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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Races Under a Tenner – 2021

Running can be an expensive hobby if you’re into racing. After realising how much I spent in 2019 (half of which I didn’t get to) I decided to focus on prioritising races which cost under £10 to enter, and there are more out there than you realise when you start looking! Races do not have to break the bank, especially if you’re happy to support your local running clubs for a cheer and a smile rather than handing over your hard-earned cash to a bigger company for a metal plate on a ribbon you won’t no what to do with by the time you get home 🙂

Below is the list of all the races I have come across in the North-East to date with a £10 or lower entry fee. 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.

This page will be updated as the year progresses – with Covid-19 restrictions still in place in the UK, some races have not yet been officially opened for entry or fixed upon yet.

Page last updated June 13th 2021.

June 2021
23/6 Kirkleatham 5k Trail – 5k – Kirkleatham – Muddy Roads – £5

30/6 Pie and Pea 5k Trail – 5k – Trimdon Grange – Muddy Roads – £8

30/6 Darlington Trail Series #3 – 5k – South Park, Darlington – Darlington Trail Team – £5

July 2021
1/7 Children With Cancer – 5k – South Park, Darlington – Darlington Harriers – £10

21/7 Willow Miner’s Trail – 5.7M – Durham – Elvet Striders – £7 – 2019

13/7 Chapelfell Top Fell Race – 7km – Weardale – Durham Fell Runners – £8

14/7 Lordstones 5k Trail – 5k – Lordstones Country Park – Muddy Roads – £5

21/7 Darlington Trail Series #4 – 5k – Baydale Beck, Darlington – Darlington Trail Team – £5

August 2021
18/8 Trimdon Loop 5k Trail – 5k – Trimdon Grange – Muddy Roads – £5

25/8 Darlington Trail Series #5 – 5k – Locomotion, Darlington – Darlington Trail Team – £5

September 2021
18/9 Cronkley Fell Race – 17km – Holwick – Durham Fell Runners – £8

22/9 Newham Grange Farm 5k – 5k – Coulby Newham – Muddy Roads – £5

29/9 Darlington Trail Series #6 – 5k – West Park, Darlington – Darlington Trail Team – £5

26/9 Coxhoe Trail Run – 10k – Coxhoe, Durham – Active Life Coxhow – £10

 

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The Reading Nook: Finding Ultra

Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself – Rich Roll

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In a nutshell:

Rich Roll has had something of a rollercoaster of a life. High school misfit becomes dedicated competition swimmer, goes to college, learns to fit in and gain popularity with alcohol as a coping mechanism and ends up an alcoholic through college and into work as a lawyer. Failed marriage leads to rehab, where he finally feels ready to tackle his addiction and comes clean. Meets lovely lady, starts family, builds home, launches own law firm, life is dandy and comfortable. Too comfortable. Unfit and overweight – mid-life crisis moment hits knowing early cardiac death is on the cards. Cleans up eating, dons trainers and mounts bicycle, starts swimming again. Ironman ambitions; finds coach – trains for Ultraman and finishes with massively unexpected times. Finds eating plan and exercise lifestyle that works for him. The world of ultra-distance triathlons follows…

The structure of the book itself is written in an autobiographical sense for the first half, and then has appendices addressing what I guess are a regular barrage of frequent questions mostly relating to how the ‘PlantPowered’ athlete has used his diet to get to where he is now.

From my brain:

There is very clearly a huge amount of dedication involved in RR’s journey to his current self. Unsurprisingly many pro athletes have a real drive for improved performance and a strong commitment over huge periods of time to rigid and I suspect not always enjoyable training programs. I often find myself incredibly jealous of their passion. Many are able to fit training for top-level sport alongside a full time job and a family life in a way the rest of us cannot imagine juggling. Clearly, it’s possible with enough commitment, and possibly an occasional blind eye to a full night’s sleep and the chocolate in the fridge but I confess I personally lack the drive and the willpower! Might be a contributing factor in my not being a competition level runner…

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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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