Ultra North, 3rd October 2020

Fancy a socially distanced Ultra Marathon? Me neither, but I have a strange admiration for those that do! So a very well done to Sarah Bowen and Maria Duenas, who have just completed the 55km Ultra North run. It was Maria’s first ever Ultra and she sends this report:

“Last Saturday, I attempted my first ultra-marathon, the ‘Ultra North’. This is a new ultra in the North East that was originally scheduled for April 2020 but was postponed due to lockdown restrictions. During the last week of August, we received an email stating that the race was back on for October 3. That was only 6 weeks away! Right away, I decided to ask Claremonters for advice/tips whether I should register for the race even though I had limited time to train. Everyone was very supportive and encouraged me to give it a go! Nina was kind enough to give me some training recommendations for my long runs. Sarah B was also very patient with me throughout the training, answering all my ultra-running and race related questions. I was very nervous to attempt to run 55 km but an ultra has always been in my running bucket list and this local race was too convenient to pass by.

The event started and finished in the Eagle Community Arena. It was my first socially-distanced race post lockdown and I thought it was very COVID-secure and well organised. A few days prior to the race, we received an email with a video link of the pre-race briefing. We were also given a 10 minute start window and were discouraged to arrive early in order to prevent crowds. As soon as we arrived at the registration area (which was outdoors), we had to wear a face mask to collect our race number and while we waited in the start line. Due to COVID regulations, spectators were also discouraged and we were encouraged to leave as soon as we crossed the finish line. This made the end of the race a bit underwhelming and lonely but I guess it was better than having the race cancelled.

The weather forecast for Saturday suggested heavy rain showers and had a Yellow Warning. As a result, it rained the entire race which made some areas very muddy with flooded bits. The course was fully marked with orange signage and the terrain was mixed with footpaths and trails. The route started in Scotswood Road, then via Hadrians Way. We then followed the River Tyne along the Keelman’s Way route through to Wylam. Then, we headed south climbing up the highest point of the route in Chopwell Woods, and then used Derwent Walk to head east. We then returned to the city centre until reaching the Millennium Bridge. Finally, we headed west to the finish line at the Eagles Community Centre. We had four checkpoints along the way: at 13 km (Wylam), 21 km, 36 km, and 47 km (Staithes Road). I was extremely tempted to stop at the last checkpoint as this is where we usually finish our Sunniside Sunday runs with Dave and Richard but I decided to push through. The last 8 km were familiar to me which made it drag and a bit boring but at least I knew what to expect. It didn’t help that I could see my flat from the route and that I even passed it at one point. Regardless, I finished my first ultra with no cramps or regrets! Everyone was extremely supportive and friendly during the race and it was a very different experience from other races. Here, the only goal was to finish so it was nice to not care about the pace and I even walked more than planned. Now I can’t wait to do another one!”

Maria finished in 6:15:24 and Sarah in 6:34:46.

Full results are here: https://ultraresults.greatrun.org/UltraNorthResults.html