Blue Runnings

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

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I moved to the North-East of England in 2011, and started running (in a great deal of ignorance) in 2014 when I signed up to run the Great Women’s Run in Glasgow before actually seeing if I could run at all…I made about five paces before doing an excellent asthma attack impression.

Since then, I have run in many events around the North-East and you can find reviews of them including my impressions, photos, maps, elevation profiles, GPX files and anything else that occurred to me at the time by checking out my race list on the link below.

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For 2020 I’m lacing up my trainers without emptying my wallet on the pavement and am only going to be attending events which are under £10 to enter. I’ve generated a list of races I’ve found – whether I’m running them or not – so everyone can save some pennies while still feeling they’ve ticked the ‘racing’ box. Who knows where it will take us?! Reviews of races in this category I have run will be included here and in the general ‘Race Reviews’ too 🙂

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If you want to see what I’m doing on a weekly basis, and to see posts about races I’ve found or are coming up, and anything else I think might be of interest (not necessarily to anyone other than me!) then you can check out my facebook page where I’m moderately active 😉

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Anything else that might be of interest you can find in the menu buttons to the right – feel free to have a nosey 🙂

Sarah

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Best Laid Plans

“Hello! Can you come and pick me up from the Burnopfield parking and bring two carrier bags please?”

“What type of carrier bags?”

“Plastic – I found a new bog and I’m very muddy and smell bad.”

“Ok, see you in five.”

My hubby is a blessedly tolerant man – especially when his wife insists on tracking half the countryside through the car and house on a not infrequent basis, and he doesn’t run himself!

Last week was the Greener Miles Team Virtual Hill Climb Challenge – 10 runners, 5M + 5F, 30 mins, how much cumulative elevation can you get. I chose Ebchester bank, hilled my little heart out, waved the Bounders flag and died for the rest of the week. We came 8th out of 37 teams – very respectable I feel and I’m proud to have been part of it. 🙂

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This weekend, it’s the ‘Hutchy’s Full Tilt 30 Mins’ – same team set up, how far can you go, highest cumulative distance wins – so terrain friendly routes on the list! This time the Bounders have a whopping five teams entered. Some people are heading to the local track, down the Derwent walk, anywhere that’s flat or downhill! In my wisdom, I decided I would do a new route I’d worked out from an Ordnance Survey map of the area. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t run down the Dene (where I always get my fastest mile) and down the Derwent Walk towards Rowlands Gill, but in all honesty it didn’t occur to me! Brain must still be fuddled from last week – I know it wiped my knees out!

My new route is not complicated. On paper. And I’m not usually bad with maps. Today is going a long way to discrediting that statement. I went off piste three times from my intended route – in all cases knowing where I was, how to get home – not technically ‘lost’ but definitely not where I’d intended to be!

The first long downhill stretch of my run is one I have done several times before as part of routes in both directions – so off we go. Someone has shut all the gates so I’m handicapped by six stiles needing to be crossed by the time I reach the bottom. Looking at my decided outfit it may also have been a style handicap as I don’t think I could have picked more clashing colours if I tried! Think I’m only missing purple!

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I know I have to turn right at the bottom before the farm and then the path will turn left. Turns out there’s two right turns. I want the second one. Who knew right? So, I end up continuing on familiar paths thinking maybe there’s a left turn I’ve just not noticed before (there’s not) and get to the bottom where the stream is and turn left on a path I’ve been meaning to explore for a while, even though I know from the maps that it heads to Dipton – uphill – and not the way I want to go today.

I end up stepping-stone jumping across the stream (we’re about halfway through our 30 mins by this point) and the track starts to creep up again. It’s turning into a Trail Outlaws type route – I’m dodging collapsed tree roots and jumping several other downed trunks. There is for some reason several more of those weird lettered headstones I’ve seen over Ebchester Woods in the middle of this little wood (with a ‘P’ on this time!). I end up looking out at this and know exactly where I’ve come out from the Red Kite Trail Race two years ago. That path goes to Dipton – not, as mentioned before, where I want to be going today.

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I turn left, maybe there’s a path that turns off towards Burnopfield round that bend? There’s not – and being at the bottom of a valley is not the best place to be trying to do a speed challenge as it’s all uphill from here. I turn round thinking I’ll just start my 30 mins again when I get back to the farm and find the right downwards path – I have confirmed my error as I’ve photos of the map on my phone. I head back in a more leisurely manner, taking photos as I go of the path I’ve already covered but leaving the clock running figuring I might as well enjoy the scenery and get a breather for now.

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Brough Law Fell Race

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P and I are not from the North-East, and we often like to try to guess how North-Easterners would pronounce place names. We come up with several alternatives from what we would class as fairly normal to bizarre. We’re usually still wrong and a complete curveball gets thrown our way. I have only seen ‘Brough Law’ written down, and only in the context of this fell race. I would say ‘Brow’, but could also see it pronounced as ‘Bruff’ or even possibly ‘Brogue’. I am still in the dark as to what the locals would call it. ‘Braaaaaarrr’?!?! If anyone would like to enlighten me, answers on a postcard please!

I’ve been looking forward to doing this run since it went on my calendar in January (discovered as part of my hunting for Races Under a Tenner) – and that should have been enough time for me to build up enough fitness to be comfortable with doing it. As it happens, it’s fallen at the end of about a month of me being crazy-tired mostly with work and therefore doing very little regular or intensive exercise. I’m also REALLY tired – like falling flat out asleep by 8:30 every night. Not exactly the jumping bean fit I’d like to be for my first fell race.

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My confidence was not improved by seeing the route elevation profile – some massive hills, and a 400m elevation profile. I packed the night before but checking the weather forecast in the morning and seeing the wind I decided to chuck in an extra thermal layer just incase it was really cold when I was walking, and my windproof jacket on top of the already shoved in full set of waterproofs…kitchen sink may also be in there somewhere. I didn’t actually need any of it in the end…better safe than sorry though 😉

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I picked up another runner (CL) from the Metrocentre on my way up – he’s done many fell races including this one before, and off we went on our adventures to Ingram.

The wind at the starting area was ridiculous – even doing a short warm-up trot was a struggle and I heard people who’ve braved the starting bank say it was even worse at the top. I thought the first little kick you could see from the carpark looked bad enough for the opening few hundred meters, but it just kept going up and up and up for the first mile!

(sound on if you want a gale in your headphones/speakers!)

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Races Under a Tenner

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It’s easy to get carried away with signing up to every race that dangles the promise of a medal and a banana under your nose when you’re running. For 2020 I’m attempting not to spend the same ridiculous amount of money on race entries as I did in 2019 – particularly as I didn’t manage to make it to half of them which stung doubly!

As part of my ‘Shoestring Challenge‘, I’ve set myself a limit of entering only races which are not more than £10 with an Athletics Association membership, and including travel should cost me no more than £15 – I can only go to races further than 18 miles from home if the race entry is proportionally under £10. I’m not likely to be earning many medals, but I’m looking forward to going to many new places!

Below is the list of all the races I have come across in the North-East to date. If I have completed them, either this year or previously, and written a race review this will be hyperlinked with the date, and the race entries where possible will be linked in the race title. Some event links may be to previous year’s – I will update when I find the 2020 information has gone live.

If a cost or date has a (?) after it, this is based on last year’s date/entry fee and will be updated when I find more information – if the price has gone over £10 for 2020, the entry will be deleted from this list.

All Year and FREE

parkrun – 5k – various locations – it wouldn’t really be a list of cheap events without this on here somewhere?! My locals are Blackhill and Gibside

Great Run Local – 5k – various locations – Gibside is the closest to me

Trust 10 – 10k – Cragside, Rothbury  and Ormesby Hall, Middlesbrough (other locations in the country but these are the only one currently in the North-East)

Run Together – various distances – local running groups across the country covering couch to 5k, social runs and training sessions

EXPLORING! There are a huge number of marked up local paths and routes, as well as the opportunity to find your own either by stealing other people’s from hiking sites, discovering your own from Ordnance Survey maps and similar, or just taking that random path you’ve always wondered where it heads off to.

January

8/1       Steel River – 5M – Middlesbrough – Stride Out Athletics – £10

12/1     South Shields Winter Trail Series – 5km – South Shields – RunEatSleep – £6 (on arrival)

26/1     Acklam Grange Trail – 5km – Middlesbrough – Muddy Roads – £5/£7

February

2/2       South Shields Winter Trail Series – 5km – South Shields – RunEatSleep – £6 (on arrival)

17/2     Run Newcastle Valentine’s – 5km – Newcastle – Run Nation – £10

18/2     Pie & Pea Trail – 5km – Trimdon Grange – Muddy Roads – £8/£10

23/2     Holme House Prison Trail – 5km – Stockton-on-Tees – Muddy Roads – £5/£7

March

1/3       South Shields Winter Trail Series – 5km – South Shields – RunEatSleep – £6 (on arrival)

1/3        Run Durham Dalton Park – 5km – Murton – Run Nation – £8

15/3     Brough Law – 8km – Powburn – Northumberland Fell Runners – £5 – 2020

21/3      Town Moor Cow Bell – 5km – Newcastle – Newcastle University – £5

22/3      South Shields Winter Trail Series – 5km – South Shields – RunEatSleep – £6 (on arrival)

22/3      Saltburn Trail – 5km – Saltburn – Muddy Roads – £5/£7

29/3      Temple Park – 5km – South Shields – RunEatSleep – £7.50

April

22/4     Neptune Relays – 1.7M 4 person relay event – Sedgefield – Sedgefield Harriers – £10ea

22/4     Pine Forest Trail – 5km – Middlesbrough – Muddy Roads – £5/£7

26/4     Terry O’Gara Memorial – 5km – Wallsend – Wallsend Harriers – £9(?) if booked before 31/1

30/4     Cockfield Chase – 7km – Bishop Auckland – Durham Fell Runners – £5

May

9/5       Raby Races – 5km – Raby Castle – Teesdale AC – £10

13/5     Saltburn Trail – 5km – Saltburn – Muddy Roads – £5/£7

23/5     Allendale Fair – 7.5M – Allendale – Allen Valley Striders – £7 pre-booked, £8 on the day

June

2/6        Bolts Law Basher Run – 7M – Weardale – Derwentside Athletics Club – Free

21/6      Windy Gyle – 8.5M – Alwinton – Northumberland Fell Runners – £5

24/6      Pinchinthorpe Trail – 5km – Guisborough – Muddy Roads – £5/£7

28/6      High Force Trail Race – 18km – Forest-In-Teesdale – Durham Fell Runners – £5

28/6      FACT North East Cancer Run – 5km/10km – Swalwell – FACT – £10 for either distance

July (seriously, how many things to do are there in July?!)

5/7        The Cross Fell Race – 24km – Garrigill – Garrigill Community – £8

5/7        Bottom’s Up Cup – 5km – Washington – Washington Running Club – £9/£11 – 2015, 2016

7/7        Saltwell Harriers – 9km – Stanhope – Saltwell Harriers – £5

9/7        Beacon Hill – 6M – Rothbury – £5

12/7        Red Kite Trail Race – 8M – Dipton – Derwent Valley Trail Runners – £8/£10 – SOLD OUT

14/7      Chapelfell Top – 7km – Bishop Auckland – Durham Fell Runners – £5

15/7      Lordstones Trail – 5km – Stokesley – Muddy Roads – £5/£7

21/7      Cock Crow – 5km – Hebburn – Jarrow & Hebburn AC – £10

26/7      Temple Memorial Park – 5km – South Shields – RunEatSleep – £7.50

(?)        Castle Eden White Wolf Run – 5km – Peterlee – Run Peterlee – £8(?)

(?)        Willow Miners Trail – 5.3M – Durham – Elvet Striders – £7(?) – 2019

August

19/8     Trimdon Loop Night Trail – 5km – Trimdon Grange – Muddy Roads – £5/£7

29/8     Bellingham Show – 4M – Bellingham – Bellingham Show – £8

September

19/9      Simonside – 11km – Coquetdale – Northumberland Fell Runners – £2 + show entry = £5.50

23/9      Newham Grange Trail – 5km – Coulby Newham – Muddy Runners – £5/£7

October

25/10    Run Northumberland Hexham – 5km – Hexham – Run Nation – £10

25/10    N S Poly Ingram Hills – 9.5km – Ingram – North Shields Poly – £6

(?)        North-East Harrier League starts – various dates and locations throughout the North-East – £2-3 for the whole season – running club members only

November

 

December

6/12      Angus Tait Hexhamshire Hobble – 17km – Allendale – Allen Valley Striders – £8 pre-booked, £9 on the day

13/12    Simonside Cairns – 11M – Rothbury – £8

26/12(?)  Woodlawn Boxing Day Pudding Run – 5km – Whitley Bay – North Shields Poly – £8(?)

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The Shoestring Challenge

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November 2019 – I’ve no further races booked in for the year as I’m not doing cross-country this time around. I’ve spent a lot of the last few weeks analysing my spending for much of the year while we get quotes in for a house extension and I try to work out where we’re going to afford it from. It’s time for the cost of my race entries for 2019 to come under scrutiny – something I normally avoid looking at too closely! As many of my races are booked months in advance, it’s easy to forget how much I’m spending sometimes.

I’ve entered 21 races this year ranging from 1 mile (Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll) to 14 miles (Trail Outlaws RAF Spadeadam Half). I’ve spent a whopping £454.50 on race entries – average cost per race £21.64. Not including getting to and from them, and in two cases accomodation. To make matters worse, due to injury I haven’t been able to make a lot of the longer or hillier ones. I’ve countered this by booking more shorter ones that were on at similar times. I haven’t been able to defer, transfer entries or get refunds for any I’ve missed. £251 of those races I didn’t even get to which makes the average cost of the events I did get to a massive £41.31- a lot for a 10k. I’m not willing to do this again for 2020.

I’ve set myself a limit of £10 maximum per race entry if I’m wanting to go to races. Race + travel shouldn’t come to more than £15. Generally, £5 will take me a return trip to a race 18 miles from home. I can travel further if the race entry is less than £10.

I’ll be doing a lot of free events like parkrun and Great Run Local, I’m wanting to explore several of the local longer walking routes like the Tyne & Wear Heritage Way in sections, I can marshall events to gain ‘credits’ I can use for others, and I can support my local running clubs at their club-organised races – as long as they’re under £10!

Already, just in looking for races under £10, I’ve come across several particularly trail races I’ve not seen before so I’m really looking forward to trying some new ones I’ve not done! We are so, so lucky in the North-East with the huge amount of organised events right on our doorstep if that’s what keeps your trainers heading out the door.

I’m also going to be keeping a look-out for interesting non-race events like the recently hosted Dusk Run at Wallington Hall which I really enjoyed, and I’ve also run with Anna McNuff this year and 401’s Ben Smith previously. I’ll share them as I come across them on my Facebook page if anyone wants to join 🙂 I’ll likely also be doing a lot of local exploring on my own. I’ve been stalking hiking sites looking for loop routes which I’ve been able to download to my GPS, even if I haven’t figured out how to get them to show on it yet! It’s good to learn new things right?!

I’m going to be over-hauling my website over the next few days to make it easy to find the ‘races for the frugal’ available which I’ve found so far, I may also do something with local loop and ‘official’ walking routes I’ve found, and I’m looking forward to trying some new things over the next 12 months – hopefully for rather less dosh!

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Trail Outlaws – Castle Eden Fun Run

It has been a while since I’ve broken out the fancy dress box for a run – I think it’s probably a parkrun over a year ago at Blackhill when I last had a rumage for an outfit! It’s like choosing your own handicap. Unless you’ve carefully selected your costume to involve as little material as possible, you’re likely to be slower in costume than in normal running gear, or we’d all be dressing up like Christmas Puddings whenever we want to go for a p.b.. When you combine ‘Trail Outlaws’ with ‘Fancy Dress’ you know you’re in for a tough time – and at least 25% of it will be self-inflicted.

Not being particularly big on Hallowe’en, my costume box doesn’t include much in the way of horror film set special effects, but it does contain a pirate costume gathered over many years. Sadly, many of the belts involved in said costume have been retired from when I was in my late teens and are a restrictive reminder of how much less-trim I am round the waist than many years ago!

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I met C at Castle Eden in Peterlee; somewhere I’ve never had occasion to go before, and we were treated to a feast of different outfits in very short order. There were some absolutely fabulous costumes on show! I honestly can’t do justice to it so I’m just going to direct you to Hippie’s hard work and send you over to the race album here to have a look for yourselves. We saw G2 at the start-line – not in costume incase he needed to pull out his Serious Face as Official Race Bossyman, which to be fair is rather difficult to do if you’ve got kid’s facepaint on – he was kind enough to be our start-zone photographer 🙂

The race didn’t start too badly terrain-wise – a good gravel path winding off with gentle undulations. And it all went downhill from there. Very downhill. And we all know what that means. In this case, it means people jumping out at you from inside holly bushes and behind rocks when you least expect them (though it must be said Hippie was much easier to spot than normal at the bridge!). There’ll be more than one person’s heart-rate data with a sudden unexplained spike in the middle of various sections!

Wikipedia has the following to say about ‘denes’:

This one is very true to the ‘steep-sided wooded valley’ part (and I recommend following the link in the caption and checking out the Castle Eden Dene link to read a bit more about this particular one). Looking at the map at the bottom, you could think we had run nicely around this nature reserve, but I can assure you this was not the case…we went down, down, dooooown to the bottom of the valley by the river, and of course then had to climb alllllll the way back up again. By the time we finished my GPS said I’d done 71 flights of stairs. No wonder my legs were knackered!

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I did very much enjoy full on jumping in some of the puddles – C possibly enjoyed my doing this slightly less but she was a good egg about it 😉 We had a good natter, and died quite a bit on the way round – it was tough going! C had also done parkrun that morning for some reason! Nutter! We did make it to the finish – very, slowly! – and were rewarded with weighty gongs (that’s a ‘g’!) for our efforts. There was even a cake and coffee stall if your post-run tummy was so inclined raising money for mental health.

When I got my muddy self through the door, I weighed myself with and without all my waist accoutrements; 3.25lb I’d been lugging around as corsetry up and down those hills – it’s a good thing the rum bottle wasn’t full – though I suspect it would have been lighter by the finish anyway if it had been!

One quick shower for this grotbag and then straight out the door again to Hexham fireworks – more standing for the ol’ legs to do. I slept like the corpse some of the costumes were depicting after all that 😮

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National Trust Dusk Run – Wallington

We have an annual tradition since moving into our house regarding Hallowe’en. It started in the first year when we’d literally just got the keys and hadn’t really moved anything in yet. We were painting the living room in our empty house when we heard the first trick-or-treaters moving up the road. We used to live in a small flat in a cul-de-sac and hadn’t had them so we hadn’t really clocked the significance of Hallowe’en to house dwellers. We did the incredibly adult thing of turning all the lights off and hiding below the sill-level of our curtain-less front windows until they moved on as we had absolutely nothing to give them!

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Since then, it’s sort of become tradition to hide with two exceptions – one where I was home alone, again with no sweets in the house (we’d probably eaten them all) and made a big batch of chocolate chip cakes in sandwich bags; these were oddly well received and the kids skipped on up the road swinging them and singing ‘choc chip cake, choc chip cake’ but god knows what the parents thought of them bringing home-baked goods back with them. The other was when we again forgot it was Hallowe’en and had ordered a pizza for delivery…so we had to hide in the house while also peering round the blind for the food chap! Very adult, mature and in the spirit of the thing I’m sure you’ll agree.

This year, Operation Hide-Away was again a go (we have curtains now!) except I’d also seen that Wallington Hall near Morpeth were doing a Dusk Run that evening; a trail run round a wooded estate in the dark? Yes, please! I’m still not up to the mileage I’d like to be so have missed a lot of races this year (or been wiped out by doing them!) so a casual 5k is just what the running soul needs right now 🙂

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I had guesstimated I would need to be wheels turning by 17:10 to get there – when I checked earlier in the day Google Maps said 40 mins to get there, which would still give me 10 mins to find people. I had not taken into account that leaving anywhere around 5pm would mean I hit rush-hour home traffic for most of the first half of the route. I did leave at 17:10 as it happened, and I flung myself into Wallington at 18:02. Not a headtorch in sight. I decided I had to at least try and find people, having come all the way there and looking forward to it all week – but not being hugely familiar with Wallington in daylight let alone the dark, had no idea where I was going. I found a sneaky path round the back of the cycle hut which brought me onto the road fronting the square. I heard voices! Fortunately, as they were waiting for one of their guide runners, I found everyone under the arch and was just in time to join them!

I really enjoyed this run – the lead runner works at Wallington and as such we got a guided tour of the site as well as a guided run route. We checked out a currently-being-excavated water mill from the early 1800’s, looked for white-tipped crawfish and otters in the Wansbeck when we crossed it, snuck over the wall of the walled garden, visited the “netty” (toilet to us non-Geordies but now used for picnics!), checked out the wildlife hide, saw videos of the local red squirrels, and saw the ice house for the main house where the family silver was hidden in WW2 incase the Nazis invaded!I’m really keen to go back in daylight and do it again where I can see a bit further than the range of my headtorch! The enthusiasm of our guides also really helped bring Wallington’s grounds to life, even in the dark.

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This run only cost me £5 to attend – and as such I wasn’t expecting to get any keepsakes for attending. Our lead guide had a very bright light on a carabiner clipped to his bag I was considering asking where he had bought it from, so was pleasantly surprised to be presented with one from said bag with the other runners at the end before we all headed off for respective cars and beds. It’s really bright and probably worth the fiver on its own!

I do like having the local National Trust site pages on my facebook feed – you never know quite what’s going to come up and I’ve had some nice surprise little adventures through them 🙂 Looking forward to whatever the next one may be 🙂

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

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Trail Outlaws – Branches & Bays 10k

The Trail Outlaws have missed their moniker for this race. It should be Branches, Steps & Bays. There were branches, there were bays (2 of them!), and there were steps. Such steep steps.

This is the first time I’ve attended this event, but I have attended several Trail Outlaws 10k’s and one of their half’s, and a few things feature quite often in the T.O. package.

  1. Free mileage – you often get more than you signed up for!
  2. Steps or steep inclines – often both
  3. Off-the-beaten-track routes
  4. Excellent marshalls
  5. Ambushed by Hippie Nixon Photography (sometimes Mr & Mrs both get you in the same race!)
  6. Awesome medals

Branches & Bays 10k was no exception to any of these – but the steps were unusual in their placement nearer the start of the race, and in their severity which brought pretty much the whole race to a walking pace!

You start in the woods, and hit your first steps and streams leaving them to come out under the bridge to Hawthorn Hive.

Here, on the beach, Hippie will take photos of you trying to get round, over or through Hawthorn Burn. This is made more entertaining by remembering that the race rules state that entering the water will result in disqualification. I think this refers more to the pools on later Blast Beach which are contaminated with waste from previous industry in the area (that name must come from somewhere!) but it does not specify… If you’re really, really unlucky, Hippie will catch you falling in face first as did happen to one very drenched poor chap.

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You will then leave this particular bay via some very steep winding steps with delightfully high risers. Unless you are at the very front of the race, you will be waiting patiently with your fellow runners for your climb to begin. You will not be running, but this probably also means you won’t be smashing your teeth out when you fall either (for the record, I’m not aware of this happening!).

To make up for the horrendous steps of death, there are actually some flat bits in this race! This is usually unheard of without a river to run alongside on a Trail Outlaws race, but I for one was very grateful for the opportunity to get my breath back and feel I was making some progress again!

We ran over the top of the cliffs for over a mile before reaching more steps – these much more precarious, especially for going down, and joined Blast Beach. Believe me – the photo doesn’t do justice to how high and slightly slippy these were!

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We had to do a short out-and-back along the beach – which is probably the gravelliest beach I’ve been to since moving to the North-East; they seem to often be a mix of sand and gigantic rock formations rather than pebbles.

We looped a big rock pile thing and then ran the length of the beach back towards Mrs Hippie – also armed with camera. The T.O. organisers had very kindly arranged for another steep section – an incline this time but still not runnable for yours truly after the ankle-breaking beach section – before you were allowed to leave the beach and return to terra firma!

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The elevation profile (bottom of the page) for this suggests that the route back from the beach to the finish line is a steady uphill, and maybe it was but that’s not how it’s stamped itself into my head. I remember coming through the woods pushing myself up each short trail incline and then flat then incline, but they were all of themselves small – so it must have been a cumulative effect. In fact I finished with an impression of this being the flattest route I’ve ever done on a Trail Outlaws event with the exception of the monster steps on and off the beaches. No, that is NOT a challenge to the organisers for next time!

Trail Outlaws are known for their beasting medals, and this year was no exception; a massive gong for surviving to the finish line and a Trail Outlaws mug for the post-run Red Cola to go with the pawful of jelly babies I rapidly shoved in my maw.

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There was only one small blip in this race for me – so many people come in groups with their friends or running clubs to these races, and my running club is not really big on trail races generally. The only two people I knew at this event are both involved with the Trail Outlaws team, so while both friendly and happy to wave and chat briefly I did feel a bit of an outlaw (see what I did there?!) without my mates out on the course to wave at and cheer on, possibly to have a retrospective gripe about the tough bits, especially at the finish. Will have to sucker some other poor buggers into coming next year 😉

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

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Gateshead Trail 10k – 2019

It’s Gateshead Trail time again! Now in its sixth incarnation, and even bigger than ever with 2000 runners signed up for this year’s event, though I’m not sure if some didn’t bail with the weather warnings! I think I’ve made four out of six races since it started 🙂 I like the route, how local it is to me (15 mins drive away tops!), and the general atmosphere at basecamp. The medal’s usually a corker too 😉 J was my official chauffeur and cheerleader for this one, and we met L down there who made sure we were fully stocked with tablet for a sugar boost post-race!

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It feels like normally this race is blessed with sunshine, but there were lightning and rain warnings this year as there have been for previous week, and the river was very full indeed! Anorak’s and bin bags were in plentiful supply in the run up to the race, and those small (and less small!) beings blessed with wellies were having a good stomp in the water-logged fields while it showered.

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As it happens, we’d scrapped the jackets and bin liners at the start line as it was rather close despite the wet, and it didn’t rain again for the rest of the event! There may even have been a hint of a sunbeam in a few places!

L & I started in a slightly faster time pen than we were going for – L was hoping to beat last year’s time, and I sometimes find that I get quite penned in if I start nearer the back, even though my intention was to take things easy and just get round (I may do a knees update later this week!). Gateshead Trail 10k is great for being open to all abilities and there’s a huge range of paces taking part – from the sprint-for-miles to those who may need to walk quite a bit of it, but the nearer the back of the starting pens you get the less accurate it feels the approximate timings of the participants is and the busier it gets – and I always feel a bit rude darting round people!

It honestly didn’t feel like there were 2000 runners when we set up – it was plenty busy enough at the start line, but with the way the organisers had set up the start line we didn’t get hemmed in at all after we crossed it and were nicely spaced out as we set out towards Derwenthaugh Park. L and I kept about the same pace and had a good chat for the first 3km, but as we hit the first long incline I began to drop back a bit while L went ahead. I managed to keep her in sight for most of the race, but she disappeared somewhere between the 7km and 8km mark as we headed back to Blaydon along the Derwent Walk! We’d both worn trail shoes having serious questionmarks over the amount of mud there was likely to be, but unless you were one of the front-runners and full on sprinting through the puddles, it wasn’t too bad and road trainers you didn’t mind getting a bit grubby would have been fine.

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I did manage to complete the last straight with a sprint finish (this race and Kielder 10k are two I always have to feel I’ve emptied the tank crossing the finish line – even when I’ve been taking it easy like this time!) without falling on my face over the timing mats (win!), and this year’s medal felt particularly heavy round my neck at the end! I don’t think it’s any different than previous years but it’s not been a very medal-heavy year for me this year so it stuck out!

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I stopped actively using Strava a while ago – though I still have an account. Still having an account, it still sometimes sends me emails usually regarding what my friends are out doing. I received one yesterday evening regarding a certain segment on the Gateshead Trail 10k. It turns out, I’ve held the ladies course record since 2015 – until yesterday when a well-deserving Strider apparently kicked my 2015 bottom into touch!

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For someone who doesn’t normally use Strava, and is not competitive in many things, I’m slightly put out 😛 This year’s time doesn’t come close either! Nevermind 🙂 I’m still on the board at position 80 – and I think lady number 2 🙂 Not too shabby for someone who’s normally at the middle-back of the pack 🙂

All in all, another great race with some lovely people ❤

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I even found a NEW friend on my way back to the carpark!

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Will we be back next year? Probably – if I’m not swanning around the South of France somewhere!

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

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Willow Miner’s Trail – Durham

It sounds like there’s been a few guises for this run over the years,  but for the last few at least it’s been known as the ‘Willow Miner’s Trail Run’, and the route takes you right round the back of this fine chap (photo from Elvet Striders race page).

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Apparently he also has a wicker wife with wicker chickens somewhere in the woods, but if we went past her, I didn’t spot her!

After missing many races in the first half of this year due to being boring and sensible with my knees, seeing one come up in the local area that was in my permitted 3-5M limit AND a trail race to boot meant I didn’t wait long before signing up.

It’s a running club Wednesday evening run hosted by Elvet Striders for only £7 if you’re affiliated with a running club (£9 if not) and starts from the rather pretty Houghall College.

Numbers are limited to 180 – so it really didn’t feel congested at the start line or on the route – something I’m starting to find claustrophobic about bigger road races! From the starting field behind the college, we were straight into the woods for over a mile, and from the woods into the fields. I actually found just being out in my trail shoes to be like taking a mental deep breath. It had been so dry up to the time of the race (we have a lot of rain since as I’m writing this up a while after the event!) I’d just been out in my road shoes regardless of where I was running, and I felt more like a trail runner running through the woods in my trail shoes again for the first time since the winter. I should note that with the weather being as dry as it had been this year, many people were absolutely fine in road shoes – trails were not essential for this one at all though they might be a good idea if it’s been really wet beforehand 🙂

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I was glad when we hit the fields not to be a super-speedy frontrunner. The marshalls and course markings throughout were excellent, but it was much easier to see the route through the clover when 150 people have already patted it all down flat for you! I’m not sure how conspicuous a path there was for the chaps and chapettes at the very front as it looked freshly squashed when I got to it! There were some absolutely fab views over the valley before we dropped down to the river.

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Somewhere over the fields, before we got to the river and for the couple of miles before we re-entered the woods, I had picked up a fan club. A fan club that I really wished would have left me alone, but they did ensure that I kept my walking to only the steepest inclines! I told myself they were probably just normal flies and not horseflies or something else nasty, but I wasn’t stopping to find out incase they drained me to a husk or something either!

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One of the things I love about trail runs is watching for wildlife (less keen on the bugs!) – and I was well rewarded on this one with a hunting barn owl as I came along beside the river.

As we left the river, we had to start to climb again. If you look at the elevation profile it suggests the worst of the hills were at the start, but they haven’t made a serious imprint on my memory – some steps through the woods and that’s about it. The biggest hill in my mind was coming back up over the fields again to return to the woods – and despite my buggy companions I walked quite a bit of it, flailing my arms around over my head! It’s probably a good thing there was noone there with a camera!

The run back through the woods was a welcome relief; my buggy friends abandoned me and the pace I was running at meant I’d ended up in a gap; there was noone in sight in front of me and no sound of anyone behind me so I felt like I was just out for a run in the woods on my own, following silent hanging pink tape ribbons and occasionally seeing a lone standing person who would wave me past. It was a touch surreal but they may have been dehydration kicking in a little…

The finish dropped back onto the field to the start line, and despite being nearer the back of the pack, there were still plenty of people waiting to cheer people across the line, and water dispensers for thirsty runners! I felt very deserving of my fruit pie and custard when I got back home – and I’ll be putting it on the list to keep an eye out for again next year, maybe with a time target or maybe just for a pootle in the countryside 🙂

 

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The GPX file for this route can be downloaded from my Dropbox account here.

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