Blue Runnings

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

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 πŸ™‚ 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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Gibside Fruit Bowl

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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Hellhole 10k


It’s that time of year again, the weather is cooling down nicely and we’re all dreaming of hot soups and stews, autumn colours, warm fuzzy jumpers and big coats… And plague. For the human respiratory system for some reason is fine in most temperature conditions, but heaven forbid it has to cope with any sort of change. Phlegm for you Sir, lots of it, and maybe a headache and swollen glands. A human body in full immune response doesn’t do subtle or attractive!

I skipped park run on Saturday, particularly knowing I was booked in for Hellhole on Sunday, and decided I’d play it by ear on Sunday morning before deciding whether I was going or not. At this point I was still at the sore throat level, I have since levelled up and am now a full-blown (ha-ha) snothead boss! Lucky me huh. Obviously I did decide to run it, or we wouldn’t even be here, but decided I’d take it slow, wrap up, walk if I needed to and just get round. First time since last winter I’ve had ye olde thermal top on! I had my running lights on earlier in the week too, the dark nights are fast approaching!


Anyway, nice and snug I was – thermal for my chest, buff for my neck, soothers in belt pouch, trail shoes on, ready to go! I’ve not done Hellhole before, nor been to Stanley – only driven through it so I didn’t really know what to except for this one, Β other than being slightly suspicious of anything called ‘multi-terrain’ and having resigned myself to hills.

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Kielder Beat the Bull – 10k


There’s one word always seems to sum up the experience of running at Kielder for me – surreal. If you’re wanting to dip your toe into the world of trail running, or just looking for an alternative to pounding the pavements along your local streets, this one really is fab.

I did the 10k race last year as one of my first, and loved it enough to sign up on opening day this year. There’s something really special about running here, it is not by any stretch of the imagination flat, but it is probably the quietest race I’ve ever done and with such a gorgeous setting it really is one to kick back and enjoy.

course map

I’d turned up in 2014 with no real preconceptions as to what to expect, quietly hoping to beat my last 10k best I’d set at the Gateshead Trail 2 months before, and looking forward to running somewhere new – it was the first time I’d been to Kielder after being on the ‘investigate’ list for a while.

There is a very prominent feature in the Kielder 10k route around the peninsula…and I don’t mean the lake. Between the 1km and 2km mark is a very long, rather steep hill – travelled in the up direction. Last year, I thought that was me done and seriously considered bailing out and heading back to the start line thinking the whole thing was going to be like that and it would be the end of me. I made it (slowly) to the top – where the kind marshall souls had set up a water station – and wrote off all possible thoughts of a pb, focused my mind on getting round and set off again. It was the most zen 8k I’ve ever ran. I just switched off, enjoyed the views and the woodland stretches, and made it to the finish line – 2 mins quicker than my last pb. Take that hill.


This year, I was set up to take a similar approach – this is a course route to be enjoyed not just completed. I would do whatever I had to to get up that hill just so I could run the rest of it again. As it happens, my memories of the hill from last year had made it much steeper than I found it this year with something to look forward to. It was still there, still a hill, and still long, but it was conquerable. Get it out the way and you can enjoy the rest. Get up it any way you have to – run, jog, powerwalk, walk, stagger, crawl. It’s ONE hill and then you’re onto ‘undulating’ πŸ™‚ That’s your reward.

I loved every minute of this year – even the hill. I don’t actually know where the first 3km went before they seemed to be behind me. It felt like it took so much less time than the year before. I had my eye on another Bounder vest that had left me behind by the 7km mark at the Gateshead Trail and I was determined to keep it in sight at the very least this time! There were quite a few of us there this year, and more on the half and full marathon courses for Sunday.

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North-East Harrier League – Tanfield


I had my first taster of how Cross Country might possibly pan-out last Wednesday at the Bounders handicap night – 3 laps around the cricket and football fields and the race track – none of which I knew previously were there…running has done much for teaching me the local area! I’d turned up to that in completely the wrong shoes – forgetting until I got there that I was intending to wear my trail shoes, I had put on my trusty road shoes by mistake. The poor things are now a very different colour and slightly damp. I hope they will forgive me!

I was determined not to make this mistake on race day, and I had also figured by this point that my trail shoes were also probably not going to cut it if I wanted to still have them for trail running by the end of the season…so my trusty trash-em pinkies have found a new role in life – Glycerins for road, Cascadia’s for trail, pink canoes for cross country! I had to empty them of all the sand or mud I’d got into them last time I wore them…may have been Otterburn that was responsible for that one.

My plans to leave were scuppered by my sudden fretting about irrelevant things, and I was twitchy anyway as I’d discovered that morning that my Bounders vest was in the bottom of the washing basket and disgusting – so that was frantically washed and fortunately being a sports vest had dried on the airer by the time I needed to leave. P was kindly coming with me to wave and support (and drive me home afterwards!) and we did actually make it there in time for me to empty my trainers of the last run’s mess and find my team tent and my race number. It was bigger than we’d anticipated – 2 fields covered in cars, and 10 races being run with teams from all over the North-East. I ran with the ‘slow’ women’s wave, and there were 388 runners just in the race I did!

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Great North Run


A week on and I think my knees have finally found their way home from South Shields! I was a bit stiff on Monday, and more so on Tuesday, but by Wednesday my legs were fine – so of course the machine at work went bang and I finished the week with very stiff arms instead! Ho-hum.

How was it? I hear you cry! This was the first time I’ve done the Great North Run, and it was definitely one I wanted to tick off the bucket list – if I’m going to run in the North-East, I have to have run the Blaydon Races and the Great North Run – I can now say I have survived both! Both were also ridiculously hot and sunny…

I’d surprised J in the car on the way to Leaze’s Park, where Mr J was kindly dropping us off, with a tutu of her very own as I know she has previous for coveting other’s tutus at other races πŸ˜› She was running for the Great North Air Ambulance so was gifted a luminous green tutu, while I was in a black one with gold ribbons for the colours of the Blackhill Bounders.


We’d opted for leaving all our stuff with Mr J. rather than risking the crush of the baggage buses, so were walking down to the starting corrals as we were intending to run – it was somewhat cold. We joined the compulsory loo queue – fortunately before it got too long, and then found the corrals – or rather, we could see them, but not a clear way to get to them. With them essentially being on the motorway, it wasn’t exactly built for pedestrian access so in true direct style we hopped over the fence and down the slope! I think we must have walked a mile to get to our corral, we were starting from pink – the second to last corral and the start line wasn’t even in sight when we found it. Plenty of screens showing it, no sign of its physical presence!

It was at least heating up, our frozen fingers were a thing of the past as we cautiously sipped our pre-race water not wanting another trip to the portaloos, and praying it wasn’t going to heat up too much more. It had been cooling down nicely through September so of course race day had to be a throwback to a summer scorcher.

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Washington Trail 2015 – Trail Outlaws

by Hippie Nixon

by Hippie Nixon

I’ve not done a race specifically organised by the Trail Outlaws before, but they were involved in the Washington running club’s 5k fundraiser event earlier in the year, so I figured I had some small inkling what to expect from this one – some hilly, muddy bits and some footpath tarmac track. I wasn’t far off; the tarmac was mostly absent but there was a good mix of trail paths and woodland track – much more rooty than on the Washington one.

J & I had both read that there were some hills on this course – and they weren’t kidding! It started gentle enough, a long downhill to the river and a flattish short loop out to the main road and back in. Back to the drink and jelly baby station, so far so good, face full of sweeties and a rehydration pause (one has tried glugging from plastic cups while running before and does not wish to repeat the experience!), off we went again – over the bridge and…up. On to a steep road which put us into the woodland section, on a narrow trail with tree-roots which was more technical (read: higher ankle-breaking-potential) than where I usually go, but was really enjoyable and peaceful. It’s been a while since I’ve hit proper woodland trails in a deciduous English wood – and I really could have been back in Surrey running in the woods by my parents’ house.

There were a couple of sneaky very steep but blessedly short slopes in the woods – you either trotted up on your toes knowing you’d slip if you didn’t keep moving, or scramble making use of hands where needed! This took us out the woods and back on the tow paths for a long stretch of flats – very welcome and I only partially filled my face with ripe blackberries on the way through πŸ˜‰ Another slope at the end to reach the bridge and turn back towards the jelly baby station (so much easier to look forward to than just a water station!). It was a long straight along the river and under the viaduct to our next face-filling point, and by this point we had a lot of space between the runners ahead and behind, so it was wonderfully peaceful being in the shade on a sunny morning by the river. I think I’m going to have to drag P back down this way for a walk in the autumn – it was really pretty πŸ™‚

by CS of the Trail Outlaws

by CS of the Trail Outlaws

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Gateshead Trail 2015 – 10k


I don’t know why I bother with alarm clocks I really don’t. The Gateshead Trail kicked off at 10am, registration opening at 8am and knowing how busy it was last year even when I’d collected my number before raceday, I opted for getting there just after registration time to pick up my number so I’d set my alarm for early. I still woke up at 05:30 – a similar time to when I get up for work, and spent an hour in bed on the tablet before getting up for a shower. I took a book with me (to the race, not in the shower) and read it in the car for an hour after I’d picked up my number and t-shirt (pre-ordered with race entry, not a finisher’s pack one for this one) as it was still nippy outside. By not a huge amount of time after 9am it was already warming up and I was starting to cook even with the window down – I had a lightweight hoody on with the hood up to shade my face so my cheeks weren’t burning before I’d set off!


I set off with a group of Bounders in the 60-70 minute wave but it wasn’t long before we all spaced out as we each settled into our own paces. Last time I did this race I’d not been running a huge amount of time and I remember being really pleased that I made it all the way to the 3km mark without a walking break – at the time this was a walk-free record for me, and actually as I passed the same marker this time I was tempted to do the same thing! Instead of just bailing and walking – that really would have been folding to just general lethargy, I made myself take a step down in the pace and use this race as a training exercise for keeping going for longer in the heat by not pushing myself as fast – or I probably wouldn’t have gotten round in one go as I did. Having run-walked it last year, I really wanted to run the whole thing this year, and knowing it’s mostly flat and I’ve covered the distance and further several times before I was not allowing any excuses not to!

I got a boost from the passing section where everyone waves and cheers on each other while they’re passing, but it wasn’t until somewhere between the 5 and 6km mark that I really started to find my groove and settle down into a quiet headspace where I didn’t have to fight with my legs, lungs or temperature. Of course, not long after that I hit the longest hill on the course and that nearly had me – I was determined to get as far up as I could even with some other runners dropping down to a walk halfway up and made it to the crest, but if it had been much longer I’m not sure I would have been able to!

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Butterwick Hospice 10k – Hamsterley Forest

What happened to that lovely run streak I had going at the start of the week?! I had it all planned out…I would run at least 5k every day from Monday to Wednesday, have Thursday off, do a gym session on Friday, have Saturday off, then hit the Butterwick 10k on Sunday. Monday and Tuesday went vaguely according to plan, and then work happened. The machine went bang on Wednesday afternoon and it was after midnight before I left for home, back in the next morning for a full day and I was out like a light almost as soon as I got in the door on Thursday evening. Friday was just me playing catch-up πŸ™‚ So, we arrive at Sunday having only done half the exercise we were expecting and praying for rain so it might be slightly cooler.

Having run at Hamsterley Forest before, I had some inkling of the type of terrain likely to be involved in this run – it was a bit much to hope that it would be along the road at the bottom of the valley and back, and therefore flat, and my inklings were confirmed by one of the Bounders posting on Facebook asking if anyone else was doing this hilly one today…When you’ve spent the last week struggling to run 5k on a flat, 10k of hills is the last thing you want to think about facing, and I know how big and long some of the hills at Hamsterley can be! If I could make it round in one piece, it would however be a good confidence booster to reassure me that even if I finish as roasted as a Sunday lunch chicken, I can get round and break that 5k wall I seem to have put up lately.

We got to Hamsterley Forest in plenty of time to register, and they had something I haven’t seen for a run before – usually the timing chip is on the race number or needs cable-tying to your laces, these were padded ankle bracelets like tracking devices just incase we left the beaten track and tried to take a short-cut so we could win all the things or something…


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