Blue Runnings

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

No Ego Trail Challenge: Hamsterley Forest – 10km

on 29 March 2015


Off on my running travels again today, this time to Hamsterley Forest in Durham with J as my trusty driver, chief waver and photographer! I’ve driven past signs for Hamsterley Forest before on the A68, but never actually pulled in to see what was there – expecting something similar to Kielder Water – several pretty walks and maybe a visitor centre and some other buildings scattered about. All of these were present, but it also appears to be biking central for those who want to launch themselves through the air on their mountain bikes to land in copious amounts of mud. Even on a rather damp day like today, it was pretty busy – it must be really buzzing in the summer!

I had mixed expectations of what this was going to be like after doing the No Ego Torch Challenge at Wallington Hall last month, I’d already figured that I’d probably be going a little off the beaten track and was likely to end up rather muddy, but as the same description was on both the Hamsterley and Otterburn trail run descriptions, I wondered how much of it actually applied to this particular route.


You see that last paragraph, “the plus to climbing hills is that you always have to come back down. Always appreciated!!”? What is not appreciated is starting a race with a hill (this is something I always struggle with – it takes me 1km to get my legs warmed up on a flat!) and that hill is then followed by an extremely steep descent in ankle deep mud…less than 2km in and I’d gone over on my butt twice! I was not alone in this either… more than a few bruised booties crossed the finish line I suspect! The course was very up and down – some being very steep (in both directions), and others looooong but shallower. Typically the steepness looks very so-so in the elevation chart at the bottom – I can assure you it did not feel that way to do! My pat-pending march up and run down the hills was very much in effect today! Particularly given how slippery and high in fall potential some of the areas of the run were, I was surprised not to see many marshals about – there were two water stations with people, and plenty of people at the end, but none where they potentially could have been needed if someone went over badly. I noticed the same thing at the Torch Challenge – marshals through the woods and near the finish, but none at all crossing the fields – which was were you were most likely to lose your footing or your way!

Hamsterley is a Forestry Commission maintained, mainly coniferous woodland – certainly the bits I saw were. The wider planted sections had a covering of moss and other undergrowth plants which made the area very pretty and lush, but the denser areas which were used more for ‘farming’ trees were too tightly packed to move through and had that usual very very noise-stifling effect of pines. Fortunately we weren’t running through the latter, only past them! J took the dogs for a walk while I was tracking about the place, they loved it and had to be chucked in the river before getting back in the car – they were absolutely black with mud!

hamsterley woods

I’d like to refer you back briefly to the description section above describing the expected terrain of the course. “Fire roads, single track paths, fire breaks, narrow tree breaks, mud bogs”. They were not kidding about any of these things. Normally, when someone mentions a trail race, possibly somewhat naively I expect there to be, you know, a trail? It may be muddy, uneven, rocky, but there’ll be a clear path to follow. The No Ego route planner had obviously decided, you know what, let’s just cut that massive U-bend off and go straight across to get to the long downhill stretch to the finish line. Across that cut through, there were a few arrows marking the route, and the only trail visible that of previous runners in the form of large footwells full of water. The ‘route’ cut straight across what I suspect was peat bog – it was covered in heather and ankle deep in freezing cold brackish water that was pretty much unavoidable – at some point you were going to get very wet feet no matter how careful you were! Fortunately, after the bog of soggy doom, the last 2km were a straight downhill – I made the most of it and was able to get a pace around 5:40min/km the rest of the way down – having walked several stretches of the rest of the route! The running helped warm my socks up, but I came home with a few blisters that I’m blaming the water for. I’d opted for capris instead of full-length trousers, anticipating water soak-up and possible rain, but it meant my ankles were exposed to the heather, but I seem to have escaped scrape free. 🙂

Before and After

Before and After

I wasn’t as muddy as I’d feared I’d be when I finished – the bog had helped wash off what I had splattered about my legs in the first half of the run, and I don’t really know what I was doing with my jacket…it was raining lightly but I was too hot and bits of it kept flapping about, so got tied or zipped up in various places at various times and I ended up with a sort of jacket skirt…

The race fee included a funky technical tee in a bright red colour which Rosie had to investigate as soon as I laid it on the floor for a picture…back view shown, of both the shirt and the cat!


After the run – which I finished in 1:22:57 (happy with that given the terrain!), J and I raided the visitor centre cafe for cake, our usual post-race McD’s not likely to be anywhere for several miles around! It was a lovely relief having someone else to drive home, spoilt only by the fact that the one race I’d not brought spare socks and my snowboots for, I needed them, so I was barefoot! I did enjoy diving into my No Ego hoodie from the torch race though, and I know J loved wearing the colours of a No Ego veteran at the start/finish area, and being recognised from a previous race by one of the marshals 😛 We’re booked in for the other No Ego Trail race in the area at Otterburn on the 19th of April and I’m not sure seeing people finishing didn’t make J a bit more nervous about doing it – but SHE WILL BE FINE! And that’s written on the internet now so it must be true 🙂

Overall, an interesting course and another new location on the list of places to go again, but I’m not sure I’d count the vast majority of it as a run! More of a mud slog!

4 star

no ego trail race hamsterley

GPX data available to download from my Dropbox account by following the link below:

GPX data on Dropbox


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