Jul 162014

by Bernard Foster

Yes, I know, this is not a running related article, but many Abbey Runners have been caught up in the Tour de France and at least five were Tour Makers – Roger Wilson, Mark Hetherington, Bina Bhatia, Andy Wicks and myself. Any more? If I’ve missed you out, let me know and I’ll add your name.

On the Saturday I had intended to go with my son to Ilkley but, in one of those increasingly frequent senior moments, we got on the wrong train and ended up in Harrogate. No problem though as the atmosphere was great, the weather superb, and the big screen brought us all the action before the riders appeared in person.

So on to Sunday – a 5am start is not something I have every day, but was necessary on this occasion for me to get to Harrogate High School by 7 o’clock. This was to be the culmination  of several months of preparation. Well, when I say “preparation” it was fairly minimal: an online application, a few online modules to complete, a “rally the troops” event at the Arena and a session at Elland Road where we were issued with our uniform – nice shirt, nice raincoat, nice cap, but the trousers….! Designed with Eric Pickles in mind I would say.

But let’s get back to the day of Stage 2. Here we were, a bunch of strangers all ready to help the public and charm them with our “Welcome to Yorkshire” smiles. On to the bus at 8am for a drive down an eerily empty A59 to Addingham – empty, that is, except for a few dozen cycling fans already taking up positions at the side of the road with camping chairs, flasks and even barbecues. They were going to have a long wait.

Cycling poster 1891 with caption

Addingham was very festive with barbecues, cake stalls and the odd hog roast as we made our way up to our respective stations. And the weather smiled on us too. I had hoped to be chosen as one of those flag marshals who stand at roundabouts with a yellow flag showing the riders which way to go, but I was pipped by a chap whose hand was quicker than mine.

While waiting for the race to arrive, some hours later, I was interviewed by Radio Leeds’s Johnny l’Anson, delivering his Sunday morning show from where the action was to be. I answered some questions he threw at me as best I could but, on listening to the iPlayer later on, I found that my interview had been edited out. I was quite relieved in a way, given the platitudinous twaddle I had spouted.

Then the caravan came along with what I can only describe as motorised cheerleaders attempting with little success to generate some mass hysteria among the crowd. Finally, the riders came and whoosh, it was over in less than a minute and we dispersed.

So what did I contribute to the event as a Tour Maker? Difficult to say really. We were supposed to be “the eyes and ears” of the Tour, reporting issues to the security staff, giving information to the spectators and generally playing a PR role. But in the event I had almost nothing to do except stand by the road and chat to spectators. I did have a front row view, though, and I brought away memories of a wonderful atmosphere and a spectacle which I may never see again. Oh, and I can keep the uniform as a memento. As for the trousers…….


 July 16, 2014  Posted by at 9:47 am race reports Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Jul 112014

mad-abbeyWith the cyclists back in France on Tuesday 8th July, the Abbey Tour of Cookridge continued with Stage 3 – L’Etape du Tour. A 7km multi-terrain race which was all about chasing the person in front, while they desperately tried to shake off the pursuing runner. It was a mass start race but the timing for the Tour concentrated on whether or not each runner finished within 30 seconds of the person in front, any runners managing to hang on formed a mini peloton of their own and got the same time as those ahead.The course contained, stiles, a hill and some unexpected cattle to cause splits in the field.

There was an early breakaway by Duncan Clark who escaped capture, finishing in 26.06. His poursuviants, lead by Karen Garvican, were 1min 42 seconds behind. Both Karen and Duncan did enough to snatch le malliot jaune and go into the final stage as leaders. Full results and latest GC spreadsheets are enclosed.


Stage 4 is on 22nd July and will be a time trial consisting of 1 mile ran up hill followed by 1 mile downhill. The course will be up Otley Old Road to Cookridge Tower, then you can use the rest of the training session to work your way back to the club. Come and see what times you can do – even if you’re not in the Tour.

See the results here

See the current standing here

 July 11, 2014  Posted by at 8:19 am race reports No Responses »
Jul 072014
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After day 2 with my beer and other memorabilia!

I did the Total Warrior run on both Saturday 21st June and Sunday 22nd June, in what they called the Super 10 weekend. Why would I do such a thing? I’m not entirely sure I know, but perhaps the account below will shed some light on the matter or my state of mind.

Total Warrior was advertised as a 10km+ obstacle run with 25-30 obstacles designed alongside ex-military personnel in order to test strength, stamina, and mental determination. The organisers had also stated that, “For anyone crazy enough to attempt both days – Super 10 Weekend – we are offering up to a 30% discount. Less than 2% of the 6000 competitors accepted this challenge in 2013!” How could I resist? As time drew closer, the organisers announced that the actual distance would be 12.5km, indicating that now we knew exactly what the + meant. Still, what was the worst that could happen I thought, even if I was to do it on both days?

Day 1

I turned up on the Saturday and managed to register with a bit of time to take in the atmosphere. The sun was shining and there were loads of people sitting around as spectators or getting ready to start. Since people set off in waves, there were also some who had finished, so I could get an idea of just how muddy and tired I might get by the end. Most people were wearing some form of t-shirt or vest, but I had decided to work on my tan and not wear a top. It would also help avoid extra laundry! When I crawled through some tyres and into the starting pen, those around me were getting psyched up by the starting official. I didn’t bother with any of that nonsense. It’s worth pointing out now that my memory of exactly what I encountered and where may be slightly inaccurate because I had other things on which to focus, including fun, rather than memorising the exact course.

I heard 3, 2, 1, and then we were off amidst yellow smoke. First up we had to run up and down a grassy, uneven hill 4 times before running into some trail-type area. It was steep and even at this point, people were either taking a walking break on the way up or at the top on the way back down. After this, came another grassy hill, but this time, we were crawling under a cargo net until the top. I suppose wearing a top would have reduced some of the scratching on my back, but that was all part of the experience. We then went back into the trees and then into some water going under a small bridge, followed by thick mud through which we had to stomp whilst not losing our shoes. This mud was quite deep and thick in places, sometimes making me feel like I was sinking, which made it all the more challenging. Some people fell over and others needed a hand to get them going again, it seemed a bit like thick treacle, only not as tasty or pleasant smelling. Crawling through some pipes that came out into a bit of muddy water helped clean me off a bit though because otherwise, the mud would have been weighing me down as I ran along more trail paths. I realise saying the water helped clean me off seems strange since it was not really clean water, but rather muddy water, but still, it helped. There was more mud and a muddy steep and slippery hill before we came out to a more open area where it was possible to run a bit quicker. It was at these points that I decided to keep going to achieve a good result, rather than slow down and recover by walking as a lot of others were doing in such places. I think the phrase might be ‘active rest’! We then climbed over some haystacks before hitting the woods again for more running. Upon leaving the woods we ran towards some horizontal logs at varying heights. We were instructed to crawl under the low logs and to climb over the high logs, which was made harder because they appeared to be greased. My foot did slip on a couple of occasions, and I also seemed to scratch my stomach at several points whilst twisting over these logs. Once over these logs, of which there were about 8, there was a bit more running before we came to several fences of varying heights, some about 8 feet and some a bit higher. There were no footholds and so it was a case of jumping up and then pulling yourself over the top before jumping down – good job my ankle is better! The final fence was a little bit cheekier because it was angled towards you as you approached and about 8 feet high with about 3 foot grooves. You could put your feet in the grooves, but owing to the angle, it was harder to get over, and several people around needed a boost on this as well as some of the earlier fences. After pulling myself up and over the previous fences, this one was a test. Again, there was more running on grassy fields until we encountered a water station. I decided since it was warm to refresh myself with some clean water rather than rely on any dirty water that I may have inadvertently swallowed, and then carried on running another kilometre or so before the next challenge, the traverse. This was a wall with footholds and handholds that you used to move horizontally across the fence. The footholds were at varying lengths apart, and I do remember having to stretch what seemed to be quite an uncomfortable distance on one occasion, and almost jump a little to get a secure handhold as well. If you fell off the fence, you landed in dirty water of an unknown depth. The next item I faced only a short distance after the traverse was an extremely dirty pond with plants and other things floating along the top. It did make me wonder exactly through what I was passing, and I was sure to not take too long a step and risk getting any water near my mouth. Once out of this pond, I came upon the log carrying area. Here we had to pick up a little log and go up a hill and then back down, before depositing the log and moving on. The picture below shows me running up the hill carrying the log.

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Wet and a bit muddy running with a log!

It may look small, but considering all the previous activity, it was still somewhat heavy, and because it didn’t have a smooth surface, it was a little uncomfortable to carry. Some people carried the log up on their shoulder whilst walking, but I found that to be cumbersome whilst running, so opted to carry it down by my stomach. More running followed before I got to crawling through tyres and then through more pipes partly filled with muddy water where I encountered a few slugs.

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Trying to look good for the camera!

After more, brief, running, it was BBQ time. I noticed some logs up ahead that were on fire in front of some muddy water. Obviously, I decided that speed and height were required. As I was running towards the logs, I shouted a question at one of the marshals, basically asking him how deep was the water. His reply was, “You can have some fun with it!” Therefore, I added fun to the speed and height formula. What I discovered was that the depth of the water was more than I had thought even based on the marshal’s comment, and I ended up totally immersed upon landing. The photos below show the jump and result!

3781 - BBQ_168410651 - BBQSUN_0751

My muddy cleanliness was only short-lived, however, because there were more muddy trenches through which I had to wade, with people falling and getting a bit stuck as well. This was followed by a bit of trail running and onto the ice dip. Yes, we climbed into a skip filled with icy water, had to dunk ourselves under the beam that ran across the skip, and then climb out. I passed one woman who was trying to psyche herself up to dip her head under the water, and this did not appear to be very successful, taking several attempts it would seem. After another kilometre of running or so, there was more muddy trenches and muddy water before we came to the dangling electric wires through which we had to run. Best take this at some pace, I thought! I don’t remember feeling that much, but what with the speed and adrenaline, perhaps this helped. I then ran up a rather steep hill and got to the water slide. I discovered at this point that I had caught up to people who had set off about 1 hour before me. After getting down the water slide, the monkey bars were next.

10651 b - monkey bars [Sun] - BUYFalling off would have meant falling into more deep and cold water, so this was not an option. With wet hands, though, this proved complicated, and plenty of people were falling into the water. This only left the final obstacle, called ‘peaks of pain’. It was basically some wood at an angle with rope hanging halfway down. You had to run at the wood and up it before trying to grab the rope and pull yourself to the top. Some people who had made it to the top were offering others help, which generally seemed much appreciated. After all I had been through, this one particular obstacle was the most difficult for me to surmount. Once at the top, you climbed down and ran through the finish line to collect a beer, a t-shirt, a bottle of water, a protein bar, and a buff.

Day 2 brief highlights

Arriving at the same course on the following day, some 22 hours after first embarking on the course, I seemed strangely calm. There were a few areas of my body that had taken a bit of a battering and I could feel them protesting. The calmness started to change a little when I was in the starting area and, looking upon the first hills I thought, “What am I doing?” My brother was also running in this wave with a few friends [they had only chosen to do it only on this day], and I had joked about some of the obstacles. I do remember briefly on guy who came up to me before the start and said, “you did this yesterday didn’t you?” I confirmed I had, and we briefly spoke before the start. I don’t remember this person from the first day, but I must have stood out somehow. I later manage a hi-5 and “hey” as I passed him coming back along a certain part of the course. Despite some lingering nerves, I set off full of vigour. I managed to stay ahead of my brother and his friends until just after the 5km mark when they passed me helping each other over one of the fences. If I’m honest, I don’t really remember much about the second day on the same course. Throughout the course, I did encounter a few other people who commented that they had done the course the day before as well. Overall, I improved my performance on this day as opposed to the first day by 23 minutes. It may sound difficult to fathom, but I think it can be put down to a few factors. One factor is that even though I couldn’t exactly remember where every obstacle was located, I generally was more aware of what I was facing. In addition, I probably wanted to get the experience over as quickly as I could. Finally, I think I managed to zone out more on the second day. One interesting and I suppose amusing problem looking back occurred on the water slide though. This time, I had decided to go down feet first on my back rather than face first on my front as I had on the first day. However, partway down, I somehow got spun around going head-first on my back. Since this was likely to end in disaster, I managed to spin myself around so that I was going head-first on my front. It must have looked quite a site to the spectators! The other amusing occurrence was on the final obstacle. This was the wet angled fence that we had to run up to grab the rope halfway up and pull ourselves to the top. I ran at it ready to jump slightly and take a few steps up before grabbing the rope. My heart and head was full of bravery, it was just my legs that let me down. Instead of complying with my plan, they did nothing and I ran full on into the fence. That certainly got the adrenaline going!

Am I glad I did both day? I have to answer yes. Did it hurt? Again, I have to answer yes. Indeed, my chest was quite sore over the next few days, and I had a variety of new cuts and scrapes on various parts of my body. I guess it was the hardest event I’ve done, not least because it was the longest, but also because it was done twice in one weekend. Still, I’d do it again because it was fun and only slightly ridiculous, and the beer went down well!

 July 7, 2014  Posted by at 6:05 pm race reports No Responses »
May 222014

Tuesday 13th May 2014

Ilkley – Category BS (5.2m/1148ft)

By Martin Jones

The Jack Bloor Fell Race is an annual fell race held on Ilkley Moor as a tribute to Jack Bloor (1926-84) who was a pioneering climber and fell runner who also helped establish the Three Peaks Race and was a renowned orienteering coach. All the profits from the race are used to help young people improve their skills in outdoor sports.

The race is on this year’s Abbey Grand Prix as well as being part of the Fell League calendar. It was also my first ever fell race!

After the torrential afternoon rain the evening was sunny and perfect for running. Registration was opposite Darwin Gardens on Wells Road with plenty of parking on nearby streets and there was a large contingent of Abbey’s at the start line with 16 taking part.

We were all ushered into the start pen and after a few announcements the race started. Not everyone went the same way and a number of runners veered left through the trees on their journey up to the first checkpoint, with the bulk of the field taking the direct route straight up the hill. After the initial bottleneck of people working their way up the hill everyone picked or followed others in trying to find the easiest way up the first long climb. Not being particularly familiar with Ilkley Moor the climb seemed to be pretty relentless and according to my Garmin I clocked the first mile in 13m 24s with 178m/583ft of climb.

It then levelled off and we went slightly downhill through bracken before briefly joining a track that led to another steep but short climb. After reaching the top of this climb all I can remember from that point onwards was how wet and boggy the rest of the race was. It was a long slow slog up through marshes and I learnt my first lesson: don’t run too close to the person in front because when they go waist deep in sludge you will too! There were runners sinking everywhere. Every single stride was ankle deep in water and every now and then you’d have the surprise of disappearing into the ground.

Numbers were recorded at the third checkpoint, Cowper’s Cross which is where we joined the stone flag pathway that leads down towards Trig Point. I think this was my favourite part of the race as for the first time in about half an hour you get a little recovery and can began to get some rhythm going. Other Abbeys said they hated this part and I can see why but for me I now had the opportunity to appreciate the view without my head pounding!

After around a mile of appreciating the view and realising that fell shoes on stone flags aren’t so good after all, runners started to veer left in different directions. I followed a couple of runners through what looked like a reasonable track but realised quite quickly that the next half mile or so was going to be ankle to shin deep in water through shoulder high reeds and grass. After a couple of minutes of this I didn’t get one of my legs up quickly enough and promptly fell over, which was ok because I think the bloke behind me did as well – a knowing nod and we were on our way. It didn’t seem to end but eventually it did and after falling over again I was passed by Rob Jackson who signalled a way through the heather. Trouble is the heather looked like it was from a Teletubbies set and at some point I fell through that as well – it was just too dense to get your feet through plus by this stage the rest was welcome.

Now, the race is measured at 5.2 miles but at 5.2 miles I still couldn’t see the descent let alone the finish! I laboured on eventually reaching the last checkpoint but going over badly on my ankle in the process. I don’t remember much of the descent other than thinking in pain at the top that it looked like jumping off a cliff. I lost a couple of minutes coming down, going over on my ankle another three times and watching other runners streaming past, jumping and bouncing down through peat and undergrowth. It felt like an unforgiving descent but finally I made it to the bottom grimacing, through the stream and over the line collecting a bottle of pale ale along the way. I’d gone over half mile off course somewhere but managed to just scrape in under an hour.

Finishing the race felt like a real battle, not so much against the other runners but the hills and the terrain itself. Despite having an ankle the size of a football and being covered in peat and mud I really enjoyed it!

For those who’d like to try a fell race but aren’t sure, I’d really recommend it. It’s very friendly, cheap to enter and although it is challenging, as long as you pace sensibly it’s very runnable. Picking the right race is also important – I hadn’t reccie’d the course, was not that familiar with the moor and have zero navigational skills but there were people to follow at all stages of the race and it was just a case of staying focussed and enjoying it. Like with road races there are runners of all abilities and ‘short’ races like this are ideal for first timers.

Scott Leach took some excellent photos of the race which give you an idea of what it was like. They are also on the Yorkshire Runners Photos Facebook page.








Ian Nixon

Pudsey & Bramley




Gill Myers

Wharfedale Harriers




Sam Alexander

Abbey Runners




Phil Livermore

Abbey Runners




Ian Furlong

Abbey Runners




Greg Weatherhead

Abbey Runners




Andy Davidson

Abbey Runners




Gareth Cavill

Abbey Runners




Richard Foster

Abbey Runners




Mike Ayers

Abbey Runners




Timothy Jacobs

Abbey Runners




Robert Jackson

Abbey Runners




Martin Jones

Abbey Runners




Ian Patchett

Abbey Runners




John Fortescue

Abbey Runners




Stella Cross

Abbey Runners




Dave Beston

Abbey Runners




Laura Edwards

Abbey Runners








 May 22, 2014  Posted by at 6:00 pm race reports No Responses »
May 102014
The Two Peters [Photo courtesy of DTImaging]

The Two Peters [Photo courtesy of DTImaging]

The report herein contains two accounts, the first written by Peter Leach who took part in the sprint distance duathlon, and the second account written by Peter Persico who took part in the standard distance duathlon.

Of his experience in the sprint distance, Peter Leach writes:

All of us want to run faster. That’s partly why we are members of Abbey Runners and we usually take note of our finishing race times, or perhaps we just want try to climb that hill in front of someone else?  I used to run 10K road races twenty minutes faster than I do now, and as ever, it is not for the lack of me trying!  As I have reached my late sixties I needed a new challenge and Duathlons have really brought that buzz back.

There are novice, sprint and standard races at most of the events, and this tends to generate a friendly atmosphere as competitors prepare their machines and themselves ready to race.

The Stockton Duathlon was a road event and many competitors were riding their hybrid and mountain bikes, so you don’t have to buy an expensive road bikes to compete.  There are some off road Duathlons which have yet to be sampled by Peter and myself.

Peter Persico has a lot to answer for, for introducing me to the Duathlon and getting me back on my bike!

During the cycle section of the sprint distance

Peter Leach

Of his experience in the standard distance, Peter Persico writes:

One of the run sections [Photo courtesy of DTImaging]

This would be my fourth duathlon, and the second time I had undertaken the Stockton standard distance duathlon, having done it in 2013, which was the inaugural event and my first ever duathlon. Leading up to this event, I’d still been experiencing weakened ankles, but there was never any doubt of me going to take part. The start time for the standard distance was 1300h, with registration from 1030, so I had the opportunity to get a little extra sleep that morning. Travelling up to Stockton was fairly uneventful and, once there, I took in the atmosphere and had some lunch after putting my bike in the transition area. This year, I’d learnt from the previous year, and pumped up my tyres sufficiently, as well as oiled/lubricated the chain, cassette, and derailleur. Peter Leach had been taking part in the sprint distance for the second time, and I had the opportunity to watch him run into the finish to complete the distance. He didn’t actually see me until after he had cleared the finish area because his face seemed to have a stern and concentrated disposition. He managed to approach a photographer just before I was due to go to the start line in order to take a photo of us together, a man called Denny of DTImaging. This photographer also managed to capture a picture of me during one of the run segments of the standard distance. It had been raining a few hours earlier, but seemed to have dried as my start time approached. It was a good atmosphere in the starting area, and it was great to speak with others at that point about a variety of related issues. I have to admit that I’d been slightly nervous that morning about the whole thing, and this was most likely due to having had dodgy ankles for a few weeks, meaning I was somewhat worried about my performance. Then, the horn sounded, and we were off!

Run 1

The first run consisted of 2 x 5km laps, making a total of 10km [6.2 miles]. The route started by the transition area on the riverside, and took us round the river bank, over the Tees Barrage footbridge and the Millennium bridge, taking in the riberside walkways on the University side of the river. I did try to keep a regular pace during this run instead of doing what I have in the past, which is start off too fast. There were various places where people were watching the event, but also other areas where there were no other people, and it was quiet and relaxing. For the first 7km, I seemed to go pretty well, but then I began to notice my ankles getting weaker and not being able to keep me going at the same pace. All I could think was to make it to the transition area because then I’d have the opportunity to cycle and allow my ankle to get some sort of rest before the final run. Those last 3km were quite tough. Coming into the transition area, I tried to move as quickly as possible, putting on my helmet and cycling shoes, and getting to the mount line. My total time for this run was, unfortunately, slower than the previous year, but quicker than I’d done recent 10km runs, so perhaps not all bad considering I had more to do.


The cycle portion of the standard distance duathlon was 40km [24.85 miles], and meant cycling 6 laps on closed roads. The cycle course was on a fully closed road circuit around the riverside and University, and it contained some ascents and descents, as well as several twists and turns to make it all the more interesting. Shortly after starting the cycle part, the rain began to fall making some of these sharper turns a little treacherous. Despite what some might call my apparent fondness of falling, I managed to stay on the bike, but I did notice a few people on the floor in places being tended to by first aid personnel. This means, I have no new cuts or scrapes to show. The headwind made some of the open stretches that bit more challenging, and it would have been nice to be able to draft other cyclists at times, but with both static and mobile marshals keeping watch, it was best to avoid this action. Indeed, some people ended up being disqualified for several drafting infractions. I was glad when I noted the approaching transition area on my final lap where I could leave my bike and embark on the final run. I’ve not yet practiced the skill of taking my feet out of my cycling shoes whilst still on the bike so that I can move through and out of transition at a quicker pace, like some of you may have seen people do in triathlons. This means I still get off my bike and run with the cycling shoes on my feet. Up to this duathlon, I was using mountain bike cycling shoes that would be classed as “walkable” because the clips are within the sole rather than stuck out from the sole. I had figured that this would make transitioning easier and quicker; however, this comes at a price because the shoe is much heavier and less firm, resulting in reduced power. Happily, my cycle time for this distance was a faster than the previous year.

Run 2

The final run portion was 1 lap of the route for the first run, which made it 5km [3.1 miles]. I had hoped that the cycling would have given my ankles some time to rest and recuperate so that I could run this last part at a decent pace. In actual fact, the final run was a bit rubbish, and in the last 1.5km, I began to struggle enough that my time was not as good as it had been the previous year. There were still people out on the course watching, and I had a clear enough gap that no one came close to overtaking me on this run. I was also glad that no one said, “You’re almost there” during the run because, having run 2 laps beforehand, I was well aware of exactly how far I had to go at any point. Crossing the line, there was no photographer in sight, which might be a good thing because I really don’t know how I looked, but I did grab my chocolate bar. I chose a snickers bar because at the time I thought that since it contained nuts, it would be a healthy option following this amount of exertion, so perhaps I wasn’t really thinking straight.


Overall, my time was quicker than in 2013, despite the run portions not being as good, so I was still a little happy. There are a few things I will try to develop before the next duathlon, which includes working on transitioning quicker, as well as managing my nutrition and hydration a little better. Looking back, I’m still glad I did this duathlon, and would still recommend them to others. There were plenty of people watching and cheering, which is always helpful and adds to the experience. At the time of writing, there was only one photo of me during one of the runs [see above]. I am hoping that I may have been captured on camera at other points, and that they will appear in due course, if only because I want to see what I actually look like at different points. I hope others will consider partaking in these interesting and inclusive events, and if anyone wants more information, I’m sure one of us will be happy to talk you into taking part!

Peter Persico

 May 10, 2014  Posted by at 4:27 pm race reports No Responses »
May 072014

Sunday 4th May 2014

By Martin Browne


I am not the right person to write this.  I really am not.  Why?  Because in the great running dichotomy between hard grey tarmacadam or wet, brown mud, I lean decidedly towards the hard stuff.  Actually I more than lean, I lie firmly down upon it.  I am a road runner (baby). Cut me and I bleed blacktop.  Running for me is about the rhythm, the even pace, the zoning out and tuning in; the eyes on the horizon.  Whereas it seems to me that off-road is a never ending, series of millisecond micro-decisions weighing up every single step, eyes fixed permanently on the ground.  It’s stop start, up down, over stiles and under branches (6ft 2 is not a good height for trail runners). It’s an opportunity for the fleet-footed and nimble, the graceful and agile to remind me how heavy, clumsy and lumpen I am.  And okay, there’s all that pretty countryside to run through, but I never see the views, because there’s no opportunity to look up because every step is a potential death trap, what with rocks and roots and holes all vying for your attention and tempting your toes to tripping.  In a nutshell, it’s stressful, not relaxing and I want my running to reduce my stress not add to it.

So what I can say about the Bluebell Trail?  Well it’s a trail. A long one.  10.3 miles to be exact although exact is what we road runners obsess about.  And there were bluebells. Loads of them.  However they were all in the last mile, which meant 9 miles of  relentless slog for one mile of beauty.  It has a hill to beat all hills, a sheer climb that takes you to Mile 4 and the first of many summits.  There is a view from the top of Beacon Hill (it’s a hill and it has a beacon, so you can see what they did there when they named it) over Halifax.  Halifax unfortunately is not worth viewing over, but there’s not much can be done about that.  And a river runs through it, but unfortunately for the ladies Brad Pitt doesn’t.  By which I mean, there is a river crossing right at the end, which despite the opportunity for maximum humiliation, was actually the bit I liked the most.

Like an ill-matched couple, Bluebell and me were never going to work out. It’s not her, it’s me.  Plenty of others will wax lyrical about her charms, but they left me cold. Her chaperones, the Stainland Lions were faultless; cheerful, encouraging, well-organised.  One was dressed as a bear in the woods and what’s not to like about a bear in the woods (and before you ask, I have no idea if he did)?  The goody bag included a Lion Bar.  That’s a good thing in my book and almost makes the whole sorry experience acceptable…almost.  I can guarantee me and Bluebell will never go on a date again, but she has so many admirers she won’t miss a curmudgeonly misanthrope like me.

If you have read this and none of it chimes with you, then you should definitely run it.  From the smiles around me on Sunday, I can guarantee you will love it.  If on the other hand, like me you are hardtop and proud, then steer clear .

Position Name Time Category Cat position Club
1 Andi Jones 1:00.09 M 1 Stockport Harriers
2 Matt Hallam 1:07.52 M 2 Abbey Runners
23 Duncan Clark 1:16.16 M50 2 Abbey Runners
29 Nicky Green 1:17.15 F40 1 Ilkley Harriers
38 Robert Rank 1:19.28 M 20 Abbey Runners
48 John Halliwell 1:21.11 M50 6 Abbey Runners
88 Martin Jones 1:28.06 M40 12 Abbey Runners
117 John Ward 1:32.06 M60 7 Abbey Runners
120 Rob Jackson 1:32.17 M45 25 Abbey Runners
183 Hilary Tucker 1:38.21 F55 1 Abbey Runners
187 Dave Rayson 1:38.34 M45 36 Abbey Runners
216 Liz Casey 1:42.52 F50 5 Abbey Runners
219 Stella Cross 1:43.12 F55 2 Abbey Runners
253 Martin Browne 1:47.28 M50 32 Abbey Runners
260 Laurence Lennon 1:48.21 M50 35 Abbey Runners
288 Sue Speak 1:51.00 F55 5 Abbey Runners
301 Sheelagh Ratcliff 1:52.15 F50 10 Abbey Runners
310 Jasmine Salih 1:54.02 F40 19 Abbey Runners
313 Jane Hallam 1:54.16 F50 12 Abbey Runners
315 Liz Willis 1:54.19 F45 14 Abbey Runners
316 Katie Taylor 1:54.19 F 21 Abbey Runners
327 Lynn Taylor 1:56.10 F45 15 Abbey Runners
410 Amanda Rhodes 2:12.20 F40 30 Abbey Runners


 May 7, 2014  Posted by at 3:43 pm race reports Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Apr 142014

Near the finish [0828_71730]Finish 3 [0828_49435]

By Peter Persico

After reading the most excellent reports already written, I thought I’d briefly write of my reflections on the Manchester marathon, which would also be my first marathon.

My physical state in the weeks leading up to the marathon was not good. This was due to external factors that caused muscle cramps and muscle pain. I will not go into the details here, but this was perhaps then made somewhat worse due to me trying to continue with training. As a fan of doing ridiculous things and, despite some people actually recommending that I don’t actually run the marathon, I chose to go ahead and leave doubt at the start line. Besides which, I had paid to enter and wanted the t-shirt! On waking that morning, I didn’t feel too bad, and thought that I may be able to pull this off in a decent time. I had planned to start out with Dave Rayson and Laurence Lennon with whom I had done many runs, and thought that I may still be able to manage this at least for most of the marathon. However, after a few miles from the start, I realised that I’d need to slow down a little because my ankles were not as stable and strong as I’d need them to be to keep up the initial pace. I reluctantly drew back and settled into my own run.

When I got to the 10km mark, I thought I was going pretty well, but then a little after 7 miles, things started to deteriorate a bit more – one of my ankles became more problematic, and I no longer felt that it was supporting my weight as it needed to do to keep me moving at the speed I had been running. As a result, I slowed a bit more, but also varied my speed, going a bit faster when I could, but then slowing down more at certain points to allow my ankle time to take a break. I decided that I would keep moving forward though. Between the half-way point and mile 20, I think were the hardest part for me at least. I remember catching up to a Wetherby runner at about mile 15 or so and speaking to her for a little bit whilst moving forward. This was her 8th marathon, but she too, had an on-going foot problem and so was intermittently walking. We also talked briefly about multi-sport events since I had done a few duathlons and she had taken part in a few triathlons. After this pleasant interlude, I carried on forwards during this more difficult patch.

At mile 20, there was a fire engine. When I saw this, I thought that they might be spraying water at people, but it turned out that bubbles were being produced instead. I suppose it may have been a bit bad for them to be using water since Sheffield didn’t have any for their half-marathon run! At this point, they said “Keep going, only 6 more miles left”. I’d generally kept my mind focused on where I was in the marathon, not thinking about how far I’d come or how far I’d left to go. However, when I heard this, I thought that I’d give an extra push. I know I’ve heard it said a few times that the marathon begins at mile 20, but at this point, despite the dodgy ankles, I felt I could push a little bit more whilst I varied my speed, and still keep my mind on where I was at the time. From early on in the marathon, I had passed people walking, but from mile 20, there were considerably more people walking that I managed to pass, and some stopping to stretch or just to rest. Each time I passed someone either walking or having stopped, I thought, “I’m doing better than that one”. I admit, it’s perhaps not the nicest thought to have, but at the time it reminded me of an ex-soldier I met through work several years ago. He had entered the Berlin marathon with some others and they had been out drinking the night before. He said that each time they passed other runners that had either stopped or collapsed, he had the thought that he was doing better than them. I have to say also that whilst keeping my mind focused on where I was at the time, it was great to hear people shouting words of encouragement, especially using my name since that was on the race number. This gave an extra boost and helped keep me moving a bit quicker than I might have done. When I realised that the end was close, I decided to try and push it a bit more so that at the very least I’d get some good photos out of the marathon despite the slower time. The photos above I hope show that I was able to get some good photos and give a bit of a push at the end. After crossing the line, one of my first thoughts was slight annoyance that I’d been slower that I wanted and not quite quick enough at the end to get even a slightly better time. This was then followed by the thought that I’d do this marathon again next year and do it properly, do more longer runs, and avoid any external factors that would affect me. I would also definitely recommend this marathon to others. In fact, when speaking to one of the guys at cycle-clothing.co.uk the following day in their shop [they produced the Abbey cycling top], he said I’d convinced him to do a marathon next year, and he hasn’t been running for several months and has only run 5km – bonus!

Below are other sayings and quotes that went through my mind at various points during the marathon. I am pleased though that at no point did I entertain pulling out of the marathon!

  • “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” [Winston Churchill]
  • “Pain is temporary. It may last for a minute or an hour or a day, or even a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take it’s place. If I quit, however, it will last forever.”
  • “He who says he can and he who says he can’t are both usually right.”
  • “Don’t cry to quit. You’re already in pain, you’re already hurt, get a reward from it.” [Eric Thomas]
 April 14, 2014  Posted by at 11:10 am race reports Tagged with: ,  1 Response »
Apr 082014
Ali - Manchester 2014

Ali – Manchester 2014

Two firsts for me this week. My first marathon, and my first race report for Abbey. Not sure which will be more successful…you decide.

So, on Sunday, I, along with 11 other Abbeys including my other half Mike, took part in the Greater Manchester Marathon, the so-called fastest, flattest, friendliest marathon in the UK. Since joining Abbey 3 or so years ago, I had heard constant stories of marathon agony and ecstasy (but mainly agony) and had been increasingly filled with respect for my new club mates’ feats of endurance and superhuman achievement. It slowly dawned on me that those I thought were Greek gods and goddesses were in fact, despite appearances, mere mortals too, and decided that I couldn’t truly call myself a runner unless I had undergone the same rite of passage and attempted similar feats.

So, my destiny was sealed. After a couple of false starts, the date and venue was set – Manchester, 6 April 2014. Little did I know beforehand how running a marathon takes over so many of your waking moments and quite a number of your non waking moments too. How far is long enough for your longest run? How could you expect to run 26.2 miles in a race if you had only run 20 or 22 miles in training? What was the wall, how would I know if I hit it and would I be able to run through it or was that game over? What was “race pace” and how did I know how fast to train? How was I supposed to have a life alongside training? Should I carb load, and if so, how much was too much? What was a good “fuelling strategy” and how would I carry my gels during the race (bringing a new interpretation to the term “gel implants”)? Did good tapering include running a cross country relay two weeks beforehand? The questions were endless. It was at times like this though I appreciated the words of wisdom supplied to me by those very same Greek gods and goddesses (“If you are running into the wind, make sure you tuck in behind someone big” (Peter Leach), or “Don’t worry about a time, just enjoy it” (Hetta, although I have to say the inner competitor in me couldn’t quite bring myself to follow that one to the letter), “Half a mars bar just before and you’ll be fine” (Duncan), “Ignore Mike and run your own race” (just about everyone) – well, I try to make that my general approach to life anyway so no issues there!)

Anyway, all that good advice led me to the starting line at 9am on Sunday, in a slightly muggy and overcast Manchester, but dry. I had been pretty well glued to the BBC Weather forecast for the last 5 days, watching the picture deteriorate from “sunshine and showers” to “heavy showers” to “wet and windy” so I had resigned myself to the worst but was pleasantly surprised. We had stayed over the night before and were very grateful for that when Martin Jones pitched up looking more than a little hassled, having been turned away from his pre booked car park and having had to find somewhere else (I thought when he said he had been via Eccles he had gone for a last minute bit of carb loading, and was starting to worry I had missed a trick!).

Nerves were hitting as I stood on the start line. Having ignored the sage advice of Hetta about not going for a time I stationed myself near the 3.45 pacing group (but well away from Mike, I was sensible enough to follow that piece of advice to the letter), with a grand race plan of “stick as close to these guys as possible and just hang on” and a backup plan of “don’t get overtaken by the guy on the pogo stick”. And we were off.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m an accountant. I don’t tell many people that as it tends to mean I don’t make many friends. It also means I’m very boring and tend to stick to the rules. And I ran like a true accountant – even splits virtually from start to finish (with the first half only 1 minute faster than the second half), pre decided fuelling strategy (until my brain gave out after about 24 miles that is), stick to the 3.45 group. And, 3 hours 43 minutes and 43 seconds later, I found myself at the finish. Easy.

Of course, there was much more to it than that. I quite like big events, and there were about 8,000 or so taking part in this one. The atmosphere was amazing – there were very few bits of the route without spectators, I think most of the sweet emporiums of the North West must have sold out of Jelly Babies with the amount that were being handed out by the crowd en route. Some friends of ours had travelled up from St Albans to commemorate the occasion and provided much-enjoyed support at 9 and 16 miles, and much-needed support at 24 miles. I caught the occasional glimpse of a fellow Abbey amongst the competitors which was enough to keep the motivation strong, and by 18 miles I still felt amazing. Clearly I had followed the right advice on carb loading and tapering (thanks, Greek gods and goddesses). I was beginning to think that marathons were all a conspiracy by runners to make it seem as though they were tough, and that really they were a walk in the park. Hmm. I now understand what they mean when they say the marathon begins at 20 miles. It is amazing how quickly you go from feeling on top of the world to adopting a running style more like Simon Pegg in ”Run Fat Boy Run” (albeit without the hot pants). Luckily just at that point I was with the 3.45 pacing group so I was able to just focus on not letting them get away. By the time they did manage to pull a few metres away from me, I was well over the 24 mile point and was, as they say, “digging in” (which I believe is the short way of saying “hauling my sorry self along, millimetre by millimetre, looking like the living dead”). Yet again the support of the crowd was fantastic, the amount of unknown spectators, who, obviously seeing the harrowed look on my face (and my name on my race number) shouted “Come on Alison, you can do it” warmed the heart and gave that little boost of energy to the legs.

Eventually we turned the corner into Sir Matt Busby Way and saw the finish line in sight. I bounded gracefully the last few metres with the air of a freed gazelle (or at least that’s how it will live forever in my memory, and I’ll be destroying any evidence that suggests otherwise) until, at last, I crossed the line. I had to have serious words with my legs to get them to stop moving and believe the race was over, but stop they did and I made it through to the “recovery zone” where I was gradually reunited with my fellow Abbeys, in various states of delirium and depression. We dissected the race and shared our highs and lows, our PBs and PWs, our chafes and strains, aches and pains – in short, did all the things that makes being part of a club so great in these situations.

I never knew any hobby could be so painful. How long till I can do the next one…..?

 April 8, 2014  Posted by at 7:04 pm race reports 1 Response »
Apr 072014

The Abbey Dozen by Lynn Taylor

In the end the rain held off until most of us had crossed the line and the conditions were about as good as they get for marathon running, although perhaps a little warm for those acclimatised to long run training through the winter.

As a test of the Abbey team efficiency we failed at the first logistical hurdle, all of us being in the right place at the right time for a group photo, hence those who are Facebook fans will note there are some missing faces from the group shot.

abbey at mcr2014

Nevertheless we all made it to the start line settled into our respective pens. For a race that is fairly new on the calendar the Manchester Marathon has grown steadily and now attracts 10,000 odd entries. I’m not sure how many actually raced on the day as we’re still waiting for a full list of results to be published.  From the green pen, where I was stationed with Peter, Laurence and Dave, making up the back four, it took almost five minutes from the gun time to crossing the chip timing mats.

The race is advertised as flat and fast and it was pretty flat – the fast I guess depends on your legs and your stamina.  The route takes you from Old Trafford (where some football team is based apparently) out through Sale and Timperley to Altrincham and back to finish just outside the stadium.  For large parts of the route you can see the rest of the field running past in the opposite direction which provides an opportunity to cheer on your fellow club runners or to keep an eye on where the competition is.

The local support is great, lots of spectators offering cheers and various treats to aid you on your way.  At several points there were musical interludes to distract you from the monotony and the pain.  There were plenty of drinks stations which offered water in handy little pouches – the first time I have come across these and I thought they were really good, much better than cups and bottles.  There were timing mats at 10K, 10 mile, half marathon and 20 mile points, although I missed any race clocks along the way if they were there.  I also missed a lot of the mile markers as I’m not used to these being in white rather than yellow and they just didn’t stand out – also I may have been looking down in dropped head mode for much of the race.

In terms of organisation, as always the marshals along the route were great, the baggage store was a bit haphazard with some people waiting ages to collect their bags and others being served immediately, no seating in the changing area (which presented a challenge almost as hard as the race itself!) and, as always, long toilet queues at the start furthering those pre-race nerves.  All in all I would recommend the race for those wanting a good marathon time and not wanting to travel too far from home.

And how did the Abbey team equip themselves. Well some excellent performances from first timers and from some of the more experienced in our midst.  Some people had a good day some people have had better days, but in all it was a great team effort.

Our chip times in finishing order were:

Martin Jones 3:29:11
Mike Smith 3:41:09
Gary Brownbridge 3:43:30
Alison Smith 3:43:45
Jane Hallam 3:47:03
Martin Browne 3:56:18
Amanda McNaboe 3:56:34
Bev Benjamin 3:59:58
Lynn Taylor 4:09:52
Dave Rayson 4:11:46
Laurence Lennon 4:27:10
Peter Persico 5:05:44
 April 7, 2014  Posted by at 5:34 pm race reports Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Mar 272014
The 1st official outing of the New Abbey Runners cycling top [a.k.a. Abbey Riders]

The 1st official outing of the New Abbey Runners cycling top [a.k.a. Abbey Riders]

Wake up time of 0400! Some may think that this isn’t necessarily a problem, others may think that at this time one should still be sleeping, and some may fall in-between these 2 views. Whatever my or your view on this matter, that was the time I had to wake up and, somewhat to my surprise, I didn’t feel too bad; perhaps this was due to my brain not yet realising what was happening! I’d generally prepared everything the night before, so after a decent breakfast I loaded the car and set off. Part of the reason for getting up so early was so that I could register that morning from 0730 rather than going up the day before and then leave the necessary items in the transition area before 0900. Having a poor performance the week before in a 10k run due to painful and cramping muscles that started a week earlier, I was hoping that my legs would have recovered enough, but I was still slightly nervous about this issue.

Stokesley is a small market town near Middlesbrough that had set up the transition area and start/finish area by the town hall. There was music playing and plenty of onlookers about for a Sunday morning. All those taking part appeared to be busying themselves with preparation, including the all-important bathroom stop. Whilst standing in the starting area, I was shivering whenever the wind stepped up, but figured I’d eventually warm up. This event was the first official outing of the new Abbey Runners cycling top [a.k.a. Abbey Riders], which can be seen in the photo above. It is quite snazzy, and I hoped it made me look as if I knew what I was doing.

Run 1

The first run was a simple out-and-back 5km course. The route went briefly along the small riverbank before heading out to the industrial estate where the turn-around point was stationed. I set off amongst the crowd and seemed to be going quite well. At one point I glanced down at my watch and noticed the time, and thought I better slow it down just a bit. Maybe I should have just run rather than have some concern about my pace so early on, and I am trying, but I also didn’t want to blow it following my previous muscle difficulties. Whilst out on this run, I encountered some people wearing Valley Striders tops, and we exchanged a few words; I’d seen at least 6 of them at the start. The run was generally uneventful and quiet. There were a few people out walking and a few cars passing by, but since it was near the industrial estate, there wasn’t much going on and not much scenery unless you count the many varied garb of other runners. Coming back into the transition area, the noise was louder and it was time to focus intently in order to transition as effectively as possible. This aspect is something that I’ve not really practised, but in my mind, I knew what I had to do, that is, quickly switch from running gear to cycling gear and crack on! My time in transition 1 was quicker than the previous 2 duathlons that I have completed. My run time was only slightly slower than my quickest time in a parkrun in the last quarter of 2013, so that made me quite pleased, especially since I had to cycle and then run again, and because I still felt strong.


The cycle route was 30km on open roads. Although I’ve cycled a lot on open roads, both the duathlons I’d entered previously were not on open roads; Stockton had closed roads, and Oulton Park was round a race track. This meant I would need a broader focus. The cycle route left the town along the High Street and headed out to Hutton Rudby, with a nice drop and then a short, sharp climb to get into the village green in Hutton Ridby.  The route had several fast descents and sharp climbs. During the safety briefing, we were told to be careful on the descent into the village because at the bottom of the hill on the corner where we turned was a church and it was a Sunday morning. Apparently, some cyclists in the past have collided with church-goers despite there being plenty of signs up stating that a cycling event was taking place! At the end of the village, the route headed out towards Potto and onto more hills; the scenery was quite good though! We continued until we joined the A172, which did not have a slip road, but did have fast moving traffic. After 3 miles, there was a left incline junction leading back into Stokesley. On the first lap, we had to turn at this point before starting the 2nd lap. On the 2nd lap, I began thinking that I know exactly what is coming up – those hills. Instead of turning off as we did on the 1st lap, we were to continue straight on along the A172 for a further mile or so before turning into Stokesley at the roundabout and into T2. I’d bought some aerobars for my bike to also help make me look like I knew what I was doing, and also because it does help with aerodynamics. I did enjoy using them on the descents and the long stretch of A172, although I was a bit wary using them on some of the descents. During the cycle ride, there was a chronic headwind, which made the cycling that bit harder. If there was any tailwind, I didn’t notice. Despite this, I think I had a pretty good cycle except for one point after a descent, there was an incline, and I shifted the wrong gear lever a few times in quick succession before realising my mistake! I managed to pass quite a number of other people, especially on the uphill sections and on some of the flatter bits. Going along the main road did make passing other cyclist more challenging. The rules of drafting and overtaking say you can enter the drafting zone of 7m and then have 15 seconds to make a pass, otherwise you have to drop back. If you are caught drafting, there are severe penalties, which include time penalties and disqualification. Trying to pass people whilst avoiding traffic coming from behind you was definitely a challenge. During the whole cycle route, I didn’t actually take a drink; I was worried about falling off or crashing. However, I didn’t particularly feel I needed to consume water. Some people had been more creative, and strapped a water bottle to their aerobars and had a straw angled up so they could sip water. This seemed a good idea, but I wonder if some of the water bottles I saw on the route belonged to these people having fallen off. Thankfully, as I was coming back into Stokesley, I managed to time my pace to miss the red light at the pelican crossing; another cyclist wasn’t able to do so and had to stop. The photo below shows me coming into T2 having just dismounted. I was not looking at the camera, but was more focused on my time and efficiency, at least that’s what I think/hope I was doing.

Arriving into T2

Arriving into T2

 Run 2

Charging out of T2

Charging out of T2

The 2nd run was the same as the first, that is an out-and-back 5km run. Prior to leaving T2, I did have a very quick drink of my water. I’ve not done any proper brick sessions for a while to help me transition from running to cycling and from cycling to running, but my training in the gym does include a lot of leg work that serves the same purpose, just more intensely and effectively. As a result, having racked my bike, taken off my helmet, and changed my footwear, I was able to run out of transition without any major difficulty. The photo above shows me charging out of T2. Again, I’m not looking at any cameras, but quickly checked the time because there was some running to be done. Shortly after this picture was taken, I realised I’d not turned the race number round to the front as you should, so I slowed whilst I began fiddling with this for a few seconds before speeding up once more. Unfortunately, at just after the turn-around point, my muscles began to hurt. I was annoyed by this, but glad that they had not gone off earlier in the event. My muscles are still recovering, but weren’t quite there yet. Still, I managed to keep going and was only 3 minutes slower on the 2nd run than I was on the 1st run over the same course. I suppose this means I can’t overly berate myself for this little difference. Coming up to the finish line, I was focused on just one thing – getting across the line. The photo below shows me running towards the finish. I was subsequently told by a marshal that the photographer had tried to get me to smile and/or give a thumbs-up as I got to the finish line. I didn’t even notice the photographer as I was approaching; like I said, I had only one thing on my mind, so I hope he wasn’t too annoyed or disappointed. Or perhaps I need to work on celebrating finishing and a suitable pose!

Finish line in sight

Finish line in sight

The End

Overall, I was pleased at the finish. This was my best performance out of the 3 duathlons that I have completed, and I did actually enjoy the event. Whilst in the transition area after finishing, I spoke with a few other people about the event. I do find it good that these events have a friendly atmosphere between entrants, not unlike the obstacle/mud runs that I have completed. The buzz you get from this and from crossing the finishing line are great, and it it amplified because of others there who are generally feeling the same way. The next duathlon I’ve entered is at the end of April, 3 weeks after the marathon, so I hope to enjoy that one as well.

Video footage

Just in case anyone is interested, I can be seen coming into the finish at 9 minutes 35 seconds of this video. I’m not running as smoothly as I could [or at least think I can], but like I said, by this point my muscles were causing me some discomfort.


 March 27, 2014  Posted by at 12:11 pm race reports Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »