Blue Runnings

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

Washington Duathlon

A few years ago, despite being just about able to float in water and having been on a bike twice in the previous 10 years, I signed up for a Go-TRI event in Prudhoe just to see what it was all about. I came away with two lasting impressions: various exercise segments being comfortably within your grasp does not mean they will remain so when you’ve shoved them all together, and I do not like swimming.

My main aim for 2018 was to try new things and have fun with exercise, so when I saw a novice DUathlon in the local area, I was down to give it a go – and why not drag someone else along for the ride?! I really like the ‘intro’ level events that some clubs hold to get people into sport – they are much less daunting than signing up for a ‘full’ event when you have no idea if you’ll be able to do it all and are still shaky on what’s involved with ‘Transition’ and really don’t want to be shouted at by a marshall for making the biggest faux pas in the world ever in complete ignorance.

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There were two events on today – a Novice event, and double the distance for the Sprint.  Being undeniably new to this, B and I had signed up for the Novice event; a run of 2.7km (2 laps), cycle of 10km (2 laps), and a final run of 1.35km (1 lap).

When you turn up at an event like this, the first thing they do when you register is cover you in numbers. Everywhere. You know when you go to a theme park and there’s small children with bracelets or writing on them with their responsible adult’s details on incase they get lost? It’s like there’s an assumption to do one of these events there must be something special about you, and thus they make it obvious you are undertaking such an event. This way, if some kindly soul takes pity on you cycling in circles round and round Sainsbury’s carpark, they will at least know which way to point you to return you to your kind. We had pen numbers on our arms and calves (I still haven’t got them off two washing attempts later), stickers for our helmets and our bikes, a number bib for pinning to our belts incase the smaller ones just weren’t obvious enough and a house-arrest convict style ankle bracelet which is allegedly for timing but may or may not contain a GPS tracker… It is claimed these are to stop people stealing your bike – it must match your numbers, your bib – it must match your body art, and your helmet – which must also match all of the other things. We know the truth 😛

We succeeding in levitating our bikes ready in transition (there was a fence too close so they didn’t touch the floor!) and were about as ready as we were ever going to be to set off.

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It is a well-known strategy for particularly longer races that you find a nice bum and follow it. We hadn’t been running for long when we were passed by several of the people doing the Sprint (and well, compared to us – sprinting), one of them with a very…distinctive bottom?! We dubbed him Window Bum Man as for some reason he had a circle of netting in the back of his tri-suit…

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Hello! Welcome to Blue Runnings.

I run distances between 5k and half marathon, predominently around the North-East of England over a mix of terrains. I prefer trail and coastal runs, but you’ll also spot me at a few road runs if the setting’s right! If you’re looking for reviews of a particular race, please check the link below (or on the right) for a full list of races I have participated in and reviewed since 2015. These include GPX files, maps and elevation data.

Race Reviews

I am also an erratic attendee of various parkrun events; if you’re looking for information relating to the parkruns I have attended, please see the separate link below.

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You can keep up with the latest site updates, or just what I’m doing from my own fitness perspective on my facebook page – I regularly run (obviously!), cycle (badly!), hike and attend local Kangoo Jump classes. Irregularly, I’ll try whatever’s going!

www.facebook.com/bluerunningsNE

New for 2019 – an Excel sheet available to download to help you keep on track with your mileage targets; whether you’re running, walking, cycling, swimming, kayaking, you name it. I used a much more clunky version when I was trying to hit 500 miles in 2018 and tidied it all up nice and pretty for you. You can download it from my Dropbox account by the link below, or from the menu on the right 🙂

Mileage Tracker

Please get in touch either through the comments, the contact form or my facebook page if you’ve got any questions or feedback, I’d love to hear from you.

Sarah

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Gibside Night Run 2018

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I ran Gibside Night Run for the first time in 2015, and since then it’s made the list of ‘races I want to run’ every year – but this is the first year I’ve actually made it back: I missed one of the intermediary years due to illness, and another due to it clashing with another night race J had booked us all on to. This year, I managed to sucker B into attending me as a late entry and we both headed off to Gibside with G as official bagholder for the fee of 1 post-race pizza!

 

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I’d remembered some stretches suprisingly well given it’s 3 years since I last did it, and had blissfully forgotten the length of some of the hills, and the steepness of the second-to-last one! I’ve run at Gibside enough times to know there’s always a hill near the start – it doesn’t matter which way you go, unless you’re just doing the Avenue and back you are going to hit a hill.

There wasn’t a huge amount of chatting up the first loooong hill, but we both made it to the top maintaining a steady jog, and passing several people who’d dropped to a walk from about halfway up. One of the great things about hill training and having pretty much any local run you try to do featuring at least one hill in it somewhere is you get to be pretty unphased unless they’re particularly long and/or steep. It was a marked difference in approach to last time I did this race, where I definitely walked every one of the uphills after the first few steps up them.

The one thing that wasn’t different was how much I enjoyed it – this is very much a fun run; it’s not chocka with club runners, it’s popular with families, walkers, people with dogs, you name it! It’s very low pressure and at 6km is a distance you can either push yourself over or just kick back and enjoy it.

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Pier To Pier 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.

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Sunderland 10k 2017

I last (and first!) ran this race in 2015 when it had a slightly different route starting and finished at the Stadium of Light. It was absolutely bucketing it down and J & I were soaked in our bin bags before we’d even got from the car park to the stadium! It was very quickly clear (or not) that I was wasting my time trying to see with my glasses on, they were pocketed and I saw very little of Sunderland. I remember the grey wall of a battleship thing and the waves crashing over the walls at the seafront at Roker and lots of soggy clothes. J enjoyed it enough to go back again last year, when I opted for donning my Terrible Photographer hat and stalking her and some of the Bounders round the course.

This year, I can happily say that we were onto a winner right from the off in that it wasn’t bucketing it down with rain before we’d even got there. We had some new company in the form of A & G this year and a merry bunch we made on the way into Sunderland.

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You got free stuff before the race even started for this one – the race pack included a buff so there were many people wearing them around the course. There was a competition to win a watch for the most inventive donning of said buff; none of us were partaking but I definitely think Ms Rosie was in with a shot 🙂

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Washington Trail 10k – 2017

The Trail Outlaws organise a series of ‘Urban Trail’ races from 10k to half marathon around the North-East (and if you fancy it, right up to the 100+ miles marker not for some of us mere mortals!), and this race around Washington is rapidly becoming a regular feature in my running calendar – so when I heard J was doing again this year (straight after night shift she was that keen!), I couldn’t leave her to go by herself! It also meant I might have half a chance of keeping up with her if I caught her when she would be already too tired for any sane person to consider going for a 10k run in the hills…

I don’t know if one of the Trail Outlaws guys has a deal with the weather for this one, but I don’t think I’ve done it when it hasn’t been blue skies and sunshine, or not far off it! This is appreciated in one respect because the riverside and the woods look fantastic in the sunshine when the flowers are coming out, and it makes you really appreciate the shade, but it also means that you cook when you’re going up the hills in the first half which are a bit more exposed…

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There are several loops to this race, passing through a common marshalling and refreshments area where there’s always a ready supply of drinks – water and cola this time – and if you’re lucky there might still be some jelly babies left even by your third time through! There are always several marshalls here handing out drinks, and it’s great to see the kids getting involved handing out beakers and giving power-up high-fives to all who pass through – no matter how many times they’ve seen you already! You come downhill from the start to join the river and start your first lap after passing through this area (Time 1), heading up through the woods and towards the main road before coming back down again to the clearing (Time 2). From here, you head out across a footbridge, up a hill (there’s quite a few of them) and across the stile at the top.

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North Tyneside 10k – 2017

I missed the Tyneside 10k last year – don’t remember why – but in 2015 when I ran it I achieved my 10k pb and was absolutely over the moon. This year, I know I’m not in the same place fitness-wise (though it is coming back!) and was not expecting to come in anywhere near last time’s 1h2m-something but under 1h10m would have been nice!

There’s a couple of hills near the start of this one – a gentle gradient from the start until descending to the Fish Quay followed by a sharp climb to leave it again! Down to the promenade and the last steep hill takes you up to Tynemouth Priory – then it’s follow the seafront until you find St. Mary’s Lighthouse about 4 miles away.

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As I was going more for ‘get round’ than for a time, I just focused on staying steady around this one. I’m feeling so tired this weekend I had a ‘maybe I should just drive home again’ moment in the carpark while waiting for the start; within a few paces of starting off though I just told myself ‘you’re moving now, you might as well get on with it until the finish!’ and did exactly that! I’m pleased with how steady my pace came through at – I was just working on getting round without walking even if that meant slowing on the hills, but I haven’t lost much pace with either gradient or distance so I’m taking that as a win. I even managed to pick the pace up to the finish line – ‘are we going to go for it to the finish?’ ‘well, we’re here now so we might as well!’ I spent a possibly unhealthy amount of this race talking to myself in my head…

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I was greatly relieved this is a race which always awards a t-shirt – it had been rather windy the whole way round, which is fine when you’re running but gets cold very quickly when you’ve stopped and I had a bus to stand around and wait for! I like the t-shirts this year; 2015’s was a white one with a similar image and the same route map on the back but last year’s was a neon green which tends to split the crowd – some people love bright running gear, others don’t wear it at all; I’ve never worn my marigold yellow t-shirt from my first half marathon at Liverpool just because yellow is not my thing, and I think I’ve worn the neon orange Kielder 10k one from last year only a few times.

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Mildly warmer with my t-shirt on and not cold enough to consider donning the socks on my hands (it wouldn’t be the first time!), I wandered down to St. Mary’s Lighthouse proper for the obligatory post-run finish line selfie (selfies are something I still haven’t got the hang of).

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I really recommend walking down to the lighthouse…not just as a cooldown, but because there’s often a fresh doughnuts van down there and they make an excellent post-run refuel – so if you’re intending to take nothing but your car keys, make sure you stick a few quid in your pocket for some well-earned treats! I’d just like it on record that on this particular occasion, I didn’t eat them all – though I definitely have previous!!!

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You might have noticed an unusual addition to my running headwear in the pre-doughnut selfie (and the video file at the top!)…I was recently gifted with a trail cam from my wonderful parents and have been trying it out in the hopes of being able to start producing ‘Runner’s View’ videos of the races I’m going to, but I’m still working on the best way to wear it! Wearing it on my hat is comfortable enough (certainly no worse than my monster headtorch) and gives a high perspective over other runners’ heads if the race is busy – but also makes for a bouncy video! Maybe I’ll try the chest harness next time…watch this space!

GPX data for this race can be downloaded from my Dropbox page below:

GPX file for North Tyneside 10k 2017

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Run Nation – Cragside 10k 2017

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Well, that’s officially my first race event of the year done (excluding cross-country at Herrington in January)! It’s bang-on 5 months since my last race at Sunderland for the People’s Run 2 Remember last November.

I made the decision a few weeks ago not to do the Trail Outlaws Dark Skies Half Marathon last weekend, as my stamina just wasn’t up to 14 miles and I knew they had a waiting list so I wanted to give someone else the opportunity rather than just deciding not to go on the day. It looks like everyone had a great time, and the weather was a lot kinder than last time I was there, but I think I made the right call for me – I need to work on my 10k game for the moment.

With the Cragside 10k being the week after Dark Skies this year, I hadn’t signed up incase my legs weren’t working after the half marathon, but clearing that from my diary meant this was an option again. I really enjoyed it last year – I was in a really good headspace where I was just going for training run in a fantastic setting and not going for a time; just determined to chill out and enjoy running somewhere I wouldn’t normally – a feeling I was really hoping to replicate this year.

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We got there about 08:30, and were probably in the last 15 mins not to be crammed in. After picking up my number, P went back to the car to get my visor for me while I went for the compulsory pre-race pee (!) and said it was chaos. We’d overheard one of the race organisers saying it was busy last year and they had an extra 100 runners this year so it was going to be incredibly tight. Personally, not sure why if you know you’re that tight on parking you take on another 100 people without maybe having a parking backup and shuttle buses or something but I am fortunately not in the position of having to make decisions like that 🙂 If you’re looking at doing this race next year – get there early and carshare if possible to avoid a headache. I got there for number pick-up opening time (about 8am) last year and breezed in – we were about 08:30 ish this morning and it was definitely getting busy. Race start time isn’t until 09:30 so it can be easy to be deceived into thinking you’ve got ages!

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North Eastern Harrier League – Herrington Park Cross Country

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Grey skies did greet us when we woke in the morn,

The rain already fallen where we soon would sojourn.

We packed up our trail shoes, our spikes and our wellies,

Loaded our bags with sandwiches, wraps and fruit jellies.

To Herrington Park, mis-remembered as flat

Already deep in mud, by the tents we did chat.

Awaiting our times to head off to the start,

Eyeing up all the hills with a faltering heart.

Two loops for the ladies and three for the men,

Over hills, through the woods and the grass-covered fens.

The grass is a bog; on mud and weeds do we slide,

Jumping logs in the wood, ground like glue either side.

More than one lost a shoe, others dignity too,

The race almost as long as the the queue for the loo!

Finish we all did, we all made it round,

Like mud-covered champions to the tents we did bound.

There we ate all the cake, the bakewell tart and the sweets,

Changed out spikes for trainers, donned clean socks on our feet.

Home to fill all the bathtubs with mud from legs and from shoes,

We’ll be clean until Thornley Hall Farm plays its ruse!

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Run 2 Remember Sunderland 2016

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Run 2 Remember has rolled around again raising money for 4 major military personnel supporting charities. This was high on J’s list of favourite runs last year so it had to make the calendar this year – and they had a raffle and tombola! Who doesn’t love a race where you can win things without even running?

This is the second year we’ve run this one, and it’s setting a trend for sunshine, even if there was a bit of a shower on the way there. 🙂 We also had another friendly face we recognised (we didn’t know anyone except Hippie the photographer and his family last year) in the appearance of R at the start line! J was obviously getting into the zone right from the gathering at the starting banner, and as we started off she shot off looking for ‘space’ and I don’t think actually heard me when I attempted to start a conversation with her as we set off. Ironically after a few hundred yards when I’d just decided to set my own steady pace and leave her to it, I actually had all the space around me, while J 50 yards in front was still in a pack of people. There was the most enormous buzzard overhead on the starting half-mile and J (usually a birdwatcher) was completely oblivious to it.

R caught me up as we reached the bottom of the hill and prepared to set out along the field to the lake, and given how close behind me he finished (we’ll come to that later!) presumably stayed not far behind me for the rest of the race though I was blissfully unaware of this and pootling along in my own little world. I saw The Buzzard, many gulls, swans, ducks and heard something making an odd noise at the bottom end of the lake, though I didn’t see the owner of the little voice…

J was getting an increasing lead by this point – I was waving at her from the other side of the lake as she started her second lap ahead of me – and the irony of doing the same thing the year before when I was finishing my second lap and she was starting hers was not lost upon me! I caught a glimpse of a pink-sided ninja vest as I joined the straight along the field and she was reaching the end of it, and that was it until the finishing straight at the end of the hill! Last year, it was me that was ahead and I must confess to sneaking a walk in on the long hill back up to the finish line, while J (very indignant when she found this out) had kept a steady pace up and managed to make it up the whole thing. I don’t think I’m capable of ever being quite as stubborn as J when it comes to much, but I did decide to myself that I was going to get into the J-zone and repeat her steady all-the-way-round approach of last year and make it up the hill, still pootling along.

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