Many thanks to Kay Black for this personal account of the Anita Nott memorial race.
Anita Nott Memorial Race: Monday, 26th June 2017
One for the ladies
This race is special to me as last year it was the very first race I’ve done wearing a number bib and finished in a respectful time of 34:35 having just started my running ‘career’ in March 2016. This year again it would be a memorable race as one year on I would be wearing my number bib pinned to my club vest running as an affiliated member of Tyne Bridge Harriers.
For those of you who are unaware of this race, it is a 5k and takes part through Jesmond Dene, Armstrong and Heaton Park. The event is hosted by Heaton Harriers in memory of Anita Nott who was one of their members and who tragically lost her life during a training run in September 2006. The race is a women’s only race which has been dedicated to the name of an athlete who was one of their top ladies in performance, organising club events etc and who was keen to see and support women of all abilities to get involved and take part in running events. As Anita was very keen to promote runners particularly veterans, the race has an extensive prize list to encourage everyone to take part as Anita herself welcomed the prize structures in local races that highlighted the strength in depth of the veteran field.
There is also a prize of chocolate for all runners at the finish along with a soft drink. An unofficial addition that ladies make to this is a post-race ‘party/social in the park’ and as race day drew close the party thread was opened on the TBH Facebook page as the ladies set to organising the after-race treats. A most welcome and unexpected gift from the club was the offer of 12 bottles of Prosecco left over from the Christmas Party (how did that happen!) which would be delivered ready chilled to the park. This very kind offer proved to offer an added incentive and resulted in swelling the number of TBH ladies signing up to the race – what we will do for chocolate and free Prosecco!!
Race day dawned with the recent hot sunny weather deciding to take a break and rain was forecast, not good for the after events but much more pleasant running conditions, fingers crossed though that the rain would hold off.
With my bag packed with club vest with race bib safety pins attached so I’d not forget them, after race goodies -home baked prosecco flavoured decorated cupcakes, umbrella (just in case it does rain at the forecasted 8pm) and spare jumper for Gill Smith who’s just messaged me to say she forgotten to take one to work with her; off I go to town to meet up with Gill who is feeling nervous as this is her first Anita Nott.
Arriving at Millfield House at around 18:00, which is already buzzing with fellow runners and supporters, we collected our race numbers, number 40 for me this year. I remembered my number last year being 20 and, being new to the running malarkey I was constantly asked if that was a low number cos I was a fast runner…. sadly, I had to admit that the numbers were allocated by surname not ability.
Numbers pinned to club vests, toilet visits done now to beat the huge queue later and we were all set.
The number of TBH vests were fast increasing as we commissioned a park bench opposite Millfield house to set our bags down and engage in pre-race banter which included discussing the route and hills!! We also plotted which unsuspecting supporter/s were to be assigned as our ‘secure baggage drop’ for the duration of the race! The area quickly filled up with the black and white TBH team colours, over 56 ladies from TBH, a fantastic turnout with all groups and abilities from beginners to the structured training groups being represented, a glowing testament to the club’s coaches and leaders. A team huddle pic of a few of us was taken by a guy I believe was the Heaton Harriers race photographer.
A special thanks to all who took photographs, including Rob Savage and Mark Slade among others for us to remember the event by.
A little pre-race warm up with Gill to test our injury’s and then at around 19:10 it was time to make our way up to Armstrong Bridge, a few of us commenting on how the uphill path we were walking was the one we’d soon be running down and then later running back up!
Once up at the east end of Armstrong bridge our nominated bag holder give an impressive demonstration on the best way to carry 10 bags around their person – Thanks Ian Windsor, you’re an absolute star!
With the 19.30 start time fast approaching we all made our way to the west end of Armstrong Bridge for the start, checking our shoe laces were tied and our inhalers were with us…some only after a quick dash back to the bag-drop to collect it…Alison!!
I had decided that as I was still recovering from a back/hip injury following Blaydon that I was going to start at the back of the field in order not to set off too fast, to take things easy and see how it went. Alison Harris (who had also been my Blaydon Race Buddy) and Helen Blades also were going with the same theory of let’s just go out and enjoy the experience; so, we wished our fellow club runners good luck as we made our way towards the back of the pack.
A minute’s silence preceded the start as we remembered the lady who was the inspiration behind this event, this was followed by a round applause and then we were off running across the bridge and turning left into the downhill stretch of Jesmond Dene to the shouts from all those supporting on the side lines.
Making our way along the first downhill stretch of the course I thought how proud Anita would be at the sight of over 400 ladies, both club members and unattached, snaking their colourful way through the lush tree lined paths of the dene in her memory. It was a truly impressive sight to see and be a part of.
The sharp bend to the left through the tunnel was met with shrieks and whoops as we continued downhill. A couple of young lads with rucksacks on their backs decided to run alongside us all for a while – to ‘show us ladies how it was done’ but also shouting cheers of encouragement as they sped past – more on them to follow…
Alison, Helen and myself stuck together as we made our way down, along past the Fisherman’s Lodge and northwards along the Ouseburn. Helen did question if Alison and I were slip streaming as we ran in formation. After a bend to the left followed by a right turn and up a flight of steps, which I managed to surprise myself and run up without falling flat on my face, it was time for the uphill climb to take us back up out of the dene. By now a few ladies were taking a little recovery walk whilst offering encouragement to those taking on the uphill challenge. Our trio started our ascent and we noticed one of the ‘rucksack lads’ sat on a bench to the side “not giving up, are you?” Helen enquired to which he replied he needed a rest but respect to us ladies. Helen was now showing her strength on running hills by pulling away whilst calling out to Alison and me, the club session advice of “use the arms ladies” Several glances over my shoulder I could see Alison just behind me so I relayed supportive words of encouragement that we could do this no problem. With Helen now widening the gap between us it looked like at this point our trio were now running our own individual races.
Locking my brain into positive thinking I dug in, helped along by the supporting shouts of a Scout troop who were tucked in at the side of the path hi-fiving as many as runners as possible – I discovered later that they were in the care of fellow TBH runner Raj Nair with the purpose of doing some clearing up in the dene but instead they ended up watching and enjoying the spectacle of the race. Thanks for the shouts lads, they really helped on that uphill section, so much so that I found myself overtaking Helen.
Onwards and upwards, back through the tunnel (no whoops this time from the ladies!) and the final climb out of the dene which was helped greatly by the increasing sound of the supporting cheers coming from the top. There was a fantastic reception of cheers as we emerged from Jesmond Dene gates and made our way left to cross Benton Bank Bridge into Armstrong Park and Heaton Park toward the final slow incline to the turnaround point at the top of the hill at Heaton Park View gates. A sharp turnaround at the bollard then a downhill stretch which would have us retracing our steps to the finish line on Armstrong Bridge.
The section through Armstrong and Heaton Park is one of my favourite parts. I love the two-way course sections when there are so many acknowledgements, thumbs up and encouraging words being exchanged between outward and incoming runners. I was also able to see how far I’d opened the gap between our trio and acknowledge those speedy TBH ladies who inspire me.
It was as I was on this homeward bound part of the course that I noticed 2 inbound ladies opposite me connected by a visually impaired run aid tether. As well as cheering support, I also applauded them which much to my delight I heard the same from the ladies running behind me as they all follow suit.
On my way back through Armstrong Park I did sneak a very short fast walking recovery but on hearing the welcoming sounds of the bypass traffic signalling that the finish line was not that far away now; that spurred me on as did the welcoming sight of Benton Bank Bridge and increasing volumes of supporters. Just ahead of me were 2 ladies from either Sunderland Strollers or Saltwell Harriers I’m not sure which, but we had been overtaking each other for the last few hundred yards and again I was gaining on them. Knowing that the finish line was just across the bridge then a tight left turn. I had to decide to either attempt to overtake on their left or right or stay tucked right behind them but requiring me to control my now slightly increasing pace. Then it happened…. The gap between them increased giving a space more than comfortably wide enough for me to make my break, suddenly I felt my brain engage with my legs and I surged forward…whoa, I love that feeling when it does happen and you develop Billy Whizz legs for a short time!!
I made my break and surged forward hearing the cheers from the supporters on the bridge fuelling my move and sprinted the bridge and around the final corner to cross the finish line. A glance at my watch as I crossed the finish line stop the timer I was distracted from doing so by the display showing that my final sprint had recorded a 7:32min/mi !!!!!!!!!!!!
My official time of 36.56 recorded may slower than last year but to get around, enjoy it and finish with a sprint after injury I’m more than happy with that time.
Chocolate bar and drink collected and consumed we all made our way to the party in the park to enjoy the Prosecco and treats.
Well done all ladies who took part representing Tyne Bridge especially;
Louise Lennox 1st F40,
Karen Walker 3rd F50,
Jessica Anderson 3rd in V60,
June Hindmarch 3rd in V65
and Louise Lennox, Sophie Marr and Michelle Moat who were 3rd team.
And so, we come full circle from this race being my first ever as a runner wearing a number bib to this year running that same race only this time with my number bib proudly pinned to my club vest as a Tyne Bridge Harrier.
Finally, there is a lovely quote on www.heatonharriers.org.uk/our-races/anita-nott-womens-only-run/
“We ask that you come and support our event and remember a great athlete! This could be the start of your athletic journey!”
In my case I would say that is true.