Blue Runnings

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

Butterwick 10k 2016

Today was a repeat run of one of last year’s – my third repeat of the year – which considering how many races I did last year by now is almost impressive in itself! J and I went to the Butterwick Hospice 10k last year, and enjoyed it despite finding the route very challenging – those hills! – so it was one the definitely made the calendar for this year.


We had quite a few walk breaks last year as there were some rather serious hills, particularly at the start. They’d changed the start and finish points this year, which slightly modified the route. It felt like the starting hill was longer, but not actually steeper – the elevation graph shows different and we netted out at the same height, but the difference is that this time we made it all the way up without stopping! We came back down the hill and crossed the ford at the bottom – which we’d both forgotten about – WITHOUT getting wet shoes! Hurrah!


It was around this point that I discovered my shoes were starting to rub…maybe 3-4km in? I’ve worn my Cascadia’s several times before – they’ve done nearly 150 miles with me without this problem, through sand, mud and sunshine, so having them rub was a bit frustrating. Maybe it was my socks? I don’t know. Annoyingly I’d nearly put my road-runners on but decided that no, I’d paid good money for trail shoes for exactly this sort of race so I should wear them. No point stopping to check, such things don’t get better being looked at and we had a race to finish!

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Washington Bottoms Up Cup 2016


I was originally down to do the Durham Coastal Half Marathon today, and looking at the photos I am definitely going to be doing this next year as it looks right up my street. This year however I decided I was not fit enough right now to be trying to do a tough terrain half marathon (320 steps and no flat bits!) right now and entered myself in for the Bottoms Up Cup at Washington, which I did in its inaugural year last year and quite enjoyed. It’s a club-run organised by Washington RC, and was well attended this year, with I think 80-ish runners present.

It’s been cold in the mornings all week, and often foggy, so of course today while it started off cloudy it burned off before the race start to a ridiculously sunny day in much the same way it did for the Washington Trail 10k a few weeks ago. I was a little more prepared this morning having actually bothered to check the weather forecast before getting dressed, and determining very rapidly that shorts would be a sensible idea even if I needed a jumper in the morning before the race start.


I woke up rather earlier than I would have liked this morning dreaming of Dun Niffelem and ice giants (don’t ask) so had my tired head on when I set off with as many trainers in the car as J normally takes when she’s racing! I was wearing my Cascadia trail shoes, having removed all the bits of grit and sand which were stuck in the holes in the insoles and I found last time I wore them for a run with J last week after they gave me a blister from bits of rock rubbing against my feet! I hadn’t completely committed to wearing them so also threw in my other road-running shoes, and a pair of shoes for afterwards. As it happens, I did wear them and they were fine ๐Ÿ™‚ Checking my insoles has become a regular part of my pre-run prep…particularly if I’m going more than 10k – I’m always checking for balls of cat hair, cotton buds (presents from said cat) and build-ups of grit and sand which you don’t notice when you first put them on but boy do they start to rub after a mile or two! I don’t normally actually have to check IN the insole though – these were embedded in the little drilled through holes.

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Washington Trail 10k 2016


I must admit 2016 is not sticking in my mind as being the best for races, but it must also be said that none of it has been down to the races and their organisers themselves! With the exception of the Cragside 10k, not a single one this year has gone to plan for me!

The plan for the Washington Trail, which J and I did last year so I did have some inclining as to what the route and terrain was going to be like, was the same as for Cragside – slow and steady and pootle round going steady regardless of terrain. The WT10k is a moderately hilly course. The problem with this came with the weather – a foggy morning which burnt off around about start time to give 20 degrees of baking sunshine. Heat. I hate heat. I hate doing anything in the heat. You could seriously bake a full English breakfast on my face after about a mile of trying to run in the summer. Ok, I may be exaggerating very slightly. Only slightly though. Point is, me + running + summer do not get along!

J may or may not have noticed, when we were prepping for the GNR last September, I didn’t really do many sociable runs leading up to and pretty much kept to myself. I didn’t go into it at the time but I was really struggling – 5k was a fight which was incredibly demoralising for someone who a few months before was getting comfortable with doing 10M on a weekend. I really worried about getting round. This summer, I’m a bit more prepared in knowing what to expect – I found it a lot harder going out in the summer, but actually was matching my previous Spring pace (even if it didn’t feel like it), and it meant I reaped the benefits when the temperature dropped again. Just gotta get through it to autumn again! A slightly sad countdown when it’s only May and summer’s just beginning…

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I like to occasionally try new sporting activities, but I also like to try them in ‘taster mode’ so I don’t have to spend a fortune on kit or dedicate three months of my life to a different type of training in order to finish it – this is why I’ve never done more than a 5k mud/obstacle/paint run – 5k is enough for me to experience them without the full on tiring slog or insane amount of ingested paint of the bigger 10k and even 10 mile events, and I can decide what I think of them without risking ending up passing out in a heap too badly by the end of the day. It’s also cheaper doing the smaller ones than forking out for a 50 gazillion obstacle race and finding out by obstacle 10 that it’s not your cup of tea and you’ve got another 3 hours to go but you can’t pull out because you sold three kidneys to get in. And hey, if you do like it, you can escalate from the tiny tapas plate to the full whack next time!

When I saw that one of the local triathlon groups (Castle Tri in Prudhoe) was doing a beginner triathlon at the town where I used to live, I saw an opportunity: I would get to try doing a triathlon without actually doing anything that would result in me drowning in a lake, ending up in a ditch across a mountain side with my wheels in the air, or falling flat on my face in a field with a broken ankle (well, less chance of this than usual!). So, knowing nothing more about triathlons than that swimming, cycling and running were involved, N and I booked onto it, and then promptly forgot about it for the next however many months as something to be thought about once I’d got Kielder out the way.

As the event got closer, I started getting a bit apprehensive; I’d been in a pool once in the last few years, and had been more tired than I’d cared to admit after what I rather wish was a longer number of lengths; I am a haphazard flat-route cyclist at best; and I had no idea how triathlons worked. Do you really go straight from the pool/lake/sea to your bike and just throw your trainers on and go?! (YES) Even if you’re doing like a million mile cycle ride and the wind is blowing a gale?! (YES) Doesn’t everyone get pneumonia and turn into icepeople?! (MAYBE?!) What am I supposed to do about my lady-holsters?! I’m not doing a run with just my swimsuit! Apparently one wears one’s necessities under one’s swimming garb and just has it soggy but hopefully supportive all day!

This was starting to look a bit bigger than a quick dip in the pool, a gentle cycle in the country and a pootle in the park. The mysterious ‘Transition’, the fourth event of the triathlon obviously needed more thinking than I had previously considered! I felt a bit better when the pre-race info came out; some more detail on the routes and a kit list, and some info on transition, backed up and elaborated on nearer the time by some helpful posts on the Running Ninjas facebook page by others who would also be attempting this feat!

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Dark Skies Kielder

Havingย  seen all the photos from last year’s race, where the runners set off in blue skies and sunshine, and were treated to some fantastic night skies when the sun had set, it honestly never occurred to me when I booked this race that it might rain. Cue Storm Katie. Normally I don’t watch the weather forecast before, well, anything; looking out the window is good enough for me! The week preceding the race I was watching on a daily basis, praying it would improve – it actually got worse every time I checked it. This was the forecast the morning before race day:


Looks like it might clear up for the majority of the run time (approx. 17:00-23:00), but it was basically mostly drizzle and light rain the entire time on the hourly forecast as the race got closer. Those wind figures never budged either <_< lovely; just the type of evening everyone looks forwards to!

P & I set off up to Kielder mid-afternoon (1 hr nap squeezed in!), my parents and midgets having kindly come to visit for the weekend and cheer me on were to follow a bit later for the offset. We picked up my race number and t-shirt – not everyone did; there were 42 who didn’t bother to turn up for registration – I can’t believe they all had personal circumstances come up at short notice so suspect the weather to have been the primary detractor!

It was drizzling when we set off, here we have some of my lovely family looking rather soggy at the start-line! (Yes guys, Hippie caught you too! There’s no escape!)


To me, once we set off, it didn’t feel as wet as it looks in this picture – more of a misty drizzle and I was more concerned with how warm I was getting wearing a fully sealed waterproof top and hat, so I stashed my waterproof on my backpack elastics and put my gloves on – my hands at least were rather chilly! I’ve run in drizzle before, and stayed warm as long as I keep moving so I didn’t really think anything of it, but this is the start of the whole race going downhill for me (unlike the route which I swear managed to be uphill 90% of the time!).

I was feeling pretty calm and steady as we headed off to the Northern most tip of the reservoir; I didn’t get dragged along with the speedies and just concentrated on a steady jog off to “the hilly bits”. All was well.


I only look slightly ridiculous with my hat under my headtorch and over my headphones!

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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.


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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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.


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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Loftus Poultry Run

I’ve been making an effort not to spend my entire paycheck on race entries, can you tell by my suddenly rather gapped entries?! Out of practice with this blogging malarky…late for this one too! C+, must do better.

My last race of the year was the Loftus Poultry Run, a first for me but one I’ve heard of before – I have lived in Marske and Stockton before I started running and it has a degree of notoriety! Hills, hills, hills… 5 up, 3 down. In keeping with its name, all the category prizes are exactly that – chickens, geese and turkeys, all ready to cook for Christmas dinner! A large proportion of runners go in festive fancy dress for the end of the year so it was time to drag out the tinsel and join them. I think the closest I’ve come to a fancy-dress run is the Mo-Run, and the most I’ve worn for that is a viking hat and big furry moustache and beard, or my tutu skirt and headress for the GNR – I don’t tend to go for a full outfit for fear of getting too hot or rubbing in places I don’t want to think about! (Once chaffed, twice very shy indeed!!!) How do we get round it? Hat, gloves, stockings, tail, ears – we go as the Cat in the Hat with a tinsel twist ๐Ÿ™‚


‘Twas a bright and sunny day in Loftus, but it was also blowing a gale with many-mph winds so my poor hat tinsel started dewinding from my hat past about 400 yards, and by the end of the race was devoid of stars and wrapped round my neck like green sparkly barbed wire with only tiny barbs.

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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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The Sun Shines on Sunderland – Run 2 Remember

The morning of the Run 2 Remember race in Sunderland, this article came up on my facebook news feed. Reading it really helped bring into focus for me what the charities behind the Run 2 Remember series are working for and towards, and made me feel so incredibly lucky to still have the use of all my facilities. I haven’t really been following the Walk With the Wounded Tour of Britain, just had a general awareness that it was going on. The woman featured in the story has had most of her body rebuilt over the last few years, and then walked 1000 miles before being scheduled to have her leg amputated. That’s just the physical barriers she’s overcome. If that doesn’t make you grateful you’re able to swing yourself out of bed in the morning and sweep away all excuses for not doing something I really don’t know what will.

When I booked this race, it was to be my last 5k of the year and I was hoping for a shot at a pb – November race, should be nice and cold, flat course, good paths… A good plan except someone forgot to tell the weather what time of year it was, so it was 15-16’C and when running it felt like July, there were several long hills near the end, and I’d forgotten to take into account the fact it’s autumn so all those lovely tarmac paths were covered in wet leaves. Fun times ahead!

The course followed what I believe is the Sunderland parkrun route and it was very pretty and less hilly than the Blackhill one! J and I completely melted on the way round but we made it – down the hill, twice round the lake (fortunately a small lake as I don’t do well with laps!), along the field and then up…and more up…and up some more to the finish line! We raided the burger van for sausage rolls with onions because we’d totally earned them. We got a pretty funky medal and a goody bag filled with yummies, and for some reason low sodium salt in vast quantities…

I enjoyed this one ๐Ÿ™‚ A good reason to get up on a Sunday morning – though personally I would have liked it about 10 degrees colder!


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

GPX data on Dropbox

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