Blue Runnings

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

Trail Outlaws – Branches & Bays 10k

The Trail Outlaws have missed their moniker for this race. It should be Branches, Steps & Bays. There were branches, there were bays (2 of them!), and there were steps. Such steep steps.

This is the first time I’ve attended this event, but I have attended several Trail Outlaws 10k’s and one of their half’s, and a few things feature quite often in the T.O. package.

  1. Free mileage – you often get more than you signed up for!
  2. Steps or steep inclines – often both
  3. Off-the-beaten-track routes
  4. Excellent marshalls
  5. Ambushed by Hippie Nixon Photography (sometimes Mr & Mrs both get you in the same race!)
  6. Awesome medals

Branches & Bays 10k was no exception to any of these – but the steps were unusual in their placement nearer the start of the race, and in their severity which brought pretty much the whole race to a walking pace!

You start in the woods, and hit your first steps and streams leaving them to come out under the bridge to Hawthorn Hive.

Here, on the beach, Hippie will take photos of you trying to get round, over or through Hawthorn Burn. This is made more entertaining by remembering that the race rules state that entering the water will result in disqualification. I think this refers more to the pools on later Blast Beach which are contaminated with waste from previous industry in the area (that name must come from somewhere!) but it does not specify… If you’re really, really unlucky, Hippie will catch you falling in face first as did happen to one very drenched poor chap.

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You will then leave this particular bay via some very steep winding steps with delightfully high risers. Unless you are at the very front of the race, you will be waiting patiently with your fellow runners for your climb to begin. You will not be running, but this probably also means you won’t be smashing your teeth out when you fall either (for the record, I’m not aware of this happening!).

To make up for the horrendous steps of death, there are actually some flat bits in this race! This is usually unheard of without a river to run alongside on a Trail Outlaws race, but I for one was very grateful for the opportunity to get my breath back and feel I was making some progress again!

We ran over the top of the cliffs for over a mile before reaching more steps – these much more precarious, especially for going down, and joined Blast Beach. Believe me – the photo doesn’t do justice to how high and slightly slippy these were!

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We had to do a short out-and-back along the beach – which is probably the gravelliest beach I’ve been to since moving to the North-East; they seem to often be a mix of sand and gigantic rock formations rather than pebbles.

We looped a big rock pile thing and then ran the length of the beach back towards Mrs Hippie – also armed with camera. The T.O. organisers had very kindly arranged for another steep section – an incline this time but still not runnable for yours truly after the ankle-breaking beach section – before you were allowed to leave the beach and return to terra firma!

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The elevation profile (bottom of the page) for this suggests that the route back from the beach to the finish line is a steady uphill, and maybe it was but that’s not how it’s stamped itself into my head. I remember coming through the woods pushing myself up each short trail incline and then flat then incline, but they were all of themselves small – so it must have been a cumulative effect. In fact I finished with an impression of this being the flattest route I’ve ever done on a Trail Outlaws event with the exception of the monster steps on and off the beaches. No, that is NOT a challenge to the organisers for next time!

Trail Outlaws are known for their beasting medals, and this year was no exception; a massive gong for surviving to the finish line and a Trail Outlaws mug for the post-run Red Cola to go with the pawful of jelly babies I rapidly shoved in my maw.

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There was only one small blip in this race for me – so many people come in groups with their friends or running clubs to these races, and my running club is not really big on trail races generally. The only two people I knew at this event are both involved with the Trail Outlaws team, so while both friendly and happy to wave and chat briefly I did feel a bit of an outlaw (see what I did there?!) without my mates out on the course to wave at and cheer on, possibly to have a retrospective gripe about the tough bits, especially at the finish. Will have to sucker some other poor buggers into coming next year 😉

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

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Gateshead Trail 10k – 2019

It’s Gateshead Trail time again! Now in its sixth incarnation, and even bigger than ever with 2000 runners signed up for this year’s event, though I’m not sure if some didn’t bail with the weather warnings! I think I’ve made four out of six races since it started 🙂 I like the route, how local it is to me (15 mins drive away tops!), and the general atmosphere at basecamp. The medal’s usually a corker too 😉 J was my official chauffeur and cheerleader for this one, and we met L down there who made sure we were fully stocked with tablet for a sugar boost post-race!

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It feels like normally this race is blessed with sunshine, but there were lightning and rain warnings this year as there have been for previous week, and the river was very full indeed! Anorak’s and bin bags were in plentiful supply in the run up to the race, and those small (and less small!) beings blessed with wellies were having a good stomp in the water-logged fields while it showered.

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As it happens, we’d scrapped the jackets and bin liners at the start line as it was rather close despite the wet, and it didn’t rain again for the rest of the event! There may even have been a hint of a sunbeam in a few places!

L & I started in a slightly faster time pen than we were going for – L was hoping to beat last year’s time, and I sometimes find that I get quite penned in if I start nearer the back, even though my intention was to take things easy and just get round (I may do a knees update later this week!). Gateshead Trail 10k is great for being open to all abilities and there’s a huge range of paces taking part – from the sprint-for-miles to those who may need to walk quite a bit of it, but the nearer the back of the starting pens you get the less accurate it feels the approximate timings of the participants is and the busier it gets – and I always feel a bit rude darting round people!

It honestly didn’t feel like there were 2000 runners when we set up – it was plenty busy enough at the start line, but with the way the organisers had set up the start line we didn’t get hemmed in at all after we crossed it and were nicely spaced out as we set out towards Derwenthaugh Park. L and I kept about the same pace and had a good chat for the first 3km, but as we hit the first long incline I began to drop back a bit while L went ahead. I managed to keep her in sight for most of the race, but she disappeared somewhere between the 7km and 8km mark as we headed back to Blaydon along the Derwent Walk! We’d both worn trail shoes having serious questionmarks over the amount of mud there was likely to be, but unless you were one of the front-runners and full on sprinting through the puddles, it wasn’t too bad and road trainers you didn’t mind getting a bit grubby would have been fine.

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I did manage to complete the last straight with a sprint finish (this race and Kielder 10k are two I always have to feel I’ve emptied the tank crossing the finish line – even when I’ve been taking it easy like this time!) without falling on my face over the timing mats (win!), and this year’s medal felt particularly heavy round my neck at the end! I don’t think it’s any different than previous years but it’s not been a very medal-heavy year for me this year so it stuck out!

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I stopped actively using Strava a while ago – though I still have an account. Still having an account, it still sometimes sends me emails usually regarding what my friends are out doing. I received one yesterday evening regarding a certain segment on the Gateshead Trail 10k. It turns out, I’ve held the ladies course record since 2015 – until yesterday when a well-deserving Strider apparently kicked my 2015 bottom into touch!

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For someone who doesn’t normally use Strava, and is not competitive in many things, I’m slightly put out 😛 This year’s time doesn’t come close either! Nevermind 🙂 I’m still on the board at position 80 – and I think lady number 2 🙂 Not too shabby for someone who’s normally at the middle-back of the pack 🙂

All in all, another great race with some lovely people ❤

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I even found a NEW friend on my way back to the carpark!

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Will we be back next year? Probably – if I’m not swanning around the South of France somewhere!

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

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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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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 directing 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 right down a gorse track rather than the straight ahead route the line of jackets were 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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George Ogle Memorial Race 2018

A new route this year – and a few new faces at the race start! C for some reason had believed only the ‘flat bit’ of my race description (the last mile or so) but has disregarded my comments about hills and steps as apparently it’s more likely I am winding her up than that anyone could POSSIBLY put flights of steps in a race event. The Nile is not only a river in Egypt… It can’t be that bad if we all keep going back year after year 😉

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Photo by CM (Blackhill Bounders)

I think the best way to share the route for this is to just let Derwent Valley Running Club do it themselves with their fab video of the route!

There was a slight modification to the route this year – apparently two horrendous hills is not enough so a third near the start was very kindly added in by some generous route-finding soul… I confess here and now to marching it! When we set off I had faint hopes of getting under the 1hr marker for the first time (previous times 1:09:48 in 2015 and 1:00:24 in 2017 I have just discovered) and I’d basically thrown that out the window by the time we turned through the gate for the first hill – the new one – and figured I’d just see how I did and concentrate and getting to the finish line!

I don’t know how many flights of steps there were in this race – maybe 5? – but I know I only ran 1.5 of them and walked at least part of all the big hills! I was in good company 😉 I was therefore delighted to get back round to the viaduct and find that I still had a shot at getting under the 1hr marker – and the terrain was going to be in my favour (for once) for getting there if I could keep the pace going.

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I did – even with the walk breaks – end up coming in under the hour marker at 57:48, which I’m really pleased with 🙂 Definitely making progress with the pacing! Plenty of spot prizes at the race with the finishing gifts – our group walked off with a bottle of wine and another of gin! This race usually gives goodies instead of medals and this year was no different – water bottle, buff and B’s favourite jellybeans 🙂

B, G and I will be back next year…we’ll wait and see if J3, C and R join us again! According to some it’s not a race without bling at the finish 😉

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You can download a GPX file for this route from my Dropbox account by clicking on the link below:

George Ogle 2018 route file

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Gibside Night Run 2018

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I ran Gibside Night Run for the first time in 2015, and since then it’s made the list of ‘races I want to run’ every year – but this is the first year I’ve actually made it back: I missed one of the intermediary years due to illness, and another due to it clashing with another night race J had booked us all on to. This year, I managed to sucker B into attending me as a late entry and we both headed off to Gibside with G as official bagholder for the fee of 1 post-race pizza!

 

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I’d remembered some stretches suprisingly well given it’s 3 years since I last did it, and had blissfully forgotten the length of some of the hills, and the steepness of the second-to-last one! I’ve run at Gibside enough times to know there’s always a hill near the start – it doesn’t matter which way you go, unless you’re just doing the Avenue and back you are going to hit a hill.

There wasn’t a huge amount of chatting up the first loooong hill, but we both made it to the top maintaining a steady jog, and passing several people who’d dropped to a walk from about halfway up. One of the great things about hill training and having pretty much any local run you try to do featuring at least one hill in it somewhere is you get to be pretty unphased unless they’re particularly long and/or steep. It was a marked difference in approach to last time I did this race, where I definitely walked every one of the uphills after the first few steps up them.

The one thing that wasn’t different was how much I enjoyed it – this is very much a fun run; it’s not chocka with club runners, it’s popular with families, walkers, people with dogs, you name it! It’s very low pressure and at 6km is a distance you can either push yourself over or just kick back and enjoy it.

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Washington Trail 10k – 2017

The Trail Outlaws organise a series of ‘Urban Trail’ races from 10k to half marathon around the North-East (and if you fancy it, right up to the 100+ miles marker not for some of us mere mortals!), and this race around Washington is rapidly becoming a regular feature in my running calendar – so when I heard J was doing again this year (straight after night shift she was that keen!), I couldn’t leave her to go by herself! It also meant I might have half a chance of keeping up with her if I caught her when she would be already too tired for any sane person to consider going for a 10k run in the hills…

I don’t know if one of the Trail Outlaws guys has a deal with the weather for this one, but I don’t think I’ve done it when it hasn’t been blue skies and sunshine, or not far off it! This is appreciated in one respect because the riverside and the woods look fantastic in the sunshine when the flowers are coming out, and it makes you really appreciate the shade, but it also means that you cook when you’re going up the hills in the first half which are a bit more exposed…

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There are several loops to this race, passing through a common marshalling and refreshments area where there’s always a ready supply of drinks – water and cola this time – and if you’re lucky there might still be some jelly babies left even by your third time through! There are always several marshalls here handing out drinks, and it’s great to see the kids getting involved handing out beakers and giving power-up high-fives to all who pass through – no matter how many times they’ve seen you already! You come downhill from the start to join the river and start your first lap after passing through this area (Time 1), heading up through the woods and towards the main road before coming back down again to the clearing (Time 2). From here, you head out across a footbridge, up a hill (there’s quite a few of them) and across the stile at the top.

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This is my race – and I am equal to it

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Followers of my Facebook page will know that I have been somewhat absent for several weeks – since the end of August in fact. This has mainly been because I have not been up to much. There would have been several weeks of alternating ‘cycled route 1’ and ‘ran short route 2’ over and over again, combined with me still moaning about the heat and lamenting that the cooler months weren’t here yet. And that gets boring very fast. For me and you both. I also spent the second half of September playing host to a lovely cold bug which still insists on being my constant companion even now – but at least I don’t need to carry around his sidekick Bodyweight-in-Tissues, I just frequently hack and cough in the beautifully elegant way with which I do all things I undertake.

Knowing the Kielder 10k was coming up, about 3 weeks ago I wanted to make sure I was getting comfortable with the 10k distance again, so I headed out hoping to repeat the 7 miles J and I had done from my house down towards Swalwell on the Derwent Walk. I had a nice steady pace of about 10:30-11 min miles I was quite happy with right up until the 5 mile mark when it dropped right off as my shoes started to rub. I don’t know if this is summer adding injury to insult – I’ve had blisters in the same place with three different pairs of trainers and three different styles of socks if I do more than a couple of miles. Guess I just get glamorously sweaty feet! I did make the 10k in an ok-ish summer time so I made my peace with that, and then Mr Cold moved in and I did absolutely nothing at all for the 2 weeks coming up to the race in the deseparate hope he would move out and find a new friend. He seems to have sent all his brothers and sisters out to visit all my friends, but he’s staying for now.

I’ve missed running while I’ve been hosting, and it’s shown in how tetchy I’ve been getting about things at work – it’s been a lot harder to keep things in their boxes and not take things personally. Working at Tesco’s or Starbucks has been looking very tempting sometimes! Or, you know, just being a full-time bum! I think I’m fully qualified already for this position but P says no because blah blah mortgage blah blah money blah blah sensible grown-up boring stuff.

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Gateshead Trail 10k 2016

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The Gateshead Trail 10k turned three this year, and I was lucky enough to get wind of it the first year it was running (this was before I went on a race-booking bender in 2015 and booked every race under the half-marathon within a 200 mile radius), and have made sure I’ve been booked in every year since. It’s a relatively flat trail race within 10 miles of my house, and covering ground that I do on various routes through the rest of the year. With 2 short-ish hills and good quality mixed paths it’s a good intro to trail running without the need for fancy shoes or a degree of multi-terrain balance!

I’ve been doing my usual anti-social summer running where I hide away from all social running sessions and sneak out at mega-early times or in bad weather hunting for cool and having a mental strop at how slow I am when it’s hot 🙂 It was therefore really nice to catch up with several of my running friends from Run England and the Blackhill Bounders who were also running this one – I haven’t seen some of them in ages and it was good to see some familiar faces.

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F and I parked up at the Cricket Club this time – there’s a lot of parking at Blaydon Rugby Club for race participants, but there’s also a lot of people who use it and last year I got there early enough to make sure I got parked and took a book – for both the wait at the start and the end – there’s normally a massive queue to leave and it takes a while to get out. The parking at the Cricket Club still had spaces even when we left – without having to wait to get out, and was only 10 mins up the road at a walk – a good warm-up/cooldown and opportunity for a chat so I’ll definitely be doing this again next year!

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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.

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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!

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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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