20, Christian Player 82.51, Vicki Howe 83.57, Pete Devlin 85.47, Roger Brisley 87.29, Zoe Mackay 89.28, Julia Spittle 90.10, Ronnie Cassar 94.07, Nicki Skinner 106.02.
Also on Sunday 20th Tim Grimwood ran in the Blakey Blitz fell race (10.6 miles, 2800 feet), probably the toughest of the Esk Valley winter series. For the second race in a row he finished 20th, in 99.54.He now lies in 4th place in the Male Open category.
On March 19th Jacqueline Keavney and Jim Coldwell were over in the Lake District for the scenic undulating Coniston 14 mile race. Jacqueline beat her previous best at the course by several minutes to finish as third woman and first FV50 in 93.47. Jim also ran well, finishing just seconds off a PB in 106.19.
Two club members were in action at the Helmsley 10k multi-terrain race on Easter Sunday. Andrew Fletcher finished in 47th place in 44.12 with Angela Turner in 55.00.
Parkrun results 26th March. Darlington - Marian Hunter 26.38. Northallerton - Nicky Logan 29.53.
Ian Oldham's form has improved quickly in a short time since joining the club and he broke the 20 minute barrier for the first time at the Darlington Parkrun on March 12th, finishing 24th of 274 in 19.35. Stuart Hardcastle and Marian Hunter produced their usual steady performances with 22.17 and 27.13 respectively. Four club members were at the Northallerton Parkrun with Ronan Walsh coming 10th in 24.24. Liz Sowter recorded 28.04, Julia Spittle 28.37 and Nicki Walsh 31.33. Andrew Fletcher was first V55 at Fountains Abbey in 19.53 and Niall Cheyne ran the Skipton Parkrun in 23.18.
Also on Saturday, Jim Coldwell made his annual trip home for the Black Combe fell race ( 8 miles,3300 feet) in south west Cumbria. "The Combe" is the first obstacle facing weather fronts coming in from the Irish Sea and has a reputation for a special kind of thick mist. This year was no different and along with many of the nations best fellrunners Jim went off course in the clag, losing around 10 minutes. He finished 368th in a field of around 500 in 1.57.06.
On the same day, Jacqueline Keavney and Martin Randall ran in the 14.1 mile hilly Dentdale run. Jacqueline finished as 5th woman and first FV45 in 1.41.27. Martin was closer to her than at the previous week's Haweswater half, finishing in 1.42.45. The following day, as part of London preparation, Jacqueline ran the similarly hilly Spen 20 mile race on tired legs. In the circumstances she was satisfied to finish as 11th woman and second FV50 in 2.34.51.
12th March saw my 8th consecutive attempt at the Black Combe race. This year was to be a little different to usual as it was the opening counter in the English Championship. Usually around 150 runners turn up on the day. This year 750 places had sold out well in advance and the expectation was for around 500 to turn up. Silecroft village hall feels crammed with the usual turnout, so marquees had been erected on the start field to deal with the numbers.
I have some previous with this race. In 2009, in thick clag, I went wrong after the first checkpoint, got hopelessly lost and ended up finishing in last place. I always stay a couple of miles away in Millom (my hometown) the night before race and the Combe looms over the town like a benign behemoth. This year it was invisible – completely covered by Irish Sea fog. A bad sign. Checking my kit I also realised I’d left my shorts back in Richmond. Frustrating, but nothing that an early morning visit to Pete Bland’s van couldn’t fix.
The race begins with an absurdly steep climb to Seaness (CP1). It’s a good idea to take this section steadily knowing what is to come later in the race. This year the number of runners meant there was no alternative. Then begins the long climb to the summit (CP2). I was feeling strong and met Ripon Runners’ Gary Bastow on this section. A brief chat and I pressed on ahead (he’s coming back from injury) and I also got an unexpected shout from a school friend who was spectating. It’s at the top, though, that the fun begins. This was where I made my mistake in 2009, and this year the clag, if anything, was worse. However, I’ve learnt my lesson, stayed high and was even able to keep a couple of others in the right direction. It’s a longish drag to CP3 (White Combe) a quick descent and then an awkward contour down to the river crossing (CP4). At this point I heard the sound of fast approaching runners behind me. The ladies race had started 10 minutes earlier and I’d spent the race up to this point gradually overtaking the back-markers, so I was taken aback. I was amazed when a group containing Rob Jebb, Rob Hope and two or three other elite runners whizzed past. It turned out they’d got lost after CP2 – not just me then!
Six Swaledale runners ran at the Lightwater Valley multi-terrain 10k on Saturday 5th February. Andrew Fletcher confirmed his return to fitness finishing in 29th place out of 251 runners in 43.27. Stuart Hardcastle was second club runner home in 48.58. Other club finishers - Vicki Howe 52.23, Julia Spittle 57.26, Anne Singleton 59.49, Ronnie Cassar 61.40. On the same day Jacqueline Keavney and Niall Cheyne ran in the Darlington Parkrun. Jacqueline was 3rd woman in a time of 20.23 with Niall recording 22.27.
Four club members travelled to the Lake District for the hilly Haweswater half marathon on Sunday. There was a close contest to finish as first club runner with Jacqueline Keavney in 1.30.19, Robbie Kelly in 1.32.25 and Martin Randall in 1.33.46. Jacqueline was 8th woman and first FV50 and Robbie won the V55 category. Martin Luxton completed the club quartet, not far behind in 1.40.22
There have been some impressive performances by the club's more "experienced" runners at the last two Darlington Parkruns. All four club members at the February 20th event won their age categories. Andrew Fletcher (V55) finished in 20.08, with Jacqueline Keavney (FV50) in 20.11, Stuart Hardcastle (V60) in 22.39 and Liz Sowter (FV55) in 26.25. Jacqueline finished first out of all 292 runners in the age-graded results table. On February 27th Robbie Kelly was first V55 in 19.28 with Stuart first V60 again in 21.56. Niall Cheyne also ran, with a time of 20.46. Ronan Walsh was the sole representative at the Northallerton Parkrun on the 27th and came 14th in 24.35.
In contrast, new club members have been prominent at the start of the fellrunning year. Tim Grimwood finished an excellent 20th place of 100 runners at Glaisdale Rigg on February 21st and is currently in fifth place in the Male Open category of the Esk Valley Winter Series. Tim was also first club runner to finish at the High Cup Nick fell race (9.3 miles, 1500 feet) on February 27th. Cold, dry conditions saw Ricky Lightfoot of Ellenborough set a new course record of 60.01. Tim finished in 80.18 with Ian Oldham in 82.53. Jim Coldwell and Michael Keavney resumed their annual rivalry with Jim finishing in 88.38 just 12 seconds ahead of Michael. Rebecca Simpson was first club woman in 93.39, with Claire Stewart in 100.23, just ahead of Michael Rosher. This was the first race of the 2016 club fell championship, which looks set to be a closely contested affair this year.
The St Wilfrid's Muddy Boots 10k in Ripon has grown steadily over the years and the tenth running of the race on February 7th had over 400 finishers, including four from Swaledale. Martin Randall was first home for the club in 43rd place with a time of 44.07. Suzie McGann was next club finisher in 52.22 with Jacqueline Morphew in 57.26 and Anne Singleton in 62.44. The following Sunday saw two club members at the five mile long Ann Johnson Absent Friends Trail Race organised by Billingham Marsh House Harriers. Jonathan Gray finished 45th out of 162 runners in 38.41 with Julia Spittle 124th in 49.09.
At the Darlington Parkrun on February 6th Niall Cheyne ran 21.27 and Kathleen Finn finished in 30.19. The previous weekend Alison Johnston finished as 5th woman and first FV55 in 23.28, with Liz Sowter second in the same age category in 26.27 and Marian Hunter first FV60 in 27.14.
Sunday 10th January 2016
The Vertical Kilometre is a particularly tough start to our Spanish ‘racing season’. Starting from the edge of Gandia, a town south of Valencia, it runs through the campo, through orange groves and pine forests on rough tracks, before heading straight up the mountain, with the finish line on the summit. This 13 km race does exactly what it says on the tin, 1000 metres of ascent, with most of this in the last 4 kms.
Both Neil and I were planning on slow races, as we were both nursing dodgy ankles. Neil was still recovering from injury, with corresponding lack of fitness and I had stupidly sprained my ankle on the journey down to Spain, tripping on a kerb! I was fortunate to meet a lovely lady who had moved to Spain 13 years ago so had good company and conversation until we got on to the really steep stuff, then all talk ceased! Neil had Phil Hodgson from Todmorden Harriers for company, but not for long as he disappeared off up the hill ahead! Needless to say both Neil and my times were unimpressive, but we achieved what we set out to do, which was to finish without further injury and kick start our winter race season. Neil finished in 2.01.27, 85th Veterano, 233/712 and I did 2:28.31, 32nd Veterana, 526/712.
This year's Brass Monkey Half Marathon in York on January 17th took place in excellent running conditions and delivered personal bests for two of the club's runners. Robbie Kelly broke the 1 h30min barrier for the first time finishing in 1.27.54 and John Lynch was delighted with his time of 1.43.45. Martin Randall also squeezed under 1.30 although his name is missing from the official results.
Three members ran in the Darlington Parkrun last Saturday. Stuart Hardcastle's remarkably consistent times continued with 22.09, with Jess Young not far behind in 22.44. Liz Sowter ran her second Parkrun a little faster than her first, finishing in 26.48. Michael Rosher was the only Swaledale runner at Not a Parkrun in Reeth and completed the 7km offroad course in 38.24.
There was a good turnout at the rescheduled Jolly Holly Jog in Ripon on Sunday 24th with nine Swaledale runners amongst the 525 participants. Derek Parrington is based in Calderdale these days but continues to represent Swaledale and made the trip back for the race. He finished as first V50 and 19th overall in 41.43. Martin Randall was next club runner home in 45.59, followed by Alan Mackay in 51.35. Carol Murray was the first club woman to cross the line in 54.27 although Suzie McGann had a faster chip time of 54.16 despite finishing three places behind. Other club times - Zoe Mackay 59.10, Richie Smith 61.33, Julia Spittle 61.21 and Marian Hunter 67.01.
The first Swaledale Runners Fell Championship got off to a fine start with the Swaledale Marathon. Although more a trail race than a genuine fell race it’s always popular with club members and so was an obvious choice as the first long counter. Stuart Smith was first home for the club and top points scorer, although the race also saw an unfortunate injury to Neil Bowmer, putting him out of the series. Next up was a medium – the Ingleborough Mountain Race. Four club members made the trip, with Jackie Keavney first back (just ahead of Jim Coldwell) and top points scorer (a situation that was to become familiar!). Mike and Jackie Keavney and Jim Coldwell made the long journey to the South Lakes in August to take part in the Turner Landscape fell race, a testing medium around the back of the Coniston fells made even harder due to the heat. Jackie finished well ahead of Mike and Jim. The end of August brought Reeth Show, the first short counter and another popular club race with eleven Swaledalers present. Robbie Kelly was first home for the club, but finished behind Jackie Keavney and Caitlin Pearson on points due to the 15% ladies allowance. September’s Viking Chase saw the championship move to the North Yorkshire Moors and a top finish for Martin Randall in his second race of the series. Mike Keavney missed this race due to an injury that was to end his championship hopes. Later in the month Jackie Keavney, Robbie Kelly and Jim Coldwell were in the heart of the Lake District for the next long counter, the formidable Langdale Horseshoe. The team-mates were well spread out with Robbie fist back (and Jackie again picking up the most points). Jim was more than happy to get a Lakeland Classic under his belt! November brought the final short counter – Great Whernside at Kettlewell. Jim Coldwell was yet another injury victim, failing to finish after twisting his ankle on the descent. The race also saw Michael Rosher completing the required number of races (and of course Jackie picking up the most points!). Jackie Keavney was also the only club member to manage the trip to Lancashire for Tour of Pendle. Four runners completed the series (Ros Blackmore falling short of one race and injuries spoiling the plans of others). Jackie Keavney finished as Fell Champion, ahead of Robbie Kelly, Jim Coldwell and Michael Rosher. This championship is certainly accessible to many club members – if you are capable of completing the Swaledale Marathon and Reeth Show then you should be more than capable of completing the required four races. This year’s Championship will consist of nine new races spread throughout the year and around the North of England. Details to follow soon!
What is the most appropriate thing to do on the shortest Saturday of the year, in torrential rain and a howling gale? Is it to sit beside a roaring log fire planning next year’s races with a nice cup of tea? Or is it running 38 miles round the recently flooded and devastated Lake District with 180 other fools? Well, Mike Rosher and I chose the latter, running the Tour de Helvellyn on the 19th December. This race was definitely in doubt following Storm Desmond, but thanks to the dedication of the team at Nav4 who carefully assessed the viability of the route and to the people of Cumbria who were keen to encourage ‘business as normal’, the race went ahead.
The Tour de Helvellyn is advertised as a race for experienced ultra-runners with mountain skills, and this year it was definitely essential, with choice of kit and navigation skills essential. I just about scraped into this category, more from my mountaineering background than running pedigree. However, I still felt a bit of a novice amongst some seriously hard-core and fast ultra-runners, such as Spine and Dragons Back finishers.
I travelled over to Askham, near Shap, on the Friday evening, choosing to sleep in the van rather than have a probably sleepless night in the Community Hall with other competitors. The next morning I prepared to leave at 7.15 and discovered that Mike was planning the same time. Rather than a mass start, competitors choose their own start time based on their anticipated speed, with the aim of getting to the first manned checkpoint at Patterdale at 9.30 when it opens. This meant that slower runners started earlier in the dark and finished in the dark, with faster runners attempting to get round the route in the daylight.
But before ‘dibbing’ to start my clock, there was the small matter of the stringent gear check. The art of balancing safety and weight was challenging for this race. With few checkpoints and difficult access, runners have to be responsible for their own safety, which basically means carrying and wearing clothing/equipment that will save your life in the event of an injury or getting lost. There was no question about what to wear to start though, it was full waterproofs as the rain was pouring down with high winds. Mike got held up in the gear check so I started a few minutes before him and therefore didn’t seem him again for about 9 miles.