Blue Runnings

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

Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series – Northumberland 2019

I first did this race in 2015 (something I didn’t quite believe myself until I checked – but there you go!) and really enjoyed it, then in 2016 I did it again for the half distance this time and enjoyed it rather less, but through no fault of the race itself. The whole race event always sells out, but the 10k particularly early as there’s only 200 spaces. The half marathon had the biggest field this year and it looked like there were as many people on the ultra (35.2M on this occasion) as there were for the 6.5M I was enrolled in!

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As a quick aside, someone out there has run 35.2 miles in 4hrs 10mins?!?! Gobsmacked, absolutely gobsmacked – and it’s virtually all on sand!

Anyway, for those who haven’t run this before or read my previous wafflings, this is one of the few linear races I’ve done. Coaches take you to your respective start line at staggered times so the ultra and marathon runners start first from furthest away, followed by the half undertakers and then the 10k runners. This means apart from the very first leg (all 13 miles of it), you’ll never be on your own as you’ll be picking up (or in my case being passed by) the other distances as you make your way up the coast. I was getting passed at Seahouses by people on the ultra who’d done 23 miles already and had another 11 to go and still looked fresh as daisies in the dew! Route spotting is much easier as there’s just a steady trail of coloured bags and jackets for miles!

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The coaches were running late this year unfortunately – we only started 12 mins after our scheduled time (11:50) but with the brief being at 10:45 it felt like much longer as we sat around the carpark. The view’s not bad at least and the weather was looking to be set for a very pretty day for a run. 😉

The start line at Beadnell was frikking freezing after the warm buses as there was definitely a wind present all morning, but for the run itself it was a tailwind the whole way and therefore welcomed! Last time I was here was for the Northumberland Coastal to Alnmouth (twice as far in the opposite direction) and we had a 40mph headwind the entire way so it wasn’t that bad really! I ditched my over-layer rather quickly, tying it round my front like a skirt so my number was still visible (I’ve decided I may investigate running skirts for over my shorts – I felt less required to hoik the legs of my shorts back down again for the sake of public decency quite as often!).

I honestly have no idea where the first 2-3 miles went. The Northumberland beaches are usually stunning places to be and today was no exception – very easy to just look around and suddenly find you’ve covered more distance than you’ve realised and before we knew it Seahouses was appearing round the corner over some seaweed-strewn clamber rocks.

I was getting rather more aware of my legs and feeling more ploddy around mile 5, but knew by that point I was going to make it in one piece so it was pretty easy to keep steadily plodding onwards to the finish. 🙂 P was waiting down on the beach where I would be leaving it and then I headed off into the dunes to plod back up to the castle. Loose sand and a very narrow path meant stretches of the last bit were walked in line with other runners, but I’m not sure I could have kept my legs moving anyway on that sort of ground so I was glad of the excuse for a breather and not to fill my shoes with sand!

There was a really nice finishers medal for this year (not that they’re not normally nice, but I was impressed with this one compared with previous years) and another technical t-shirt for the pile.

P & I had left early – 08:30 – hoping to get parked at the bottom of the castle before the rest of the 10k runners turned up, but we ended up about a 10 min walk down the road at the Links carpark anyway – good for a cooldown but with being early getting there, the usual start and finish faff, the coaches, and a cheeky McD’s at Alnwick services on the way home – salt replenishment, I promise, as I had more salt on my cheeks than they put on their fries! – we didn’t get home until 7hrs after we’d left. A very long day for an hour’s running, even if we do enjoy the area. I do really love running here, but I think I will be having a think in future about travel with races – P could have dropped me off at Beadnell and I could have been back at the castle before we actually got on the bus to the start-line! Maybe just aim to get there later knowing there’s enough space in the Links carpark but I’ll be a bit of a walk away – that would have saved at least an hour! Still makes for a very long day. :O

Map

You can download the GPX file for this route on my Dropbox account here:

GPX route file

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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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Endurance Life Challenge: Coastal Trail Series – Bamburgh

A year ago I ran the 10k version of this race and really enjoyed it, so this year I thought I would book the half marathon and use it as a training race as part of my marathon journey. N & P came with me; N to try her hand at the 10k as I had done last year, and P as official driver, hoody holder and finder of food-places for afterwards.

This is the first run I’ve ever done where I seriously thought I was heading for a DNF – ironic for a race series who’s tagline is ‘Never Give Up’. This wasn’t any slight on the race itself. The course was great (more detail to follow) and the marshalls and support from other runners was excellent, but I’m coming to realise how incredibly exhausted training for the Dark Skies run is making me. N & I did a 4 mile route 2 days ago that I’ve done before and felt I flew round, and I just about made it to the end. I was tired after that 20 mile slog on Sunday, no surprises there, but I’ve carried that tired with me all week without being aware of it too consciously when doing day-to-day stuff – including through to today.

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After registering at Bamburgh Castle, one of P and I’s favourite places in the North-East, which was straight-forward enough even if I feel very slightly like a convict or a toddler with my race number written VERY clearly in marker pen on the back of my hand incase I get lost or can’t remember 3 digits for the 10 seconds it takes for me to get my timing chip and paper number. We headed back down to the carpark to sort safety pins and find the coaches which would take us to our start lines. As I was running the half, my coach would leave to take me to my start to head off about an hour before N left Beadnell as I was heading off from further down the coast.

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Pier 2 Pier Run 2015 – 11km

The weekend just gone was a very active one – not only did I have Gelt Gladiator on the Saturday, I’d booked myself in for the Pier to Pier Run on the Sunday. P has officially declared me mad, but it seems to be such a big feature in the local running calendar that when I saw it was coming up I had to give it a go! I see that many P2P 2014 bandanas around it looks like everyone had a go last year!

The run goes from South Shields pier, along the clifftops and beaches right down to Sunderland pier for the finish line and is organised by the Sunderland Strollers. Don’t let the name fool you! I’ve seen the Sunderland Strollers at several races before and they have some very fast members! I’d booked a seat on the Bounders coach a few weeks ago, but as the time drew near, decided that I didn’t want to lose the whole day to the race – the coach was leaving Consett at 08:15 (fine, I left about the same time myself!), but not coming back until 15:30 from Sunderland as the guys were hitting a pub afterwards. The Bounders have been described on the radio before as ‘a drinking club with a running problem’! They’re a lovely bunch anyway 🙂 So, I decided as I needed food and the shops shut at 4pm, that I would take my own car as I should then be home for 2pm. I’d set the satnav for a carpark near the pier, but to be honest could have found it myself if someone said ‘drive towards South Shields and then at every single roundabout ever, go straight over it’, seriously, there are so many roundabouts in South Shields and it felt like I was constantly hearing “At the roundabout, take the second exit”! Say something else Eddie!

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Endurance Life – Coastal Trail Series – Northumberland – 11km

I did make it to the Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series race at Bamburgh Castle in the end. I’d woken up not having made any attack-the-cold progress from the day before, and decided that stuff it, I was going anyway and would just wrap up extra for the waiting before the race.

There were four races on at the same time, all finishing at Bamburgh Castle throughout the day with different starting locations. The race organisers had several coaches, which would pick up each race distance’s participants at a set time and take them to the start position. The ultra, marathon and half marathon runners all left before the 10k – and at the 10k start-line in Beadnell some of the half marathon runners were already coming past – the second half of their run being common with the full length of the 10k one. I did also see some ultra runners, but they had a full extra loop to do before they could plough up the hill to the finish line at the castle. I don’t know how I’d have felt seeing the castle coming into view and knowing I had to run straight past it to do another massive loop!

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