Category Archives: Club

My Manchester Half Marathon – 14th October 2018 (by Shaun Ashworth)

After feeling really disappointed with my performance at the potters Arf in June I made the decision to try and get myself in better condition and target the Manchester half for my target for the year of a sub 90min HM. Over the next couple of weeks Martin and Wayne had also signed up with the same target and the training started. I tried to train as consistently as I could with a couple of fast/hard sessions in the week and a decent long run on the weekend. Sometimes these were tough as I’d be running on my own but then I also got to run with some great runners, which make these tough sessions a lot easier when you’re all pushing each other.

All of a sudden results and performances started to improve, times that I thought would be out of reach were being achieved and everything seemed to be coming together. I knew I was running well but there was always this doubt in the back of my mind that I’d struggle to maintain the pace I wanted over the 13.1 miles, probably due to my disappointment at the potters Arf. Although at this point I knew that I’d rushed back from injury for that race and hadn’t done enough long runs in training.

In July I noticed a post from Lynda offering a Tissington trail place 2 weeks before Manchester. I thought this would be a good opportunity to get the speed and distance required and ease my worries about not being able to complete Manchester in my target time. As I completed Tissington in a time of 1hr 20.38 it helped in one sense that I knew I could do it but as few of you would of witnessed it completely confused me as to what was achievable and what I should be targeting. After a few conversations with various people I knew that I should just run as I always do, to go out hard and back myself and not have any regrets.

The night before the race I was nervous and knew I needed a good night sleep, which seemed to make it harder to sleep and resulted in me watching Die Hard until 2am and with my alarm set for 5am this wasn’t ideal. Surprisingly, I woke fine and went to pick Martin and Wayne up to travel up to Manchester. The chat in the car seemed to help and I started to look forward to the race, and even more so the planned food for after.

We arrived in plenty of time and walked to the Race village via the start line to familiarise ourselves with where we needed to be as it’s a 10 min walk from the race village back to the start.

We knew it was going to rain and the previous day I had suggested to the lads that maybe we should take a bin bag to keep us dry and warm while we walked to the start but this ended in me being mocked by the pair of them so I decided to not bother, only to find that they both had brought bin bags, although luckily for me Wayne couldn’t decide between a standard size and a wheelie bin size so he had a spare. (He even shared a selfie of himself modelling them the previous night). On the way to the start we bumped into our fellow SMM runners Anna, Matthew and Michael and Chief Supporter for the day Caroline who decided a bin bag photo was needed and then off we went to the start pen. After a few of Emma’s now famous balloon warm ups we entered Start Pen ‘A’ Ready for the Manchester Half Marathon.

I made my way to near the front of the pen to try and get a decent start only to turn back and find that Martin and Wayne weren’t there and I couldn’t see them. It turns out they didn’t want to get too close to the front. I was joined by Jo and Vic which helped as because of their previous encounters with the streets of Manchester they were more nervous than me and so instead of worrying myself, I was trying to convince them both that they’d be fine. Just in front was Chris Morgan, Craig Taylor and a couple of other Newcastle runners which I hoped would work in my favour for pacing as I knew these guys are top runners and would be targeting a finish time similar to mine.

After a short delay ‘Bang’ the pistol went off and the race started, I set off at a quick pace and the miles soon started to go by and I felt ok. After a quick chat with Craig discussing targets I went past him and carried on back through the crowds who had gathered at the start, this is when I heard the first ‘Goarn Shaun’ from Caroline which always helps and always makes me smile. Everything was going fine up until about mile 7 when my stomach started to feel a bit ‘dodgy’ and this affected my concentration which then affected my running. I dug in and got dragged along by runners who were passing me, I knew that we joined the straight road back to the finish at around 11 miles so this was the primary target and then look towards the final 2 miles to the finish. 11 miles came and went and then before I knew it I was on the short final stretch with the finish in sight. I kicked on to try and grab as many extra seconds as I could and this is when I heard ‘Goarn Shaun’ for the second time which again made me smile although the photo shows it as more of a grimace as my calf was starting to cramp at the same time.

Finished…… as I crossed the line in a time of 1.22.20 (11 minutes faster than the previous year) I was greeted by Chris Morgan who had finished in a brilliant time of 1.20, my first thought was to see if Wayne or Martin were in sight. I got ushered round into the finish area to collect my medal and goody bag and then it was a case of waiting and hoping that they both finished in under 90 minutes. Within a few minutes I saw them both in the distance and I knew they’d come in within the target. Happy Days!!! Within a couple of minutes both Jo and Vic came through again both pleased with their times and confirmed what I had tried to tell them before that they’d be fine and both do well. I would of liked to hang on to see my sister and partner finish their first half marathons and all the other SMM runners finish but unfortunately by this point my stomach was in bits and we were all freezing so we headed off to the restaurant where Vic and Jo would meet us. Unfortunately the meal didn’t go to plan for me as I was struggling to eat but everyone else seemed to enjoy the food and a good chat which was good and I will look to do this again next year and hopefully be able to eat a bit more.

So Manchester Half Marathon is done, I appreciate some of you reading this would of ran multiple Half’s, Marathons and Ultras and maybe think ‘all this worry over a half’ but I always push myself and set myself high standards which then ultimately turns into more worrying and nerves hence why I was so disappointed with the Potters Arf, although my time wasn’t that bad. I definitely need to start listening to my own advice sometimes as I’ve tried to explain to a couple of friends, sometimes those nerves can be a good thing and you should try and embrace it. This is something I’ll be working on leading to up my first marathon next year. Finally I like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has encouraged me over the last few months, whether it be commenting on a run post or to those people who messaged me in the couple of days before Manchester. I can’t explain how much it has helped and kept me pushing towards my goals for the year and, to my wife who sent me a lovely text as I arrived in Manchester that brought a tear to my eye and again helped settle my nerves down.

Thank you all,

Aggi & Paul – Thunder Run 2018

Thunder Run Mixed Pairs.

So the crazy idea of doing Thunder Run as a pair came after last years Solo effort. I managed to do 13 laps by myself in 2017 which considering the very wet weather conditions I was happy with. During a conversation some days afterwards Aggi asked if I would do Solo again next year, jokingly I said no but we can do it as a pair? Aggi, being Aggi, straight away said yes ok….. I did ask on a few occasions before registration open that she was sure? Each time was the same answer… So October came round and the registration window opened, this event sells out in a matter of hours so you have to be quick to secure your place. I sat at my keyboard hitting the F5 button in the minutes leading up to the 10am entry open time. It wasn’t long before the queue had opened and it was a waiting game to see if we could get our place. After around 15 minutes the window changed and I was able to secure our place. Brilliant! As TR24 was another 9 months away we didn’t really worry about it at this stage as we had Manchester Marathon to train for before this.

Skipping forward to May 2018 and both having a great start to the running calendar. We made a decision to step things up a level, so enlisted the help of Ben Gamble. His training plans and sports treatments really helped us to further improve. We were both running well and felt great. So it was at this point we thought to take TR24 seriously and go for a podium place. With Ben’s help we devised a plan of attack, I managed to get hold of the last three years mixed pairs results and found that if we made 20 laps, this would have been a podium spot. So our target naturally became a minimum of 20 laps.

Any endurance event or ultra-marathon needs more than just being able to run for long distances. The nutritional side is a very important factor, but can also easily be overlooked. Get it wrong and you could soon run out of energy and miss out on your target. For this, we looked towards former Thunder Run Solo winner, Janson Heath of INnutrition. Janson was happy to work with us, create our nutritional plans and he even came along with us to TR to make sure we followed his plan. He was so confident with his plan and us that he said we are not going for anything else other than to win.. We knew we were up against last years winners, so it was not going to be an easy task.

As Catton Park is only an hours drive from home, we had already made the decision to pitch the tent on Friday but not stay over for the night. We needed a good nights sleep. We arrived back at camp on the Saturday morning ready to go. I was to take the first lap, there is a bottleneck after around half a mile, if you get there too slowly it can easily cost you some valuable time.

Our start plan was to do a lap on, lap off, and try to average 1 hour laps, but mainly to run at a comfortable pace. The sun was out and another very hot day. This was going to be challenging! 12 noon soon came around and before I knew it I was off. I purposely started my first lap at a good pace, as I wanted to be clear of the bottleneck that can happen after the half mile point. Runners make a right turn onto a narrow hilly path into the woods. Last year I waited for over 5 minutes at this point, not this year though! I was straight through this section and slowed my pace down to something more sensible for the job ahead. Support as always was fantastic on the well marshalled and supported course. The first few laps in particular are always some of the best, as everyone is still fresh and excited.

My first lap was completed ahead of time in 53:27. Aggi was waiting at the changeover, so I handed over the baton and she was away with her usual excited smile on her face. The first few laps passed very quickly with both Aggi and myself very consistent on the times. Always sub one hour laps, which was ahead of our target but we both felt excellent. Janson made sure we stuck to our nutritional plan on and after the laps, this was definitely working to keep our energy levels high. The first main obstacle came up when we got to our main meal time. It was very important to make sure we had a good meal before the night laps, but this would also mean that we must be able to eat and digest the meal before running. The best option for this would be to do double laps. We had already completed 4 laps each when it got to the meal time and I would be going first while Aggi ate. We were both still feeling very good and spirts were high. As I reached the end of my first lap of the double I was passed my headtorch, although it was still fairly light we had to have our headtorch’s equipped after 8:30pm (event rules). Darkness quickly falls, especially through the woodland sections. I managed to complete my first double laps in 54:44 and 55:11 then handed over to Aggi again so she could do double laps. I had a quick change of clothes and then made my way to the camp. I enjoyed the extra long break while I ate and recovered, but before I knew it, it was time to go and meet Aggi as she completed her double laps in 57:01 and 59:10. These were night laps with the headtorch which made these times even more impressive. At this point we had completed 12 laps and all sub 1 hour. Team talk was always short but Aggi made it clear she was not keen on the double laps, and would need more time to recover. So I just said ok, let’s stick to the original plan of one on, one off and see how we go.

It was now pitch black so the headtorch was a vital piece of equipment. The course seems so different at night, in particular the sections through the woods were challenging, the trees had lots of exposed roots on the well run course. A lapse in concentration and you could easily trip on the roots and that could mean the end of the race. On more than one occasion I nearly lost my footing, kicked a tree root and stumbled. There were a few choice words spoken out loud to myself. As I approached camp I knew Aggi had said she would need more recovery time after her double laps. So I made the decision to go again. As I had two laps rest previously I felt good and needed Aggi to be as fresh as possible. I had a quick word with Aggi to say I was ok and for her to have the extra rest before making my way out for the second lap. Again these laps were both under the hour mark; we were flying. I had resisted temptation to look at the live scoreboard, although I had received a couple of updates previously from camp. At one point we were 5th. Then we were 3rd. Now I felt the need to check for myself. It seemed an age for the different categories to scroll through. Eventually the mixed pairs came up. We were in 1st place!!! I had to double check, just to make sure.. Yes, it was down to us now. We had to keep pushing and not give in. I didn’t mention our placing to Aggi as I knew she intended not to look and wouldn’t want to know at this point.

As night eventually turned to day we had managed to run through the night pretty unscathed, still running the lap on, lap off strategy, but we were both tiring now. The lap times had started to drop to over an hour for both of us, but not by much and we were still in control. We just needed to keep an eye on second place as they had gained some ground on us but were still a lap behind. Second place were last years winners, and we knew that they wouldn’t give up without a fight. Now it was a numbers game, we just had to keep moving. The problem now was that we were both hurting. Aggi was really feeling it and no wonder, she had already completed 9 laps. As I completed my 11th lap Janson asked me to go again. Aggi was asleep, she really needed an extra rest. This lap was going to hurt, but I knew we were still in with a good chance of winning. We had done too much to give up now. So I set off on what was my 12th lap and 3rd double lap, I just had to keep moving and hope that Aggi would be good to do another lap on my return.

21 team laps done, 1 more than our initial target but we still had several hours to go, Janson had been looking at the times and said if we can do one more lap each it should be enough to secure the win. Aggi was now up and about but was not in a good way. Janson had convinced her to go again though, I said just take your time and get back in one piece and we will be good. I had another change of clothes and tried to eat some food but really struggled to take anything on. I really hoped Aggi would take longer than she did to get round as I needed a rest myself. I don’t know how she managed it but came in on her 10th lap at just over an hour. 22 laps total. Second place were still fighting away at the minutes between us, I knew I had to go again. Hopefully this would be our last lap but mathematically there was still enough time for Second place to catch us.

I came in on lap 23 in just over an hour, we checked with Janson and second place had 21 laps on the board but it were just about to complete their lap 22, it wasn’t a clear enough gap for me to risk stopping. I was really struggling to move as was Aggi, but we both knew it was ours now, all we needed was one more lap on the board. It wouldn’t matter if it was a walking lap. Aggi said she would go again, Shaun Ashworth stepped forward and said he would go round with Aggi again. This definitely made a difference and Aggi completed her 11th and our team lap 24 in a slightly slower time, but that was it we had secured the top position. As Aggi came in before 12 noon I had the option to go again for one final lap… so obviously the competitive side of me won. I thought I’ll just have a walking lap with no pressure and thank all the marshals for their time, these guys had also been out on course for the 24 hours. So that’s what I did. A nice easy no pressure lap. As I approach the Stone camp for the final time, Aggi was waiting for me, we were able to complete the final few hundred yards and cross the finish line together, as the mixed pair winners of Thunder Run 2018.

25 laps completed with an overall average time of 1:00:08 bang on target for the event. We would both like to thank Ben Gamble, Janson Heath and everyone connected to Stone Master Marathoners for having by far the best set up at TR24.

Aggi Pope and Paul Glover

Stone Master Marathoners

My Running Journey – Cleo Acraman

An absolute beginner… by Cleo Acraman

Early 2016 I completed couch to 5k and promptly stopped running being confident that I was not ‘built’ for running and that it was not something I could ever enjoy.

Fast forward to 2017 and I decided to mark my 40th year by ‘ enduring’ the St Michaels 10k race – ie do something I have no natural ability for, in front of people that I am likely to know. Bizarrely as I made this decision a few friends pointed me at the 10 weeks SMM beginners course.

So on 4th January 2017 I put on my big girl pants and crept in to club, heading straight to the back of the crowd with my head down feeling pretty sure the ‘real’ runners would be smirking at this ‘new’ girl who would obviously never be an athlete. I was quickly welcomed and given the appropriate forms to fill in. And then Bill starting speaking – no idea what he said apart from for the beginners would be running 3ish miles!!! (I text my husband at this point and got a laughing response) And we were off, I approached it very slowly, with Ann as back marker being very supportive and kind, and the various runners who mustered back multiple times all smiling and giving encouragement (they could actually run and speak – I was in awe!), I left feeling amazed with what I had achieved.

This was the start of my beginners journey – I turned up each and every Thursday, and quickly got to know most of the other runners who were all positive, encouraging and keen to share knowledge – and very slowly it got a tiny bit less painful. I also went out twice a week alone to do 5km as advised to try and improve – although I had to do this in the dark as I was terrified someone I knew would see me being very purple faced.

After a few weeks I realised 3ish could be very ish, and learned that a ‘long’ run was required if I wanted to get up to 10k – so I started running alone on a Sunday morning – in the daylight!

By the end of February I ran my first 10k distance one Sunday morning – and then, because I had been so inspired by the SMM members I decided that I might as well enter a race – and on 26th March I completed the Cheshire 10k at Arley hall (the flattest one I could find – I’m still scared of hills) – it took me 1 hour 11 minutes and 48 seconds and afterwards I was amazed and delighted that I had done it, I had earned some bling and even more amazingly I wasn’t last, various expletives were however muttered not so quietly during it…

The 10 weeks had flown so I joined SMM as a member, and after various conversations before and after runs (still hadn’t mastered speaking during) I decided that my original challenge wasn’t enough – it wasn’t a challenge anymore, I had already done one race – and so I decided to make it a ‘proper’ challenge and so 10 10ks in a year it had to be, and could I manage to keep up this new hobby for a whole year?

I carried on coming on a Thursday – taking advice, sharing turns in motivating each other, being cajoled by Bill, and making some really nice new mates – I even mastered running and talking. And by the autumn I felt brave enough to join the Tuesday night speed sessions.

And all year I kept entering 10ks… by the end of the year I managed to earn bling at the following:

26th March Cheshire 10k
14th May Delamere forest Race for Life 10k
21st May RAF Shawbury 10k
25th June St Michaels 10k
16th July Chasewater 10k
3rd Sept RAF Cosford Spitfire 10k
24th Sept Stafford 10k
4th Nov Cheshire 10k
11st Nov Tatton 10k
25th Nov Chasewater 10k Pudding run

I started off entering races alone, a bit further from home and being supported by my little family, but as the year went on I got braver, I started wearing my SMM top to races and started to bump into other SMM along the way.

The best 10k for medal alone has to be the Spitfire 10k at RAF Cosford (and I found a few bats at the start line too). I’ve entered again this year and really recommend it – know lots of other Bats are going.

But my favourite 2 races are the last ones, not for the races but for the fact that I’m a member of our lovely club, and I had fun with people that support and challenge you to be your best.

Tatton 10k: Some of the ‘fast’ runners extended an offer go to Tatton 10k with them and make a weekend away out of it, pretty sure I heard a whisper of Prosecco so I was in – and turning the corner to the final stretch to cheers from Ros, Pip and BGW, who had all had to hang around for quite a while for me, was lovely – and I’m pretty sure the fact that these ladies make it look so effortless was what inspired me to dig a bit deeper and get my current PB. Bizarrely our Chair seems to think I survived a weekend with them – but I’m pretty sure it was the other way round ?.

And for my very last 10k in 2017 several of the beginners group booked just to support me, and I was so grateful of the camaraderie at the start and the end – particularly as it snowed and was probably the coldest I have ever been. Not a PB for me but Dave offered great support on the way round and it was awesome to see Matt’s result in the 5k.



I’ve learnt that I do actually like running, and that all the ‘real’ runners want to be better (even the ones that make it look easy!).

However I’ll be honest and I really don’t understand the difference between running and racing – I’m still working on keeping my legs actually moving and breathing at the same time – so I’m happily still a beginner and I will be for some time to come – and that’s absolutely fine. While I’d love to be a racing snake (I’m naturally pretty competitive), I don’t think I’ll ever win a race – but I am beating me each time I get back out there and I’m very proud to belong to our club.

So if anyone wants a challenge 10 10ks is actually achievable for anyone new to running and comes with a pretty awesome sense of achievement at the end.

I’ve already been asked several times what my new challenge is, and the current answer is to do stuff that scares me (2 half marathons, Thunder run and a Hilly 5 mile) – not quite sure that’s enough yet – but it is only January….

David Dunsmore – Compleat NSRRA Runner Report 2017

Running (or as I called it, jogging) was something I’d see people do early in the morning, quite often in dreadful weather conditions and I’d just think…why? What can you possibly gain from putting yourself through this, and by choice?

That was until I started running. As with many of us in the running community, this was initially as an attempt to improve my mental well-being. There’s no doubt that for me, the benefits were almost immediate. A change in routine, combined with physical exercise, a sense of achievement and self worth were literally just what the doctor ordered. Now that I’d seen the light, I was happy to put myself through the pain of early morning weather-beaten runs.

I’d been trying to build up distance on my runs (with music as my only running companion) and so decided I would enter my first race, the 2016 Stafford Half Marathon. The performance will never go down as my finest hour but it was enough for me to catch the racing bug!

My sister, Kirsty Stephenson, a seasoned campaigner in the Staffordshire running scene, eventually persuaded me to join her club, The Stone Master Marathoners at the end of 2016. I’d been hesitant about joining a club for fear of being too slow or lacking long distance stamina. But the support, encouragement, training and most importantly, the banter provided by The Bats has been invaluable!

By January 2017, talk at The Club had turned to who was going to be competing in something called Road Runners. As a new member and a relatively new runner, I didn’t think this was something that concerned me and so contentedly waited for the next Stafford Half to come around (as far as I was aware, there were only a couple of local races – The Potters’ Arf, The Stafford Half and the St Michael’s 10k).

Then, on a club training session, I spent a while speaking to Victoria Hughes about what exactly Road Runners was and whether it was something in which I should be competing. I didn’t have long to decide – the Alsager 5 was a week away and I figured I’d be better front loading the races to the first half of the year.

And so it was, on a cold February morning, with my “E” firmly pinned to my back, I lined up with the other runners in Alsager ready for the off. Not only was this my first foray in to the world of NSRRA, it was also my first race for The Club. I chatted nervously with Fiona Bradley (who was also running her first race as a Bat) while trying to identify other runners in our groups. Thirty six minutes later and I’d crossed the line, 48 points the richer.
Celebrating the start of the NSRRA season with my fellow Bats in the pub, I was thinking “1 down, 11 to go!” My intention was to pick 12 races and just see how I got on with those – this being my first year, I just wanted to find my feet. With that in mind, I entered the Knighton 20 and Newcastle 10k. I didn’t have “a great day at the office” on either of these, but was still happy to pick up a couple of 49s.

Next up, The South Cheshire 10k – a nice, flat PB course. Such was my love for The Bats, I‘d been toying with getting inked with the Stone Master Marathoner’s distinctive bat logo and decided that I would only do this if and when I achieved a group win. As I crossed the finish line, I was handed a group winner’s mug and so didn’t have to wait to find out if the 50 points were mine. Over the moon with the group win and a PB, I headed to Raymondo’s tattoo parlour to get my bat-tat / battoo – short of an appearance on Tattoo Fixers, I was now a Bat for life!

It wasn’t until later in the week that I discovered my good friend and fellow Bat, Indira, who had finished just ahead of me, had quite rightly been promoted to group E and so my precious 50 points became 49 and the tattoo should never have been!

A family holiday in North Wales had meant the Uttoxeter Half was never going to be one of my 12. As I trained in the rain around the foot of Snowdonia, race withdrawal symptoms kicked in and I was resigned to missing out on the 13.1 miles, the Bats’ banter and the celebrations at Uttoxeter. So when Katie, my incredibly understanding wife (and I mean above and beyond all levels of understanding), suggested we leave two days early as a result of the inclement weather (in North Wales? Never!), I had the car packed and ready to go before you could say Llanfair¬pwllgwyngyll¬gogery¬chwyrn¬drobwll¬llan¬tysilio¬gogo¬goch!

Boy, was I glad I never missed this one! The course was stunning, challenging but very rewarding and I finally got the 50 points that in my mind, justified being inked. Five down, seven to go.

Even after completing the Clayton 10k a few weeks later, I still had no intention of running more than 12 races. Next in the series was the Flying Fox Marathon and I was nowhere near ready to take on a challenge like that so decided this would be one of the races I’d drop. That was until Bernie Priekulis, The Bats’ team captain and race organiser, started parading the finishers’ medals on Facebook and so it was that race 7 was entered. I knew the risk of running a marathon without training properly – Westbridge 5 and Potters’ Arf were in the following weeks and I would be putting my fitness for those races in jeopardy.

Blinded by the beauty and promise of that medal, I set off nonetheless. Accompanied by Aggi Pope, the first 18 miles flew by but the lack of training and fitness soon took their toll and as Aggi disappeared off in to the distance, I inevitably hit The Wall. I’d never DNF’d before, but this was looking more and more likely. However, with the support of the amazing Bat marshals and fellow runners, I finally crossed the line in 4 hours 2 minutes and gained another 49 points. I dare say that this will be perceived as being more than slightly biased, but from start to finish, this was undoubtedly the finest race in which I’ve competed – not in terms of my own performance, but the atmosphere, camaraderie, support, celebrations, organisation were all second to none. To top it all, fellow Bat Paul Swan had finished first male.

Time would tell what damage I’d done. Despite managing a recovery run and some hill work, I was putting on a brave face. I appreciate that marathons should be treated with respect but what was done was done and it’s not a mistake I will make again. I did manage a 35 minute PB at Westbridge 5 the following week, but had one of my worst performances to date at the Potters’ Arf – nothing felt right, physically or mentally and I found myself barely able to walk up Heartbreak Hill, never mind run.

Indira, whose speed and stamina seemed to be improving exponentially, had been picking up the 50 points in all of the recent races and this continued through to The St Michaels 10k and The Cheadle 4 – always seemingly just in front of me, I could never find the strength to catch him when required.

After a weekend of running through mud and torrential rain at Thunder Run 24 in July, it was back to NSRRA. While away, Indira and I had been examining the points situation and we’d worked out that if he won the next two races, the group was his. With this in mind and full of grit, steely determination and TR24 mud still clinging to my legs, I proceeded to finish second to Indira yet again at the Staffs Knot 5.

I was still happy with being the runner up in the group, especially to such a good friend and fellow Bat. This was my first year in NSRRA and I would learn from the mistakes I’d made and push to improve next year. So, onward to Meerkbrook 15k and I finally felt the pressure was off. I still had an outside chance of winning the group but it would mean taking 50 points in all of the remaining 8 races. Given Indira’s current form, I didn’t fancy my chances.

As I’d discovered with all of Mick Hall’s races, he loves his hills and Meerbrook is no different. Since joining the Bats, I’d learned to embrace the hills as a necessary evil and as the season had progressed, I found myself able to tackle them with greater conviction and speed (I’ve got John Clemens to thank for this!). For the first 8 or so kilometres, the race went the way of the previous few – me chasing Indira before he got so far ahead that there would be no chance of catching him. As the steep inclines took their inevitable toll on my calves, I felt the energy drain from my legs and with it, the last chance of winning the group. I’d pushed myself to collapsing exhaustion over the finish line of every previous race and so I was still proud of what I’d achieved and that I’d run to the best of my ability. In the distance, I could still just about see Indira who seemed to be slowing slightly – had the hills hit him harder than they’d hit me? There was one long steep downhill on the course before the finish and so I convinced myself if I managed to catch up before then, I might still have a chance. Luckily for me, this is exactly what happened – as steep as the inclines were, the down hills were magnificent. I’m pretty fearless on descents and so managed to get far enough ahead to cross the line and claim my second group winners’ mug and the 50 points.

Ecstatic as I was to have kept the group alive, I soon realised that I still had to repeat this 7 times, all the while aware that just one more win for my friend and it was all over. I was now going to have to complete all 20 races and the initial 12 race plan was well and truly out the window.

With this glimmer of hope, I pushed myself harder and harder in the next few races, managing group wins at The Trentham 10k, The Leek Half and The South Cheshire 20. Fortunately for me, these are undulating, country road courses with some fantastic descents – my kind of race!

Lining up at the start of The Ipstones 5, I was eager to keep up the momentum I’d gained from the previous races, but from the off, I could tell that Indira meant business. As we rounded the top of the field, I could see that he was the lead runner. There was no point in trying to chase him at this stage, I just had to have confidence in my race plan – tackle the inclines strongly and then play to my strengths by sprinting on the descents to the point whereby one false step and I’d be a goner. Thankfully, the risks were rewarded and another group win was in the bag.

I carried on with this same winning strategy through The St Thomas 7 and Congleton Half Marathon – both wonderful courses that really suited my style of racing. I’m not going to lie – by now I was thinking I did have a chance of pulling the group back. The only niggle was that being Scottish, we’re not famed for comebacks – more often than not, we’re grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory!
Going in to the last two races, it was all square in the group. Unlike other recent races, Indira and I ran The Werrington 10k together and by the 9th kilometre, it was still anyone’s race. Over the tannoy system, I could hear Ken Rushton announcing the finishers as they crossed the line, a comforting indication that the end was just around the corner. As I sprinted back through the school grounds towards the finish, I was aware of chasing feet pounding behind me. However, when I allowed myself a brief glance over my shoulder, Indira was nowhere to be seen. Fiona finished shortly after me and said she’d passed him on the last ascent, so we waited at the finish line for our friend to appear. What we didn’t expect was the chilling sight of a severely exhausted and dehydrated Indira being held up by Paul Glover and Vince Coyne as they supported him down the home straight. As the medics attended to him, it was a relief to see he was still adequately compos mentis to stop his Garmin – runners’ priorities! Thankfully, Indira recovered sufficiently to return to the race HQ at the school where he was plied with cake, Lucozade and sweet tea while being attended to by Nurse Bradley.

Needless to say, Paul and Vince sacrificing their races to help a fellow runner in his time of need is undoubtedly one of the most heart warming, endearing and selfless acts of the year. You did yourselves and the running community proud guys!

I do hope Indira doesn’t mind me writing about this, but it was such a pivotal part of my season. Seeing my friend suffering in that way was as much a wake up call as it was distressing. We’d been running, supporting and pushing each other throughout the year, but through points and PB chasing, I’d missed the bigger picture – this is supposed to be fun!

19 down, 1 to go. I am writing this the day before the Flying Fox 10. I was going to finish the report on the Sunday afternoon after the race, but there is no need – it really doesn’t matter about the result and who won the group. I still get emotional when I think about what I have taken from my first year as a runner, a Bat and being part of the NSRRA community. Putting aside becoming a running bore, it has undoubtedly changed me for the better – both my physical and mental health got a much needed shot in the arm (maybe not the best metaphor in the context!). I also forged what I consider to be some of the most important friendships of my life and their support, encouragement and ability to listen to me wittering on about the highs and lows of every race while still feigning interest is very much appreciated!

My only regret? The fact that I never ran The Rugeley 10 – so close to it being 23 out of 23! Next year.

Running Away From It All – May 2017

Running away from it all – Kathryn Ambrose

When I was offered the chance to take on the role of Stone Master Marathoners’ Mental Health Ambassador in November of last year, I seized it with both hands. I am passionate about running, and I am passionate about promoting good mental health. I am fortunate enough now to be in charge of my own mental wellbeing, and running plays a crucial role in this.

I first attempted to run at the age of 18, when – in the full grip of an eating disorder – I wanted to find any way I could to burn calories (whilst simultaneously not consuming them). Head pounding and woozy, I hauled my skeletal frame around a two mile loop, unable to run for more than around 100 metres before stopping to walk. Running, I decided, was far too painful. Following a long journey to recovery (which wasn’t to be fully complete for many years), I took up regular running in 2001. I found it to help me with my episodes of crippling anxiety and low self-esteem – it taught me to respect my body, not for what it looked like, but for what it could do.

Unfortunately, I was still vulnerable, and this became particularly apparent both during and after my first pregnancy. As so many women do, I hated the way my body was changing in front of my eyes and I had no way of controlling it. I continued to run, but obviously not as far or as fast as before. However, this activity, I was told, played a crucial role in saving my life. The birth of my son in September 2007 was both difficult and traumatic, and the mental scars endured long after the physical ones had faded. I was diagnosed with a severe form of PND and PTSD, and it took a long time to recover. Running, again, helped immensely with this. Six years later, after I had my little girl, I couldn’t wait to run again, and I’m happy to say that this time, the PND did not recur. At the time, my husband worked long hours, often away from home for weeks at a time, so I had to learn to be flexible and creative with my time management. This is partly why I started running with the buggy, as it not only gave me a good workout, it also sent my little girl to sleep!

Life has a habit of throwing challenges in your way, and in 2014 I faced something that I honestly believe – without running – might have sent me into a spiral of depression. After twelve years of marriage, I found out that my husband was having an affair. Running became my coping mechanism – my best friend when it seemed like everyone wanted to have an opinion but not listen, when I changed my mind every hour about what I should do, when I wanted to stop crying (because I can’t cry when I run). Then one day I had this crazy idea that I would do something I had always dreamed of but never dared to do  – an ultra. In March 2015, I completed the Millennium Way, 41 miles along canal and very boggy fields. As I crossed the finish line, elated, I felt something snap inside  – it was as if a fire had been ignited inside me and it gave me an inner strength that I never knew I possessed. If I could do this, I could do anything.

Eight ultras and a few marathons later, my life is completely different to the one I left behind. I feel happy, fulfilled, and at peace with myself. Of course, there are occasional days when anxiety rears its ugly head, but I have the tools to deal with it now. I have thought long and hard about writing this, as I am aware that it is a very personal account. On the other hand, I am also aware that many people deal with such struggles on a daily basis and my story is nothing unusual. At the same time, I strongly believe that awareness raising comes about as a result of people’s honesty, and that to break down stigma we need to talk about what we may prefer to keep hidden. For many years, I was the one with the happy face while I was slowly dying inside. These days, what you see is what you get. I have nothing to hide, and neither should you.

Much love x

2016 Gala Presentation and Awards Dinner

2016 Gala Presentation and Awards Dinner

Oh what a night!….

By Victoria Hughes

What a fantastic night of celebrating success! The Stone Master Marathoners Gala Presentation Night was organised by our lovely ladies, Social Secretary Julie Ebrey and ably assisted by Michelle Miles.

The venue : The Upper House, Barlaston, a welcome glass of fizz on arrival and a delicious 3 course meal. We were barely recognisable on this Lycra free evening and our hair let down although I think most of the ladies would have swapped their heels for their trainers by the end of the night!

Our host, Chairman Tim Hulse, provided the perfect entertainment complete with aptly red coloured bow tie and witty repertoire. Our special guests were North Staffs Road Runners Association Director Ken Rushton and his lovely wife and Assistant, Sue Rushton. Ken was recognised for his ‘outstanding contribution to running’. Amy Gamble spoke of his running career and the huge amount of time and effort he dedicates to the sport of running in North Staffordshire. Stone Master Marathoners is hugely thankful for everything Ken has done for our club and the local running community as a whole.

Stone Master Marathoners welcomes all runners of all abilities and goals and this is reflected in the recognition and awards. It doesn’t matter how long you have been with the club, there was recognition for all abilities, from beginners to veteran runners, from supporters to marathon runners. It was an Oscar night for runners, with awards for outstanding contribution as well as special awards for ‘Club Person of the Year’ and ‘Runner of the Year’….extra special because our Bats had all been given the opportunity to nominate fellow club members for the two awards.

Such a great way to celebrate another year of successes for Stone Master Marathoners. Well done to everyone and here’s to another great year of running, having fun and being inspired to #makeadifference to our great and ever-growing running club.

This year’s winners:

Ladies Champion – 1st 2016;   Amy Gamble
Ladies Champion – 2nd 2016;   Anne-Marie Mountford
Ladies Champion – 3rd 2016;   Sam Hodgkinson
Men’s Champion – 1st 2016;   Paul Swan
Men’s Champion – 2nd 2016;   Tim Hulse
Men’s Champion – 3rd 2016;   Paul Phillips
Beginner of the Year 2016;   Tracy Triner
Supporter of the Year 2016;   Joyce Dutton
Veteran Lady 2016;   Pam Davies
Veteran Man 2016;   Kevin Uzzell
Marathon Lady 2016;   Angela Mensing
Marathon Man 2016;   Steve Fenney
Vernon Olivant Outstanding Achievement 2016;   Kathryn Ambrose
Most Improved Lady 2016;   Bonnie Seabridge
Most Improved Man 2016;   Paul Phillips
NSRRA Lady 2016;   Amy Gamble
NSRRA Man 2016;   Paul Phillips
Newcomer of the Year 2016;   Jo Bentley
Cross Country Lady 2016;   Victoria Hughes
Cross Country Man 2016;   Tom Wilson
Chairman’s Trophy 2016;   Brian Hall
Captain’s Trophy 2016;   Emma Dutton
Outstanding Contribution to Running 2016;   Ken Ruston
Club Person of the Year 2016;   Emma Dutton
Runner of the Year 2016;   Kirsty Stephenson

My Running Mind – January 2017

Runner Of The Month – January 2017

Victoria Hughes

“No gameplan, no goal especially, just a chance conversation with a friend and a need to lose some baby weight in a relatively cheap and convenient way. I soon realised that running and running with a friend gave me a lot more than just that. I couldn’t wait for my husband to return home from work (I know what you’re thinking, but no) so I could get out and run! Don’t get me wrong, I love my family (we all do) and I did get out, it was just different to baby sensory, breastfeeding, talking about childbirth, development milestones, the colour of your baby’s nappy contents and being a Mum. I got out and ran, whilst offloading sometimes or listening to another life outside of my own and always felt better. I have laughed, vented, consoled, reassured, asked for advice and cried on all my social runs. I didn’t know I needed to be ‘fixed’, but running ‘fixed’ me, maybe even prevented me from a more heightened or undiagnosed post natal depression? Who knows? The important thing was I felt better in every sense. Better about myself too. A better Mum.

Soon running became my fix, a bug, a drug even and I was addicted. The company is a free counselling session, free therapy. I had experienced the high and I just wanted more. I was once asked if I was ‘obsessed’ with running, like it was a negative thing. I confidently said yes, I guess I am obsessed. Isn’t that just another word for ‘in love with’ so, yes, running is my thing. No apologies.


I just wanted to run more which meant finding people to run with to get me through the Winter dark nights in safety. A little push from another Mum (Sam Hodgkinson) and I joined a running club. My introduction to the racing calendar and my move to Stone Master Marathoners, has taken my running to a new level, a new high, another social circle and teamwork. Racing provided yet another perspective, another kind of buzz. The sense of achievement took my mind and confidence to another level, a level I didn’t realise I had. The desire to improve became another new feeling. The desire to make my kids feel proud, to set an example of fitness and wellbeing, the desire to aim longer and run my first marathon and raise money for a charity close to my heart.

Ok, so it’s not easy. I’m not a good self motivator. Some (non running) friends will say, ‘it’s easy for you because you run’. It’s not easy, I need a date, a commitment, the need to make it out of the door, so I’m not letting my running buddy down. Sometimes I fall out of love with running, when I’m tired, injured, when I’m training hard or run a ‘bad’ race. A running club or running with friends gives you that push, that push to get out of the door, even when the weather is awful, that commitment, that help to find your love again, a network of support to help find your mojo again, the push to run your first race, even when you’re scared, the support to keep on running.

The first race was easy, by the way. I ran it as a favour and to keep another friend company, I really wasn’t bothered about a time. No pressure, just have fun. The other races weren’t so easy after that! That same ‘bug’ now gives me a sleepless night, a bit of a stressful morning as I try to leave the house on time, nerves on the start line and a much tougher race, both physically and mentally. There is a new pressure now, one I put on myself but my mantra is effectively the same, ‘no pressure, try to enjoy it and do it for those that can’t’. It’s better that I share those nerves and pressure with so many running friends, my running family if you like.

I may fall out of love with running sometimes but I also can’t imagine my life without it. I’m addicted and unashamedly obsessed and Stone MM taught me that this is completely normal, in fact there are members more obsessed than me! Running with my friends keeps me sane, keeps me counselled, they have helped me more than they will ever know. Running is my thing, no apologies.”

An Introduction To Mood And Exercise

An Introduction To Mood And Exercise

The link between exercise and better mental health has long been established, with many clinicians now recommending regular exercise not only to combat low mood and stress, but also as a treatment for depression and anxiety, alongside (but often in place of) conventional medicine. Writing for the American Psychological Association, Kirsten Weir (2011) notes that ‘within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect’. Also, that ‘research shows that exercise can help alleviate long-term depression’. Compelling evidence indeed, and it has been shown that the mood-enhancing properties of exercise are enhanced when we train with others. So that’s why I always feel so good after a club run!

However, although we know that lacing up our trainers and going out for that run is going to make us feel better, it’s not always that simple. Family and work commitments, household chores and general life stress all seem to conspire against us when it comes to establishing or continuing an exercise regime. Here is where routine is key: promising yourself that you’ll keep an hour free on a Wednesday evening for a club run. Or arranging to meet friends for a chatty run (or, indeed, a speed session!) either before or after work, or when the kids have gone to bed.

Yet sometimes, even when we are physically able to go for a run, we can’t bring ourselves to do it. It could just be a loss of ‘mojo’. However, I know of many people (myself included) who suffer or have suffered from crippling anxiety. Unable to train for the sheer worry of what might happen if we step outside the door. Worrying about what people will think if they see you running. Worrying that you look fat in running gear. So what can be done about this? A term often used in modern counselling is ‘self compassion’ – in simple terms, being kind to yourself. To make small and manageable changes. To avoid ‘all or nothing’ thinking. What this might look like in practice: you’ve planned a run for an hour, but really don’t feel like it. So you don’t go at all and tell yourself you are pretty useless for not running. This is an ‘all or nothing’ scenario. The compassionate alternative is to go for ten minutes and see how you feel. Chances are, you’ll want to carry on. If not, you have the option of coming home. You’re still lapping everybody on the sofa.

Part of my remit as a Mental Health Ambassador is to encourage people to share their experiences in a safe environment, knowing that they won’t be judged. This starts with self-disclosure and I hope that some of you will feel able to open up too. There really is no stigma in suffering with ill mental health, and the more we talk about it, the less there will be. Over the coming weeks and months, I’m hoping to start a ‘runner of the month’ feature on the website, where I’ll invite someone to share how running affects their mood. In the meantime…I’m off for a run!

Kathryn xx

Stone Master Marathoners – Our Races & How Members Can Help

Race Committee Co-ordinator and Chief Race Marshal, Brian Hall, has penned a piece to discuss our yearly races and how all members can play their part in keeping our club great!

I’m sure that when you see the emails from me begging for assistance at our events, your instant reaction is to think “here we go again – I’ve got to take the dog out, or wash my hair this weekend”, much more vital things to do than standing on a junction watching runners jog past without a word of thanks.

Please let me take a few minutes of your time to explain why our races are so important to our Club and to you, the members.

First, for the newer members, the events which we stage or participate in are:

  1. Spring Treble Challenge – the brainchild of one of our more senior members David Upton. As the name suggests, this is a series of three races on consecutive Thursday evenings usually in April. These are tough, off-road events each 5 to 6 miles long and have become very popular with local runners. Venues this year were Kibblestone, Milford Common and Barlaston Downs
  2. Westbridge 5 – usually in the first week of June and initially linked to Stone Festival, a flat, fast five mile loop along the canal to Aston and back categorised as multi terrain. This race is in the North Staffs Road Runners Association programme of races and is favoured by club runners and fun runners alike
  3. Also in June as part of the Stone Festival and to benefit the local community, we help to organise the Steeplechase and Dog Derby on the Monday evening of Festival week
  4. Flying Fox 10 – a ten – mile road race around the picturesque lanes of Standon, Chapel Chorlton and Maer. This is usually the last of the annual NSRRA races and attracts a field of between 200 and 300 runners
  5. Flying Fox Marathon – in 2017 we’re undertaking a huge commitment by organising our well-loved Marathon.

So, what is so important?

Primarily, income from the events, other than the Festival fun runs, is a vital supplement to the club’s finances and without this your annual subscriptions would at least double. The effect of this would, particularly in today’s climate, no doubt deter members from joining or renewing their membership. It is also possible, from this income, to donate to worthy charities and each year we give hundreds of pounds to charities usually nominated by the various Race Directors.

Members of Stone Master Marathoners join John Haine to hand over the £500 cheque
Members of Stone Master Marathoners join John Haine to hand over the £500 cheque

Organising races and similar events is also a good source of interaction between local clubs; we often exchange ideas and information at these venues which gives a useful insight into the world of running around us.

By no means least, the team spirit which is generated by all who take part in organising our events is excellent and spills over to the runners who all seem to enjoy themselves, no matter how tough the terrain! Your assistance is truly appreciated by the runners, the   management committee of the club and particularly by me. The numbers helping, certainly over the past couple of years has grown, making my job easy. We strive to make the events as professional as possible and this can only be done by working as a team, but it is vital that we have volunteer reserves for the future.

Westbridge 5Please remember that it is a rule of the club that all members should help with at least one event each year, a couple of hours out of the whole year is surely not too much to ask!

If you have not yet assisted and wish to do so, there are not just races but also several social events; just ask any one of the organising committee who will be delighted to point you in the right direction.

Thank you all very much for your help in the past, and in the future. It is your club after all! And best wishes for the forthcoming year.

Brian Hall

SMM gifts £500 from Spring Treble to local charity

Stone Master Marathoners has gifted £500 to the Stone Community Hub, a charity dedicated to improving the lives of local people in times of need. Generated from their April trio of races, Spring Treble, the running club’s kind donation will be used for providing Hub’s financial assistance service for 6 months.

Stone Master Marathoners has a real passion for supporting both charity and the local community and Race Director John Haine was delighted to hand over the cheque at a presentation at SMM HQ. He commented, “Stone Master Marathoners aims to inspire runners of all abilities to develop their skills. The club is proud to be part of our local Stone community and our aim is to support other organisations whenever we can.”

The Hub’s Manager, Karen Wardell, was on hand to receive the cheque and told SMM “The donation of £500 will make a significant difference to the work of Stone Community Hub; we will use it to fund the money advice service we offer. We work both with those in debt and those struggling to budget. It is great example of the community working together when local groups such as Stone Master Marathoners offer to support the work we do.” On behalf of the Hub Karen also welcomed anyone in need of help or advice to pop by to the Frank Jordan Centre and a friendly face would be happy to guide them.

Stone Master Marathoners has a long tradition of supporting local charities and plans to continue this with upcoming races including Flying Fox 10 in November and the superb Flying Fox Marathon set for May 2017. Meeting regularly at Stone Tennis Club, the club urges all runners, from total beginner to elite, to join them for a chat and training run to make their running aspirations a reality. For full details of how you can get involved visit

SMM's John Haine presents Hub Manager, Karen Wardell, with the cheque
SMM’s John Haine presents Hub Manager, Karen Wardell, with the cheque