Blue Runnings

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

Gibside Fruit Bowl

on 23 October 2015

Enough time has passed now that I feel able to talk about the trauma that was the Gibside Fruit Bowl race…the 19th annual race of the Blackhill Bounders at the National Trust’s Gibside estate. Ok, so it wasn’t bad enough to actually be traumatic, but it was very tough. I’m actually just really late posting because it’s taken me this long to have a working computer – I fried my PC and my netbook at the same time, touchscreens are the bane of my life so I wasn’t writing this on my tablet, and I’ve only just managed to get one of them running again – unfortunately the PC’s going to need a new power supply and I haven’t figured out which one I need yet. I will.

Back to the race! I’ve run here before once or twice for the Great Run Local route, which is a 5k from the walled garden up to the monument and round through the woods, past the play area and back to the house. I remember hearing one of the GRL organisers saying once that they’d tried running it in reverse just to see if they could add some variety to it by sometimes running the route in the other direction, except he said it wasn’t really possible as some of the hills in that direction were too steep and long to really run up. A special prize for guessing which way the Fruit Bowl route went….

Obviously, being more than twice the distance, it covered rather more than just the GRL route – and of course, the other bits were not going to be nice easy bits. It turned out to actually be a hybrid of the GRL route, the National Trust Night Run course I did last February, and some random extra steep hills that they’d thrown in for good measure. Definitely the toughest 10k course I’ve done, and actually probably the toughest run I’ve ever done – Gelt Gladiator had nothing on this one!

The weather at least was kind, it was drizzley before the start – I was concerned about not being able to see a thing, but it stopped at pretty much the same time as the starting hooter. The race was sold out with 500 runners, so it was a very packed start line! I left with several of the Bounder ladies, one of whom left me behind early on, the other two caught me up about 3/4 of the way round and finished just ahead. I shall blame my phlegmy chest for not being right at the front and winning everything obviously 😉


I’m not kidding about the tough – check out the elevation profile for this one!


I paired up with a nice lady from the Elvet Striders about a third of the way round – probably near the top of that first big hill. We both had a very similar pace and helped push each other round. I’m happy on the trails with my own headspace while running, but I must admit on a tough course it’s nice to have the distraction of having someone to natter to on your way round! She also had experience with several marathons so was able to give me some nuggets of advice for next year – in a moment of sleep-deprived madness I’ve signed up for the Dark Skies Marathon at Kielder Water in March, purely for the dark skies experience – knowing my luck it will be cloudy! I had in mind to be trying to hit 23-24 miles before doing it, but apprarently most marathon plans don’t have you doing more than 20 miles, and the long runs are more spread out than you might think – hill running, speed training and intervals are almost more important in terms of building muscle strength to actually make it round in one piece. May have to be a bit more structured in my training for this one, but want to get back up to 10 miles first 🙂

For now though, we’re still at Gibside trying to make it rather hackily around 10k! That was the other reassurance my new friend was able to give – Kielder even in its marathon form is easier terrain than the Gibside Fruit Bowl race. Small comfort when it’s the Fruit Bowl you’re only 2/3’s round and knackered! By this point we’d opted for my old tough-terrain favourite, run the flats and downhills, and just walk the ups – unless there’s a photographer at the top when you have to at least wave your arms to make it look like you’re running even when the fact you’re grinning like an idiot proves you’re clearly not…noone would ever know!


We did finally make it to the finish – and were even able to stagger slightly faster for the last few yards! (I think calling it a sprint finish might be a bit much). There was much out of puff collapsing over the finish line… The Bounders had put on a good haul for their runners – technical t-shirt, compulsory water and banana, Mars bar, sports jellybean things I haven’t tried yet, and a pot of fancy lipbalm stuff. The Mars bar and water did not last long and I’m looking forward to wearing my t-shirt with pride! Probably on the flattest course I can find…


Will I be back next year? Probably – but I think I’ll volunteer to marshall! Alarm bells should have been ringing when all the experienced fast/long-distance/tough-ass Bounders were all jumping at the chance to marshall, but I can at least say I’ve done it and I survived! I think it was my worst ever 10k time, but with the hills and the mud, I’m not begrudging myself that at all!

Can the next one be flatter please?!

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

GPX data on Dropbox


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