Northern and National

Careful what you wish for…

Not long ago(well I say not long ago but it is actually quite a while ago because it has taken quite a while to get round to doing this)! I was blogging about how dry the xc season had been, I even had a tinge of disappointment over the lack of mud. Well, they say ‘be careful what you wish for’…

As well as the West Yorkshire league races, the Yorkshire XC at Lightwater Valley in January was also relatively dry, particularly compared to last year when I couldn’t feel my feet by the end of the race (a good job really as I’d been spiked ripping my shoe and injuring my foot). But things were about to change…

Northerns XC

Finally a cross country with lots of MUD!!!

A very early start to the day is always horrible, especially when you’re not racing until 1:20 but you have to be at spring hall by 8 for the coach.

After about 2h on the coach we arrived at Knowsley and I put all my layers on but they kept us back in the coach for about 15mins so I began to boil but I didn’t want to take any layers off as a thought we would be going out soon.

Having learnt a valuable lesson at the Northern XC at Blackburn last year, I made sure to stay warm and dry wrapped in my many layers of clothing – (Last year was bitterly cold with driving horizontal hail and biting winds. As I waited around for my race I’d become colder and colder until I was sat shivering curled up. Luckily my dad saved me from likely hypothermia by dragging me off to the car to try to warm me up.) So, maybe I’d gone overboard with base layer, Tshirt, sweatshirt, down jacket AND a waterproof, plus hat, gloves, scarf … (just joking but you get the point). I was taking no chances but soon began to boil as I waited to get off the coach.

Eventually we got off the coach and walked to the start area. I was pleased to see that the tents were close to the start line; I don’t really know why I like this, probably because you don’t have to  move around allot to watch races and go to your race.

After walking the course it didn’t seem muddy AT THAT POINT. Possibly because we didn’t walk the muddiest bit.

I watched my sister run and it still didn’t look too muddy but she appeared to be making an art out of running slowly; little did I realise that the mud meant she couldn’t help it! As more and more people ran it became muddier and muddier. By now the area where the tents were set up was becoming a mud bath.

I got ready and warmed up by doing drills and having a short jog and was already on the start line when they called the u15 boys. Despite there being no starting pens I got a decent position in the middle. I noticed that the top runners were down at the bottom end so they would be able to cut through if they had the pace. The problem with that is you have to get a fast start or else you end up getting cut off. We weren’t held for too long and the gun went off.

The start of the Northerns 

I got a decent start but mud was already splattering up my legs and face and clogging up my spikes. After the starting straight we started the main part of the course- the big bottom lap. It was a slight downhill but it was very very muddy and was hard to keep a good stride- I was slipping all over the place as I’m sure everybody else was. Thick heavy energy-sapping clay-mud stuck to my spikes so I felt like I was running in a pair of mud clogs, making every step I took take the effort of 50.

When we did our recce I was happy to find out that it was 1 big lap but as we missed some of it I didn’t realise how big it was going to be and underestimated how big the ‘big’ lap actually was. It was still muddy as we bent around the cause to come back up from the big loop. We followed the path round-more mud! The u15 boys were the 1st to go on the extra loop so that was comparatively dry. After that it was about a 200m sprint into the finish.

Mud has its advantages and disadvantages for us small folk: people say we can ‘glide across mud’; but we can’t because our feet are sliding everywhere, it’s very difficult to get into a good stride and thick mud like this drains away your energy. I found it a very tough course.

You know you’ve taken part in a proper XC if you get a “you’re not getting in my car with all that mud on” from your mum or dad and it takes hours to sort you out to a clean enough state to be allowed anywhere near the car and another few hours to sort out all the muddy gear when you get home- thanks mum and dad!

Nationals- more mud!!

The say Eskimos have different names for different types of snow, well I think cross country runners could say the same about mud!

The words ‘quagmire, swamp and mud soup’ spring to mind when I think about the national cross country race at Wollaton in Nottingham. The mud came as a surprise really as I ran at the same place last year for the English Schools XC and it had been very firm and dry. Not this time. It wasn’t muddy all the way around but the muddy sections , more like huge bogs we had to run through.

Where the mud at the Northerns was of an ultra-sticky clay variety this was of a different quality, it was watery and would splash all over you.

You can tell from looking at the pictures that we’d all had to wade through mud- check out the mud patterns and tide lines, we look like we’re wearing knee-high mud socks!

 

The u15 boys was the second race so I didn’t have very long to hang around. Which is a good thing as I didn’t have to be worrying about my race all day like last year. On the other hand it can be quite a rush after walking the course to get back and sorted. Once I got back to the gazebo I did the usual preparation and was waiting for my dad to get back from watching my sisters race to tie my laces (yes I can tie my laces but If they come undone I can blame someone else). We got to the gate where we were going to be let in to the tent before our race. After waiting in the tent for about 5 mins we were let out onto the start line. Our pen number wasn’t the best but it could have been worse.

I didn’t hear the gun go off at the start as the line was so long and I got a terrible start. As Starts are  key especially in big races like this so I was a bit frustrated and it affected my whole race. I wanted to get higher up as the 1st corner would be carnage if I didn’t. I tried my best to but I had lost so many places at the start. After turning the 1st corner it was a downhill back down to next to the finish and we looped back round.

The mud bath was so fun to run through. My dad told me to run nearest to the wall as it wasn’t deep. After going through the mud bath it was a long slope up to the hall and then back down where there were a few more things to jump over! There was another mud bath to run through towards the end which is were I mostly got muddy because I jumped in! After this it was a 300m sprint finish and into the finish line.

The final sprint to the finish!

A disappointing run as I came 29th in the Nationals last time and only just got in the top half but you can’t always have a good run…right? `

We all had the satisfaction of knowing, and more importantly having the evidence to prove, that we had taken part in a proper cross country race.

The Ups and Downs of XC

 

Cross country races are meant to be wet, cold, windy and boggy. Well not this season! It has mostly been quite sunny and warm this year, and pretty dry (even Keighley which has been a mud bath in past years)!

Wakefield-Thornes Park

This year I’ve moved into the under 15 age category where it seems I’m against lads who look to be in the wrong race- they wouldn’t look out of place in u17s or even men’s! They’re probably thinking the same about me, but that I should be in u13. It does feel good though when you beat someone who’s twice as tall as you, especially when they’re a year older. We arrived in good time so we could walk the course checking for things to avoid- like HOLES in the ground (my foot got stuck in one last year and I fell over!)

I made the usual preparations: warm up-gel-start line. It was the first XC of the season and I felt a top 15 finish would be a decent result as I was a year young. They kept us waiting on the start line like they ALWAYS do even though they could set us off and we wouldn’t catch the girls up. I guess they just like to keep us waiting and freezing on the start line in our vests and short shorts!

Eventually it was time to set off. A fast start is always crucial especially in XC. After a fast start everyone settles into a fairly even pace for the rest of the race- so your position after that initial burst doesn’t seem to change a huge amount by the end. I realised about half way up the hill that I should have tried to stay with the ‘pack’ at the front.  After pushing and trying to catch the group, I realised I was never going to bridge the gap now. Somebody had fallen away from the leading pack by the last 1km so I overtook him and gained an extra place. I increased my pace to try and catch another runner. In the last 200m I always seem to have the energy to put on a sprint into the finish- must be something to do with knowing it’s nearly over and done.

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Wakefield has always being a tough course from the 1st time I ran 1 small lap as an U11 to u15 where I did 2 large laps. My mum had counted me into the finish and said I came 14th– a decent result for the 1st XC of the season.

Leeds-Nunroyd Park

After a decent race at Wakefield, I was hoping for a similar result or better. In the last few years Nunroyd has been the last race of the league and a deciding race for the overall standings- Keighley would hold that honour this year.

We got there in good time to make sure we could walk the course and warm up before my race. We walked the course and I was unhappy to discover that there were lots of gravelly paths to cross- not great in spikes!

My races this year have set off around lunchtime which is a real problem for eating! If I eat too close to the race I end up with a stitch- not helpful at all- but if I don’t eat I feel hungry and lack energy. This is why I often have an energy gel- gives me the energy to run without the stitch. I also try to make sure I keep topped up with fluid as I get thirsty and dry-mouthed while I’m running otherwise.

Eventually we were called to the start but they delayed the u15 girls a lot meaning we had to wait around for longer. Even when we were called on to the start line there was more waiting. I think I’m getting used to this waiting business! After the last race I realised that to do better I needed to try to stay close to the leading pack and try to pick people off…

Eventually the gun went off… I wanted a good start but it was tricky as everybody was cutting in. My teammate Max set a flying pace but it wasn’t going to stop me staying with the pack. All I had to do now was to pick off the people in front of me. Everybody you try to pass after the start will try to stop you, giving you a battle which will tire you out. I kept on working and tried to pick people off on the hills. As I ended my first lap I overtook somebody who’d beaten me in the last race. We were working at similar paces and were both trying to outpace each other. I knew we were both good finishers but I could tell that he was tiring and wouldn’t have the best sprint on him. I managed to break away from him before the finish.

My mum counted me into the finish in 11th. I was pleased with that result- an improvement on the last race.

Spenborough

After a very pleasing result in the last race I was hoping for a similar result at this XC. Last year it was not in the WYXCL so not many people had taken part and I came 1st in the u13 category. This year it was part of the WYXCL and much busier.

You’ve probably noticed I’ve got a routine by now! Get there-walk the course-get ready-race. I won’t bore you going over the same thing over and over again so I’ll jump straight to the start of the race…

I hadn’t managed to warm up properly this time because surprisingly they were running ahead of schedule. So it wasn’t a very nice surprise when they called u15 boys to the start as I wasn’t really ready.

Another crowded start line…you can imagine what it was like: 50 teenage lads all packed together raring to go- like hounds ready to be released for the hunt.

When the gun went off I got out quite fast and managed not to get cut off much-  this is where being small is a disadvantage and I usually get blocked by taller lads. The course was very muddy in some parts, especially on the bottom straight. I could tell about half way round my first lap that this race wasn’t a very good one. People I beat last time were in front of me and I felt most of the way round that I couldn’t get my legs working properly. I didn’t want anybody else to get past me as I was already doing badly. I eventually came along the bottom straight of the next lap. It was harder than usual to sprint as it was very boggy.

When I’d finished, ‘the bearer of good or bad news’ (my mum), said I’d come 16th. I was disappointed although it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Keighley-

This season Keighley was the final race of the league and would be a decider for team and individual standings. If we had a good team position in this race we would get the bronze overall. I also wanted to come back stronger this time as I was disappointed with my last result but of course I got a cough 2 days before the race. Keighley XC is always muddy but although it was also muddy this year it was nowhere near as bad as last year. There is a downhill section which also slopes away sideways and is usually very muddy- guess who fell last year… ME!

I was keen to stay upright this year as it wasn’t as muddy after walking the course. I managed to warm up properly then jogged up and down on the spot to stay warm. When the u15 boys were called to the start I managed to get a good place on the line and wasn’t going to let anybody change that until one of the coaches wanted a team photo- great timing! Surprisingly we managed to get back to our positions- we were all crammed up on the line…no place to move at all.

The gun eventually went off and I got a decent start. Everyone you try to pass after that will give you a battle making you very tired. There is a big hill on the course and I definitely wanted to save some energy for it to try and pass some people.

Once I reached the hill I was in about 11th place and 10th and 9th were in sight- I could catch them if I worked hard for it. I pushed up the hill and strode back down. There was a steep hump to get over. After this it was round for another lap and through the finish. I tried a sprint finish but with having a cold my chest was already burning.

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Usually we don’t hang around after my sister’s race but it was the last league race and there were presentations at the end. It took a while for some reason but eventually, after a long wait, the results were in! I’d finished in 9th place for the race-my best position this season and with a cough too! Hopefully I can improve on this in the league next year. We were also pleased to hear the Halifax Harriers team managed to get the bronze team medal.

Overall the XC league this season had its ups and downs but at least I wasn’t down on the floor at any point and the season isn’t over yet- I still have more XC races to run…
Photo credit-Woodentops,thanks for the pics !

FORMBY & FELL

From the sands of Formby to the fells of Sedbergh: The Toughest race so far after a training day out

24th September 2016-Formby

Formby is a Halifax Harriers training day out which happens once a year. I did it 2 years ago but missed out last year because of the schools fell race. We train on sand dunes and do various other things to increase our stamina. And of course it’s a good day out. So when the list went up at HH to put our names down for it I was keen to go. My mum questioned how sensible an idea it was considering the schools fell race was going to be the day after- of course I wasn’t forced to take part in that but I wanted to. I had a choice to make: Which would I enjoy most? Who would I be letting down if I missed 1 of the events?

DIFFICULT DECISIONS

Life is full of difficult decisions- especially when you’re 13 years old. What should I have for breakfast? What film should I watch? Which new running shoes should I get? Track or fell race? Enjoyable training run or save legs for race?

In involving myself in all things running, through Harriers, at school and at home I am ending up more and more having to make choices about what to get involved in- or rather what NOT to. If I could do everything I would, but unfortunately events clash, taking place at the same time on the same day or weekend.

Spending the day before the English Schools Fell Race training on the sand at Formby probably wouldn’t be the best way to prepare myself for it but I decided I didn’t want to miss out on the fun of spending the day with my Halifax Harriers friends enjoying the dunes; after all I run first and foremost because I enjoy it and at the end of the day that pleasure/fun/enjoyment comes before any desire to win. Of course I would like to give my best performance but sometimes sacrifices must be made. As I hadn’t really been doing the right training for fell racing, I knew I wouldn’t be able to compete to the best of my ability anyway.  So I decided to do both Formby and Fell.

And then a few days before the big weekend I caught a cold. GREAT!

KILL OR CURE

Suffering with boy flu, snotty, coughy, chesty, sneezy (not the names of some of the 7 dwarves but how I was feeling) I now had to decide whether to spend the weekend sand dune training then fell racing or to medicate and curl up in bed. Hoping that I had reached the peak of illness on Friday I decided to go for the first option. I would soon find out if it was a bad choice.

OFF TO FORMBY

Maybe a day sand dune training would help get rid of my cold and prepare my legs for the fell race- it never hurts to have a bit of optimism. It was an early start; up at 7:30 to get sorted and have breakfast. The coach set off from Spring Hall at about 8:30 and we arrived 2 hours later. Once we got there we all piled of the coach then it was a 10min walk to the beach. Having made it to the beach we were trying to find ‘our spot’ where we apparently make base every year. “It’s here” “No, it’s here” ”Not there” Eventually Brian said where it was and we dumped our bags. The older ones including me were told to run for 15mins and then run back. It was ok when we set off but we soon noticed that the wind was absolutely crushing us. Every 3 steps we took it felt like we moved 1 step. But at least on the way back it meant we would be running 3 times faster.

DANGER ZONE

We carried on running along the beach but didn’t realise we were running into a danger zone. There was a chemical plant in the distance. An army officer in a little hut thing announced it was a danger zone- I don’t think Brian expected us to go that far. My watch said 14min so we turned back and returned where we had dumped our bags.  It was so much more pleasant running with the wind behind our backs pushing us along rather than the wind blowing in our faces and pushing us back.

FORMBY(Continued)

When we got back there were fun relays going on- like hopping and speed walking. We made up a team of all ‘older ones’ so all the younger ones started complaining that it was unfair. Well maybe it was, especially as we won all the races by quite a lot. We were split up for the main relay running through the dunes and came 1st in one and 3rd in another.

After lunch we went over to a particularly steep dune. We had to run up it 3 times and then back down. The best part was jumping off a grassy ledge at the top back onto the dune and bombing back down. Quite a few people fell and tumbled the rest of the way- all great fun. After that we went to Southport and enjoyed ourselves on the rides.

formby
Jumping off the ledge

 

After all that sandy running and fun it was back on to the coach and home for a bath to ease my muscles then an early night ready for the fells. 

TO THE FELLS

The last 2 years the ESFRC (English Schools Fell Racing Championships) have been held locally to me at Calder High school but this year it was further afield in Sedbergh. So it was another early start to get breakfast then off on the journey up there. I was feeling tired and snotty but otherwise raring to go!

We set off in good time. I only had my dad to support me; not the usual 2-pronged-parent-team as, unfortunately for me, my younger brother had a Yorkshire gym competition in Leeds on the same day. The only fair thing was to have a parent each; well mum said it was fair, I still think they should have both supported me as last year they both missed the ESFRC as they took my brother to a gym comp in London.

When we arrived at Sedbergh we went to have a look at the course. Having looked at the map and route profile I realised it was going to be tough- 4.5km and 280m climb. As we recced some of it I realised just how steep it was. We didn’t recce it all but I was expecting the green section on the map to be similar to the rest, climb but ohhhhh no.

Back at the start it was soon ready to gather for my race. They got all 150 of us crammed up into the starting pen -not the best idea as there were 150 all raring to go. Starters being starters, they left us in there for about 10mins then said because we had broken it we had to get back onto the field…WELL WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?! Eventually we were ready to start- we would have already been at the top of the fell if they stuck to the time schedule but we seemed to be waiting forever until the last runner from the previous race returned… at 1 point I wondered if they’d got lost and worried that as a poor navigator that could be my fate too. I needn’t have worried as the course was fully marshalled- otherwise I could still be up there!

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The start

Finally we set off. A fast start was key because the road up to the fell wasn’t the widest. The climbing started right at the beginning and didn’t stop till about 1.5km on where there was a flat and a slight downhill. I tend to be stronger on the up so I tried to get the best position climbing then hold it on the descent.

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The climb(not the steepest part)

I approached the ‘green section’ of the route expecting the climb to ease. But no. I came out of the slim part and there it stood in front of me: a huge hill and not very nice surprise! Just as I thought (with relief) that I’d reached the top another very steep hill appeared. Great: even more climbing that I wasn’t expecting. I finally reached the top of that, then there was a final slight ascent and the rest was downhill.

Thank God!

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The descent

I didn’t want to go too fast as my legs were suffering hugely and felt like they might give in with a resulting ‘face plant’. I still went at what I thought was a decent pace. I got back onto the road about 2mins later and kicked and into the field for a final sprint through to the finish.

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The last 50m

I finished the race feeling absolutely shattered; my chest burned and my nose streamed. My friend’s dad said he thought I’d finished about 12th-when I saw the results later that evening I found out I was 14th. On a good day with more appropriate training in the build up fully fit and without sand dune legs I would have wanted to be in the top 10 but I was really pleased with 14th all things taken into consideration. And it was a 1 place improvement on last year. It was 1 of the toughest races I’ve done with relentless steep climbs and dodgy descents. My shoes performed well-Inov8 X Talon 212.they felt good and grippy… I didn’t think I’d like any shoes as much as my Salomons but these definitely felt as good if not better.

It was great to be back running in the fells- I miss the tough courses and gorgeous scenery.

 

Thanks to Woodentops for the fell pics!

Yorkshire Road Relays 2016

18/9/16

After a couple of weeks of steady training because of various niggles, it was the Yorkshire road relays. Well they called it a relay but in our age group it was actually just a race as we all set off at the same time and team points were totalled up at the end. We didn’t exactly run on roads either, more the paths round Thornes Park and a little section on the road through the park. So it should really have been called the ‘Yorkshire bit on the road but mostly on paths race not relay’; not so catchy but much more truthful!

Having arrived in good time and met up with the rest of the Halifax runners we walked the course but backwards (in reverse not actually walking backwards!!) for some reason which I think confused a few people. When we got back it was about 50mins till my race. To kill time we warmed up and drank plenty of fluids to stay hydrated as it was a warm day.

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Harry, me and Max

Our race was the 4th to set off, shortly after the u15 girls. As they were setting the u15 girls off we were being gathered up ready to get on the start line. There was a 5 min gap between the 2 races.

And soon enough we were on the start line.Sadly I haven’t experienced a growth spurt over the summer, whereas most of the other runners seem to have; as we lined up I realised I was one of the smallest boys in my category and it definitely felt like man v boy.

The start was 1 lap around the track but it wasn’t the best. I almost fell over due to people cutting in and trying to get to the inside lane. It was a very fast paced race and as we went out of the gate and up the hill it was already quite spread out.

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All crowded up on the start line!

The HH team was: me (at the young end of the age group), Max and Harry (both the older year). I wasn’t expecting to beat Max but was hoping that I could come higher up than Harry. Harry was just behind me for most of the race which helped with pushing each other on. I noticed that as I was getting closer to the finish I was also getting closer to Max. (My Dad told me later that Max seemed to be suffering from a stitch or something- I know how that feels!)

As I rounded the corner into the last 500m which would take me down the hill and back into the stadium my dad was yelling. Welcome support as I was feeling hot and tired and it spurred me on. Then I could hear my mum shouting at me but couldn’t work out where her voice was coming from; I suddenly realised she was behind the fence that ran around the athletics stadium, like a caged animal.

I didn’t end up catching Max. I had my usual sprint finish but the lack of training in the past weeks meant that it wasn’t as strong as I would have liked. I stopped my watch at just over 9 minutes for a 2650m course. Not too bad. Position-wise I was 18th (which I felt ok about until I realised I’d been beaten by people I normally beat), and was  2nd back for HH. I’d hoped I’d do a little better and considering a lot of those running will be in the up-coming cross country races, definitely something I need to keep in mind.

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Coming down the finishing straight

I cooled down with a frozen ‘blue drink’ that instantly stained my lips and tongue a fine shade of ‘Yorkshire flag’. Full of e-numbers, which are probably on a list of ‘banned substances’ somewhere- but at least it was sugar-free!!

I’ve not done this type of race before but really enjoyed it. It was good to be with my team again.  Having watched the older age groups race in proper relays it did look to add a different element of ‘fun’ to things, as people were coming in and out of the stadium at various points and had the incentive of making up ground that had been lost.

It had been very hot and sunny- too warm for me to enjoy running unfortunately. I’m looking forward to the cold, wet cross country season when you can’t feel your fingers and toes and maybe my petite size will also be an advantage when we’re running through thick mud- surely being small has to work in my favour at some point!

The Last Blast!

Saturday 2nd July 2016

I was back again for the 6th and final FRA English Junior Championships race (5th for me). All I needed to do that day was to come better than 21st to improve my position in the overall table. I hadn’t been training that much due to resting my niggling heel. But still felt I could do better than 21st if I was in the right mindset. It was also my mum’s birthday that day so I wanted to reward her with a good performance as she’d given up her birthday weekend for my fell running!

‘THE RACE WAS NEAR CHURCH STRETTON – APPARENTLY HOME OF THE BEST PIE SHOP, ACCORDING TO MY GRANDPARENTS. WELL I DIDN’T SAMPLE SO I CAN’T COMMENT ON THAT’.

The races were scheduled to take place from 1pm and as they usually run in age order I expected mine to be about 2 o’clock. We arrived in good time so we could recce the course and have plenty of time to prepare before the race. Collecting my race number, I soon discovered my race wasn’t until 3pm, so more hanging around would be necessary making me quite annoyed as I could have had an extra 45 mins in bed! The biggest issue with this later start was FOOD. I get nervous on race day and find it difficult to eat much until after my race. I’d managed a small amount of breakfast earlier but I knew I would now face constant pressure from my mum to eat something as I wasn’t running for a long while but as per usual she ‘convinced me’ to eat, well I say convinced but it was more like force feeding!

Luckily the weather was fine and sunny, although it was pretty windy, so at least we could enjoy the scenery and the wind would cool me down.

I walked the full course with my mum, dad and brother. Well actually my dad and walked the full u14 route and my mum and brother took a short cut on the u12 route- he’d moaned so much up until that point we couldn’t put up with him anymore! Try running it after walking it, I thought!

After what felt like 7 hours the clock finally reached 3pm. I was already warmed up and had stretched so all I had to do was to get on the start line. The race was delayed about 15mins due to waiting for all the u18 and u16s to finish. The starter was a bit moody…

‘IF YOU DON’T STEP BACK I’LL TAKE A RANDOM NUMBER AND THEY CAN HAVE A 15 SEC PENALTY

A bit tight if you ask me! I suppose he was as frustrated as we were about the delay and trying to control 40 under 14 very excitable fell runners all raring to go, probably wasn’t helping his mood.

Finally we were ready to go. I managed to get a good start as I normally try to do- if you don’t then it’s very hard to make up lost ground later on as the snails can hold you up so much!

IMG_0272Photo courtesy of Woodentops

I hadn’t been training very much due to a niggle in my heel, so I wasn’t expecting a top 10 result today. Anyway I pushed hard up the hills and relaxed back down the hills (the course was a lot of up and down).

I felt my endurance was lacking in the final kilometre and rather than pushing on and maybe gaining a couple of places I was only able to maintain a decent pace and hold off the people behind me.

IMG_0271Photo courtesy of Woodentops

I came 15th, putting me into 14th place in the English fell championship u14 category. A better final position than last year even though I moved up an age group this year; but at the start of the season I felt I could do well and maybe didn’t quite meet my expectations. Falling in the first race at Ambleside lost me a few places and knocked my confidence a bit for going downhill fast. I felt the Hawkswick race reflected my true potential and I backed that up with a decent race at Malham. Unfortunately with the fell races coinciding with track season I’ve struggled with a heel problem brought on, I think, by running on a hard track in my spikes. This heel problem has meant I’ve had to reduce some of my training and rest more than usual. A track event also meant I was unable to do the 4th English fell race- the Turner Uphill. Uphill running is one of my strengths so I would have hoped to do well in that race but that’s the way it goes. The 5th race was at Clougha Pike and again not my best performance- I was still struggling with my heel and also coming down with cold/cough which made breathing difficult!

IMG_0274Photo courtesy of Woodentops

Anyway the main thing is I’ve enjoyed a good series of fell championship races this year- enjoying some of the finest scenery and varied terrain that England has to offer and overall I was pleased with my result! Hopefully I’ll manage to fit some more fell races in before the cross country season starts- there’s something much more pleasant about muddy races in the Spring/Summer than muddy races in Autumn and bitter Winter.

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A tale of two fell races

The Coiners fell race is a very special event where my fell running journey began 2 years ago. To be honest, I never even knew the sport existed until a friend asked me if I fancied trying the race midway through the fell season. From the moment the starter’s horn went I was hooked. I didn’t do very well but still I loved every minute of it.

So 2 years later, May Bank Holiday 2016, I was back in Mytholmroyd for my 3rd Coiners Fell Race. This time I was running in the U14 category- where it can sometimes seem like boys vs men. Not an English Championship race this time so it didn’t attract as many runners, but I still wanted to do well and there were still faces I recognised from other races.

The race was different this year as all U10, U12, U14, U16 and U18 runners set off together in a very crowded start. The conditions were atrocious too- not the pleasant bank holiday sunshine I’d enjoyed for the last 2 years at this race.

“We won’t force you to carry a waterproof but I wouldn’t advise any under 14, 16 or 18 to go out in just a vest…”

‘WE WON’T FORCE YOU TO CARRY A WATERPROOF BUT I WOULDN’T ADVISE ANY UNDER 14, 16 OR 18’s TO GO OUT IN JUST A VEST…’ 

Blah, blah- it doesn’t even look that bad.

10 minutes later, up on the tops, rain lashing our faces and a bitter wind biting – ah, ok I see what he meant! Then I’m wading through marshy bog land which was supposed to be a moor. It wasn’t what I’d call a moor – no paths, just water, mud and bog.

I kept up a strong pace all the way round although it was hard work. With every step my foot was sucked deep into the mud as the wind tried to force me back down the hill. It was tough to keep a rhythm but I tried. Eventually I met up with a path which was still muddy but nowhere near as bad as the others. From here the rest of the race was down hill. Support came at just the right moment. First I saw my Dad who cheered me on and then ‘Sir’ (my teacher otherwise known as Ben Mounsey). “Go on Ewan keep it up – you’ve got this!” he shouted.

DSC_0446Pictured above: The final descent of the Coiners fell race (Woodentops)

He chased me down the hill and spurred me on. Then it was just a sprint, a leap over some rocks and into the finish. I shivered for what felt like ages until my mum found me and gave me my coat. I was thrilled to find out I’d come 3rd after such a soggy race!

DSC_0600Pictured above: The ‘Top 3’ at Coiners fell race (Woodentops)

Now to get all that mud washed out of everything….

Results | Photos

Less than a week later and for my next fell race the weather couldn’t have been more different. The forecast was for a ‘heat wave’ and they seemed to be right when I woke to warm, hazy sunshine. Now don’t get me wrong, it is nice to run in dry weather, but I do sometimes find the heat a bit of a problem. I suppose I shouldn’t complain, I do after all live in England and sunshine is a very rare treat!

We travelled up to Hawkswick in the morning for the second junior English Championship fell race of the season. It was also the Yorkshire Championship race for those of us lucky enough to be from England’s largest (and best!) county.

After a recce of the course and some essential hydration and fuel it was time for my race.

We were all crowded on the start line after a bit of ‘argy bargy’ in the pen. I managed to work my way to the front but not in the best place. I’d watched the start of the u12 race and reccied the route so I knew I needed a fast start due to the climb being up a thin path which would make passing people tricky. Elbows out- no one was going to push me out of the way. A brief wait then… GO!

THE FIRST 50M WAS A FULL ON BURST TO GET A DECENT POSITION FOR THE CLIMB, I DIDN’T WANT TO BE STUCK BEHIND ANY SNAILS!

The climb was long and tough, especially in the sunshine and warm temperature. The climb didn’t ease and neither did the heat. I passed my dad near the top of the climb and the temptation was to stop and ask him for a drink- NO, must keep running.

DSC_0156Pictured above: Working hard on the climb (Woodentops)

I kept a decent pace all the way up to the top. I reached a small stile and caught my breath as I hauled myself over it. Just a gradual climb next, but nowhere near as steep. After that, about 2km on the top, round the trig and back down. It was a speedy downhill to the finish with a few technical sections including a jump.

Pictured above: Flying down the final descent (Woodentops)

Then just a few holes in the ground to dodge and a lovely grassy downhill finish. I wanted to catch the person in front of me. I picked up the pace but it just wasn’t enough. It was close and I’m pleased to say I came 8th in England and 4th in Yorkshire!

Results | Photos

The 3rd and final and toughest race for the week was over- I had a track event sandwiched between the 2 fell races. Finally, time to relax!

Two different tales of two very different races. In the first I was soaked to the bone from heavy rain, the other dripping in sweat. The terrain was also a complete contrast too -from boggy marsh lands to soft, dry grass but both equally as tough. It’s one of the things I love about fell running- every race is different and can vary from one year to the next. It also takes me to some of the best locations in the country and you can really appreciate the views at the top of a tough climb, at least when the conditions are right! But there’s something equally thrilling about imagining what the view should look like when you’re stuck in the mist and low cloud.

I loved the adrenalin buzz I got from running Coiners that very first time. I loved the buzz then and I still love it now.

I can’t wait for my next fell running adventure to begin…

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London Mini-Marathon

Sunday 24th April 2016

6:30am: The big day had finally arrived. I hadn’t slept well due to the U17 lads playing pranks during the night. In the end I’d given up trying to get to sleep. Instead I’d been texting my mum since half past 5 – I’m not sure she appreciated me waking her up at that time!

I tried to eat plenty for breakfast but I wasn’t hungry. The pre- race nerves had already started to kick in but at the same time I was excited and I couldn’t wait for the race to begin. The London Mini Marathon – the biggest race of my life so far. I was one of 6 under 13 boys selected to represent Yorkshire and Humberside, a very proud moment for me.

The coach journey through London was quite eventful to say the least. Halfway there the bus driver reversed into something and smashed the back window! At least it helped to take my mind off the pressure of racing. Needless to say I was very relieved when we eventually arrived at our destination.

Then began the long wait before the start. I could feel the nervous tension around me. I tried to eat a bit of an energy bar but it didn’t go down well, I just wanted the race to begin. Thankfully the time went surprisingly fast. I swallowed an energy gel about 20mins before the race and heard the U15 runners being called into position. Just 10 minutes to go. I eased my way to the front of the U13 section – I wanted to get a good start. After about 5 minutes of being crammed together like sardines we were called for our warm up. We were allowed to run a few laps of a section behind the start so I made sure I was last to finish and luckily I found myself near to the front. I thought to myself ‘hold your ground, elbows out and don’t let anyone push you out of the way’. I stuck to my plan. I didn’t lose any ground and I stayed in a prime position just behind the tape. 30 seconds left to go. The countdown had begun…

‘THE FIRST 100 METRES WAS A SPRINT. I WENT OUT HARD AND MADE MY INTENTIONS CLEAR FROM THE START’

IMG_0052

As the gun went off to signal the start of the race there was mass panic. Somehow the marshals controlling the race had mixed up the start time and as we set off they were stood directly in front of us and about to get trampled on. I’m glad I wasn’t a marshal! Thankfully they avoided being crushed to death and they dived out of the way just in time.

The first 100 metres was a sprint. I went out hard and made my intentions clear from the start. I glanced at my watch to check the pace. I’d clocked 3 minutes for the first kilometre and I was running close to my limit. I settled down into a rhythm and a speed that I knew I could maintain. I’ve been training for the event by doing various parkruns so I knew I’d have to run sensibly over the distance. But this was no parkrun. This was the best competition I’ve ever faced and the pace was incredible.

 ‘THEN OUT OF NOWHERE CAME THE DREADED STITCH– IT’S THE MOMENT THAT ALL RUNNERS FEAR

I couldn’t help but feel inspired by the energy from the crowds of people who were watching the race. I’m used to running on the fells and trails in West Yorkshire where the only spectators are usually sheep or cows. I wasn’t used to this level of support but it felt amazing. There was a section of the course that went under a tunnel and I could hear rave music blasting from a speaker. The combination of the music and cheering made me run even faster and I knew there was a chance I could break my PB for 5k. Just one more mile to go…

Then out of nowhere came the dreaded stitch – it’s the moment that all runners fear. I battled through it as best I could but it was always going to slow me down towards the finish. I was in serious need of a boost and thankfully it arrived at the perfect time. I could hear a familiar voice in the crowd… ‘Go On Ewan!’

It was my auntie and when I heard her shout it was like music to my ears. Unfortunately my parents couldn’t make it down to London but my auntie was here cheering on some friends in the Marathon. I was pleased she was there – it really helped to spur me on.

I kept working hard, there was only 800m to go. I picked up the pace for the last 600m and before I knew it Buckingham Palace appeared into view. I was on the finishing straight with just 200m to go. I broke into a sprint and gave everything I had left for the final 100m. As I looked up at the clock I could see my finishing time – 17:20!


Pictured above: My London Mini-Marathon medal (L) and at the finish with my auntie Emma (R)

I was absolutely shattered at the end but it was worth all the effort. Although I didn’t run sub 17 I was still really pleased to beat my target time of 17:30. This was by far the most exciting race I’ve ever done and the medal will serve as a nice reminder of my first London experience. It’s given me a taste of what it’s like to run at the highest level for my age group and I can’t wait to return next year to try and do it all over again.

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