’12 in 12′ for wor’ Rob

Club member Rob has been running a half marathon a month through 2018. We helped him to celebrate his achievement by staging our very own DVRC ’12 in 12′ Victory Half Marathon with him on Sun 9 December. Here’s what happened….

Words by wordsmith extraordinaire, Matt Forrest

Some serious arranging had been going on, after days of wind and rain the forecast for Rob Bradshaw’s half marathon extravaganza was wall to wall sun. That is what happens when the DVRC organising committee get on it. The turn out for our celebrity runner was huge and impeccably dressed, there were donkeys, angels, kings, Santas, shepherds. There was a little surprise and disappointment expressed that Adele hadn’t bothered dressing up but in the context of Rob’s special day we’ll let that go. There were dogs and kids and supporters. There was catering, there was an official start and finish. It was an event. A proper organised event.

Rob's 12 in 12 team

Rob’s 12 in 12 team

Today DVRC were to attempt the Double George Ogle. It’s a toughie. So tough in fact that ultra marathoners, Hazel, Mark and Peter only tried a single lap and Mark and Peter decided to carry full over night kit in case of disaster. Other members of the hard core, Adam, Jenny and Paul also gave it a miss. This was serious, this was a Double Ogle (plus a bit).

Normally in these posts there is a tenuous relationship with reality, possibilities shall we say are stretched but when Rob turned up in a pair of gold lame strides, a star on his back and three pairs of socks down his skimpies it was clear no fabrication would be required. This was borne out fully when we arrived at the first drink stop only to find it was the ladies cross country support car which, like Adele, had made no real effort, they just flung the boot open and voila bucks fizz and cakes same as they do any given Cross Country Saturday. It was noted that angelic Claire fell further behind each time she passed the booze boot, her halo slipping a little more each time but her sense of direction never wavered.

Now normally I’d continue with some flowery prose but today let me just set out this list:

January – Inskip Half Marathon
February – Blackpool Marathon
March – Haweswater Half Marathon
April – Connemara Half Marathon
May – Keswick Half Marathon
June – Trail Outlaws Pieces of Eight Half Marathon
July – Northumberland Coastal Half Marathon
August – Haddington Half Marathon
September – Great North Run
October – Worksop Half Marathon
November – Town Moor Half Marathon
December – Double George Ogle Half Marathon

Robs 12 in 12 finish line

(After stalking Rob’s Facebook page I think he enjoyed January but between Inskip and a cold beer at the Land of Oak and Iron there were more than a few hard yards)

And say well done Rob Bradshaw, you are indeed a star, a celebrity, a legend. It was an honour to run up and down the same stretch of the Derwent Path 18 times with you. And to all those who baked, organised, planned, cajoled, clapped, snapped and fuelled us with booze, thank you. As Andy has said below, this is why we love DVRC. Now Rob put those feet up and enjoy that well earned beer.

Robs 12 in 12 chairman congratulates rob.jpg

 

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Been there (sort of), done that, and got the (BLUE) T-Shirt

Join wor’ member, Madders, for a canny wee jaunt around the Scottish Highlands, as he takes on the mighty Celtman, learns that T-shirt colours really do matter, and goes interactive. 

Ian and his blue t-shirt

Ian Maddison

The story so far:

 Way back in 2015, Madders took part in Wasdale X (“the hardest iron distance triathlon in the world”). As was customary in those distant days, he followed this up by writing a race report for the website of his ‘other’ club, Ryton Tri. Typically, this report had very little to do with the Wasdale X, but was really nothing more than a vehicle for pouring scorn and derision on various other Ryton Tri members (according to him). As the vast bulk of the article consisted of remarks about people that the majority of DVRC members had never heard of,  when the article was subsequently placed on the DVRC site, this led to accusations of elitism and non-inclusivity. As a result of this, Madders has since been in literary exile – despite having done Ironman races in each of the intervening years, both of which contained many noteworthy incidents.

This year, however, Madders not only competed in Celtman on 16 June, the iconic extreme Scottish triathlon, but also discovered state of the art technology with which to make his articles interactive. Now, all the reader has to do is answer a few simple questions, and they will be presented with an article totally devoid of jokes/insults aimed at people they know nothing about.

So, answer away. Please tick one box in each case:

Question1:

I am a member of:

  • A – Ryton Tri Club
  • B – Derwent Valley Running Club
  • C – Both
  • D – Neither

Question 2:

I know Madders as:

  • A – One of Ryton Tri’s longest serving members, their treasurer, and second most experienced Ironman competitor
  • B – Someone in DVRC who’s been around forever, since the old Kirsty Wade days, but now trains with “the other lot” so we hardly ever see him.
  • C – Someone who turns up at triathlons, in Ryton kit, doesn’t do particularly well, and then pretends he’s better than he is by writing fictitious race reports,
  • D – Someone in DVRC who isn’t a particularly good runner, and likes to tell everyone that he’s actually a triathlete, and that his swimming and biking are considerably better than his running.
  • E – Who the f@@@ are we talking about here?

 Question 3:

Whilst my primary reason for reading this article is to learn more about the iconic extreme Scottish triathlon known as Celtman, I would also like to see scorn and derision primarily directed towards:

  • A – Eric Blakie
  • B – Eric Blakie and Diane Chaney
  • C – Eric Blakie, Diane Chaney, Philip Addyman, Hedley Fletcher and Bob Hogg
  • D – Eric Blakie and Colin Phillipson
  • E – Colin Phillipson, Andy Fowler, Iain Ralphson and Tony Robson
  • F – Claire Knox

Having answered these questions, technology will now do its work and you will shortly be reading a fully customised article. Although please note that for the interactivity to work your device must have the latest version of Clikbollox 25.3. If you do not have this it can be downloaded via the following link:

www.maddersmakesthisstuffupashegoesalong.com

1. Iconic Extreme Scottish Triathlons

So about the Celtman – this is an “extreme” iron-distance triathlon based in North-West Scotland. Like other races in the Xtri series, most notably the famous Norseman, by which it was originally inspired, it operates a two tier finisher system, which is defined jointly by the route to be taken, and the colour of the finisher t-shirt awarded. Essentially there is a point known as T2A, which is, depending upon which section of the race manual you are looking at, 17km or 19km or 20km into the run (This uncertainty was actually queried at the race briefing. The organisers’ response was: “If you feel a need to know the exact distances of any part of the course, then you probably shouldn’t be doing Xtri events”. I see.) If you manage to reach T2A within 11 hours of the race start, then you are required to “take the high road”. This means that you follow the mountain route, which famously covers two Munros, and then, assuming you manage to finish, you are awarded the iconic blue t-shirt. If you miss the 11 hour cut–off but arrive within 13 hours, then you “take the low road”. This involves completing the run via a lower level route (which is still very hilly and classed as a fell-run) and then being awarded the slightly less iconic white t-shirt. Arriving at T2A after 13 hours means, sadly, game over, and no t-shirt. As is well documented, white t-shirts tend not to go with my highlights, so if I ever were to take part in this race then it would be very much on a “blue t-shirt or bust” basis. The rules also clearly state that in the event of the mountain route being closed because of severe weather conditions (which can happen in North-West Scotland, apparently), then all competitors will follow the lower route, and t-shirts will still be awarded by reference to arrival time at T2A. The race had been held 6 times prior to 2018, and last year this clause became relevant for the first time as the mountain route was closed due to extreme bad weather. So, obviously, having not happened in any of the previous five years, it clearly wasn’t going to happen two years in a row…………………….

Having suffered my way through Wasdale X in 2015, and Tri X in 2016, and on each occasion stating quite categorically that I would never do an extreme tri ever again, it was perhaps a strange decision to enter Celtman. It was, though, a decision for which I totally blame fellow Ryton Tri member, Gareth Huxley. Around a year ago, Gareth announced that he was planning to have a go at Celtman, and asked if I fancied doing the same. My response was quick and decisive:

“No”

“Why not?”

“Because I was rubbish in Lakesman, and if I run like that in Celtman I won’t make the cut-off”.

End of discussion. But as time wore on, I began to think that perhaps what I needed to sort my running out was a high profile iconic race which included a cut-off that I would never be certain of hitting. There was no hurry at this point, as race entries are decided by a ballot, which doesn’t open until later in the year. But herein lies the first obstacle to doing Celtman: the race is very popular and oversubscribed, and the chances of getting in are actually quite slim. Gareth himself had a cunning plan in this respect. Were he to, as expected, fail to get in through the ballot, then he was hopeful that his achievement of second place in Tri X in 2016 may swing him a place in the “manager’s choice” category. I, however, had slightly less confidence in my own placing of 77th in the same event having the same impact. But I decided to enter the ballot nonetheless.

The ballot took place in November, and sods law duly applied itself – Gareth got in and I didn’t. Never mind. I didn’t expect to get in anyway, and I’m probably not really capable of getting a blue t-shirt, so I shall just find myself another, non-extreme, race.

Then three weeks later, I received an email from Celtman – I was in after all. I’d got in on the second ballot (which I didn’t know existed). Apparently they’d had a second ballot for all those places allocated in the first ballot to people who had subsequently failed to pay for the slot (just who are these people?). So the game was afoot after all.

The next little obstacle to taking part in Celtman, is that it is almost entirely “self supported”. That is, the organisers provide very little in the way of support, and you need a support crew and vehicle throughout the event. Within the support crew, there needs to be a support runner, who will, for safety reasons, accompany you for either the mountain section or the low-level alternative during the run. Gareth had an immediate willing and able volunteer to be support runner in long time training partner and Bob Graham Round survivor, Joe Horne. For myself, step forward “son-in-law” Stuart Neish.

Stuart is a lifelong devotee of and participant in a multitude of outdoor pursuits and endurance sports – cycling, mountain climbing, kayaking, orienteering. You name it basically but, curiously, not running. It’s pointless, apparently. However, about a year ago, he had a go at running, and decided that he quite liked it. In fact he liked it so much that he almost immediately signed up to do the Devil of the Highlands Ultra this year. This was good news for me as it firstly made Christmas shopping easier (What sweeter present can we bring – than an Allendale Challenge entry!) and secondly, the Celtman support runner was recruited. Add in daughter Laura, and ‘er indoors Louise/Bridget, and the team was complete.

2. Kilts and Bagpipes

In the week leading up to the race, all eyes were on the weather. Gareth had been up there on a bike tour some weeks before, and experienced the most glorious weather ever. One week out, and the weather took a turn for the worse, but there was a steady improvement towards race day. The weather was ok the day before the race, when we arrived. Then at the briefing they were able to give us the most up to date and accurate forecast possible. The day would be quite mild. Not much sunshine, but very little rain – a few short light showers in the morning – negligible wind, and good visibility high up. Couldn’t be better, really.

The Celtman swim takes place in Loch Shieldaig. This is open to the Atlantic, and was specially chosen for the event because of its very low temperatures and very large population of jellyfish. One thing there is no shortage of in this part of Scotland is Lochs. The vast majority of them are cut off from the sea, and so aren’t excessively cold and have fresh water and no jellyfish. Any one of these could have been chosen for the swim, but then the race would have had fewer claims to be “extreme”, so Shieldaig it is unfortunately. The race starts at 5 am, and T1 is in the small village of Shieldaig by the loch. The only way that you are allowed to travel to the start is by designated race buses from Shieldaig – spectators and support crews aren’t allowed to go there. You need to be on the bus by 4 am, so considering you need to travel to Shieldaig, set your bike and gear up (can’t do this the night before – T1 doesn’t exist then) collect your GPS tracker and, inevitably, stand in the toilet queue before this, makes for a very early start (1.30 in my case. A bit later for Gareth, as team Huxley were staying in the camper van in Shieldaig, whilst we were staying in a chalet in Kinlochewe, about 17 miles away, and also the location of T2).

Once you’ve got over the horror of the early commencement, the start of the race is really quite brilliant. The bus takes you to a remote beach on the other side of the loch, making the swim a point to point (no boooooeys, just landmarks and islands to navigate by). There is a pipe and drum band there playing some stirring Celtic tunes, and a row of torches along the beach. Then they set fire to a big effigy of the Celtman symbol, and it’s time to spoil it all by going into the water. I had no idea what to expect as regards how cold the water would be (I survived Wast Water with just a normal wetsuit, but don’t know what the actual temperature was) but I had followed the pre race advice, and acquired a “Heatseeker” vest, along with neoprene booties, gloves and hat. Gareth had gone one step further than the hat, and had acquired a neoprene balaclava, going for the “Agent X” (ie, Russ Abbot) look. Later on, I wished I had done the same.

Thankfully, they didn’t keep us hanging around long in the water before the start, and we were away. The water didn’t really strike me as being all that cold with my thermal gear on, but what did give me a surprise was how salty it was. This was also presumably a factor in the discomfort I suffered later on as a result of chafing. I have been given some serious abuse recently by Col Gardener, Swinny, et al regarding the condition of some of my bikes. All I can say is that it’s a good job they haven’t seen my wetsuit. It’s getting a bit long in the tooth now and has developed a tendency to rip the back of my neck to shreds. However, this turned out to be quite mild compared to the damage inflicted on the front of my neck by the (horrible) thermal hat I had bought especially for the event. As I said above, Gareth had the right idea. I would far rather have looked like Russ About for a short while early in the race, than look like the victim of a failed decapitation attempt for a week and a half afterwards.

About a third of the way through the swim, I looked down and saw the jellyfish. Huge numbers of them – the Celtman jellyfish legends are, I can confirm, certainly not exaggerated. They were everywhere, beneath me, right in front of my face, and I was unwittingly swatting several of them with each stroke. Presumably I was also nutting quite a few with the horrible hat, and giving some a good kick with the neoprene boots.

I emerged from the water in a time of 53:30, thus achieving the first target of the day. After 16 years, and numerous 61’s, 62’s, and 63’s, I had finally beaten the hour in an Ironman swim. Yes, I am aware that the course is some 400m shorter than a standard Ironman, but I don’t care. As far as I’m concerned, it counts. And anyway, I don’t actually know, or want to know what the correct distance really is – as I’m a “proper” Xtri competitor now.

Ian after swim in Celtman

Emerging from the Loch – hotly pursued by Laura

Many people were struggling to get warmed up after the swim – they were having hot drinks, wrapping themselves in blankets, having warm water poured on them, etc – but I felt ok. I knew the first part of the course was a steep climb out of the village, and that this was followed by a series of steep climbs and descents all along the first stretch to Torridon. So I climbed onto the bike in short sleeves and relied on these climbs to warm me up, which they duly did. The weather was actually quite pleasant, for 6 am, at this point.

3. Haggis and Neeps

The first 17 mile stretch of the bike route heads east through Torridon (where the finish is) then through the Torridon valley (which you run through later) and then on to Kinlochewe. Here you turn left and join the big loop. This loop is over 100 miles, bringing the total bike distance to some 25km more than a standard Ironman at 205km. (or 203 km, or 208 km, or perhaps 803km, I, of course don’t know or care because………etc). Once onto the loop you head north and, totally unexpected, there was a tailwind. I’d agreed to meet the support crew in Gairloch (~60k in) and made good time to there. Just before I reached there, however, it started to rain.

The choice of a second feed stop was less obvious on the map, so we agreed on “the top of the big climb” wherever that was. (about 90k in but hard to tell). After Gairloch, the road starts to undulate a lot more, and becomes a series of climbs and descents along the Northern coastline. The rain also became progressively heavier, till eventually it was lashing down. Not long before reaching the support crew, I heard encouraging shouts of “Gan on Madders, you’re smashing it” and, for the first time, the Huxmobile passed me, with Joe leaning out of the window.

Quite soon after this, Gareth himself caught me up on a climb. My speedo showed 55m. On the rare occasions that I beat Gareth out of a swim, he tends to pass me on the first mile of the bike, so I was a bit surprised.

“Where’ve you been?”

“Had a really bad swim, then couldn’t get warm. Feeling better now though”

He passed me with ease, and disappeared out of sight.

After the next pitstop, conditions became really grim. The rain didn’t ease, and as the route swung to the south, the wind became a headwind and got stronger and stronger. I spent a miserable period which included an awful lot of flat stretches of road straight into the headwind, during which I was pushing as hard as I could, but unable to get my speed into double figures and making very little progress. I was keeping a close eye on the watch and the speedo, concerned with only one thing – whether or not the blue t-shirt was still in reach.

Along a particularly grim, and also very busy stretch of road, I passed a big lay-by on the right. Just as I rode past I spotted the Huxmobile waiting to pull out. Joe and Sarah waved and flashed the lights, so I waved back. A few minutes later, as expected, they drove past me, this time with Joe leaning out of the window saying:

“Your lot were in that lay-by!”

“Hiding were they?”

“I’ll give them a ring and tell them they’ve missed you”

“Ta”

A bit later, Stuart’s van passed me and we exchanged waves. A bit further along, a sign indicated that there was a parking area 1/4 mile ahead, so I assumed they’d be there and was correct (It wasn’t easy to see a long way ahead due to the combination of the rain and the headwind). Apparently I’d passed the earlier lay-by sooner than they had expected. At this point I was soaking wet and freezing cold. Other riders, including Gareth, all seemed to be wearing waterproof thermal jackets, and some a lot more. I, however, was still in short sleeves. Lou was not happy about this and told me to at least put my jacket on. Her argument was strengthened when I tried to eat a gel, but found that my hands were frozen solid, and so I had to get the crew to open it for me. (I definitely recommend the Irn Bru flavoured gels – they taste so much better than the haggis ones) I explained that as I’d come this far and been so wet and so cold for so long, I didn’t think I’d get any benefit from putting the jacket on, so would prefer to struggle on in the short sleeves. She wasn’t having this, and told me in no uncertain terms that I was to put the jacket on. And so, for the first time in 32 years, I disobeyed orders, and rode off as I was.

This unpleasant stretch of road continued for a while until it reached a distinct high point. After this it started to descend gently, and despite the wind and rain I at last managed to reach and maintain a decent pace. This descent went on for about 10 miles which I managed to cover quickly enough to swing the needle on my mental blue t-shirt o’meter back to “achievable – just”

Sooner than I expected I reached the right turn to head west back towards Kinlochewe. This section started with a long gentle uphill drag. As I was riding up here I heard more loud vocal encouragement from behind: “you’re having the ride of your life Madders, you’re pushing the top 20”. Joe then pulled alongside me, on a bike. This of course totally confused me until Joe explained. The bike was Gareth’s. Gareth was in the campervan, out of the race. The hypothermia which had planted its seeds in the loch, had revisited him with a vengeance on the rain soaked windy sections of the bike, and he’d been unable to warm up and eventually pulled out. This was a great shame, and also strangely familiar, in that it was similar to the fate that befell the Big E in Wasdale 3 years earlier. (Presumably there is a curse which afflicts any Ryton Tri member who takes on the same extreme triathlon as me in bad weather) Joe had been using Gareth’s bike to ride back down to the junction and inform the marshal of Gareth’s DNF. We shortly reached the campervan together and Joe peeled off whilst I carried on.

Myself and the crew had planned that I would make one more stop. This proved not to be easy. Twice along this stretch I came around corners and spotted the crew too late to stop, without losing hard earned momentum, and so waved and shouted at them to try again further on. Finally they found a spot at the end of a long uphill drag. I saw them here in plenty of time and stopped. We agreed that this would be the last stop, and that I would see them at T2.

Soon after this, I reached what I knew to be the final roundabout, at which there was a sign bearing the very welcome statement: “Kinlochewe 10”. There was a good thing and a bad thing about this final stretch. The bad thing was that it had been resurfaced and covered in loose chippings two days earlier. The good thing was that whilst I was riding along it, the rain stopped. Once the rain had stopped, things brightened up very quickly, and by the time I reached Kinlochewe you could actually see right along the Torridon valley, and the mountain tops which I was by now surely destined to climb.

4. Tossing the caber

I arrived in T2 with a bit of confusion, caused initially by the marshal telling me to dismount in one place, and a big sign indicating another. At this point, Lou stepped forward to take my bike from me. This is of course not allowed in most races, so I hesitated until it was confirmed to be within the rules, and then let her take it. (I’m still hoping that eventually she might remember where she put it)

Unlike other races, Xtri events allow support crews to accompany you in T2. This was a great relief, as my hands were still totally inoperative. Changing gear on the TT bike had become challenging, but putting on running shoes would have been totally impossible. Fortunately Laura was able to do this (better than I normally would actually) and I was away, along with Stuart. Being accompanied by the support runner is only compulsory after T2A. For the section before that it is optional. Stuart chose to run the whole distance, firstly because he thought it may have been beneficial to pace me along this crucial stretch, and secondly because his own ultra was on the horizon.

When I left T2, the total time elapsed since the start of the race was 8hrs 15min. That left 2hrs 45min to cover the 17/19/20 km stretch to T2A. Surely even a rubbish runner like me couldn’t possibly cock this one up now?

The early part of this section is quite pleasant. You run along a nice path parallel to the Torridon Valley road, heading west. At some point you cross the road to the south side, and then run into some woods. Then you hit a climb. And it’s a very big steep climb up which it is impossible to run (for me anyway). I was not expecting this but I should have been, as it’s clearly marked in the race manual. It’s actually a 250m climb, which is a lot when you’re trying to hit a deadline, but it’s on the same profile chart as the Munros, so it just looks like a small blip. There’s no path at this point, you’re just climbing up a hillside following pieces of tape. Near the top, you join a very steep road, and continue over a pass (“Carn Dhomhnuill Mhic a’Ghobba” apparently. Aka “The Coulin Pass”). After the pass, the descent back down to the valley floor is mostly on the road – good news for those like me who have no technical descending skills – and so some of the lost time climbing could be pulled back. At the bottom of the descent there is yet another loch. You run along the side of this for a couple of miles, then you hit the valley road again. You turn left onto this, then it’s two miles along the tarmac to T2A.

As we approached the road, looking north, you could see that the clag was starting to cover the mountain tops again. As we ran along the road, it started to rain. Then it got heavier and heavier. During the short(?!?!?) time it took me to run those two miles, the weather changed from dry, bright and clear, to torrential rain and zero visibility. By the time I reached T2A it was lashing down, and you couldn’t even see the path leading to the mountain, never mind the mountain itself. However, I didn’t care. I’d reached T2A with half an hour to spare and the blue t-shirt was in the bag. If I had to spend all night picking my way across the mountain with no visibility, then so be it.

I ran into T2A, then headed off to the right towards the gazebo where the checkpoint marshal was. Just as I was turning right, Lou broke forward from the large crowd of spectators gathered. She was virtually in tears and shouted out: “They’ve closed the mountain, you’re not allowed up, you’ve got to do the low route.”

Lou and Laura had been waiting at T2A for quite a while, during which time the weather had got progressively worse. Eventually there had been a flurry of walkie-talkie activity amongst the marshals, and one of them had then come over and spoken to the crowd of spectators/support crews/support runners. Torridon Mountain Rescue had just declared the mountain “closed” and no more runners would be allowed onto it. Just as he’d finished speaking, I ran around the corner. I therefore achieved the distinction of becoming the first runner to arrive at T2A, and not be allowed to go up the mountain. Lou was worried that I may have taken no notice if the marshals had tried to tell me this (as if!), and decided that she had better tell me herself. (Of course, I always listen to Lou)

I had mixed feelings about this. I had been looking forward to going up the mountain, as it’s part of what Celtman is about. On the other hand the only thing that really mattered was getting the blue t-shirt, which I’d done. I was also exhausted and the weather was horrible, and I could now look forward to finishing this awful race some 3(ish) hours earlier than I was expecting to. In the short term, having run as hard as I could for 11miles (as per my Garmin) I had been looking forward to the initial huge climb giving me a break from running. If you follow the low route, the first thing you have to do is go back onto the valley road, and follow it for another two miles. In fact I thought (wrongly as it turned out) that I would now have to run continuously for the rest of the marathon distance.

I learned the next day that 41 runners had been allowed up the mountain, putting me in 42nd place at T2A (out of 189). Joe had been over optimistic saying that I was pushing the top 20 but, considering that a few runners had inevitably passed me on the first section, I was probably not far off the top 30 (Can’t tell exactly because of the way the results are set out).

5. Where’s your waterproof troosers?

Anyway, I had no say in the matter, so Stuart and I got kit-checked and headed off along the valley road. The rain was so bad at this point that I actually put my waterproof jacket on. (This didn’t do the back of my neck any favours)

My fears about not getting a “climb break” from running proved to be unfounded. After the 2 miles along the valley road you turn right, at a point known as “T2B”, and then have to go up a great big climb. This climb seemed to go on and on and on, but was obviously still a baby compared to the high route. Once the top of this climb was reached, the low route becomes what would be on most days a very nice running route. You meander across open moorland following a river for quite a few miles, then you drop through some woods. Finally you reach a road which skirts around Loch Torridon for the final few undulating miles back to Torridon village. The route then meets up with the end of the high route for the final half-mile uphill sprint (ha ha ha) to the finish line at the village hall. As a final unexpected twist, the low route turned out to be a wee bit short – my Garmin said 22.5 miles – but of course I don’t know that. In fact I didn’t actually look at the Garmin because I wasn’t wearing it.

I crossed the line in a total time of 13:53:38. My 42nd place at T2A had slipped to 68th by the finish, indicating that some 26 runners had passed me during the second part of the run. (obviously I hadn’t passed anybody, as I had effectively started the section in the lead of the “blue – low” category) This was not at all surprising and was indicative firstly of how out of step my running and biking are now, and secondly of how I really had hammered myself to get to T2A. The other interesting (?) thing about the results is that in total 102 people got the blue t-shirt. So for all I arrived at T2A with “only” 30 minutes to spare, a lot more people got there in that final half hour than got there before me. (and they were, apparently, totally rigid in the application of the cut-offs) This suggests that the majority of people in the race adopt the same strategy as me – ie, pace themselves to get the blue t-shirt. (except that they’re probably better at pacing than me – or have more confidence in their running ability than I do).

Ian and his support team for Celtman

The crew at the finish – it’s still raining

Anyway, that’s all irrelevant really. I’m actually even less bothered about my finishing time than I am about the course distances. You find whilst doing Celtman that apart from the podium chasers, nobody really cares about finishing times and rankings. All anybody cares about is the colour of the t-shirt.

Ian and his blue t-shirt

How blue is this t-shirt?

Still to come:

 Don’t miss 2019’s race report, in which Madders nails both the mighty Norseman and the almost as mighty Swissman, and gets some black t-shirts. He then extends his interactivity ruse to Blaydon Harriers, Tyne Bridge Harriers, Sun City Tri, Muckle Tri and Derwent Valley Trail Runners, and simultaneously insults and falls out with everyone he knows in the multisport community.

An Deireadh

Ian Maddison

The Fred is Not Enough – when triathlon interacts with insanity: Wasdale X

On 21 June 2015, DVRC member Ian Maddison competed in the Wasdale X triathlon wearing the colours of his “other” club – Ryton Tri. Here follows his race report, first published on Ryton Tri’s website, but be warned, this article is not for the faint-hearted. Firstly because of the poor quality of the jokes involved; secondly for the unjustly high level of abuse mercilessly meted out to his fellow Ryton Tri members; and finally the brutality of the event itself. If you dare, read on.

NB: Some of you may already know, or at least know of, the Ryton Tri legend known as “The Big E”, who gets a brief mention in Mr M’s article. Those who don’t, or would like to know more, can click here.

Wasdale X was new to the calendar this year, and was (sort of) a doubling-up of the half iron version which I did in 2013, along with the Big E, Gareth Huxley and Joe Horne. In line with its shorter version, it proclaimed itself to be the “hardest iron-distance race in the world”. Several other “extreme” triathlons make a similar claim – Norseman, Celtman, Embrunman, Blakieman, and Cleveland Sprints, among others. This is of course a subjective claim, and there are several ways to determine whether one race is “harder” than another. One of these, the most obvious, is the vertical distance climbed over the bike and run legs. On this basis, then the “X”, incorporating a jaunt around the Fred Whitton route, followed by a mountain marathon including Illgill Head (twice) and Scafell Pike, blows it’s established rivals out of the (very cold) water.

The Wasdale X took place on 21/6/15, and was contested for Ryton Tri by myself, the Big E and Scott Sanders. The Big E, of course, was actually very fortunate to make it to the start line, following the controversy he was involved in earlier this year. For those who aren’t aware, the Big E was involved in an incident concerning a volunteer at one of his many other Ironman races. In the recovery area at the end of the event, he was offered a plate of the local gruel. Eric decided he didn’t want this, but would prefer to have steak and chips. The volunteer informed him that, unfortunately, steak and chips were not available. “Listen you; I don’t think you know who you’re speaking to. I’m an all-world athlete, ranked number one in the UK. I’ve been to Kona twice, and I wear a gold swim hat. If I want steak and chips, then that is what I get!” He then proceeded to punch the volunteer in the face.

Of course this “uncharacteristic outburst” was followed by sincere public apologies, but these were not enough to stop the Ironman Corporation imposing a lengthy ban and thereby effectively relieving the Big E from his duties as their globe-trotting, brand-promoting ambassador. (Fortunately for the Big E, his other source of income remains intact, and in fact is stronger than ever. As you will be aware, the viewing figures for the immensely popular reality TV programme “Keeping Up With the Blakies” increased substantially when it was recently announced that one of the participants intended to undergo transgender surgery) There was talk of a very lucrative offer from Challenge, but this has as yet failed to materialise, leaving the Big E little choice but to enter low-profile, low-budget events such as the Wasdale X.

One of the “selling points” of the X is that Wast Water is the coldest lake in England. Unfortunately as race day approached, it got even colder, and the swim distance had to be halved. Now this was presumably good news for all of the Southern Softies in the field, but very bad news for me and our boys. You see, with the shortening of the swim came a reduction in the race cut-off from 20 hours to 19 hours. Shortening the swim distance would reduce swim time by only half an hour, leaving a net reduction in the time available to do the “hard” bits. This also led to a delay in the start from 3.30 am to the far more leisurely time of 4.30 am.

4.30 am on race day and it was dull and overcast, and the water really was absolutely freezing. Fortunately the organisers realised this, and didn’t keep us hanging around in the water. A very positive aspect of the X swim concerned the “booeys” (pronounced boooo – eeeeeeze). (For those who don’t know, these are the things that mark whereabouts to turn during an open water swim. I picked this word up in Colorado last year whilst doing Ironman Boulder, and it is just one of many Americanisms I shall be dropping into this and future articles, in order to portray myself as an affluent globe-trotting regular Ironman competitor – like the Big E.) As the race was originally due to start at 3.30, in the dark (and in fact it wasn’t exactly light at 4.30, with the skies as black as they were) the organisers had put flashing lights on the booeys. Brilliant – I can tell you that it’s far easier to swim towards a flashing light in the dark than it is towards a brightly coloured booey in broad daylight. Even Dr Bob (and perhaps Graham Robinson) may have been able to swim in a straight line.

Out of the swim, and by now it was chucking it down. Great. I ran into T1 and was shocked and stunned at this point to see that 2 competitors (1 male, 1 female) were, in flagrant breach of ITU rules, doing “the full monty” (although, crucially, they did keep their hats on). Normally this invokes automatic DQ, but the organisers didn’t seem bothered (and neither did the race photographer). Indeed, the results after the race show that no penalty was awarded for this infringement. It did transpire, however, that they had offended the Lakeland mountain gods, and were held responsible for the awful weather which persisted all day. Three days later there was a minor earthquake in the Wasdale valley, whereupon they were arrested and imprisoned.

My track record for the Fred Whitton has not been great. I’ve done the official event twice. Each time it has taken me around 10 hours, and I have suffered various combinations of: dehydration, hypothermia, punctures, snapped chains, buckled wheels and gravel rash. I set off fearing the worst, with the rain hammering down and bringing back memories of falling off on the descent of Wrynose in similar conditions. Twice. No problems though, as the old bike with its new chainset got up the climbs quite easily, and the brand new tyres and brakes got down the descents (coupled with the policy of descending like a wuss – allowing everyone I’d passed on the way up, and more, to fly past me on the way down) safely.

I got round the bike course quicker than I expected, although never quite quick enough to get ahead of the weather. Each time I approached one of the passes, I could see that the weather was much better in the next valley. Sadly, on each occasion, each time I reached the next valley, so did the rain. Strangely enough, the one section of the route where the weather was ok was Cold Fell – my (and everybody else’s, I believe) least favourite stretch. I don’t remember ever going over Cold Fell in anything other than howling gales, low cloud, and heavy rain. On X day though, it was actually quite pleasant. It was even possible to admire the view. Just a shame that it’s Sellafield.

Later, the Big E told me that when he rode across the Fell there were howling gales, low cloud, and heavy rain. Bad luck Eric!

Ian Maddison cycling up Hardknott Pass

I love Hardknott me!

I reached T2 having surprised myself with a bike split of not much more than 8 hours. This also surprised the WAG’s, to whom I had estimated a time of “no less than 9 hours”. The WAG’s for this race numbered only 2 – Lou and Dot, and they had not been in T2 very long when I arrived. I said a brief hello, and wished Lou a happy anniversary (29 years – what better way for either of us to spend it) and set off on the start of the run. At this point I was feeling great. 9 hours had elapsed between the start of the race and setting off on the run. This left me 10 hours to complete the run within the cut-off. Easy! In fact, if need be, I could probably walk, and still make the cut-off.

The start of the run route involved heading north along the Lake road for a mile, then through the campsite, and onto the path leading up the screes. Now I sort of knew this part of the route, as this is the path you run down at the end of the half. Now, according to the race details, you run up this path, and then onto the flat bit at the top, where you then spend several miles covering some gently undulating terrain. Sounds easy, which of course is what you want when you know that you’ve got to go up Scafell Pike later on. Well this isn’t quite how it turned out. At the top of the path, instead of going to the left, onto the flat bit where the half came from, you went to the right, which took you very steeply upwards. And then up again. Then up again. And again. And again. Then down a bit, but then up again. Then down a lot, but then up even more. And then up some more again. Of course the irritating thing for me was that the downhill bits were all “technical descents”. That means that unless you’re a “proper” fell runner, like Eric Blakie or Ruth Dance, you have to gently pussyfoot your way down, and not make up for any of the huge amounts of time you’ve lost on the steep climbs.

The weather hadn’t been bad down by the lake, but the cloud was low, so visibility deteriorated as I got higher. There was, however, plenty of marking tape, so navigation wasn’t a problem. Eventually I reached Illgill Head – the high point of this section of the route. After this it was mostly downhill to Irton Woods, which are at the same height as Wast Water – giving you a similar climb to look forward to on the way back. As I descended I eventually dropped out of the clouds and the visibility became perfect. Of course guess what is the most prominent thing you can see if you’re heading south from Illgill Head – yes, Sellafield.

I reached Irton Woods (about quarter distance) after a bit more than 2 hours. Then you had to do a lap around the woods, which was about a mile (and not flat) then head back the way you’d come from. At this point I became curious about where the Big E could be. As it was an out and back apart from the lap of the woods, you got to see everyone who was more than a mile ahead, or more than a mile behind, and I hadn’t seen the Big E (or Scott, for that matter). The Big E has yet to finish a swim ahead of me, so I was quite sure I’d started the bike before him. He’s usually quicker than me on the bike, but sometimes struggles on the climbs – although he caught me easily enough during the half. Then, although he seems to have done little other than a huge number of Ironman races for years, fell running is still, I believe “what Blakies do best”. So it was strange that, bearing in mind the ridiculously slow pace I was running at, he hadn’t caught me.

The drag back over Illgill Head was as slow, tedious, technical, windy and misty as the outward leg. At the bottom of the scree path you don’t turn left towards the lake, but turn right and follow the same path as the half to Wasdale Head. Wasdale Head was the 15 mile mark, and was also the race headquarters, the finish, the place where we were staying, and the place that the WAG’s had now relocated to. I reached Wasdale Head after 4 1/2 hours of running, by which time my legs were completely wrecked. Very slow, but still plenty time to hobble up and down the Pike before the cut-off. It was here that I saw the WAG’s again, and learned what had happened to the Big E.

The Big E had actually pulled out of the race suffering from Hypothermia. Fresh from races in Taiwan, Mexico, Hawaii, Malaysia and Arizona, he had found Wast Water a little on the cool side. Exiting the lake into the rain, he had resisted the temptation to keep his wetsuit on, but had put on every other piece of clothing he had brought with him for the bike (including his new Ryton Tri thermal onesie). He completed the bike route, but remained unable to warm himself up. He reached T2 and the WAG’s a freezing, shivering wreck. He then, reluctantly, decided to abandon the race. This presented a problem, as he was clearly hypothermic, but the Blakiemobile was some 2 miles away at Wasdale Head, the WAG’s having walked to T2 from there. He and Dot were actually staying at a posh hotel in Gosforth, even further away in the other direction.

After some deliberation, the WAG’s formulated a Blakie reheating plan. The Big E would get back on his bike, and ride the (flat) 2 miles to Wasdale Head. Lou and I were staying at the Wasdale Head Inn, so the Big E would go to reception and ask for our room key. Then he would thaw himself out in our bath. (He was given strict instructions not to ask for steak and chips) The WAG’s then walked back to the Inn. The bath did the trick, and the Big E was eventually able to make it to the bar and join the WAG’s for some food and some Lakeland ale. Eventually the time came when I was likely to be running past. The Big E didn’t feel up to going outside quite yet, so the WAG’s wrapped him in a warm duffle coat, gave him some marmalade sandwiches, and attached a label to him saying “please look after this Blakie”. (Strangely enough, Darkest Peru is now one of very few places in the world where The Big E hasn’t yet competed in an Ironman)

The Big E’s quite fond of Hardknott too!

The Big E’s quite fond of Hardknott too!

This still left unexplained why I also hadn’t yet seen Scott. I assumed that he too had DNF’d, but I had no idea why or when until I saw him at Monday swimming some weeks later. Seems he’d struggled on the bike and had some punctures. He’d finished the bike leg a bit outside of the bike cut-off, but been allowed to start the run, on the understanding that he would make up time on the first section. After running along the lake, however, he decided that he was unlikely to make the overall cut and dropped out. Never mind, he atoned for this 2 weeks later by entering and completing the Kielder Ironman. And then entering next year’s X.

Having passed Wasdale Head, I was feeling more positive again. I only had the Scafell Pike section to do, which would be hard, but, I’d done it (twice) before so knew what to expect. Unlike the first section which had taken me totally by surprise. Also, I had plenty time, and I had just learned that daughter Laura and her partner Stuart had set off some time earlier and were planning to meet me at the top of the Pike.

The weather, however, was starting to deteriorate again. It was raining, windy, cloudy, and starting to get cold. As I got higher, each of these things got steadily worse. When I reached Styhead Tarn, where you turn right onto the Corridor Route, I decided that it was time to put my running jacket on. I had a brief chat with the marshal as I was taking it out of the rucksack, and at some point he said, for reasons which weren’t clear to me, “Are you from Newcastle?” “I am indeed” I said. (Actually, I might have said “whey aye man”, but I can’t remember) “Are you expecting to see your daughter up here somewhere?” I replied, again, in the affirmative. “She passed here about half an hour ago. She’s expecting to meet you at the top”.

This was good news which gave me a lift. Not for very long though. It took me forever to cover the section from Styhead to the top of the Pike. By the time I got to the end of the Corridor Route I was totally exhausted and the weather had worsened again. The temperature was very low, it was blowing a gale, chucking it down, and visibility was next to nothing. There was a marshal at this point: “turn left here and climb straight up to the summit. It’ll take you about 15 minutes. There’s a marshal up there who’ll take your number. You should be able to see him, as he’s got a brightly coloured tent”.

“15 minutes” was about as accurate as the pre race description of the first part of the run. After about half an hour of blindly following the tape, not having a clue how near the summit I was, I saw the brightly coloured tent. Then I saw the marshal standing in front of it. Then I finally noticed that the tent was actually right up against the cairn. This is the massive cairn that you can usually see for miles around, which lets you know in no uncertain terms that you are at the top of Scafell Pike. I was less than 2 yards away, and could only see that it was there because of the tent. I learned later that this particular marshal had been in place since 2pm, and stayed there till after midnight. He didn’t have to do that, it was part of, I believe, a joint decision by the marshals and organisers to extend the original 11.30 pm cut-off to around 1.30 am. Even though I was in a miserable state myself, I still managed to feel sorry for this marshal, who had probably been landed with the worst job of the day. Possibly one of the worst jobs ever (perhaps even on a par with The Big E’s chiropodist).

I gave the marshal my number, and then asked him what he would doubtless look back on as being the silliest question of the day: “Is my daughter up here?” “No mate, there’s nobody’s daughter up here, only me. Now get yourself back down and finish the race”. I duly complied, the fact that it was downhill all the way from there being of no comfort whatsoever.

Just as I reached the previous “15 minutes” marshal and turned right, back onto the Corridor Route, a voice came from the mist: “Is that you Dad?” It was indeed Laura and Stuart, who had ended up behind me on the ascent, having taken a wrong turning – didn’t turn right at Styhead, apparently (see Mr Blakie for some navigation training please). So they joined me for the descent, during which time I inflicted a large amount of whinging on them: “Have you had a good race then Dad?” “No I most certainly have not, it’s been a disaster. I went well on the bike but the run’s been horrible. I’m never doing anything like this ever again. I’ve found my limits now, and learned that I’m not capable of doing extreme triathlons. I’m going to stick to mainstream Ironman from now on. Stupid races like this are for nutters like the Big E”. Etc. etc.

I’m not overly keen on the Corridor Route though.

I’m not overly keen on the Corridor Route though

Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of whinging as a means of keeping yourself going during extreme races. (It also works just as effectively during Daniel Flint’s running sessions)  I whinged my way down to Styhead, which was just below cloud level. From here it was back down Gable traverse, from which you could see Wasdale Head. It was rocky at the top, so I continued to hobble down, but lower down the path gets smoother, so I started to run. This surprised Laura (who is not a runner), whom I had informed earlier that I was no longer capable of running, so I would be walking all the way to the finish (and quite possibly not running ever again). “I’m feeling better now so I’m going to run to the finish. It’s down to the bottom of here, across a bridge, then a mile on the flat. Will you be able to keep up?” “Of course”.

So I “ran” to the finish, where I crossed the line with an exhausted, out-of-breath daughter. Finished. Job done. Never, never, again. Definitely.

My finish time was 17:48. The longest I’ve ever spent doing an event, and it included a run split of 8:45 – by far the longest it’s ever taken me to do a marathon. I was placed 64th out of 99 finishers (of which only 83 finished inside the original cut-off) and 132 starters. Amazingly, I was 6th V50. The Big E would have been surprised/gutted/indifferent to see that no V60’s finished the race at all.

A few days later, details were announced of next year’s race. Basing the race in Wasdale had proved too problematic, so next year it’s moving to (the considerably warmer) Windermere. Sadly, this means dropping “deepest” from the “deepest, steepest, highest, hardest” slogan. The other 3 words will remain in force though. The bike route will be the same, just joining the Fred loop at a different point. The run route still goes up Scafell Pike, but from the other side. So because of where Ambleside is, you have to go quite a way on the flat(ish) before you start to climb. Then, according to the Big E, the climb itself is easier and more pleasant than the Corridor Route. So, basically, it will be a doddle. So I’ve entered it. And so have Big E, Gareth Huxley and Scott Sanders. The race is nowhere near full yet, so we’ll welcome anybody else who fancies coming and having a go (assuming that they think they’re hard enough, obviously). I can’t wait.

by Ian Maddison

Next Time………….

A mere four weeks after Wasdale, Madders demonstrates that he and his sanity have surely now gone their separate ways, by suffering more horrendous weather and taking part in Ironman UK in Bolton, along with The Big E, Gareth Huxley, Hedley Fletcher, Matty Alderson, Graham Robinson and Rob Churnside.

  • Will the Big E thaw out in time for the rolling start in Pennington Flash reservoir?
  • Will the rain be so heavy during the swim that the competitors will be unable to see the booeys?
  • Will Madders stop saying booeys before somebody thumps him and/or shoves a booey down his throat?
  • Will there be any more Blakie jokes, or has Madders already exceeded his annual quota?
  • Will the Big E be dusting down his grass skirt for another trip to Kona, or will it stay in the wardrobe this year?
  • Will Gareth win his age group and claim a Kona slot, only for the poodles to then be denied US entry visas?
  • Will Hedley earn and claim a Kona slot, only to find that the sale proceeds of his 3 most valuable possessions (his disc wheel, his van and his body) won’t quite cover the air fare?
  • Will Gareth and Hedley actually go to Hawaii at all, or will they secretly slope off to a “Sons of the Desert” convention?
  • Even though they didn’t take part in the race, will Madders still squeeze in some humorous/offensive remarks about Diane Chaney, Philip Addyman and Bob Hogg?

All this and more will soon be revealed in:

Bolton – a Tri Too Far

(If Madders can ever be bothered to write it, obviously……………….)

Another year, another Great North Run

Club runner, Katharina Reichelt, ran her 11th Great North Run on 13 September in memory of her dad and to raise money for Water Aid. Read on for her brilliant race account.

Katharina GNR 2015

Medal number 11 for wor’ Katharina

57,000 runners this year. I managed to not bump into anyone I knew beforehand, but made some new friends on the way. Conditions were initially cold, and increasingly too hot. I don’t understand what all these Southerners are on about that it’s cold up North. It really isn’t. And let me thank my fellow ginger runner in the queue for the toilets, who insisted I refresh my sunscreen – thank you Sir, your factor 50 probably saved my life.

I have now found the perfect time to queue for the loos: the evening before. Not saying you need it then or it is practical, or you meet nice people offering you sunscreen, but there is plenty of availability then. They did not give the same stern warnings as in previous years about not using the bushes. No one listens anyway, so they probably just gave up.

Runners of all shapes, sizes and ages bunched together, swap last minute tips: Don’t worry, it’s downhill all the way (total lie), and shuffled over the start line, down the motorway and over the bridge. The atmosphere as always brimming with excitement and joy.

Supporters: I listened to Frank Bruno being interviewed before the start, and he praised the Northern crowd over London. How very generous of him to say this, and totally true (North will always top the South, not just geographically). It was of course easy this year, because the weather was fantastic (if you were standing on the side-lines and topping up your tan). But that diminishes in no way the endless clapping and shouts of encouragement, and supply of jelly babies, oranges, ice lollies, chocolates, bananas and high 5s. A word of advice to the little boy at Mile 9, don’t try to throw the stuff at the runners, it’s really really hard to catch. Thank you all, it really is appreciated!!! We could not do it without you, and frankly, I am not sure I would bother. It is the supporters that are making this run the most special!

GNR 31 Sept 2015

On the start line

Runners: This year I caught up with the geriatric Minnie Mouse at mile 3, she must have done some speed training, last year I think it was Mile 2. See, you are never too old to improve. I trailed Maverick and Iceman from Top Gun for a couple of miles, but having their Jets with them, they were at a distinct advantage. The diet in the jungle appears to be very nutritious, as the two Tarzans in their skimpy chaffing inducing outfits that I spotted were well nourished… I did overtake a running beerbottle, but I am uncertain that it was an achievement. I also overtook Frank Bruno!!! Yes Sir. Mind you, he did run for charity (good man), and pushed a wheelchair, so maybe he had a bit of a disadvantage there… What am I talking about, I beat Frank Bruno!

Injuries: The last 4 miles were a drag, as my hip checked out. It’s attention seeking behaviour, I am sure, so I decided to ignore it (also, I did not want to walk the last 4 miles, would have taken me ages). My hip is still mardy at me for it, so we are not talking at the moment. So, do my feet hurt? My legs? Funny enough, what does hurt is my thumb. I accidentally rammed a safety pin under the nail trying to fasten the race number. These are the true injuries of athletes, and I am sure you feel the pain as I do.

Ride home: I did not bother with the metro, which was a good choice as it turns out, but just jumped on a bus and was home by 2pm. And I met another fellow ginger on the bus. We have come to the conclusion that on a cloudless day, all gingers should get a 10-minute handicap. It’s just fair, as you can see us shrivelling away on the course, or chasing any little bit of shade. A bit like vampires…

Goodybag: I have moaned about this in the past, then saw the light when I realised that Edinburgh marathon assumes all you need is half a flapjack. GNR, now sponsored by Morrisons, gave us a good sized bag of crisps, cranberries, and a flapjack. Excellent.

Organisers: Thank you for stopping using the silly fob on your shoe. See, you had to bend down to get that thing off at the end, and needed some elderly volunteers helping you in the past. So, accept my heartfelt thanks! It’s Morrisons now rather than Bupa. I did not really notice a difference other than that the banners were yellow rather than blue, and maybe a more useful goodybag. No one asked us to swipe our miles & match cards at the end… Could we get double points for finishing at the checkout? It’s an opportunity guys, just saying…

Congratulations: to my fellow runners, Claire, Gillian, Daniel, Daniel, Emma, Andrew, Bernie, little Bernie, Karen etc. , well done to us all!
Selina, you need to rethink your strategy… There must be another way to avoid public transport…

… LAST BUT NOT LEAST, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SUPPORTING ME AND THE CHOSEN CAUSE THIS YEAR, WaterAid.

This one was in memory of my dad. Love you and miss you.

Much love

Katharina xxx

Northumberland Coastal Run, 19 July 2015

This race is a bit of a beast, sweetened by some of the most beautiful scenery going. Alnwick Harrier’s Northumberland Coastal Run gets filled up within hours of booking opening in January. A few of us at Derwent Valley Running Club were lucky enough to get places for today’s race. The 13ish-mile linear course (dependent on the tide it can be longer) runs from Beadnell to Alnmouth. It links together some of the best beaches in the country, passing through tiny villages and under the shadow of Dunstanburgh Castle, with a mixed terrain of beach (energy sapping!), coastal path and a bit of tarmac. This year, the conditions were pretty good, with hazy sunshine and a cooling seabreeze. A really well-organised event. Its definitely worth the early start to get there – and all the weeks of finding sand in your trainers afterwards.

Derwent Valley Recommends: Keeping an eye out on http://www.alnwickharriers.co.uk/ for details of how to book for 2016.

Waiting for the beach start of Northumberland Coastal Run

Waiting for the beach start of Northumberland Coastal Run