Blue Runnings

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

Cheviot Trail Events – Wooler 12M

Units can be confusing things. For example, when I rolled out of bed to do this race this morning I thought I’d read the elevation was 300 feet. It turns out that comment said 300 metres and the actual coarse description says “approx. 1400 feet of rolling, steady ascent” which I probably would have thought was a bit beyond me and sacked in for a day of dillidalliery. As it was, J was booked as official chauffeur and explorer of Wooler so off we went to meet L, who J had managed to somehow sucker into running (which I was very quickly grateful for!).

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As such, what we got was not what I’d set out expecting to pootle along this morning. It started near the coast – we could see Lindisfarne – with a rather major and quickly muddy uphill, and continued in more or less the same path for several miles until we left Kyloe Wood and hit more trail-like surfaces. Pace plans completely out the window very quickly and replaced with concerns of actually making it to the finish in one – albeit very muddy – piece if this was what the whole route was going to be like!

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There were many, many kissing gates (mwah!) and stiles through the woods and fields to slow us down until we reached St Cuthbert’s Cave and started to head out more into the fields and farmland.

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St Cuthbert’s Cave was well worth a quick stop and nosey after we’d nearly gone down through the trees from above it on our bums it was that precarious! I’m definitely going to be dragging P up here on a walk sometime as it was an area that really appealed to me. We met J at the bottom of the hill from it directed runners to the right route rather than the nice downhill one straight ahead, and sent her up to the cave to have a look while she was there – for some reason she went cross-country startling the local deer rather than the main path but each to their own I guess…

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The middle section was miles and miles of undulations and fabulous views. I’m not sure I’ll make it to some of the places again without a car, and my camera doesn’t do justice to the distance stuff, but it was a feast for the eyes when you were up there.

Somewhere around mile 9, someone had put the most enormous hill on the planet. Seriously, go check the elevation chart at the bottom, I’ll wait.

Are you back? It was a knee-breaker. Having something like that near the start where you’re vaguely fresh would have been bad enough but near the end, having seen a road sign for Wooler on the flatter road at the bottom and having to carry on up it anyway, was savage 😦

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I really had to walk quite a while across the top of this to get some degree of feeling back into my legs as they’d turned to lead plodding up! The wind still wasn’t easing up either but fortunately the views were still fabulous 🙂

The advantage to going slower along here was we actually spotted the route marker to go back down again…which went left down a gorse track rather than the straight ahead route the line of jackets was taking. We must have cut off quite a chunk as the people we saw when we rejoined the road into Wooler everyone came down to had passed us a while before!

Even the last stretch into Wooler for the finish was uphill, as if afraid to break with tradition for this beast of a route, but we made it just about in one piece! I was so grateful to have L’s company on this race as it made even the tough bits doable, and it didn’t feel like we’d only just met that morning – she’s known J for a while through the Running Ninjas.

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I also owe many thanks to J for not only being my driver (I did NOT want to have to drive home after that!) but for even taking me for FOOD on the way back so that I could eat all the things 🙂 This continued into the evening and the jury’s still out on tomorrow morning…

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This wasn’t an expensive race at £12 to enter, much of which I suspect went on the coaches to the start, but I found the lack of aid stations and marshalls (none!) to be very different to what I’m used to at races. There wasn’t a medal or t-shirt which isn’t unusual for the cheaper trail races, but I felt like we’d earned a massive trophy each by the time we got to the end! Check out my flights-of-stairs count on my watch by the end of it!!!

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Map

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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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Tatton Park 10k

First race of 2019 down – and not just for me! One of my sisters has decided we are in an annual mileage challenge and therefore she must defeat me (I am remaining mute on this point) – so to help her out the door I booked us both in for the Tatton Park 10k in Manchester; her neck of the woods so she didn’t even have to go very far for it! The other good thing about doing a Manchester race was that S & L could join us for it too 🙂

The Tatton Park 10k is a monthly race, so I was surprised to see as many people there as there were for some reason – given the size of some parkruns I don’t know why I was surprised that a regular event was well attended but there you go. Going by the number of local vests I suspect many of the local running clubs use it as a 10k time-trial.

This is quite an exposed park in winter…as was clear from the number lists, tents, people, etc. being blown around at the start line – the bag tent was a groundsheet with a tent-material cover and some weights by the end! We had headwinds, cross-winds, possibly a tailwind somewhere and with the 674 runners probably some bad wind too! I imagine it’s also a tough one in the summer as there wouldn’t be any real shade on the route so it could be a scorcher around August and September if there’s no breeze across the ponds.

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Compared with many races I’ve done, this was relatively flat – it did undulate and you could guarantee the headwind would hit just as you were trying to get up an incline – regardless of which way you were going, which made it quite tough going in places. The park’s a really good size with several ponds and the run was quite spaced out – where we were in the pack anyway! It can be a bit claustrophobic sometimes doing city races sometimes but this wasn’t like that, and even the queue for the loos wasn’t too bad!

This was only L’s second 10k – having done her first on a tougher trail race at Heaton Park on the other side of Manchester in November, and she knocked a massive 12 mins off her time but I think may be sticking to trails in the future – it’s hard going on tarmac when you’re used to the woods! P’s mumbled the possibility of doing it again sometime to beat her time but I think the main motivation was Tatton Park 10k actually has two different medal designs – and we got one of each so now she has to get the other one!

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I got the more cartoony one with the blue ribbon, while P’s is yellow with a more pro design 😉 Apparently if they’ve run out of blue ones next time we’re meeting at Tebay to swap one of her yellow’s for my blue…

The nice people at Tatton even feed you afterwards – homemade flapjack and bananas for all runners, and the flapjack was delicious 🙂 Made a very blustery morning all worthwhile!

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You can download the GPX file for this route 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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parkrun – Divonne Les Bains – Lac de Divonne

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

http://www.parkrun.fr/lacdedivonne/

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 – Newcastle: Rising Sun

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

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

This is a pretty flat course on tarmac country lanes and very well marshalled. You head out, do a repeat loop of about half a mile around the outside of a field at one end and then return back to the start.

Local facilities:

  • Café (takes cash or card)
  • Toilets

My GPS map for this route:

Rising Sun

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

GPX file for Rising Sun parkrun

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parkrun – Guildford

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

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

This route involves 2 laps of Guildford’s Stoke Park – and is rather more undulating than you might think at first glance, especially by the second lap!

There’s a communal parkrun coffee session at the bowling club just pass the treetop adventure course (try it if you’ve not already had your morning fill of fun?!) and Spectrum is just across the road for Costa and plenty of parking.

My GPS map for this route:

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You can download the GPX file for this course from my Dropbox folder here:

Guildford parkrun GPX file

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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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parkrun – Consett: Blackhill

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

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

This route involves 3 laps around Blackhill Park – you’ll get the biggest hill out of the way at the start to really open your lungs up or completely wipe out your legs depending on how you feel about starting your run with a monster climb! There’s several hills of mixed length and gradient on this course, but a lovely long downhill for a strong finish. It’s generally thought of as one of the toughest in the area, but it’s excellent for training your legs up ready for cross-country or for a pb on a flat course!

GPS map:

Blackhill

You can download the GPX file for thise courses from my Dropbox folder here:

GPX file Blackhill

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