Blue Runnings

Race Reviews, GPX files and more from North-East England

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Hello! Welcome to Blue Runnings.

I run distances between 5k and half marathon, predominently around the North-East of England over a mix of terrains. I prefer trail and coastal runs, but you’ll also spot me at a few road runs if the setting’s right! If you’re looking for reviews of a particular race, please check the link below (or on the right) for a full list of races I have participated in and reviewed since 2015. These include GPX files, maps and elevation data.

Race Reviews

I am also an erratic attendee of various parkrun events; if you’re looking for information relating to the parkruns I have attended, please see the separate link below.

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You can keep up with the latest site updates, or just what I’m doing from my own fitness perspective on my facebook page – I regularly run (obviously!), cycle (badly!), hike and attend local Kangoo Jump classes. Irregularly, I’ll try whatever’s going!

www.facebook.com/bluerunningsNE

New for 2019 – an Excel sheet available to download to help you keep on track with your mileage targets; whether you’re running, walking, cycling, swimming, kayaking, you name it. I used a much more clunky version when I was trying to hit 500 miles in 2018 and tidied it all up nice and pretty for you. You can download it from my Dropbox account by the link below, or from the menu on the right 🙂

Mileage Tracker

Please get in touch either through the comments, the contact form or my facebook page if you’ve got any questions or feedback, I’d love to hear from you.

Sarah

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On the Bench :(

I’ve been learning about knees today. Specifically, mine and why one of them is crunching like it’s full of gravel.

I’ve had a clicky knee since somewhere around the New Year (happy 2019 to me!) and at the time blamed the very sudden ramp up in miles I’d done in December compared to the previous months. I figured it’d sort itself out with some rest and accordingly gave myself free license to be a lazy bum for January.

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I started picking my mileage up again in March but ye olde knee was still crunching away when I went up the stairs. It’s not hurt through any of this, but it’s not a noise knees are supposed to make and when one’s father has very bad arthritis in his knees, one does not want the same! Especially when one has much running to do! As one does…

A friend of mine had recommended a physio in Willington, who to be honest if you check his website (https://www.info-physio.com/) is ridiculously overqualified for sorting my crunchy knees but along I did pootle anyway to see Gordon tonight. I was expecting to be told that my dropping Bounce in November (excellent for core-strength and toning as well as cardio) and too many miles pootling was causing issues and I need to work on my quads to sort it, but apparently not…

My painless crunching is something called Bursitis – an inflammation of the fluid pockets around a joint that probably you and certainly me didn’t know we had called bursae (you can read more here or here – I’m not going to waffle about stuff I clearly don’t understand when someone has already done a better job than me!). It looks like I’m lucky – it can often be quite painful.

What was immediately obvious to Gordon – and me when he pointed it out –  is that my left kneecap is swollen while my right one is not – and some of the fluid is actually forming a small pocket behind my knee (Baker’s cyst) as it can’t move around as it should do. This appears to have caused a small sprain on my inner knee ligament – again painless – and is likely to be the cause of my recent backpain; all with the knee itself not mainfesting any pain at all (yet?!).

The long and short of it is – no running for a few weeks. Three weeks of ultrasound treatment – and it was weird how quickly my kneecap definition started to appear after the first treatment today though it’s obviously still crunching as miracles are not common things – and no running or Bounce until it’s sorted out. My plans to restart going to Bounce again on Tuesday next week are going to have to continue on hold, and Washington Trail 10k on Sunday is also out – for exercise type, distance and terrain! I have been generously permitted to cycle in the meantime as long as I keep the high-impact knees stuff off!

Three weeks puts me only 1.5 weeks off Rock and Roll Liverpool weekend – and I really don’t know if I’ll be doing the half marathon as I’m not yet half-marathon fit anyway to try to sustain. I confess to being a touch dejected – especially as I’m definitely missing one of my favourite 10k’s and the Durham Trail 10M I’ve been wanting to do the last two years – but it’s not that long really if I’ve got my sensible head on. I’ve just spent 3 weeks off because of a cold, then being a lazy butt, then my back twanging so it’s the same again, but like a small child we want what we cannot have 🙂 I’d prefer to be fit enough to enjoy the trail races I’ve got booked between June and October, and be able to windsurf without twisting everything this summer than to not do things properly once nad have it take four times as long.

I’ve always been a somewhat reluctant cyclist, but it looks like I’m at least about to become a more practiced one!

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Cheviot Trail Events – Wooler 12M

Units can be confusing things. For example, when I rolled out of bed to do this race this morning I thought I’d read the elevation was 300 feet. It turns out that comment said 300 metres and the actual coarse description says “approx. 1400 feet of rolling, steady ascent” which I probably would have thought was a bit beyond me and sacked in for a day of dillidalliery. As it was, J was booked as official chauffeur and explorer of Wooler so off we went to meet L, who J had managed to somehow sucker into running (which I was very quickly grateful for!).

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As such, what we got was not what I’d set out expecting to pootle along this morning. It started near the coast – we could see Lindisfarne – with a rather major and quickly muddy uphill, and continued in more or less the same path for several miles until we left Kyloe Wood and hit more trail-like surfaces. Pace plans completely out the window very quickly and replaced with concerns of actually making it to the finish in one – albeit very muddy – piece if this was what the whole route was going to be like!

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There were many, many kissing gates (mwah!) and stiles through the woods and fields to slow us down until we reached St Cuthbert’s Cave and started to head out more into the fields and farmland.

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St Cuthbert’s Cave was well worth a quick stop and nosey after we’d nearly gone down through the trees from above it on our bums it was that precarious! I’m definitely going to be dragging P up here on a walk sometime as it was an area that really appealed to me. We met J at the bottom of the hill from it directed runners to the right route rather than the nice downhill one straight ahead, and sent her up to the cave to have a look while she was there – for some reason she went cross-country startling the local deer rather than the main path but each to their own I guess…

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The middle section was miles and miles of undulations and fabulous views. I’m not sure I’ll make it to some of the places again without a car, and my camera doesn’t do justice to the distance stuff, but it was a feast for the eyes when you were up there.

Somewhere around mile 9, someone had put the most enormous hill on the planet. Seriously, go check the elevation chart at the bottom, I’ll wait.

Are you back? It was a knee-breaker. Having something like that near the start where you’re vaguely fresh would have been bad enough but near the end, having seen a road sign for Wooler on the flatter road at the bottom and having to carry on up it anyway, was savage 😦

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I really had to walk quite a while across the top of this to get some degree of feeling back into my legs as they’d turned to lead plodding up! The wind still wasn’t easing up either but fortunately the views were still fabulous 🙂

The advantage to going slower along here was we actually spotted the route marker to go back down again…which went left down a gorse track rather than the straight ahead route the line of jackets was taking. We must have cut off quite a chunk as the people we saw when we rejoined the road into Wooler everyone came down to had passed us a while before!

Even the last stretch into Wooler for the finish was uphill, as if afraid to break with tradition for this beast of a route, but we made it just about in one piece! I was so grateful to have L’s company on this race as it made even the tough bits doable, and it didn’t feel like we’d only just met that morning – she’s known J for a while through the Running Ninjas.

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I also owe many thanks to J for not only being my driver (I did NOT want to have to drive home after that!) but for even taking me for FOOD on the way back so that I could eat all the things 🙂 This continued into the evening and the jury’s still out on tomorrow morning…

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This wasn’t an expensive race at £12 to enter, much of which I suspect went on the coaches to the start, but I found the lack of aid stations and marshalls (none!) to be very different to what I’m used to at races. There wasn’t a medal or t-shirt which isn’t unusual for the cheaper trail races, but I felt like we’d earned a massive trophy each by the time we got to the end! Check out my flights-of-stairs count on my watch by the end of it!!!

Watch

Map

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Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series – Northumberland 2019

I first did this race in 2015 (something I didn’t quite believe myself until I checked – but there you go!) and really enjoyed it, then in 2016 I did it again for the half distance this time and enjoyed it rather less, but through no fault of the race itself. The whole race event always sells out, but the 10k particularly early as there’s only 200 spaces. The half marathon had the biggest field this year and it looked like there were as many people on the ultra (35.2M on this occasion) as there were for the 6.5M I was enrolled in!

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As a quick aside, someone out there has run 35.2 miles in 4hrs 10mins?!?! Gobsmacked, absolutely gobsmacked – and it’s virtually all on sand!

Anyway, for those who haven’t run this before or read my previous wafflings, this is one of the few linear races I’ve done. Coaches take you to your respective start line at staggered times so the ultra and marathon runners start first from furthest away, followed by the half undertakers and then the 10k runners. This means apart from the very first leg (all 13 miles of it), you’ll never be on your own as you’ll be picking up (or in my case being passed by) the other distances as you make your way up the coast. I was getting passed at Seahouses by people on the ultra who’d done 23 miles already and had another 11 to go and still looked fresh as daisies in the dew! Route spotting is much easier as there’s just a steady trail of coloured bags and jackets for miles!

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The coaches were running late this year unfortunately – we only started 12 mins after our scheduled time (11:50) but with the brief being at 10:45 it felt like much longer as we sat around the carpark. The view’s not bad at least and the weather was looking to be set for a very pretty day for a run. 😉

The start line at Beadnell was frikking freezing after the warm buses as there was definitely a wind present all morning, but for the run itself it was a tailwind the whole way and therefore welcomed! Last time I was here was for the Northumberland Coastal to Alnmouth (twice as far in the opposite direction) and we had a 40mph headwind the entire way so it wasn’t that bad really! I ditched my over-layer rather quickly, tying it round my front like a skirt so my number was still visible (I’ve decided I may investigate running skirts for over my shorts – I felt less required to hoik the legs of my shorts back down again for the sake of public decency quite as often!).

I honestly have no idea where the first 2-3 miles went. The Northumberland beaches are usually stunning places to be and today was no exception – very easy to just look around and suddenly find you’ve covered more distance than you’ve realised and before we knew it Seahouses was appearing round the corner over some seaweed-strewn clamber rocks.

I was getting rather more aware of my legs and feeling more ploddy around mile 5, but knew by that point I was going to make it in one piece so it was pretty easy to keep steadily plodding onwards to the finish. 🙂 P was waiting down on the beach where I would be leaving it and then I headed off into the dunes to plod back up to the castle. Loose sand and a very narrow path meant stretches of the last bit were walked in line with other runners, but I’m not sure I could have kept my legs moving anyway on that sort of ground so I was glad of the excuse for a breather and not to fill my shoes with sand!

There was a really nice finishers medal for this year (not that they’re not normally nice, but I was impressed with this one compared with previous years) and another technical t-shirt for the pile.

P & I had left early – 08:30 – hoping to get parked at the bottom of the castle before the rest of the 10k runners turned up, but we ended up about a 10 min walk down the road at the Links carpark anyway – good for a cooldown but with being early getting there, the usual start and finish faff, the coaches, and a cheeky McD’s at Alnwick services on the way home – salt replenishment, I promise, as I had more salt on my cheeks than they put on their fries! – we didn’t get home until 7hrs after we’d left. A very long day for an hour’s running, even if we do enjoy the area. I do really love running here, but I think I will be having a think in future about travel with races – P could have dropped me off at Beadnell and I could have been back at the castle before we actually got on the bus to the start-line! Maybe just aim to get there later knowing there’s enough space in the Links carpark but I’ll be a bit of a walk away – that would have saved at least an hour! Still makes for a very long day. :O

Map

You can download the GPX file for this route on my Dropbox account here:

GPX route file

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Tatton Park 10k

First race of 2019 down – and not just for me! One of my sisters has decided we are in an annual mileage challenge and therefore she must defeat me (I am remaining mute on this point) – so to help her out the door I booked us both in for the Tatton Park 10k in Manchester; her neck of the woods so she didn’t even have to go very far for it! The other good thing about doing a Manchester race was that S & L could join us for it too 🙂

The Tatton Park 10k is a monthly race, so I was surprised to see as many people there as there were for some reason – given the size of some parkruns I don’t know why I was surprised that a regular event was well attended but there you go. Going by the number of local vests I suspect many of the local running clubs use it as a 10k time-trial.

This is quite an exposed park in winter…as was clear from the number lists, tents, people, etc. being blown around at the start line – the bag tent was a groundsheet with a tent-material cover and some weights by the end! We had headwinds, cross-winds, possibly a tailwind somewhere and probably with the 674 runners probably some bad wind too! I imagine it’s probably also a tough one in the summer as there wouldn’t be any real shade on the route so it could be a scorcher around August and September if there’s no breeze across the ponds.

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Compared with many races I’ve done, this was relatively flat – it did undulate and you could guarantee the headwind would hit just as you were trying to get up an incline – regardless of which way you were going, which made it quite tough going in places. The park’s a really good size with several ponds and the run was quite spaced out – where we were in the pack anyway! It can be a bit claustrophobic sometimes doing city races sometimes but this wasn’t like that, and even the queue for the loos wasn’t too bad!

This was only L’s second 10k – having done her first on a tougher trail race at Heaton Park on the other side of Manchester in November, and she knocked a massive 12 mins off her time but I think may be sticking to trails in the future – it’s hard going on tarmac when you’re used to the woods! P’s mumbled the possibility of doing it again sometime to beat her time but I think the main motivation was Tatton Park 10k actually has two different medal designs – and we got one of each so now she has to get the other one!

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I got the more cartoony one with the blue ribbon, while P’s is yellow with a more pro design 😉 Apparently if they’ve run out of blue ones next time we’re meeting at Tebay to swap one of her yellow’s for my blue…

The nice people at Tatton even feed you afterwards – homemade flapjack and bananas for all runners, and the flapjack was delicious 🙂 Made a very blustery morning all worthwhile!

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You can download the GPX file for this route from my Dropbox account here.

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2018 Review

2018 really has been a milestone year for me – both in my ‘fitness’ life and in my personal one. I’ve tried an assortment of new things, many of which I’d jump at the chance to do again, and had some amazing people by my side through all of it.

I’ve managed to hit all the targets I set myself at the start of the year (albeit just in some cases!):

  • complete 10 races – I have completed 17 but am not sure in hindsight if this target was to make sure I had stuff booked in to keep me going out, or if it was supposed to stop me booking in for everything and act more like a limit!
  • complete 15 parkruns – after a parkrun-heavier December, I’ve finished the year on 16 for 2018 and 42 total – looking forward to hitting 50 next year, and I think I’ll set myself a volunteering target for 2019 🙂
  • run 500 miles – this has eluded me, by quite a bit, for the last two years so I’m really chuffed to have hit it this year on the 29th of December. The idea of this target was to keep me heading out for 40-50 miles/month which is a level I’m quite happy with for keeping my fitness where I like it and not feeling I’m missing out on other activities as I am always running. I didn’t get out as much as I should have at the start of the year, so the mileage is very weighted to the back of the year, but I’m still absolutely chuffed to have hit it 🙂

2018

I’ve been a lot less active online both on my blog and on facebook, and as such there’s races I haven’t reviewed and several months ‘dark’ on my page – I am not yet sure which direction that will take for next year. There’s some race reviews I wish I had written this year (RAF Spadeadam Half and the Red Kite Trail Race neither of which I’ve run before for example) and will hopefully feature next year, but I have also found I prefer not plastering my daily activities for everyone to see in some cases – just the bigger milestones or the particularly enjoyable runs or ones where I’ve had the camera. I have stopped posting to Strava for the same reason; it’s nice to just do it for you sometimes!

In summary, 2018’s been a bit of a rollercoaster! I’ve tried new activities like snorkelling, new event types (I much prefer duathlons to triathlons!), new races, found new running routes and adopted new running buddies. I feel incredibly privileged to have some very special people in my life and I’m very grateful to all of you – you know who you are. Shall we do it again next year?!

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parkrun – Durham

For information on this parkrun course, see the official parkrun page below:

http://www.parkrun.org.uk/durham/

This is a single-lap parkrun – not a huge number of those about! It’s quite out and back loopy, and covers a mix of terrains – we ran on gravel paths at the start, the outside of the rugby fields (stay outside the paint marks!) and onto the riverside path for a long stretch up to the bridge and back along the other side to the finish at the pavillion.

Durham had pacers for the event I went to, and I got the impression this was a moderately regular occurrence. I was trying to beat the 30min pacer, and while I’d left him a comfortable distance behind after the first mile, he was right behind me just before I came across the bridge – but the pace variance was me not him! He was bob-on for the 30 min marker 🙂

There’s plenty of parking at the sports centre near the start, as well as toilets and a track if you fancy a warm-up lap, but the finish is literally about 0.75 mile from the start. I’d pushed myself to get round in the time I wanted and was ready for a rest when I’d finished but when walking it felt like a loooong way back to the car. It is a pretty little woodland walk, and I did see a weasel, which was cool, but factor it in for your times if you’re in a rush to get home afterwards!

My GPS map for this route:

Durham

You can download the GPX route file for this course from my Dropbox account by following the link below:

GPX file for Durham parkrun

Course first completed 23-06-2018

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George Ogle Memorial Race 2018

A new route this year – and a few new faces at the race start! C for some reason had believed only the ‘flat bit’ of my race description (the last mile or so) but has disregarded my comments about hills and steps as apparently it’s more likely I am winding her up than that anyone could POSSIBLY put flights of steps in a race event. The Nile is not only a river in Egypt… It can’t be that bad if we all keep going back year after year 😉

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Photo by CM (Blackhill Bounders)

I think the best way to share the route for this is to just let Derwent Valley Running Club do it themselves with their fab video of the route!

There was a slight modification to the route this year – apparently two horrendous hills is not enough so a third near the start was very kindly added in by some generous route-finding soul… I confess here and now to marching it! When we set off I had faint hopes of getting under the 1hr marker for the first time (previous times 1:09:48 in 2015 and 1:00:24 in 2017 I have just discovered) and I’d basically thrown that out the window by the time we turned through the gate for the first hill – the new one – and figured I’d just see how I did and concentrate and getting to the finish line!

I don’t know how many flights of steps there were in this race – maybe 5? – but I know I only ran 1.5 of them and walked at least part of all the big hills! I was in good company 😉 I was therefore delighted to get back round to the viaduct and find that I still had a shot at getting under the 1hr marker – and the terrain was going to be in my favour (for once) for getting there if I could keep the pace going.

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I did – even with the walk breaks – end up coming in under the hour marker at 57:48, which I’m really pleased with 🙂 Definitely making progress with the pacing! Plenty of spot prizes at the race with the finishing gifts – our group walked off with a bottle of wine and another of gin! This race usually gives goodies instead of medals and this year was no different – water bottle, buff and B’s favourite jellybeans 🙂

B, G and I will be back next year…we’ll wait and see if J3, C and R join us again! According to some it’s not a race without bling at the finish 😉

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You can download a GPX file for this route from my Dropbox account by clicking on the link below:

George Ogle 2018 route file

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Sunderland 10k – 2018

It was very much a Girls On Tour trip this morning – four of us on our merry way to Sunderland; two for the 10k and two for the half marathon (after J3 had remembered to retrieve our 10k numbers from her car before we left). Many odd things were discussed on the way there, the direction of conversation seemingly funneled by how much B needed to use the little girl’s room…

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The weather was forecast for rain forever when we checked it on Saturday so were all armed to the hilt with waterproof jackets and long trousers, but by Sunday morning it had changed to light drizzle all morning, and when we got there it looked decidedly too muggy to wear long-anythings! We succeeded in finding B a loo, and then trekked back to the car to dump the coats!

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We did eventually make it to the start line, where J3 & I dumped B & J2 (maybe I should just start using names?!) as they were leaving half an hour after us for the half marathon, while we were doing the 10k. We completed the usual cram-into-the-pens-like-sardines and wiggled around a bit as a warm up before we were allowed to head over the start line!

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The first half of the 10k route weaves through more built up areas – and as a result there was no breeze and it was very muggy! We spent some time swapping between pavements and roads depending on the presence of cobbles, and dodging Deadpool when he lost his keys. We were passed by a guy carrying a full wheely bin as we headed towards the bridge – and didn’t really see him again until the last kilometer! He was a man on a mission and one does not get in the way of that!

It was with great relief we left the town, headed out over the bridge and dooooooown towards the rivermouth. Still not particularly breezy but at least everyone was spacing out nicely and we were still chugging along at a good pace. It didn’t rain for the whole day so I was able to pass the boats at the docks with full vision available and therefore discern they were not grey walls as I have previous for observing on a high rain and therefore no glasses attempt at this race (2015). We hit the first water station here with the odd squishy bag bottles, and had a mini water fight trying to get water out of them to spray over our heads to cool off – they’re designed not to leak under squeeze pressure only! We managed 😉 Apologies to anyone running around us we may have hit in the process!

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April 2018

Definitely starting to feel back on track with exercising – I set myself the target at the start of the year of hitting 500 miles by the end of it, and as such needed to hit just over 40 miles a month – 9.5 miles a week. January, February and March I think I hit about half of that each month which has been increasing the amount I need to run each month for the rest of the year to still come in green without breaking myself in December!

April 2018

I need to hit 48.57 miles flat profiled for the rest of the year, and for April I’ve hit 49.5, I would probably have done the extra half a mile while I was out if I’d realised and hit a round 50 but I’m not going out just to do half a mile for that 😉 Mixed up in that mileage is a duathlon (Washington Novice Duathlon) and two races – 1 road (North Tyneside 10k) and 1 trail (Washington Trail 10k). I’ve also attended four bounce classes – not included in mileage – and done three training sessions (two intervals, one hills). My longest run was 7 miles for a Bounders Sunday run along the Derwent Walk.

April 2018 Graph

I’m slightly behind on my mileage target – should be 33% by the end of month 4, but at least achieved the mileage I needed + 1 so we’ll get closer to target as we progress through the year if I can keep that up, and I’m bang on with parkruns. I’ve actually run in four different locations in the last six weeks – one of the local ones at Gibside and then three new ones; Sedgefield, Stockport and Pennington Flash, meaning I’ve also hit my target of running in 10 different locations!

I’m ahead for races having completed four events so far out of ten, but looking at my calendar I’m only booked in for another six, so I better not miss any of them if I want to hit ten for 2018! Got to be in it to win it! Or, you know, at least get the shiny thing at the end! I’m deliberately keeping the summer quite empty – I’ve got two races in May (Pier to Pier and George Ogle) and two in July (Red Kite Race and Northumberland Coastal) but nothing for the rest of the summer as P & I have just bought windsurfing rigs :O :O :O I’m keeping the weekends quite empty and am hoping to get in some long runs when there is either not enough or too much wind for us to be out on the water 🙂

Next month’s aim – keep up the exercise levels while not eating all the cake on the planet (I must have had four or five birthday cakes this month and am getting a reputation as a cake fiend!!!). Off to a good start – no sweet treats for the last week of April and down 4lb – just need to shift a few more and work on toning up ready for our holiday in June 🙂

Onwards to May! (Seriously, where is the year going?!?!)

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parkrun – Pennington Flash

For information on this parkrun course, see the official parkrun page below:

http://www.parkrun.org.uk/penningtonflash/

This parkrun involves three laps of a small part of the grounds at Pennington Flash. There’s one hilly bit – not too long – and the rest definitely counts as ‘undulating’ to flat; not the flattest I’ve done but a long stretch from hilly. It’s worth noting that there is a reasonable walk from the carpark – allow 5-10 mins, and there is a parking charge at the main carpark (it’s a good size though – you should find a space fine). There is a free carpark at the entrance to the park, but it’s 1 mile walk/run from there to the start line, so factor this in if you’re planning on taking that option. Toilets available at the carpark and a lovely spot for birdwatching after your run!

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My GPS map for this route:

Pennington Flash

You can download the GPX route file for this course from my Dropbox account by following the link below:

GPX file for Pennington Flash parkrun

Course completed 21-04-2018

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