By Alistair Urquhart
Endurance Life don’t do ordinary. The outfit responsible for the awesome alternative Olympic Relay, which saw volunteer runners from across the UK follow the path of the Olympic torch 24/7 in 2012, they run a variety of ambitious events throughout the year, all set in stunning locations. For this they command a modest premium on entry fees compared to similar trail events but on reflection, considered well worth it by this first time customer.
Each round of the Coastal Trail Series is in fact four races in one; Ultra, Marathon, Half Marathon and 10k. For the Northumberland event, each distance shared a single directional route, culminating in the beautiful setting of Bamburgh Castle. It was the Half Marathon for me, as a kick off to my marathon training season and a yardstick for my trail running progression built up over winter miles.
Pre-race briefing was forthright and sound, “Keep the sea on the right and you won’t get lost”. Simple enough. Although there were checkpoints to locate en-route, and lengthy beach sections to traverse, the signage was excellent throughout, reflecting the general attention to detail from the organisers. They can’t take the credit for the weather though. Clear blue skies and tepid spring sunshine throughout. Dream conditions for the thousand or so competitors drawn to compete on a sleepy seaside Saturday.
The course offered a diversity of conditions that only coastal routes can deliver; hard packed stony trail, mud & bog, stile & gate, soft & hard sand, open streams, seaweed strewn rocks and the concrete paths of fishing villages littered with occasional, bewildered onlookers. Pacing evenly soon became an impossibility with a better approach to target the long tidal beach sections to build rhythm and sustain progress. I like to think that my “Yorkshire hard” winter training regime began to pay off in the closing stages when I reeled in a decent portion of the field and climbed the brutal medieval ramparts to finish in 15th place overall, taking a first ever race win in the V45 category.
Other days and faster courses lie out there for PB hunting. I set off home delighted that my Roundhay Runners vest enjoyed a successful outing and felt privileged to have experienced my sport in such surroundings and conditions. A memorable day that when recalled will tempt me back, both as a patron of Endurance Life and to this enchanting stretch of coast to run.