Blue Runnings

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

Dark Skies Kielder

on 1 April 2016

Having  seen all the photos from last year’s race, where the runners set off in blue skies and sunshine, and were treated to some fantastic night skies when the sun had set, it honestly never occurred to me when I booked this race that it might rain. Cue Storm Katie. Normally I don’t watch the weather forecast before, well, anything; looking out the window is good enough for me! The week preceding the race I was watching on a daily basis, praying it would improve – it actually got worse every time I checked it. This was the forecast the morning before race day:


Looks like it might clear up for the majority of the run time (approx. 17:00-23:00), but it was basically mostly drizzle and light rain the entire time on the hourly forecast as the race got closer. Those wind figures never budged either <_< lovely; just the type of evening everyone looks forwards to!

P & I set off up to Kielder mid-afternoon (1 hr nap squeezed in!), my parents and midgets having kindly come to visit for the weekend and cheer me on were to follow a bit later for the offset. We picked up my race number and t-shirt – not everyone did; there were 42 who didn’t bother to turn up for registration – I can’t believe they all had personal circumstances come up at short notice so suspect the weather to have been the primary detractor!

It was drizzling when we set off, here we have some of my lovely family looking rather soggy at the start-line! (Yes guys, Hippie caught you too! There’s no escape!)


To me, once we set off, it didn’t feel as wet as it looks in this picture – more of a misty drizzle and I was more concerned with how warm I was getting wearing a fully sealed waterproof top and hat, so I stashed my waterproof on my backpack elastics and put my gloves on – my hands at least were rather chilly! I’ve run in drizzle before, and stayed warm as long as I keep moving so I didn’t really think anything of it, but this is the start of the whole race going downhill for me (unlike the route which I swear managed to be uphill 90% of the time!).

I was feeling pretty calm and steady as we headed off to the Northern most tip of the reservoir; I didn’t get dragged along with the speedies and just concentrated on a steady jog off to “the hilly bits”. All was well.


I only look slightly ridiculous with my hat under my headtorch and over my headphones!

I got round the first 7 miles moderately steady; walking up a few shorter, steeper bits but pootling steadily along for the most part, munching a small square of homemade flapjack about every 3 miles (if I can figure out how much of each thing I normally throw in the pan I may share the recipe sometime!). Around this time the rain started getting a bit more like rain instead of drizzle. I’d ditched my glasses due to lack of windscreen wipers by mile 1, which should have been warning enough, but I finally put my waterproof back on. I’d completely and utterly underestimated how wet I’d got with the drizzle. I was doing fine, until the sun started to go down and the temperature took a decided drop. Even with my non-breathable jacket on, I felt like I was wearing a soggy wet-suit and had rather chilly arms.

I’d worn my Goretex trainers (not the shoes I have been wearing on my long training runs but I have done a fair few miles in them before); if I show my regular trainers a puddle they soggy my socks and give me blisters. Breathable is not always desirable! Hitting the occasional muddy puddle was no problem at all in the first hour or so, but as the rain picked up, there was enough water running down my legs that my shoes actually started to fill up. Goretex as well as not letting water in, doesn’t let it out. Now I had wetsuit clothes, and wetsuit boots. Decidedly squelchy.

I’d settled into a pattern of walking the big uphills, and running down again, and several other runners around me were doing the same thing. When we were approaching the Peninsula of Lost Hope, the wind picked up and I started to get really cold. There was a really long incline I was walking up, shoving as much flapjack as I had in my pockets into my mouth in a desperate bid to give myself the energy to warm up a bit when I next jogged, which did work but also meant I was rather more full of sugary stuff than I was going for! Sloshy clothes and a sloshy tummy!

I call it the Peninsula of Lost Hope, and had been warned about it by some walkers from work, because it completely messes with your distance – you think it’s not far to the dam, and I could see the orange lights of buildings on the other side of the lake, then took a diversion away from the main lakeside for a while, and when we made it back down again, the lights looked like they were in exactly the same place as 20 minutes before! You’ll spot it on the map…


I got to the checkpoint in the carpark at the start of the dam at mile 16 and passed it, pulling my space blanket out my bag (I was very grateful for the compulsory kit list – I probably wouldn’t have bothered with the hat, gloves or blanket otherwise and I definitely needed them!). I reached the start of the dam, unable to get the blanket around myself because the wind kept twisting it into more of a scarf, and decided that if I was cold enough to need the space blanket, I was probably too cold to be trying to walk/jog another 10 miles in high winds by open water. The wind had at least blown the rain clouds away so I saw a few stars, but there was a nearly full moon lighting everything so only the brightest were visible.

I went back to the checkpoint and spoke to the marshalls, who inserted me into one of the cars and whacked the heating up for me. I had to wait for the rest of the runners to come through, and I wasn’t as near to the back as I’d thought I was – there were at least 20 people after me, and I’d not realised but I was about 25 minutes off the check-point close time so still on track for coming in comfortably within the race cut-off time even if I walked the rest. I did consider carrying on – but even after half an hour in the car I was still only tepid at best. I had no extra layers but my foil blanket, which would cover my legs or my shoulders, but not both. I tried texting my parents and P to let them know I’d pulled out, would be back earlier than I’d previously mentioned, and could they please bring my change of clothes – but I had no signal at all.

After everyone came through and the marshals had packed up the checkpoint, I got moved from the marshal’s 4×4, to the mountain rescue vehicle – crossing the carpark lost any warmth I’d gained, and very shortly after from there to a motorhome owned by some mountain rescue volunteers, as the 4×4 was heading off to the next checkpoint. I reached tepid again in the motorhome on the way back to basecamp, but it couldn’t pull all the way up to the building so there was a walk of about 700 yards to the door. Sitting for a while in cars meant that being outside again in my wet clothes made me absolutely freezing getting to the door. I couldn’t stop shaking. Still no signal, and no sign of P + Co. – they were at Leaplish still (the next checkpoint along from where I stopped) watching the runners go past after dinner and hoping to see me. I got in around 10pm, and the absolute earliest I’d told them to expect me was 22:30. I grabbed a really ‘gnat’s pee’, milky, sugary tea (I don’t actually like tea so basically just showed it a teabag) wanting something hot, and shivered at least half of it down my knees.

A pair of familiar faces came into the building: J & N had arrived to cheer me over the finish – and knew immediately something was wrong (for one thing, I shouldn’t have been there yet!). J gave me her fleece and I eventually started to warm up, stop shaking and feel a bit more human! They kept ducking out to the finish line to see if my family were here yet so I didn’t have to keep ducking back out into the cold. P & Co. did of course arrive, my parents having recognised J before she spotted them as I very kindly plaster her photo up all over the internet for her when she runs with me. I felt so much better having fresh, dry, warm clothes on and felt much more myself!

Mr J had been baking, so I got to fill up on yummy homemade cheese and onion scones (which make up for everything nomnomnom), and J & N had been very very sweet and spoiled me with a post-run present bag: everything you need for luxury hot chocolate, some bath salts, a really cool bracelet and 30 creme eggs! Thoroughly spoilt!


We all had hot chocolate when we got home, and the midgets thought they were in heaven getting marshmallows and whipped cream with it! I ate far too many of the creme eggs passing the bowl over the following days so took them into work – it still took a few days for the office to polish them off (I still helped…).

This run really did not go to plan at all. I still feel that if it hadn’t been for the weather and my complete lack of consideration for it in relation to the distance I was doing and the time I was doing it, I’d have got round one way or another. I don’t regret the decision to pull out when I did: I think I made the right call for the condition I was in. I’d have kept going if it had only been 2-4 more miles, but 10 would have made me a fair candidate for hyperthermia. After warming up again and a good night’s sleep, I don’t have as much as a sniffle (though I have got my first ever bruised toenail!), but I am a bit gutted I didn’t get round – and I missed the easier stretch! Easy is a relative term when Kielder is involved but still! It was my own fault due to poor decisions in the first few miles and I have to make my peace with that, learn from it and move on 🙂 As it is, I’ve got my first DNF (and I wasn’t the only one – there were 14 people didn’t make it round) but I’m still a long way further on than the 42 DNS’ers (did not start!) and got 16 miles round the tougher half of the reservoir. I’m taking that as a good effort even if I didn’t get where I was aiming for. I’ll do the other 10 miles another time! 244 people did make it all the way to the finish, a tremendous effort especially considering the weather!

One of the things I’ve been really grateful for, other than obviously everyone who came to meet me at the end of the race (you are all amazing and I love you all! Thank you!), is the number of people who made the effort to get in touch the next morning and find out how it went (you know who you are) – and there was not one comment about ‘failing’; only sympathy and support for the next opportunity – plenty more runs in the future. The running community is nothing but supportive, and I think you do enough races and there’ll be a few that don’t go according to plan! 2016’s so far not shaping up to be a great race year for me…missed one due to illness, overdid it before another, one was fine, and now a DNF. Plenty more races though right?!

I’ve definitely added some more snippets of knowledge and experience to the arsenal doing this race: respect the weather, put up with being hot rather than wet if you’re far from home and a change of clothes, know your limits, take the right kit to be able to support yourself (there’ll be a space blanket at least in my waterpack for all my long runs now), and be grateful for having such good friends.



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