Blue Runnings

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

Trail Outlaws – Castle Eden Fun Run

It has been a while since I’ve broken out the fancy dress box for a run – I think it’s probably a parkrun over a year ago at Blackhill when I last had a rumage for an outfit! It’s like choosing your own handicap. Unless you’ve carefully selected your costume to involve as little material as possible, you’re likely to be slower in costume than in normal running gear, or we’d all be dressing up like Christmas Puddings whenever we want to go for a p.b.. When you combine ‘Trail Outlaws’ with ‘Fancy Dress’ you know you’re in for a tough time – and at least 25% of it will be self-inflicted.

Not being particularly big on Hallowe’en, my costume box doesn’t include much in the way of horror film set special effects, but it does contain a pirate costume gathered over many years. Sadly, many of the belts involved in said costume have been retired from when I was in my late teens and are a restrictive reminder of how much less-trim I am round the waist than many years ago!

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I met C at Castle Eden in Peterlee; somewhere I’ve never had occasion to go before, and we were treated to a feast of different outfits in very short order. There were some absolutely fabulous costumes on show! I honestly can’t do justice to it so I’m just going to direct you to Hippie’s hard work and send you over to the race album here to have a look for yourselves. We saw G2 at the start-line – not in costume incase he needed to pull out his Serious Face as Official Race Bossyman, which to be fair is rather difficult to do if you’ve got kid’s facepaint on – he was kind enough to be our start-zone photographer 🙂

The race didn’t start too badly terrain-wise – a good gravel path winding off with gentle undulations. And it all went downhill from there. Very downhill. And we all know what that means. In this case, it means people jumping out at you from inside holly bushes and behind rocks when you least expect them (though it must be said Hippie was much easier to spot than normal at the bridge!). There’ll be more than one person’s heart-rate data with a sudden unexplained spike in the middle of various sections!

Wikipedia has the following to say about ‘denes’:

This one is very true to the ‘steep-sided wooded valley’ part (and I recommend following the link in the caption and checking out the Castle Eden Dene link to read a bit more about this particular one). Looking at the map at the bottom, you could think we had run nicely around this nature reserve, but I can assure you this was not the case…we went down, down, dooooown to the bottom of the valley by the river, and of course then had to climb alllllll the way back up again. By the time we finished my GPS said I’d done 71 flights of stairs. No wonder my legs were knackered!

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I did very much enjoy full on jumping in some of the puddles – C possibly enjoyed my doing this slightly less but she was a good egg about it 😉 We had a good natter, and died quite a bit on the way round – it was tough going! C had also done parkrun that morning for some reason! Nutter! We did make it to the finish – very, slowly! – and were rewarded with weighty gongs (that’s a ‘g’!) for our efforts. There was even a cake and coffee stall if your post-run tummy was so inclined raising money for mental health.

When I got my muddy self through the door, I weighed myself with and without all my waist accoutrements; 3.25lb I’d been lugging around as corsetry up and down those hills – it’s a good thing the rum bottle wasn’t full – though I suspect it would have been lighter by the finish anyway if it had been!

One quick shower for this grotbag and then straight out the door again to Hexham fireworks – more standing for the ol’ legs to do. I slept like the corpse some of the costumes were depicting after all that 😮

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National Trust Dusk Run – Wallington

We have an annual tradition since moving into our house regarding Hallowe’en. It started in the first year when we’d literally just got the keys and hadn’t really moved anything in yet. We were painting the living room in our empty house when we heard the first trick-or-treaters moving up the road. We used to live in a small flat in a cul-de-sac and hadn’t had them so we hadn’t really clocked the significance of Hallowe’en to house dwellers. We did the incredibly adult thing of turning all the lights off and hiding below the sill-level of our curtain-less front windows until they moved on as we had absolutely nothing to give them!

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Since then, it’s sort of become tradition to hide with two exceptions – one where I was home alone, again with no sweets in the house (we’d probably eaten them all) and made a big batch of chocolate chip cakes in sandwich bags; these were oddly well received and the kids skipped on up the road swinging them and singing ‘choc chip cake, choc chip cake’ but god knows what the parents thought of them bringing home-baked goods back with them. The other was when we again forgot it was Hallowe’en and had ordered a pizza for delivery…so we had to hide in the house while also peering round the blind for the food chap! Very adult, mature and in the spirit of the thing I’m sure you’ll agree.

This year, Operation Hide-Away was again a go (we have curtains now!) except I’d also seen that Wallington Hall near Morpeth were doing a Dusk Run that evening; a trail run round a wooded estate in the dark? Yes, please! I’m still not up to the mileage I’d like to be so have missed a lot of races this year (or been wiped out by doing them!) so a casual 5k is just what the running soul needs right now 🙂

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I had guesstimated I would need to be wheels turning by 17:10 to get there – when I checked earlier in the day Google Maps said 40 mins to get there, which would still give me 10 mins to find people. I had not taken into account that leaving anywhere around 5pm would mean I hit rush-hour home traffic for most of the first half of the route. I did leave at 17:10 as it happened, and I flung myself into Wallington at 18:02. Not a headtorch in sight. I decided I had to at least try and find people, having come all the way there and looking forward to it all week – but not being hugely familiar with Wallington in daylight let alone the dark, had no idea where I was going. I found a sneaky path round the back of the cycle hut which brought me onto the road fronting the square. I heard voices! Fortunately, as they were waiting for one of their guide runners, I found everyone under the arch and was just in time to join them!

I really enjoyed this run – the lead runner works at Wallington and as such we got a guided tour of the site as well as a guided run route. We checked out a currently-being-excavated water mill from the early 1800’s, looked for white-tipped crawfish and otters in the Wansbeck when we crossed it, snuck over the wall of the walled garden, visited the “netty” (toilet to us non-Geordies but now used for picnics!), checked out the wildlife hide, saw videos of the local red squirrels, and saw the ice house for the main house where the family silver was hidden in WW2 incase the Nazis invaded!I’m really keen to go back in daylight and do it again where I can see a bit further than the range of my headtorch! The enthusiasm of our guides also really helped bring Wallington’s grounds to life, even in the dark.

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This run only cost me £5 to attend – and as such I wasn’t expecting to get any keepsakes for attending. Our lead guide had a very bright light on a carabiner clipped to his bag I was considering asking where he had bought it from, so was pleasantly surprised to be presented with one from said bag with the other runners at the end before we all headed off for respective cars and beds. It’s really bright and probably worth the fiver on its own!

I do like having the local National Trust site pages on my facebook feed – you never know quite what’s going to come up and I’ve had some nice surprise little adventures through them 🙂 Looking forward to whatever the next one may be 🙂

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You can download the GPX route file for this run from my Dropbox account here.

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Run Nation – Cragside 10k 2017

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Well, that’s officially my first race event of the year done (excluding cross-country at Herrington in January)! It’s bang-on 5 months since my last race at Sunderland for the People’s Run 2 Remember last November.

I made the decision a few weeks ago not to do the Trail Outlaws Dark Skies Half Marathon last weekend, as my stamina just wasn’t up to 14 miles and I knew they had a waiting list so I wanted to give someone else the opportunity rather than just deciding not to go on the day. It looks like everyone had a great time, and the weather was a lot kinder than last time I was there, but I think I made the right call for me – I need to work on my 10k game for the moment.

With the Cragside 10k being the week after Dark Skies this year, I hadn’t signed up incase my legs weren’t working after the half marathon, but clearing that from my diary meant this was an option again. I really enjoyed it last year – I was in a really good headspace where I was just going for training run in a fantastic setting and not going for a time; just determined to chill out and enjoy running somewhere I wouldn’t normally – a feeling I was really hoping to replicate this year.

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We got there about 08:30, and were probably in the last 15 mins not to be crammed in. After picking up my number, P went back to the car to get my visor for me while I went for the compulsory pre-race pee (!) and said it was chaos. We’d overheard one of the race organisers saying it was busy last year and they had an extra 100 runners this year so it was going to be incredibly tight. Personally, not sure why if you know you’re that tight on parking you take on another 100 people without maybe having a parking backup and shuttle buses or something but I am fortunately not in the position of having to make decisions like that 🙂 If you’re looking at doing this race next year – get there early and carshare if possible to avoid a headache. I got there for number pick-up opening time (about 8am) last year and breezed in – we were about 08:30 ish this morning and it was definitely getting busy. Race start time isn’t until 09:30 so it can be easy to be deceived into thinking you’ve got ages!

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Run Nation – Cragside 10k

I know the detour around Rothbury is probably a massive pain to the locals, but personally I love heading up the A697 and hitting the open moors when the view just opens out and you can see the Cheviots and the heather – red and brown and somewhat stark at this time of year but it won’t be long before it’s glowing with purple and the yellow flowers are already coming out on the gorse bushes. Cragside seems oddly planted in comparison to its surroundings – there’s not a tree visible on the drive in until you drop into the valley.

Based on a couple of afternoon runs along Prudhoe riverside I was afraid I was going to have to break out the shorts with the weather warming up already, but it’s still been cold at night and in the mornings and this morning was no exception – still a little muggy and cool, but winter’s definitely easing its grasp. Not a day for shorts.

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I’ve not been having a good year for racing so far this year – I had to miss the Gibside Night Run due to illness and over-did it before the CTS at Bamburgh and didn’t enjoy it as much as I was anticipating (entirely self-inflicted!). I was really hoping I’d break that streak before Kielder, and didn’t really have any pre-conceptions for this one having not done it before. I’ve seen elevation profiles before and knew there’s a teeny weeny short hill about 2 miles long in the second half but that was about it really.

With Kielder only a week away, this was a taper-chill run, no ambitions for pace I just wanted to enjoy the setting and hopefully get my pace settled – something I’ve been struggling to find on my last couple of longer runs which has been a bit frustrating. This was also my first run of the year in my Bounders vest, and it was nice to spot a few familiar faces at the start and finish; I’ve been missing the social side of the running world while I’ve been doing my distance runs and hiding and it was good to feel part of something again.

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Gibside Fruit Bowl

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Enough time has passed now that I feel able to talk about the trauma that was the Gibside Fruit Bowl race…the 19th annual race of the Blackhill Bounders at the National Trust’s Gibside estate. Ok, so it wasn’t bad enough to actually be traumatic, but it was very tough. I’m actually just really late posting because it’s taken me this long to have a working computer – I fried my PC and my netbook at the same time, touchscreens are the bane of my life so I wasn’t writing this on my tablet, and I’ve only just managed to get one of them running again – unfortunately the PC’s going to need a new power supply and I haven’t figured out which one I need yet. I will.

Back to the race! I’ve run here before once or twice for the Great Run Local route, which is a 5k from the walled garden up to the monument and round through the woods, past the play area and back to the house. I remember hearing one of the GRL organisers saying once that they’d tried running it in reverse just to see if they could add some variety to it by sometimes running the route in the other direction, except he said it wasn’t really possible as some of the hills in that direction were too steep and long to really run up. A special prize for guessing which way the Fruit Bowl route went….

Obviously, being more than twice the distance, it covered rather more than just the GRL route – and of course, the other bits were not going to be nice easy bits. It turned out to actually be a hybrid of the GRL route, the National Trust Night Run course I did last February, and some random extra steep hills that they’d thrown in for good measure. Definitely the toughest 10k course I’ve done, and actually probably the toughest run I’ve ever done – Gelt Gladiator had nothing on this one!

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No Ego Torch Challenge – Wallington – 6.7km

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Having done a torch race the night before at Gibside, I thought I knew what to expect from this one. I was wrong. I can see now why this series is called ‘No Ego’! J & I had booked in on this one as a push distance for her, and as an intermediary between the 4km J can now run comfortably and the 10k No Ego Trail in Otterburn we’re booked in for in April. There is a strong possibility that the Trail race, despite being further in distance, may actually be a step down in difficulty just because you should be able to actually see where you’re putting your feet! This one had the terrain I would expect from a muddy trail race, with the added complication of being done with the limited visibility offered by a headtorch…

The race started through the courtyard of Wallington hall and then we were off out over the grounds – slightly bumpy and soft-grounded grass which was more effort than roads to run on, but not per-say difficult, with only about 50m you were better off walking for some half-buried masonry. From here we moved onto a well-trodden woodland trail with a few minor tree roots and then onto a proper laid-down path along the river. So far so good! Next up were the woodland tracks – tree roots and tree-stumps a-plenty! Progress through here was patchy – depth perception is much harder with a torch in the dark, as the shadows are on the opposite side to you and we nearly ended up in an inelegant heap more than once!

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National Trust Night Run – Gibside – 6km

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I’ve done the Gibside Great Run Local 5k route a few times, and I knew this was not going to be a flat course at all, but with it being on the doorstep – I had to give it a go. This is probably the closest organised event to my front door I’ll ever find without moving house. My suspicions about the hills were correct. I did not find this an easy course. The downhills were greatly welcomed but I confess to walking the steep or long uphills, at least partially. Not anything like a personal best but I’m really pleased I went out there and did it. I was right at the back for the first half, but was able to gain some ground and overtake some people on the hills around the 4km with my pat-pending power-walk-up-hills-instead-of-even-attempting-to-run!

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