Report by Jeremy Smith
I’ve been looking forward to the Blyth Sands race since I celebrated my 45th birthday at the end of October. The race is an handicap race, but where the handicap is based on sex and age, rather than individual performance, and, as a result, I would now fall in the 45 to 49 age group – this meant an extra one minute start over the scratch males (under 40).
I’ve done the Blyth Sands race three times now and each time we have been blessed with clear blue skies – the first time I ran the race was two years ago, when we were in a middle of great freeze, and where very few races took place over a six week period, and involved the runners climbing up step ladders over the groynes. This year the tide was lower so we didn’t step ladders although one of the marshals kindly supplied a “leg-up” over one of the groynes on our return to the finish.
The race is approximately 5 miles long, and starts with a half mile run to Blyth pier and then a 2.5 mile run along the beach towards Seaton Sluice. There are two routes – you can either clamber over the groynes (but that’s more time consuming on the way out) or you can run round the groynes. If you’re lucky you manage to catch the tide as it goes out, but, as I ran round the three groynes, I caught the tide at its highest, so I ended up running in freezing sea water up to my ankles. In previous years, the water has had a “ready-brek” effect (about 30 seconds later the feet feel very warm), but that wasn’t the case this year – my feet remained very cold until the end of the race.
As I approached the turning point (an oar stuck in the sand) at Seaton Sluice, I eventually caught up with Ken McCormick, and, slightly further inland, saw the leaders coming back in the opposite direction. I never caught up with them! We then turned north and ran back along the beach, climbed over the three groynes, and finished outside the colourful beach huts on the Blyth promenade.
There were 127 finishers (about 20 more than last year) and 23 prizes – women filled the first two places, and I won my first ever running prize (1st man over 45 – although, that’s strictly not true, because the third place finisher was in the same age group, but you can’t win more than one prize). The race was, as ever, superbly organised and marshalled by Blyth running club – I would highly recommend it.