This classic Northumberland race was perfect timing in preparation for the Lakeland 50 on the 27th July. This was very much coincidental - I was always going to do this race, as I have done the previous two years. The route, the challenge, the runners, the organisation and the volunteers make this race one for the diary year after year – hence the rush to apply for a place back at the beginning of February. The limit is around 200 runners, and fills up quick sharp. Three weeks to the day before embarking on the Lakeland 50, the Chevy would give me my last big training run in terms of distance, time on feet and ascent for conditioning. Back in April I had similar preparation for the Highland Fling by running the Allendale Challenge three weeks before.
|Chillaxed before the race|
The forecast was to be very warm with little wind. We arrived at Wooler for registration and got “dibbed” up. The mandatory kit check stated that water had to be carried due to the hot weather with limited refreshments at the checkpoints. Luckily I had my donut bottle in the car. It was great to see so many NFR’s at this race and to get a chance to be in the team photo.
We set off bang on 10:30am at a steady, relaxed pace. The intention was to enjoy the race and use it as training, not being concerned about where I finished. The first few miles are easy running, some road, trail and a couple of steady inclines. At this point I had no idea where I was in the field as I chose not to look too far into the distance. It was steady going, I was enjoying the scenery and trying to remain relaxed with a clear head. This works for me, I should use it more often. Thinking back to the Allendale challenge and the Fling, I adopted this approach there too and the results exceeded my expectations. It makes such a difference when you are enjoying running rather than having outside influences and pressure get to you. At shorter road races like 10k’s there seems to be a completely different ethos where runners are in the zone and worried about getting PB’s.
After the first checkpoint at Broadstruther, I was sitting in a group of five letting the others do the work. The next two sections were going to be tough eventually ending up on the top of the Cheviot, so I was conserving energy. The heat was having an effect by this time, although there was a nice breeze. I reached the Cheviot summit after a little “hands on knees” action and scoffed a gel. The descent from the Cheviot is quite sharp and it takes more effort to stop tumbling down (although this would be quicker!). With this in mind I was worried about my quads getting a bashing so eased up a little. This allowed a couple of runners to pass me but I wasn’t overly concerned.
The next checkpoint would be Hedgehope at halfway, after another long drag. A bit more walking/hiking on this section but managed to get back the two places I lost on the Cheviot descent. The Hedgehope descent is more manageable, but still quite acute. Once this was out the way it should be relatively plain sailing to the finish….
I somehow lost a place between Hedgehope and Langlee Crags; I obviously took a different (and longer) line. I was still in a good place and feeling comfortable with my pace and nutrition/hydration. I ran with Bruce Crombie from Alnwick Harriers and Andy Blackett for a while up until Brands Corner which helped pull me along. The section along Carey Burn seemed to last forever up until the dreaded Hell’s path (and final) checkpoint. I dibbed my dibber and was told I was in third place – what!!!! How did this happen? Did I miss a checkpoint? Are you sure? I clambered up Hell’s path and took a last cup of water ready for the last couple of miles. I went from not being worried about position to “get a move on, you’re in third! How often does this happen!”.
The pace quickened and I made sure I didn’t look behind me. I passed a walker who muttered something about 250 metres – what? I had 250 metres gap? I ploughed on and dug deep, the legs were suffering now. I crossed the finish line with relief. In the end I had quite a gap between myself and fourth. I found out later that I wasn’t far off second.
Huge thanks to the organisers and volunteers – fantastic as usual. There were some great performances, I know Phil G and John T were well chuffed with their times. It was a shame to see Chris W DNF. He’s had a period of some rotten luck. I hope he recovers well to do the 100k he has planned in the Lakes in September.
Had a great chin wag with a certain Mr Tim Bateson, producer of the Great British Trail Running podcast (check it out, it's fantastic!). It was good to finally get this opportunity having followed his activities on Strava and to quiz him on his Hardmoors exploits - great run Tim.
I’m now looking forward to a gentle taper down for the Lakes 50. It’s going to be a great weekend.
19 days to go.