HARTLEPOOL Burn Road Harriers took on the challenge of the 23.2 mile Swaledale Marathon at Reeth in the Yorkshire Dales last weekend.
Ten Harriers charged up and down the dales in the challenge of the up and down route.
There are various checkpoints runners must go through to ensure they have completed the full course, which slows athletes down but also ensures they take in vital nutrition and stay hydrated.
The course is a challenging mix of trail with a little tarmac and some excruciating climbs resulting in views of the spectacular dales.
The race is very dear to the Burn Road Harriers having been set up by their vice president Stuart Pailor back in 1979.
As with most races there are the standard prizes for finishing in the top three or top in your veteran category but first and foremost in Burn Road’s mind this outing was to see how close they could get to winning the team prize for the first four athletes from one club to cross the line.
Swaledale Running Club have won this numerous years in a row and are exceptionally talented across the fells.
The race starts as it means to go on, with an excellent climb to Fremington Edge which sets the scene for the course: it is going to be tough.
The runners then take on the various ups and downs of the course with the next two major climbs testing legs, heart and soul at Great Punchard, 12 miles in, and Gunnerside, 17 miles in.
Once out of Gunnerside there is a further challenging section of rocky road before a final gruelling hill and a race to the finish line to the cheers of the many club members who travelled to support the squad.
The race was won by Tony Lambert from Swaledale RC in 3 hours.
Barry Coulter was testing himself over this route for the first time and had an excellent race, placing seventh overall in 3 hours 25 minutes, leaving little doubt that he is a force to be reckoned with over the fells.
Now he is confident of the route there is no doubt Barry will be closer to the three hour mark next year.
Andy Minister has raced this route on many occasions and kicks himself every time for spending too long at the final checkpoint but on this occasion it revitalised tiring legs and he stormed to the finish line in majestic form to place eighth in 3 hours and 27 minutes. A great performance from Andy.
Concerns were being raised about Paul Wilson who was expected to arrive into Reeth Village between Barry and Andy.
He came into view shortly after, smiling and powering up over the final half mile in front of the crowd to leave his closest competitor standing to cross the line in 3 hours and 44 minutes for 25th place of 426 finishers.
It transpired Paul had taken a wrong turn and spent an extra one and a half miles trying to get back on course. His total distance being 24.7 miles.
Karl Edwards paced his race to perfection, staying behind John Davis and Andy Kelly for the first section before changing pace over the latter half of the race to have his best run at Swaledale for three years.
Despite going over badly on his ankle and somersaulting into some heather with two miles to go, Karl looked jubilant as his finished the race in 3 hours and 47 minutes and 29th place.
A presentation took place at the end of the race where Karl was presented with a prize for completing his 20th Swaledale Marathon, a feat his competitors and team mates were in awe of given the gruelling training schedule needed year after year to maintain such high finishing positions.
It was not long before John Davis and Andy Kelly came into view, supporting each other tremendously over the final section to finish in 4 hours and 5 minutes for 42nd and 43rd places.
John’s aim of completing his first Swaledale in under four hours were side-lined when he had to go back over the course before the big climb up Great Punchard to collect his number tally (a requirement of runners and failure to do so can lead to disqualification).
He worked extremely hard to make up for lost time and enjoyed the experience. Andy Kelly decided to run the marathon at the last minute. Those who know Andy had every faith that if anyone find their way through 23.2 miles of hills and fells, without training (or indeed the proper kit!) Andy could.
His keen spirit and teamwork showed no sign of waning and he and John had a thoroughly deserved beer at the end.
Scott Howard has a great deal of experience over the dales and was using this race as a training run for a longer race later in the season.
He completed the run in 4 hours and 14 minutes (57th) to the applause of the crowd.
David Edwards has also has a good deal of experience here and thoroughly enjoyed his run to finish in 4 hours and 57 minutes (140th).
Shaun Bruce smiled all the way to the finish line, taking in and enjoying the excellent atmosphere around the course he completed in 5 hours and 2 minutes (439th).
Completing the Burn Road squad was Peter Johnson who finished the course in 6 hours and 7 minutes (257th).
This was Peter’s 14th time around the Swaledale Marathon and no doubt it will not be his last.
Peter had not trained for this year’s race but the 10-hour time limit is sufficient for athletes to take their time and enjoy the event with their fellow runners. A fantastic day out for the club.
In the end Swaledale Runners took the team prize with 44 points to Hartlepool’s 69.
The third team from East Hull claimed 179 points. Swaledale are sure to have Hartlepool on their radar next year, knowing that this is the closest a team have come to claiming the title for a number of years.
l On Sunday there were three races taking place which attracted Burn Road runners.
The Durham Coastal Half Marathon, Newton Aycliffe 10k and the Castle Howard 10k Trail Race.
The Durham Coastal Half is a National Trust event beginning at Nose’s Point, Seaham and is entirely off road with gentle undulating sections followed by very challenging descents and ascents through a series of denes.
There is also a huge set of steps to tackle along the way. This is not a half marathon for the faint hearted.
The race attracted 183 runners and was won by Mike Jeffries of neighbouring club Billingham Marsh House Harriers in 1:20:18.
Adam Churchill was over in town visiting relatives and decided to take on the testing route while over here.
Adam used to be a prolific racer for the club before moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico and he donned his old club vest last weekend and confirmed he was still a major contender for top placings. He had a great run, claiming fourth place in 1:31:13.
Ian Bilton had an excellent race for 21st place. He crossed the line in 1:39:32, an excellent achievement over such a gruelling course and bodes very well for his next race over the 13.1 mile distance on flat ground.
Jan Naisbitt decided with a week or two to go she would like to test herself over the course, having heard something of the hills but not quite sure what it entailed until she found herself faced with tremendous hills and steps.
Taking the challenge in her stride she powered around the course, taking in the great views and completed in 2:12:31 (117th).
Cary and Graeme Surtees also had a great run here, finishing in 2:18:56 (139th and 140th).
Julie McGrath and Pauline Ranson both came in under the two and a half hours mark, a good test of strength over this terrain, with Julie finishing in 2:29:30 (161st) and Pauline in 2:29:36 (162nd).
l Bryan Astill and Lucy Claber travelled to Newton Aycliffe to test their legs over a fast and flat 10k road race.
The course does have its challenges though, with a slight drag up the second half of the lap, runners have to mentally prepare for a three lap race which can be difficult when trying to maintain speed and focus.
The race was won by Wondiye Fikre Indelbu in 30:50. Bryan Astill had a great run, placing 21st overall in 37:09.
This shows Bryan is in great form for the summer season, racing at sub-six minute miles over the 6.23 mile distance.
Lucy Stones also had a very good run, crossing the line in 47:07 (116th of 291 runners).
l The Castle Howard 10k Trail Race is a testing race incorporating hills and flat.
The two lap course is testing as runners adjust pace and effort to tackle the climbs.
A further test comes at the end when runners realise the course is not actually 10k as advertised, but 6.5 miles which adds an extra 400 metres to the end when all runners are looking for is the finish line!
The race was won by Gary Grounds in 37:53, with the female race being won by Emma Yates of York Knavesmire Harriers in 41:36.
John Mansfield had a great run to place 40th overall of 388 athletes in 44:32. Sarah Black knocked over a minute and a half off her 2013 time over the course, finishing fifth female and second Vet40 in 45:56 (54th).