Blue Runnings

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

Pier To Pier 2017

on 14 May 2017

It’s Pier to Pier time again! I ran this in 2015 and spectated in 2016 due to illness, so it was good to be out running it again. Last time I left my car at the start and caught the metro back when I’d finished as I had no idea where I was going at either end, but this year I took advantage of the coaches which had been enlisted to ferry people who had parked at the finish back to the start line in good time for everything kicking off. I’d definitely use this service again if not getting the Bounders coach as it was very smooth – I found parking easily (not so in 2016 when I was meeing J at the finish as it was full of presumably runner’s cars!) and didn’t have to wait at all for a coach.

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The start of this race is on the sand by the pier at South Shields – and more than one person had to empty their shoes of sand from crossing the loose stuff before the start time. I’d opted for my Goretex trail shoes – the pink canoes – and they did keep the bulk of the sand out – I’d picked up some by the end of the race just from what was kicked up over the top as I went round, but I wasn’t aware of it being there – sand blisters are not pleasant and are to be avoided if possible!

I ran with G for this one and we had a good natter and a birdwatch on the way round. The long sand stretch at the start had us both feeling very heavy-calved very quickly which was not a reassuring start to a 7 mile-ish run! There are three routes you can take across the Leas when you leave the beach, I suspect the middle or road ones are the fastest, but we opted for the coastal path just for the view – the sun kept just lighting the wave tips of a very calm sea and the cliffs were gorgeous.

The first part of this course is deceptively hilly, and it took until about mile 2 to get into a comfortable stride – the route flattens out across the cliffs, and then you have a longer downhill across the clifftop to Souter Lighthouse and the water station. From Souter all the way to the finish, with only one or two small blips, it was blessedly downhill or flat.

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It’s difficult to judge your progress by landmarks on this route, as there aren’t really many…you go across winding clifftops with higher bushy edges and not much visibility of the course ahead for the first part, then you can see a tower building and a lighthouse. The tower is now a restaurant or something and there are steps down to Marsden Beach (there were so many points along here where I was itching to go down to the beach to explore the cliffs or go for a paddle!) and the lighthouse is Souter Lighthouse and marks the halfway point between South Shields and Sunderland piers.

Not far past Souter, you can actually see the finishing pier and another lighthouse just before it at Roker Promenade – and while I do love having it in sight it was still quite a long way off and it was difficult to see how winding the route was ahead! We were still following the cliff paths all the way until Roker Prom starts where we rejoined civilisation, and every time you came out round another bluff it was hard to tell if the finish was any closer!

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Even when on the solid tarmac along Roker seafront, it was hard to judge how much further it was to go – the finish line is cruelly out of sight behind yet another lighthouse-type building and once you’re round that you’re dropped back down onto the sand again to drag heavy feet towards the finish. Apart from leaving the beach to join the clifftop path, and leaving the cliffs to join the prom, all the paths were well packed down dry dune paths or tarmac – so there weren’t too many hazard areas – somewhat meanly though the finish line was assembled on damp sand that was similar in looseness depth to a riding school and liberally scattered with large rocks, so my view of the finish straight was of the ground while I tried very hard not to fall flat on my face in front of everyone!

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We did finish in one piece and collected the infamous Strollers’ goody bag – there’s normally some interesting things in this particular race bag though J was most upset that last year there was no medal – instead there was a glass plaque with a lighthouse on as a memento; something they repeated this year.

Also contained in the swag bag were….another bag! If I’m not mistaken it’s a roll-to-seal smelly clothes bag for saving everyone else from your stinky washing when you’ve been to the gym or swimming – a must have for every exercise fan’s collection! There were the usual runner-friendly nibbles of a Mars bar and a bag of crisps, a bracelet thing (to be added to my collection on the looroll holder in the bathroom!), and also a Pier to Pier thermal mug for all your tea/coffee/soup requirements.

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I really enjoy this race – it’s one I look out for each year when it comes up as it always sells out before the day, and for £22 you get a well-organised and well marshalled route with a fab swag bag and the knowledge you’re supporting one of your local running clubs – what’s not to love?!

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You can download the GPX route data for this course from my Dropbox account by following the link below:

GPX data on Dropbox

For 2015’s write-up, have a look here.

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