Race Reports

Virtual Championships

The club continued its virtual championship, this time aiming to replicate the Ripon 10 as near as possible.  The course, cleverley devised by Duncan Fothergill and James Stephenson, with help from Rob and Christine Burn, was a figure of 8 route allowing for a water stop at the halfway point, along the Cleveland Way.  The high point was at High Paradise Farm – where many people were availing themselves of the takeaways on offer.  (Not Harriers, sadly.)  The multi-terrain course, with a long stretch on the road towards the finish, and an out and back half mile sting in the tail at the end, held the interest throughout.  74 Harriers and guests took part and the long-legged Tom Levi was once agin a comfortable first in 64.48, with an ever improving Matt Jones 2nd in 71.14 and another long legged runner, Josh Copper 3rd in 71.47.  Esther Harrison was again first lady with a tenth fastest group time of 79.20, with Trudy Morrice 2nd, and 14th finisher, in 82.15 and Kirsty Naylor 3rd, and 19th finisher, in 84.50.  The run could be done any time over Thursday to Sunday, and generally it was dry, but if you were unlucky, you could experience a quick and torrential downpour!  The enthusiasm for this virtual championship is tremendous!

The previous weekend, Gary Wilkinson was involved in another virtual race, Endure 24, which is a 24 hour solo or team relay race over 5 mile trail loops, held annually over a weekend in June in Leeds and Reading.  Gary enterd, and completed 25 miles, including 2 laps starting at 4am on Sunday morning.  He is collecting sponsorship for NHS charities at  justgiving.com/fundraising/endure24nhs    He also completed his 10th solo park run from home, #notaparkrun on Saturday organised by Paul Chapman on strava.

Thirsk 10 – a little bit of history

Thirsk 10, in one form or another, has been held annually for more than 40 years, and the race this year was just squeezed in before lockdown, for which the club was happy, but not more so than the 1000 or so runners who took part.  The origins of the race go back to the early 50s, when Hambleton District Council organised the Northallerton to Thirsk 10 mile Road Race, at a time when road races were almost unheard of, but the would be founder of Thirsk and Sowerby Harriers, Norman Smith, took part, along with maybe a couple of hundred or so runners.

Norman did a lot of running in those days, at Darlington Harriers and at Harrogate Harriers, as well as on the roads round Thirsk, and when he looked into the feasibility of a club in Thirsk, in 1977, and it was established, he decided to have a go at resurrecting the earlier race with the support of Hambleton District Council.  The race would begin at the far side of Northallerton, about opposite where Sam Turners now is, and finish in Thirsk Market Place.  Runners were bussed to Northallerton, with changing in the Community Centre, and finished in front of the Golden Fleece in Thirsk.  Presentations were made in Thirsk Town Hall, and 300 to 400 runners took part.  In 1982, there were more than 500 runners, with only 36 of them women.  How things have changed!  The race was held in June, starting at 2pm, which could well be the hottest part of the day – in fact, in 1982, it was wet!  The winner that year was Ian Gilmour of Wolverhampton of Wolverhampton, a Scottish international runne,r in 48.20, with Paul Taylor of Sunderland 2nd in 49.42 and Brendan Foster of Gateshead 3rd in 49.42.  Over the years, top class runners have been attracted to the event because of the flat course enabling fast times, and this continues to be the case to this day, with Alyson Dixon of Sunderland a recent winner of the ladies race, and Tracey Morris of Valley Striders a few years previously, both going on the represent Team GB in the Olympic Marathon. 

The course for the route was brought to an abrupt end, when one year in the early 80s, the race had just started when the crossing gates went down because of an approaching train (nothing changes) and a hundred or so runners got through but the remainder had to wait for the train, which made a mockery of the race.  A new course had to be found, and the race became the Thirsk 10.  The start was opposite the racecourse, with runners going round Town End, up Topcliffe Road, along Gravel Hole Lane, along Front Street, Sowerby, back across Town End, and into Newsham Road to continue back through Sandhutton to the racecourse.  The police were a great help in the early days, but times change, and traffic hold ups were horrendous along Station Road.  Remember, this was June, a very hot day, and holiday makers going through Thirsk were sitting scorching in their cars, not very happy! 

The race was then moved to November, passing along Newsham Road, with an out and back near Sandhutton to make up the 10 miles, but one year it had to be cancelled on the day of the race because of snow and ice on the road, which lost the race a lot of friends.  The date was moved once again to March  where it remains to this day.  The course has been tweaked from time to time, but still attracts top class runners from far and wide, as well as novices who want to test themselves over 10 miles.

I recently discovered that in the early to mid 80s, the Round Table organised a half marathon, in July, which again started at the racecourse, through the Market Place, along Northallerton Road to and through Thornton le Moor, on to the A167, and back through Sandutton to the racecourse.  About 500 runners took part, the race being started one year by Ian Botham!  No doubt Norman Smith and Cyril Sherwood were on hand to give advice!

Race Report 26/05/20

The latest “virtual” club championship race took place at the weekend in the form of a pseudo Gribdale Growler Fell Race. I suspect most of the 75 members and friends who took part ran along Rob’s prescibed route from Sutton Bank to Snek Yat and back, 5.63 miles in total with 650 feet of ascent. This is one or Rob’s regular routes but probaly a number of people were using it for the first time. You may remember the winds felt gale force most of the weekend, so find a quieter time was almost impossible, especially on the top of Sutton Bank. One member described conditions as brutal!

Nevertheless, 75 people did take part, and the fastest time was recorded by Tom Levi, 34.04, with Andrew Price 2nd in 36.17 and Joshua Fothergill 3rd in 37.34. Fastest lady was again Esther Harrison, with Kirsty Naylor again 2nd in 46.37 and Sonja van der Westhuisen 3rd in 50.49. This was a remarkable result for Sonja, who is coming back to form after more than a year out following a knee operation.

The club may not have existed at all but for the efforts and foresight of the late Norman Smith. Nowadays, when you go out you are likely to see at least one runner pounding the streets, but when Norman was young, the only person you ever saw running around Thirsk and district was Norman. After leaving school, he worked for Wimpey for a while, and was involved in building a runway at Topcliffe Airfield! He was of the age and generation when National Service was compulsory, and Norman became more involved with running during those years, representing the RAF and, later, Yorkshire, on several occasions. He liked steeple chasing and came 2nd in the Yorkshire Championships in 1956, but there are no facilities for such events nearby so he transferred his attention to cross country running. He was a regular winner in fixtures for the NYSD Cross Country League. He also did several marathons and half marathons, and a run he remembered especially was a half marathon at Morpeth where he came 15th, but was very happy with his run.

His first club was Darlington Harriers, where he was very successful and keen, travelling 25 miles to Darlington on his motorbike before he ran a step, and ran 60 – 70 miles a week. Later, he transferred to Harrogate Harriers, where he was secretary for several years. He found out about the organisation required in running a club, and in 1977, held an inaugural meeting to discuss the possibility of forming a club in Thirsk. Thus, with 7 seniors and 7 juniors, was Thirsk and Sowerby Harriers formed. Norman asked the youngsters what the club colours should be, and as some of them were Leeds United supporters, yellow and blue was decided on – and still it remains!

Norman ran in events all round the country, until his running was brought to an abrupt halt with a triple heart bypass operation. As soon as he could, he got back running but he also became involved with officiating at events all over Yorkshire and the north east and was proud to be asked to attend at a meeting in Dubai. He set up what was originally the Northallerton to Thirsk 10 mile road race, where top class runners were attracted, including Brendan Foster, Mick Macleod, Veronique Merrot, and, later, Tanni Grey Thompson and her husband, Ian. The race, and the club, go from strength to strength, built on the firm foundations laid down by our late and much loved Club Chairman, Norman Smith.

Race Report 12/05/20

The second of the club’s virtual championship races took place over the weekend, 5k to replicate the Redcar Coast Road 5k, and as such, had to be over 2 laps and on flattish roads, with each runner self timing.  Once again, Andrew Price was fastest, in a superb 17.54, with Joshua Cooper next, 19.15 and Mike Cropper 3rd in 19.22.  Esther Harrison was once again the fastest lady in 21.12, with Kirsty Naylor 2nd in 23.39 and Clare Tempest 3rd in 23.56.  A fantastic 83 runners sent in their times, including 17 guests, and had to choose between a warm Saturday and a cold, windy Sunday!

Among those taking part was Paul Chapman, who finished 13th in 22.11.  As with many runners, Paul, then aged 40, decided to take up the sport, along with some work colleagues, to get fit and to lose weight, which he achieved very successfully, losing 2 stones over the summer.  The group committed themselves to run 5k every Wednesday, which grew to 10k and included some running at weekends.  Paul made an additional promise to wheelchair bound Ewan Harrison, who has cerebral palsy, that they would complete the Great North Run together.  What he didn’t realise is the participants have to be at least 17 for a half marathon, and as Ewan was only 14 at the time, instea, they did the Junior GNR and wheelchair race on the Saturday and Paul ran the GNR on the Sunday.  He and his team were sponsored to raise funds for Bendrigg Trust, an adventurous activity centre for those with disabilities and other special needs, and it was only last year, when Ewan became 17, that they were able to complete the promised Great North Run.

By having races booked and paid for in advance, Paul was able to continue running and found he loved hills and off road best.  In 2017 he completed the Dales Trail Series Grand Slam in Swaledale and Wensleydale, over 20, 30 and 40 km, struggling to complete the 40k.  From couch potato to mountain marathon in less than 12 months is not bad going!   He entered the Wainstones Half Marathon, and heard about the Hardmoors races, which as well as being hard, are notoriously difficult to get into.  He solved that by entering the whole series of 7 marathons, actually nearer 30 miles, so he was very fit by the time he and Ewan did their GNR in 2019.  They were regulars at park runs, especially Fountains Abbey, and Paul pushed Ewan round the Winlatter event in the Lake District, one of the hardest park runs in the country.  Paul completed the Windermere Marathon and tackled an ultra marathon of 100k with a midnight start out of Ambleside over the Lake District Fells

That year, 2019, Paul and Ewan did the Thirsk 10 in 90 minutes, and Paul decided to investigate a running club, where found he enjoyed the extra fitness training and cameraderie of Thirsk and Sowerby Harriers.  He and Ewan again entered this year’s Thirsk 10 and finished in 80 minutes, not bad pushing a wheelchair, and 10 minutes quicker than last year’s time – immediately after which came lockdown!

Running continues under government guidelines, with virtual events to encourage competition, and Paul’s aim is to complete 1000 miles this year.  If you want to know more about Paul and Ewan, look at     www.ewanandpaul.co.uk      or about Thirsk and Sowerby Harriers,      www.thirskandsowerbyharriers.co.uk

Runner Profile – Fran Jeffery

Fran Jeffery was never into sport at school – and even now, she doesn’t like team games!  As  youngster, she got her exercise through horse riding and hiking with her father, and she worked on Duke of Edinburgh Awards.  Later, she did an occasional 5k Race for Life, which is where so many people start, and she was also into long distance walking.  Fran had read an article about a man who completed the Cleveland Way in under 24 hour – it had taken her a week – and this really piqued her interest!  It was at work that she met former club members Peter Wragg and Catriona Gaudie, who told her that as she was “tall and skinny”, she would make a runner.  They suggested she get in touch with Rob Burn, who is Thirsk and Sowerby Harriers through and through!  This she duly did, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Her first session was one of the twice weekly meetings at Thirsk School, and the warm welcome she received had her hooked.  Coming 2nd in her first Christmas Handicap gave her even more of a spur, and she soon found herself doing cross country races.  She preferred muddy fields to tarmac, and was finding out about trail and fell running, though was yet to try it.  It took a long time to improve, and to learn to love running, which is hard and never seems to get any easier, but the benefits were immeasureable, and the social contact was very important.  In 2012 she became club secretary, a post she held for 7 years.  She must have done a good job, as it has taken 2 people to replace her and fill the roles she was doing!  She was on the organising committee of Thirsk 10 for a few years, and is always available if help is needed with any aspect of club life. 

Her first fell race was the Gribdale Gallop in 2011, and she stood on the start line with some trepidation, shaking like a leaf, as she says.  She got round in one piece, and from there, she never looked back.  The more hills, mud, distance, the better, and a year later, she completed her first marathon, the tough off road Osmotherly Pheonix – what a toughie to start with!  Since then, she has done many fell races, marathons, and some ultra running, the furthest being 55 miles, all off road.  Her attempt at 100 miles ended in failure, and the training involved for such a distance is gruelling and takes over your life. 

Fran’s latest venture is “streaking” – running every day for a year, a minimum of a mile in not more than 15 minutes.  So far this year, she has completed 1300 miles and is still going strong.  She maybe won’t quite reach Ron Hill’s achievement – he has been doing it for 50 years, but she will continue as long as injury and life don’t intervene.  She says the running community has introduced her to things she didn’t know existed, she’s been to places not seen by many, and experienced such highs you’d think she was on drugs!  The friendships that evolve from running with someone for hours on end, night and day, and seeing them when they were at their most vulnerable are without comparison.

“And all because I made that phone call to Rob!”

Thirsk 10 - 2020

Sunday 15th March 2020

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