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Liz Champion's blog
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Falkland Hill Race - June 2016
I'd done the Kirkcaldy parkrun in the morning and got thoroughly wet through because the heavens opened on the second lap. However, it brightened up late morning and we decided to visit the village of Falkland in Fife, close to where we were staying, as the annual street festival was on that day.
It was a lovely sunny day by now and the streets were lined with stalls and thronged with people and everyone was having a good time. As a dark cloud came over about 1pm, we nipped into the pub for a light lunch and a beverage. While I was enjoying my smoked salmon salad and pint of lager, some people came in to shelter from the shower. A couple of them had numbers pinned to their shirts so I asked what was happening.
'It's the hill race,' one said, 'It starts at 2 and registration is just up the road. It's £3 to enter.'
I looked at my glass which still had a couple of mouthfuls left in it. I was already wearing my trainers, albeit road shoes, but I was wearing quite tight jeans. 'Do you have any spare shorts?' I asked him. 'No, sorry, but you could ask at race registration,' he suggested.
'Hmmmm,' I thought. It had stopped raining and the sun was beating down again. It was about 15 minutes before the start of the race. I walked up to the registration caravan where a few of the local running club, Lomond Hill Runners, (it says it all doesn't it?) were taking money and handing out numbers. 'Where does the race go?' I asked. 'From the village square, straight up the shortest, steepest route to the top of the hill and back down. It's about two and a half miles. Do you want to enter?' he said. 'Do you have any spare shorts I could borrow?' I asked. He had a look in his 'van but returned empty-handed. He shouted to a friend who was all ready to race, but he didn't have any either.
'Hmmmm,' I thought again. It's only going to take half an hour or so, I'll run in jeans. I paid my £3 and got my number and four safety pins. As I got back to where my family were waiting, they said, 'Are you doing it?? In jeans???'
It was almost 2pm so I lined up at the start along with the other forty runners all suitably clad for the occasion. I started near the back and as the whistle blew we set off up the road to encouraging cheers. The first few hundred yards were on the road but then we cut off onto a forest track, climbing gradually.
Soon we went through a gate and started climbing more steeply, much of it on steps. As we got above the tree line it was open country and rutted paths with foot-holes made by countless previous walkers and runners before me. The sun was beating down so I took off my shirt. It was heavy going and hands-on-knees for much of the way. I could see that I was still quite some distance from the top as the leaders started flying past me on their way back down; some of them hardly keeping their balance with one or two slipping onto their rear then jumping back up to carry on.
As one guy passed, he said, 'Jeans?!!! Did you leave your wallet in the pub?' As more runners past, we exchanged encouraging shouts then an old guy with 87 on his vest went past. I hope that was his race number and not his age!
Almost at the top, the small group shouted encouragement and as I reached them said, 'Just around the trig point.' I'd walked up East Lomond Hill, (aka Falkland Hill,) in the past and knew there was a structure with a brass plate on top pointing to other hills and distant places but I didn't have time to look at it today. I apologised to a chap who was leaning on it taking photographs as I nearly knocked him flying.
After 360 metres of climbing, it was now downhill all the way back. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, I only had my well-worn road shoes on and we'd had a rain-shower so the the steep grassy hill-side was a bit slippy. It was almost as difficult going down as it had been climbing up!
I gingerly ran/hopped/slipped down as best I could, aware of the two competitors behind me and not wanting to be caught. Once back down to the tree line I was back on the steps which were torture! I still couldn't get into a rhythm on the big steps. Eventually I was back on the trail, then out of the woods onto the road. I put my shirt back on so that the marshals could see my number when I finished, (and so as not to frighten the spectators,) and ran down to the finish to loud cheers. I met my family near the fountain but my legs were very wobbly and I had to steady myself while I filled a cup from the fountain.
I finished 39th out of 41 in a time of 38:23. The results also show everyone's performance as a percentage of the winner's time. Mine was 169.3%. They specialise in hill running around here and hills were always my nemesis. My legs were still wobbly as I walked up to the race organiser's caravan for the presentations. The winner finished in 22:40 with first lady, (under 17 girl actually,) in 28:03. Needless to say, I didn't win anything but it was a great experience.
As a result, Kingstone Runners now has a presence in the Scottish Hill Racing annals:
Trust 10 - April 2016
Think of the
and you tend to think of grand old stately homes and manicured gardens with pensioners and families wandering round for a few hours before having a coffee and a slice of cake then buying a scarf or a book from the gift shop.
You probably wouldn't immediately think of running or abseiling, or at least I wouldn't; well, not until recently anyway.
I joined the
a few years ago when we visited Nostell Priory, a local gem. I'd been there before, many years ago, to country fairs and to a friend's wedding but not really taken much notice of the place. However, after doing a 10K race in the grounds, organised by a local club, I was impressed by the landscape and took my family for a visit.
The grounds are free to wander around after paying for the car park but I thought it would be interesting to see what was in the house itself. When I saw the admission price, obviously, as a Yorkshireman, I said, "How much?" in that voice that goes up at the end to emphasise a question. I did some quick computations in my head and decided that I could make it worthwhile if I visited four or five places a year.
As a member, I was given a handbook which detailed all the properties that I could now visit for free as a priviledged, fully-paid-up member. When I looked at the map, it was immediately clear that the south had considerably more little coloured dots than the north. No matter: Have camper-van, will travel! I realised too that members get access to
National Trust for Scotland
properties included at no extra cost.
But I digress. Back to my point of running. Being an avid parkrunner, I noticed that a few parkruns had sprung up on
properties, (24 at the last count,) including Nostell which started in July 2014. More recently I noticed that
National Trust Longshaw
near Hathersage promote outdoor activities and hold a regular free 10K trail run on the 4th Sunday of every month. They even employ a Sports Development person, Ruth, who is very enthusiastic and encouraging.
When I mentioned to some others in the club that I was going to Longshaw to join in the April run, I soon had three amigos to come with me. Maybe it was when I said it was free and that I would drive.
So, as the run starts at 9am and Google estimated it would take us about an hour to get there from Barnsley, we set off at 07:30. It was a lovely sunny but cold spring morning and there hadn't been much rain recently. When we arrived at the car park I smugly displayed my self-adhesive NT 2016 vinyl windscreen sticker and ignored the pay-and-display machine. Two minutes walk brought us to the visitor centre where registration was quick and painless: Pick up a number, write down your name, club, email (for results) and ICE.
As it was quite cool outside, most of the hundred-odd runners stayed huddled in the warm building, which was also the shop and cafe, until Ruth gave the word to make our way to the start, no more than a minute away.
After a short informal briefing, "The course is two laps, slightly over 10K and fairly dry. Don't fall down." we were off. I didn't recognise any of the other runners, apart from the ones who came with me of course, but there were a few wearing Sheffield-based club colours.
It was a gentle down-hill start on a hard-packed unmade road, then onto paths and grass around the lake, through trees and over open land with a couple of inclines thrown in to challenge us. Some of the paths were quite rocky or had tree roots so you had to watch where you were going to avoid a 'Norman Wisdom' moment. A girl just in front of us stumbled but managed to recover without falling which I thought was amusing until I did the same just a few minutes later.
The total elevation was around 600 feet and the view from the highest point of the course was spectacular. Eventually the finish was in sight and it was downhill, my favourite! Numbers and times were recorded and there was even a free
sports bottle as a memento.
What a great event! Low-key with minimal formalities. Just turn-up and run.
27/4/2014 - Under starters orders
Despite the April showers the going was surprisingly good at the 2014 Rossington Gallop.
The Grand National-style event, which is organised by Gainsborough and Morton Striders, takes place in the lovely grounds of the Northern Racing College. Team Kingstone were out in force; with nine runners out of a field of 153, plus Josey and Chris as the support crew, we were definitely the top team.
Before arriving, I knew very little about the race. In fact, all I knew was that it was six miles (ish), and involved hay bales, water troughs and a bear.
Not being much of an off-road runner and, if I’m honest, having a bit of a bear phobia, I didn’t think it was my cup of tea. But with Championship points to be had, I was always going to run (not that I’m at all competitive you understand). As always, my aim was to enjoy it, and hopefully pick up some points. It sounded fun.
As we trotted to the start, I felt tired already. Only the night before last, I’d taken part in a Fiona Davies suicide session, which involved running five times around Locke Park in the torrential rain. As my Rossington teammates limbered up by jumping over the hay bales, I plodded to the start admiring the beautiful horses grazing in the paddocks.
‘I’ll take it steady,’ I said. ‘I just want to get round.’ That’s what I always say. I don’t mean it. As soon as I’m on the start line, something happens to me. My competitive self takes over. Today was no exception.
We waited on the start line eyeing up the other runners, trying to work out who had the best form. With it being such a small event, I wondered if I’d be able to finish in the top ten women.
‘Go for it,’ JR said. I pushed to the front, right behind Mark Yates.
The starter got us under orders, and then we were off. Mark Yates flew to the front. He must have set a world record as he led the men through the first furlong. I wasn’t far behind. I wanted to win. We’d get a Kingstone double; Mark, the first man, me, the first lady. It would be a glorious day. And, if they’d given out the medals for that first furlong, it would have been. Unfortunately, we still had six miles to run. I started to panic; six miles is a long way to run after you’ve set off at rocket pace.
By the first fence, (the hay bales,) I was shattered and a lady in blue had caught me. I tried to stay with her but she was super speedy, and I wasn’t. She went ahead. I was still second lady, but there was no doubt that I’d have to work for it. I knew it was going to hurt.
The course was fantastic. After a lap of the gallops you head out of the paddock and do two laps of cross country terrain involving hills, water, mud, and jumps. Half way round the first lap, I’d caught the bear who was sweating and swearing as I dashed past.
I could still see the first lady, but try as I might, I couldn’t catch her. My legs were going. I was struggling. At the turnaround, I caught a glimpse of a lady in pink shorts who was currently in third place. She looked as fresh as a daisy, and was quickly gaining ground.
I trudged on. As we headed into the gallops for the final lap, she had the bit between her teeth. She went ahead, and I tucked in behind her. I knew if it came down to a sprint finish, I’d have a chance.
In the distance, I could see the large, inflatable finish line - you couldn’t miss it. The finish line; there it was. Unfortunately, my mind started playing tricks on me. Was it a finish line? Was it a bouncy castle? I could still see people running past it. Perhaps it wasn’t the finish. Perhaps it was another obstacle that we had to run under. Do I sprint now? Do I wait until I am completely sure that it is a finish line? What to do?
By the time I’d made my mind up, it was too late. I sprinted for the line, but couldn’t overtake. I finished third lady. I should have been second, but it didn’t matter, I’d won something. I was delighted. I had never won anything before, not even a raffle. I will forever treasure my £25 vouchers for the Metres to Miles shop in Epworth.
Whilst the first lady did her warm down, I tucked into a lovely sausage roll provided by our official photographer, Josey Dolan. It was a wonderful day. Everyone had a great race and did really well especially Tim who finished first vet 55.
To top it off, my teammates waited ages for the presentation and cheered the loudest when I collected my prize. I loved this race. It was a great day out and I’m already chomping at the bit for next year.
(the wonder horse)
2/12/2012 - Fell Running
It's 8am Sunday morning. The sun was shining but bitingly cold. I was already up as the dog pestered me to let him out at 6am. There's a text on my mobile. I never get texts apart from Tradepoint bargains and my best friend Vodafone. Who could it be? It's Tim; “Pick you up at 9.30, we're doing the
5 mile fell race”. I'd consumed all my 21 units and more the previous night so it would be good to blow the cobwebs off, after all it is only 5 miles; a walk in the park surely. So a couple of paracetamols for breakfast, thermals on, bag packed and we're on our way.
They say time is a good healer. I've only ever done one proper fell race before (too many years ago to remember) where I actually travelled to Birkinshaw at Bradford to do the Fireman's 5 road race but it was cancelled at the last minute due to their dispute. So I sped back to Penistone show ground because I knew there was a 7 miler on the same day. I got there just in time - I know it's a lot nearer to home in the first place but 5 is easier than 7 and I'm a lazy runner. I hurriedly filled in the entry form and handed over my money. The registration lady said, "Why haven't you ticked the South Yorkshire fell running championship box if you live in Barnsley?" Fell race? I thought it was a road race. Oh dear, or words to that effect, it's too late now. No marshals, no feed stations and no idea what the route was - just bits of tape tied to branches for directions, apart from the ones that had blown off up on the tops, then it was follow your nose. An hour after I had finished, there were still a few runners missing and they had to call out Woodhead Mountain Rescue to find them. Perhaps they're still out there somewhere, who knows? That was the hardest 7 miles I have ever "run" - I use the word run loosely as you fell runners know exactly what I mean and swore never to do another fell race again for as long as I live.
So here we are at the Bulls Head pub in Tintwistle to register on the day, only £5, what a bargain in these austere times. I kept thinking back to that Penistone race and thought no it wasn't that bad really, I just had an off day. We all get them now and again, only they seem to be more now than again as you get older!
We were there in good time having travelled over Woodhead so Tim took me up the cobbled lane from where it starts to show me roughly the course - a bit like jockeys taking their horses to the first jump in the Grand National. OMG, I wish he hadn't, I think I'd rather not know next time; that's if I ever get back for there to be a next time. It was all very low key and relaxed, just how I like it although relaxed is probably the wrong word thinking about it afterwards. It was a beautiful sunny morning with frost and patches of ice here and there, perfect for a Sunday morning stroll so what was I doing here with three layers on, and gloves!
11am came and 188 runners were off to a quietly spoken GO, that's how low key it was. As I mentioned earlier, we started on cobbles climbing gradually, watching for icy patches in between and avoiding brambles sticking out on the right hand side of the lane. I didn't know at the time but this was the best part underfoot we would 'enjoy'. After about half a mile we turned off onto a farmer's track. A track is probably too generous a description - more of loose rocks and rubble. We were now climbing a considerable gradient with quite a few opting to walk already. It's only 5 miles, what's their problem? Just after the first mile we levelled off and I thought so far so good, easy peasy almost. We dropped down through a rough field of frosted grass sods broken up with the feet of sheep during wetter times. Keep going, "it'll be reyt" I told myself.
That's when I realised why they call them fell races - nothing to do with fells as in hills. I went down backwards landing on my coccyx and in the words of Midge Ure of Ultravox (apologies for the younger members who don't remember them) took my breath away. I got to my feet gingerly hoping not many had seen me when Tim came up alongside and questioned my welfare with a smile on his face or was it a grimace, I'm not quite sure (It was a smile - because I was passing you! - Tim). Oh no, he'd witnessed it. "Don't worry," he said, "Janice was presented with the fell running trophy last night so you're safe." Thanks Tim, that made me feel a lot better.
Onwards and upwards again. Tim pressed on and increased his lead on me. Before two miles, even I had joined the walkers as it just got steeper and steeper. Over a style covered in frost, almost a cropper again but just managed to hold it together, and we approached what must be a one in two mountain, (OK, I'm exaggerating a bit,) but it was a long way up I know that. The only way to the top was by clambering with hands and seeking out those foot holes that weren't covered in frost. My imagination was in overdrive. I had visions of human snakes and ladders. Once at the top, what a view, that's if you could get your chin off your chest. A plane was just coming in to land at Manchester airport; I'm sure I saw the pilot give us a wave of encouragement; it was some kind of gesture anyway.
Undulation after undulation, farm tracks, dirt tracks, frost-encrusted boggy fields, through woods, over slippy foot bridges, a few more miles on the clock and still no sign of Tim. He was having a stormer. Round part of a reservoir and up yet another steep track to the cobbled lane for the last half mile. It was only at this point did I catch up with him but my legs were gone by this stage. Fortunately for me Tim's legs were more gone than mine and we rolled home down over the cobbles to the welcoming finish line.
The winner's time was unbelievably 36:09; I came in on 55:37 with Tim on 56:04. It was back to the pub for a well earned free cuppa and free cake several times over, worth the £5 entry fee alone. In fact, if you brought a cake to share, the race entry was free. Some were having alcohol to rehydrate but I never touch the stuff, well maybe a sherry at Christmas.
A trouble free journey home for a nice hot bath and a good day was had by all. Now what was I saying about fell races.....?
24/9/2012 - Parklife - An Update
There was a record turnout for the Barnsley
last weekend; 121 finishers. The previous record was 104 last May although numbers have been steadily rising, twice topping 100 recently.
It's great to see new faces every week and also runners from other
. While I was in Scotland in July, I managed to take in St. Andrews and Dundee
. Both were slightly smaller events than Barnsley, possibly because they're both newer; St. Andrews starting in April 2012 and Camperdown Park, Dundee starting in May 2012. Coincidentally, I finished 12th in both.
St. Andrews is quite similar to Barnsley in that it's 3 anti-clockwise laps of the picturesque Craigtoun Country Park. It's not as hilly as Barnsley and it's part paths, part grass (muddy when wet) with a lovely lake, miniture railway and cafe. Well worth a visit if you're in the area.
Camperdown, (named after a famous naval battle,) is a one lap, sort of figure of eight on its side with each end being uphill. It's a mixture of tarmac and unmade paths, partly through woodland with an uphill finish. I'd say Camperdown was harder than St. Andrews but a little easier than Barnsley.
While I was at Camperdown, I was talking to the organiser, Tom, who had an English accent, telling him how I came to be there and where my 'home'
was. It turned out that he was born in Barnsley, just around the corner from Locke Park!
Note that Scottish
start at 9:30am; presumably to give people time to eat their porridge on cold, dark winter mornings.
I'm not the only Kingstone Runner to 'play away'. Phil, Jayne and Imogen ran the Poole
while away on holiday and John Downing has done the York (Racecourse)
a couple of times; unfortunately, most recently, the scanner failed and no results were recorded.
Three of us tried out one of the Sheffield
a few weeks ago. Ken Chapman, who has run at Locke Park quite a few times suggested we should try the Concord event so myself, John Downing and Tom Sweeney went along and had a go. Concord is an anti-clockwise 2 lap course and is quite hilly, starting and finishing at the top of the park.
Afterwards, we said, 'Where next then?' to which Tom, an ex-soldier, suggested, 'Camp Bastion'! (I think that's what he said.)
Yes, that's Camp Bastion in Afghanistan!
29/1/2012 - Pugneys Grind
What a great turn-out for this event organised by the
Wakefield Tri Club
! It's an event that they hold regularly but we were invited to this one specifically in memory of
who was a member of the Tri Club as well as Kingstone Runners.
The informal 10K handicap consisted of four laps clockwise on the paths around the lake at Pugneys Water Park, Wakefield. Around 70 members of the Tri Club already had an estimated time and we joined them at Pugneys on a cold but clear and dry Sunday morning to give Shaun our estimated times.
After a few words from Shaun to introduce the event, the first runners, including Izzie in her pram accompanied by her team of pushers, set off about 11am with an estimated time of 70 minutes, followed at regular intervals over the next half hour or so in dribs and drabs. My own estimate was 52 minutes but unfortunately I missed this by a few seconds because I'd gone for a warm up in the opposite direction! This meant I actually got my first ever running start in a race.
Within a few hundred yards I caught up with a girl wearing Tri Club colours running at a nice steady pace so I tagged along with her. (I don't like running alone). The course followed the path around the lake, a popular place for walkers with children and dogs; my new running partner managed to fall over about five of them!
On the last lap, we overtook a few Kingstone Runners and cheered them on. With about 500m to go I saw a Kingstone vest in the distance so I put on a spurt but they were too far ahead for me to catch. I finished in a time of 51:40 so my estimate of 52 minutes wasn't far out.
Apart from one short hill at the far end of the lake, the path was pretty flat although quite wet in places so Izzie's mum would have to get the jet wash out when she got home. There were 92 finishers and the event netted £200 which was shared between Wakefield Tri Club's junior section and the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
A good time was had by all and it's been suggested that the invitation will be extended to Kingstone Runners again next year.
20/11/2011 - Barnsley 10K - A One Second Wonder
As I lined up at the start, just behind Ian, Branks and Chocker, my thoughts were, 'What am I doing this far forward?' Anyway, the horn sounded and off we all dashed, passing through the chip timing scanner.
Due to the demolition of the school, the course was slightly changed this year with the start incorporating a short uphill section out of the park sending the lungs into overdrive straight away. Levelling off at the main road and then dropping to the downhill section, I soon lost sight of my clubmates. 'Well, that's the last I'll see of them until I reach the finish' I thought.
After about two and a half miles I caught a glimpse of a black-vested runner wearing a silver wig; it was Branks! 'How far in front of me?' I wondered. I began to count, picking out a lamp-post as a marker, 35 seconds; too far, and any thought of catching him quickly vanished. So I plodded on, looking at my watch thinking, 'Where's this pace come from?'
As the race progressed, I kept seeing Branks and realised that I was actually gaining ground on him. With roughly a mile to go, I'm within 10 metres and he still hasn't seen me; thoughts of beating him start to enter my mind. A supporter from the club shouted 'Go on old man,' and then 'Keep going Steve'. 'Oh no!' I thought, 'My cover's blown,' but no, he's still unaware.
At the top of the last hill with about 200 metres to go, we're shoulder to shoulder and then he clocks me and gets a fright. Not wanting to be beaten by me, a mad sprint ensues and we cross the finishing line together but with chip timing, I record a one second advantage. Yes!
Later in the day, I receive a phone call; 'I hate you!' It's Andy congratulating me on beating him.
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