A bitingly cold crisp morning saw over 250 runners gather in the sleepy town of Wooler, on the edge of the Northumberland National Park on Sunday (20 November). Ahead lay 14.5 miles of the Wooler Trail 'Half-Marathon', or for the brave, the 28.5 mile, 6000ft ascent 'Marathon'.
Weather warnings and mandatory kits lists were issued from organisers Trail Outlaws, with wind chill on The Cheviot summit (815m) taking the mercury down to -11˚C!
Describing the event, runABC's Alex Osborne said: “It's the toughest race I've ever competed in – much more difficult than I was expecting. Promises of great views were hampered by low-lying freezing fog, with underfoot conditions consisting of peat bog, frozen peat bog and ice!”
A well way-marked route saw runners through five checkpoints supported by a team of hardy volunteer marshals, braving Baltic conditions to stand around on the hill tops for hours to ensure runners’ safety.
Stanley Topalian (Westerlands Cross Country Club) set the inaugural course record in 4.09.16 with a simple race plan: “Get to the top of the Cheviot first, then it's all down hill from there.”
He was followed in close fought battle for second place by Richard Bannister, (Stonehaven/Get Active Running) in 4.28.55, with Bob Neill (Vegan Runners) just behind in 4.29.34.
Women's winner Lucy Colquhoun held off a concerted challenge up to CP3 by Angela Reid (North Ayrshire AC- DNF) to come home in 4.59.37. Seona Burnett (Harmeny AC) finished second (5.56.15) with local runner Pam Brown of Wooler Running Club rounding up the women's podium (5.59.03).
The half marathon course (14.5 miles, 2400 ascent) was completed by over 100 runners. Early frontrunner Brian Sharp (Ochil HIll Runners) led the second placed man on a 2.5 mile detour and said: “Superb route and would highly recommend running those trails.”
The race was eventually won by Kerry Heaviside (2.04.17) closely followed by Jason Heads (2.05.34) and Steve Clark (2.06.03). Fourth overall and first female was Helen Smith in 2.06.11. South Shields Harriers & AC duo Mairi Standaloft and Frances Dembele completed the podium in 2.12.06 and 2.22.43 respectively.
A warm welcome at the Wooler Youth Hostel finish line greeted finishers with hot soup and cake to revive weary runners. Race directors Garry and Tim described the weekend as “one of most (if not the most) enjoyable weekend of the year for us.”
Full race results are available on our race listings page.