Archive for February, 2014

Osmotherley Trail Half Marathon (Hardmoors 26.2 Series)

Finish time: 02:55:33, position 120/151

I was planning to start this write-up talking about the runners drifting into the village of Osmotherley like a trail of ghosts, early in the morning in the mist before the world was up. I would have waxed lyrically about their wraith-like thin forms meandering up the road like spectres departing the mortal coil.

Nature, however, doesn’t always play ball and, in sharp contrast, the weather was proper lovely, sunny and while not exactly warm, it was the closest we’ve come to spring so far.

I’d hoped to get down to Osmotherley early to see the trail marathon runners off – another member of the Vegetarian Cycling and Athletic Club (VCAC), Paul Kerrison was running in it and it would have been great to meet him and give him a veggie cheer off.

Unfortunately, I had a bit of a malfunction in getting across to the A19 and arrived at the car park at the Saw Mill at around 7:25. The instructions said 5-10 minutes to make it to the Village Hall. It took me more like 10-15, which immediately made me a little worried that I had underestimated the difficulty – if I’m taking a long time to make it to the start, what’s it going to be like when we start running?

I got to the Village Hall and hooked up with my running partner for the day, another VCAC runner, Guy Riddell – all round nice chap and another beard wearer. Since I started growing Mr Beard, I’ve noticed more of them at work, more of them down-in-the-streets and more out running. I’m not claiming this is down to my good influence* but it’s nice to see a bit of beardy brotherhood about the place.

Now for the tricky ritual that is preparation. Register, get your number (231), thank the Safety-Pin Gods that the organiser brought some along because the ones you thoughtfully put in the car this morning are still in the car, affix number to running vest, re-attach to running vest this time making sure not to pin through the back of the vest as well, pick up commemorative t-shirt, check it fits, stuff it into your already stuffed pack, queue for the toilet, keep queueing for the toilet, get a bit sick of queueing for the toilet, eventually get to the toilet, take care of ‘business’, go outside and wait-wait-wait.


Guy on the left, me on the right – waiting for the start – photo by Paul Riddell

I met Paul, Guy’s brother who was marshalling and some of his running club, Sunderland Strollers and passed the time – I tried to turn the Ant+ HR monitor back on my Garmin, never having thought that trying to do this around lots of other runners who are also emitting HR monitoring goodness is not going to work – it’s the first time I’ve seen the “Multiple HR Monitors Detected” message and I had to slink off to re-sync away from the electronic chatter.

Just after 8:30, the impressive frame of Jon Steele, the Hardmoors Head-man emerged from the hall, gave us the briefing and some sage advice** then counted down from five to Go! and off we went, all chirpy and smily. We both agreed that we were a bit envious of the marathon runners who’d get a longer jaunt around the moors on a perfect day.


And we’re off! Down Osmotherley High Street – photo by Paul Riddell

Off along Osmotherley High Street and we found ice! Even though the sun was showing his face, it was still early enough there was ice on the Tarmac. For the first couple of miles there were intermittent shouts wafting back from the front, “…ice…Ice…ICE…” then it was your job to pass the message back. I had a fleeting urge to shout “baby!”, as an homage to Vanilla Ice, but held back – I didn’t want anyone to slip while looking out for infant-based obstacles, or worse yet, the dreaded Ice Baby. At one point a car came past and we had a different call going back.

After a short while we made it off the road, onto the trails and hills began. Guy was looking pretty chilled and I was feeling canny, so we tramped up the first incline, but I could feel Mr Tendon waking up for a bit of a moan.

I’m usually a bit of a solitary runner – I train alone, I race on my own usually and I was a slightly worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up a few hours of chat, but it all seemed to go well, it seems a relaxed and grounded running-partner is key. This too could be considered good training for Glasgow to Edinburgh in April where I hope I’ll neither clam up or bore the legs off Mr Ritchie. A good chat about the club, vegetarianism, food, beer, bread recipes and the state of the world (now put to rights) went down well. In time, this would be interspersed with my gasps of “walking!” as we hit the bigger hills and finally on the smaller ones too.

Where I live, I’d describe it as being “hilly”, but I realise now it’s more “not quite flat”. The bigger hills had flagstones laid an age ago and worn by the boots of years gone by. Eventually we reached the moor tops and the view back north was amazing – I would have been tempted to take pictures if I wasn’t concentrating all my energies on keeping moving.

The weather couldn’t have been better, mild sun, virtually no wind and a few happy cloud scuttling across the skies. The usual loveliness of runners in the mid-to-back of the pack was on show as people passed the time of day while they overtook and were overtaken. It honestly brings a bit of a lump to my throat thinking back on it – in my experience the longer the distance, the harder the course the stronger the sense of camaraderie between runners. It’s only at massive events like the Great North Run this has seems not to be the case, and where I came across a chap barging his way through the field, on his mobile phone complaining to someone about the complete waste of time it all was because there were too many people there. I think that’s a minority view, but not something I was very heartened to see at the time.

The half-way point was a staggering out and back up Carlton Bank, stone stairs up a steep hill to the fell top and then a two mile run out to the turn around. As runners passed each other in the opposite direction they said hello and offered encouragement – “nearly there”, ” looking good”, “well done” and so on. Being a slave to non-conformity I added in the occasional “good beard” or “nice hat” where it was due.

To the half way point then, and there was Steve Walker, siting pretty in a bothy made of a tarp and a stick – it looked pretty inviting, I have to say. A quick stop for a photo then back again, with a bit more of a spring in our steps on the way down the hill.


Into the half-way turnaround – photo by Steve Walker, the mid-point marshall

Back down the stone flags, but in an effort to go a bit quicker, we cut along the mud to the side – it’s properly muddy now, and we achieve our aim of going down a bit quicker by sliding uncontrollably some of the time. Arriving back at the checkpoint that served as the start and end of the out-and-back and another quick hello to Guy’s brother, Paul who was marshalling there.

We took a bit of a wrong turn, but only get a few yards before the runners behind us call out. Better than the score of folk who rushed past us at the half way point who’d followed an over-excited leader and had run an extra couple of miles before realising – when they zipped past us, they asked the mileage – it was about 6.5 at that point, but they were showing around 11. They seemed quite philosophical about it for the most, and you can’t argue that they got their money’s worth***.

There were further hills, that veered from the sublime to the incredulous, and some cyclists, as this is part of the Cleveland Way – through fields and woods and I realised we were running along the side of the moors that you can see as you drive down the A19. Finally onto a track, and a canter down into Osmotherley. A lady we’d passed on the way up Carlton Bank came back up behind us and had a bit more juice in her legs as she passed us and whizzed into the finish in the hall. Guy, I think, was still relatively fresh, and could have finished a good bit further up the field, probably even continued on for a full marathon, but I was a bit pegged, so I was glad to see the village hall.

In the door, give in my number then off to the largest and finest spread of food I’ve seen at the end of a race. Amongst the pies and sausage rolls there was a good bit of cake, biscuits and other veggie-friendly fare as well as muffins, a toaster and tea, coffee, juice and water.

In all it was a stinking good day – a lovely course, fantastic weather and the additional fun of meeting another club member. Harmoors run a set of full, half and 10k events, and I’d recommend them to anyone – they’re a good introduction to the moors and probably act as a good gateway into Jon’s longer events – 30, 55, 60 and 100 miles. I plan to go back and do more as time allows.


I’m a smiley chap, even when the tendons are aching

* Of course I’m claiming that, I’m just not saying it in public, that would be mad – I am clearly the loss-leader of popular culture, you should watch what I do next, it’ll be awesome…

** ”Don’t get lost”. This, in trail running on the moors, turns out to be about the best advice you can get. Seriously, if you listen to nothing else, listen to this bit, it will do you well. Some people clearly didn’t hear this bit as will become evident later.

*** Jon Steele, the organiser has given two sets of prizes, one based on the conventional time to finish, and another on a pace basis for the people who ran an extra-long course – that’s good customer relations in my book, and another good example of how well the event was organised.


I recently found that a local company had started producing gels. Being a fan of local produce, I ordered a trial pack to give them a go.


They duly arrived (very quickly!) and I opened the box to find three citrus gels, three berry gels and two cola gels (with added caffeine).

Tonight the plan suggested a four mile run, so that seemed like the perfect example to try out step one of what we will call The New Gel Procedure. There are only a couple of steps, but they go like this:

  1. Take gel before short run – this is the barf test. If I can go for a short run and not feel ill, “Go Windy” or feel generally unsettled then they pass phase one and progress to step 2.
  2. Use a few on a longer run and see if they do the job.

You should know straight off that I’m pretty picky about gels. They need to be vegan for one thing, which is always a bit of fun, but I got a very quick response to my question about the ingredients that they were fine. I also like my gels thin. To date I’ve stuck with High 5 gels because they’re easy to neck when you’re running with minimal water. In fact, the only thing that has drawn me away from the High 5 gels are Isogels by the same company, if anything even thinner and properly easy to take without any water at all. On one memorable run where the shops were shut, Isogels saved the day as I had a couple left that got me home when I ran out of water.

So, I chose a citrus gel – everyone makes a citrus gel, so they’re a good test. The tops are nice and easy to open, which is great once you’ve lost your senses on a long round, and the consistency was pretty much on a par with the High 5 gels, which is another big thumbs up. The taste was pretty good – not too sweet, not too tart – pretty much the baby-bear-porridge of gel tastes.

In it went, and off I headed. As I was feeling pretty good I had a bit of a turn of speed (for me, it’s all relative, 9 minute miles counts as speed) and figured this would jounce the contents of my stomach sufficiently to cause any upset of explosion.

To cut a long story short, they worked well, no undue effects, no discomfort, no feeling like I was going to be sick or otherwise jettison. I ran a tasty 9 minute mile, which is pretty good for me in the woods – could this be due to having the gel at the start? Quite possibly – we’ll find out the answer to that at the weekend when I head out for a longer run with a clutch of the blighters to keep me going.

I might even try the caffeine ones – I like a coffee, but I’ve always avoided caffeine gels as I have suspicions they’ll cause an unwanted effect.

So far so good, really happy with the gels. Watch out for the next instalment, the full Road Test.


WARNING: OK – this is a bit of bothering-you-for-a-quid post, so if you’re not up for that, I’d move on to the fun bits about unfortunate peanut-butter or my staggering bad drawing skills. 

On April 5th, myself and my partner in crimes-against-running, Jon, are signed up to run from Glasgow to Edinburgh in a day. It’s long, it’s going to be hard and it’s going to be good. Hopefully the good bit will far outweigh the hard bit – so far my ultra-running has come out with a positive balance. If you’re excited at the prospect of 55 miles and two magic cities, you can read about it here.

Last year, I promised I’d only bother people for money once a year, and so this is it. For this jaunt we’ve decided to raise funds for Age UK North Tyneside – we both work in North Tyneside, and Jon lives there and I did until recently. It feels like a good cause, advocating for older people that we’ll all hopefully get to become, with a little luck.


As ever, we know that raising a pound or two will ease the aches and pains, and so we’ve set a target to raise £300 for this little escapade. With just over a month to go we could use a bit of help to get there. If you click on the image above, it’ll take you straight to the page where you can spot us a quid.

So, if you can spare a pound, we’d be massively grateful – heck it may even spur me on to write even more rambling nonsense about it afterwards. To be honest, I don’t need spurring on for that, but I reckon miles 30-45 will be tricky and a bit of motivation will be welcome then.

Right, back to stories about being mugged by hedgehogs now, normal service is about to be resumed…

NOTE TO SELF: Never, ever, ever attempt to eat peanut butter mid-run again. It is a bad idea. We shall call this afternoon’s run “The Peanut Butter Experiment” for the purpose of this post, then we shall agree to never, ever mention it again in polite company.

Seriously, I thought I’d experiment with mid-run fuel tonight, and having found some individual-portion pouches of organic crunchy peanut butter in Sainsbury, I figured that would be a good plan. All that vegan goodness, it couldn’t go wrong, could it?


It was not a good plan.

Frankly, it was one of the worst plans I’ve ever come up with, and that’s saying something.

Firstly, it was virtually impossible to eat. The stuff does not play ball in coming out of the packet. I think that’s the ‘crunchy’ coming to the fore.

Secondly, it sticks to the inside of your mouth like glue. You simply cannot carry enough water to swill it out.

Thirdly, it somehow sucked all the running ability out of me and left me walking through the woods back to High Spen – I’m claiming this is “not my fault’, OK I’d run 17 miles by that point and was ‘a little tired’, but clearly that can’t be it, right?

Consider yourselves good and warned.

Next time: deep-frying tofu on-the-move.

Report coming soon…


Myself and my partner-in-plod Jon jointly form the Dashing Accountants. We both plod around (he’s more the dasher than me, like a zephyr that man) and we’re both accountants, hence the name.

Last year, we ran The Wall, 69 miles in two days between Carlisle and Newcastle. And you know what, I think we got the taste for the whole west-to-east cross-country thing, but maybe not so much the two-day-windy-campsite thing.

To feed out unusual addiction, we’re running the 55 mile Glasgow to Edinburgh Ultra Marathon in April. A much more sensible straight 12 hour jaunt this time, with a soft-and-fluffy hotel bed at the end.

Because we like a lovely warm feeling when we run that isn’t caused by involuntary weeing after fifty miles of plodding, we’re raising a quid or two for Age North Tyneside. With a bit of luck we’ll all get there eventually, so think of it as forward planning. To old age, I mean, not North Tyneside – if everyone turned up there it would get a bit crowded…

So, give us a quid, eh?

We’re using Everyclick, and you can get directly there by clicking here.

G’won. 🙂

Surprising what you can do with an iPad…

Maybe this is an exciting new direction for me, but I doubt it – I’m about as accomplished an artist as I am an ultra-runner, so not that good then…