Staveley Lakeland Trails Challenge 17km – 2012

The Lakeland Trails series of events around the picturesque towns and villages of Cumbria aims not only to provide a racing opportunity for fell hardened veterans, but also to introduce Trail Running to those taking their first nervous steps into the world of off road running. It was at this same fixture last year that I first pinned a racing number to my vest and took to the fells of the Lake District. Much to my surprise I found that running in the hills wasn’t soley the preserve of superhuman fell runners or hardcore mountain runners. That day I amazed myself with a respectable 53rd place out of and couldn’t wait to sign up for the next one!

Guess who had the “wrinkly faced old man” design

This year the race was once again blessed with glorious sunshine which helped with the celebratory, festival feel these events alwsays seem to have. As sson as we arrived at Stavely Recreation ground my girls were looking out for the kids race regisrtation. With faces freshly painted they were soon tearing around the finishing field with the rest of the youngsters. My youngest has been listening carefully to Daddy bang on about running and racing, (I think she’s the only one still listening), and instead of haring off at a sprint and running out of steam, she paced herself over the distance and out ran her older sister for the first time. It cost me a pair of ice creams to re-establish peace!

If only I had listened to ny own advice. Inspired and patently over confident from my 26th place at Cartmel earlier in the series, I positioned myself optimistically near the front of the pack and took off like a jack rabbit at the start. Leaving the village I was in a ridiculously unrealistic 10th place and soon regretting it as we hit the first long climb along a paved roadway. When the road turned to a tricky, pot holed collection of loose stones heading out towards the fells, I suddenly started going backwards as a torrent of runners passed me.  

A hearty greeting from Pete Lashley as he drifted easily past had me gasping out excuses as the lead in my legs slowed my pace yet further. For some reason I just couldnt get going and my legs got heavier as the excuses in my head came thicker and faster: a heavy couple of weeks training – or perhaps that marathon was still in my legs – or a simple lack of respect for the event biting me in the backside! By 2.5 miles I had just about “blown up” and consoled myself with the tought that I’d just trot round this one and enjoy the scenery. After the ultimate shame of walking the last 50 yards to the top of the first hill I latched on to another runner and got going again on the tricky technical descent.

The route then crossed a delicious looking River Kent, sparkling blue in the sunlight and crying out to sweaty runners to come dip their toes! I have trained along these paths many times, but never can I recall seeing the fells and the river looking quite so stunning as they did on Sunday.. nor quite so hot! Perhaps it was the familiarity of the terrain but I somehow managed to find a ryhtym along the grassy tracks heading for Kentmere village, and found myself slowly gaining on the group ahead. By the time we had climbed back on to the open fells I had regained half a dozen or so places and was finally moving at a decent pace.

From miles 6 to 8 I was more or less alone. I could see the first lady up ahead but knew I didnt have the legs to catch her, and a glance over my shoulder showed a healthy lead over those behind. On the firmer packed tracks over the tops I had a chance to lift my eyes from the terrain and take in the awesome views before I was suddenly surprised by the patter of approaching feet and two strong looking runners were upon me and past before I knew it. That gave me a wake up call and I latched onto them as we headed towards the final water station.

From this point the terrain changes to grassy fields as the ground rises steeper and steeper towards the summit of Reston Scar. Tired legs really begin to feel the effort of clambering over a couple of stiles and leaping the odd brook. Just before the very last climb up the “Sting in the Tail” I was over taken by a chap I later learned to be Gary Spriggs of St Helens Striders. It is typical of the nature of these events that even overtaking is a gentlemanly and polite affair. “Come on not far now” he offered by way of encouragement before politely taking my race place!  

Top of the Sting

Last year the route then mercifully turned away from the true summit and plunged downwards towards Staveley and the fnish. This year the “Sting in the Tail” has been added, which is a 50 metere calf busting detour up a grassy incline to the very summit. Any sensible runner would adopt the tradditional fell runners hands on knees style walk up this section, which is probably why the organisers had a gaggle of photographers and a cow bell ringing mad man on the top exhorting us to run all the way! If you are going to walk you aren’t going to do it when there someone with a camera around! 

The consolation on reaching the summit of any race route is the free-wheeling descent on the other side. Not today! The wind rushing over the top of the hill was so powerful it managed to momentarily win the battle with gravity. It took a concerted effort to make any progress downhill! I was soon huirtling with abnadon down the zig-zagging path back to the village, with a quick glance over my shoulder showing a big enough gap on the runner behind to feel relatively sure of my place.

On the final stretched along the river bank I was also making up some ground on my St Helens Strider pal, but I knew there wasnt enough left in the tank to make up what turned out to be a 10 second gap in the end. As he said to me afterwards, it was to be yet another victor for Saints over Wigan this year! Instead I settled for playing to the crowd on the last lap round the field, raising my fist and finishing like I’d won it! (you got to grab your moments!).

Free Ice Bath in the River

10 minutes later and I was sat in the River Kent with a gaggle of cramp afflicted runners letting the cool waters provided blissful relief! This has got to be the most heavenly of post run ice baths I’ve ever had!

Usually the end of the race signifies the end of the day, but the Lakeland Trails are different. After a chance to recover a bit, Pete Lashley re-appeared with his guitar and completed the festival feel with an outdoor gig as we all stretch back in the sunshine taking advanatge of the bar! The organisers go to some trouble to extend the prize giving beyond those talented enough to place well, and run a lengthy and entertaining prize draw based on race numbers.

Whatever the race result the Lakeland Trails always end up being a belting family day out all round. So it doesnt really matter where I finally finished. Days like these remind me of the joy to be had from running irrespective of race results and PB times: the camaraderie, the freedom from the clock, the fun, the challenge and the beauty of the surroundings alone make it a great experience. So… it didnt really matter where I finished…… even though I was punching the air and skipping half the way home once I’d discovered I’d come home in 28th place!

Harrock Hill Race – The Pain and Gory

Any race that involves 5 miles of varying hill climbs will require a little pain and suffering from those taking part. On that basis, one Wigan Harrier has banked enough agony to keep him in credit for the entire Harrock Hill race series for 2012 with a little bit spare for good measure.

A good showing of black and red vests were on display for this first mid week tester on the hills of South Lancashire. Dave Waddington, Tim Pilkington, Andy Eccles and Darren Middleton set off in the late evening warmth, beginning with an immediate uphill charge. Tim Pilkington took the front for Harriers with Andy and Dave battling it out up the first hill, before Dave snuck in front on the way past the quarry.

Barbed Wire V Eccles

Andy Eccles is known for his uncompromising approach to races with his run hard or go home policy. On Harrock Hill there is little more uncompromising than the barbed wire fence he picked a fight with at the first style crossing. Somehow Andy took a tumble and became completely, and horribly entangled in the fence. Club mate Darren Middleton was first to stop and when the seriousness of the injury became apparent he bravely whipped off his vest to use as a makeshift tourniquet.

Darren reports that with the help of another runner who luckily happened to be a Doctor, they managed to painfully unhook the barbs embedded in Mr Eccles to reveal eye watering injuries. “There were bits of him still left on the fence..” adds Darren, who remains traumatised at being forced to display his naked torso in public.

Meanwhile, allegedly oblivious to the carnage behind them, Tim and Dave contnued to slog their way round the course wondering where, and who the screaming was coming from. Dave Waddington staked a claim to a place on the Harriers hurdles team with a spectacuar vault over a closed gate to grab himslf a couple of extra positions over those queing for the style. He  finally lost out in a tussle with Paul Seddon over the last 200m to finish in 38:04, with Tim Pilkington having a good race to grab 7th place. They both finished to the sound of sirens and flashing blue lights….

Back up the course Andy Eccles was refusing a lift to Southport General and after being patched up by the Paramedics he drove himself back to A and E in Wigan like an injured Homing Pidgeon. He then spent an entertaining half hour or so watching the staff “cut away the dead flesh” and sewing up his ragged arm. For a time there were quite a few worried club mates keen for news of our coach. However, once word got round that he was stitched, battered, bruised but going to be ok, the sympathetic messages flooded in along the lines of: “You’ve let the club down – losing a limb is no excuse for not finishing”

Seriously Andy -we are all very relieved to hear you are ok – speedy recovery and we want to see you back running as soon as possible.

Horwich Festival of Running

Our friends form “over t’ hill” at Lostock AC have asked invited all Wigan Harriers to take part in the Horwich Festival of Racing next month, (www.horwichfestivalofracing.co.uk).

First up is the Two Lads Fell Race on 14th June setting off at 7.30pm from the Bridge Inn, Church Street Horwich. The event is run under FRA rules and involves 5.25 miles and 900ft of ascent on the sides of Winter Hill. This race holds fond memories for Graham who finished last years event with 3 broken ribs…but dont let that you put you off! Download a Two Lads 2012 entry form

Next up on 15th June is the 10k Trail race around the tracks and paths of Rivington. Race HQ is the Crown Hotel on Church St in Horwich, with the race itself kicking off at 7.30pm. Download an entry form here: Fest of Race Trail Race 2012 form

Completing the series is a 5k road race setting off from the Scout Hut, at the rear of Horwich Clinic, at Jones St. Being a Sunday afternoon this race kicks off at 2.00pm. Download Horwich 5K 2012 form

Entry can be made individually for these races, or you can save a few quid by entering the entire Mini Tour of Horwich series: Fest of Race Mini Tour 2012 form

 

BORROWDALE TRAIL RACE 21K 20TH MAY 2012

Kevin Edwards completed the second of his 2 races this week with a tough outing at the Borrowdale Trail Race near Keswick:

I’m not sure how this event came up on my radar, but I decided to enter it as a bit of a warm up for upcoming Grasmere Gallop. I had hoped it woul dbe a good test of my skills on the descents as I am usually a bit like Bambi on ice an anything but flat tarmac.

Rosthwaite

I woke to glorious sunshine on Sunday morning in Wigan set off early enough to factor in some “getting lost time” on the way to the Lake District. Driving past the “walks of shames”, can of lager in hand and huddled in a blanket near Tesco, I thought, “I bet I won’t see anything like that in Keswick… well not until the Harriers are up there in a few weeks time!”

After a few aimless circuits of Keswick town centre and a couple of swear words I finally found registration, which was right next to Derwent Water lake as promised. My confidence ahead of the race wasnt helped by the thought that “if you cant find the lake you’ve got no chance of getting round the course without getting lost!”
Once kitted up it was time to make my way to the start which was a good 30min walk to the other side of Derwent water. I thought, “I am not getting l

ost again – I’ll team up”. Innevitably I not only took the wrong route, but took another 4 people the wrong way who were daf tenough to follow me. I blame the guy from Leeds, who was intent on telling me about his midlife crises for distracting me! Thankfully, we made it to the start with 10 mins to spare.

With 112 runners it wasn’t the biggest field, but there was a good showing of cl

ub vests and a few fell runner types.

Castle Crag

I needn’t have worried about getting lost again as the route was well marked. The first few miles passed without incident, then we hit Castle Crag. It was just a wall of boulders that went up for miles. I just kept telling myself to keep running; little steps; dont start walking. I did manage to pass a few people on the climb, hit the top and and then it got worse! It was a sheer grass drop to run down. All the people I passed, passed me on the decent. To be a good fell runner you have got to be just that little bit mad!

We had flat road and trail to the 9.5 mile maker so I pulled them back a bit. We all stopped at the water point, took water on board and handed our cups back in. You don’t get at a road race!

Yet another climb to contend with, not as step as castle crieg but a lot longer. The group was still pretty much together over a technical decsent involving lots of boulder hopping: yep, I was dropped and never got back on again.

The course flattened out a bit for the last part, but was all single track and we were back to boulder hoping. Any mistakes and the Mountain Rescue would be having a trip out. The final mile was at the side of the lake. Pure relief: I could stride out a bit.
The 13k race had started 10 mins after my race, so I started to have goals to chase down the last runners from that race as they came in. My legs where absolutely battered by this stage and couldn’t muster a sprint finish

What little I saw of of the view was stunning, but most of the time my eyes where fixed to the trail. With this sort of race I think you can work hard on the sections that suit you; if you’re not confident running down the side of a mountain flat out then so be it: horses for courses.

I came 22nd 7th vet 40 and a time of 1hr 55mins 32 secs

It was a great run and would recommend it to anyone. It was ideal preparation for the Grasmere gallop where I will let you all pass me on the desents!

2012 Manchester 10k Race Report

Darren Jackson considers himself fortunate that paracetemol and Lemsip dont feature on the UKA banned subsances list. In the lead up to this years Bupa Manchester 10k Darren developed the traditional post marathon cold, and was forced to dose himself to the red rimmed eyeballs in order to take part.
As late as the Thursday before Darren was looking an unlikely starter, but the potions did the trick and he lined up with 40,000 others for the 10th staging of the event.

As the incomparable Haile Gebrslassie stormed his way to the fastest 10k time this year, Darren was defying the aches and pains to cover the first 7k in good shape. Fellow Wigan Harriers Dave, Jaqui and Julie were out on the course to provided a much needed boost for the final 3k. Despite the effects of the cold beginning to disrupt his breathing pattern, Darren still hung in there to take 5 secons off his PB and finish in 400th place overall.

His shiny new time of 40:09 was hard won, but Darren reports the resulting sore throat and aching bones were worth the cost. Well done Darren on yat another PB this year!

Christleton 5k 2012 Report

The first result if the weekend is in with Andy Eccles reporting an 18:41 finish at the Christleton 5k tonight, (18th May). This famously fast course is rightly popular with pb hunters, which may explain how it has lasted so well into its 25th year.
Andy wasn’t aiming to set any records today, but is happy to have overcome a touch of sciatica and finish just 20 seconds down on his ideal target. With the Grasmere Gallop fast approaching, Andy considers tonights tester as “a step in the right direction!”

Wigan Harriers Week Ahead

As the pain of Spring Marathons fades, Wigan Harriers running club members will be getting back into the swing of things with at a variety of events this week.

Kev Edwards followed up a tough London Marathon with Race 1 of the Horwich Jubilee Road races at Rivington on Wednesday night. He placed 48th overall, (10th in category), and belied the lead in legs after London with an impressive 34:36. Not content with just the one tough race this week, Kevin is scheduled to run again on Sunday at the testing 21k Borrowdale Trail run. Good luck Kev – we dont know if you are mad, bad or just plain dangerous!

Next up to test his mettle is Andy Eccles who is turning out for the club at the Christleton 5k. Andy will be taking part in the 25th running of this iconic event on a renowned PB course.

Haile will be competing against Wigan Harriers best on Sunday

On Sunday another recovering London Marathon finisher in the form of Darren Jackson will be taking on Haile Gebreslassie at the Mancester 10k. Darren is playing down his chances aginst the former World Marathon record holder, but anyone who has seen him training on the hills of Haigh hall recently will be aware of how much speed he is carrying at the moment, (Darren that is – Haile hasn’t made an appearance yet). He’s got to lose one day Darren…

Dave Waddington has been trying to persuade anyone who will listen of the virtue of the 1st of the Harrock Hill 5 milers next Wednesday, (23rd). So far his persuasive patter has snared Grahm Millington into accompanyng him, probably because he hasnt actually done the race before and doesnt know what’s in store. Darren Middleton is wavering….

Finally we send out best wishes to Wigan Harriers junior members who are taking to the track at the Young Athletes League meeting in Carlisle this weekend. Its a pleasure to see the enthusiasm and talent of these young runners when they join in with us old crocks at the Thursday session. Good luck girls!

Tims’ Track Debut

Congratulations are due to Tim Pilkington who was the first of the Endurance Group to pluck up the courage to take to the track at the recent Wigan Harriers Open Meeting. As our track “Guinea Pig”, Tim set the standard with a fabulous 4th place in the 5000m.

Tim describes his debut as 3 comfortable laps followed by 9 laps of purgatory. The gauntlet is now down for the rest of the road specialists to follow in his fast footsteps over the Summer months.

Manchester Marathon – Daves Full Report

After a few days to rest and recover, Dave has been able to put together a full report on his heroics in Manchester at the weekend:

The Greater Manchester marathon will certainly live long in my memory!

We had been keeping a close eye on the weather forecast all week, with strong winds and heavy rain forecast for Sunday, and rather pleasant conditions for the days either side. Given the forecasters track record, and inspired by a comment on the BBC to “watch this space”, I remained optimistic that the weather front would come through early, be delayed, or just deviate around Manchester. My worst suspicions were confirmed, however, when we pulled up at Sally’s house at 7.00 to be greeted by the first drops of rain; exactly on cue! 

Sally’s friends from Trafford soon arrived and there was some discussion about what we should be wearing. Having been coached in the Eccles and Waddington cross country school over the winter months, there was no decision to be made – vest and shorts were the order of the day, with the concession of a pair of “Magic” gloves. Sally was similarly adopting a minimalistic approach and so there was no way I was being shown up by a girl. Jayne meanwhile was kitting up for her duty on the bike as my mobile feeding station. 

We left in plenty of time to walk the mile and a half to the “Race Village” and arrived to a scene which had a tinge of Glastonbury about it; mud, rain, people in wellies! Everyone was loathe to get changed until the last minute which resulted in the now well reported chaos of the baggage drop; literally in this case! I abandoned Jayne with my bag and trudged to the start line in my Wigan MBC bin bag. A quick “relief” in direct contravention to the instruction not to use a “handy bush or tree” (only a non-runner could come up with that rule!), and I was climbing over the barriers to line-up with the sub-3 hour crowd. Another ominous sign was that Sean McMyler (who runs all year round in shorts) was wearing a tee-shirt over his vest and thought that he might keep it on for the first few miles. Everywhere I looked people were shivering and their teeth chattering. This really was worse than the cross country in Barrow! 

Now everyone has a pre-race strategy and I’m no different. I’d spent weeks saying that I was going to aim for 7 min miling. Then a few days earlier I noticed that there was going to be a 3 hour pacer, and I thought it might be an idea to hang on to him for as long as I could. This was seeming an even better bet now that the wind was gusting, since I could tuck in with the crowd. The 3 hour man was identifiable with a huge sail on his back – how on earth was he going to run with that in these winds? A few words from Ron and Darren and we’re off. I cross the line, set my Garmin going, check my pace for a few hundred yards and look up to see the man with the sail disappearing into the distance. Well there goes that plan! Undaunted, I settled into a nice steady 6.50 pace with a small group of runners. 

Old Trafford soon came and went, then we had a strange “about turn” around a cone and headed out of the industrial area and into the waiting crowds. I must say straightaway that the support around the course on that day was the best I have ever seen. People stood in the wind, rain and cold for hours on end and cheered the runners on. It was in these first few miles when I heard a father remark to his children that “These are the fast runners coming by”. And yes, he meant us – talk about a confidence builder! 

I had taken a couple of gels with me in one of those annoying gel belts, and was now looking for Jayne so that I could get rid of the thing and get my next gel. One blessing of the cold weather was that those “Tropical” gels which generally taste like wallpaper paste when warm, were actually quite palatable; or had I lost it already? A couple of false sightings (one an old man on a road bike who I had vigorously waved to from a hundred yards away), and then Jayne appeared on her faithful Trek with another tropical delight. “How’s it going?”. “Fine, just taking it easy”, I answer for the benefit of any runners who might be listening for signs of weakness. 

The first half of the course breezed by. Water stations, crowds, rain, a nasty little hill or two and then I’m over the timing mat in a highly satisfactory split of 1:29:45. This is where the fun really started. Fortunately, my study of the anticipated weather conditions had prepared me for turning into the rather strong winds, and I wasn’t disappointed. 

A deviation into Dunham Massey saw the race take on a multi-terrain feel as we initially picked our way round puddles, only to abandon this strategy and run straight through them, cross country style. Being in the first couple of hundred runners this part of the course hadn’t yet degenerated into the quagmire that it was to later become. Out on the road again, another gel form Jayne and head down up to Partington. 

By now the field had thinned out and the few of us who were together were trying to shelter behind the others. What would have been a lovely stretch of countryside running in warm spring sunshine became a fairly lonesome battle, and by now I had totally lost all feeling in my hands. One of the advantages of having your name printed on your race number is that you get lots of encouragement from the crowds. Unfortunately, you get used to people shouting your name and miss seeing people who you actually know. This almost happened as I was approaching the Rope and Anchor feed station. A couple looking remarkably like Dave Waddington and Jacqui Jones, and someone unmistakably sounding like Julie Platt were handing out gels! Despite shouting my name, I didn’t realise who it was until I was nearly upon them. What a welcome boost their encouragement gave me though. Up the road and more familiar faces in Mark Rogers and Kev Edwards who frightened the living daylights out of me as he leapt from under a tree at the side of the road. 

With 18 miles done and the worst of the weather still to come, you could see the race start to take its toll. I wasn’t going great but I passed runner after runner. Some had already resorted to walking, others were going at little more than a jog. I brought to mind a pre-race text that I had received from that greatly experienced marathon runner Barry Abram, to keep going when it gets tough, and I just got on with it.

The 20 mile mat nailed, on through Carrington and a left turn along the most exposed part of the course. At this point, it decided to hail and my legs seemed to go as cold as my hands. Whatever was “magic” about my gloves had long since been forgotten, as they seemed to be doing nothing but act as a sponge to the cold rain. I had declined another gel from Jayne, but said that I would have one of the Jelly Babies that Phil Derbyshire had sent for me. You cannot imagine how my spirits dropped when she told me that she had lost them. It was worse than knocking your pint over and there being a six deep queue at the bar. Absolutely gutted!

But the Marathon God who had abandoned Graham looked down on me, as Jayne realised that she hadn’t lost them afterall. The bag had burst and they had ended up in the lining of her water proof trousers! She managed to rescue six of the little blighters and offered one to me now. Unfortunately my hands were totally numb so I asked her to put it into my mouth for me. What a performance that was! 

One of the less good ideas of this race (and possibly others) was that if you signed up for a pacing group, you wore your pace time on your back. With 4 miles to go, there was now a number of runners appearing with 3:00 on their shirts. As any runner knows, your strength feeds off others (unfortunate) weakness, and these 3:00ers now became targets to keep me going. Into the last mile, even more encouragement from the brilliant crowds and a dawning sense of what an achievement it was to complete this race. Me and two other lads got together at this point, had an “It’s a Knockout” moment as we were directed through the underpass, but then we resurfaced and could hear the announcer and knew that the end was near. A last “sprint” to the line as I heard my name and that of Wigan Harriers over the tannoy, and my watch was stopped in a little under 3:07. I decided that I would settle for that! 

Foil blanket on to save me from hypothermia ( and I am serious about that!), medal round neck, banana pushed in to hand and off to find Jayne and my bag. I could write another chapter about what was to follow – as could many other people – but just two final words of thanks. First to Maria Lowe, who peeled my banana for me, when my fingers wouldn’t work, and hers were only in marginally better order. And finally, to Jayne who supported me on her bike all day in absolutely atrocious conditions and got soaked to the skin herself. Her pièce de résistance involved untying my trainer laces with her teeth because neither of us had any feeling in our fingers!!! 

You may do the Manchester marathon in the future, but I am sure (hope) that you will never have to do it in those conditions. A race I will never forget.