Race Reports

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!”

Race Report 28/04/20

With all races cancelled or postponed just now, the Club Championship has ground to a halt.  However, Club Coach, Rob Burn, organised a virtual 5 mile race this weekend, to be included in the club championship, with each participant doing 2.5 miles out and back from home.  No fewer than 64 members took part, as well as 2 dozen non-members joining the fun!  The fastest finisher was new member, Andrew Price in 30.33 – sounds like a good acquisition to the club, with Mike Cropper 2nd in 31.30 and Tom Levi 3rd in 31.53.  The fastest lady was Esther Harrison, in 36.28, with Kirsty Naylor 2nd in 38.34, and Clare Tempest 3rd in 40.57.  Well done to all, and to everyone who took part.

Included, of course, was Alan Wikeley, with his wife Margaret.  Alan is the longest serving member in the club, joing shortly after its inception in 1977 by the late and much lamented Norman Smith.  Alan showed early potential in running when, at the age of 3, he won a race at a local garden fete.  From then on, he was hooked and achieved success at primary school, but only really blossomed when he reached senior school.  Under the encouragement of PE teacher, Vic Rawlings, he and many other boys, and girls, went on to improve beyond their imaginings.  Vic told the class that a boy in another class would win the forthcoming cross country race, which spurred Alan’s determination that that would not be the case, rightly so, as Alan went on to win.  He represented the school in track and cross country races, and at the age of 15, went on to win the North Yorkshire Schools half mile in 2 min 9 sec.  The same year he broke the school mile record, which holds to this day, as Alan had a letter to say all races in future would be measured in metres!  His fastest time for a mile was 4 min 20 sec.

After leaving school, he continued to run, but there were not so many races in those days.  Most villages had sports days, and first prize would be 10 shillings.  When you consider wages at that time were about £3 a week, 10 shillings was a goodly sum indeed, and well worth winning, which Alan very often did.  At the age of 21 he got his own dairy farm, and running had to fit in around milking and other farm duties, often at about 9pm.  He also kept horses and was an enthusiastic point to pointer.

On joining Thirsk and Sowerby Harriers at the time running was becoming more popular, there were road races just about every week.  (With “health and safety”, and more traffic, how things have changed.)  The first big local race was a half marathon at Richmond, with 5000 entries!  Alan was disappointed with his time of  1h 30, and decided to up his mileage to about 70 miles a week.  This had the desired effect, and his best time was 1h 17.  He completed the 1986 London Marathon in 2h 57, and with continued hard training, raced regularly and very successfully.  When Alan was 50, disaster struck when he became seriously ill with meningitis.   Slowly and steadily he started running again, with 2 sticks at first, and with sheer determination, he once again entered races.  He was regularly doing 10ks around the 37 minute mark, Barnsley, Darlington and Rainton, to name but a few, but gradually he veered towards fell races, and soon acquired the nickname, “mountain goat”.  The main local fell race series were organised by the late Dave Parry, every 2 weeks or so, and Alan won his age category regularly throughout the years.  He won the V60 Yorkshire Vets Chamionship in 2005, and often did fell races in the Lake District.

The 5th World Masters Mountain Championships was hosted by Keswick in 2005 and several club members attended.  Since then members have travelled to Switzerland, Austria, Poland, Germany and Slovakia and Slovenia, where Alan came away with a Team GB Silver Medal!  Alan continues to run regularly, albeit more slowly, and also enjoys walking in the hills.  He has been a stalwart of the club over all the years, and always welcomes and encourages newer and slower members.  If I were to say he was one of the most popular members of the club, and indeed throughout the district, that would not be an exaggeration.

Race Report 21/04/20

April is a quiet month for races, but one which could be relied on, up to now, was the London Marathon.  This year’s event has  for the moment been postponed and it remains to be seen whether it will take place.  Thirsk and Sowerby Harriers have competed in this event over the years and in 1988, David Catford, Mervyn Burn and Norman Smith – loved founder of the club in 1977, and now deceased, were the club’s entrants.  In 1995, Merv Burn did the race in 2.43, Rob Burn in 2.53, and Pat Kirby 3.47, all raising money for charities, as has always been the case.  2003 saw Alan Harman, Nigel Morgan, Pam Sherlock and Marian Codling on the finish line, Marian running under the WI banner on this occasion.  In 2004, Ian Codling decided it was his turn, and finished along with Ernie Huck and 4 others, 5 members, including Ian and Marian Codling in 2007, and 2009 saw Phillip Craig, Jill Knight and Ernie Huck on the start line.
Fell races continue throughout the year, and include Guisborough Moors, Clay Bank East, Eskdale Eureka, and Fox and Hounds, to name but a few.  In 1994, Charles Stead, always an outstanding runner for the club, was in the lead by about 3 minutes in the Guisborough Moors Fell Race when he took a wrong turn, easily done in a fell race with no marshals and always having to be on the lookout for small pieces of tape, and ended up eventually in 52nd place!  Fell Races have been discontinued for the time being, and runners are invited to send what would have been their entry fee to charities.
Hartlepool Marina 5 can mostly be relied on in April, and in recent years, has featured in the Club Championship.  It’s a popular race, out and back along the front at Hartlepool, and in the early days was stated by a blast from the cannon on the quayside!  In 2015, Cameron Choules, Stephan Tomaszewski and Ken Wood were high up in the finishing order.  The Mermaid 10k is also a regular, if Easter is in April.  It always takes place on Good Friday, and is another fast, flat, coastal race at Redcar.
Richard and Angela Hall were other competitive runners and finished high up, along with Stephan Tomaszewski, and Dusan Svoboda in the Ackworth Half Marathon in 2006, another club championship race that year.
Meanwood Valley Trail Race was always a regular, and if you can get up early enough to get to Dewsbury for a 9.30am start, you can still do the Dewsbury 10k.  It’s a fast out and back course, and one in which Gary Dunn always did well. 
In 2009, Pete Wilkin, Stewart Mechie, Noel Clough Gavin Coventry and Alan Wikeley headed to the Lake District for the 12 mile Anniversary Waltz Fell Race, and the Lake District is the regular venue for a Harriers social weekend.
Members are always in contact and trying to keep fit and active, and next weekend sees the first of the races in a virtual club championship, 5 miles in total, out and back from your home!

Thirsk 10 - 2020

Sunday 15th March 2020

Click here for results

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