Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hilly Street Blues

There are many words you could use to describe the New Streets. 'Flat' is not one that springs to mind. 'Easy' is another you can forget about. Every year I tell myself I don't care if I don't beat X, or if I get thrashed by Y. And every year I really mean it. And then Andrew says 'Go!' again, and all that gets forgotten. Again. And for half an hour or so, it's pure torture.

This what it feels like -

And this is what it looks like -

But it's strangely compulsive. And so in 51 weeks time we'll be back again. Yes, I know it's only 4 miles. But I haven't yet found a tougher 4 miles on tarmac, anywhere. So, maybe this event encapsulates why we run. It's a challenge, and it hurts, but there is redemption in the camaraderie and the achievement, whether you finish first, last, or nowhere.

Actually, you can't finish nowhere. Not at the New Streets.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wesham Wonderland.....

... Saturday 29 November 2008...

“ we’ll hand you over now to Brendan and Steve who are down in deepest Lancashire to describe for us the build up to the Wesham 10k ...”

....yes, thanks Sue, welcome to an absolutely freezing Salwick Social Club, nestling in the countryside in deepest Prestonshire, where the runners are beginning to gather for the famous Wesham 10k. As you’ll know Brendan, this event is a firm favourite on the North-west road-running calendar, and regularly attracts some of the best club runners in the area....” “...that’s right Steve, remember that many of our northern club runners have gone on to represent GB and even become world record holders....although I can’t remember any of their names right now. I’ll tell you what Steve, at £8 per entry the race organisers must be taking a huge loss on this event. In my experience you can’t put a running event on for less than 45 quid these days what with dire pension forecasts and escalating celebrity-runner appearance fees. Speaking of which, Paula Radcliffe’s friend Helen Clitheroe holds the women’s record for this race, and I know that she told Paula about this race, and Paula said she might come along one time and have a look, so let’s hope she turns up today Steve, that would really make my day and.....” “....yes Brendan we know, but in the meantime let’s go to our man in the carpark, the former World 200m and still 400m record-holder, the legendary Michael Johnson. Looks like the atmosphere is beginning to build. Come in Michael, can you hear me?”

“Aye loud and clear Steve, I’ll tell you it’s baltic out here. The carpark marshals are doin’ a great job though, making sure that the cars park in the er,...carpark. The fast lads get the places reet near the clubhouse, the fat lads get shoved out into the off-road area round the back – let’s face it they need the exercise – so there’s a fair bit of banter out here already with 45 minutes to go. I can see a well-honed crew from Eden Runners, looking fit and sharp as ever. I’ll try to catch up with them, see what their pre-race strategy might be....oh but they’ve shot off into the warm clubhouse. Let’s see if we can follow them in there...back to you for the moment Steve....” “......cheers Mick. Brendan’s just nipped out for pie & chips, but while he’s away I think we can bring you some news just reaching us seems that Karen Heaviside, who currently leads the Eden Runners Autumn Series (Female) rankings, has sensationally withdrawn from the race. She did tell me earlier that, although she has almost recovered from her recent ankle thingy, the weather conditions may be against her today, and since she has important races coming up in the next few weeks, she has made what I think is a sensible decision. Ah Brendan’s back...Brendan, any comments on that?..” “Yes, Steve...the pastry was a bit chewy but overall not too bad for half ten on a freezing Saturday. I still can’t see any sign of Paula....but we have got Mickey who’s in the clubhouse with Karen Cummins, from Penrith...Michael?” “......yes Bren, I’m here with Karen who’s just slid off the treatment table to talk to me...Karen, first of all, what were you doing there on the table?” “ Oh, I’ve never experienced that before in my life Mick. My legs are on fire. And look at ma hair! It’s standin on end! My goad, I’m away back for more.....” “Well good luck Karen...there she goes......

As I look across the room here in the clubhouse there are many athletes preparing for the race, all in their own different ways. Some, like Karen who you just saw there, are taking advantage of the pre-race massages on offer. Some, like Paul Saager, have kept their trousers on. Others are sitting in quiet contemplation....let’s see if we can have a word with this’s Andy ‘Wacker’ Wacker isn’t it? It is....great to see you Andy. I was meaning to ask, could I borrow your big luminous green/yellow coat Andy? I’ve heard it’s real warm and you’ll not be using it while the race is on? Oh I see, Karen’s wearing it...ok. Well, our camera motorbike has a headlamp out, I don’t suppose you’ve got a spare bulb in the car? You have? Great job Andy Wacker! I’ll get that in a minute ok? Cheers mate....Steve – what an incredible atmosphere here in the clubhouse. I hear the five-minute warning gun has just gone bang, so back to you for now...” “...thanks Mikey. Brendan, what difference d’you think these conditions will make? We’ve got freezing fog and ice out there, it’s still a degree or so below freezing and...” “ difference at all Steve, as long as your pre-race preparation is meticulous. I’ve got my ViewFrom base layer on and my Great North Run Race Memento over the top, and I can see the pie van about 15 metres away Steve.....hang on there’s my mobile, that could be Paula....hello, Paula? Oh no it’s you again Barker... the race is about to start...yes I know for cryingoutloud....Jeez what was that?” “...that would be the starter’s pistol Brendan. Alright, back to Michael who’s out on the course.....what can you tell us Mike?” ......

" ’kinell Steve it’s chuffin’ freezing here....we’re out at around one and a half kilometres, right by a gap in the hedge where there’s a massive puddle with ice on top. I’ve just seen John Bridge, running like Sebastian Coe in ‘Steve Ovett : Was he the One with the Beard?’ going through, followed by Alan Marshall running like, er, like he can’t. Next green vest through it looks like Andrew ‘Andy’ Wacker, running like John Wayne in ‘Rio Bravo’, then it’s Paul Saagerinho emerging through the mists, like Michael Caine in ‘Get Carter’. As the runners move past us there is what can only be described as a ‘mobile disturbance’ in the area, surely it has to be The Comeback Kid, a.k.a Dave Peacock. Indeed it is......there he goes, running like The Trousers in ‘The Wrong Trousers’. Dave looks to me like he’s moving at just outside 47 minute pace, if only we could somehow tell him he needs to increase his pace by an average of 1sec/km. Never mind. Here’s the Other Comeback Kid, Jools ‘Holland’ King. What a performance this is – she isn’t even wearing a coat, such bravery. Julia is quietly re-honing her stiletto-like competitive weaponry after a well-earned, er, break, and we will no doubt see a gradual return to form over the coming weeks. Ah here I think I can see Kevin Whitemore, running like Sancho Panza in ‘Man from La Mancha’. Oh hang on, back to you Brendan...” “ Michael I’m fairly certain I saw Paula down there in the throng... can you tell her that the whole world is glad to see her running here in the Great North Run, sorry did I say ‘Great North Run’ there? Sorry I meant ‘London Marathon’. Anyway, tell her that I’m still carrying that torch for her, and that I’m keeping her pie & mushy peas warm inside my ViewFrom climate-control parka....” “ Brendan in fact I think it’s Karen, yes it’s Karen Cummins you saw, it’s not Paula....Karen is looking for a pb, among other things, here at Wesham today. There she goes, like a miniature Scottish stormtrooper. I can hear Brahms ‘Ein deutsches requiem’ (from ‘Live at the Bremen Arena’, (1868)) blasting through her headphones there. How fitting that she should choose that piece rather than the slighter ‘Rinaldo’, the cantata often used as an alternative to ‘Keep On Running’ at the Cumbrian Run. Typical of the woman, Steve....” “....thanks Mickey.

Well, the race is approaching its final stages, so while we wait for Michael to get to the finish area I’ll just remind everyone that the we have extended coverage of the post-race reaction, interviews, warm-down routines and shoe-lacing workshop. Just press your red button as coverage ends here on Your BBC1 ...but quickly back to Michael....What up, Mikey?..” “ Well Steve, here come the first Eden’s Bridge tearing into the home straight looking for a pb at sub-40...but wait here’s Marshall too....Bridge holds him off... they’re at full pace now, other competitors are being skittled out of the way as they blast towards the line....Bridge still has it.....well! I can’t separate them, they’re in a heap under the finish gantry. We’ll have to wait for the official result but I’m being told that’s around 39.53, a PB for JB, gr8! He comes Andy ‘Walker’ Walker, looking nonchalant as ever, cruising through the finish, closely pursued by Paul Saager, running smoother than my vintage Camero used to do on those summer Sundays through the leafy New England countryside, close to where Maria and I used to .......but anyway here’s another blue ‘n’ greenie, and it’s Dave Peacock, demonstrating his superb technical ability as he holds it together in the home straight. Quickly back to the studio where I think Brendan wants to add something...” “ ...too right I do, these hot dogs are tremendous value, but more onions next time please... agreed Steve? No, well just leave it... I’ll finish it if you like, I’m that Paula I can see on the monitor Steve?.....” “...No Brendan it’s Karen Cummins...looks like we’ve missed both Julia ‘Return of The’ King and Kevin Whitemore.
Whitemore crosses the line...the lights of Salwick Social Club can be seen in the background

I think that Kev had another pb there Brendan, he’s in the form of his life, like. As is Karen here, she was hoping to run under 60 mins, and she’s in here in just over 54 minutes. Great work – just shows what a pre-race massage will do. Agreed Bren?” “Aye Steve. I remember this one time before the European Championships in Helsinki in 1974, and a lovely lass she was Steve, she had the most beautiful..” “right Brendan, that’s all we have time for. I just have a few seconds to read out a text we’ve received from an Andrew Sharples in Laz-y-boy in Cumbria, he asks ‘Brendan – did you ever run a race that wasn’t quite the advertised distance?’ Well Andy we’re not sure if that’s a philosophical question or whether you’re carrying some ridiculous complex around with you....either way, it’s a bit sad....and you really should move on. Have you ever thought of joining a running club?....anyway don’t get knocked over or anything.

See you next week where our cameras will be at Keswick for the 4th round of the Cumbria Cross-Country that another pie Brendan??”

Friday, October 24, 2008

Battle with the elements

From our intelligence gained the night before we knew the elements were going to fight dirty and where planning to use some of their most fearsome fighting units Wind, Rain, cold and an elite unit called mud. Our small unit was made up of three Highly trained athletes ,a seasoned veteran and team leader (codename Karen), recently recognised as most improved by his platoon (codename john) and a late recruit code name Anne .Early on Thursday morning Karen and myself( John) set off under the cover of darkness to our first secret rondavue just outside Carlisle to pick up Anne at 0900 hrs. Our unit now complete we headed for the secret RAF base in the middle of nowhere called Spadeadem for our briefing (most of which is classified) at 10.00hrs.We meet other hand picked men and women from all over the country who were prepared to join forces and take on this challenge .We studied our maps and instructions carefully as we didn’t want to take any wrong turns along the way .At 10.55hrs the officer in charge gave the order to proceed outside . We gathered at the edge of the base and no sooner after the commander had finished his words of encouragement the battle began ,a single shot whistled over our heads, it was time to go.

We all set off as a tight unit at first heading up a gentle hill on a tarmac road. I settle in behind Karen, my usual position. We passed the first two check points in good time and before long our path change direction and we where on forest track and in the cover of the trees. We passed several abandoned rocket launcher and rusting tanks scattered along the track and it was at this point that we thought we were all gonners as a loud explosion shook the ground around us and we all ducked for cover we where definitely in a war zone. After regaining our composure we pushed on. We had good cover for most of the way and the elements weren’t affecting our progress but that wouldn’t last for much longer, after a long steady climb I could see that the cover was about to end and we where heading for open Moor land. We had no choice but to make a run for it. No sooner had we broke cover we where attacked form all sides. Some of the rain and cold had combined and form a splinter group called hail stones, and they were using needle-sharp skin piercing ammunition. And being fully exposed we were easy targets .Our specially design lycra and thermal clothing gave use some protection but our faces took the full force from the hail stones which where being supported by the wind. We kept our heads low and pushed on .The constant barrage seamed to go on for ages and it was at this point our unit began to break up, it was every man (and women for themselves). I made it back into the safety of the trees and it was then I realised Iwas on my own I soldier on.I soon passed two more check points 9+10 and things starts to go down hill, Karen was way in front now and I could only just see her in my sights I turned round to check on Anne but there was no sign. Had she succumbed to the elements ? I know she wouldn’t go down without a fight.

With the wind and rain gathering in force the elements knew we would be tiring at this point and laid an ambush on the track, yes the mud was lying in wait, ready to take us down. Karen was the first to take on the mud and like a knife through butter she ploughed through, mud splattered everywhere she made it look easy but she had been in this situation many times before. As I approached the mud my legs were getting heavy and wasn’t sure I was going to make it . The mud was doing its best to trip me up using hidden booby traps and water filled pot holes .I battled on and came throught the conflict relatively unscathed.
I was soon back on the road and passed the 12th checkpoint I could see in the distance the safety of the base. As I got closer I could see the waiting crowd ,and with admiration and relief that another one had made it back they cheered and applauded. The commanding officer was there to congratulate us and award us with a medal for bravery and endeavour. But relief soon turned to anguish as we realised that Anne was still out there.

We waited and waited looking into the distance for Anne but there was no sign, had we lost one of our comrades to the elements, our hearts began to sink. Then we spotted the green and blue camouflage vest and with fight and determination that we have come to expect from Anne she fought all they way to the finish
It had been a successful mission and in the officers mess afterwards we drank cheap beer at a pound a pint and ate free pie and chips (these where RAF pies the lids were securely fastened-Andy) and laugh and joked about our victory. Was that the best that the elements could throw at us!

The commanding office awarded those who showed outstanding performances in the field and Karen was given the Victrix Ludorum the highest honour .Karen said it’s the best thing she had ever won but her jubilations soon turned to disappointment as she realized that she couldn’t take it home to show the rest of the troops. As it had to stay on the base, permanently on display for others to remember the men and women who turned out that day .

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Twenty Falls But No Submission

An account of the Langdale Horseshoe as seen from the rear of the field.

Well, I had run badly on the previous Sunday, staggered around Coombe Woods at Armathwaite on the Thursday; I was definitely coming down with something. I was viewing snotty children at work with suspicion… it was inevitable, I was obviously going to BE ILL – I had found an excuse not to run the Langdale Horseshoe on Saturday.

Unfortunately, the unrelentingly cheerful Andy Ramsay rang me on Friday night to see if I was running. ‘Well…’ I muttered about my declining health, the bad weather and then fobbed him off with a ‘I’ll watch the weather forecast and then think about it again’. Second bad moment of the evening arrived in the form of a cracking weather forecast and smiling weather presenter. Really, I couldn’t be malingering at home whilst there was a race to be run… I rang Andy back ‘I’ve changed my mind’ He sounded mildly surprised – doesn’t he know about the female prerogative?

In the way that these things happen, I next found myself slogging up to Stickle Tarn at the rear of a very large field of keen looking runners. ‘Ha!’ I thought ‘They’ll not be looking so fit by the time they get to Pike O’Blisco’. So, working on the principle that it may well be a long day, I made no attempt to overtake anyone, settling instead for keeping Andy in view and relishing the fact that the man with the bad leg I had managed to pass hadn’t yet caught me up.

And so time passed.

As the morning wore on it became apparent that the main feature of the route was going to be bog. Having had our compulsory Cumbrian pre-race 24 hour deluge the back of Thunacar Knott now resembled the Everglades (but with no trees or crocodiles). It was when the chap ahead of us fetchingly attired in bright orange vest and shorts vanished up to his waist that we paused slightly in our downhill trajectory. This gave Andy enough time to leap onto a quaking raft of moss. As it shivered gently, threatening to cast him adrift across the fathomless boggy depths his army survival training kicked in and he leapt manfully from the watery trap. His Ron Hills greedily sucked up the moisture, threatening to drag him back in, as he staggered knee deep at the waters edge. Luckily, Andy’s foresight in carrying an empty bottle up the hill to save weight in his bumbag meant that he did not complain one jot about the extra two kilos of water he was now carrying in each leg of his trakky bottoms. In the meantime day glow man had successfully extricated himself from his sphagnum grave (presumably employing some useful Ray Mears techniques) and was valiantly struggling on although his ability to fluoresce had taken a spattering.

More time passed.

We reached Esk Hause, we passed Esk Hause, we gained on the orange man struggling in the mud on the way to Bowfell. Andy kept falling over.

We reached Bowfell and passed a few more people. Then the Crinkles. Considering our position at the rear of the field I was impressed to find a bottle neck of half a dozen people skittering about at the top of the ‘Bad Step’. Who cared if you might break your neck – just get down tha’ bloody thing. I found myself slipping into dialect as Andy and I skipped stylishly past the small crowd, effortlessly downclimbing into the gully below, the whole seamless performance I felt, reflecting well on our Eden Runners vests. Then Andy fell over again. Having survived the short rock climb he chose to plummet face down with some force onto the rocks in the gully below, startling a number of other runners (however failing to trip or injure any of them). With nobbut a commando roll and a curse he was up again and off.

More time passed.

It was at this point that I started to get really bad period pain. I began pathetically asking random runners we caught up with ‘Hast tha’ any painkillers?’ they shook their heads blankly – either they had no paracetomol or they couldn’t understand my accent. This was getting really bad. Normally I would be in bed with a hot water bottle and some very strong drugs – instead I was three hours into a long run and I wasn’t near the finish, worse still, Andy was still smiling, even though he kept falling over. It was downhill but I felt like walking; I wanted to go home, but sadly Pike O’Blisco was in the way.

I was temporarily heartened by the sight of a young man bent double in the stream. ‘Are you okay?’ I courteously enquired. ‘Cramp’ was the agonised reply. Thus encouraged by the poor chap’s inability to move at all I continued with my slow progress to the final evil ascent of the race. Trying to ignore the fact that the Prize Giving was probably already underway I valiantly sucked the last remnants of Go-gel from my supply and staggered on. Another man with cramp ground to a halt – if only they had periods, then they’d know what real pain was! Heartened by the demise of another competitor I pushed on flicking Andy the V’s in return for his cheerful encouragement.

Time passed and then that moment in every fell race you’re waiting for… the sweet call of the final descent. Nothing now lay between me and a long lie down except a quick romp off the hill to the valley. I perked up. I could run through my pain. My pace picked up. I could smell the valley. I was strong. I was invincible. I was nearly taken out by Mr Ramsay going down yet again, this time in a stylish sliding tackle, embracing the quagmire full on. All credit to him – he just kept on getting up again even though it quickly became obvious he was not going to make it to the finish without fully engaging with all aspects of the slope. Time spent practicing aquaplaning is seldom wasted and it was here that the young Ramsay’s weakness in the standing glissade was revealed. For me though, it was full steam ahead. Looking over my shoulder Andy somersaulted neatly, performing a full forward roll over a particularly slippery bit – the man was developing real style.

Finally we hit the tarmac of the valley road and Andy was, at last, able to remain upright. We pounded into the taped funnel with only slight confusion as I was resisting a strong urge to run directly into the bar. There at the finish my mildly bemused parents (from Lincolnshire – no hills) were waiting to carry me off to the prospect of a hot bath, clean clothes and civilization (okay at this point I admit I’m exaggerating). I slipped back into dialect ‘Hast tha’ any painkillers mam?’

Disclaimer – the fact that Mr Ramsay was not able to remain on his feet was due largely to the footwear he was wearing and not to any naturally inherent inability he may or may not possess.

Blog post by Penny Clay

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Penrith Triathlon

Anth Labram cutting a mean shape on his way to victory

All photos taken by Stu Mair.

Well, there it was. A rapidly-organised triathlon in our very own town. Who could resist the charm of such an event? Some of us had done no specific training, no planning, no long build-up to the big event, not even a dip in the pool to see how things were in the arm department...It almost had all the minimalist allure of a fell race.

In keeping with the lack of forethought, the nerves beforehand crept up and kept on going. By the time I was in the pool (funny hat on head, oversized goggles slipping about), I could have been on the Olympic nervous-panic team....Will my cycle shorts stay on the lower body, or will they fight to stay in the pool as I make an undignified exit?...Will I don my swim googles for the run instead of the hat?...

The questions loomed large.

Karen poised for the off

With no earthly idea how long it would take to swim 400 m, I'd over-estimated, which meant I was first in the pool. This worked out well, so in no time, I was on the bike, squelching slightly and a bit gritty in the foot department. So far, so good. Anth creamed past on the edge of town, wearing a helmet that he'd borrowed off Darth Vader.

I wobbled on, past familiar faces marshalling the route. This wasn't like a fell race though. Normally I can have an entire conversation with someone as I'm passing. This time, there was the odd snatched word drifting off into the wind...."..Welllll...." or ..."...going..." I wonder what they were saying...

Meanwhile, back in the pool, Wacker (anchor man of Team ER) was cracking out a scorcher of a swim. In a shade over seven minutes, the half-man, half-fish was in and out, ready for a swift turnaround with Tony the Wheels. Fate played a cruel hand though, when Tony found the regulation Ullswater Community College drawing pin on his way to the event. It had been busy reducing his tyre pressure to a heavy yawn, and it looked like the game was up. With a 20 minute transition that took in Wacker's bike shed and back, it was all to play for. With the second bike, Tony was able to get back on the road. John B then took over from Tony, and ran the second fastest 5K of the event.

Half-man, half-fish

With the running shoes on, I was now ready for the 5K. Well, the upper half of me was. The rest had decided to morph into potato-legs. It was all a bit debilitating. Resigned to shuffling around the taped course, mostly watching Karen steaming along as if this was the first exercise of the day, it was just a case of finishing and not lying down for a nice rest.

Karen on her way to the fourth fastest run of the day

So that was that, the first Penrith Triathlon, but hopefully not the last. The triathlon newbies, Karen and I, decided that we did enjoy it (although that was a few minutes after the event).

Anth was the winner, in a time of 1 hr 15 mins (or was it Darth Vader?).
After a ponderous run, I tottered in at 1 hr 37, and Karen, 1 hr 45. Team ER would have come in about 1 hr 28 without the little pin.

Congratulations to everyone who took part. Thanks to the organisers, Sarah and Phil Graham of Arragon's Cycle Centre, Jeff Marshall of Eden District Council. And thanks to the marshalls, many of them Eden Runners on their day off. A big 'ta' to Stu Mair for magic photography and the odd "aye, grand, lass' as I lolloped past.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


So, after thinking for a moment along the lines of ''Wait for me mate, I'm getting off too!'', we had an uneventful flight to Bratislava, some 5 hours by road from our holiday destination.
We were met by Marek our driver, and, with the trailer loaded with our bags off we went. I now know, after two hair raising taxi rides in Bratislava, that Mareks driving was typical of the local style. In his case it seemed to be that overtaking (or undertaking for that matter) could only be done following endless tailgating of the vehicle in front; the act of overtaking ALWAYS involved pulling alongside and then changing gear to finish the manoeuvre, usually in pitch darkness with no obvious clues as to whether we were approaching a bend, or falling off the edge of the world.
I was lucky enough to be sitting immediately behind him for the entire journey too!
Perhaps he knew we were 'bricking it' because he did stop twice for the toilets within about ten minutes, leaving me with the uncomfortable thought that he'd been asleep the first time we stopped!
He came good for us though on arrival at Tatranska Lomnica, when we found our accommodation. Unfortunately it was locked up for the night with no sign of life! My contact, one Jaroslav Pec, had told me that our late arrival after midnight would not be a problem. I've subsequently emailed him to say that though it wasn't a problem for them, as they'd simply shut up shop and gone home at 10 PM, it certainly had been for us, as we trailed around until David got us into a former communist built hotel nearby for the night at about 1:00AM.
This hotel had padded corduroy (OH Yes!) doors to the rooms, which Jan thought we could have had fun with if we'd brought our Velcro suits. The breakfast was good though and the views brilliant, then off went Karen, Katrin and I, to find Jaroslav Pec. We looked in the laundry, were sent to the kitchen, then the restaurant, then reception, to be met with blank stares and Slovak shrugs of the shoulders. I accused blokes in the reception area of being Jaroslav Pec, and just the opposite of that film when everyone wanted to be Spartacus, no one wanted to be Jaroslav.
We did however get booked in and held a room lottery for some very good accommodation, then out to the hills!

We trudged up the foothills of Lomnicky Stit, our local mountain, to the cable car stop at 1751 metres for refreshment, then the fun began with a circuitous route back which we could run on, well, at least until Katrin took a tumble and sustained deep cuts and grazes to hands and legs. Fortunately none of the blood dripped onto her dazzlingly yellow running shoes. This showed up our lack of first aid kit ( I think we had a Stanley knife and some fruit gums between us), although we did later on meet a very pleasant German lady who insisted on sticking plasters to most of Katrins available flesh! Now, for a country which produces such technical stuff as BMW and Audi, you would think their sticking plasters would stick, but no, within 5 steps the plasters wilted like a Tory MP caught with a call girl, but 'thank you kind German lady', if you ever read this, it was the thought that counted.
End of day two saw us in a local restaurant, I ordered a starter of bread, lard and onions, fully expecting it to be something like bread with onion gravy and a bad english translation, but no! It really was bread, liberally spread with lard, and piled with raw onion. Generously I offered tasters to everyone, but very few accepted. At about 8p it was the cheapest starter I've ever had, and I thought about that a lot as I burped and belched my way through the sleepless dark hours to dawn.............(next up, the BIG TANTRUM IN THE TATRAS, AND FURTHER TRAGEDY STRIKES)....

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tatras Tomfoolery

While we wait for Andy's blogging extravaganza, here's the trailer....

Monday, August 18, 2008


This is just an advance trailer for the Tatras Trip we've just got back from, to tickle your taste buds for terrific tatric tomfoolery, tragedy, trauma, trips and tripe (well, onions and lard really), there will shortly be some blogging going on featuring a potted story of our trip, starting with the blind panic, sweaty palms, white knuckle fear and terror when the bloke two rows in front of me, just before we started taxiing for take off pressed the 'fetch a steward' buzzer above his head and announced '' I wish to get off, I do not wish to fly on this aircraft today'' - WHAAAAATTTT!!!
(to be continued...........)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Coastal Run 20th July 2008

Raising Sand : Seaside Shuffle Sees Saager Secure Silverware

Beadnell, on the Northumberland Coast: Sunday 20th July 2008, around 10.30am. A fine, clear morning with wide horizons and huge expectations. From my vantage point on the dunes, I had no idea what the man on the beach with the megaphone was saying to the assembled hordes stood facing him. He said some words, which drew a cheer and some applause; he then repeated the feat - more cheers and a ripple of applause. His words were carried out to sea on the breeze, where they foundered somewhere near Whittingham Carr Faggot (no, get your own map, chancer).

I think he used an air-horn to start the race. I say I think, because I was being mugged by two brothers (aged around 3) at this point, who tried to steal my bike, then my map. By the time I'd finished backfilling the hole the race was underway, and I was on my bike before I had time to let anyone know where I'd buried the Tiny Kray Twins. At least they hadn't got my bacon sandwich.

...Julia was determined to defend her Championship lead to the bitter end....

Unable to follow the race route on my bike, I guessed I'd have to make Craster within 30-35 mins to have any chance of seeing the race leaders. Having negotiated several unforseen obstacles (see above for example) and with a tailwind at last, I shot down the hill into the village at around 40 minutes in, rounding the corner just in time to see Mr Unwin (Keswick AC) passing the crabstick seller. My first thought was one of disappointment (nothing personal) because I had hoped to be up the coast nearer Dunstanburgh to see our runners come through. Also, I'd wanted to shout 'Careful, there's a cliff, Richard!', which now would just sound daft. What a waste. Also, I'd made rash promises of having a selection of ice creams /blueberry muffins /hot pies ready for our crew. No time for that now. They would have to starve. I pressed on through the crowds, through the steady stream of runners heading south, against the dramatic backdrop of Dunstanburgh Castle. Making my stand on a rocky outcrop, fighting off a bunch of curious cattle, I leant my bike on a nearby gorsebush and gazed north through my telescope. First ER vest to appear was Julia. She was running today as Dave Peacock (don't ask), and so could be heard regaling everyone, all the time, in a South Shields accent, about everything. Then came The Saagermeister, running with his usual swagger. Then came Gill Douglas. Now, as far as I can tell, Gill has a temperament that would make Mother Theresa look like Amy Winehouse. But even she would later admit to being sorely tempted to steal an icecream from the hand of an innocent child spectator. This is what running does to us, my friends. Not far behind, swooping south like a September swallow, came Sally, still running despite her modest expectations. She had loads of blokes chasing her, as you can see here. Then came Mr Andrew Walker, clearly struggling with his debilitating injury, but bashing on regardless. A couple of minutes later Kevin shot past, completely oblivious (as usual, it has to be said) to my words of encouragement. Kevin was evidently so far into 'The Zone' that he was almost out the other side. I hung around until Tony zipped down the path, couldn't see any sign of Karen C, and so decided I couldn't wait any longer, saddled up an' headed south, 'cross the Rio Grande.

I followed the race route through the village, past the harbour & up the hill, eventually coming to a halt at the gate onto the cliff top. No way through for blokes on bikes, not today. Retracing my tracks, I took to the road to try to meet the race again at Howick, where the route rejoins the tarmac for a while. On the hill out of the village I passed a cyclist wrestling with a mechanical problem, looked like a snapped chain. I should have stopped and offered help but I was on a mission. Sorry, whoever you are. First I caught up with Andy, then Sally, then Gill again - all running strongly. The route then switched off road again, using narrow tracks which forced me to ride alongside the runners for a while. That was a bit odd. These people were working really hard, which isn't a surprise in itself, but it didn't really occur to me when I was one of them. At least 17 different people said 'That's cheatin' as I rode past. (Note to self - always resist the temptation to state the bleedin' obvious.) When we eventually made the road again, I managed to catch Paul, still smoking his metaphorical cigar. Julia was even further ahead. (Julia had fitted a set of wing mirrors so she could monitor Paul's progress. Of course, the mirrors bore the legend 'Objects viewed in this mirror may be larger than they appear to be'. She also has a scanner which alerts her if any other ladies in her age group are within thrashing distance. But it's only for fun, of course). I caught Julia just as she turned left onto the beach for the final section.

It was back to the long way round on the road for me, 4 miles of struggle to Alnmouth to make the finish in time. I missed Julia crossing the line, but dashed onto the dunes in time to see Paul strolling in. Picking the bike up, I fell through the dunes and between the tank traps, made it onto the wet sand and pitched up on the finishing straight. Right opposite me were a gang of runners & supporters from Barrow Runners (not that Barrow, it seems) who made it their job to give massive encouragement to everyone, not just their own team. Very uplifting. Gill came next, still smiling of course (well, it could've been a grimace I suppose), then Sally, and then the Legend That Is Kevin. Next home was Karen Cummins, still with headphones intact, storming across the sand like a little whirlwind. Tony came in next, digging deep (one of his en route sandcastles on Embleton Sands has, I hear, been listed for this year's Turnip Prize) And finally Andy, battling against injuries the nature of which changed the further he ran, came home to resounding cheers from the Green and Blue hordes. Handshakes and hugs all round. Amidst it all stood Paul, wearing a coat which made him look like he was between shoots in a remake of Randall & Hopkirk, asking 'When do I get my prize?' Of course, he was referring to this :

which is the ER Road Championships (Male) Trophy. As you can see, no expense spared.

Predictably, there was a post-race press conference. When pressed, Tony put his late arrival at the finish (!) down to having saved himself for the last 0.3m of a 14m race. The course distance was 13.7m on the day. He was wearing shoes which he said he now remembered putting to one side for a good reason. His blisters looked like wine gums. Andy thought he'd probably never run again, until Tuesday or Wednesday anyway. Gill later confessed (at least I think she did) to having walked some of the route, but no witnesses came forward. Sally had run most of the way, only breaking into a leisurely walk on a couple of occasions. One of Paul's toenails had almost come off, and, like the 6 year-old he is, he showed it to everyone with great delight. Karen really likes the seaside, and thought we should stay all day. She was also well impressed with the race t-shirt. Kevin expressed disappointment at the catering arrangements. Well, he kept asking 'Where's me muffin?' and I can only think that's what he meant. Well, Kevin, here it is....

......sorry it's a bit late.

It had been a day when, as a sometime cyclist, I felt proud to be a runner. More than that, proud to be an Eden Runner. Next year, I hope to leave the bike at home.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Silence of the LAMM

All photos: Felicity Martin

0530 hrs, 7th June

I am conscious of a strange noise dragging my brain from 2 hours of fitful sleep. I can’t place it. It’s an unusual noise to hear at 5.30 am. And it’s very close to my head.

Oh, yes, it’s a bagpipe.

Somewhere in the back of the brain, there’s a synapse of recognition. You get woken up with bagpipes on the Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon.

THE LAMM? How did this happen? The panic slowly subsides as the memory comes back. It’s not a horrible dream. Penny and I did enter the LAMM.

Outside, the midges are amassing in numbers. . Everyone’s got black midge nets on. It looks a bit like an outing of 900 suicide bombers. I put mine on. It’s marginally better than not having one. For a brief moment I snigger at people trying to conduct normal morning operations through nets. Brushing teeth. Drinking tea. Eating midge-flecked porridge. Then I try it for myself. I scrape the raspberry smoothie stalactites off my midge net and make a mental note to bring a straw next time.

0830 hrs

Well, this is it- the start. The sun seems to have moved closer to the earth, it’s baking, and there are still midges making the most of this unusually large feast. They probably haven’t had so much fun since the Battle of Culloden.

1030 hrs

We’re nearing the second check point. We’ve been contouring a deeply incised hillside for 2 hours. We crash down to a stream and drink like wildebeest.

1530 hrs

We’re looking for a checkpoint. It's not here. It’s the worst possible place to lose a checkpoint- a series of enormous hummocks. It could be any one of these monsters. Backwards, forwards we trudge. I can feel the will to live leaving. I have started to stop caring. Then a strange thing happens. I start to worry about food. I haven’t got enough. My brain is going, I think. Has my body had enough, or my brain?

“Charles!! CHARRRRRRLESSS!!” An elderly man behind is shouting at the top of his lungs. He’s miming the international symbol for a checkpoint to his partner, although it seemed a little superfluous. He’d attracted the attention of everyone. Including us.

One more in the bag, but I’m feeling like an empty shell. I confess my food concerns to Penny and tell her to leave me to die right here. I can’t go on.

She makes me sit down, feeds me a breakfast flapjack. Takes some weight out of my sack. She knows what’s happened, and deals with it. The experience of an Alpine mountaineer.

2030 hrs

It’s been the hardest 11 hours out on the hill in a long time. A tough decision had to be made to climb up and over a set of Munros, not down the valley to disqualification. Walking like an empty shell, nothing left inside. A never ending, drawn out pain. The silence of the LAMM.

We pass a number of teams, equally spent. Penny seems completely unaffected by the ordeal, and even finds a spurt of energy at the sight of a female team in the distance. I feel like a shambling mess by comparison.

2230 hrs

Every last atom of energy has left my body. Penny has got outside of her rations, while I cannot eat a thing. It’s a bad sign. The midges cluster around the squashed remains of the raspberry smoothie.

There’s the disappointment, but there’s also a strange sense of having learnt a great and valuable lesson. To know where our limits lie is a powerful thing. Do we learn more from our successes, or our failures?

The course planner, Andrew Spenceley tells us that our course had twice as much ascent on the first day as it would have normally. It makes me feel a little better about having scraped the barrel of my endurance and my being. Now, a month later, the pain has gone. And what are the memories? A perfect herd of deer thudding close by, the light splintering through pines, the dance of a thousand folds in the rock, pressed by unimaginable heat and time as we ran past in a moment.

0530 hrs 8th June

The piper digs out another tune from the wheezing bag.

It’s ‘For A’ That’ by the great Rabbie.

"Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine,
A man's a man for a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that,
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that."

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Well, we set off from Penrith last night to do the same race again that we'd done at the end of May.
Refuelling problems had been addressed this time out.
El Presidente avoided the 'pub lunch and beers' regime which served so poorly last time out, opting instead for a 3 rasher bacon sarnie with tommy sauce at 12:45, followed by an energy drink just before kick off.
Karen and John, on the other hand, had opted for a late lunch of potatoes vegetables and salmon, and paid the price in the later stages of the race, obviously, the river Lune being a well known Salmon river, the attractions of returning to the sea were a pull against the run to the finish, upriver.
Others had tried the 'stay out late the night before' routine, Mr Walker for one, and, surprisingly, the competitive duo from Pooley Bridge, yet again making things difficult for themselves in a pub night out fiasco which started at 10 and ended sometime after 1:00 am on Saturday morning!
We also took along Mr Lee Savage of the Junior section ( pity us lot when he's actually old enough to be in the Club Championship! More of that later).
Anyway, with a blustery wind likely to be in our faces on the outward half of the race, there was much talk that the hoped for PB's would be impossible to achieve.
The race start was introduced by a bloke in running gear with a megaphone, and we wonderd, would he start, drop the megaphone and run; drop the megaphone, shout start, then run; he just liked wearing running gear, and had no intention of running;in the event he got a sponsor to start the race, and ran in it...
The results: Despite the wind, there were 4 PB's on the night, so Mr M, lots of points to add in

John B: 19:34 - 10 pts
Andy S: 21:33 - 24 pts ( PB)
Andy W: 21:43- 23 pts (PB)
John: 22:29 - 7 pts
Kevin: 22:36 - 21 pts (PB)

and Ladies
Karen: 19:28 - 8 pts
Julia: 22:10 - 22 pts (PB)
Lisa: 25:23 - 6 pts

One name not mentioned in the results above is Mr Lee Savage, who, bearing in mind his age, produced what was a brilliant run, with a time of 17:14, and 7th place overall in a field of experienced racers used to this distance, on his first try at a 5k race! Good job he's too young for our competition!
Anyway, as usual the finishers all got a mug and a bottle of super strength Stella Artois, which Lees grandad was looking forward to drinking later last night - hope you enjoyed it Mike !

Oh, and by the way, not that I'm making an issue of it or owt (as they say in Yorkshire) but this race, unlike others allegedly, in Lancaster, was 5K exactly as advertised!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Running Through Mountains of the Mind

Andy Ramsay and some of the Leg 3 pacers

It's been said that life is really just a series of wonderful opportunities disguised as impossible situations. And as with life, so it is with running. If there was one endevour that epitomised this above all others, it would be the Bob Graham Round.

A 72 mile circuit over the tops of Cumbria's highest fells, it conveniently has the same amount of ascent as that of Everest. The catch is to complete this in under 24 hours. It is impossible, and more so, inconceivable to most. To many, it becomes an obsession. And to a few, it becomes the wonderful opportunity in disguise.

To say that this insanely long run takes it out of you might be an understatement. On a run this long, such a sustained onslaught on your system, your physical ability becomes a mere background to the current of your own thought. The mind (and dare I say it, spirit) are put squarely on the line. Anyone who's read Richard Asquith's Feet in the Clouds will know how it goes.

Seventy six years to the day that Bob Graham first set out in his pyjamas, shouldering a big bag of hard boiled eggs, Eden Runner Andy Ramsay (pictured at right, above) set off to complete the round. Armed with sandwiches (not too sundried tomatoes round here) and a lot of energy drink, he was guided round the route by a host of Eden Runners with all their hopes pinned in one place. As each leg was completed, the pacers breathed a sigh of relief and handed over their cargo to the next. There was a sense of trepidation as the Leg 3 pacers saw Andy, Robin Gillespie and Dave Owens charging off the foothills of Helvellyn. So much so that some of us decided to start the leg early in case we held him up. It all went wonderfully well, though. Even clagged in summits could not halt the Ramsay machine as Penny's supercharged navigational skills kicked in (" the thirteenth cairn, we need to bear 190 degrees")...

So next time you're in Keswick late at night, and you see someone staggering on their feet, throwing up with a bottle of champagne in their hand, it might not be all that it seems... they might just have seized a wonderful opportunity out of what looks like an impossible situation. They might have just completed a BG.

Fantastically well done, Andy.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mighty Blencathra

About the middle of last week, Eden Runners went into overdrive on the slopes of mighty Blencathra. At the helm, race organiser Anth 'Legs-akimbo' Labram not only amassed a crack team of marshalls, but ran the race, took photos along the way and also managed to keep a mental note of all the race numbers used, including omissions. A feat that the oxygen-starved amongst us can only dream of...

Our learned colleagues from the Skipton and District Pie Research Institute collecting valuable field data for their latest research project

But there we are. On with the show. Faultless execution on the day meant happy runners, and if that was a measure of success then it was a hit. Standing on the summit, the number of runners that thanked us as they went past was really heart-warming. So too was seeing runners stop to take in the summit views.

Aye, it's a grand sport.

Here's a few action photos taken by Anth on the hoof, and one or two taken by me.

Hair raising running on the tops
Action Man

No time for a sermon on the mount

Sunday, June 1, 2008


And so it came to pass, after the survivors of the expedition into the mists had dispersed, that three of them journeyed south, in the company of a lady, and the lady was Karen, and she went forth into the wilderness of the forest at Salt Ayre, and returned, bringing with her bottles of ale, with the caps removed. It was a mystery to the travellers how she had accomplished this, and they were filled with awe, and Stella Artois at 5.4% proof!

Anyway, that's enough of the biblical style, on now to the more usual 'moaning Yorkshire Git' style.
This was another short race in Lancaster, but, so far, we believe it was a short race, as short as it should have been, and no longer either. I met John, Karen and Kevin at Eamont Bridge and we cruised to Lancaster in a Merc with blacked out windows, it was like the Reservoir Dogs looking for trouble, and we got it as soon as the starter said 'GO'.

A good flat course saw PB's for John Kevin and Karen, and a time no slower, or faster, than I expected for me. I have learned however, that my Gazza like refuelling prior to the race, comprising a late pub lunch of sausage, mash, peas & onion gravy, all washed down with a couple of pints of Theakstons best bitter was probably not the best preparation - I'm cutting out the peas next time!

Everyone was pleased with their efforts, and I have to say that Karen and John were savouring the thought of giving the 'Marshallmeister' a run for his money when he returns.

The dodgy refuelling continued after the race, but, really what else can you expect when the prizes were a bottle of strong lager AND a commemorative mug to drink it from! We're elite runners for heavens sake, what is the point of providing strong lager at the end of the race, is it to confuse us about the distance ? That second mile marker did seem to come up early, but it seemed a long way from there back to the finish..........................

And finally, the bit at the start about Karens bottle opening skills remains a mystery............

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I May Be Some Time: Extracts from a tattered diary found on Blencathra

Can it really be much further?? The last photo taken of the fated expedition of 1908.

Wednesday 27th May, 1908

A foreboding mist swept off the fells as our expedition to reach the uncharted lands of the Trans-Blencathran Mountains began. Several minutes of preparation had gone into this, although it was clear we were not alone in our quest. The expedition of Robin G. Amundsen had arrived before us.

We left the motorized huskies and continued on foot into the barren lands beyond Mungrisdale. It was a shame that Fortescue Marshall had become lame, as his superior writing skills would be sadly missed as we trudged into uncharted territory.

A fierce blizzard blew up and this struck a mortal blow to our team, un-used as they were to the rigours of the high Blencathran Mountains. The strain was beginning to show on Captain Wacker’s face.

‘I may be some time’ he intoned solemnly as he turned back down the track. He was soon lost in the blizzard, and this was the last we would ever see of Titus Wacker...and the two ladies accompanying him. It was a noble act in such desperate circumstances.

We had been beaten to the peak by Robin G. Amundsen, whose husky pulling power had won out over our sturdy pit ponies. The disappointment was almost too much to bear, but somehow we soldiered on and on into the mist.

It was then that Kevin Peary Whitemore announced that he had lost his air glockenspiel some time back, and would it be alright if we retraced our footsteps in order to find it. This was a blow to our morale, but if we were to make it back alive, some sacrifices had to be made. I made the decision to carry on.

Our rations were running rather low as we were a long way from the Mill Inn depot. Stephanie was expiring with the lack of food, as with the impetuousness of youth she had been running up all of the hills. Gillian Shackleton-Dean produced a small bag of yoghurt-coated pemmican that she had been saving for emergencies, and if it weren't for her act of generosity, we would have surely perished.

We were now slowing down so much that Ernest Shackleton-Sharples began to complain that the distances we were covering were too short. There was nothing we could do as we were all succumbing to the pain of running on these inhospitable hills, and besides, my whalebone orthotics were killing me. Even Julia Godspeed-King, whose ability to be chipper in the most trying of circumstances seemed to be flagging.

It was with solemnity that I wrote a letter to Lady Penelope, letting her know that it was indeed both navigational error and misfortune that had lead to the failure of the expedition, and that I was therefore unable to join her on the Trans-Cairngorm Expedition planned for a fortnight's time.

I fear that I can write no more....

The end of the page is torn. We may never know the end of the story...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Super Tuesday

Members of the Eden Tuesday & Wednedsay Evenings Club visited Workington on a fine and sunny evening for their Tuesday outing last week.

Members were welcomed by the acting chair, Mr Walker. Apologies were received from several members, including Mr Peacock and Mr Sharples. Late apologies were also received from the ladies contingent, who were let down at the last minute by A. Bloke, as usual. This meant that only four members travelled, and it was decided to use a car. This was proposed by Mr Saager, seconded by Mr Whitemore, and carried unanimously. Jerusalem was not sung, as the ladies were not in attendance. Instead, an acapella version of 'Layla' (long version), complete with Mr Saager on air guitar, was heard by those listening along the A66 in the warm evening air.

The outing was planned to take in the sights of the Workington to Whitehaven cycleway, starting from the Moorclose Campus. Upon arrival, members were amused by the sight of a phone box being stolen in broad daylight, using the traditional West Cumbrian method - a crane. This caused unease among those fearing for the safety and security of their personal effects, but assurances were received from representatives of the Campus security corps - 'Aye it'll be aaalreet theeor marra'. This set the party at rest, and so the start of the outing was eagerly awaited amongst the gathering.

The guest speaker was a member from Cumberland AC, who gave a slide show presentation of the route, and wished all members well in their exploits. He was in turn thanked by the assembly, who all then left with great enthusiasm, upon his word, to explore the route. Members were free to proceed at their own pace, and indeed most did so. The route proved very pleasant, along a tree-lined pathway which, it is thought, was originally a Roman Motorway. Members looked for signs indicating service stations, but to no avail. Although the evening was pleasant and the company most welcoming, after 3 miles of meandering the party turned back, as thoughts turned to the free food which had been promised. Most returned by the same route, although return progress was considerably slowed, due to fatigue. At the end of the outing, orange squash was distributed, as members compared notes, and traded medical bulletins.

Unfortunately, the outing had taken longer than expected, so it was not possible for Eden members to stay for the comestibles. Some of the members were subject to curfew apparently, and had to beat what is known as 'a hasty retreat'. This caused consternation among those intent on judging home-made scones and inedible preserves, but Mr Saager was eventually appeased using a banana.

A vote of thanks was given by the acting President. The competition for Best Excuse for Absence was won outright by Mr Peacock (who had gone to extraordinary lengths to cover up a one-month driving ban). Members returned to Penrith in good spirits, and thanked Mr Walker, complimenting him on his driving expertise. Upon returning to the Rugby Club, members stood for the National Anthem, but that wasn't sung either. Instead, an acapella version of 'Desperado', complete with Mr Whitemore on air glockenspiel, drifted across the evening air......

Raffle winners were Mr Whitemore, Mr Saager, Mr Walker and Mr Marshall. The next scheduled meeting will be at Lancaster on Saturday May 31st. All are invited.

Friday, May 23, 2008

LWDA- The Running World's Best Kept Secret

I approach the world of blogging (bloggery? blogdom?) with some trepidation as Rhiannon and Alan have raised the literary bar so high with their witty and erudite posts I think it's raised the fear factor for the rest of us. I've decided though the only thing to do is to approach that bar, fix it with a steely eye, raise it high above my head - and then place it firmly on the ground where it will remain for the remainder of this article.

So, back to the world of the LDWA (the Long Distance Walker's Association). And what, I hear you cry, does the woolly hat and gaiters brigade have to do with the cheetahs of the outdoor activities world? Well in one word - "events" as they call them. In rather more than one word can I explain that local LDWA groups from time to time stage a long distance walk as an open event to all comers. You may remember that Sally and Andy Ramsay attended the "That's Lyth"event in the New Year and waxed lyrical about that one. Gill Douglas also took part in that one and persuaded myself and Anne that the spring event imaginatively entitled "Spring in Lakeland" would be a good opportunity to add some training miles to our marathon schedule.

What a day we had! The weather was ideal - cold but not bitter, with a light dusting of snow on the tops and the ground hard enough to avoid foot rot from what would otherwise have been distinctly boggy terrain. The route took us over a mixture of trails and track, with a minimum of road walking, from Ambleside, over Loughrigg, past Elterwater and over the Coniston fells finally dropping into Coniston village via the Coppermines valley. Then we headed back to Ambleside effectively following the route of the Cumbria Way - roughly 22 miles in length with just short of 5,000 ft of ascent. And, as we approached Ambleside on the way home, the snow began to gently drift down on us -it was sheer magic. Sounds tough? Well strangely it wasn't, it was simply an exhilarating day out , in wonderful surroundings, covering tough but not impossible terrain and enjoying great company.

So to whet your appetites here's a list of reasons to take part:

• it's dead cheap to enter - £5.00 if you're a member of the Association and I think £6.00 for non-members. Even fell runners wouldn't baulk at that surely?

• they're really friendly types and don't seem to mind runners joining in their events - in fact I'd go so far as to suggest they are positively welcoming. I would say the LDWA is probably the SAS of the rambling world and therefore have some appreciation of the requirement some of us have to conduct our communications with nature at the speed of lightening.

• they feed you very well and at regular intervals - a considerable plus as far as I am concerned. At each checkpoint there is endless tea, orange and biscuits and at the end there is a real spread and as runners we tend to get first pick!

• it's completely non-competitive - there are usually only about 20/30 runners or so and the rest are walkers (quite quick ones mind you) so there are no place rankings or prizes to be had - very relaxing for us non-competitive types. Despite this you can still enjoy the smug satisfaction of being one of the first arrivals back at base - for those of us that are a bit more competitive

• the scenery is invariably stunning, constantly reminding us of how lucky we are to live where we do.

• you get a nice certificate when you finish. I think mine had a stone wall on it although it wasn't entirely clear..

Interested? Well the next local event is Autumn in Lakeland ( you've got to hand it to these people for their catchy titles) which is being organised by the Morecambe Bay and Bowland LDWA and I believe the entry fee may be a little higher than the Spring event but not by much. The route is essentially a highish circuit of Derwentwater crossing Catbells, Castle Crag, Watendlath and Walla Crag and it takes place on the 11th October. If you're interested you will need to go to the LDWA site and then go to their local groups section where you will find the Morecambe group link which will take you to their website - that's a long winded way of me explaining that I don't know how to do one of those hyper link thingies.

Come on everyone let's make it a bit of a do.

Posted by Julia (aka Speed-King).

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Chipometer

We are, it has to be said, a relatively sociable club. Whilst there are serious runners abound, we still manage to enjoy a good bowl of chips after an evening on the fells, or on the road.

And, of late, it appears that the matter of chips has perhaps become just as important as the running. Maybe it was mental scarring associated with the "Dufton" experience. We'll never know...those that lived through it have the tight-lipped, staring eyes of those who have seen active service...

Whatever the causes, let me introduce the Eden Runners Chipometer. Points will be awarded for technical achievement, artistic merit and of course, production of chips under shell-fire conditions.

For pulling off a chip-feast at a moment's notice when they were about to shut, the Royal at Dockray is currently leading by a whisker.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Redcar 0, Eden Runners 5

Julia King passed a late fitness test at sunrise to travel across the Pennines with a skeleton squad for the showdown on the tarmac at Redcar in the prestigious Tees Valley Half Marathon. The stakes were high, as ever, although team coach Paul Saager, who had travelled East ahead of his squad in order to check out the conditions, remained relaxed. 'I remain relaxed' said Saager (26) when I caught up with him after squad training in the week. 'We've got nothing to prove, everything to gain, nowhere to run (baby) and nowhere to hide' said the Eden Runners supremo, reclining in the bar at The Queens Head. 'Our preparations have been, as ever, meticulous, with no stone left unturned in our quest for honours. We've been careful not to underplay the dangers of overstating the importance of this fixture, so we haven't done so - and that's down to the squad. Our strength in depth has been put under the cosh in recent fixtures, where we've been asked to field teams in at least 4 races in the past 2 days. For a small club like ours, that's no mean feat. This is a massive club, and I have every confidence in my squad. Probably'.


And of course on the day, Saager's confidence was to prove well-founded. Dave Peacock was asked to reprise the holding role which earned him our Runner of the Race award at Lancaster's Three Bridges recently. His majestic performance at Redcar was testament to a training regime which would make a lesser man weep. Once again he held the team together. His midfield anchoring role enabled Saager (24), Julia King and a tiring Alan Marshall to pressurise the opposition further forward. King was surprised at the effectiveness of her own performance, coming as it did so soon after the away fixture at Hawkshead. North-East fans are steeped in sport, and they know an honest 100% performance when they see one. The accolades coming King's way at full time were no less than fully deserved after she had put a gruelling schedule behind her to once again put in a mighty performance for her Club. Meanwhile Saager (19), in typically self-effacing style, hailed his own performance as his best of the season.


Peacock, likewise, was pleased that his efforts are beginning to bear fruit. 'That's two bananas and an apple' quipped the South Shields-born maestro. Marshall was left to rue a mid-race blip which, he felt, cost him dearly. He spoke exclusively to me at full time, and revelaed that, sensationally, he was apparently assaulted by an insane kickboxer, which disrupted his rhythm early in the second half. Retrospective disciplinary action from the authorities is unlikely though, as the contentious (alleged) incident was not caught on camera.

Confidence (yes, again)

Kevin Whitemore was employed in the role of sweeper, which he carried off with his usual swagger. He was untroubled throughout, and, in difficult conditions, proved again that he is capable of competing at this level. ' I now feel I can kick on with confidence' said a tired but happy SuperKev '. Indeed, I put it to the ageless libero that, having got a few fixtures under his belt, his fitness levels are much more betterer than at any other previous time in his career so far, and to date - 'You're not wrong there'. insisted the Watermillock stalwart.


And so, another stern test for Eden Runners passed with flying colours. This performance will give the Club's supporters great hope, not to mention expectation, as the Championship moves on to the next phase. If the squad can remain injury free and reproduce the sort of gutsy performance on display here, then this Club can look forward, mostly to the future, with optimism.

Above, incidentally, is a profile of the course. That massive hill in the middle pinnacled at 180ft above sea level. And that sudden fall at the start is unexplained, as I've seen steeper gradients on a pancake.

The Anniversary Waltz

It is fell-running's answer to the London Marathon: crowds of runners at the start, a jostling squeeze through the narrow streets Town...and of course, the prospect of being overtaken by a man-sized broccoli. Or at least I thought I was. Must have been hallucinating.

A race of immense scale and proportion, the Anniversary Waltz seems to have grown into a legend. And each year, more people are drawn to running the Waltz. With a sell-out field of 400 and something, it's also one of the most supremely organised of races.

But perhaps it's most enduring quality is that, well, it is quite enduring. There's a point on the race (for me, around High Spy) where the physical side just melts away and all that is left is a mental struggle. The pain barrier is hovering close at hand, and all you are aware of is this primeval battle of mind over matter. An altered mind state that would have a street value of a good deal more than the 6 pound entry fee.

The crowd was so big that it's anyone's guess how many Eden Runners there were at the start, but I think we all had a great time. Here's Anth on his way down Robinson (photo courtesy of Borrowdale Fell Runners). Go to their site to view other photos if you must, but viewers should be warned that there are scenes which some may find offensive...(why are fell running photos so unflattering?)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Causey Pike

Some interesting pics of Causey Pike Race, just click on blue title

Causey Pike:

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Rising - North Tyneside 10k

I'm awake! It's 6.15am. Why is it so bright? Why are there no numbers on my alarm clock? I'm out of bed. Oh. There are at least 4inches of snow on the car. And everywhere else. Cotton wool snow. Silence. A power cut. Perfect. I have to contemplate no porridge. Impossible to race without porridge. Proceed, maybe something will happen.

Something happens. Radio bursts into life, as does the fridge, and the microwave display. Porridge is on again. Our day is on again.

I open the car boot. Half a ton of snow slides into the boot under the cantilevered lid. Memo to self...

9.30am. North Shields is bright, wet underfoot from snow showers, and hunched against the North wind.

Aren't runners odd? I include myself here of course. But odd is good in my world. I will warm up properly - after 90 mins in the car, and in these glacial temperatures, I must warm up properly.

The queues for the portaloos are immense. I know a shortcut to the indoor toilets. This way. Right. The doorway has been bricked up.

I haven't warmed up. 3 minutes to Time Zero. I must re-tie my laces, at least. Which one first? The left, it's the looser of the two. Too tight. Try again. Better. One minute warning.

One lace tighter than the other, the first mile is a blur of obstruction-avoidance. Bus shelters, bollards, kerbs, pedestrians, other runners, more street furniture, yet more runners. Downhill. The river, the fish quay, stay in the sun, breathe. I run with my hands hiding in my sleeves. Proper runners don't do that.

Mile 2 - along the promenade towards Tynemouth, looking for Lord Collingwood, waiting for the wind. Where is the wind? A runner in front of me has a Swedish-yellow top on. I wonder if he's Swedish. But I don't ask. Life is full of unanswered questions. Collingwood, the Spanish Battery, The Haven, The Priory. Up the bank. It's not a hill, not a proper hill.

Mile 3. I can see two ships. Both are the right way up. This is not Blackpool. This is faster than Blackpool, and colder. And here, the sea is blue-grey-green, not brown. But still the wind is just, well, windy and bitterly cold. Drinks station, neglected. Thanks, but no thanks. Unless you have a hot chocolate perchance.........

Mile 4. Cullercoats harbour. Seaspray. Away from the seafront for a minute. People in cars. I realise that I do not have the ability to see runners as 'normal' people do. I am a runner. They are not. It's their loss. But I'd like to be in that car, nevertheless, or in that warm lounge with the panoramic view and the telescope in the window. But, I have to do this thing.

Mile 5. Spanish City, Whitley Bay. Ouch. The wind arrives properly this time, with bells on. Suddenly everyone wants to run behind someone else. Leads to some amusing tacking manoeuvres along the promenade. Bloke in Swedish shirt reappears on the left, briefly. I can see St Mary's Lighthouse, through my veil of tears. And it's too far away. And, I can smell chips. How cruel.

Mile 6. Along the links. Teeth of gale bite at my hands, which retract into my sleeves again. Can't remember the finish. Shake hands with the bloke in front who I couldn't catch. He's about 25 and not even breathing. The bloke behind me is about 60 and asking me 'What time's that, mate?' I'm pointing my finger at the 4ft wide clock about 6ft away. It says 41-something. He laughs and so do I. We survived.

23 March 2008

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Big Steep

It was about two o'clock in the afternoon, late March, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet snow in the greyness of the fells. We were wearing our powder-green vests with a hint of blue, thermals, dark blue hats, mud-brown fell shoes, black socks with Inov-8 written on them. We were not neat, but sober, and we didn't care who knew it. We were everything fell runners ought to be.

We were all there, gathered in a huddle, with the wild, black eyes of the slightly insane. And there it was, the Big Steep. Causey Pike, 1480 feet above us. We could taste the sickly sweet apprehension in the air, but it was just something we had to do. The race started, and in minutes it sunk in what we had let ourselves in for. A long, dark fell race of the soul. You just crawled up the big steep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell. What did it matter where you lay once you were dead?

On the way down I would have stopped off at a bar and had a couple of scotches, had there been one. There wasn't. And anyway, they wouldn't have done any good. I was on my own on this one. The street lights of downtown Keswick were glinting in the hard Lakeland light. I would have been better there, amongst the sultry outdoor shops and cappuccino bars, I thought. Behind me, there was the rhythmic rattle of a Pete Bland race number in the wind...I knew it...I was being followed. I tried to put it at the back of my mind. It had happened a hundred times before.

The fell just kept on going. Running madly down the badly made path, rocks like wasps at a picnic. And finally when the mysterious men in fluorescent gabardines said our number was up, it was all over. I reached for the barrel of bourbon on the chair. Too bad it was Gatorade.

We turned our Buffs, neckwarmers and assorted woolly garments to the wind, and got into our cars. We got back out of the cars to push them out of the muddy, rutted field, and then drove back down the hill...

With sincere apologies to Raymond Chandler...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Pat on the Back...

Here are some of the comments fed back to us after the race. There are more on the Runners World website.

Well done everybody!

"Fantastic race- lovely views and friendly crowd."

"Fabulous- thanks everyone. Tough but good."

"Great run, good crack, well organised. Will be back- thank you very much".

"Cars driving back past people doing the last 400m was slowing people down a bit.."

"Great run with good support."

"Nice run- will see you next year!"

"Lovely mugs- thank you!"

"Should give out V35 and V45 prizes for females."

"Pre and post-race massages would be good. Free cup of tea- lovely treat (but would have liked some cake)!"

"Missed the rain! Great race, well done!"

"No rain! Well organised- lovely cup of tea. Extra toilets always welcome!"

"The rim of snow underneath High Street- wonderful. A well organised race. Can't find fault with anything!"

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Haweswater Half Marathon

The lead pack at the Haweswater Half

Today's Haweswater Half was the biggest event in our running year, and once again, it seemed to be a roaring success. For a relatively small club, it's a big event to pull off, but careful planning by Susan Hammond, Julia King, Gill Douglas and Andrew Bell (oop, and me) seems to have paid off brilliantly.

And it was an impressive team effort. We swept the corners of the membership list and found a collective of people prepared to sacrifice valuable off-time to stand on windswept corners, bridges and junctions, slosh water into wind-blown cups and wear bits of yellow plastic that the Honey Monster could get into. And more than this, do it with a smile whilst roaring on the runners.

First home was Ian Crampton of Durham City Harriers in 1:13:17, while the extraordinary 100 km World Champion Lizzy Hawker won the ladies race in 1:20:52.

A fantastic day, and perhaps it's one of those things that is really measured by how many Eden Runners still managed to run the distance. The photos speak for themselves.

Well done everyone.