Blue Runnings

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

Best Laid Plans

“Hello! Can you come and pick me up from the Burnopfield parking and bring two carrier bags please?”

“What type of carrier bags?”

“Plastic – I found a new bog and I’m very muddy and smell bad.”

“Ok, see you in five.”

My hubby is a blessedly tolerant man – especially when his wife insists on tracking half the countryside through the car and house on a not infrequent basis, and he doesn’t run himself!

Last week was the Greener Miles Team Virtual Hill Climb Challenge – 10 runners, 5M + 5F, 30 mins, how much cumulative elevation can you get. I chose Ebchester bank, hilled my little heart out, waved the Bounders flag and died for the rest of the week. We came 8th out of 37 teams – very respectable I feel and I’m proud to have been part of it. 🙂


This weekend, it’s the ‘Hutchy’s Full Tilt 30 Mins’ – same team set up, how far can you go, highest cumulative distance wins – so terrain friendly routes on the list! This time the Bounders have a whopping five teams entered. Some people are heading to the local track, down the Derwent walk, anywhere that’s flat or downhill! In my wisdom, I decided I would do a new route I’d worked out from an Ordnance Survey map of the area. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t run down the Dene (where I always get my fastest mile) and down the Derwent Walk towards Rowlands Gill, but in all honesty it didn’t occur to me! Brain must still be fuddled from last week – I know it wiped my knees out!

My new route is not complicated. On paper. And I’m not usually bad with maps. Today is going a long way to discrediting that statement. I went off piste three times from my intended route – in all cases knowing where I was, how to get home – not technically ‘lost’ but definitely not where I’d intended to be!

The first long downhill stretch of my run is one I have done several times before as part of routes in both directions – so off we go. Someone has shut all the gates so I’m handicapped by six stiles needing to be crossed by the time I reach the bottom. Looking at my decided outfit it may also have been a style handicap as I don’t think I could have picked more clashing colours if I tried! Think I’m only missing purple!


I know I have to turn right at the bottom before the farm and then the path will turn left. Turns out there’s two right turns. I want the second one. Who knew right? So, I end up continuing on familiar paths thinking maybe there’s a left turn I’ve just not noticed before (there’s not) and get to the bottom where the stream is and turn left on a path I’ve been meaning to explore for a while, even though I know from the maps that it heads to Dipton – uphill – and not the way I want to go today.

I end up stepping-stone jumping across the stream (we’re about halfway through our 30 mins by this point) and the track starts to creep up again. It’s turning into a Trail Outlaws type route – I’m dodging collapsed tree roots and jumping several other downed trunks. There is for some reason several more of those weird lettered headstones I’ve seen over Ebchester Woods in the middle of this little wood (with a ‘P’ on this time!). I end up looking out at this and know exactly where I’ve come out from the Red Kite Trail Race two years ago. That path goes to Dipton – not, as mentioned before, where I want to be going today.


I turn left, maybe there’s a path that turns off towards Burnopfield round that bend? There’s not – and being at the bottom of a valley is not the best place to be trying to do a speed challenge as it’s all uphill from here. I turn round thinking I’ll just start my 30 mins again when I get back to the farm and find the right downwards path – I have confirmed my error as I’ve photos of the map on my phone. I head back in a more leisurely manner, taking photos as I go of the path I’ve already covered but leaving the clock running figuring I might as well enjoy the scenery and get a breather for now.

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Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can feel the very pulse of a community. For the running world, you can touch on it locally simply by spectating at a race – you don’t even have to run – and watch the fliers, and the plodders; the joy, the wonder, the pride, the pain and the struggle. A whole microcosm of human emotion will pass before you in even 15 short minutes. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 10k or a marathon. You won’t be able to help cheering complete strangers on and feeling part of something.

Rarely, something happens which allows you to feel the heartbeat of a national connection. In some small way you have to be part of it – even if you’re not mentally ‘there’ – or you know you’ll regret missing it.

I remember when Ben Smith of the 401 Challenge was running daily marathons around the country with people from local running clubs and communities – I’d missed him when he was in the North-East and he was working his way back down the country: Carlisle was the last weekend he would be within driving distance, and despite being on a low after my own marathon training earlier in the year, I knew I had to go. I’d seen the route and knew if I got to 5 miles, I’d be able to get back again via public transport or walking if it came to it. I went.

This month, it’s a more sombre reason the running world is pulling together: last Sunday was the London Marathon, and one runner not only didn’t make the finish line, they died in the attempt. Masterchef is one of very few TV shows P & I watch, so while it was hard reading stories about it, it was harder recognising the person featured – even though we’ve never met him. You watch a small part of someone’s journey doing something important to them and you feel a distant connection, an empathy with them. Matt Campbell had 3.7 miles left to complete the London Marathon when he collapsed; the running world’s response? Finish it for him while making donations to the charity he was fundraising for. People all over the country and further afield are running and walking 3.7 miles in Matt’s name. It won’t bring him back, but it is a powerful recognition and acknowledgement.

If you want to donate (the running’s optional!), you can find his JustGiving page for the Brathay Trust here.

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Flummoxed by Fauna

Firstly, ‘flummoxed’ is an excellent word.

I am fortunate enough to live a stone’s throw from the countryside, and I decided today instead of always following the road routes that usually tie-in with bits I’ve done with Run England or join onto driven bits, I’d try mapping a route over the fields and go for more of a trail route and hopefully find a new short-ish multi-terrain route to train over without having to drive somewhere. Seems a bit of a waste of fuel driving somewhere when you’ve got fields and woods visible from the house and yet I never go there!

I had a look on the Ordnance Survey website – check out all these lovely paths to choose from over the fields!


I picked a nice circular route, which when I put it on MapMyRun (which doesn’t show the paths on the maps but you can see them in aerial view) was a nice 3 miles from start to finish and had plenty of options for extending it in the future if I wanted to.

I was feeling all prepped for the slightly muggy day – I’d printed my maps out just incase I got a lost in the maze of tiny paths – there’s a few parallel ones etc. (not that it would have really mattered – I was never going to be hugely far from home). My parents got me a breathable fancy waterproof jacket for my birthday which I hadn’t really had opportunity to wear yet, so with risk of showers and not wanting to risk a cold I thought I’d wear that and a hat 🙂 All set and ready to go! Or so we thought…


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Marathon Training – Week 5

Another week down, and as I sit here this morning it’s actually my triceps that hurt more than my legs! This period from New Year to Easter and my first marathon run, is also my first attempt at writing and following a training plan for an ambitious target, and this week has been as much learning about myself, my limits and listening to my body as it has about cranking the miles out.


After J & I’s monster windy session last Sunday, I had Monday off and then headed out to Run England on Tuesday night. In myself I felt fine, pretty neutral, not ready to go zooming off the starting blocks but not dragging myself out the door either. My legs had other ideas; knees twingy and pace very slow for me for this session. With group 2 I’m usually near the front and manage 5 miles in the hour without too much hassle. This week, I really wondered if I was going to hit 3 I was that slow. It was only an hour out the door, but I found the session very humbling – I was obviously asking my body to do a little too much but bless its cotton socks it was still plodding along carrying me around to the finish again with every little bit of drive it could master.

I decided as I plodded along at the back of the group that I definitely needed a re-think for this week. I’d missed a full fortnight of gym sessions (all of them basically since I got my program set up) and that certainly wouldn’t be helping as I continued to push the distance up every weekend. There’s an important balance in any running venture between endurance and strength building, and I was doing a lot of one and very little of the other – which is a sure recipe for injury. I scrapped Wednesday’s training session. If I was struggling to potter about the roads then a hill session was just going to push me to exhaustion, and I did a home workout instead working through my core training sequence, an extra leg strengthening one and my normal weights one for my arms and legs. All low impact for my joints and I definitely felt better for doing it.

I kept Thursday as a rest day and hit the gym after work on Friday. It took me 1.5hrs to get through everything, and I’m really happy with what the nice lady has set out for me. There’s a really good mix of cross-training cardio and various weights, and this time it’s not my threshold weight that’s listed so I can actually achieve at least one full set!


A couple of things to do differently next time – I’ll be taking regular earbuds instead of my bone-conducting ones, all I could hear was the treadmills! I shouldn’t assume there will be water in the drinks vending machine incase I end up with cola. I should remember to put the ball shaker or the mesh thingie in my shaker bottle. Either would be fine. Neither is a little lumpy.

As well as my workout, I did enjoy the fact they didn’t have Jeremy Kyle on the TVs (not the ones I was watching anyway!) so I learned many things about food and caterpillars/butterflies (not on the same program fortunately), not all gym sessions are this educational. 😉

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Puffin(g)s and Kites


I had all sorts of good intentions today. I actually had a moderately productive day at work for once and was looking forward to a jog along to Wylam, which even with a later finish I would be able to do if I got changed and hurried myself out the door again. Then I got distracted by facebook as one does, but I found a freebie running book that looks amusing in the process on Amazon so that’s my evening’s entertainment sorted (I’m doing this first or it wouldn’t get written at all) so it wasn’t a completely fruitless use of my time!

That pretty much set the tone for my evening…I left the house, and literally a minute later saw 2 red kites overhead on the main road – it’s unusual to see them quite as far South as we are – they’re usually in the villages to the North or West where we see them often and I normally only see them in the distance or from the car – we’ve had a few close encounters from the car. I don’t usually get to experience them flying straight overhead when I’m not sitting in a metal box zooming along the road. So, I threw the car up the kerb as one does and dashed down the road to where I’d seen them. I don’t know why I thought I could catch them up, when they’re gliding in the opposite direction to you and particularly when they have the wind behind them they go a fair clip with very little visible effort! I think I dashed most of the length of the road before giving up and heading back to the car laughing at myself. It was a good warm-up anyway!

I got another 800 yards down the road, and there were more kites! A big flock of them right over the Derwent Walk pub car park. In for a penny in for a pound right?! I swerved into the carpark to ogle them, so of course they all flew out of sight over the high embankment, except for one who was kind enough to glide over me for a minute or two and let me ooo at him. They’re a bird I’d love to catch on camera, but typically I only had my phone – which is terrible for photos of anything that moves even at a snail pace so I had to content myself with eyeball ogling.

So, quite a chunk of my run time disappeared in my travelling time back to Prudhoe increasing by about 50% with my birdwatching detours… I’ve been thinking over the last few days about trying to get back to how I got into running, which was why I was intending to head along to the bridge at Wylam – it used to be my regular intermediary distance between the 5km and 10km distances. Before I stopped for my second kite detour, I thought I might have time for an 18 minute there-and-back again along the river, but the second stop put paid to that one as I would need to finish in time to pick P up from work, and I didn’t want to do a 12 minute one as I’m thinking of doing that tomorrow before I pick P up if I get out of work in time! I opted for another old river haunt route – along the back of the Spetchells and back along the riverside, which was actually probably the first route I started doing when I began doing a short run before picking P up when he first went on shifts.

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Blackhill Parkrun – 22-8-15

I’ve been telling myself for weeks that I should start going to Blackhill Parkrun or Great Run Local at Gibside – they’re both short 5k runs, but both are very hilly so they’re excellent endurance training for the longer distances. As usual, the elevation graph doesn’t do justice to how it feels to do. A combination of travel, other events, it’s too hot, and general bone idleness mean I haven’t done Blackhill Parkrun since April and it’s longer than that since I’ve popped my head up at Gibside! No wonder my running feels like it’s slacking off.

Saturday morning came around, I was awake in plenty of time and even got up and dressed for it in time, then had a moment of ‘I really don’t feel like running this morning’. The problem with event-type runs, is if you dawdle long enough suddenly it’s too late and you’ve missed it, what a shame. I knew I needed to do something today, and half an hour first thing would be a good way to get it ticked off early in the day. I could tell I was dawdling so hurried myself out the door without even doing my trainers up before the out-of-time excuse became valid. I got there with only a few minutes to spare!

It was overcast, and with it being a 9am start I’d decided this meant it should be cooler and had dressed in capris and t-shirt. You’d think I’d have learnt by now, I should just go for the shorts and vest by default until October I think. It was of course, very muggy. I concentrated on just keeping my pace steady and getting around all the hills without a walking break. I suspect this is how I looked for most of the route…


It’s been that long since I did it, I couldn’t actually remember if it was two laps around the park or three, with a sneaking suspicion it might be three. A glance at my watch at the top of the hill from the first longer lap showed only about 1.5km so I resigned myself to three and didn’t bother looking at my watch again until the finish!

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In All Life Some Raspberries Must Be Scoffed


There’s a stretch of the C2C (Sea to Sea/Coast to Coast) cycle way which runs from Cumbria to Tyneside and passes through the Consett environs, and I headed out this morning for a there and back again along a stretch of it known as the Waskerley Way – a railway path similar to the Derwent Walk I sometimes follow. Looking it up now on a very helpful link from the Durham Council website, I can see I ran it the ‘wrong’ way. Some of the Bounders sometimes get dropped off at Park Head and run back to Consett – a 10 mile stretch in a predominantly downhill direction. Being on my own this morning, I dropped the car off in Consett and ran up to just before Waskerley picnic area before turning round and heading back again.

waskerley way

No wonder if felt easier heading back to the car! At least I seem to have gotten most of the uphills out the way while I still had some puff. I’ve only done a very short stretch of this path before, to not a huge amount further than across the viaduct on a Run England session, and then to be honest forgot it was there despite at the time thinking I would have to come back and explore further along. That particular stretch looked mostly flat and shaded, and like a good alternative to the Derwent Walk.


My intention this morning was to see if I could hit 10 miles again – it’s been 2 months since I last hit this distance. I was expecting to find myself pootling along in the shade with not much to see for the duration of the run, but the Waskerley Way crosses much more open country than the Derwent Walk and I could pretend I was fell running as I crossed the heathland, while still being on a flat, level-ish, good quality footpath! I think it’s probably the furthest I’ve been from towns and villages on a run that wasn’t part of a race – and to be honest I think Kielder is the only one that’s felt as remote. The morning started off sunny but was kind enough to cloud over once I left the shaded avenues and return to sunny not long before I was back among the trees! The views were fantastic, I really felt I was out in the moors and wilderness 🙂

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A Jog Around the Triangular


Well, I found a moneybox 🙂 not the one I was looking for but one none the less. I have managed to complete day 1 of my no junk food challenge. There’s still cake in the house but I have resisted so far, despite getting home super munchy.

I was toying with doing a gym session tonight and a run tomorrow night, but with the Gateshead Trail on Saturday morning I decided to swap them round and do a short run tonight around the village triangular, a route I haven’t done since April despite it being pretty much impossible for me to get much more local. I’ve set myself a new best time for this route, but didn’t really enjoy it. It was the coolest it’s been with it being later than when I normally run, but I think I need to slow my pace back down to get the distance back up for the summer. That hill at the start never seems to get any easier!


I also had some run related post today – Great Run related in fact. My GNR number has arrived! Marking the imminent arrival of an event I have some work to do before I’m ready for. Time to dig the game face out the cupboard.


Campervan Cash: £2


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Run England – 11-08-15

With P currently being off from work and it not tipping it down with rain, I had zero excuse for not making it to Run England tonight! It’s the first time I’ve been to the new leisure centre and from the first few peeks, it looks snazzy! Going to have to look into how to book badminton courts with P (he will not come running) and possibly look at getting a gym induction if I want to try using any heavier weights than my small dumbells at home. We shall see.

Having not really done a longer run for a while, I opted for going out with group 2 today – I’d gone for shorts and t-shirt and was quite cool before we set off, but still melted after I started running, I wish I’d stuck with my original vest option. It’s definitely cooler than it has been, but it’s still really close with not a breath of wind to cool down. I’d had enough by the time we got to the 6.5km mark and knew I still had about 1.5km to go to get back to the sports centre. I’ve learned from previous runs that when going out with a spaced out group, it’s best to stick near the front if possible so you get the maximum rest when waiting for the rest of the group to catch up – if you’re at the back, you don’t really get one at all and it’s easier to start at the front and drop back one or two people then try to keep up from the rear!

With the exception of the Butterwick Hospice 10k, this is somewhat depressingly the longest run I’ve done since the 28th of June! A whole month and a half and with one exception, 8.4km is my longest distance! Really need to work that back well into double figures again. This was also, again with the exception of Butterwick, the toughest terrain I’ve run in a while. I’ve been avoiding the hills of Consett in favour of the rather boring flats of the Derwent Walk, Derwent Reservoir and Prudhoe Riverside while I try and adjust myself to the stuffy British summer.

My pace when I was running was between 5:50 and 6:20 mins/km almost regardless of the terrain, which I’m pretty happy with, it’s the breather stops that have skewed my average – but I’m not going to pretend I didn’t need them! I’m still not happy with the humidity at the moment, but I’ve been out and I’ve run for an hour, regardless of how far I went, and that’s pretty good for the last 6 weeks 🙂 Now if I could just find some sort of gadget fan hat that I could run in…


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Derwent Dam and Beyond


I’m not doing very well with dates this week and was determined to go out on Saturday for a longer run and finish July on a high note. Except that Saturday was the 1st of August so I’ve started this month on a good note instead…definitely in need of a holiday before any remaining brain curd leaks out my ears and away never to be seen again! This wasn’t a run that went the way I was intending it to in several ways, but I went out anyway and that’s always a positive!

I thought I’d head down to the Derwent, and instead of parking at Pow Hill as I normally do, I’d go to Milshield picnic area and run from there down to Pow Hill, do the loop around there before I was ready to pass out, and then head back – which would have the other advantage of splitting the dam-crossing legs up more. Apparently the carpark at Milshield is closed until the end of August as there’s some ITV show thing being filmed there and they don’t want Joe Bloggs bimbling in with his fishing gear and running shoes.

So, Pow Hill it was! This also meant I couldn’t do my original distance plan – going between the two picnic areas would have put me somewhere in the region of 10k, possibly a bit more with the loop around Pow Hill added on and I was hoping to hit between 10 and 12km on this run – can’t pester J about not hitting the distance for the GNR when I’m only doing 5k loops myself!

In my current ‘try different things’ vein, I also thought I’d try running with music again – I used to run with it all the time so I wouldn’t have to listen to my own depressingly raspy panting as I pootled along, but after signing on to one or two running club road races where headphones weren’t allowed, I got myself used to not taking them even on the longer ones where it was just me and listening to the wind and the birds. It helped that I got used to pacing myself on my breathing so I didn’t sound like a dying asthmatic the whole time, noone wants to listen to themselves sound like that! My headphones were charged up, but my ipod had been left on since last time it was used (however long ago that was) and was flat as a pancake. There goes that plan. Me and my ears it is then. I’d have to try and find a new distraction for crossing the dam.

It was bang on a mile – 1.6km – from the carpark to the gate at the start of the dam, and I don’t even remember it, I was sufficiently distracted by the various things to see and my own head that I was at the dam before I’d really realised it. The dam itself was less than half this distance across from gate to gate, but once again felt like twice as far. I don’t know how people do multiple loops of routes when doing races – like round and round the same athletics track, or 5 laps around Gibside for the Gibside Marathon knowing you’re going to hit the same horrible monster hills again and again and again!!! Talk about sapping! I can’t do a short, straight bridge without flagging!

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