About us

Sandbach Striders was born back in 2003. Since the early days, membership has grown with a firm ethos of the club being not just about running but social activities as well. The club is affiliated to UK AAA and has its own qualified coaches. Many other special events take place on various nights too.

The club meets on Wednesdays at 18:30 and Sundays at 09:00 at Elworth Cricket Club.

Whilst many members compete in races from 5k to Marathons, the emphasis remains purely on keeping people motivated and having fun. Why not scan through our race reports to see what we’ve been up to? Having read them, you’re sure to see why Sandbach Striders has developed the motto of being

"No Ordinary Running Club!"

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Race Report: Tour de Helvellyn 17/12/2011

The Tour de Helvellyn is a 38 mile ultra race held on the shortest Saturday of the year. The event was first held in 2010 in very cold and challenging conditions and was immediately hailed by some as a new classic. This year’s event had slightly better conditions which made for a still challenging but extremely pleasant day out. Excellent organisation, courtesy of Nav4 and a fantastic route are likely to reinforce claims for classic status. The route starts at the village of Askham from where it crosses Askham Fell to Howtown before going up Boredale and over Boredale Hause to Patterdale. From Patterdale a circuit around Helvellyn is taken by heading over Sticks Pass to Thirlmere and returning via Grisedale Tarn to Patterdale from where the outward route is reversed back to Askham.

I arrived in Askham at 07:20 and by 07:46 I was on my way with the early dawn light just enough to see by. The short bit of tarmac out of Askham was very icing and forward motion in fell shoes quite difficult but I was soon on the fell enjoying the scene as the weak light gradually intensified. Once over the gentle rise of Askham fell both mind and body began to wake up and I was soon flying down to Howtown only stopping to remove a jacket and replace the woolly hat with a buff. A few competitors took the road from Howtown to the first check point at Martindale church, like most I opted for the off road route which turned out to be a good gently rising path and far superior to the tarmac. Having punched my card (no electronic dibbers on this one) I decided it was time for breakfast and ate the first of my bacon butties saving the fruitcake, flapjack and liquorice for later in the day. This is only my second ultra but I’ve already learnt the importance of eating well and for me it has to be proper food no sticky sickly gels or the like.
I enjoyed the company of another runner up Boredale and soon found myself descending to Patterdale completing the first 10 miles in less than 2 hours. My anticipated time of 9hrs was looking credible though I knew much harder terrain was to come. A mile or so on the road took me to Glenridding and the track to Greenside passing on the way a competitor with a beaker of coffee in one hand and hot bacon butty in the other. The track was very icy and in the distance it was possible to see competitors ascending the lower snow slopes of the climb to the next control at a footbridge over Swart Beck.

The snow soon deepened and I passed a number of skiers and a couple of snow boarders as I climbed upwards. A stream bed provided a good alternative to the snow covered path and slopes, I made good progress until I came to leave the stream where I found myself floundering in waist deep snow. Rejoining the main route the climb levelled out but the wind picked up and icy blasts suggested I should stop and replace jacket and hat. I however decided to battle on and soon came to the check point at the footbridge manned by a marshal suitably clad in gear fit for the arctic.

From here the gradient remained easy but the going under foot got harder and harder, head down and teeth gritted I marched on. It was on this section I mentally readjusted my target time to 10 hrs and was overtaken by a small darkly clad runner who came by me as if someone had just announced free beer at the top. I later found this pocket rocket of a guy was Kim Collison the eventual winner who had stayed in bed until the latest start time then whizzed round the course in an incredible 6:05 hrs. The climb to the pass seemed to take for ever and the weather closed in so that on finally reaching the top I was engulfed by near white out conditions. Luckily the tracks on the ground from those ahead remained just visible and I rarely lost sight of other runners ahead so I wasn’t delayed by stopping to take a bearing. Passing more skiers the pace picked up and I started to warm up again. The descent was tremendous; running in snow is such good fun when you’re going downhill. Unfortunately I soon dropped below the freezing level and found myself sliding about on muddy slush, the guy next to me worn micro spikes but he fared no better as the snow and mud balled up between the points.

The next section followed the wall above the enclosures of Thirlmere to Swirls car park where Santa and a guy with sleigh bells waited to greet the runners into the check point. From here the route took the forest track and paths towards Dunmail Raise. This long stretch at around halfway and with the prospect of another big climb ahead was the low point for many, me included. I scrapped all ideas of a finish time and made my new target to get to Patterdale before the 16:30 cut off.

The climb to Grizedale Tarn soon came and happily soon passed, being a lot easier and more enjoyable than Sticks Pass. Past the tarn and descending into Grizedale the snow again lay deep but the trail trod by the front runners was easy to follow and running just about sustainable all the way to Patterdale. So after the long descend though Grizedale I trotted into Patterdale 2 hrs before the cut off and with just 10 miles to go I reinstated the 10hr target. Other than to gain access to my pack this was the only time I stopped, treating myself to a few minutes as I tucked into a slab of fruitcake.

The climb back up to Boredale Hause sapped the last strength from my legs and as I jogged down the dale I found it hard to keep running even on flat tarmac. The last checkpoint seemed to take an age to arrive but once there I knew the finish was not in doubt and all I had to do was keep putting one foot in front of the other. The 6 miles back up and over the fell to Askham were hard but I kept putting in short runs between walks on the steeper ground and as the light faded I could see a small plantation which marked the top of the fell and the final 2 mile descent to the finish. Even with a head torch picking the best route over the last few miles wasn’t easy but I soon arrived back at Askham village hall and was delighted to record a time of 9 hours 12 minutes.

The post race refreshments were excellent and after a bowl of spicy parsnip soup, a piece of ginger cake and several cups of tea I sat back and felt a deep warm feeling of satisfaction and contentment. This will definitely be on the list for 2012 and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys long runs in the hills.

For more information visit the website.

Chris Brumby

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