Apedale Dash (Newcastle Dales Dash)
2nd December 2018
Race Report Chris Elsley
There were ideal running conditions on Sunday for the Apedale Dash – a 10k run off road around Apedale and Lymedale in Newcastle.
The start and finish is from the Apedale Heritage Centre just off Loomer Road and runners faced a number of challenging climbs while in parts conditions underfoot were as muddy as ever.
Eighteen members of Stafford Harriers were in the field of just over 200 runners and Justin Green was first of the Harriers to complete the course finishing 19th in 43m 42s. He was followed in by 15 year old Jake Oliver who finished 29th (46:09) just pipping club mate Spencer Holland (30th – 46:10) in a sprint finish at the end.
Harriers to finish were:
Race winner was Simon Bailey (Mercia Fell Runners) who finished in 37:58 – almost two minutes ahead of his nearest rival. Wendy Swift (Trentham) took the Ladies prize in 44:36.
Race Report Peter Williams
Organised by Newcastle (Staffs) AC, The Newcastle Dales Dash is an off-road multi-terrain 10k route that undulates through a delightful community country park in woodland over meadows and adjacent to pools. The surface includes; tarmac, limestone, grass and a wooden bridge. There are a number of interesting features such as steep narrow muddy paths ideal for the sure footed and brave runners. The total elevation gain and loss is 675 ft each which requires strong legs and good footwear on such a course.
I like this type of course to run on, although physically and mentally demanding in parts I find recovery much quicker than on an equivalent road course due to the softer underfoot conditions.
Cheddleton 10K Christmas Pudding Race
24th November 2018
Race Report by Dave Marsden
I have probably reported on this race in previous years so apologies for this repetition.
This being its 35th year, it must be one of the longest established races in the area. It’s a 3 lap course on traffic free lanes around Cheddleton, providing 3 good climbs and 3 steep descents. Today, the weather was better than I can recall it ever being for this event. It was mild, still and with hazy sunshine, ideal running conditions.
Before the start, Ken Rushton requested a brief applause for Dave Edwards who recently passed away. Dave had been much involved in the local running community including the Alsager 5 organisation. Then we were off and up the first of the 3 climbs. At the top, Jonathan Whilock, Staffs Moorlands AC’s bag-piper, attired in his Highland tartan, piped us over the summit. He was still there when I completed the second ascent but had retired by the time I stumbled up for the third and final time.
It’s a good, testing race, well organised by Stan Winterton, with some funds going to Cancer Research. And, a Christmas pudding to all finishers.
1st male Matt Clowes Cardiff AC 30:51
1st lady Amy Neill Newcastle AC 40:37
Dave Marsden, 90th, 47:58. 1st M60.
The 3rd NSCCL Race – Park Hall
18th November 2018
Race Report By Peter Williams
I don’t know about you but I love a bargain. Taking part in the NSCCL’s four cross country events fits into this category. As paid up members of the Harriers its free to take part, by my reckoning the value of being able to run these races exceeds the cost of my annual membership. A bargain.
I like everything about cross country, its one of my favourite forms of running. I think the fact they take part in autumn has something to do with it. The rich colours of trees, grass and earth intensified by mellow sunlight, with just enough warmth in the sun to ward off the chill from the east, the bright colours of the various club vests, the shrill of supporters and finally the euphoria you feel after completing a race.
What struck me during my inspection of the Park Hall course was how varied the route is, “something for everybody” I thought to myself. 4.2 mile, mixed terrain, various conditions under foot and two laps which enabled some planning for a race strategy possible.
The men’s course started with a wide start line on a flat grass area and quickly narrowed to a narrow track so after a manic scramble to get a good position we were forced in to walking pace until the line of runners stretched out and pace picked up. After a roll over a slight brow down a pathway we were led into a narrow gully, what struck me on this section was the amount of dead leaves carpeting broken ground making footwork difficult on downward slopes. Here I managed to pass Mark Oliver and we wished each other a good race. Running through a narrow glade blinded by the rays from the autumn sun sparkling through the overhead canopy of trees we were led up a short sharp steep strength sapping section to a plateau with wonderful views from the high spot to the south. Then dashing through a line of hawthorn hedging we ran down an open grass area only to rise again and be met by another strength sapping section leading to a narrow path through a gorse copse. A sharp turn left brought us down by the site of old quarry workings after which an undulating section competed lap one. So, feeling good I push the pace a little, up the steep section to the plateau through the hedge, down the grassy slope. It was here I heard Mark Oliver behind me “crickey Pete” he said “I didn’t think I was going to keep up with you back there”, no sooner he said that he pulled past me, I tried to respond but to no avail my earlier push had taken its toll. I kept Mark in my sight but couldn’t muster the extra effort. After what seemed to be a real slog over the last ½ mile through the finish. Catching up with Mark later he commented he’d knocked 2-3 min off last years’ time.
The event was staged by Trentham Running Club. Reasonable free parking at the site, and the course well signposted and marshalled were necessary. Following a reasonably dry spell, the course was dry and firm.
|U11 Girls||49||Willow Heath||11.28|
|U11 Girls||50||Edie White||11.31|
|U13 Girls||23||Isla Fraser||10.24|
|U17 Women||12||Saffron Latham||14.41|
|U11 Boys||33||Reuben Wilson||10.16|
|U11 Boys||57||Oliver Cummings||12.21|
|U13 Boys||33||Lucas Wilson||10.54|
|U13 Boys||35||Jack Heath||10.58|
|U13 Boys||46||Ben Green||11.15|
|U13 Boys||47||Matthew Black||11.19|
|U13 Boys||49||Leo Nicholl||11.33|
|U17 Men||13||George Hodkinson||21.13|
|U17 Men||16||Benjamin Cook||21.59|
|U17 Men||17||Robert Gorman||22.22|
|U17 Men||20||Jake Oliver||23.01|
|Senior Women||72||Kerry Hall||W35||27.25|
|Senior Women||85||Debbie McDermott||W45||27.46|
|Senior Women||94||Chris Skellern||W55||28.08|
|Senior Women||151||Jo Oliver||W45||32.51|
|Senior Women||178||Mel Gorman||W45||35.41|
|Senior Women||185||Julie Nokes||W55||36.29|
|Senior Women||203||Sarah Gray||W60||39.54|
|Senior Men||45||Phillip Hilsdon||M40||26.28|
|Senior Men||79||Justin Green||M45||27.55|
|Senior Men||97||Michael Dobson||M50||28.33|
|Senior Men||143||Spencer Holland||M45||30.27|
|Senior Men||146||Richard Crump||SM||30.33|
|Senior Men||147||Liam Duggan||SM||30.39|
|Senior Men||172||Ian Hodkinson||M45||31.54|
|Senior Men||178||Jason Littlewood||SM||32.03|
|Senior Men||191||Darren Mattocks||M40||32.42|
|Senior Men||196||Simon Bromley||M40||33.07|
|Senior Men||224||Mark Oliver||M45||34.39|
|Senior Men||234||Peter Williams||M65||35.02|
|Senior Men||236||Steve Turner||M55||35.15|
|Senior Men||239||Dave Marsden||M60||35.28|
|Senior Men||281||Ed Smith||M65||40.17|
|Senior Men||287||Mark Bentley||M55||42.22|
|Senior Men||295||Bryan Dale||M75||51.39|
Cannock Chase Parkrun
10th November 2018
Although we help manage the Cannock Chase parkrun we don’t normally report the results here on our web site. This week it was included in the Challenge and so we have made an exception.
Fittingly a Stafford Harriers (Phil Hilsdon) was first across the line and a number of PB’s were achieved.
Without the volunteers this event wouldn’t take place, please consider helping out when you can.
|Pos||parkrunner||Time||Age Cat||Age Grade||Gender||Gender Pos||Note||Total Runs|
|7||Justin GREEN||18:53||VM45-49||76.26%||M||7||New PB!||55|
|14||Spencer HOLLAND||19:45||VM45-49||74.09%||M||14||New PB!||6|
|116||Isabelle BECKETT||25:04||JW11-14||64.96%||F||10||New PB!||63|
|208||Graham WILLIAMS||28:19||VM70-74||64.80%||M||171||New PB!||6|
Flying Fox 10
4th November 2018
Race Report by Peter Williams
First held 15 years ago in 2003, this challenging race signals the end of the North Staffs Road Runners Association annual programme. It is organised by Stone Master Marathoners.
The course takes place on quiet lanes in mid Staffordshire. It is a scenic and undulating course based around the small village of Standon.
The race HQ is based at Standon Primary School, there is plenty of parking nearby and facilities include baggage storage, WCs and refreshments.
The race begins about 600m away from the primary school. The first mile or so is up a gentle hill after which a sharp left turn leads to a steep descent where speed is quickly gained over the next few miles. At 4-5 miles a flattish section leads to another ascent between the 6-7mile section and then drops in to a very steep descent to mile 8. From there the course undulates before arriving at the final downhill to the finish by the race HQ.
The course offers opportunity to do some quite speedy running on the steep downhill sections, certainly for those who are sure footed.
On reaching the race HQ to collect my bib number and race chip I was greeted by the smell of bacon being cooked, very tempting as they are, bacon sandwiches are not a good choice shortly before a race so reluctantly skipped having one. However, after drinking a warming cup of coffee I noticed that fellow runners started to arrive and greet each other. Overall there were 22 Stafford Harrier runners, a good turn out and clearly a popular race event.
I caught up with Debbie McDermott and after wishing her a happy birthday set off for the start. We discussed our race strategy. Debbie suggested we take first mile easy; check out where key NSRRA competitors were and how well they were running; speed up on the down hill section then increase tempo between 4-5 miles; take on board a gel for that extra energy for the hill climb to mile 7 then see how it goes. I agreed that this was a good race plan and we could stick together on that basis at least to the 9th mile after which “we go for it”.
We set off up the first mile at a steady pace, I noted most of my NSRRA competitors were behind us from the start which gave me a little anxiety as it hard to respond to someone catching up from behind on such a long race. Nerves soon settled down as the pace picked up in the first steep downhill section to the 3 mile point where a left turn took us along a fairly flat section.
We kept a steady pace, staying relaxed up to the 5th mile, often providing encouraging words to each other or making observations about the course and scenery. After taking on gels as planned we dug in to confront the next hill. By this stage the line of runners had stretched out and it felt that we were amongst runners we had not encountered in previous races. For me this increased anxiety a little, were we going too fast or too slow? Just past mile 6 we caught up with Steve Turner. He appeared to be in some pain and was walking, on asking if he was ok he informed us that he had a hamstring problem, was ok and would get back without assistance. At around mile 8 we caught up with Michael Birtles one of my main NSRRA competitors. I sensed that if we could overtake him I could secure another win in Group F. Debbie and I overtook him with a short burst of pace which we maintained for half a mile or so until it was obvious he would not catch us up. At the 9th mile Mick Jones gave us encouragement in his inimitable style “just throw yourself at it, its downhill from here”. Between miles 9 and 10 despite encouragement from Debbie to “go for it” my earlier fast pace started to take effect and I felt fatigue kicking in. Debbie pushed on ahead to get her PB. Despite my own fatigue I also got a new PB by over 3 min.
A well organised event over a challenging course.
Race Report by Graham Williams
On a pleasant Sunday morning twenty one Stafford Harriers travelled to All Saints First School Standon to run the Flying Fox ten mile race. This was the last race in the NSRRA series and the last road race in the Harrier’s Challenge so there were points to be gained. As usual I met other Harriers at Holmcroft Library and I drove Chris Skellern and Ed while Karen drove Caroline and Mick Jones, who grew up in the area and would walk part of the course while we ran. We all met at the school, collected our numbers and chips and discussed our ailments and problems! It was perfect running weather and vests were the order of the day for most people. The start was a ten minute walk away and after a short delay for a passing car, we started. The course is on country lanes of varying width and is termed undulating which means several sharp hills and downhill sections. The race which was organised by Stone Master Marathoners was well marshalled with a water station at seven miles. The finish was in the school grounds. After the presentation where Chris Skellern won the gold Staffordshire medal for her age group, we drove to the Fitzherbet Arms in Swynnerton to celebrate Deb’s 50th birthday. Deb and Mike provided a lovely buffet and Karen baked a cake in Harriers’ colours. It was a lovely end to a very pleasant day.
The race winner was Carl Moulton of Boalloy Running Club in a time of 56.17. The first lady was Sarah Mackness unattached in 1.05.42. Harriers’ times with final NSRRA positions were as follows:
|11th||Phil Hilsdon||01:02:12||1st M40||4th Group A|
|27th||Justin Green||01:06:30||2nd M45||4th Group B||PB|
|69th||Ian Wood||01:12:45||4th M50|
|96th||Darren Mattocks||01:17:36||4th Group E|
|120th||Chris Skellern||01:20:24||3rd L55|
|132nd||Peter Williams||01:21:55||3rd M65||2nd Group F||PB|
|213th||Karen Murray||01:38:11||3rd L50|
|220th||Graham Williams||01:39:32||4th M70|
The 2nd NSCCL Race – Stafford Common
27th October 2018
Many thanks to all the people that helped set-up, marshalled and helped take-down.
The female team showing an “addition” to club kit….
Report by Peter Williams
Stafford Common XC is the second 2018 event of the North Staffs Cross County League. It also happens to feature in the Harrier’s Challenge and provided an excellent opportunity, free to all paid up members of the Harriers, to compete in the League’s race events no matter what their age or ability.
Stafford Common XC is hosted by Stafford Harriers on behalf of the League and presents a great opportunity for the club to showcase how well it can support local runners. Equally important to the running is the role of volunteers in laying out the course, marshalling and clearing up at the end of the day.
It was obvious from weather reports earlier in the week that Saturday was going to be cold, we were not disappointed. Never-the-less a great sporting day event was achieved.
Volunteers started to arrive at the Common just before 9.00am with temperatures at around freezing point. Doubled wrapped, hats and gloves donned we were dispatched with bags of steel spikes and bunting to lay out the course according to the sketch plan. There was initial concern that the ground would be too hard to fix the steel spikes following a prolonged dry spell but this proved not to be the case and by 11.00am the course was laid out completely.
Underfoot conditions proved to be good in the main, it was dry and firm and with some long grass in a few stretches but nothing likely to have been troublesome later in the races.
Around 11.15am a slight flurry of snow and light rain fell for half an hour chilling the air making it feel much cooler than freezing temperature. It was around this time that the volunteer marshals were briefed on which stations they were required to be at and dispatched to the far cold reaches of the course. Some of the junior runners were walking the course under guidance of their club coaches receiving hints and tips and useful advice on how to race the course.
From 11.30am onward junior runners were taking the sensible precaution of doing warm up exercises and at 12.00pm the first of 14 race events commenced. The final race started at 14.10pm finishing around 15.00pm. All competitors put in a tremendous effort in completing the course in what would be the coldest day of the year so far.
A huge thanks should go out to the volunteers some of whom would have been in cold conditions for upwards of 7 hours with little chance of warming themselves. It is sometimes easy to forget the contribution that volunteers give in enabling such an event to take place.
Overall the Stafford Common XC event for 2018 should be seen as another success by Stafford Harriers as well as by the runners.
Stafford Cross Country Results
227 Runners Overall Winner Rebecca Twardochleb of Newcastle Staffs AC 18:28
308 Runners Overall Winner Hassan Ben Tiba of Keele University AC 24:21
14th October 2018
No race report
Pattingham Bells 10K and 5K
14th October 2018
Race report by Leon Stringer
To Pattingham in South Staffordshire, about 40 minutes by car. I’d entered this race mid-week when the forecast was looking dry but come the day it was cold, wet and muddy. Number collection was at the village hall so fortunately we could shelter there before the start, wondering why we were doing this!
Then a short walk to the start in the corner of a field already soaked and muddy so your feet were wet from the start. Some jogging to keep warm then form up at the start line and go. The course is largely footpaths at the edge of fields with some woodland trails and one tarmacked path. Because of the type of terrain overtaking on this race is always a bit difficult, but this time more so as runners were trying to stick to the line with the most grip. The course is undulating which wore you down in the mud. I’m sure there were more climbs than descents!
A runner nearby was giving off lots of positive vibes to encourage not only her friend but everyone around her, on days like this it was good to have someone like that keeping your spirits up. Dig in, keep going and eventually you’ll hear St Chad’s church ringing a peal to guide you to the finish. Then across the line for coffee, cake and the traditional souvenir horse brass. Despite the weather and mud I’m glad I did it, it was a good atmosphere. There were lots of marshals around the course so thanks are due to them for standing out in the elements.
It was then announced that “a large batch of 10k runners were sent the wrong way and completed the 5k run instead”. This affected the leading runners, nearly a third of entrants. There was an unreserved apology from the organisers but this will have been pretty frustrating for those affected. Another issue on the day: car park ‘A’ (where I was) is a field so unsurprisingly a few cars were having trouble getting out. I was lucky but well done to the poor marshals staying on to help push those who were slipping and sliding as they tried to get away.
Due to the confusion with the course the results were split into three: 10K runners sent on the correct course, “accidental 5K”: runners who entered the 10K but were sent on the 5K course, and the 5K runners. Congratulations to Adam Lightfoot on 2nd place in the 5K. Provisional results (all chip times):
10K (230 finishers)
1st Craig Parry (Unaffiliated) 0:51:21 (1st M)
16th Lisa Abbott (Sphinx AC) 0:54:38 (1st F)
23rd Stephen Turner 0:55:13
84th Leon Stringer 0:59:48
99th Brian Hynes 1:01:56
“Accidental 5K” (103 finishers)
1st Martin Williams (Tipton Harriers) 0:19:54 (1st M)
12th Tessa Clarke (Wolves & Bilston AC) 0:23:20 (1st F)
73rd Alex Langford 0:28:20
5K (52 finishers)
1st Charlie Jones (Unaffiliated) 0:24:34 (1st M)
4th Lillian Wilcox (Unaffiliated) 0:25:58 (1st F)
2nd Adam Lightfoot 0:24:53 (Cat pos 1st)
14th October 2018
Race report by Richard Booth
The sound of a torrential downpour woke me up just after 6am on Sunday and shortly afterwards the noise abated and for a moment I thought we might get away with a relatively dry Birmingham Half Marathon. I couldn’t have been more wrong….
Pulling up at Sandwell and Dudley Train station car park later that morning I was seriously thinking that this could be a serious challenge to navigate 13.1 miles in weather more suited for scuba gear. Despite that I had a score to settle with the distance following my 1st Half in June (Black Country Half) which was run in temperatures pushing 30 °C. I was determined to get close to my target time of 1hr 55 – 2hr.
A quick diversion in the city to meet up with a work colleague who was running for charity and we were ready in the holding pen waiting for the White wave to start. Probably the only poor experience of the day was standing and waiting, getting drenched for almost 25 minutes and getting cold to boot !!
We started at 10:43 dodging the numerous puddles and flooded roads. The support from the crowds despite the rain was amazing and certainly helped us along. A quick shout to Alan Jones who passed on the opposite side of Pershore Road and before we knew it we were climbing up and down through Bourneville.
Back onto Pershore Road and the rain still lashing down we carried on the push into the City centre. With my watch stopping 2/3 of the way round I’d lost my bearings of how I was doing by felt good in that I’d caught up with the 1hr 50min pacer.
I finished the race oblivious of the finish time and it was only 15 minutes later, wrapped in a space blanket that I checked my phone to find I’d finished in just over 1hr 47min. It was a great day, and I’ll certainly be thinking about running it next year.
The male winner was Kadar Abdullahi of Birchfield Harriers in 01:06:06. Leading lady was Nicola Sykes of Bournville Harriers in 01:19:57.
Well done to all the Harriers who took part and I hope you’ve dried out !!
|4333||Sarah Ann Johnson||02:06:54|
14th October 2018
Report by Graham Williams
On a very wet Sunday morning, fifteen Harriers travelled to Werrington for the penultimate race in the NSRRA series of twenty races. Some runners were trying to get their twelve qualifying races in. I travelled with two young (!) ladies and it rained all the way there throughout the race and all the way home. The race starts and finishes at Moorside High School and is run on country lanes around Werrington. We assembled on the tennis courts for a short briefing including an ovation for Colin Pheasant a long time member of NSRRA who recently had a heart attack while doing the Walsall Park Run. He is currently recovering in hospital – we all wished him well, On leaving the school we turned right and followed the main road before continuing on pleasant country lanes. There was endless running water underfoot and although wet we were not cold. There were several undulations but nothing too severe. Having run approximately three miles out, we turned for home finishing on the tennis court.
There were several good performances with a fantastic third place from Phil Hilsdon. Stafford Harriers also won the male team comprising Phil Hilsdon, Justin Green, Spencer Holland and Michael Dobson.
Report by Peter Williams
As I grew into running and the joys of racing, I developed the belief it was all about taking part, neither winning nor losing. So, I was a little taken aback shortly after I got home after the race, when one of my grandchildren asked how I got on? I replied “I came 81st out of a field of runners of nearly 200”. I felt a little proud of that. My grandchild then went on to say “I’m really sorry you lost grandpa.”
I don’t think I have ever won a race, certainly since leaving school decades ago. At times I’ve had a good run and at other times not so good. I have a number of PBs, they are not great but I did them and they are mine. I know it’s most unlikely I’ll win a race in the future; I don’t think I’m defeatist but honest, there are some good runners out there. Let’s face it I’m in the majority.
So, where am I? Well I train hard to run the best I can to remain injury free, I don’t feel like I’m a loser either. Does it matter? I asked myself. Today I ran very hard, very very hard for me. I even got a PB.
You know the rollercoaster one goes through with competitors ahead and others overtaking. Its hard to keep a steady pace, to stay focused, to run intelligently. At times I wanted to dash off and when I did I was left feeling drained. I realise nothing serious depended on the race outcome, maybe a loss of pride so why did I get so anxious? As Brian Langston tells me “running should be fun”.
Running a 10k race like this required endeavour, commitment, drive and resilience all of which my rivals experience. Equally the prospect of me winning is out, not even close so why bother race at all?
My grandchild’s simple sympathy towards me “I’m sorry you lost” taught me a lot on reflection. I concluded that doing my best against the odds is not such a bad thing and counters all the negative feelings I had during and after the race. I did my best and I came away with the belief that was good enough for me.
I was reminded that as we, that is Team Stafford Harriers, were assembled in the dry of the school sports hall before the race. I asked Phil Hilsdon why he liked racing, he replied “well…… I love to run, but I hate racing…….. but I like doing the best I can” If it’s good enough for Phil it’ll do for me as well.
More on the day itself. On the way to Werrington I heard on the radio all the best wishes to runners taking part in ½ marathons taking place on this day. With Manchester and Great Birmingham being particularly mentioned. I’m sure several other Harriers would have participated in some of these other races. (Richard Booth and Alan Jones completed Birmingham ½ in very credible times (1:47:00ish) well done both)
|3rd||Phil Hilsdon||35:56||1st M40. 1st Group A|
|12th||Justin Green||38:44||2nd Group B. 3rd M45|
|53rd||Ian Wood||44:55||1st M55|
|58th||Darren Mattocks||45:43||2nd Group E|
|71st||Chris Skellern||47:09||2nd L55|
|81st||Peter Williams||48:29||1st Group F. 2nd M65||PB|
|82nd||Debbie McDermott||48:41||3rd L45||PB|
|132nd||Graham Williams||56:44||3rd M70|
Stafford Harriers Notables
2nd FSen Nia Nokes, 2nd F55 Chris Skellern
1st M.40 Phil Hilsdon, 2nd M50 Michael Dobson, 1st M55 Ian Wood, 2nd M65 Peter Williams
Debbie McDermott New PB.
All of the Harriers team put in a great effort against some tough competitors many of which are chasing key points as part of the NSRRA league. Particularly bearing in mind it was raining quite heavy and cold (7 deg C) for most of the race.
1st Mark Coulthard, South Cheshire Harriers. Gun Time 34:49
1st Female (13th) Sophie Goodfellow, Newcastle (Staffs) AC. Gun Time. 39:40.
Werrington 10k is the penultimate race of the NSRRA League. It starts at Moorside High School. Werrington is organised by Trentham Running Club. It is an undulating course, mainly run on semi-rural roads. It was well marshalled and signposted to enable good pace setting.
7th October 2018
No race report
Katharine House 10K
7th October 2018
We have been told that the race course was less than 10KM and so we have removed people’s PB.
Results (not confirmed)
Congleton Half Marathon
7th October 2018
Race Report by Peter Williams
I’m feeling warm and cosy, wrapped up in my duvet I become slowly aware of my i-phone alarm buzzing away, I can’t doze off again because of that irritating blue light it gives off, no matter how much you try to shut it out it just seems to get to you doesn’t it?
I want to drift off back to sleep, “for goodness sake who gets up on a Sunday morning when it is as dark as pitch outside?…… Who gets up at six anyway?….. What for?….. what’s so important?” I think to myself.
With bleary eyes, I roll out of bed and take a peep through the curtains. Blackness, silence, I become aware there is a thin fire red line of light on what must be the horizon to the east, “what’s that?” I think. I realise it’s dawn. I notice low lying mist in gardens in the dim light and parked cars covered in ice. Its freezing. The temptation to get back under the duvet is great, then the penny drops, today its Congleton Half Marathon………
The drive up to Congleton from Stafford takes about 45 min, I drive this in silence, outside temperature reads zero. Slowly the day gets lighter, with red, purple and blue hues in the sky. It is still freezing cold, ice blue cold and grey, freezing fog sitting idly in valleys. “It going to be a cold, cold race day, no records today then” I think to myself.
Congleton Half Marathon is one of the races on the NSRRA calendar. There will be around 100 competitors in the NSRRA league of the 400 or so total competitors. There are points to be won and positions to be gained, running will be tactical I felt sure.
The guidance note issued earlier in the week advised competitors to arrive early (7.30am it said) to ensure parking which they said would be in limited supply.
After collecting my bib number, chip and the event tee shirt, I started to get ready, today is going to be a challenge. “Need to apply Deep Heat, loads of it” I think to myself.
In the main hall competitors welcoming old friends from other running clubs; wishing each other a great race; talking about the route; talking of the weather, the cold always the main topic. I reflect on how much I love to see the level of comradeship that takes place despite the competitiveness in the races. Lots of mutual respect I sense.
At around 9.10 we make our way to the starting line which is about 10 minutes walk away. With woolly hat on and arms wrapped round to keep warm and a slight jog we arrive and start to assemble for the off. Vapour leaving our breath in the cold air hanging over the crowd of runners.
Phil and Ian make their way to the front of the pack, they are clearly intent on getting good times. Debbie, Julie and I position ourselves about halfway along the pack. Debbie and I briefly discuss tactics for the day, “a slow start is good” Debbie says “save yourself for the last mile or so”, Julie says ”I’m going to take it easy, using the race as part of her preparation for the Amsterdam Marathon in a few weeks time”.
We move forward to the starting line, listen to race instructions from the course director then…. “3,2,1 you’re off” calls the Congleton Town Mayor. At first, we all move slowly for several hundred yards, jostling and side stepping trying to get a good line, front runners already seemingly hundreds of yards ahead as they get a good start. Debbie and I get separated from Julie as we move forward at what seems to be a slow but steady pace. After a mile or so of flat running we drop down into a river valley then quickly rise up the other side. “That’ll be a killer on the return leg” I think to myself.
The route continues with slight ups and downs, twists and side road junctions all well marshalled. The road is narrow and its difficult to get going, I express my concerns to Debbie she said “this is good and it’ll all start to settle down soon”.
By mile 3 there’s a water station and a slight thining out of runners, but, getting past is still difficult. I see a few of my NSRRA competitors ahead and keen to get past but is takes another mile or so to do so. At mile 6 another water station and after a quick sip of water we move on. It still feels cold. The water even colder.
Debbie and I are still together, we continue to give encouraging words of support to each other, at other times locked into private thoughts, as time progresses the line of runners gets thinner as faster runners stretch ahead, we pick up the pace a little. By 7-8 miles the line of runners is now quite thin and with the twists and turns and undulations in the road, running feels quite isolated at times.
Another drinks station at 9 miles, and a take on a much needed sip of water, it feels warmer now as we go across lovely small valley, Daffodil Dale. I pass one of my main NSRRA competitor and started to feel much more confident, Debbie also passes one or two of her main NSRRA group competitors, this gives us both a boost and we continue to give each other the occasional words of encouragement. We dare not look at our watches, just running by feel instead, not quite max keeping a little in reserve, maintaining a steady cadence.
At mile 12 we are back at the main valley we crossed earlier in the race. It seems that we powered up this, Debbie advises “save a little for the last mile” but I feel the race so far has taken its toll. We keep going, I’m gritting my teeth, fatigue starting to rise, a lift in spirit on sight of the finish, a sign says 400m “lets go for it”, another sign at 300m still going fast, at 200m I feel fatigue taking over again but we are still flying it seems. “come on Pete we can do this” says Debbie. At a 100m I start to fade a little and Debbie starts to pull ahead.
Past the finishing line Debbie asks “did you see the time?”. “not really” I reply. Debbie gives a great big celebratory hug. She says “I got my best ½ marathon time ever 1:49:something, 2 min off my pervious PB”. At first my mind is numb from the exhaustion then realised the last time I did a half anywhere near this time was over 35 years ago!!!!
We both took turns to ring the PB hand bell, I feel jubilant.
I sort of stagger back to the changing area, my hamstrings starting to cease up. After a hot drink we catch up with Phil and Ian. Phil says he got below 1:20:00. Fantastic running. As Julie joins us we wait for the results to be posted. Phil came 9th and first men’s V40. We watched all the presentation awards take place. All of us feeling proud of Phil’s achievement as well as glory a little in our own achievement.
I love going to races, I know I’ll never win one but I always learn something. On this occasion, the mutual support you get from fellow runners at races is invaluable to both. I love to fusion of comradeship and competitiveness. Both achieve something not expected. So that’s why people get up at some unearthly hour.
Carl Moulton Boalloy Running Club 01:14:08
Michelle Buckle (45th overall) Newcastle AC 01:28:20
STAFFORD HARRIER RESULTS
404 Total number of Runners