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. This includes maps and elevation profiles, and GPX data available to download from my dropbox account if you want to try out the routes yourself.

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

Feel free to check out where I’ve been racing on the Race Map, or just browse through the archives and see what you can dig up.

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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Gibside Night Run 2018

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I ran Gibside Night Run for the first time in 2015, and since then it’s made the list of ‘races I want to run’ every year – but this is the first year I’ve actually made it back: I missed one of the intermediary years due to illness, and another due to it clashing with another night race J had booked us all on to. This year, I managed to sucker B into attending me as a late entry and we both headed off to Gibside with G as official bagholder for the fee of 1 post-race pizza!

 

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I’d remembered some stretches suprisingly well given it’s 3 years since I last did it, and had blissfully forgotten the length of some of the hills, and the steepness of the second-to-last one! I’ve run at Gibside enough times to know there’s always a hill near the start – it doesn’t matter which way you go, unless you’re just doing the Avenue and back you are going to hit a hill.

There wasn’t a huge amount of chatting up the first loooong hill, but we both made it to the top maintaining a steady jog, and passing several people who’d dropped to a walk from about halfway up. One of the great things about hill training and having pretty much any local run you try to do featuring at least one hill in it somewhere is you get to be pretty unphased unless they’re particularly long and/or steep. It was a marked difference in approach to last time I did this race, where I definitely walked every one of the uphills after the first few steps up them.

The one thing that wasn’t different was how much I enjoyed it – this is very much a fun run; it’s not chocka with club runners, it’s popular with families, walkers, people with dogs, you name it! It’s very low pressure and at 6km is a distance you can either push yourself over or just kick back and enjoy it.

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parkrun – Divonne Les Bains – Lac de Divonne

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

http://www.parkrun.fr/lacdedivonne/

This is a completely flat course (seriously, flat as a crêpe!), right on the border of France and Switzerland. The course is a there-and-back route covering three sides of the local lake with a very long narrow loop at one end. When I went all the marshalls spoke both French and English, and the kick-off instructions were given in both languages.

Local facilities:

  • Parking (free)
  • Café
  • Toilet (beware for those not acquainted with this type of toilet – the whole room is sprayed after use so do not follow someone straight in without waiting for it to do its cleaning cycle first or you will get a very unpleasant surprise!!!)
  • Play area

My GPS map for this route:

Lac de Divonne

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

GPX file for Lac de Divonne parkrun

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parkrun – Gibside

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

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

This is a tough little course – which was evident from the smaller number of runners who braved it despite it being a clear and sunny morning (though that may also have been the summer holidays coming into play). It’s a tough little course with some long and serious hills and an elevation of 311ft according to my GPS watch. There’s flatter stretches at the top of each hill, but you don’t get to go down much until the very end where you come right back down and then along the long flat of The Avenue back to the finish. You leave by the Walled Garden, head out on a loop at the top of the estate, and finish on a there-and-back part way up the hill to the highest point on Gibside’s grounds before spinning round and heading back to the Walled Garden again for the finish.

You can view a map of the estate (which is worth a visit even just for a walk round and a teacake) by clicking the link below.

Gibside Estate Map from National Trust

Runner’s View video tour of Gibside parkrun, taken 29-07-17 with a head-mounted (and therefore somewhat bouncy-recording!) Apeman camera.

Local facilities:

  • Café (takes cash or card)
  • Toilets

My GPS map for this route:

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

GPX file for Gibside parkrun

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parkrun – Newcastle: Rising Sun

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

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

This is a pretty flat course on tarmac country lanes and very well marshalled. You head out, do a repeat loop of about half a mile around the outside of a field at one end and then return back to the start.

Local facilities:

  • Café (takes cash or card)
  • Toilets

My GPS map for this route:

Rising Sun

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

GPX file for Rising Sun parkrun

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parkrun – Guildford

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

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

This route involves 2 laps of Guildford’s Stoke Park – and is rather more undulating than you might think at first glance, especially by the second lap!

There’s a communal parkrun coffee session at the bowling club just pass the treetop adventure course (try it if you’ve not already had your morning fill of fun?!) and Spectrum is just across the road for Costa and plenty of parking.

My GPS map for this route:

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You can download the GPX file for this course from my Dropbox folder here:

Guildford parkrun GPX file

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RYA Push The Boat Out – Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club

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A note before starting this – I am not Sailing People, so if I use completely the wrong terminology, I apologise in advance!!!

Pete and I have been trying something a bit new this weekend; we’ve been around the Derwent Reservoir many times over the last few years – on foot and in the car, but we’ve never actually been on it. We’ve passed the sailing club on several of these trips and mentioned several times that we’d like to try windsurfing. Hop forward a few years and we actually get around to going on the Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club website to see if they have any courses advertised. Better – in 2 weeks time is a free taster day for sailing and windsurfing. Both signed up in lightning time 🙂

We’ve both been on sailing boats before, but it was a very very long time ago and we were both much smaller – as became very obvious when we went out on one of the youth boats! We arrived armed with swimsuits, changes of clothes, Sarah’s retired running trainers, which she’d kept for some reason just incase she needed a pair to trash (or apparently soak!) and other paraphenalia, most of which we didn’t need!

Wetsuits and lifejackets were provided. Instruction on how to put them on supplied by whoever happened to be in the changing room at the time. I managed fine but I have a credible source suggesting Pete managed to put his on not only back-to-front but inside out the first time (apparently that was just how it was on the hanger…let’s not judge huh?!). The wetsuits were blessedly warm even when dry as there was an excellent wind for sailing picking up that made it rather chilly if you were in a t-shirt.

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We were picked up by a pair of sailors from the ‘Slips’ where the boats are launched, and after helping hold boats while trailors where removed, we were off, Pete in the cat (much enthusiasm from Pete when he discovered they had one available as he hasn’t been on one for years) and me in something called a Feva which was something like my friend’s Topper I used to go on as a kid.

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As the Feva was rigged with double sails, I had a job as soon as I climbed in – pull the front sail tight and swap sides when we tacked. I really don’t remember these type of boats being this small when I was on one many years ago, but I was also probably over a foot shorter! Thomas looked very at ease in it, but I felt very clumsy, often sitting in the puddles in the bottom before I got the hang of sitting on the side again, and feeling even more so when I took a hand at steering! I couldn’t get the hang of the rudder at all – every way it turned felt back to front and it was very crowded trying to get myself from one side of the boat to the other while keeping the rudder over and not knocking myself out on the boom! Thomas was very patient as I nearly tipped us both in more than once, but it was with some relief that I relinquished my control stick and returned to my front sail duties!

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Pier To Pier 2017

It’s Pier to Pier time again! I ran this in 2015 and spectated in 2016 due to illness, so it was good to be out running it again. Last time I left my car at the start and caught the metro back when I’d finished as I had no idea where I was going at either end, but this year I took advantage of the coaches which had been enlisted to ferry people who had parked at the finish back to the start line in good time for everything kicking off. I’d definitely use this service again if not getting the Bounders coach as it was very smooth – I found parking easily (not so in 2016 when I was meeing J at the finish as it was full of presumably runner’s cars!) and didn’t have to wait at all for a coach.

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The start of this race is on the sand by the pier at South Shields – and more than one person had to empty their shoes of sand from crossing the loose stuff before the start time. I’d opted for my Goretex trail shoes – the pink canoes – and they did keep the bulk of the sand out – I’d picked up some by the end of the race just from what was kicked up over the top as I went round, but I wasn’t aware of it being there – sand blisters are not pleasant and are to be avoided if possible!

I ran with G for this one and we had a good natter and a birdwatch on the way round. The long sand stretch at the start had us both feeling very heavy-calved very quickly which was not a reassuring start to a 7 mile-ish run! There are three routes you can take across the Leas when you leave the beach, I suspect the middle or road ones are the fastest, but we opted for the coastal path just for the view – the sun kept just lighting the wave tips of a very calm sea and the cliffs were gorgeous.

The first part of this course is deceptively hilly, and it took until about mile 2 to get into a comfortable stride – the route flattens out across the cliffs, and then you have a longer downhill across the clifftop to Souter Lighthouse and the water station. From Souter all the way to the finish, with only one or two small blips, it was blessedly downhill or flat.

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It’s difficult to judge your progress by landmarks on this route, as there aren’t really many…you go across winding clifftops with higher bushy edges and not much visibility of the course ahead for the first part, then you can see a tower building and a lighthouse. The tower is now a restaurant or something and there are steps down to Marsden Beach (there were so many points along here where I was itching to go down to the beach to explore the cliffs or go for a paddle!) and the lighthouse is Souter Lighthouse and marks the halfway point between South Shields and Sunderland piers.

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Sunderland 10k 2017

I last (and first!) ran this race in 2015 when it had a slightly different route starting and finished at the Stadium of Light. It was absolutely bucketing it down and J & I were soaked in our bin bags before we’d even got from the car park to the stadium! It was very quickly clear (or not) that I was wasting my time trying to see with my glasses on, they were pocketed and I saw very little of Sunderland. I remember the grey wall of a battleship thing and the waves crashing over the walls at the seafront at Roker and lots of soggy clothes. J enjoyed it enough to go back again last year, when I opted for donning my Terrible Photographer hat and stalking her and some of the Bounders round the course.

This year, I can happily say that we were onto a winner right from the off in that it wasn’t bucketing it down with rain before we’d even got there. We had some new company in the form of A & G this year and a merry bunch we made on the way into Sunderland.

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You got free stuff before the race even started for this one – the race pack included a buff so there were many people wearing them around the course. There was a competition to win a watch for the most inventive donning of said buff; none of us were partaking but I definitely think Ms Rosie was in with a shot 🙂

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Washington Trail 10k – 2017

The Trail Outlaws organise a series of ‘Urban Trail’ races from 10k to half marathon around the North-East (and if you fancy it, right up to the 100+ miles marker not for some of us mere mortals!), and this race around Washington is rapidly becoming a regular feature in my running calendar – so when I heard J was doing again this year (straight after night shift she was that keen!), I couldn’t leave her to go by herself! It also meant I might have half a chance of keeping up with her if I caught her when she would be already too tired for any sane person to consider going for a 10k run in the hills…

I don’t know if one of the Trail Outlaws guys has a deal with the weather for this one, but I don’t think I’ve done it when it hasn’t been blue skies and sunshine, or not far off it! This is appreciated in one respect because the riverside and the woods look fantastic in the sunshine when the flowers are coming out, and it makes you really appreciate the shade, but it also means that you cook when you’re going up the hills in the first half which are a bit more exposed…

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There are several loops to this race, passing through a common marshalling and refreshments area where there’s always a ready supply of drinks – water and cola this time – and if you’re lucky there might still be some jelly babies left even by your third time through! There are always several marshalls here handing out drinks, and it’s great to see the kids getting involved handing out beakers and giving power-up high-fives to all who pass through – no matter how many times they’ve seen you already! You come downhill from the start to join the river and start your first lap after passing through this area (Time 1), heading up through the woods and towards the main road before coming back down again to the clearing (Time 2). From here, you head out across a footbridge, up a hill (there’s quite a few of them) and across the stile at the top.

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