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Lord Lawson of Beamish

by Val Baxter

May 3, 2016

Let it snow, let it snow…Neptune Relays Report by Phil Atkinson

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow……..we must be off to Sedgefield! It was decided some weeks ago at training that we would try and rustle up a couple of teams for the Neptune Relays at Sedgefield, Rob Wilson pushed and pushed to get some Birtley teams together, but in the end got just 4 hardy souls! The team was made up of Rob Wilson, Lee Drummond, Nicky Newby and myself, all new members to Birtley AC and competitive running, but all very keen to do well and impress.

Neptune course map

(Map taken from Rob Wilson’s Strava upload – you can view all of Birtley AC’s runs on Strava here)

The Neptune relays are a four stage relay race with stages of 1.7 miles. A figure of eight route around the Serpentine Lake and the new lake of the recently restored scenic gem of Hardwick Country Park, near Sedgefield. My most recent memory of Sedgefield was for the NE Cross Country County Championship in December which was run in snow blizzard conditions, as if it were to snow in April!

Rob and Nicky were to make their own way to Sedgefield, with Lee and myself trying to save the environment by car sharing. At the time of being picked up the heavens had opened and Durham City, where I was being picked up, was hit with a snow storm. Due to the conditions it took Lee half an hour to travel from ‘the nick’ at Brasside to our rendezvous point at county hall, Durham City. It then took another half an hour to navigate our way through Durham, (the now makeshift car park, with all the road works going on!), to get onto the road that leads to Sedgefield! The traffic was at snail’s pace, unlike our running, all the way to Sedgefield due to the snow. We got a message en-route from Rob to say he had at least arrived safely.

When we eventually arrived at Sedgefield and due to the popularity of the event we had to park up in the bus park with all other late arrivals, obviously the weather hadn’t put anyone off. The extortionate car parking fee was paid and it was off find Rob and Nicky. We found Rob at the registration area with registration paperwork in hand, ready to be completed. Between the 3 of us we then put the detail in for each leg with Nicky 1st, Rob 2nd, me 3rd and Lee taking the glory leg.

The not so hefty sum of £8 was then exchanged with the wonderful ladies from Sedgefield Harriers who were manning the registration desks. It was at this point my eyes were drawn to the mammoth melons!! Yes, the prizes for this event were fruit platters, no trophies, no medals, no money, just some of your 5 a day. Fortunately we had all eaten earlier probably knowing the delicious looking fruit was a step too far!!

Numbers were then pinned to vests, vests applied, then a couple of more skins, then gloves, then hat, well it was the end of April! At this point, 20 minutes before the race starting Nicky was nowhere to be seen. We had a run back to the car park to warm up, drop some kit off plus try and find Nicky. We then thought; was he still at work, was he stuck in traffic, was he stuck in the snow, had he stopped off for a couple of pints? We watched every car come in to the car park, no Nicky but then what we thought was our trump card appeared, only Jeff ‘do you want to talk about the London Marathon’ Johnston! Unfortunately Jeff hadn’t brought any running kit with him and was there to offer support to the team. With a quick re-think it was decided I would do the 1st leg and the glory leg, so off I went to warm up. As I ran into the field who did I see coming over the hill….Nicky, fully kitted up and raring to go. We eventually met up with Rob and Lee, with Nicky not quite warmed it was decided I would do the 1st leg and Nicky was now the glory leg.

After a short delay all the first leg runners were called to the start line for the mass start. This was on the grassy and now muddy downward slope from the temple with the lake and hotel in front of you. After the briefing the whistle went and we were off.

phil sedgefield

It became a bottle neck on the first corner as the masses hit the path around the lake but within quarter of a mile the field quickly panned out. The path then weaved and twisted its way around the large lake then around a smaller lake which eventually took you into and through the woods, a bit like Alnwick XC on a smaller scale, with large puddles, mud and tree stumps to negotiate. Eventually you came out of the woods and hit the ascent of the grassy temple mound and then with a sharp left turn back down towards the pen. As with all events you get encouraged along the way by all of the spectators, along with your team mates.

rob sedgefield

Rob was then off, although I didn’t see him at the pen. He then eased his way around the lake picking off a couple of competitors; we then gave him the obligatory encouragement as he passed us on his way into the woods. We then gave him a final shout on the incline towards the temple and then to hand over to Lee.

lee sedgefield

Lee then gave his all around the lakes, to-ing and fro-ing with the runners around him, getting past them, only to find them coming back at him. We knew by his face coming up the final hill he had given absolutely everything before handing over to Nicky.

nicky sedgefield

Nicky was off to his usual flying start, no matter the length of race or the conditions, he puts his head down and goes for it. We could see him at the far end of the lake picking off 1 then 2 then 3 runners, a final count saw him pick off at least 6 on the first part of the race. He then sped past us and off into woods eventually re-appearing going at the same pace as he set off, fantastic runs all round.

We finished in 24th position out of 113 entries. (great running lads – Val)

Full results can be downloaded here.

We then had the team photo and it was decided we would go for a pint to celebrate our successes, without any fruit!

sedgefield team

The hardest decision all evening was where to go for this pint! Coxhoe village pubs were too rough; Sedgefield village pubs were too posh so we ended up in the Hardwick Hall Hotel for the £5 pint!

beers sedgefield

Great craic was had by a great set of lads. Tales of the race were told, future races organized, all under a magnificent portrait of local people including Tony Blair (Ex-Prime Minister), Peter Beardsley (ex footballer) and George Reynolds (ex Durham villain) The beer must have hit Nicky a bit too quickly as he started talking about getting a room for the night, but it was when Jeff started talking about the London Marathon…again, we knew it was time to sup up and go home to our loving and supportive wives!

This was a great event and I would encourage any club member to have a go next year. It was well attended and well organized all within one of the most scenic parks of the region.


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