Blyth Sands Race, 1st December 2019
The Blyth Sands, brilliantly organized by the very friendly Blyth Running Club, is a five mile race run entirely on Blyth beach and handicapped by gender and age. Sounds idyllic but remember, this is a beach in Northeast England in December, not some tropical island, so the weather is sure to be vile. Runners are set off in one minute intervals with the over-60 women starting first and the under-40 men last, at a disadvantage of 14 minutes. This unique handicapping system gives fast veterans a good chance of winning while mediocre standard seniors such as myself stand virtually no chance of finishing anywhere near the top.
The route is a simple out and back along the beach much like our Quayside handicap. There’s nothing quite so soul-destroying as being set off and seeing the lead runners (usually veteran women) halfway through the course on their way back to the finish before you’ve barely hit your stride. Conditions vary year to year depending on the tide. Last year’s race was run at peak high tide so conditions were the worst I’ve ever experienced; either wading through knee high water, sinking in soft sand on whatever “beach” was left or bashing my feet on huge rocks. The race organizer promised me it would be run at low tide this year and true to his word, conditions were much easier underfoot. The sand was quite firm and although the temperature was only 3 or 4 degrees, the strong sunshine made it a beautiful day for a run.
The results hardly matter as I was far, far down the field but my time was three minutes quicker than last year which shows just how much of a difference the conditions can make. Kenny (an ever-present at this race) and Alan Dunning also took part. Of course, the only reason I do silly things like this is the food afterwards and Blyth RC don’t disappoint on that front, serving mince pies, tea, coffee and sherry at the lifeguard centre.
There are some excellent reports by Jeremy Smith and Richard Slack from years gone by but I have to highlight this beauty by David Reay from 2015 which perfectly sums up how I feel about this race.