By Richard Slack
A run along the beach in December
Continuing with run tourism and having read the report on the same event in 2013, I persuaded Marie that a trip to Blyth to run along the beach was a good way to spend a Sunday morning in December. The race is approximately 5 miles – not exact as I soon was to learn with beach running there are tactics to decide upon as you aim to keep on the hard sand and avoid too much water (more to come) and negotiate the groynes. The weather was pretty good for December, cold but sunny although a stiff breeze from the West which meant a cross wind pretty much all the way. The race starts from near the beach huts and the Dave Stephens Centre. It initially heads north towards Blyth peer before turning round after about half a mile or so, marked by a marshal with a flag. You return past the start and continue running South towards Seaton Sluice where after a couple of miles you come across more marshals, this time holding a large oar and return North back to the starting point. Sounds okay and pretty simple navigation wise – as the race instructions say when running north the North Sea is on your right, and when running south, it is on your left. The start is handicapped by gender and age with a minute between categories, in total giving an 11 minute spread upwards from the senior men.
The first part was generally on pretty good and firm sand and as we returned past the start I was lulled into a false sense of security that the only concern was keeping my feet dry and avoiding the pools along the shore line. The run South past the start marked the beginning of some more challenging conditions, initially over the three groynes, although they were little more than two or three planks of wood – bit like a small steeplechase hurdle. Then a choice of shore running with wet feet but reasonable sand, or away from the shore but softer sand. Having by now wet feet I opted for the former and followed the other runners. So towards Seaton Sluice it was a mixture of shoreline running where possible and some small sections on softer sand. On reaching the oar at the South end of the run I assumed that it would simply be a case of retracing your steps back to the finish point. Oh, except the tide was coming in. Thus to retrace your steps and go for the shortest route back, and avoid the softer sand up the beach, it looked like being a ‘chariots of fire’ run in the shallow water. Sadly, the tide was well in by now and the ankle deep water was now mid-thigh high. No matter, battle on – cannot let the Claremont vest down. Having negotiated two sections of deepish water I was then back on the beach proper with no choice but to keep running and to keep warm. Back towards the groynes and in triumph hurdled the final one before the last 400 metres or so to the finish line. After a couple of minutes Marie came in, having, as usual been more sensible and stuck to the beach so had rather drier running gear that myself.
It was great fun nonetheless and really well organised by Blyth running club. It is a run like no others, and one for your calendar for next year – even the good people from Blyth said the oncoming tide presented the most difficult conditions on the beach for the last 30 years. At the end of the race was an excellent presentation ceremony and well done to one of our own, Jeremy Smith who won his age category, and who is a Blyth Sands devotee – see last year’s report! All in all a great Sunday morning in December.