These are not the crags you’re looking for…

Posted: 25/03/2012 in Uncategorized

…oh hell, they are – and they’re BIG!

What a terrific day – the weather was perfect, painting has been put on hold until next week when I’m off, and it’s time to go running. My cunning training plan suggests that if I take the distance I ran last weekend (7 miles), add one to it (8 miles) and run that, then a half marathon, or even a marathon will be child’s play by the time I come to run them. (Waits for bolt of lightning, but nothing happened – not even a roll of thunder – maybe the gods agree with the plan?)

So, 8 miles today – could almost make a film, eh? But because I’m nothing if not random, I decided a bit of trail would be nice – I’ve been planning to get out to Hadrian’s Wall for a little while now, and that seemed like the sensible option – after all, it takes the best part of an hour to travel there, so when else will I get the chance? However, I had also found a nifty little (eat them words later) eight mile run up at Thrunton Woods near Rothbury – there’s a trail and everyfink, even some hilly bits.

To Thrunton then! Saddle up the riding beasts and away! Well, it took a while to get there, but that’s fine – and I think we’ll just scoot over that bit, nothing to see here. Arriving at the woods, my first problem was that I realised the trail goes the opposite way to the direction I thought it went, not a major issue, but if I wanted to follow the markers (which I did), then that would be the way I’d have to go. The map board reckoned 10 miles, which confused me – I’d got 8 for the same trail, but hey. The woods looked pretty keen – see here:

Not bad, eh, all sylvan and so on.

On I popped. Now, I’m not saying that I’m fast by anyone’s standards (although I would point I’ve been out for a coffee between the last sentence and this one, and you never noticed) but hills slow me right down – on a gentle hill I can get the small-steps thing going and that works, and for the first part of the run, through the woods, that was pretty much OK. Miles 1 & 2 went pretty well, then somewhere near the start of mile 3 the track became a bit muddy and a bit downhill, and suddenly I’m running through springy, boggy heather with a total lack of certainty as to what the next footfall would bring.Β  The descent deepened, until I got the the point that I was running like a loon, flapping my arms to stay upright and trying not to hit a wonky bit of ground and take my ankle out. Much fun.

I reached the bottom of the hill, and looked at the imposing hills opposite – lucky they’re not the ones I have to run up, right? Oh. Took a picture…

Lumee, that’s quite big, eh? So big that I felt another view was required…

No so much a hill, more of a ‘range’, I’d say, and frankly a little steeper and higher than my map had led me to believe. Still, as you’ll have figured out by now, it takes a lot to get me down when I’m running, so to prove what a joyful idiot I am, I took another photo…

Like I haven’t got a bleedin’ clue what I’m about to do, only I do. I can see it – it’s a rock-strewn path straight up the mountain – it’s only lack of brain power that stops my jaw from dropping.

Along a bit further to the far end of the hills, well, you wouldn’t want to start part way along and miss out on the fun, would you? Up the path. I’ll be honest, I walked most of it. In fact, I stopped a number of times for a breather. I listened to my heart, it went “what do you think you’re doing?”. I stopped caring about pace, or distance, or time, and just became sure of the facts that:

  1. I wasn’t going to turn around and go back
  2. I didn’t want to die half way up – if that was going to happen, then let it happen at the top…
  3. The view from the top must be pretty cool

I think it took me about ten minutes to get up that hill – I’m not making any apologies either, as my first proper trail run with a hill of any proportion, and given that it’s over ten years since I’ve been near a hill walking, I think I did OK – I was wondering whether my 500ml of chia seeds was going to cut the effect of the lovely, but warm sun given the bucket load of sweating I’d just done, but it was too late for doubt at this point, I was victorious! Just checked, mile 4 took 28 minutes, which included the 1.09 mile climb of 342ft. If it had been a lovely tarmac road without the rain-cut channels and rocks, it would have been a Class 4 climb, according to MapMyRun.

Now along the top – nice, in a “this is what running on the moon would be like, only with less air and heather” sort of way – there were rocks everywhere, and I chanelled my inner Killian Journet to leap nimbly (no, honest) as I plodged along. Actually, it looked quite nice, so I took another photo.

(See them woods down below? I ran through them on the way here…)

Up to the high point, at Coe Crag (named after Sebastian, I’m sure) – and that strangest of Northumbrian wildlife – the bemused hiker. Two girls at the top, asking if I’d passed a group of walkers. Nope, I hadn’t passed a soul since I started, and I told them so. The said they’d checked the path they’d come (which was my route off the hills) and couldn’t see anyone, so that only left the third path off the far side of the hill.Β  Apparently they’d been a bit behind their group, who’d knicked off without them. That’s just poor – you don’t leave people, you just don’t, unless they’re totally aware of the route, and where to go and so on. They headed off, I headed off, that was that. Except for another quick photo…

(Taken just before the peak and the lost-girls incident)

Now onto the downhill – and it’s longer than the uphill, as it doesn’t build over a couple of smaller peaks like the ascent – as straightforward 425ft descent of narrow rocky rainworn trail. I looked at it from the top, and figured I’d have to be demented to run it – if I could hold onto both my ankles ’til I reached the bottom I’d be immensely lucky.

I ran it.

Not fast, not with good form, but I did, and not in a hold-back way either, more that the dancing around the uneven trail meant I couldn’t get much of a pace up. Wheeeeeeee!

Into the trees, a switchback, and I’m still headed downhill towards the forest road. I can hear noises, which I think is a grouse up in front – it’s not, it’s (wait for it) a walking group shouting for their missing members. That would be… yes, you guessed it – the couple right up on the top of the crags that I left about a mile ago and heading in a totally different direction. Brill.

I ask one of the ladies if they’re looking for a couple – they say yes, we establish it’s the right pair. None of them have a phone. I have a phone (just in case, you know) and there’s a signal – ace. They don’t know the other girls’ numbers. Magic. They suggest they might go back to the car park (a good couple of miles away) and get phones, and one says they might head off after the other two. Without a phone. Now if you’ve watched Scooby-Doo, you immediately know that’s not a good idea, however I offer them my printed map to help in the search. They decline, as none of them can read maps either. If I’d had the energy by this point I would have thrown my arms in the air. To round up:

  1. A group of them came out walking
  2. They allowed two of their members to fall far enough back that they couldn’t see the main group
  3. The other couple didn’t know the route
  4. No one had phones
  5. No one had a map, though that’s fine as none of them could read one

I don’t mean to go on, but they shouldn’t be allowed out the front door – I learned what a poor choice splitting a group is when I was 16 doing the Duke of Edinburgh Award – we though one of the lads group who’d hurt his knee had joined the girls – they turned up in the evening saying they’d not seen him – we bricked it, until the course leader produced him out of the minibus – he’s been with the girls, but we had just assumed, and essentially left him to fend for himself. Just plain bad, and not something I’m proud of, but I was 16 and stupid(er), these people were in their 30’s if I’m any judge.

Rant over…

I left the walkers, ran down to the forest road, hitting mile 6, and then up the slight incline on the back straight – and hit a wall, I just had to walk, I came over all tired. As I had a High 5 gel stashed in my bag, I took that, and a bit more of the chia mix, and that seemed to help, but I think the big hills were taking their toll on me now – also the fact that I’ve only run a max of 7 miles before, and that was pretty flat. At this point, my Soleus GPS is saying 7 miles, and that’s cool for an 8 mile run, but a way to go for a 10. I’ve got no way of knowing how far back to the car park, so I start to jog along – turning out a respectable 9 minute mile (gel taking effect). I was just enjoying the trot through the woods when lo and behold the car park reared up in front of me – 8 miles on the nose. Job done, then, but a desperate desire to get a sharpie and change the mileage on the map board…

Back to car, collapse, take off shoes, eat banana, collapse, drink rest of chia seeds, collapse, stretch a bit, collapse and then back in the car for the hour long drive home. Worth travelling that far? Every bloomin’ minute. Do it again? Maybe when it’s my week to do 16 miles… πŸ™‚


  • Distance: 8.03m
  • Time: 2:03:36 (yikes, but the stopping for near-death, lost hikers and photos does mount up)
  • Pace: 15:23/mile (not as bad as I expected, to be honest)
  • Ascent: 866ft – now that’s a decent climb… especially when you figure there was a descent to go with it too… πŸ™‚

In retrospect, think I could do it quicker with a bit more hill practise and less messing on with lost walkers. I was failing towards the end of mile 7, but a gel pepped me up (always a bit worried to take gels when I’m any distance from home, just in case of side effects) – a more full-on 8 mile than originally planned, but a very enjoyable one.

Have to say, the OMM Ultra 6 bag did a stellar job:

I honestly hardly noticed I was wearing it – the non-regulation bottle jumped out at one point on an especially frenetic downhill and I had to go rescue it, but I had that, my wallet (in case their was a pixie gift shop), phone (in case I came across any lost walkers, let’s say), a long sleeve in case it was cold on the top of the crags – it wasn’t, a banana in a BananaGuard (it’s like kevlar for fruit) and with my car keys and a gel in the fab side pockets. I did have a set of waterproofs in there instead of the long-sleeve to begin with, but I figured there was no chance of rain and ditched them in the boot. I had my Canon A-1 film SLR to bung in as well, but decided against the weight and opted for the iPhone camera instead. Proper good bag this – just about right for a day out.

  1. But no pixie gift shop? Booooo.

    Great post, as always. Might have to get me one of those OMM packs. The hobo’s bindle I’ve been using keeps hitting people in the eye.

    • It’s a constant source of disappointment in my burgeoning trail-running career, that I have yet to come across a single pixie or a gnome.

      It’s a good pack – I’ve avoided bum-bags because I had one years ago when I used to do hill-walking, and it was rubbish. Seems thinks have moved on a little – this one is just ace, and even has a whistle… πŸ™‚

  2. thebriars says:

    Great screed da-p – enjoyable read. Ive got an OMM bag too (son no 2 calls it my “Fanny pack” – tsch) but failed to get bottle holder which was a mistake

  3. Some of the i-Gamy bottle holders to fit on backpacks have the narrower bottle (though some have a wider one it seems) – the thing itself is available as the new “Ultra Bottle” on the OMM site, but a branch of Sweatshop told me that was the older shape – properly confused. My 500ml Buxton Water bottle that’s seen my through thick and thin also fits in relatively well, though it did eject twice on particularly speedy and bad-form descents… πŸ™‚

  4. Allan England says:

    Aye the Americans would call this a fanny pack which always makes me wee me pants! Cracking story, I wonder if them girls ever got back! I know what u mean about gels I used to cycle a lot (100 mile events) and after 8 hours of gels it was a good Job u had a saddle up your arse; effectively like a cork! ;o)

  5. Think running with a cork would risk the chance of explosion. πŸ™‚

    Aye, “fanny pack” is not a phrase I’m wildly keep on – it’s just one of the joyful crossovers between English and American terms – guess they might think a bum bag is something a tramp might use. Saying which, I suddenly get Mr Along’s joke at the top of the comments – d’oh, I’m such a slow up-taker.

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