Blue Runnings

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

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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This is my race – and I am equal to it

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Followers of my Facebook page will know that I have been somewhat absent for several weeks – since the end of August in fact. This has mainly been because I have not been up to much. There would have been several weeks of alternating ‘cycled route 1’ and ‘ran short route 2’ over and over again, combined with me still moaning about the heat and lamenting that the cooler months weren’t here yet. And that gets boring very fast. For me and you both. I also spent the second half of September playing host to a lovely cold bug which still insists on being my constant companion even now – but at least I don’t need to carry around his sidekick Bodyweight-in-Tissues, I just frequently hack and cough in the beautifully elegant way with which I do all things I undertake.

Knowing the Kielder 10k was coming up, about 3 weeks ago I wanted to make sure I was getting comfortable with the 10k distance again, so I headed out hoping to repeat the 7 miles J and I had done from my house down towards Swalwell on the Derwent Walk. I had a nice steady pace of about 10:30-11 min miles I was quite happy with right up until the 5 mile mark when it dropped right off as my shoes started to rub. I don’t know if this is summer adding injury to insult – I’ve had blisters in the same place with three different pairs of trainers and three different styles of socks if I do more than a couple of miles. Guess I just get glamorously sweaty feet! I did make the 10k in an ok-ish summer time so I made my peace with that, and then Mr Cold moved in and I did absolutely nothing at all for the 2 weeks coming up to the race in the deseparate hope he would move out and find a new friend. He seems to have sent all his brothers and sisters out to visit all my friends, but he’s staying for now.

I’ve missed running while I’ve been hosting, and it’s shown in how tetchy I’ve been getting about things at work – it’s been a lot harder to keep things in their boxes and not take things personally. Working at Tesco’s or Starbucks has been looking very tempting sometimes! Or, you know, just being a full-time bum! I think I’m fully qualified already for this position but P says no because blah blah mortgage blah blah money blah blah sensible grown-up boring stuff.

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Gateshead Trail 10k 2016

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The Gateshead Trail 10k turned three this year, and I was lucky enough to get wind of it the first year it was running (this was before I went on a race-booking bender in 2015 and booked every race under the half-marathon within a 200 mile radius), and have made sure I’ve been booked in every year since. It’s a relatively flat trail race within 10 miles of my house, and covering ground that I do on various routes through the rest of the year. With 2 short-ish hills and good quality mixed paths it’s a good intro to trail running without the need for fancy shoes or a degree of multi-terrain balance!

I’ve been doing my usual anti-social summer running where I hide away from all social running sessions and sneak out at mega-early times or in bad weather hunting for cool and having a mental strop at how slow I am when it’s hot 🙂 It was therefore really nice to catch up with several of my running friends from Run England and the Blackhill Bounders who were also running this one – I haven’t seen some of them in ages and it was good to see some familiar faces.

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F and I parked up at the Cricket Club this time – there’s a lot of parking at Blaydon Rugby Club for race participants, but there’s also a lot of people who use it and last year I got there early enough to make sure I got parked and took a book – for both the wait at the start and the end – there’s normally a massive queue to leave and it takes a while to get out. The parking at the Cricket Club still had spaces even when we left – without having to wait to get out, and was only 10 mins up the road at a walk – a good warm-up/cooldown and opportunity for a chat so I’ll definitely be doing this again next year!

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Butterwick 10k 2016

Today was a repeat run of one of last year’s – my third repeat of the year – which considering how many races I did last year by now is almost impressive in itself! J and I went to the Butterwick Hospice 10k last year, and enjoyed it despite finding the route very challenging – those hills! – so it was one the definitely made the calendar for this year.

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We had quite a few walk breaks last year as there were some rather serious hills, particularly at the start. They’d changed the start and finish points this year, which slightly modified the route. It felt like the starting hill was longer, but not actually steeper – the elevation graph shows different and we netted out at the same height, but the difference is that this time we made it all the way up without stopping! We came back down the hill and crossed the ford at the bottom – which we’d both forgotten about – WITHOUT getting wet shoes! Hurrah!

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It was around this point that I discovered my shoes were starting to rub…maybe 3-4km in? I’ve worn my Cascadia’s several times before – they’ve done nearly 150 miles with me without this problem, through sand, mud and sunshine, so having them rub was a bit frustrating. Maybe it was my socks? I don’t know. Annoyingly I’d nearly put my road-runners on but decided that no, I’d paid good money for trail shoes for exactly this sort of race so I should wear them. No point stopping to check, such things don’t get better being looked at and we had a race to finish!

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Washington Bottoms Up Cup 2016

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I was originally down to do the Durham Coastal Half Marathon today, and looking at the photos I am definitely going to be doing this next year as it looks right up my street. This year however I decided I was not fit enough right now to be trying to do a tough terrain half marathon (320 steps and no flat bits!) right now and entered myself in for the Bottoms Up Cup at Washington, which I did in its inaugural year last year and quite enjoyed. It’s a club-run organised by Washington RC, and was well attended this year, with I think 80-ish runners present.

It’s been cold in the mornings all week, and often foggy, so of course today while it started off cloudy it burned off before the race start to a ridiculously sunny day in much the same way it did for the Washington Trail 10k a few weeks ago. I was a little more prepared this morning having actually bothered to check the weather forecast before getting dressed, and determining very rapidly that shorts would be a sensible idea even if I needed a jumper in the morning before the race start.

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I woke up rather earlier than I would have liked this morning dreaming of Dun Niffelem and ice giants (don’t ask) so had my tired head on when I set off with as many trainers in the car as J normally takes when she’s racing! I was wearing my Cascadia trail shoes, having removed all the bits of grit and sand which were stuck in the holes in the insoles and I found last time I wore them for a run with J last week after they gave me a blister from bits of rock rubbing against my feet! I hadn’t completely committed to wearing them so also threw in my other road-running shoes, and a pair of shoes for afterwards. As it happens, I did wear them and they were fine 🙂 Checking my insoles has become a regular part of my pre-run prep…particularly if I’m going more than 10k – I’m always checking for balls of cat hair, cotton buds (presents from said cat) and build-ups of grit and sand which you don’t notice when you first put them on but boy do they start to rub after a mile or two! I don’t normally actually have to check IN the insole though – these were embedded in the little drilled through holes.

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Washington Trail 10k 2016

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I must admit 2016 is not sticking in my mind as being the best for races, but it must also be said that none of it has been down to the races and their organisers themselves! With the exception of the Cragside 10k, not a single one this year has gone to plan for me!

The plan for the Washington Trail, which J and I did last year so I did have some inclining as to what the route and terrain was going to be like, was the same as for Cragside – slow and steady and pootle round going steady regardless of terrain. The WT10k is a moderately hilly course. The problem with this came with the weather – a foggy morning which burnt off around about start time to give 20 degrees of baking sunshine. Heat. I hate heat. I hate doing anything in the heat. You could seriously bake a full English breakfast on my face after about a mile of trying to run in the summer. Ok, I may be exaggerating very slightly. Only slightly though. Point is, me + running + summer do not get along!

J may or may not have noticed, when we were prepping for the GNR last September, I didn’t really do many sociable runs leading up to and pretty much kept to myself. I didn’t go into it at the time but I was really struggling – 5k was a fight which was incredibly demoralising for someone who a few months before was getting comfortable with doing 10M on a weekend. I really worried about getting round. This summer, I’m a bit more prepared in knowing what to expect – I found it a lot harder going out in the summer, but actually was matching my previous Spring pace (even if it didn’t feel like it), and it meant I reaped the benefits when the temperature dropped again. Just gotta get through it to autumn again! A slightly sad countdown when it’s only May and summer’s just beginning…

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