Steelworks Relays


[21st-May 14]


Through blue skies, populated by wisps of white cloud, a glorious sun shone over the green, rolling hills of Consett. It's warmth and leisurely beauty, predicting the beginnings of summer, was lost on Myself, Bethan and Joseph as we were late, and lost, in the middle of the unfamiliar village, and desperately asking an elderly couple if they knew where Blackhill Comrades Club was. After a few turnarounds and a brief rant at a Tesco Express for not making itself more visible, we made it to the race HQ just in time for registration. This was for the first Steelworks relay and social event, coming into the race calendar to replace the Snods 6 which had become so popular, it had outgrown the venue. Though most of our strength was elsewhere, perhaps racing in the Clive Cookson, or simply not tempted enough by the promise of curry, Blyth was still able to field three teams of three runners on this lovely Wednesday evening, though the teams were almost entirely comprised of youngsters and veterans. After collecting our numbers, it was only a short walk from the HQ up to the start, on top of a tall hill providing pretty views over the landscape. The negatives of being atop a hill came later of course.

At 7:15pm the first runners lined up for the start, ready to be the first people to try out what would prove to be an exciting and unique course. Up in the green and white were Joseph Woods, Terry McCabe and Steve Gillespie. As the horn went, the crowd of runners went surging off, with Joseph right in the mix at the front. After four hundred metres or so they were round the corner and out of sight, and it was left to the rest of us to get our muscles warm and wait. Being able to bask in the sunshine and chat to the other runners was a bonus. Before too long the first runner, a bloke from Elvet Striders, came flying onto the finishing stretch of about eight hundred metres. However, hot on his heels in second place for Blyth was Woodsy himself having a cracking run. All of Keith's engrained hill training has done him some good it would seem as he set one of the fastest times on the night. Off on second leg for our young Blyth team was Bethan Sproat, relatively new on the scene to running anything further than one hundred metres, but up for a challenge, however much she might complain beforehand. Before long the rest of the first leg runners came charging home including Steve and Terry in quick succession, leaving younger runners in their dust. Steve was quickly in to set off Peter Maylia, with Terry passing the race on to Leanne Herron.

For the next five minutes or so I quizzed Joseph about the course and he confirmed what I had suspected, not one but two tremendous hills to be tackled. Whilst the last one or two first leg runners trickled in, I stretched my legs, had a gulp of water and a chat with Heather Christopher who would be taking over from Peter. Joe Frazer, our other third leg runner, was off for an extended warm-up somewhere. After fighting up the final hill, Bethan came in to view, running along with a Blackhill Bounder whom she would end up finishing her leg with. As the two of them crossed the line together, I was off, taking over from Bethan. The lad from Blackhill put a little sprint on at the start to gain five metres on me, but I was quite content to let him blaze the trail; and what a trail it was. The ground was not tarmac but well trodden earth, leading briefly uphill through some trees before getting onto a long downhill section where you could let yourself drop down the hill for three quarters of a mile as long as you stayed bouncy and kept your footing. With this method I, and the Bounder in front of me, made up some serious ground on a group of six or so runners ahead of us, having already made up a position early on. After a few turns and wiggling our way through a gate we were on a brief flat section where the other runners fell behind the Blackhill runner and his green shadow (me of course). As all this was going on, I was just trying to keep my breathing regular whilst admiring the lovely greenery all around me and the pleasant skies above.

My reverie came to an abrupt end when I saw the first hill, and words like massive, steep and painful all sprang to mind. But I pumped my arms and took tiny strides on my toes to the point where I must've looked like an awkward ballet dancer. Having just about dragged myself up this hill and curved off onto a flat section through the trees I had the nerve to think that the hill hadn't been too bad and that I was doing well. Of course we then came out in front of hill number two and the words that sprang to mind at that point have no place on a race report. Still clinging on to Mr Blackhill's coattails I began the second ascent which was twice as long and nearly twice as steep too. I would've loved to stop and walk but there was a lady in front to be overtaken, I had the Blyth crew who had already finished watching and cheering me on, and I didn't dare lose site of the vest that had been sitting five metres in front of me for the whole race. I clawed my way to the top, my legs feeling like lead, and realised I now had to find something in me to beat the guy in front. Over the last stretch we upped the pace again and again, all the while I was losing hope that I was ever going to catch the bounder. But with sixty metres to go my sprint training came to the fore and I caught him by surprise, scraping ahead by a metre or so to finally beat the man I had been chasing...only for him to be given a faster official time by a second anyway. Comes of running for the host club I suppose. After Heather and Joe had brought home the other teams in fine form it was time for the social part of the evening which involved a huge buffet, a raffle, the prize giving, a quiz and a few well earned drinks. A great night overall which was well organised by Blackhill, a definite for next year I think. Blyth results were as follows:

Team 1 - 12th

Joseph Woods


Bethan Sproat


Calum Storey



Team 2 - 21st

Steve Gillespie


Peter Maylia


Heather Christopher



Team 3 - 26th

Terry McCabe


Leanne Herron


Joe Frazer



Thanks to all that ran and to the organisers, full result and photos on the Blackhill Bounders Website.