“You sometimes sense there is a calling back to a place”
Chris Pratt made a return to Kielder to run the marathon this year having fallen in love with the stunning scenery during a school trip over 30 years ago. The 46 year old, originally from Yorkshire moved to Bridgend after University and has always remembered his northern roots. Having relatives in Sunderland, 60 miles from Kielder, it was logical to make the trip on a visit with wife Jo to kill two birds with one stone.
“Despite being such a long time ago, my memories of the dam itself and the surrounding area were as clear as it was yesterday despite never having been back since. I remember plentiful walks on the paths around the water and canoeing from Leaplish several times. Day trips to nearby Hexham and Bellingham left me with memories of the wider area as well and its beauty was imprinted on my brain. I was fascinated with the scale of the dam itself and can still picture standing in the visitor centre listening to the explanation of its history and operation. Memories sometimes fade, but when they’re this strong you sometimes sense there is a calling back to a place”
Running his first marathon in London in 2012, Chris had no further plans to run the iconic distance until joining his local running club in 2014 Cwm Ogwr Running Club after befriending some members at Porthcawl parkrun. Chris ran an amazing 15 half marathons in 2015 including Sunderland Half also organised by Events of the North; and the Snowdonia marathon, known for its 4000ft elevataion and technical terrain: perfect preparation for Kielder!
Chris who works for a video slot machine games company as a developer and manager of a small team of developers, made 2016 “The year of the Marathon” planning 6 26.2 mile challenges as well as the Vale Coastal Ultra (33 miles) and the 5×50 challenge, 5k for 50 consecutive days.
Chris made the trip to Kielder, deciding to link his marathon to the 401 Virtual Challenge having run with Ben Smith during the 401 challenge on a few previous occasions saying Ben was truly inspirational with a kind heart.
“His passion for the causes and his story had struck a chord with me that had contributed to inspiring my years running and made me look at things in a different way, not just in a running context.”
Chris notes the mention of Ben’s challenge on the start line of the marathon as one of his best memories of the day.
“Arriving at Kielder, spotting the dam was like when dad used to challenge us to be the first one to see the sea on holiday, probably because this was like returning to childhood memory. Huddersfield was about as far from the sea that you could get so any trips to the seaside were special. The dam was just as impressive as I remembered it and the cold, sunny morning was a perfect backdrop to the start of the run.”
“I have so many brilliant memories of the day. The course and scenery were fantastic. The compacted gravel didn’t feel as hard as tarmac. I love hills, so the profile was just right for me. The phrases “sharp incline” and “sharp decline” will remain indelibly imprinted on my mind and with the lake almost constantly in view there is always a fantastic view. The marshals were fantastic the whole way round – especially the baby in the pack on mums back on the bends leading down to the bridge in the first few miles sending us on our way with a shake of a rattle. I spotted Steve Cram at the dam at mile 18 and then having the final straight to myself was fantastic, with family cheering me on.”
The experience culminated in a PB for Chris of 3:39:14 and upon finishing he was interviewed (slumped on the floor!) by Radio Newcastle before meeting one of his running heroes Aly Dixon who Chris has admired since watching her at the Brighton Marathon a few years ago on TV.
Chris plans to return to Kielder in 2017 to repeat his marathon experience, and will also run the Sunderland Half Marathon.
Well done Chris for such a great and inspiring performance. We look forward to having you back next year!