Blue Runnings

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

Derwent Dam and Beyond

on 2 August 2015


I’m not doing very well with dates this week and was determined to go out on Saturday for a longer run and finish July on a high note. Except that Saturday was the 1st of August so I’ve started this month on a good note instead…definitely in need of a holiday before any remaining brain curd leaks out my ears and away never to be seen again! This wasn’t a run that went the way I was intending it to in several ways, but I went out anyway and that’s always a positive!

I thought I’d head down to the Derwent, and instead of parking at Pow Hill as I normally do, I’d go to Milshield picnic area and run from there down to Pow Hill, do the loop around there before I was ready to pass out, and then head back – which would have the other advantage of splitting the dam-crossing legs up more. Apparently the carpark at Milshield is closed until the end of August as there’s some ITV show thing being filmed there and they don’t want Joe Bloggs bimbling in with his fishing gear and running shoes.

So, Pow Hill it was! This also meant I couldn’t do my original distance plan – going between the two picnic areas would have put me somewhere in the region of 10k, possibly a bit more with the loop around Pow Hill added on and I was hoping to hit between 10 and 12km on this run – can’t pester J about not hitting the distance for the GNR when I’m only doing 5k loops myself!

In my current ‘try different things’ vein, I also thought I’d try running with music again – I used to run with it all the time so I wouldn’t have to listen to my own depressingly raspy panting as I pootled along, but after signing on to one or two running club road races where headphones weren’t allowed, I got myself used to not taking them even on the longer ones where it was just me and listening to the wind and the birds. It helped that I got used to pacing myself on my breathing so I didn’t sound like a dying asthmatic the whole time, noone wants to listen to themselves sound like that! My headphones were charged up, but my ipod had been left on since last time it was used (however long ago that was) and was flat as a pancake. There goes that plan. Me and my ears it is then. I’d have to try and find a new distraction for crossing the dam.

It was bang on a mile – 1.6km – from the carpark to the gate at the start of the dam, and I don’t even remember it, I was sufficiently distracted by the various things to see and my own head that I was at the dam before I’d really realised it. The dam itself was less than half this distance across from gate to gate, but once again felt like twice as far. I don’t know how people do multiple loops of routes when doing races – like round and round the same athletics track, or 5 laps around Gibside for the Gibside Marathon knowing you’re going to hit the same horrible monster hills again and again and again!!! Talk about sapping! I can’t do a short, straight bridge without flagging!

I’ve been from Pow Hill to the dam a couple of times now, run it once and walked it a couple of times, and I always see signs for a seasonal visitor centre as well as the picnic area I was originally going to aim for, and not having been there before and knowing it was closer than Milshield, I thought I’d go and find this instead 🙂 Might as well find where something new is right?! I should have known the path couldn’t stay flat forever – it’s right at the bottom of a hill! Down was obviously no hardship but I confess to giving up on the signature runner’s shuffle up again and dropping to a walk to pant and glug down some water and an energy tablet. No dehydration induced heat exhaustion for me!


This was my first run in my new shorts, and typically when you’re wearing something new that you’re not too sure of, you’ll bump into someone you know from somewhere. I thought I might have seen someone from work on a bike at the corner at the very top end of the reservoir when I was driving in, how they ended up coming round the dam behind me when I was on my way back I’m not quite sure but see them I did, out on a cycle ride with a lady I presume was his other half. We didn’t stop to chat, just waved and yelled hi as they passed me but it was still pretty typical – I’ve never met anyone I know at the Derwent Reservoir before and it would be the one time my knees are getting some Vitamin D for the first time in yonkels! Who knows how many poor people I blinded…

I think I was a bit cooler in my shorts at least, and I’m seriously considering wearing them for the GNR just from this perspective. Looking at my pace breakdown, with the exception of the two uphills I walked up which has skewed my overall average, my run paces per km are actually pretty normal, and I didn’t feel like you could make a breakfast fry-up on my face this time. I’d made sure I didn’t set off too fast,  but it’s not a shady route at all except along the dam – where I was in the shade from the waist down by the wall – and it was still warm even though it was getting on for evening.

I need to find some new routes for getting my mileage up – I don’t think the Derwent’s got it, though it’s a handy local-ish short, flat run to do and I find forcing myself to do the mental push of The Dam useful, it’s not somewhere I have to do a long distance to get back to the car – it’s too easy to cop out when you’ve got to pass your car halfway through! I’m eyeing up Chopwell Woods and the Derwent Walk near Swalwell, similar to where I was for the George Ogle Memorial Race for doing some longer loops to get me back up to running 10 miles again, and there’s several stretches of shade (we’re not thinking about the number of flies that tend to be found in the woody stretches right now). I also know I’ve got the 8km loop about the No. 1 Industrial Estate in Consett that I walked as a walking boots checker before Dublin that I can throw in for an evening if I want to – not shaded but a handy distance and while not completely flat, not a terrible one either for keeping ye olde trainers going.



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