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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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 😉

map

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…

2018

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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#finishformatt

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Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can feel the very pulse of a community. For the running world, you can touch on it locally simply by spectating at a race – you don’t even have to run – and watch the fliers, and the plodders; the joy, the wonder, the pride, the pain and the struggle. A whole microcosm of human emotion will pass before you in even 15 short minutes. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 10k or a marathon. You won’t be able to help cheering complete strangers on and feeling part of something.

Rarely, something happens which allows you to feel the heartbeat of a national connection. In some small way you have to be part of it – even if you’re not mentally ‘there’ – or you know you’ll regret missing it.

I remember when Ben Smith of the 401 Challenge was running daily marathons around the country with people from local running clubs and communities – I’d missed him when he was in the North-East and he was working his way back down the country: Carlisle was the last weekend he would be within driving distance, and despite being on a low after my own marathon training earlier in the year, I knew I had to go. I’d seen the route and knew if I got to 5 miles, I’d be able to get back again via public transport or walking if it came to it. I went.

This month, it’s a more sombre reason the running world is pulling together: last Sunday was the London Marathon, and one runner not only didn’t make the finish line, they died in the attempt. Masterchef is one of very few TV shows P & I watch, so while it was hard reading stories about it, it was harder recognising the person featured – even though we’ve never met him. You watch a small part of someone’s journey doing something important to them and you feel a distant connection, an empathy with them. Matt Campbell had 3.7 miles left to complete the London Marathon when he collapsed; the running world’s response? Finish it for him while making donations to the charity he was fundraising for. People all over the country and further afield are running and walking 3.7 miles in Matt’s name. It won’t bring him back, but it is a powerful recognition and acknowledgement.

If you want to donate (the running’s optional!), you can find his JustGiving page for the Brathay Trust here.

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Spirals

I’ve found myself thinking often of how things always seem to go in cycles when it comes to my exercise routine, and I wish I were talking about bikes. I start getting into good habits, my calendar is filling with star stickers on a regular basis and I’m feeling like I’m on an upward spiral. The consistent and varied exercise sessions start to work together, I see improvement in my performance, and because I’m in a good headspace I eat better so also lose weight as I tone up and feel fitter.

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Then, normally about three weeks later, something will happen to upset that routine I’ve been building up around myself. I’ll end up making a choice between doing what I feel I should do rather than what I want to, and end up begrudging that choice even though I would – and do – make it again.

The biggest thing which ‘gets in the way’ is, as with many people, my job which sometimes has somewhat unpredictable end times and can occasionally be quite physically exertive. I feel a large amount of frustration and animosity towards this like it’s some sort of inconsiderate fluffy monster thing always standing just in the way of the door when I’m trying to leave.

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It (not me), is making me tired, or eating into “my” time – which allows me to be very passive about the responsibility I take for looking after myself. My exercise sessions drop off – I either can’t get to the time-booked ones, or feel forced (still not my fault!) to choose rest over making myself ill or worse in the medium-term. Obviously it’s something I didn’t want to do that’s got me into this pickle in the first place.

I was thinking at the start of the year about what I want to get out of this year – regardless what happens with work and other life commitments. I didn’t want to push myself further with my running, though I had hopes of getting faster. I lost the fun of running in 2016, and it took me over 12 months to find it again – so my focus is to have fun being active for 2018 – try stuff that’s a bit different, and if I’m not going to just enjoy being out, then do something different. So far, I’ve completed my first duathlon, and am hoping to get a team together for a team marathon – 10k each and lots of picnic food. I’ve also tried skiing , been to a spa for the first time EVER, and I’m finding new running routes and running buddies while revisiting some of my favourite races from the last few years. I’ve even bought padded bum nappy shorts for cycling – and a new bike – at the back end of last year!

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My run challenge for the start of the year was to run 500 miles in 2018 if I could – this is about 5k 3x a week not something that requires crazy amounts of time dedicated to running. For whatever reason (getting married this year – another first! – definitely played a part!) I didn’t hit the mileage I needed for a flat monthly target in January, February or March – but April is going really well and I’m on track for new milage target I need to hit each month to compensate for the first quarter being under. I’m trying to use the positive fitness spiral that’s growing for April to get me in shape for a positive eating spiral in May, and between the two I’ll get to spend the summer being fit and healthy rather than hiding in the fridge from the sun 🙂

My current battle is habit-eating. I am fine at work not snacking, but even when I can acknowledge to myself at home that I’m not actually hungry I’ve gotten into the habit of snacking on an evening – especially agitata-eating (this is a thing) when I’m trying to work through things like booking all the holiday things and other more menial necessities. A stern talking to and a padlock on the fridge might be needed 😉 Spending all my evenings at work seems like too drastic an action!

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I’m still a touch apprehensive about the summer – it’ll be easier with a few lbs off (no more cake!!!) as it is for most people – but I’m determined to keep pottering about doing things to keep myself active, and if I can keep my running miles up so much the better; though it may be at about 5am!!! We’re starting windsurfing again hopefully next month so watch this space for some interesting tan lines developing, and I’ll be working my way back up to half-marathon distance for the Northumberland Coastal Run I hope. Maybe somewhere in the middle of the horrendous rain they had last year and the blazing sunshine of the London Marathon would be lovely with some sea breezes! Parkruns are becoming a more regular part of my calendar – I’m ahead of my target to reach 15 events for this year, being already on five, and have beaten my target of 10 different locations ever attended – a stretch target definitely needed for that one. The biggest thing though is just enjoying what I’m doing – social runs and classes, some head-clearing time out on my favourite routes on my tod (it’s been a while since I hit the moors at the Waskerley!) and trying all the new things 🙂

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I’ve no doubt there’ll be another dip in the future; whether I fall off the food wagon (which I must admit to not being on yet though I do brush it with my fingertips occasionally!), or for whatever reason my exercise routine takes a stumble, I’m determined to see out 2018 with a collage of happy memories and the reinforcement that I can do it – whatever ‘it’ is, because I’ve done it before.

See you out there 😉

x

 

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parkrun – Sedgefield

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

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

This parkrun in Sedgefield involves 2 laps of Hardwick Park; it’s mostly flat and runs around a lake but has one small hill about 2/3’s of the way round – fine on the first lap, a bit of a stickler on the second I found! There was plenty to see on the way round – a mix of wildlife and more manmade things of interest so it’s an easy one to just kick back and enjoy if you’re not going for a time 🙂

There’s plenty of parking – normally a charge but if you put your spare barcode in the windscreen it’s FREE until 11am, which gives you plenty of time to pop to the loos (also open before the start) and go the coffee shop for a breakfast bap or a wide selection of yummy cakes!

My GPS map for this route:

Sedgefield

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

GPX file for Sedgefield parkrun

Course completed 14-04-2018

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