Blue Runnings

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

parkrun – Pennington Flash

For information on this parkrun course, see the official parkrun page below:

This parkrun involves three laps of a small part of the grounds at Pennington Flash. There’s one hilly bit – not too long – and the rest definitely counts as ‘undulating’ to flat; not the flattest I’ve done but a long stretch from hilly. It’s worth noting that there is a reasonable walk from the carpark – allow 5-10 mins, and there is a parking charge at the main carpark (it’s a good size though – you should find a space fine). There is a free carpark at the entrance to the park, but it’s 1 mile walk/run from there to the start line, so factor this in if you’re planning on taking that option. Toilets available at the carpark and a lovely spot for birdwatching after your run!


My GPS map for this route:

Pennington Flash

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

GPX file for Pennington Flash parkrun

Course completed 21-04-2018

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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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I’ve found myself thinking often of how things always seem to go in cycles when it comes to my exercise routine, and I wish I were talking about bikes. I start getting into good habits, my calendar is filling with star stickers on a regular basis and I’m feeling like I’m on an upward spiral. The consistent and varied exercise sessions start to work together, I see improvement in my performance, and because I’m in a good headspace I eat better so also lose weight as I tone up and feel fitter.


Then, normally about three weeks later, something will happen to upset that routine I’ve been building up around myself. I’ll end up making a choice between doing what I feel I should do rather than what I want to, and end up begrudging that choice even though I would – and do – make it again.

The biggest thing which ‘gets in the way’ is, as with many people, my job which sometimes has somewhat unpredictable end times and can occasionally be quite physically exertive. I feel a large amount of frustration and animosity towards this like it’s some sort of inconsiderate fluffy monster thing always standing just in the way of the door when I’m trying to leave.


It (not me), is making me tired, or eating into “my” time – which allows me to be very passive about the responsibility I take for looking after myself. My exercise sessions drop off – I either can’t get to the time-booked ones, or feel forced (still not my fault!) to choose rest over making myself ill or worse in the medium-term. Obviously it’s something I didn’t want to do that’s got me into this pickle in the first place.

I was thinking at the start of the year about what I want to get out of this year – regardless what happens with work and other life commitments. I didn’t want to push myself further with my running, though I had hopes of getting faster. I lost the fun of running in 2016, and it took me over 12 months to find it again – so my focus is to have fun being active for 2018 – try stuff that’s a bit different, and if I’m not going to just enjoy being out, then do something different. So far, I’ve completed my first duathlon, and am hoping to get a team together for a team marathon – 10k each and lots of picnic food. I’ve also tried skiing , been to a spa for the first time EVER, and I’m finding new running routes and running buddies while revisiting some of my favourite races from the last few years. I’ve even bought padded bum nappy shorts for cycling – and a new bike – at the back end of last year!


My run challenge for the start of the year was to run 500 miles in 2018 if I could – this is about 5k 3x a week not something that requires crazy amounts of time dedicated to running. For whatever reason (getting married this year – another first! – definitely played a part!) I didn’t hit the mileage I needed for a flat monthly target in January, February or March – but April is going really well and I’m on track for new milage target I need to hit each month to compensate for the first quarter being under. I’m trying to use the positive fitness spiral that’s growing for April to get me in shape for a positive eating spiral in May, and between the two I’ll get to spend the summer being fit and healthy rather than hiding in the fridge from the sun 🙂

My current battle is habit-eating. I am fine at work not snacking, but even when I can acknowledge to myself at home that I’m not actually hungry I’ve gotten into the habit of snacking on an evening – especially agitata-eating (this is a thing) when I’m trying to work through things like booking all the holiday things and other more menial necessities. A stern talking to and a padlock on the fridge might be needed 😉 Spending all my evenings at work seems like too drastic an action!


I’m still a touch apprehensive about the summer – it’ll be easier with a few lbs off (no more cake!!!) as it is for most people – but I’m determined to keep pottering about doing things to keep myself active, and if I can keep my running miles up so much the better; though it may be at about 5am!!! We’re starting windsurfing again hopefully next month so watch this space for some interesting tan lines developing, and I’ll be working my way back up to half-marathon distance for the Northumberland Coastal Run I hope. Maybe somewhere in the middle of the horrendous rain they had last year and the blazing sunshine of the London Marathon would be lovely with some sea breezes! Parkruns are becoming a more regular part of my calendar – I’m ahead of my target to reach 15 events for this year, being already on five, and have beaten my target of 10 different locations ever attended – a stretch target definitely needed for that one. The biggest thing though is just enjoying what I’m doing – social runs and classes, some head-clearing time out on my favourite routes on my tod (it’s been a while since I hit the moors at the Waskerley!) and trying all the new things 🙂


I’ve no doubt there’ll be another dip in the future; whether I fall off the food wagon (which I must admit to not being on yet though I do brush it with my fingertips occasionally!), or for whatever reason my exercise routine takes a stumble, I’m determined to see out 2018 with a collage of happy memories and the reinforcement that I can do it – whatever ‘it’ is, because I’ve done it before.

See you out there 😉



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parkrun – Sedgefield

For information on this parkrun course, see the official parkrun page below:

This parkrun in Sedgefield involves 2 laps of Hardwick Park; it’s mostly flat and runs around a lake but has one small hill about 2/3’s of the way round – fine on the first lap, a bit of a stickler on the second I found! There was plenty to see on the way round – a mix of wildlife and more manmade things of interest so it’s an easy one to just kick back and enjoy if you’re not going for a time 🙂

There’s plenty of parking – normally a charge but if you put your spare barcode in the windscreen it’s FREE until 11am, which gives you plenty of time to pop to the loos (also open before the start) and go the coffee shop for a breakfast bap or a wide selection of yummy cakes!

My GPS map for this route:


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

GPX file for Sedgefield parkrun

Course completed 14-04-2018

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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.


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.


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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parkrun – Woodbank

For information on this parkrun course, see the official parkrun page below:

This parkrun in Stockport covers ground in two parks – Woodbank and Vernon, and starts at the top of a hill…you can see where this is going?! There’s a tough little uphill kick at the end of the Vernon Park loop (which you do twice) as you can see on the elevation profile below!

There’s limited parking near the start-line – maybe 20 cars? – so get there early if you’re planning on using it, or there’s a bigger public carpark nearby. Average number of runners is 120 per week, so no fear of being on your own in a small group of elite runners! The whole route takes place on tarmac, except for one small section of cobbles as you crest the top of the hill coming out of Vernon Park.


My GPS map for this route:


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

GPX file for Woodbank parkrun

Course completed 31-03-2018

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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.


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!

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.


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Gibside Night Run 2018


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!



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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parkrun – Divonne Les Bains – Lac de Divonne

For information on this parkrun course, see the official parkrun page below:

This is a completely flat course (seriously, flat as a crêpe!), right on the border of France and Switzerland. The course is a there-and-back route covering three sides of the local lake with a very long narrow loop at one end. When I went all the marshalls spoke both French and English, and the kick-off instructions were given in both languages.

Local facilities:

  • Parking (free)
  • Café
  • Toilet (beware for those not acquainted with this type of toilet – the whole room is sprayed after use so do not follow someone straight in without waiting for it to do its cleaning cycle first or you will get a very unpleasant surprise!!!)
  • Play area

My GPS map for this route:

Lac de Divonne

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

GPX file for Lac de Divonne parkrun

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parkrun – Gibside

For information on this parkrun course, see the official parkrun page below:

This is a tough little course – which was evident from the smaller number of runners who braved it despite it being a clear and sunny morning (though that may also have been the summer holidays coming into play). It’s a tough little course with some long and serious hills and an elevation of 311ft according to my GPS watch. There’s flatter stretches at the top of each hill, but you don’t get to go down much until the very end where you come right back down and then along the long flat of The Avenue back to the finish. You leave by the Walled Garden, head out on a loop at the top of the estate, and finish on a there-and-back part way up the hill to the highest point on Gibside’s grounds before spinning round and heading back to the Walled Garden again for the finish.

You can view a map of the estate (which is worth a visit even just for a walk round and a teacake) by clicking the link below.

Gibside Estate Map from National Trust

Runner’s View video tour of Gibside parkrun, taken 29-07-17 with a head-mounted (and therefore somewhat bouncy-recording!) Apeman camera.

Local facilities:

  • Café (takes cash or card)
  • Toilets

My GPS map for this route:


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

GPX file for Gibside parkrun

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