Lambton 10k

Posted: 29/06/2014 in Uncategorized

Whist, lads, haad ya gobs, aal tell yu aal an awful story…

55:29, 270 of 550.

Well, OK, it was the Lambton Estate, not Penshaw Monument, the spot where the Lambton Worm holed up, but it was still a bit of a fairy-tale setting.

The Lambton Estate is private, usually you don’t get to go in – but Sunderland AFC’s Foundation of Light hold a 10k here. I’d signed up on a bit of whim, with a vague recollection of visits to the Lambton Lion Park when I was wee. A vague hope that they’d remembered to move all the lions out was foremost in my mind as I rocked up in the car.

OK, bad bit out the way first – the toilets. All five of them. For several hundred runners. There was a queue when I arrived at 9:15, and I got my turn about 9:50. There was still a couple of stragglers when the race got going at 10:07. Seriously, get some extra lavvies next year, eh?

Other than that the organisation was fabulous, the marshals canny and the route well marked. Through woods and woods and woods, over bridges across the Wear, past old buildings in wee clearings, some of which were used for The Paradise, apparently. The light was ace, the weather was perfect, it literally couldn’t have been better.

If you fancy a PB, my advice would be to get to the front – there’s a bottle-neck on the trail just after the start, and if you can’t see in front of you it’s a bit uneven – I did OK but there were echoes of “ayah”, “y’bugger” and “shite” from a few of the people around me as they found rocks, potholes and unexpected tussocks.

I wasn’t out for a PB, rather more looking for a lovely jaunt around the woods and a bit of discovery. It pretty much felt effortless, the early couple of hills were a mild slow down but nothing major.

I think there’s something about running in the woods that gets me going – not sure what that’s about, maybe it’s the constant plodding around Chopwell, or maybe it’s just the fact that you’ve not idea what’s only a few metres away through the trees?

In the early stages, a quick glance at my watch had revealed a heart of of 184 bpm, which should really come with a huge flashing sign and an attendant ambulance. I wasn’t running hard (and even when I do, I rarely scrape the top end of the 170’s) so I figured I must just be having a very exciting time. Later on a saw a much more reasonable 154bpm, that’s my sort of heart rate.

The seventh kilometre is along the riverside, then back over the bridge and along the other bank to the hill up to the run into the finish. You run past Lambton Castle, which looks lovely (and currently unoccupied due to a legal wrangle over the late Lord Lambton’s estate) and then it’s the hill. It’s a cracking hill – I ran it slowly, a lot of people walked, I only spotted a couple of folk really going for it – then a little jaunt through the woods, back onto the entry road and a canter past the front of Lambton Castle and you’re done.

Lovely. Really lovely.

I was a bit carried away and forgot to stop running at the end – I was physically stopped by a marshal in the finish funnel, to be honest the finish line could have been a little more obvious. The two Sunderland mascots were there, high-fives all round and then off we go – nice tech tee and a bottle of water.


Over the past couple of years, I’ve discovered a lovely bit of fun in running. When you receive your number, sometimes, just sometimes, you get a magic number. Now, 1 is clearly a magic number, as is 13 or a nice round figure like 100. However, the Ditch-Number is pay-dirt for an ultra run. But what is a Ditch-Number?

Imagine the scene; you’ve been running for many hours, you’re tired, a bit confused and not as steady on your pins as you would usually be. It’s probably raining, it’s Britain after all, and there’s not a day you can guarantee you won’t get rain. Unless it’s snowing.

You stumble a little, veer to the side and through your misty carb-starved eyes you fail to notice you’re going off the path. Slip, trip, whoops, plump.

You’re in a ditch.

It’s wet.

You’re upside down.

After a certain amount of running this feels like a safe and comfy place to be, so perhaps you need a little snooze.

Eventually another runner or a marshall or the sweeper will find you, and at this point the Ditch-Number comes into its own.

You see, a Ditch-Number is any number that reads the same upside down that it does the right way up. No chance you’ll be mistaken for Mr Scoggins from Wayward Heath* and sent to some la-di-dah private hospital**.

So, the holy litany of Ditch-Numbers is this:

1, 8, 11, 69, 96, 101, 111, 181 and so on***.

I had the pleasure of running The Wall in 2013 with 101, and I’m running the Jedburgh Ultra in 11 this year, then the Jedburgh Half Marathon the day after with number 8.

C’mon, you want a Ditch-Number, don’t you?

I knew it…

*Apologies to Mr Scoggins, you’re likely a good five miles ahead of me, and you probably don’t want people to think you’re the inverted snoozer, do you?

**Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just that when they find out I’m not Mr Scoggins they’ll throw me back in the ditch.

***I may have missed one, five or two hundred in there – I started thinking through the numbers and got a bit tired.

I hadn’t intended to run this race, I thought I was going to be busy, so it was a bit of surprise last Wednesday that I found myself looking at a free evening.

The day started well, a quick message on Facebook showed that there were some places left on the night, so the stage was set. Almost.

The race started at 7:15pm, registration for those last few places began at 6:15pm.

I left work in good time at 4:30pm for the half-hour journey home to get ready and get down there. And then disaster struck.

The motorway was crawling, seriously inches at a time, and it took me a gut-wrenching two hours to get back – only a blast of Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” on the iPod stopped me from boiling over, but eventually I got back. A quick change and out we go – the race is only a few miles from the house, so I drove down, rushed in at 6:50pm and discovered there were still three places left in the 200 line-up. Handed over my pennies, grabbed my number and a few safety pins and headed out.

In all the excitement I hadn’t really twigged to the fact that it had been tipping down most of the day, and was still raining now. Now the imminent stress of getting a place had passed I started to wonder what I was up to – a 6 mile run in the wet and the mud. Then I remembered, I’m a hardy northerner, unfazed by precipitation, and mud is something to enjoy. So that’s fine then, just the race, eh?

I bumped into the marvellous Andrew Callcott, member of the PBF Running Club who were organising the event. He’s looking very trim and hill-ready, a proper fell-runner if I ever beheld one. A bit of a chat and I discovered he was running sweeper for the race.

Turned on my GPS, only to see a “low battery” message. Hmm, maybe it’ll last, perhaps I left it turned on after my abortive run the other night?

Announcements, count down and off we go! Pressed ‘start’ and the GPS turned itself off. Good start.

I sped(!) off up the path with the other runners, heading up the beautiful Derwent Valley. The choice of crisps for a mid-afternoon snack started to show itself as a bad one, as I soon developed stabbing pains in my stomach that resolved themselves into an almighty stitch, the like of which I’ve never had before. Still, stitches are stitches, eh, and on you go, the end isn’t going to get any closer.

When I ran this for the first time last year, I was stunned with how lovely it is, just a mile or two from the Metrocentre and hiding away from the main road. Up the old train line that forms part of the Coast-To-Coast cycle path and across the viaduct over that spans part of the valley. The first few front runners came past the other way, with a cyclist in front to clear one side of the lane.

I remembered there was a bit of a hill after this, thin, muddy and I remember holding another runner back last year until I realised then letting her get past as I gasped up. Not so bad this time, though I did walk a bit as I think I’d set off a bit too excitedly, and when I reached the top it was down the other side, a mixture of the fun of running and the stabbing of the crisps working through my gut.

Half-way point and you turn back down the valley – there’s a water station that was belting out music, just as there was last year. As I came up it changed to Harold Faltermeyer’s “Axel F”, which made me laugh like an idiot – you don’t hear that song much these days, but it was straight back to memories of watching Beverley Hills Cop. :-)

Down, down, down to the floor of the valley and through meadows. Along by the river through puddles and mud and then a turn up another hill.

I wonder how many shorter races include kissing gates? It’s an interesting feature, and while it didn’t bother me so much, I wondered how the front-runners had managed, and whether they’d wasted valuable seconds saying “after you”, “no, no, after you”, “oh, I couldn’t possibly”. It would have been the right thing to do.

Back up onto the track now and after a wee while the stabbing was bad enough that I had to walk a tiny bit and clutch at my sides – a couple of finished runners heading back up enquired if I was OK, which I pretty much was, then off again.

It’s about two miles down the track to the finish, though it feels like longer, round the corner, back into the cricket club and Bob’s you uncle. I checked with a lad who came in at the same time as me and he reckoned about 53 minutes.

Better than that, the results the next day showed 51:48 – slightly slower than the previous year’s 48 minutes, but then I doubt I was stupid enough to eat crisps then, as I was planning on being here that time. I was pretty happy with the result, and wandered back to the car to drive home.

So, we can add crisps to the list of things not to eat while running or in preparation. So far the list contains:

  • Peanut butter
  • Crisps
  • Dried apricots
  • Muesli

Actually, the dried apricots is a simple never, ever eat, they are like tiny hand grenades to my (clearly delicate) digestion and muesli is much the same. If only I had the constitution of the chap eating pork-pies and custard mid-way through the Glasgow to Edinburgh Ultra I might be fine.

Next up, Blaydon Race. One of my favourites.

Rock on!

…well, one of them.

After years of service, Righty Toe-Nail and I have parted ways. It was an amicable split, he popped off and is heading for pastures new.

I think it was Glasgow to Edinburgh that did it, 55 miles in my company was just a bit too much for him. I can’t say I blame him, I was getting a bit bored of me by the end.

I hope you’ll all join me in wishing him all the best wherever he may end up, and hope that he doesn’t start up a rival blog, as he’s been quite a significant contributor over the years.

Ta-ta Righty, you’ve been a great source of support.


Soooo, there’s this magazine, Like The Wind, that came out a couple of months ago, you may have seen it. Lots of grand stories about runners and their lives, proper motivational stuff. I bought a copy, I stuck the the post cards up at work, I read it once, then again, and put it back in its envelope to keep it safe.

I wrote them a little e-mail, saying that I liked the magazine. Come to think of it, it may have been on Twitter.

They had a look over here at the blog and said they liked it.

I came up with a couple of ideas for articles and sent them in, they suggested I write one up and send it through.

I did.

Long story shot they put my article in the second issue and it’ll be available around the end of the month.

If you want to get a copy and marvel at the transference of my wonky thought process to the printed medium, you can order one here:

Like The Wind shop

You really ought to get one, it’ll be mint – the other stories alone will make it worthwhile, you might even like mine…

Consider my trumpet well and truly blown.

(I won’t believe it until I actually see it in print, but I can’t pretend I’m not extremely excited.)

And it was only a short run too.

I had a little jaunt around the woods this afternoon, it was quite lovely, there was a bit of sun and everything, just to remind me that the universe is a lovely place.

Because I’m a bit random about route-finding, there was a sizeable hill in the middle of the run. Not such a grand plan after two and half weeks of no running. As I plodded my wheezy way up, I rediscovered my arms, which I’d misplaced some time earlier. To be honest I’ve got arms that pipe cleaners would laugh at, and then probably beat me in an arm wrestle. It does come in handy if I ever have to pick something up that’s on the other side of a wall made of Polo mints, which happens more often than you would think.

By pumping these impressive contraptions in time with my spindly legs I found I could make slightly better headway than my usual clumpy struggling. Not bad, though the trick is in the timing – turns out if you get the timing wrong, then you run the risk of falling over in the brambles. Ouchie.

Then I remembered my gluteus maximus, or arse as you might call it. Wikipedia points out that it’s “the most superficial of the three gluteus muscles”, and I have to agree that it’s never come up with any deep opinions so far. Last time I was out I’d read something along the lines of “move your arse when you go uphill”. Not in the usual motivational “get a shift on” sense, but in a “swing your bum to move the ol’ hips” style. I remembered that it had worked quite well last time, so I gave that a go too.


It turns out I can only think about one body part at a time, but then I am a man, so that should be no surprise. Trying to co-opt two component parts into the conspiracy that is my running at the same time is entirely beyond me. The only way to achieve this lofty aim would be to get one worked out and second nature and then concentrate on the other. But which one first?

And that’s my dilemma (lemma is a Greek character shaped like the horns of a bull (∑) and di-lemma, meaning “two lemma”  leads to the popular (perhaps if you’re an ancient Greek) saying of being ‘caught on the horns of the bull’) – which one will help more? Possibly the answer is ‘either’, but that doesn’t really move the conversation along.

I reckon the arm pumping would look mighty fine, so long as I don’t overdo it, but then the arse-moving sounds like it would be good for the muscles. Am I so shallow that I would make a decision based on what would look like? Clearly not (oh yes I would).

Oh, the agony of choice…

What would you do?


Ooh, there’s a big chunk of excitement in the air at Angrybees Manors. I’ve got a place on the Berghaus Trail Team 2014 try-out day at Helvellyn on 26 April. From this and the London day later on they’ll make the final choice for the 2014 team of die-hard striving athletes.


Looking back at the 2013 team, they all look very sporty indeed, and not the back-of-the-pack bunch that I would usually rub shoulder with. On that basis, it looks as though my “I run funny. You’ll laugh” approach to the application was probably playing to my killer strengths. Saying which, a year of training with support from Berghaus, Torq, LED Lenser not to mention the fine folk at Trail Running Magazine might just turn me into an uber-athlete. Something must.

Here’s hoping they have a slot open for “funny chubby chap” in the 2014 line-up, and that you get points for relentlessness, or maybe one for vegan-minimal-almost-walker. If you get marks for keeping going for silly distances despite being a bit wounded then I could be in with a chance. If anyone wants to write to them and extol the virtues of a fat-lad-made-good and how you’d use their stuff endlessly if they can show what a massive difference it makes to Mr Slowpoke then that can only be to the better.

Here’s hoping I fill a unique niche on the day and they love a tryer. As we say in the north east, “shy bairns get nowt”.

Maybe they’re looking for a surrealist blogger, that could be good too, perhaps I should play to my other strength… :-)

Rock on – the trails look lovely.