Blue Runnings

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

The Shoestring Challenge

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November 2019 – I’ve no further races booked in for the year as I’m not doing cross-country this time around. I’ve spent a lot of the last few weeks analysing my spending for much of the year while we get quotes in for a house extension and I try to work out where we’re going to afford it from. It’s time for the cost of my race entries for 2019 to come under scrutiny – something I normally avoid looking at too closely! As many of my races are booked months in advance, it’s easy to forget how much I’m spending sometimes.

I’ve entered 21 races this year ranging from 1 mile (Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll) to 14 miles (Trail Outlaws RAF Spadeadam Half). I’ve spent a whopping £454.50 on race entries – average cost per race £21.64. Not including getting to and from them, and in two cases accomodation. To make matters worse, due to injury I haven’t been able to make a lot of the longer or hillier ones. I’ve countered this by booking more shorter ones that were on at similar times. I haven’t been able to defer, transfer entries or get refunds for any I’ve missed. £251 of those races I didn’t even get to which makes the average cost of the events I did get to a massive £41.31- a lot for a 10k. I’m not willing to do this again for 2020.

I’ve set myself a limit of £10 maximum per race entry if I’m wanting to go to races. Race + travel shouldn’t come to more than £15. Generally, £5 will take me a return trip to a race 18 miles from home. I can travel further if the race entry is less than £10.

I’ll be doing a lot of free events like parkrun and Great Run Local, I’m wanting to explore several of the local longer walking routes like the Tyne & Wear Heritage Way in sections, I can marshall events to gain ‘credits’ I can use for others, and I can support my local running clubs at their club-organised races – as long as they’re under £10!

Already, just in looking for races under £10, I’ve come across several particularly trail races I’ve not seen before so I’m really looking forward to trying some new ones I’ve not done! We are so, so lucky in the North-East with the huge amount of organised events right on our doorstep if that’s what keeps your trainers heading out the door.

I’m also going to be keeping a look-out for interesting non-race events like the recently hosted Dusk Run at Wallington Hall which I really enjoyed, and I’ve also run with Anna McNuff this year and 401’s Ben Smith previously. I’ll share them as I come across them on my Facebook page if anyone wants to join 🙂 I’ll likely also be doing a lot of local exploring on my own. I’ve been stalking hiking sites looking for loop routes which I’ve been able to download to my GPS, even if I haven’t figured out how to get them to show on it yet! It’s good to learn new things right?!

I’m going to be over-hauling my website over the next few days to make it easy to find the ‘races for the frugal’ available which I’ve found so far, I may also do something with local loop and ‘official’ walking routes I’ve found, and I’m looking forward to trying some new things over the next 12 months – hopefully for rather less dosh!

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Willow Miner’s Trail – Durham

It sounds like there’s been a few guises for this run over the years,  but for the last few at least it’s been known as the ‘Willow Miner’s Trail Run’, and the route takes you right round the back of this fine chap (photo from Elvet Striders race page).

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Apparently he also has a wicker wife with wicker chickens somewhere in the woods, but if we went past her, I didn’t spot her!

After missing many races in the first half of this year due to being boring and sensible with my knees, seeing one come up in the local area that was in my permitted 3-5M limit AND a trail race to boot meant I didn’t wait long before signing up.

It’s a running club Wednesday evening run hosted by Elvet Striders for only £7 if you’re affiliated with a running club (£9 if not) and starts from the rather pretty Houghall College.

Numbers are limited to 180 – so it really didn’t feel congested at the start line or on the route – something I’m starting to find claustrophobic about bigger road races! From the starting field behind the college, we were straight into the woods for over a mile, and from the woods into the fields. I actually found just being out in my trail shoes to be like taking a mental deep breath. It had been so dry up to the time of the race (we have a lot of rain since as I’m writing this up a while after the event!) I’d just been out in my road shoes regardless of where I was running, and I felt more like a trail runner running through the woods in my trail shoes again for the first time since the winter. I should note that with the weather being as dry as it had been this year, many people were absolutely fine in road shoes – trails were not essential for this one at all though they might be a good idea if it’s been really wet beforehand 🙂

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I was glad when we hit the fields not to be a super-speedy frontrunner. The marshalls and course markings throughout were excellent, but it was much easier to see the route through the clover when 150 people have already patted it all down flat for you! I’m not sure how conspicuous a path there was for the chaps and chapettes at the very front as it looked freshly squashed when I got to it! There were some absolutely fab views over the valley before we dropped down to the river.

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Somewhere over the fields, before we got to the river and for the couple of miles before we re-entered the woods, I had picked up a fan club. A fan club that I really wished would have left me alone, but they did ensure that I kept my walking to only the steepest inclines! I told myself they were probably just normal flies and not horseflies or something else nasty, but I wasn’t stopping to find out incase they drained me to a husk or something either!

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One of the things I love about trail runs is watching for wildlife (less keen on the bugs!) – and I was well rewarded on this one with a hunting barn owl as I came along beside the river.

As we left the river, we had to start to climb again. If you look at the elevation profile it suggests the worst of the hills were at the start, but they haven’t made a serious imprint on my memory – some steps through the woods and that’s about it. The biggest hill in my mind was coming back up over the fields again to return to the woods – and despite my buggy companions I walked quite a bit of it, flailing my arms around over my head! It’s probably a good thing there was noone there with a camera!

The run back through the woods was a welcome relief; my buggy friends abandoned me and the pace I was running at meant I’d ended up in a gap; there was noone in sight in front of me and no sound of anyone behind me so I felt like I was just out for a run in the woods on my own, following silent hanging pink tape ribbons and occasionally seeing a lone standing person who would wave me past. It was a touch surreal but they may have been dehydration kicking in a little…

The finish dropped back onto the field to the start line, and despite being nearer the back of the pack, there were still plenty of people waiting to cheer people across the line, and water dispensers for thirsty runners! I felt very deserving of my fruit pie and custard when I got back home – and I’ll be putting it on the list to keep an eye out for again next year, maybe with a time target or maybe just for a pootle in the countryside 🙂

 

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The GPX file for this route can be downloaded from my Dropbox account here.

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parkrun – Durham

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

http://www.parkrun.org.uk/durham/

This is a single-lap parkrun – not a huge number of those about! It’s quite out and back loopy, and covers a mix of terrains – we ran on gravel paths at the start, the outside of the rugby fields (stay outside the paint marks!) and onto the riverside path for a long stretch up to the bridge and back along the other side to the finish at the pavillion.

Durham had pacers for the event I went to, and I got the impression this was a moderately regular occurrence. I was trying to beat the 30min pacer, and while I’d left him a comfortable distance behind after the first mile, he was right behind me just before I came across the bridge – but the pace variance was me not him! He was bob-on for the 30 min marker 🙂

There’s plenty of parking at the sports centre near the start, as well as toilets and a track if you fancy a warm-up lap, but the finish is literally about 0.75 mile from the start. I’d pushed myself to get round in the time I wanted and was ready for a rest when I’d finished but when walking it felt like a loooong way back to the car. It is a pretty little woodland walk, and I did see a weasel, which was cool, but factor it in for your times if you’re in a rush to get home afterwards!

My GPS map for this route:

Durham

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

GPX file for Durham parkrun

Course first completed 23-06-2018

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North-East Harrier League – Aykley Heads

It was a cold and blustery day in the North-East. Snow had fallen that night and the temperature was close to zero. The wind was howling past the windows and the running clubs of the North-East were donning their finest woolly hats, thermal layers and wellies to brave the perils of the Durham hilltops in winter’s first icy breath.

I picked up another Bounder on the way in, and we made it to Durham County Hall with only a minor detour finding the entrance to the carpark, and hiked up the hill to hunt out the Bounders tent. It was FREEZING at the top where the start and finish were – the only available shelter was in the tents themselves, which were full of bags and children munching goodies after their races, so the grown-ups shivered outside and refused to take their coats and extra trousers off for as long as possible! The women’s race start time crept up, so it was off with all non-running layers and head to the line. 10 mins later before the hooter sounded, we were all blue! Some people were actually in shorts and we saw one crop top! I don’t know how their legs were still attached…

Finally we were off! In a loop around the top of the hill – the wind! – before heading down and off onto the course proper. It wasn’t long before I forgot about the cold, I was warm enough in my capris, thermal and headband, and was busy concentrating on keeping steady and not turning an ankle or ending up on the floor, probably in front of well-placed camera (they always seem to know the slippy bits). I think someone must have been round the course with a hose and a herd of cows before we got there, as there is no way those paths got that muddy on their own! It was even worse by the second lap – there were nearly 400 runners just in the women’s senior and veteran group, so by the time they’d all gone round once it was very well churned up! The poor men’s class must have had a tough time of it – and they do three laps!

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