> 2008 race reports
14/12/08 Simonside Cairns 2008 - from Phil Green (photos: Will & Rob)

Neil Cassidy, Phil Vincent, Steve Hill and Garry Owens stick together - photo: Will Horsley (click for larger)

Seventy five souls started up from Rothbury heading towards the Simonside hills, splendidly attired in their best winter finery.

The hills specially prepared by a fast deposit of several inches of snow on top of a good deep layer of black peat porridge!

The runners also ready in many-coloured layers of Lycra, pertex and gortex ready to face the fun and games of this year’s race.

Many old friends lined up at the start, as well as many soon to be new friends, waiting for Paul and the church bells toll of eleven.

A reversion to the auld course had caused a stir and many were worried about times and such. Still the chatter died down as Paul gave out the instructions and then we were off!

We were soon dispatched over the bridge and up past the new hospital and left up towards the tower and the road to Lordenshaws. Nick, Al and Phil S all disappearing into the distance at this point from my view!

single file over the bridge - photo: Rob

Allon laps up the festive weather - photo: Rob (click for larger)

The snow steadily grew thicker underfoot as the pack climbed up out of the village and once on the climb up to Lordenshaws was about 2inches deep. This made for good running and certainly helped with the grip on the ascent. Once over the road the pack had spread out whilst heading out towards Spylaw and then onwards to Coquet cairn. Mostly the running was okay and allowed good speeds to be maintained. Once into the trees the track was plain to follow all the way to the “Path (substitute bloody big bog)” to Selby’s cove. This “path” then seemed to slow everyone down significantly. I went up to mid thigh and some club mates have reported cold wet nithers!

Kenny Young gets cold feet - photo: Rob

Once over the stile at Selby’s Cove all that remained was a quick run over to Will Horsley and Casper at the Forest edge. A quick jaunt through the wood, and across the field of stumps to the magic forest. Graham  was waiting with words of encouragement, “get a shift on yer slow!.” The Fairy lights and Christmas music made it even more special. Thanks’ guys it was great.

like running through a Christmas card - photo: Will (click for larger)

... and generator-powered Christmas lights and Slade's classic Christmas hit add to the delight! - photo: Rob

Then once out onto the Ravenheugh track sheer magic awaited with a simply marvelous cloud/ temperature inversion in the Coquet valley with the cheviots all covered in white. Eric, our American friend even managed a big whoop at this point!  Thence the sharp climb up the tourist path to the top of the Simonside escarpment. 

The seasonal views were just spectacular - photo: Rob (click for larger)

The run down from the north face towards Dove crags was fast on peat and deep-ish snow, views wanting to act as brakes though! Back onto paving at Dove crag and a bit of a speed up downhill to the stile, and then up towards the Beacon into the freezing hill fog.

beyond the stile, cold fog moves in - photo: Rob (click for larger)

The descent from the beacon, down to Lordenshaws then down to the track is the finest piece of hill racing in Northumberland in my humble opinion. The mixture of steep ice and rock down to the road only balanced by the snow, ice and wet turf of the drop down from Lordenshaws to the track home. I was fortunate to do a”madman” down both passing several runners on the way. On the final run in I was flagging but kept at it, knowing that soup and beer were waiting in the Newcastle Hotel.

looking down from The Beacon to the colder air below - photo: Rob (click for larger)

I managed to finish in a reasonable time, but was happier to have spent a great day out with friends and friendly rivals in some of the best winter pre Christmas running conditions Northumberland has seen for several years.

The men’s winner was the youthful and very fast Nick Swinburn, Second was the newly married Dr Al Horsfield (congrats to you and Kat) and third was Phil Sanderson.

On the ladies winners, first was Rachel Vincent (who we are all very pleased to see making a splendid return to the hills this year after a near disaster at the start of the year and a triumph with her BG, well done Rachel) and a very close second was Karen Robertson, followed in by Claire Bagness of Wooler in third place.

All in all a very memorable day, great organization from Paul, Graham et al, Great weather, and splendid hospitality from the Newcastle Hotel, Rothbury, home of fine soup and beer.

Phil Green


More photos from Will

photos from Dave Coxon

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