Author Archive: Mark Bower

Baxter’s Loch Ness Marathon, October 2021 – Nathaniel Redcliffe

They say that the weather is unpredictable in Scotland. I wouldn’t say it was “unpredictable”, I knew exactly what it was going to be… cold, wet, and windy.

A collection of coaches, and double decker buses collected myself and four thousand other runners from Bught Park in the cold dead of night (7 a.m.!!). The back of the coach seats were each lined with plastic, and we all had to wear a mask. Despite the extra covid measures that the company had taken, we were all sat next to a complete stranger. The guy next to me was from America. He had traveled to many different continents to try different marathons, some of these included: Antarctica, Norway, Istanbul and Hawaii (I get it, he’s much more interesting than me, so I’m going to move on and stop talking about him).

Just past Fort Augustus; we all departed the coach on top of a large hill, to stand in the cold pouring rain. From the distance you can see other mountain peaks, clouds, and – more importantly – portaloos. Everybody broke the social distancing rule to huddle together, protecting each other from the bitter cold and the sharp wind. This is one of the reasons why I love the running community, everybody has an instinct to look after each other. Another guy from America (who also flew to Scotland for the first time, just for the marathon) noticed how cold I was, and offered his spare space jacket. A girl I was talking to at the start line also offered me her spare bin bag liner, which I gratefully accepted. For this race, it is essential that you bring a disposable poncho, and an old jumper to throw at the side of the road, because the last thing you want before the race is hypothermia. One of the benefits about this marathon is the bag drop is close to the start line, so you can wait till the very last minute before you abandon your layers. (Of course, the truck where your bags are stored will get transported back to the finish line).

To initiate the race; a traditional Scottish bagpipe player walked down the centre of the crowd to the start line, completely unfazed by the cold and wore his kilt. Once he had finished playing his banging tune, the race had begun. The run started with me descending downhill to the base of another hill, then I ran around the hill by the side of two forests. However, the fifth mile was a long, sharp and curvy ascent (every runner’s nightmare). At this point, people had started to walk, which was unnerving.

For the next seven miles, there was a mixture of two things: a long undulating segment or a short sharp incline. Either way, they both end with a long downward drop. Meaning, I ended up going more downhill than up. This was a perfect opportunity to let gravity do the work, which allowed my legs to recover after the ascent. From the sixth mile, I could see the River Ness from the gaps of the trees. The trees had yet to receive Autumn’s cold grasp, meaning they still held much of their green thick leaves, which made the view on the left hand side even more spectacular. It was a sight for anyone with sore eyes. The view on the right was just a slight landslide risk.

The reason why headphones were banned from the course is because of the passing emergency motorcycle first aiders. There were other runners who did not heed the warning, and decided to wear headphones anyway. Between miles 10 – 12, you wouldn’t believe the amount of times I had to shout at people “bike behind”, or “keep to
the side”, but they still never caught what I was saying. I wore my bone conductors… like the professional athlete that I am. The heavy metal music blasting on top of my ears was a blessing between miles 12.5 – 17.5, because it was a long five mile drag in the rain. If it were not for the runners beside me, I could have easily stopped. There was nothing new to see, just trees closing in on the road. Running on the hard tarmac had become very uncomfortable for my legs, I had to have a few Jelly Babies (which are always recommended for a long run) and the race’s free gels (which is at every 10k) for muscle recovery.

After mile 17.5, the village Dore was a welcomed sight. It was the first wave of supporters since mile nine. The echoes of clapping and cheering were a much needed boost. Also, as we got into Dore the paths opened up, allowing me to see more of the landscapes that Scotland had to offer. Unfortunately, the route took me up one of these landscapes. Between miles 18.5 – 20 was one long climb uphill… and that’s when the sun decided to show its face. “Not now! You big yellow warm b*stard!”. A few people I met at the hostel and at the Wetherspoons said this is where they struggled after going too fast at the beginning – so remember “it’s a marathon not a sprint”.

Once at the top, it was a fast 10k finish. About 95% of it was either downhill or flat. It reminded me very much of the last 10k at Sheffield Half Marathon. Speaking of Sheffield Half; it’s worth noting that a very steady hilly half (or any race), a week or two before a hilly marathon, will help a great deal when it comes to hills. Unless you run a lot of hills in your area.

As I approached Inverness town centre, more and more spectators came out. By mile 25, I could see the finish line… it was just on the wrong side of the river. This was very disheartening. Especially since I had nothing left in the tank. But, once I crossed the bridge onto the correct side – the atmosphere at the finish line was phenomenal (and so was the free carrot soup). The achievement of beating my estimated time (under four hours), the adventure, the good atmosphere at the finish line, the scenery, and the carrot soup – definitely made me want to sign up for another marathon soon.

Oh, I’ve forgotten – something strange happened on the 16th mile. Whilst I was running behind two people with headphones on, I noticed all the birds flew from the trees and little wooden creatures fled across in one direction out of terror… away from the river. The water’s gentle motion had turned into a vicious whirlpool, and from the dark centre of the vortex – a beast like no other had risen from the depths of the deep blue water. It gave an almighty roar that had caused the ground beneath to quiver at its mercy. Its long scaly skinned neck stretched out and devoured the two runners in front of me. They would have heard it coming… if only they weren’t wearing headphones.

Nene Valley 20, June 2021 – David Hayden

So I signed up to the Nene Valley 20 miler about Jan/Feb 2020 – well before you know what happened and a certain collision with another runner. It was originally scheduled for June 2020 – but we all know why it got pushed back to this year. As it happened was a good job as I couldn’t run 20 meters let alone 20 miles!!!

This run was one of the most stunning I have ever done. Set in the villages around the Nene Valley south west of Peterborough and nearly all off road it provided a gently undulating route. Old railway paths, riverside paths, paths through wheat fields, paths alongside linseed fields, a couple of locks and water mills and idyllic villages.

There were two options – a ten mile and a 20 mile. My mate who lives on the route persuaded me to do the 20miler – which actually turned out to be 21.4 miles – those last two miles were a killer, and then to add a real sting in the end of the run – having to run past the finish line for about 200meters and double back- just cruel!

The organisation was top notch. For an inaugural event it was faultless (well apart from that pesky 1.4miles at the end… but will forgive them that with the passing of time!). The marshals were brilliant – really, really brilliant and lots of them. The route was well signposted and a couple of drink stations – bananas and flapjacks to accompany the water. Every runner was told to bring their own containers – a brilliant example of reducing plastic and it was seamless at both stations (and a Donny local on the second one… didn’t catch her name I was starting to feel it by then!).

The start was in waves – I opted for the slow wave 9.20 set off. There were about 20 or so of us in the wave. Lots of “what time are you aiming for?” type conversations – most saying 4 -5 hours. In my head I was aiming for 3hours 30, but realising the weather may have other plans for me! We were called to the start line and the guy setting us off noticed the Harrier vest and said “Ah Danum – you’ve come a fair way!” And he pronounced it correctly. Told him so too! The start was in Fotheringhay right by the ruins of the castle where Mary Queen of Scots spent her final days before her execution after being moved from Sheffield Castle.

I was really pleased I had opted for the slow wave… I was able to keep a pace of just under 10 min mileing for the first 14 miles – a few times especially downhill went a bit too fast but reigned myself back in, I was determined to enjoy and take it steady. Plus, I really didn’t want to do any damage and go back to not being able to run at all! Whilst I was able to pass some other runners, I was mainly on my own, which I had not problem with. However, when I caught up and passed someone there was a brilliant sense of comradery. It was almost like we had this run for just us, a chosen few (I think about 120 people did the 20 miler).

The ground was really firm and dry (apart from one little boggy bit). I can imagine if it had been in May it would have been a different challenge underfoot! I started walking for about a minute or so every half mile from about mile 15 when the heat turned up and making sure I was taking in water. It got tough from mile 18, the walks were more frequent and longer. At 19miles I psyched myself up and got into a good rhythm and it was fairly shady. Just after 19 and half it started to dawn on me that it was a fair bit more than 20miles… one of the marshals said, “over the bridge and then you will see the church – the finish is just before it.” The church was there in the distance… across at least two fields that I could see… that was the worse bit, the lowest feeling.

Just as I hit 21 miles I could start to see the signs that I was near the end. The route had a narrow path that ran alongside the field where we started and finished, but the fence took us past the finish line, we had to go another 100meters before the chance to loop back. That was the second worse moment.

The finish was bliss, my calves were really tight – so lucky there was a chance of a sports massage at the end well worth the £5!

The facebook page for the run post event was full of so much praise, love and admiration for the organisers, three women from I think Spalding Harriers and lots of “when is next years dates!”

There was free camping options for both the Friday and the Saturday nights too!

My ‘official’ time hasn’t been released yet – it wasn’t a chipped run, but Strava told me 3 hours 51m 42s. I feel ok with that time, the walking at 20miles racked up a good extra ten mins – so I would not have been far off my 3h 30m which all things considering very thankful for.

Will I do it again – I sure will! Also, a good distance for anyone who has done a half and wonders if they can do a full marathon.

Looking for a running club?

Now that Covid restrictions are being slowly eased we are able to meet up in groups of up to 30 on club nights. If you’re looking for a running club in the Doncaster area and are thinking of joining us why not take a look at our About page for more details about us. If we sound like the sort of club you’re looking for feel free to contact us and if you’ve heard back from us and are coming down to give us a try please make sure you fill in your details on our membership form (so we have your details for Track and Trace).

Namer of the Clouds: Cirrus 10K, June 2021 – Ben Hales

Namer of the Clouds is a new three-race series organised by Ackworth Road Runners to commemorate the town’s connection to the ‘Godfather of the Clouds’, Luke Howard. Though a chemist by trade, in 1802 the amateur meteorologist classified the clouds by their appearance, and his nomenclature is still used today.

The races are Cirrus 10 Kilometres, Cumulus 10 Mile and Stratus Half Marathon. This weekend me and Melissa Massarella headed to Frickley Colliery for the inaugural event, the Cirrus 10K. I’d checked beforehand what cirrus clouds were all about.

Cirrus are known to raise the temperature of the air beneath the main cloud layer, by an average of 10°C.

It was a baking hot Sunday morning in June. We arrived just ten minutes before the start. Dozens of Ackworth runners had congregated at Frickley Athletic football ground. After registering we went straight onto the spoil tip, now Frickley Country Park for a warm-up. Just a quick jog up one of the hills and we were sweating. This was going to be tough.

A large number of cirrus clouds can be a sign of an approaching frontal system or upper air disturbance.

We drifted into the starting pack. 135 runners had come to race, and it was great being part of a proper mass start for the first time in over a year – great atmosphere! With a blast of the pistol, we were off. There was no lightning pace though, and I found myself running near the front. The warm conditions soon disturbed my starting rhythm. By the end of the kilometer one, the first of several chasers approached and thundered past, as I settled into a more sustainable flow.

Cirrus clouds are wispy clouds found at high altitudes.

We ran on the old Frickley Colliery branch line, then down Frickley Lane, and back towards the Country Park, where hills awaited. One climb was dead straight, and I put in some effort to keep up all the way to the top, only to find more hills waiting round the corner. We descended the ‘hair-pin climb’ section of Frickley Parkrun, which inevitably meant we’d have to climb the steep downhill section which comes before it. I approached its foot. The runner in front was halfway up, walking! Could I get some lift? No rockets would carry me to the stratosphere today – I was also forced to walk this steepest part.

They may produce glories: an optical phenomenon, resembling a saint’s halo around the shadow of the observer’s head.

Back at the top of the spoil heap, a runner had almost caught me, so I had to work hard to keep my place. Getting shot by a burst from a kid’s water pistol was welcome, and I turned the final bend to concentrate on a runner in front, uncatchable. With a final sprint I made it over the line in 51:16 – 26th home. I waited for Melissa to finish, and she came home in 58:30 – 61st. We soon realised that our pace was faster than at our last race, Roche Abbey’s (not quite) 10K.

Thanks to Ackworth for putting on a friendly, well-organised race. We look forward to enjoying more ‘mon-soon’!

2020 Award Winners

Well, 2020 might have been a bad year for many, but there was a small glimmer of success for 4 Harriers as announced in our 2021 Virtual AGM.

Huge Congratulations to the club awards winners for 2020:
Male R.O.T.Y – Craig Burton
Female R.O.T.Y – Tara Burkill
Harrier of the year – Team Marsh – (Heather and Kenny).

Great work this last year everybody, and thanks loads for all the support you’ve given to the club.