Blue Runnings

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

Run Nation – Cragside 10k

on 22 March 2016

I know the detour around Rothbury is probably a massive pain to the locals, but personally I love heading up the A697 and hitting the open moors when the view just opens out and you can see the Cheviots and the heather – red and brown and somewhat stark at this time of year but it won’t be long before it’s glowing with purple and the yellow flowers are already coming out on the gorse bushes. Cragside seems oddly planted in comparison to its surroundings – there’s not a tree visible on the drive in until you drop into the valley.

Based on a couple of afternoon runs along Prudhoe riverside I was afraid I was going to have to break out the shorts with the weather warming up already, but it’s still been cold at night and in the mornings and this morning was no exception – still a little muggy and cool, but winter’s definitely easing its grasp. Not a day for shorts.

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I’ve not been having a good year for racing so far this year – I had to miss the Gibside Night Run due to illness and over-did it before the CTS at Bamburgh and didn’t enjoy it as much as I was anticipating (entirely self-inflicted!). I was really hoping I’d break that streak before Kielder, and didn’t really have any pre-conceptions for this one having not done it before. I’ve seen elevation profiles before and knew there’s a teeny weeny short hill about 2 miles long in the second half but that was about it really.

With Kielder only a week away, this was a taper-chill run, no ambitions for pace I just wanted to enjoy the setting and hopefully get my pace settled – something I’ve been struggling to find on my last couple of longer runs which has been a bit frustrating. This was also my first run of the year in my Bounders vest, and it was nice to spot a few familiar faces at the start and finish; I’ve been missing the social side of the running world while I’ve been doing my distance runs and hiding and it was good to feel part of something again.

When I did the Gateshead 10k (for the first and last time!), I was really struggling with the hills, the fast runners – a lot of speedy people using it as part of their training for the GNR, and walking a lot more than I wanted to (it was only my second race and if it had been my first I would probably not have put my trainers on again). There was a guy in a full stormtrooper outfit doing the run for a kids charity, and I would pass him when I was jogging, and he would pass me every time I had to drop back to a walk (which was often!). He wasn’t moving hugely fast but he was absolutely rock steady and just plodded along without stopping. It’s always stayed with me that there are different ways to approach races, especially when tackling different conditions – terrain, weather, distance, sweaty outfits, etc. I might have been moving faster than he was when I was jogging, but overall we probably were about the same. I suspect he was a lot less frustrated and stressed than I was. I was determined not to be beaten across the line by someone in a full stormtrooper outfit…I wasn’t as it happened but I hated almost every step of that race.

The run around Cragside was fortunately not like the Gateshead 10k, or rather for this one I was the stormtrooper. I paced myself by my breathing rather than my feet and my watch and just headed round at a steady exertion level. My pace was quicker on the flats than the uphills and quicker again on the downhills but I didn’t feel hugely different in myself, even hitting the long incline up to the lake when many people were dropping back to a walk. I started at the back of the pack with most of the other Bounders, and actually felt right at home being in the spaced out calmer zone – it was like coming home.

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I wanted to run this one at my own pace, which happened to fall right between the two Bounder groups so I was on my own for this one. It was nice being able to just pootle along in the quiet – there were only runners about at that time – and enjoy the scenery. I’ve only been around the Cragside perimeter road in a car with other people and it’s not the same as seeing it at a pedestrian pace and scale without other cars behind you hurrying you along, or a car roof between you and the full height of the trees or breadth of the boulders.

There’s a song I came across in college (which is getting increasingly long ago at a rather alarming rate…it’s probably a decade ago now and that in itself is terrifying!), about Canada which could also very easily apply to Cragside – I was certainly humming it to myself as I continued round!

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Rocks and trees and trees and rocks and rocks and trees and trees and rocks and waterrrrrrrr! All present on a rather grand scale! The rhododendrons weren’t out yet, apparently they’re very impressive when they’re in bloom, they certainly have a lot of them there, but I also suspect in full growth mode they probably would have blocked a lot of the view and other scenery so I didn’t mourn their budding condition!

I crossed the finish line in 1:06; not a pb time but pretty respectable for me – and at the sort of pace I’m aiming to at least hit the flat parts of Kielder at so I’m happy with that ๐Ÿ™‚ I wasn’t pushing it at all, I held myself back on the long downhill to the finish not wanting to flog it for this one at all. I really found my headspace again on this run – which I really needed as I’ve been struggling with my mindset for a few runs lately and it’s good to know that going into the marathon my last run memories are peaceful, steady and bang on where I wanted to be even with a long hill. I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say I found Cragside tough – but a big contributor to that may be my mindset; that hill and elevation didn’t feel anything like as bad when I was doing them as they look in the mapping profile! My pace slowed down about a minute in mile 4 (no surprises there!) but I really didn’t find it a struggle. It’s definitely one I’d consider doing next year ๐Ÿ™‚

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