When thinking how to start this report, two very different options came to mind.
1. This is a lovely, unusual race on quiet roads in a beautiful rural setting. It is well organised by a friendly club and the course offers variety and stunning views of the surrounding countryside, starting and finishing in the centre of Allendale Town. The race is scheduled to coincide with the annual Allendale Fair, so there is plenty of post-run entertainment in the Town Square where, as well as a plethora of stalls and children’s rides, we are entertained by a strong man contest (big, fat men lifting ridiculous weights, and moving ridiculously heavy things around the square) and karaoke (local kids singing songs from Frozen). There is a selection of food stalls, tea rooms and excellent local hostelries. All in all a very good day out.
2. This is a gruelling run where you seem to spend an inordinate amount of time going uphill; where a 3rd mile run in 6:30 is followed by a 4th that takes 8:30 and finishes with legs like jelly and the realisation that you are just past half-way and there are more hills to come; where stretches of the route are exposed to a strong breeze; where a couple of the downhill slopes are accompanied by warning signs to take care on the steep descent; and where the finish is at the top of a 17% incline.
Of course both versions are true – it is a tough course and a great day out. I met Alasdair and Mungai on the Town Moor as Mungai insisted on running the parkrun first (the Allendale 8 alone isn’t tough enough for these Kenyans!), and we shared a car to Allendale where we met 5 other Claremonters registering at the village hall. It was one of those days when it was warm if the sun was out and you were sheltered from the wind, but the temperature dropped when the sun disappeared and the wind felt cold.
The start was delayed by a minute or two while they got the chip-timing equipment set-up, then we were off heading out into the country along the road which runs above the River Allen. Alasdair was soon at my side and we were going along quite nicely at about 7 minute mile pace. The route climbs slowly but surely for a couple of miles before a downhill stretch that lulls you into a false sense of security. The 3 mile marker safely negotiated, the course decides to sort out the wheat from the chaff and mile 4 seemed to go on forever – steadily up and often into the wind. This is where I started to curse my poor preparation (a muscle pull playing football on Wednesday and two nights out wining and dining on the Thursday and Friday!). With encouragement from Alasdair to “keep going”, I tried to forget the aforementioned jelly legs and to tell myself that there had to be downs to compensate for the ups, and also tried to take in my surroundings and try to convince myself that it was a nice day out in the country. Eventually, somewhere around mile 6, the course has a long, downhill stretch until very near the end. Having got a couple of yards ahead on the final slope, Alasdair then left me for dead on the downhill as he pushed on whilst I was happy enough to have a bit of a breather.
The final sting in the tail of this super course is the finish from hell. The final couple of hundred metres is a very steep climb as you run up from the river to the town. Well in my case, to say “run” is pushing the definition of the word a bit – I think that I could probably have walked it faster. There is great support as you come into the square, and after a couple of welcome cups of water I was ready to cheer in the rest of the Claremont contingent.
Alasdair finished two places ahead of me and claimed the Men’s over 60s prize. There was also an impressive run from Mary who just missed out on the Ladies over 60, coming a close 2nd. The girls all ran well and claimed the team prize for the 2nd successive year – well done to Charlotte, Nina and Mary as the 3 counters.
Following the prize giving and raffle in the village hall, it was off to enjoy the splendours of the Allendale Fair. Overall I think that this is one of the best events on the North East racing calendar and I’ll definitely be back. Hopefully I’ll be in better shape next time, so I’ve got 12 months to do more hill training – you have been warned!