24 Oct 2015 – Snowdonia Marathon

My third Snowdonia Marathon, sadly without co strider Richard Gray on today`s start line who was ill on the race morning (thankfully now better).

The weather is very heavy rain, similar to that when a few of us did Snowdonia trail Marathon earlier in the year, yep glum and that white low cloud over Snowdon itself. Yet it was good of the organisers to provide disposable rain macs when we picked up our numbers and superb Technical T-shirts from Electric Mountain the day before, they were a big help at the start line.

This is a bucket list Marathon for those who collect them, I’ve yet to hear someone who dislikes the event and the 2700 places are snapped up from January 1st in no time whatsoever, this is a testing and visually sumptuous 26.2 miles and a real credit to North Wales.

10:30 the race starts and naturally despite the bad weather its Striders vest all the way, a slightly downhill first mile towards Nant Peris before four miles up the highest Road in Britain (Pen Y pass), it’s a long slow climb so it’s best to just pick a speed and sit at it-already by mile four quite a few walk.

Over the top of the Pass and drop off the top downhill, I really enjoy this descent and pass lots of people on the way down to Pen Y Gwyrd, from there it’s a long trail descent down into the Gwynant valley.

The plan is going well, run strongly but leave something in the tank for Bwlch Y Groes at 21 miles more on that later, I`m running at good speed as we get into the popular tourist village of Beddgelert at the halfway point. The next few miles out of Beddgelert is the hill that many forget, I can tell that I feel a lot stronger than last year as we head towards Pen Y Groes where there’s a bloke in Fell Kit running a largely road marathon in Inov-8 X-Talon`s!

The miles between 19 and 21 were my `wobble miles`, largely because I find the Betws Garmon area a bit dull on road (Although Llyn Cwellyn and its backdrop are remarkable) so was actually glad when we got into the village of Waunfawr and `That` climb. So 21.5 miles in and you have a climb that perhaps 90% of runners end up walking that goes over the lower slopes of Snowdon, at about 23 miles it goes to trail. All the offroad Fell running has paid dividends as I run from Waunfawr straight over Bwlch Y groes without a problem, very happy about this as felt awful last time I tried.

The trail section was utterly soaked, complete water and mudfest in road shoes, pretty much carnage with runners slipping over constantly (one bloke fell three times in a hundred yards) Although pretty much soaked and muddied up I remained on my feet. For once I was happy to hit tarmac again on the long descent back into Llanberis chasing a young blonde (!) back towards the finish line which she duly crossed and immediately threw up!

Very happy with the day`s performance which I dedicated to my Dad, 25 minutes off my course PB coming in at 3 hours 33 mins not bad with 2036ft of ascent!

Hope some more Stilton Striders will give this a whirl in the coming years it truly is worth doing on so many levels, really is a race you`ll never forget. [Rob]

26 July 2015 – Snowdonia Trail Marathon

Nine Striders headed off to North Wales for the inaugural Snowdonia Trail Marathon (and half).  Both routes were off-road courses that took in a visit to (almost) the summit of Mount Snowdon – via the Ranger Path for the half, and the Pyg Track for the full marathon, which included around 6,000 feet of ascent.

As Llanberis filled with runners and tourists on the Saturday afternoon ahead of the race, the warm July sunshine masked what the mountain weather forecasts were saying – Sunday (race day) would be very windy, wet and would feel like minus 6 in the wind chill towards the top.  The organisers announced full body waterproofs, hat and gloves would all be mandatory kit…

Katie Hateley and Luke Eggleston completed the “half” in 3hrs 01min and 3.03 respectively, with the “full” being conquered by Jim Hatherley (5.31), Rob Beers (5.38), Rich Gray (6.25), John Houghton (6.35), Dan Valencia (6.38), Michael Atton (6.40) and Simon Bottrill (6.42).

Full report from Rob is below:


I entered this not long after it was announced, sounded brilliant and not soon after was joined by Dan Valencia and then it got silly with a whole horde of us being tagged in things and entering it but of course all in a brilliant way.

So somehow we got it all sorted, accommodation, transport, food, directions and made it to Jesse James bunkhouse in Llandeniolen for the nine Stilton Striders doing the race (7 doing the Marathon, 2 doing the half).

Despite rocking up in North Wales to staggeringly nice weather, the forecast for the race on Sunday was quite severe with heavy rain predicted so we thankfully were all well kitted out or so we thought.

The quickly sold out 800 field started at 10:00am in wet weather running both the half and full Marathon with already many people walking in the first mile on the road over towards Llyn Cwellyn. Suddenly avoiding those who chose to start walking or who wouldn’t recognise running courtesy was a bit annoying the first few miles over the mountain path but the field after the top started to string out more on rather a lovely descent where by then the race split in two (half and Full routes).

A mile of road between Llyn Cwellyn and the village of Rhyd Ddu before heading into the trails of Beddgelert Forest which provided some scenic and enjoyable trail running. Into the popular tourist village of Beddgelert itself before taking the path alongside the river that comes out besides Llyn Dinas, very muddy along here and wearing winter fell shoes paid off massively, indeed she did take a stud today.

The course veered the steep side of the Gwynant valley, circumnavigating the lake with some stiff climbs and quite technical woodland before coming out at the Gwynant campside and then the long pull up to Pen Y Pass which was a real stamina drainer.

Pen Y Pass, the highest road in the UK was 20 miles in, so in your head it’s a `mere 10k to finish` looking at my watch and thinking Hmm if this was a Road Marathon I’d be finished by now, the Pyg track for most is un-runnable with huge sections of rocky outcrops and as we ascend higher and into worse weather, many sections are climbs and scrambles rather than even walking. Its 22 miles and in and the temperature is dropping quickly, the rain hammering down and blowy as anything, I can’t explain what this feels like after your already tired from running and all the previous amount of ascent. Seriously ask any member doing the full and given the chance they would’ve retired from the race given the chance, it was severe, making it to the top wasn’t the good bit but getting down a bit further and the temperature rising was much more satisfying. So I reach the top, OK maybe I should point out I’m still wearing my Stilton vest at this point as too cold to put my base layer on, thankfully I’m directed downhill and I make it to train bridge and know I’m going to live to fight another day. Whilst I consider myself and fellow Striders doing this event very strong runners it is a concern for those perhaps not of our ability doing the event and hopefully the race organisers will think seriously about pre-requisites for race entries for the next event of this race.

The long descent down the Llanberis path finally see`s the legs wake up again, although when we hit road again it’s not the easy way back to the finish but were re-directed through some woods, then again at the side of Castell Dolbadarn and then just as I think we’re going towards the old Hospital finally the finish comes into sight.! I know it had been misjudged mile wise but to find out it was 29.3 miles rather than the advertised 26.2 was irresponsible of the organiser, especially given the terrain and the freak weather. The last and most dangerous section of the race 9.3 miles took over 2 hours to complete which really says it all how tough it was.

I had a lovely welcome from Katie and Luke who had done the HM and from Jim when I came in; apparently I was very blank and dazed. I sat there in the hall after dripping wet huddled in my coat before eventually realizing what I`d done, 29.3 miles including Snowdon! And only 7 minutes behind one of Strider`s fastest runners! It certainly took time and kind hearted Jim fetching me a cuppa to realize the magnitude of what had gone before. I know young Simon Bottrill suffering with recurring injury and repeatedly telling anyone who`d listen beforehand he was considering dropping to the half, yet ran the full and was last Strider which he was slightly down about-It doesn’t matter! Your first Ultra good man, massive endurance both physically and mentally to have done it at all, I salute you!

Scariest, toughest race any of us have ever been in bar none, we all felt great we did it and had an absolutely awesome weekend that we will never forget. Thanks to the team who came away hope we can have such a great trip next year wherever it may be, not only an unforgettable race experience but a great bonding experience where tears of laughter were never far away.  [Rob]

3 May 2015 – Geneva Marathon

This year all proceeds from the Geneva Marathon for UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) has been donated to Nepal.

The Geneva Marathon provides runners with a unique route of 42,195 km including the most beautiful landmarks of the city as well as Geneva’s historical and cosmopolitan centre and its magnificent countryside surrounding it. Starting at Chene-Bouge in the Geneva suburbs with a stunning Alpine backdrop nestled in between the Jura’s crests and the Mont Blanc summits, you will run into the heart of the outlying vineyards, the Marathon winds itself through ten villages of the Geneva district, finally dropping down to the lake side for the last six miles past the famous ‘Jet d’eau de Geneva’ crossing the finish line on the Pont du Mont-Blanc.

John and Louise Houghton competing in their fifth Geneva Marathon produced solid performances, enduring torrential rain throughout and despite a heavy chest infection Louise completed the 26.2 miles in 4hrs 38mins, John finished in 3hrs 53mins (A new course PB)  [John]


16 May 2015 – White Peak Marathon

It was an early start for a depleted Striders squad, ravaged by injury, missing the likes of Rob Beers, Simon Bottrill & Vicki Lowe. Conditions were perfect if a little cold, however after a hearty breakfast of poached eggs on toast the 3 intrepid athletes took to the start line, along with 166 other eager runners. 

Michael Atton led from the start with his trademark pace followed by Dan Valencia & then the experienced John Houghton running in his 16th marathon. The course follows a railway line for 90% of the way with only slight changes in gradient & surface. The runners were treated to spectacular views over the beautiful Peak District national park however as tempratures rose, and fatigue set in the focus was set firmly on the 26.2 miles ahead. 

Striders stalwart John Houghton came in at 3:46:09 beating his PB by 4 minutes for the marathon! The Burton Lazars man came in 71st, running a fantastic,cleverly paced race. 2nd Strider in was Dan Valencia in 4:13:07 in 112th place. Valencia has struggled with his marathon form this year, amidst rumours that his dip in form is due to his controversial new footwear. 3rd Strider in was the giant Michael ( Mick) Atton. The Old Dalby runner came in at a highly respectable 4:16:55 in his first ever marathon! 

After the 3 had went through the obligatory, media, post race rub downs, & Houghton had finished in the doping tent, the 3 weary souls enjoyed a light meal in a Cramford hostelry, with wives & girlfriends, mission accomplished! [Dan]


26 Apr 2015 – London Marathon

5 Stilton Striders joined the 38,000 people in the 35th London Marathon in perfect running conditions.  Jason Barton had an excellent run 2.47. Vicki Lowe 3.54 and Wayne Hackett 4.07  both are no strangers to this course. Completing the marathon for the first time was Michelle Farlow in 4.08 and Shaun Staff 6.06.  Thanks to our Strider supporters on the day Kirsty Black and Shane Sharkey. [Vicki]

26 Apr 2015 – Shakespeare Marathon

It was once more unto the breach as Rob Beers and Dan Valencia headed to Stratford upon Avon for a crack at the Shakespeare Marathon. There certainly were quite a few thousand running it but it seems to have been strangely overshadowed by some other Marathon going on today? 

So a good performance was needed to burn the odd pound of flesh but very heavy traffic in the early going as runners from the full and Half Marathon are not sorted out in any order and the streets aren’t overly wide.  Finally after three miles were out in the country and not people dodging, Dan has set an impressive split pace given his Ashby 20 time and although the course isn’t as flat as I’d believed(at all) it’s very scenic and enjoyable. 

Water stops throughout the course are very numerous (actually so are WC`s) however Gels/Mars bars or similar nutrition nope.  It’s a two lap course but slightly different on the second lap,  Dan hadn’t been well in the few weeks leading up to the race and tells me to push on at the halfway point, he had been running superbly the first half.  

The worst part is the offroad compacted trail which is bad enough the first lap is the second lap it goes on forever and compared to the earlier scenery is as dull as dishwater. Last three miles become more of a struggle but I get in at 3:30 I clocked which made my brow bound with victorious wreaths, Dan was a bit miffed at himself at 4:04 but given his first run for a few weeks and illness I thought it mighty credible, its 26.2 miles!  

Good performance from Stuart Gregory the only Strider running the Half Marathon, running 2:12 and jangling his Car keys in his back pocket throughout!  

As a race, they claim 40% goes to charity (doesn’t 100% of Leicester?) it’s very meagre on the goodie bag given the entry price (Banana/Water/Medal) but it is a nice race although there are parts of it I don’t feel are suited to the outright Road Runner(sharp turns along the canal, the trail parts) , very scenic and enjoyable  I think possibly even a PB course for those running the half marathon (PB or not PB that is the question).  [Rob]


Shakespeare half marathon

With Rob and Dan running the full marathon, Stuart was the only Strider to take on the half marathon, after a steady start Stuart began to lift his pace from mile 3, completing the first half of the course in just over an hour, Stuart then maintained his pace to the finish to compete the course 24 minutes 3 seconds faster than last year in a course PB of 2hr 12m 56s, only 5 minutes 1 second slower than his PB for the distance set in Nottingham last September. [Stuart]

19 Apr 2015 – Manchester Marathon

3 runners from Melton made the trip up the M6 to run the Manchester Marathon for what turned out to be a good day out for all concerned. 

In near perfect conditions, first over the line in front of Old Trafford Stadium was Stilton Striders Matt Gayton who clocked a time of 3:25:57 beating his previous PB by 36 minutes, at mile 20 Matt had plans of overtaking the 3:15 pacer however this didn’t transpire as the pacer speeded or maybe Matt slowed down. Next home with a PB by 14 minutes was fellow strider Abi Arnott finishing in 3:42:57. Mark Ninnis followed soon after making an impressive Marathon debut in 3:46:48. 

The race was well supported and organised and has proved it is a definite PB course.  [Abi]

19 Apr 2015 – Longhorn Marathon

On a busy day in the race calendar, the inaugural ‘Longhorn’ took place in the picturesque grounds of Thoresby Hall in North Notts.  With 10k, half and full marathon options on offer, a looped course was used (4 for the full marathon), taking in a good mix of farm track, woodland trail and Tarmac path – all dry and solid after recent sunshine.  

With enough undulations to keep interest, without trashing the legs, sole Strider Rich Gray put in an even paced 3.44 to finish in 11th place (of 35) in the marathon, 10th male.  With around 350 entries overall, this one is likely to grow in future and well worth a look as something a bit different from the big city marathons.  [Rich]