Blue Runnings

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

parkrun – Gibside

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

This is a tough little course – which was evident from the smaller number of runners who braved it despite it being a clear and sunny morning (though that may also have been the summer holidays coming into play). It’s a tough little course with some long and serious hills and an elevation of 311ft according to my GPS watch. There’s flatter stretches at the top of each hill, but you don’t get to go down much until the very end where you come right back down and then along the long flat of The Avenue back to the finish. You leave by the Walled Garden, head out on a loop at the top of the estate, and finish on a there-and-back part way up the hill to the highest point on Gibside’s grounds before spinning round and heading back to the Walled Garden again for the finish.

You can view a map of the estate (which is worth a visit even just for a walk round and a teacake) by clicking the link below.

Gibside Estate Map from National Trust

Runner’s View video tour of Gibside parkrun, taken 29-07-17 with a head-mounted (and therefore somewhat bouncy-recording!) Apeman camera.

Local facilities:

  • Café (takes cash or card)
  • Toilets

My GPS map for this route:


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

GPX file for Gibside parkrun

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RYA Push The Boat Out – Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club


A note before starting this – I am not Sailing People, so if I use completely the wrong terminology, I apologise in advance!!!

Pete and I have been trying something a bit new this weekend; we’ve been around the Derwent Reservoir many times over the last few years – on foot and in the car, but we’ve never actually been on it. We’ve passed the sailing club on several of these trips and mentioned several times that we’d like to try windsurfing. Hop forward a few years and we actually get around to going on the Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club website to see if they have any courses advertised. Better – in 2 weeks time is a free taster day for sailing and windsurfing. Both signed up in lightning time 🙂

We’ve both been on sailing boats before, but it was a very very long time ago and we were both much smaller – as became very obvious when we went out on one of the youth boats! We arrived armed with swimsuits, changes of clothes, Sarah’s retired running trainers, which she’d kept for some reason just incase she needed a pair to trash (or apparently soak!) and other paraphenalia, most of which we didn’t need!

Wetsuits and lifejackets were provided. Instruction on how to put them on supplied by whoever happened to be in the changing room at the time. I managed fine but I have a credible source suggesting Pete managed to put his on not only back-to-front but inside out the first time (apparently that was just how it was on the hanger…let’s not judge huh?!). The wetsuits were blessedly warm even when dry as there was an excellent wind for sailing picking up that made it rather chilly if you were in a t-shirt.


We were picked up by a pair of sailors from the ‘Slips’ where the boats are launched, and after helping hold boats while trailors where removed, we were off, Pete in the cat (much enthusiasm from Pete when he discovered they had one available as he hasn’t been on one for years) and me in something called a Feva which was something like my friend’s Topper I used to go on as a kid.


As the Feva was rigged with double sails, I had a job as soon as I climbed in – pull the front sail tight and swap sides when we tacked. I really don’t remember these type of boats being this small when I was on one many years ago, but I was also probably over a foot shorter! Thomas looked very at ease in it, but I felt very clumsy, often sitting in the puddles in the bottom before I got the hang of sitting on the side again, and feeling even more so when I took a hand at steering! I couldn’t get the hang of the rudder at all – every way it turned felt back to front and it was very crowded trying to get myself from one side of the boat to the other while keeping the rudder over and not knocking myself out on the boom! Thomas was very patient as I nearly tipped us both in more than once, but it was with some relief that I relinquished my control stick and returned to my front sail duties!

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Pier To Pier 2017

It’s Pier to Pier time again! I ran this in 2015 and spectated in 2016 due to illness, so it was good to be out running it again. Last time I left my car at the start and caught the metro back when I’d finished as I had no idea where I was going at either end, but this year I took advantage of the coaches which had been enlisted to ferry people who had parked at the finish back to the start line in good time for everything kicking off. I’d definitely use this service again if not getting the Bounders coach as it was very smooth – I found parking easily (not so in 2016 when I was meeing J at the finish as it was full of presumably runner’s cars!) and didn’t have to wait at all for a coach.


The start of this race is on the sand by the pier at South Shields – and more than one person had to empty their shoes of sand from crossing the loose stuff before the start time. I’d opted for my Goretex trail shoes – the pink canoes – and they did keep the bulk of the sand out – I’d picked up some by the end of the race just from what was kicked up over the top as I went round, but I wasn’t aware of it being there – sand blisters are not pleasant and are to be avoided if possible!

I ran with G for this one and we had a good natter and a birdwatch on the way round. The long sand stretch at the start had us both feeling very heavy-calved very quickly which was not a reassuring start to a 7 mile-ish run! There are three routes you can take across the Leas when you leave the beach, I suspect the middle or road ones are the fastest, but we opted for the coastal path just for the view – the sun kept just lighting the wave tips of a very calm sea and the cliffs were gorgeous.

The first part of this course is deceptively hilly, and it took until about mile 2 to get into a comfortable stride – the route flattens out across the cliffs, and then you have a longer downhill across the clifftop to Souter Lighthouse and the water station. From Souter all the way to the finish, with only one or two small blips, it was blessedly downhill or flat.


It’s difficult to judge your progress by landmarks on this route, as there aren’t really many…you go across winding clifftops with higher bushy edges and not much visibility of the course ahead for the first part, then you can see a tower building and a lighthouse. The tower is now a restaurant or something and there are steps down to Marsden Beach (there were so many points along here where I was itching to go down to the beach to explore the cliffs or go for a paddle!) and the lighthouse is Souter Lighthouse and marks the halfway point between South Shields and Sunderland piers.

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Sunderland 10k 2017

I last (and first!) ran this race in 2015 when it had a slightly different route starting and finished at the Stadium of Light. It was absolutely bucketing it down and J & I were soaked in our bin bags before we’d even got from the car park to the stadium! It was very quickly clear (or not) that I was wasting my time trying to see with my glasses on, they were pocketed and I saw very little of Sunderland. I remember the grey wall of a battleship thing and the waves crashing over the walls at the seafront at Roker and lots of soggy clothes. J enjoyed it enough to go back again last year, when I opted for donning my Terrible Photographer hat and stalking her and some of the Bounders round the course.

This year, I can happily say that we were onto a winner right from the off in that it wasn’t bucketing it down with rain before we’d even got there. We had some new company in the form of A & G this year and a merry bunch we made on the way into Sunderland.


You got free stuff before the race even started for this one – the race pack included a buff so there were many people wearing them around the course. There was a competition to win a watch for the most inventive donning of said buff; none of us were partaking but I definitely think Ms Rosie was in with a shot 🙂


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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…


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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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.


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…


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.


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).


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!!!


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 – Preston: Cuerden Valley

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

This route involves 2 laps of 2 loops around Cuerden Valley Park – and several hills! The one to the finish is rather mean!!!

Runner’s View video tour of Cuerden Valley parkrun, taken 15-04-17 with a head-mounted (and therefore somewhat bouncy-recording!) Apeman camera.

My GPS map for this route:

Cuerden Valley

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

Cuerden Vally parkrun GPX file

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parkrun – Consett: Blackhill

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

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:


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

GPX file Blackhill

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parkrun – Prudhoe: Riverside

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

This route involves 2 laps around a local feature known as the Spetchells – fortunately it goes round them rather than over them as there’s some serious climbing involved to get to the top! There’s a bit of an incline round the back of this one, but nothing serious and it’s generally considered a flat course and good for setting a parkrun pb on.

GPS map:


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

GPX File Prudhoe Riverside

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parkrun – Chester-Le-Street: Riverside

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

This route involves 2 laps of 2 large loops and one smaller one around Riverside Park – and is a blessedly flat route with a very high runner attendance (over 300 is not unusual!).

Due to its close proximity to the river (hence the name!), this parkrun has two courses – a winter and summer one. The summer one crosses the fields – making it inaccessible in the winter due to mud. The winter course is marginally longer – so if you’re looking for a pb, the summer course might be slightly better – but both are very flat and lend themselves well to people looking for a flatter Saturday morning: whatever the reason!

This course is also regularly checked for ice in the winter – and on particularly chilly mornings may be cancelled as you will go over on your bum on the corners! This doesn’t happen often though 🙂

GPS map for the summer route:

Riverside Summer

GPS map for the winter route:

Riverside Winter

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

GPX file summer route

GPX file winter route


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