My Final Ever Junior FRA

IMG_8503Back in 2011, I competed in my first junior FRA (Fell Running Association) fell race not knowing where running would take me. Skip 6 years ahead and it comes to my final junior FRA series.

Photo: My first ever FRA fell race

Since I started doing the FRA series I fell in love with fell running. Everything I loved about it from the mud to the competition between athletes from across the country which I can now class as friends. The junior FRA is a series of 6 races across the country (usually in the north) with the best 4 races counting for the championship. This means that if you have a bad race or can’t make one, you will still be able to count in the championship.

IMG_85042011 – My first FRA race was Pendle fell race as an 11-year-old at the start of my running life. I was running just to enjoy it and at this age, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. In the race, I came 11th girl, which I very pleased with. The 2nd FRA in that series was Coniers fell race. This has always been one of my favorite fell race with a very technique decent towards the ends. This race I finished 15th girl. At this age, I didn’t know about the FRA championship and only did these two races as they were in my club (Bingley Harriers) championship. With only doing two race I finished 15th U12 girl overall.   Photo: Coiners Fell Race

2012 – The following year, I had moved up into the under 14 age group which meant  I could now run longer races.  The first race was Pendle, which I raced the previous year.  I was able to of finished 9 and being one of the youngest in the age group I was delighted. The next one was Anniversary Wa! At that age, this was the furthest I had ever traveled for a race. I was very excited to be racing in the real mountains, I was able to finish 4th girl in the age group which I was over the moon about, never thinking I was capable of anything like that. Cowpe fell race was the next in the championship, I remember it being very sunny that day and I came, 10th girls. Clougher pike was the 4th Fell race, and I finished 6th girl. The penultimate race to this championship was Hawkswick which I remember being really steep at the start and a steep decent as well. I was able to finish in a 12th place in the girls. The final race in the championship was an uphill only in Sedbergh. This was my first ever uphill only and I really enjoyed it, also I was able to finish 10th. This was my first series where I did all 6 races and counted in the overall championship. Overall I finished 6th which I was very happy with. Around September time I found out that cause of how well I had done throughout that championship I was legible to go to the Junior English fell running development camps in November. I was very nervous as I didn’t really know anyone how will be there apart from my brother. However, this day was a brilliant experience being able to learn about a sport I was coming to love from England coaches and athletes who had to represent GB. We learned about training over winter and about injury prevention. I was also lucky enough to be invited to another one of these camps in March 2013 before the fell season started again.  This one we learned about training messages for peaking perform and technique and training targets. This camp was very helpful for the up and coming fell season.

Photo: From Cowpe 2012 and 2013

2013 – The first race of the new season was a new one to me,  Rivington Pike. This was one of my favorite FRA fell race with a brilliant decent, I placed 7th girl in this race. Another new one to the championship was the 2nd race. this was Church Streeton down in Shropshire. The start of this was very steep and then it flattened off towards the top, you had to take it quite steady at the beginning. I was delighted with the result of 4th girl. 3rd race was back to Cowpe like last season. However the weather wasn’t like the year before, it started off very wet and rainy, finally coming sunny for my race. Still finishing in 9th with the very wet and muddy conditions. The uphill only at Sedburgh was the next race, unlike the last race, it was lovely and sunny. I was able to equal my last races place with a 9th again. The next race was at Hawkswich, however,  I had to miss this race due to having other plans. The last race in the championship was at Langdale. This had to be one of the hardest fell race I had done at this age. It was a very steep and rocky path all the way to the top and then a fast undulating top section till a technical descent to the finish. The heat on that day made it extra hard, but the river at the end help cool us all down, unfortunately, I can’t find the results and as it was a few years ago I can’t remember where I placed. Overall in the championship this year I placed 9th, it was very close between me and 2 other girls all finishing with in 1 point of each other. Yet again I was invited to another training camp.

Photo: Rivington Pike and Sedburgh Uphill only

Yet again I was invited to another training camp in March 2014 before the FRA fell season started. We learned about injury prevention, stretching and warm ups for the up and coming season. We also got told about international opportunities to represent England and GB.

2014 – This fell season consists of 7 fell races instead of 6. The first one was back to Pendle. I finished in 11th place which was very good for my new age group as a U16. The next race was back to Rivington Pike. This time I was able to go all the way to the top, I really enjoyed the descent apart from nearly falling toward the bottom. I was able to finish in 5th place which I was very happy with. Back to a race which was in the 2011 and one of my favorite FRA race, Coiners. I was able to push and finish 6th place. The 4th race I had to miss as I had a wedding to go to. There was a new uphill only championship this year at Turner. This was very different from Sedburgh, as Sedburgh is grassy and quite unever IMG_8511to run on, however, Turner starts very rocky and stays that way all the way up. Also to make it harder it was raining making the rocks slippy. I really enjoyed this race and getting to run in some of the mountains. Yet again I can’t find the results for this race so I don’t know where I finished.  The next race was Clougha Pike and having a race which I was yet again very happy with my race that day finishing in 5th place. The final race of the season was Wharfedale TTT. This race was being held by Bingley Harriers (my club) up in Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales. We had a brilliant day for it with the sun shining and blue skies. The day was brilliant. However, I didn’t have the race that I wanted and started to feel sick towards the end of the races making me slow down. I finished in 11th which is still a good place. Overall in the championship this year I finished 8th which I was very happy with.  Photo: The U16 and U18 race at the TTT

IMG_8520This was also the year I got selection for representing England in the Junior Home-Internationals (JHI) for the age group u16 and u18. This was due to my position in the overall championship and my position in the JHI trials. I was also invited to my last development camps. At this one, we learned about foam rolling and stretching after races, nutrition, and international opportunities. Photo: The junior development camp athletes doing drills

IMG_8512Photo: Errwood Hall Fell Race

2015 – The new season started with a new race at Errwood Hall. This race was very twisty and turny going throw the woods at the start and then up onto the moors, before turning and running straight down the hill to the finish. I was able to finish in 7th place which I was happy. The next race was back to Pendle, doing the same course as the year before. This year, however, I was able to finish in a strong 4th place. I was delighted with this. The next race was West NabIMG_8513 which incorporated the Yorkshire Championship. The start of the race had a single path down into the wood and then up a steep hill before running along the top of the moor, back down to the bottom of the valley, up the other side and turning and running back the way we came. I really enjoyed this race and was able to push and finish 6th place, I also finished 3rd in the Yorkshire Champs which I was over the moon with. The following race was at Coiners again. I love this race and was very happy to of finished in 4th place. Another new race to the championship was Malham which was the 5th race. We ran this race separately to the boys which is unusual to fell races, but we did run with the U18 girls.  I was able to finish 9th out of the U16 girls (13th overall in the race. The final race of the 2015 season was back to tuner uphill, yet again like the previous year, it was very wet and rainy. I was so happy to of finished 4th in this race. Overall in the championship, I finished 4th which was a shock to me as I never thought I was capable of finishing this high in the championship.  Photo above: Running at West Nab

2016 – This season wasn’t my best season due to injury with my back the previous October and due to a cut down on training as I had GCSE exams that May-June.  I had also moved up into the under 18. The first race was a new one, Todd Crag in Ambleside. It was a great day and very sunny apart from starting to hail whilst running, but that’s what can happen whilst fell running. I finished in 7th place with a strong finish. The 2nd race was taken back to Hawkswick. However, the course had been changed since the last time I did it and we went up the over the side of the hill. I struggled with this race as my back was hurting a lot, I finished 11th place. I had to miss the next race which was back at Malham. My next race we back to Turner uphill, as previous years it was raining which wasn’t a surprise. I found this really hard with my back as it was cold to it hurt a lot and having to go all the way to the top, I finished in 11th. The next race was back to a classic from previous service, Clougha Pike. As being a u18 we got to run with the seniors. I really enjoyed this race and the downhill was great. I finished in 8th place and had a strong down hill finish. Another race which was brought back was Church Stretton which was the final race of the championship. The weather was lovely and the sun was shining. I enjoyed being back in this race, some of the hills were very steep. I was able to finish 8th place. Overall in this championship, I finished 8 which I was happy for as it was one of the youngest in the age group and with my injury as well.

Photo: Todd Crag and Turner Uphill fell race for 2016

2017 – This year was my last doing the Junior FRA season in the newly named championship categories now being a u19 instead of u18. Along with the new category, we had a new race for the first race, Cock Howe on the North York Moors.  We raced with the U17 (new U16) which meant that we had more competitions between both age groups. In the U19 I IMG_8517finished 5th girl which I was very happy with after last year not being my best. Back to a race which was in the 2015 championship which is West Nab. I was doing the same course as I did back in 2015 as a U16. I was a wet day but came dry for my race. I finished   8th in my age group as yet again the U19 girl’s races with the U17’s. Anniversary Wa was brought back this year. They changed where the start and finish were from the field to the bottom of the mountain. The first climb was very steep and then a nice run along the top of Cat Bells, until descending, then running along the bottom until having to climb one more time and then back down to the finish. I finished 7th in this race. Coiners was the next IMG_3816FRA race where I could run the full route. The weather was very wet, rainy and cold on this day which was hard on my back. However, I enjoyed doing the full route and was able to finish in 12th place. A new uphill race to the championship was Great Whernside in Kettlewell. I set of slower to be able to keep running all the way up the hill. It was different to Turner as it was more grass than rocky paths. Getting to the finish it was very windy, I finished in 8th places after falling up the hill. My final ever junior FRA was back to Cowpe, with a new course, on yet another wet day. Before racing I wasn’t looking forward to racing that day, I wasn’t up to it at all. Everyone was warming up and my dad talked to me and help persuade me to run. I was so glad I did, I loved the new course and I finished in 14th place. I was so happy to of done the race and not finish my Junior FRA’s on a low. Overall in my last fell championship, I finished in 8th place, which I was very happy with. Photo above: Right – West Nab, Left- Anniversary Wa.

I can’t believe that My Junior FRA’s have come to an end. I had loved every minute of them and I want to say a huge thank you to all at the: junior FRA, coordinators, event organisers, parents for their support at all the races, friends and fellow runners and most of all my Mum and Dad for allows being there for me and trekking me and Matt across the country for the last 7 years to any race we want . Also a mention to Dave and Eileen Woodhead for their support to me and Matt throughout the junior ranks. It has been a pleaser doing the Junior FRA’s. I hope to see this championship to go on for many more year and to see many juniors enjoying it as much I did.

Photo: from different race over the last few years with Friends

Until next time

Vicki x

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The Final Six

Race 1 – Yorkshire Xc Champs – Light Water Valley 

The Yorkshire Xc Champs was my first race of the new year. Also being held at one of my favorite cross country course (Lightwater Valley) so I was very excited. Having a few races between my last XC and the Yorkshire not going to plan as my back started to give me a lot of pain, I was hoping for a good race. On race day I arrived at 10:00 which gave me 2hr 20 mins before my race, giving me plenty of time to walk the course and get everything ready for my race. The course was very dry and flat around the first half of the course which meant it would be very fast. I was able to watch the younger Bingley Juniors run in some of their first Yorkshire Champs. After a few of the race, I decided to go back to my team tent to get ready, changing my spikes to a short length, having my last bit of food and then back to the course side to do my warm up jog and drills. Shortly 12:20 (my race) approached and the rest of the u17 girls arrived at the start. After getting into our pens we were ready to start. Well, the start of the race was very fast as I thought it was going to be, and to my disappointment, my back started to hurt. Trying to push through the pain I tried to stay with a small group. However before going onto the hilly section of the course, the pain in my back was uncomfortable and being in tears, I choose to drop out. Obviously I wasn’t happy with this decision but in the long run, I think it was the right decision to of made. Whilst my race carried on I did my back stretched to relive the pain which was there and then I walked back to the tent to get a warmer kit on. Still disappointed with how my race went tried to push it to the back of my mind and still enjoy the day with friends. Watching Imani Wilson in the Senior girls and coming first, very proud of her!! Then it was Matts races. After struggling with the first half of his xc season, he had a good race at Yorkshires finishing in 7th place and securing him a place in the Yorkshire Team.

Photo: Left: Me and Imani. Right: Just before I pulled out (taken by my dad)

Race 2 – North Yorkshire School trails – Ripon Grammar 

This was my first North Yorkshire schools due to leaving school and moving to a college in Skipton, which is in North Yorkshire.  Not knowing how this race was going to play out or what the course was going to be I was quite nervous to see how it was going to go. Upon arrival, we went to find our district (craven and Harrogate) area to collect our number and vest. I then went to walk the course with my friend Maddie Mastrolonardo. Yet again the course being flat I knew the race was going to be another fast one. As the races were going off quite quickly so I had to get my warm up in to make sure my back was okay. This was a race I really wanted to do well in as it was a qualifier for the Northern Inter Schools and the English schools. I had a warm up jog around the fields and then did so drill and strides before changing into my spikes and doing my back stretches to loosen it up before the start. When they called the Senior girl over to the start I was feeling okay and ready to run.  I set of steady and they stayed in a group for the first short lap, however going onto the 2nd large lap we broke apart into smaller groups.  Yet again I felt pain in my lower back but I knew I had to finish, so I kept pushing through the last lap to finish 12. This gained me a place in the North Yorkshire Team for the Northern Inter Schools Cup which was the final selection race for the remaining 2 places for the North Yorkshire team at the English Schools.  I was delighted to gain my North Yorkshire Schools Vest but knew the next race would be difficult!!  Matt also ran in the Senior boy’s race finishing 3rd which meant he was on the team for both events. I was very happy with my race that day and so happy to of made the North Yorkshire team!!! IMG_1690
Photo: Start of the North Yorkshire Schools Senior Girls Race (take by my dad)

Race 3 – Northern Xc Champs – Knowsley Safari Park

The Northern Xc champs were being held back at Knowsley safari park, where it was in 2013 and 2014. On the day it was very cold and wet (normal northern conditions). With my race being the first of the day it meant an early start to get to Liverpool for an 11:00 start. We arrived around 9:45 leaving enough time to see the course and get warmed up. The route to the start field was already super muddy and getting to the field where the race was already super muddy and this was just from people walking on it, so I had to change the size of my spikes to make sure I had the best grip possible for my race.  I changed into my spikes straight away so I was ready and then tried to find the driest section of grass to warm up on.  11:00 came around and I was feeling good and ready on the start line.  The gun went off and the start commenced where I kept myself with a large group of runners behind the leading pack.  The course was really muddy, but the speed was really quick, which I think triggered my back pain.  Around the 3k mark of the race my back started to hurt, however, I was determined to finish.  I kept pushing through the last 2k of the race and surprisingly I had a strong finishing sprint. Even though I wasn’t happy with my race that day, I was still happy to finish.  As we were the first race of the day, I spent the rest of the day watching all the other races. Matt didn’t have a good race due to his asthma and this affected is breathing in the cold, so he took the right decision and pulled out of the race on the 1st lap while in the top 10.  Not what he wanted to do, just the right decision.

Photo: Left – Me running through the mud (taken by my Dad) Right – Mary, Imani and me after the senior girl’s race (taken by Tina Wilson)

Race 4 – Northern Inter Schools – Kirkby Steven 

The Northern inter schools where my next race and I was part of the senior girls North Yorkshire schools team. I was really excited for this race,  representing my new county,  North Yorkshire.  The weather wasn’t good to us on the day, very cold heavy rain showers.  On arrival, we collected our new team vests and decided to to take an early walk of the course.  The senior girl’s route was a 3.5k course with some steep hills, something I was happy with in.  To stay dry we went into the school’s sports hall, meeting some more of the North Yorkshire team.  This allowed me and my friend Maddie to put on our face paint in dry conditions.  We then went back outside after having some lunch to watch the junior’s run and then I  went to get my spikes on and start my warm up. After the inter boys had finished, it was the senior girl’s turn. We were called over to the start and set up into our pens, 3…2…1 we were off!!! I was able to stick in the leading group and able to push around the first lap with minimal pain in my back. Going on to the second lap my back started to hurt more, but pulling out wasn’t an option today.  I dropped from the lead group to the group just behind and kept pushing all the way to the finish line.  I was happy to have finished another race and of course representing North Yorkshire Schools. The rest of the North Yorkshire girls were at the finish, apart from Maddie who had dropped out after twisting her ankle at the beginning of the race. I thoroughly enjoyed my race and the day representing North Yorkshire.

Photo: Left – Maddie and Me painting faces (taken by my Dad). Right – Me running before the last hill (taken by my Dad)

Race 5 – National Xc – Wollaton Park

My penultimate cross country race was the national xc which was being held at Wollaston Park, Nottingham. This has to be my favorite xc course of all of them. I loved it when it was held there in 2014 and was so excited to go back and race there. On the day we had to set off early again as I was in the first race and had to get there in plenty of time for my warm ups.  On arrival, we parked and found the Bingley tent.  After a quick change and a gentle warm up I decided I needed to change the spike size, so my dad and Matt quickly changed them while I did my face paint.  After collecting my race number and chip, I made sure all was in place and went off for the pre race warm up.  I was feeling okay but nervous before the race, but I was ready to go. I meet up with some girls from Yorkshire before the start of the race which brought my nerves down. We all went to the start pen together and then split off to our club pens. I got talking to some girls from London about running as they were allocated the same pen.  This finally got me ready for the race start.  The tape was lifted, the marshal moved back, the gun was fired and we were off.  The start was very fast, up to a gentle incline, around the top loop and down the other side.  There was a flat section on the small loop before we needed to jump in or over a deep water section, and then into a very muddy section of the loop.  This was the end of my race as I twisted my back coming out of the water jump and with the pain too hard to manage, I sadly pulled up and withdrew.  I was devastated to have pulled out of nationals on my favorite course.  Matt came to help and got me back to my dad who then assisted me to the finish to throw my chip in the bag and to see my friends. I was so upset at pulling out I just asked to be taken back to the tent after my friends have finished.  At the tent, I did some back stretches, got my kit on and took on some food.  After recovering, I decided I would be okay to watch the others races on the day.  Matt had a really good race, finishing 39th, I was so happy for him.

Photo: Left – Drills before the start (taken by my Dad). Right – Me running (taken by my Dad)

Race 6 – Intercounties and British Cross Country – Prestwold Hall

My Final race of the cross country season was the Intercounties and British xc. The event changed location this year to Prestwold Hall, Loughborough from Birmingham. On arriving at Prestwold hall the first stop of the day was to pick up my British Cross Challenge number and chip from the HQ tent.  Second stop was the Yorkshire tent as Matt had qualified to represent Yorkshire and he required his chip and number and his new Yorkshire vest.  Even though I wasn’t running for Yorkshire I was still happy to be running in the inter-counties and British xc.  As it was a new course we decided to take a long walk around the course and it became apparent it was going to be another fast one as the course was flat and firm!!  On the way back to the Yorkshire tent we met up with my friend Katie Hughes from Cornwall, who did my faceprint for the day.  With race time fast approaching it was time to get my kit on and prepare for the race, spikes, chip, number, check the face paint and then the warm up.  The 5-minute gun sounded and the U17’s began to gather, last bit of warm up completed and into the pens we went.  As I was the only one racing in the British xc, I got a whole pen to myself.  The gun fired and off went the pack at an alarming speed.  I took it steady at the start not wanting to waste my energy on what was going to be a fast race.  Along the flattest part of the course I kept pushing, I felt good and my back wasn’t hurting, I was determined to finish. I managed to get into a group of girls who all seemed to be racing at the same pace, so this assisted in keeping my mind off any pain in my back which may occur.  The pace quickened in the group but I managed to stay with them, which was pleasing for me.  Around the last corner and I could see the home straight, so with a little left, I put in a sprint finish to end my indifferent XC season.  I was so happy to of finished my xc season on a high.  As I made my way away from the finish I was surprised to see all the Yorkshire U17 girls waiting for me.  I hadn’t run in the team but was so pleased they had all waited for me to finish as they wanted to make part of the team.  Photos were taken with the team which made me feel so proud of them all, even the team managers welcomed me back.  Quick cool down followed, changed and off to watch Matt and the Yorkshire boys in the U17’s.  Matt had a really good strong race finishing 42nd (6 Yorkshire home) with the team coming 1st overall!!! It was such a good day, some new friends and catching up with old ones.

Photos:  Top left – Me running. Top right – Katie Hughes, Me, Matt and Tom Gostelow after the races. Middle right – Charlotte Maywood and Me after the finish. Bottom left – Yorkshire U17 team and me. Bottom right- xc race wouldn’t feel right with out a jumping photo with Imani. (All taken by my Dad)

Extra – English Schools Cross Country

On the 18th March, it was the English School Cross Country in Norfolk.  Matt had been selected to represent North Yorkshire, so me, dad and Mya Taylor (she wanted to come watch too) took the long drive to Norfolk to watch. It was a really good day spectating and supporting friends who had been selected to represent their county school, teams.  As we were there early it was good to spend time with the North Yorkshire senior girls, they asked me to do the face paint for the day, so again I felt part of the team.  Once the senior’s girls face paint had been finished the younger girls asked for the same, so the next 30 minutes was taken up being make up artist.  All the North Yorkshire teams did well on the day, but I was so proud of Matt, he had the best race of his season against some really strong and fast runners.  He managed to finish 15th in the senior boys and he is in the lower age group.  This was his best English schools position he’s ever had. The North Yorkshire senior boys finished the 1st team in their event and this was followed up with the North Yorkshire boys team finishing 1st overall in the event.  This was a really good way to end the season, I had such a good day watching, would have liked to have been racing but it wasn’t to be, hopefully, next year as it will be my last year.

Photos: Me and friends through out the day at the English Schools 2017

So, the Cross Country seasons come to an end, some up and some down for me, but its a quick change of codes and a new English Fell season is on the arisen.  Some friends will follow and other will hit the track for the spring and summer seasons before we all meet again for the next Cross Country season.

As I post this blog there will have already been two English champs races with 4 more to go.  I also have the Yorkshire fell champion race, the Inter Counties and the qualifiers for the Junior mountain running home international.  Within all these events I also hope to compete in 2 big events, the GB qualifiers for the U23 Europeans and World Mountain running events.

Until next time

Vicki x

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The start of the cross country season

Race 1 – West Yorkshire Wakefield – 2nd October

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Wakefield xc is always one of my favorite cross countries. I was very happy to of finished 10 places for my first xc of the season after a rough fell season and with a very strong age group. The Bingley u17 girls also find 3 teams.

Photo: Me and India Elliott on the first lap (taken by Matt)

2nd race – Northern xc relays – 22nd October

I had never done a xc relays before when my club told me we were doing the relays this year I was very excited. We ran at the northern xc relays in Sheffield. I ran 9:48 (17 places) for the first leg, passing to Eliza Findlay, she ran 9:41 moving us up to 13 places. Eliza passed on to Katie Smith who gained another place in a time of 9:53. So Bingley u17 girls finished 12 team, which was good for our first ever relay together.

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Photo: Bingley u17 girls team after northern relays (taken by my dad)

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Race 3 – West Yorkshire Nunroyd – 30th October

The second West Yorkshire was at Nunroyd Park, which is another of my favorite. The condition was good with the field being dry and minimal mud – just very leafy. I have a strong finish, putting me 8th in the race.

Photo: u17 girls start (taken by my dad)

Race 4 – National xc relays – 5th November

Following with the relays, Bingley also entered us into the National xc relays, this event was held in Mansfield. The u17 girls consisted of the same girls (me, Eliza and Katie) and we finished 53rd team. I ran the first leg again finishing in a time of 10:27. Then passing to Eliza how passed several teams and finished in 10:36. Katie was on the last leg and ran it in 11:12. Yet again we were very happy with our team effort at our first national xc relays.

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Photo: another classic jumping photo of the Bingley u17 girls after the national relays (taken by my dad)

Race 5 – British cross country Milton Keynes – 12th November

The British cross country stated with Milton Keynes cross country. At the start of the u17/u20 girls start there was a mix of emotions as we all remember the loss of two very talented athletes Lucy Pygott and Stacey Burrow. This was a huge impact on the running community, but on the day of Milton Keynes xc there was beautiful tribute from athletes wearing black ribbons and a one minute silence before our race started to show respect and to think about the two girls. I found this race very fast as the girls who I was racing again was so good. I really enjoyed the course which had some short steep hills. Also, I got to meets some new friends from different parts of the country and see some friends from last cross country season.

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Photo: cool down group, loved meeting these girls (taken by my dad)

Race 6 – West Yorkshire Spenborough – 20th November

The 3rd West Yorkshire was at Spenborough. This was a new course to the championship and I was very excited. After having a look around the course I could already tell that I was going to enjoy it, there was a lot of twists and turn and even a small water jump and a couple of hills. I went on a steady warm up jog with Holly Kitching and got my self-ready for the race. I decided to change up how I usually run my race by setting of a bit slower and not taking it out from the start. The race consisted of 2 laps of the twisting course. I was able to stick will Holly for the most part of the race, we worked together around the course. around the last loop of the lap, Holly was able to pull away from me but I was able to push on and finish in a strong 11th.

IMG_0534 Photo: Me and Holly Kitching (taken by my Dad)

Race 7 – British cross country Liverpool – 26th November

The next weekend came the 2nd British cross at Liverpool. Waking up early to travel to Liverpool in the fog and cold. On arrival, I realised how cold and foggy Liverpool was that day. My dad, Matt, and Myself went for a short walk around the bottom half of the course to see what I was like before going to collect our number and then heading back to the car to get spikes and my kit ready. I then found Imani Wilson who I went for a warm up around the small lap of our course. The fog still clinging to the course making the air feel very cold, so having to leave my crop top in the bag and change into my vest. the u17 and u20 ladies were call over to the start and get ready for our race. I meet Sophie Tothill and Lily Higgins at the start, and we all had a minutes silence in memory of Lucy Pigott and Stacey Burrows. The race got underway, I took the start slow to give me more energy towards the end of the race. I was able to stick in a group of about 7 of us and being able to push each other around the course. I was able to pull away from some of the girls giving me a bit of a lead on them. I was able to push my self down the finishing straight to finish 71st. After my race, I caught up with Sophie and Maddie, and then found Imani to watch the U17 Men’s race which consisted of Matt Merrick and Alfie Manthorpe. Both had a good race and then we all got extra kit on and then we went for a cool down run.

Photo: Left – A section of the start line (taken by Sophie Tothill’s dad), Top Right- Eleanor Root, Briony Holt and Me jumping for joy after a very cold race (taken by Matt), Bottom Right- Sheffield, Hallamshire, Bingley and Scotland Athletes (taken by Hazel Bell)

Race 8 – West Yorkshire Keighley – 4th December

The last West Yorkshire was held at Cliff Castle in Keighley. This isn’t my favorite xc course as the mud can be very sticky and hard to run through. As predicted the course got very muddy very quickly. I went to watch the younger athletes race and cheer them on. about 45 minutes before my race I went to change my spikes and get my number on and ready for my race. I went for a warn up and did several drills before being called to the start of the race. The u17 girl’s race consisted of 1 small and 2 large laps. The start was very fast and spread out very quickly. I was able to stick with Laura Knowles and Tegan Knappy throughout with race and we worked off each other on the hillier section of the course. I had another strong finish to my last u17 west Yorkshire xc race. Overall I finished 9th and Bingley finished 3rd team.

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Photo: last lap of the West Yorkshire (taken by Woodentops)

My next cross country is not until January with the Yorkshire champs and more.

Until next time

Vicki x

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The World Mountain Running Trials

510m of ascent over 3.7km up Skiddaw, probably the hardest race I have ever raced. This year’s World Mountain running uphill only trials for GB and Senior Home Internationals was held in Keswick, Cumbria on the 30th July. I searched and found the race course map to analyse and work out where I was going. The weather was reported to be sunny with some cloud and around 17°c, perfect weather for a mountain race.

The night before the event I made sure that all my kit was ready: bum bag packed with waterproof kit, hat and gloves etc, my vest, crop top, shorts, and socks were all sorted. I made sure that I had extra kit in case it rained or was cold and that my inov8 x-talons were ready and that my watch was on charge. I was ready and prepared for the race.

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Photo: My race kit ready (taken by me)

On the morning I had to get up at 6.30, last minute cheek over my kit to ensure that I have everything I could possibly need for the race. Then down for my race breakfast, 2 Weetabix’s. At 7:30 my dad, Matt and Myself set off to Cumbria, on the way picking up Tom Adams (Ilkley Harrier) who was running for England in the Senior Home International and in the GB world trial race.

We arrived in Keswick at 10:00, that gave me 1hr 20 until the Junior women’s race was due to set off. I registered and had some food before my race. Back at the car, I packed my bum bag with my waterproof jacket, hat, and gloves for when I finish at the top.

When 10:45 came around I rechecked that I had everything for my race, said good luck to Matt and Tom, then I had a warm up jog with my dad in prep of the start of my race. I did some drills and stretches when arriving at the start. I began to feel nervous as I could see that the competition was high, the girls I would be competing against are really good. 11:20 was quickly approaching and we got our final brief from Duncan Richards, completed our last bits of warming up and then it was time to go. 10 girls on the start line (Heidi Davies, Bronwen Jenkinson, Emily Nicholson, Scarlet Dale, Fiona Bunn, Mairi Wallace, Lily McGuinness, Elizabeth Apsley, Robyn Bennett, and Victoria Merrick), on your marks, GO!!! We are off.

We were climbing from the start, Heidi Davies (from Brecon AC) took an early lead with Scarlet Dale (Lancaster and Morcambe AC) following close behind. Knowing that I will still getting my base fitness back, I let the rest of the girls go, and I just ran the race by myself and performed how I wanted to do it. When I reached Jenkins Path I saw how steep this race got. I started to put more effort into this part of the race. My steps started to get smaller and being able to keep going up the steepest part of the race. I saw my dad further up the path and this kept me going, along with all the walkers cheering me on when I passed them. I keep going steady. Half way up I got encouragement for a fellow runner Harry Greenbank which encouraged me through the toughest part of the course. The support on the mountain side was incredible. The next part of the race it started to flatten out, I was able to speed up and I could nearly see the finish. When I heard Heidi and Luke Davies shouting my name I knew I was nearly there and I could just see the finish in the mist! Then I could hear more shouts and cheers from the other girls and I gave it my everything I had up the final section of that climb. 35.38 minutes later 510m up, I had completed the hardest race I have ever done. FINISHED!!!

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Photo: Me running up Skiddaw (taken by Stephen Wilson – Grand day out photography)

I walked down with Emily Nicholson (from Pitreavie AAC) who came 3rd in our race. On our way down we got to see the Junior Men (the race Matt was in) and Senior Women’s race and got to cheer on the athletes up the tough climb. Having Emily keep me company down the mountain was great and getting to talk about some of our running experiences was very interesting. When we reached our start we were able to see the Senior Men come through and cheered them on going up the Latrigg loop.When Matt and my dad came back we ran down to the field where registration was. When we got back we talked to some of the girls from mine and Emily race and some of the coaches. I went to get some lunch and then got some photos with Emily.

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Photo: Me and Emily Nicholson back in the field (taken by my dad)

Around 2:30 the Senior Men came back and Matt, Emily and Myself sat and talked with Ben Mounsey and Tom Adams. When the organizers got the results sorted out it was time for the presentation. We watched the junior top 3 and the Senior Home Internationals presentation. When it was over we said bye to Emily and drove back to Yorkshire.

The race was the hardest I have ever done, but I was very happy to have completed it. It was also amazing to watch some of the best mountain runners from across GB that day.

Until next time

Vicki x

When we’re not competing … we’re spectating

Being a runner means that I do a lot of competitions and races. So most of my weekends consist of waking up early, packing the car and then my dad, Matthew and myself traveling across the country to run up one mountain side or another. However, as an athlete I know that you can have setbacks, restricting you from doing a certain race or championship. So when we’re not competing… we’re spectating and supporting.

Something myself and many other have had to struggle with having injuries. Personally, mine was my back, injured after having a fall on concrete flooring at school. I was advised to take a few weeks out of training and racing to make sure my back could fully recover. I was allowed to start racing in mid-October and this meant that I was back in time for the Cross Country season. With this injury, my Cross Country season wasn’t as successful as I hoped. My first major disappointment came in the Yorkshire cross country championship, I ran with pain in my back and missed out on selection for the Yorkshire team. This lead to me doing more exercise for my back, however, due to the enduring pain I then failed to finish the Cross Country trials for West Yorkshire team, for the English School Championship. Knowing that my brother and many of my friends were competing in the championship, I didn’t want to miss out on supporting them around the course. So on the 5th March, my dad and I dropped Matthew off with the West Yorkshire team and drove down to Wollaton Park, Nottingham. Having stopped off on the way down to the race we knew that the West Yorkshire team would arrive before us, so all we had to do was to find them. But saying that there were 45 counties there, this was much easier said than done. When we found the teams tent all the athletes were out walking the course, so I had some time to get my camera ready for taking a photo of the races. When the team arrived back, I got some time to have a chat with friends until they had to get ready for their race. As the first race was the Intermediate Girls and the team I would have been in I when to the start with the girls to got their team photo, then situated myself out on the course so I could get photos and then sprinting down to the tent to find out how the race went. The rest of the day continued with the same theme: positioning my self on the course to get photos and going back to the team’s tent to talk with a friend. So even though having an injury for the trial race I wouldn’t have missed supporting my friends and the West Yorkshire team that day.

IMG_8841.JPGPhoto: Amelia Lancaster (green/purple/white vest of South Yorkshire) and Maddie Deadman (red/white vest of Hampshire) racing at English schools (taken by me)

Along with injures, your age can stop you from doing a race you have been wanting to do. Since I found out about the Ian Hodgson Mountain Relays, which is held in Patterdale Cumbria, I have anticipated being able to compete in the Bingley Team. For the event this year I was 15 and you have to be 16 to run the first leg, however the relay was on the 4th October and as my birthday is on the 8th October I was 4 days too young to take part in the event. Matthew and I really wanted to race so we decided that the next best thing was to go and support  the club. We traveled up early in the morning to King George V Playing Fields in Patterdale to watch the start what was at 9:15 am. The relay consists of 4 legs with 2 athletes on each leg (8 athletes in total) and Bingley Harriers had to two teams out, 1 Mens and 1 Ladies. The Bingley Men came through in 5th place and the Bingley Ladies came through in 60th place (7th ladies). When all the teams had came through we went back to Patterdale and just spent some time in the playing field. Around 12.45 the first team came in which was Borrowdale and they completed the 36.2km course in 3:34 hours. The Bingley mens team came in 11.81 minutes later in 6th place. Then the Bingley Ladies finished in the time of 6:05 in 69th place. The day was really good and it was brilliant to see what sort of mountain events I can look to doing in the future.

On the 17th October I want along to the British Fell Relays,  which were held in Pendle. In this event Bingley mens team finished 8th and Bingley ladies finished 6th. Another brilliant day supporting the Bingley team, and also participating this time. So even if your too young to race, I find that even going to support older members of my club in bigger race I can still learn a lot and see what I can do in the future.

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Photo: Ian Hodgson Mountain Relay, Patterdale, Cumbria (Taken by me)

When I don’t go along to races I like watching athletics on TV (obviously when its on, and you can find it, you sometimes have to live stream to be able to watch). I love watching athletes who are at the top of their sport from, Diamond League track event to World Mountain Running Championship or a Cross Country event, its great to see how these top class athletes perform and what tactics they have for their races.

Last weekend was the English School Track and Field Championships at Gateshead International Stadium in Newcastle. This event was live streamed so athletes who didn’t make the event or family members of athletes who were competing could see how they preformed. When I found out about this I was exited as I had a number of friends competing in different events. I thoroughly enjoyed watching friends succeed in the event they were competing in. It was also encouraging to see how other girls race the 1500 week in week out and how they pace the race as seconds matter on the track.

IMG_8842Photo: Tilly Simpson (Derby) Winning English School 1500m for the Intermediate Girls 2016 in 4:21.47 (Taken by Hazel Bell)

So even if I can’t race on a particular day from injury, other racing or personal commitments, or simply because I’m too young, I love to spectate and support fellow athletes. By watching a race you can learn so much, it can teach you how to approach your own race and show you new races what you could do in the future.

Until next time

Vicki x

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Why I love running?

I am often asked by nonrunners, why do I run?  I respond ‘because I do, or because I enjoy it’ But this gets me thinking as to why do I run, which brings me to the conclusion that there are many reasons why I do.

I have thought about why I started running, a combination of 2 friends, Oliver Roper and Ben Nicoll and my PE teacher at primary school, who all encouraged Matthew and myself to go down to the local running club (Bingley Harriers) after they saw us enjoy a school cross country race.  After participating in a few pack runs with the club we both decided to sign up and become members. We started by going twice a week, once for a pack run with all the juniors on a Tuesday, followed by a muddy fell training session on Saturday. So, at the age of 10, I fell in love with running.

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Photo: Me (48) and Olivia Roper (49) at my first fell race in 2010, Withins quarry run (Woodentops)

From the age of 10 to now 16, my love and enjoyment for the sport has grown. I don’t know if it was pushing myself to the limit or escaping the stresses of daily life but when I’m running nothing else matters, it just me vs the course and the clock.

In every race since I started, I have always tried my best. As I got older I started setting goals for when I race, like taking a few seconds of my 5km time or to improve my place in the next FRA fell.  Now my Dad and I plan races I need/want to do and what I want to achieve that season, and if that goal I have set is achievable. I have targets and goals I want to reach. No one is disappointed if I don’t reach them apart from me and I have to then re-evaluate what went wrong and what I need to do to improve.

“FROM BIG ACHIEVEMENTS TO SMALL VICTORIES”

Something I love as a runner is the buzz of success: if that’s winning a race/event, improving a PB or getting selected for a team. All of these make me so happy as I could have been working on them for weeks/months. From big achievements, like receiving the phone call about selection for Junior Home Internationals, to smaller victories, like the first lady in Bradford Parkrun. All of them build confidence and increase positivist in runners and they can show you how all the hard work you put into training pays off.

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Photo: England winning overall country at Junior Home Internationals (Taken by Dad)

Competition is a key factor in running, not just against others but also yourself. Half the race is in the mind and thinking ‘can I do this’. It that push you to give yourself to keep in the group of other runner or when your running on your own to keep going. It never easy and you have to keep working at it. But competing in running brings great opportunities from inter-counties and English schools to International events; these can be held in some beautiful places.

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Photo: Lead group at Yorkshire Cross-Country 2015 (Woodentops)

One thing that I love about the sport is the friends I have made. Throughout the 6 years of running, I have made so many friends across the country. Even though when you get to the start line those friends become your competition and you battle against each other for the top place. When it is all over the people are your friends who will help support you through bad races and celebrate with you when you have a good race or achieve success. Even though you may not see them every day like friends at school, you know that they are always there and will help you when you need it.

Photo: Right – U17 England girls team at start of Junior Homes  2014 (Woodentops), Left – U17 Boys Yorkshire presentation 2016 (Taken by Imani Wilson)

So maybe people ask the question ‘why I run?’ On reflection, I now understand why I do, and just how much I love and enjoy the sport I’m in.

Throughout the last week, my training has begun to increase with doing some gym sessions and do more hill work. On Saturday I traveled to Church Stretton, Shropshire for the last FRA and Inter-counties Fell Championship. Then on Sunday the village, I live in holds an annual Straw race raising money for a local hospice. This is where people race around the village with a bale of hay and every pub they pass they have to drink a pint of ale. Sadly I was too young to race this year but I still went out and supported everyone who raced, it was a brilliant day. Also, the winners of the whole event are 2 brilliant runners who I get the pleasure to train with: Ian Holmes (Bingley Harriers) and Will Smith (Keighley and Craven Athletes Club) who completed it in 19:22.

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Photo: Me with the winning team (Taken by Dad)

Until next time

Vicki x

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Getting to know me 

Hi, I’m Vicki! A 16 year old fell, mountain and cross country runner for Bingley Harriers. I’ve just finished my GCSE exams and now have spare time on my hands, so I thought why not start a blog and base it on what I love most in the world…RUNNING!! So this is my first post and hopefully, when you’ve finished reading it you’ll know me better.

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Photo: Shepherd Skyline fell race 2015(Woodentops)

I’ve been running now for a number of years and I love nothing more than being on the fells. Since I started fell running, I competed in the English Fell Running Junior Championship, and  I was invited to attend a junior development camp with other athletes, all around a similar age. We were given the opportunity to learn more about our great sport and ways in which we could improve our performance. Most importantly we were told about the amazing opportunities to represent our country at what we do best.

‘IT WAS MY FIRST TASTE OF INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS AND LEFT ME HUNGRY TO ACHIEVE MORE’

So in 2014, I got my first chance to try and qualify for the England Fell & Mountain Running team. In the trial race, I came 7th and then had to wait until the following Tuesday until I heard about selection. It felt like I was waiting forever for the call. Then finally, Dad received the confirmation that I had made the U17 girls England team for the Junior Home International. This was to be held in Glendalough, County Wicklow, Southern Ireland. I was delighted at the news and it was one of best experiences of my life so far.

We traveled to Ireland the day before the competition and stayed in a Youth Hostel in the village. The night before we had a group meeting and spent time together as a team. The following morning we had breakfast and then went down to the race to prepare and warm up. The course was beautiful and we all did really well in the race.I was delighted and very proud when England was announced as the winning team for the whole event.It was my first taste of international success and left me hungry to achieve more.

The following week at the English Schools’ Fell Championship in Mytholmroyd, I was crowned the English Intermediate Girl’s Fell Champion 2014 (years 10/11). It was the most amazing feeling especially after the team success of the previous week and also because I was competing for a as a year 10.

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Photo: Champion! English Schools Fell Championship 2014 (Woodentops)

A year later and I continued to build on my success in 2014. I was given the opportunity to represent Yorkshire in Wales in the UK Inter-Counties Fell Running Championship. Despite falling shortly after the start, I managed to finish the race in 6th place and the Yorkshire U16 girls also won the team event.

‘KNOWING THAT I’D BEEN SELECTED BECAUSE I WAS ONE OF THE FASTEST U13 GIRLS IN OUR COUNTY WAS AN UNREAL FEELING’

When I’m not running on the fells I also like to try my hand (or should I say feet) at Cross Country. I have competed in the West Yorkshire Championship since the very beginning of my career. I earned my first Yorkshire vest in 2013 when I was the selected as one of the best U13 girls. This was an amazing experience for me as it was the first big event I had ever been to. Following this, I was given the opportunity to run for West Yorkshire in the English Schools Cross Country Championship in the Year 8/9 girls race (Junior Girls) as a Year 8 student. After a good run in both of these events, I was honored to gain selected for the Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon, to represent Yorkshire and Humberside. Knowing that I’d been selected because I was one of the fastest U13 girls in our county was an unreal feeling – I was truly amazed and honored. The Mini London Marathon is a definite highlight of my running career, I’m delighted to say I’m lucky enough to have competed there twice.

The following year had its ups and downs but I had another chance to represent West Yorkshire again in the Junior Girls event. Unfortunately, the next two years as an intermediate were blighted by illness and injury. Then, despite tough competition against a great set of girls, I was delighted to represent Yorkshire once more in 2015.

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Photo: Myself and India Elliot at West Yorkshire Cross Country Championship 2014 (taken by India’s Dad)

Track isn’t my favorite discipline but I recognise the importance of speed training in all forms of running. As fell racing takes up most of my weekends during summer, I don’t get the time to take part in track events. However I know that track races are good for seeing how you are improving, so if I have a free weekend and a track YDL (Youth Development League) event is on, I would go along and see how I am doing.  I usually compete in the 1500m.

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Photo: Winning Intermediate 1500m West Yorkshire Schools Track and Field 2015 (taken by Eliza Findlay)

As I write this blog I’m reminded how I first started running and why I fell in love with the sport. When I was 10 years old, my twin brother (Matthew) and I were encouraged to run by friends and family. Our PE teacher (Diane Haggar) at primary school encouraged us to join our local athletics club (Bingley Harriers) because of our performance at school athletics.  I’m very thankful to everyone for all of their support and encouragement over the years. All of these people have helped us to achieve so many amazing things over the last few years and I’m very grateful to them. Also, having the support from Matthew really helps, if I just miss out on that place on a team or I have a bad race he supports me through that. Another person who I couldn’t do without, who takes me to every race, no matter how far away, and helps to coach Matthew and myself, is my dad. He does everything he can to help us. Throughout the 6 years of running, I have made many friends from across the country. Having an amazing group of friends supporting you through a race really helps.

We’ve both represented Yorkshire and England together and competed in some beautiful places with stunning mountains and landscapes across the country. Although we might still have the odd bad race or disappointing season we always pull through and work together to try and put things right. By doing this it makes us appreciate our success so much more and helps us to become better athletes. I’m looking forward to what the future has to hold for us both and hope I have many more fantastic experiences to blog about.

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Photo: Junior Home International 2014 Ireland with Matthew(taken by Dad)

The purpose of this blog is to track my progress back to full fitness, after having a back injury from falling over in school and recovering from my GCSE exams. I hope this provides an interesting and entertaining, read, both for those who visit and follow this blog, and also for myself. I hope it will help me focus on my recovery and improve my performance.

Okay so that’s it for me and I hope you enjoyed reading my new blog. I haven’t planned what I’ll write about next but one thing is for sure – it will be certainly be all about running!!

Vicki x

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