Pier to Pier, 19th May 2024

An earlier than usual start, a cloudy South Shields and a breeze coming from the north combined to mean that it was quite chilly as the runners made their way to seafront. So, unlike the last couple of years when the sun was shining, the discussion was more along the lines of “How long can we keep our tops on?” rather than “Can I borrow your sun cream?”. The 9am start and the weather weren’t the only changes from previous years as the toilets were out of order in the usual assembly point of the Haven Point Sports Centre. This caused a bit of confusion, but alternative facilities were found in the park and amongst the rides in the funfair, and most of the 31-strong Claremont Road Runners contingent assembled in the car park in plenty of time before the start. After the usual pre-race gossip, photos and preparation of excuses, bags were loaded onto the baggage bus and we made our way onto the beach, trying to keep warm before the off. The other pre-race ritual that I love is the emptying of the sand from the shoes, knowing full well that we will be taking more on board in the first mile!

So, after some announcements that I couldn’t hear, we waved to the drone filming overhead and set off on our way to Sunderland. It was now that we appreciated the cooler day as it was a nice temperature to run in, and the wind was at our backs for most of the time.

The wide start line means everybody is quickly on their way, and the field spreads out in Chariots of Fire style along the beach. I was trying to keep on solid, flat sand and also not to get sucked into going off too fast, as is easily done when starting near the front. However, my plan was to keep Laurie Johnson and Sarah Kerr in sight for as long as possible, but they were way ahead of me before the we reached the end of the beach! I did pass Niki Szlovak early on, which made me have a quick glance at my watch to see if I was speeding, but I was happy enough with my pace when my watched buzzed to say 1 kilometre had gone by. The 2nd kilometre is arguably the toughest, as we leave the beach passing through soft sand and over rugged terrain, climbing, steeply at first, then steadily onto the Leas. I think this was the first time that the field didn’t split at this point, with everybody staying on the right hand side and nobody taking the path to the left.

Now there was a long stretch on the grassy paths, before going down and up a few steps then passing Marsden grotto. We then headed on the trails, cutting the odd corner on the grass, towards the next landmark of Souter Lighthouse. By now, I had tagged onto a silver-haired Elvet Strider who I guessed could be in my age group, running one or two places behind him – but that didn’t last either! We were running at a steady pace and I was trying to enjoy the coastal views between watching where I was putting my feet, but somewhere around 8K I noticed that my target had upped the pace and was starting to move up through the field. For a few seconds I toyed with the idea of trying to keep up, but, with about 3K still to run, I knew that I didn’t have it in me. My only target now was to maintain a reasonable pace to the end. The stretch along the promenade provides spectators and marshals to give encouragement, but Roker lighthouse never seems to be getting any closer! Eventually we descended a few steps onto the beach for the final kilometre, which this year included a nice short stretch through the sea – a finish withwet feet guaranteed!

It was a relief to cross the finish line, meet the other Claremonters as they came in and exchange tales of how we got on – and there were some very good performances. Mark Anderson and Hazel Juggins were 3rd in their age groups, and Sarah Kerr will be receiving one of the beautiful glass trophies as winner of the FV40 category.

Goody bag collected (still a good one, but I felt not up to the previous very high standards – not really sure I need a phone stand and Gill was upset about the lack of a Mars Bar!), it was onto Fausto’s for restorative coffee and cake.

Definitely still my favourite race – but can we please move the start back to 10am next year?

23Mark Anderson42:54 (3rd M50)
57Laurie Johnson45:33
67Sarah Kerr45:52 (1st F40)
95Tom Tinsley47:52
100Sonam Wangdi48:05
119Nikoletta Szlovak49:01
145Isabel Neatrour50:02
173Dave Roberts51:14
187Heather Steel52:04
199Mungai Wairia52:31
244Julie Cross53:51
257Nicki O’Brien54:09
274Cate Walker54:48
281Holly Porter54:57
294Aaron Mansell55:23
303Sophie Douglas55:43
389Lucy Keating58:01
397Nina Jensen58:06
475Liz Denyer59:55
514Rachel Hurdman1:00:38
536Tara Hipwood1:01:02
567Lucy Ward1:01:44
596Eddie Smith1:02:23
613Anneliza Andreadi1:02:58
632Hazel Juggins1:03:19 (3rd F60)
883Janet Palmer1:08:53
906Sophie Richardson1:09:34
948Rose Hawkswood1:10:25
1095Ann Smith1:15:58
1248Gill Milne1:20:53
1250Cath Robson1:21:00
Tom Tinsley -