Sunday 14th July 2013
By Sophie Johnstone
I signed up for the Northumberland ~14 mile Coastal Run on the promise of outstanding scenery and mixed terrain. The other race I was considering on the same day was the Leeds 10km along the A65/Kirkstall Road. In the end it was not a tough call.
Once I signed up I started to hear how tough it is. It is ~14 miles as there is a start and end point and you make your own way along the coastal path. If you like you can cross deeper water to cut slightly shorter the route; all depends on the tide and what time you’re doing.
Mixed terrain: turned out to be sand, wet sand, deep sand, coastal footpath, road, pebbles, seaweed covered rocks.
I seem to sign up for races and there be an uncharacteristic heatwave for that area on race-day (looking at you Edinburgh marathon 2012). Leeds the day before was 26 degrees and I was hoping that it would not be the same for this race. Waking up it seemed promising as at 7am there was a sea fog (fret?), yet the sunshine started to burn through and once again at the start it was a balmy 20+ degrees and starting to climb.
Logistic wise I couldn’t fault it. You book bus tickets at the same time as booking. There is plenty of parking at a primary school just outside Alnmouth and coaches waiting to ferry you to the start at Beadnell. You leave your bag on the bus and its waiting for you near the finish. On the coach there was lots of nervous banter and previous runners calming the fears/winding up the newbies in equal measure. The runner sat behind me was offering round ‘pre-race’ flapjack, different to normal flapjack I guess.
The start of the race on the breathtakingly lovely Beadnell beach was just a line in the sand. There was lots of milling about behind the line, then a klaxon and we were off.
The first couple of miles were all about getting the feet wet on the sand and estuary waters, some of it over ankle deep. I found it quite a tough surface to find my rhythm. Then it was over some slippery seaweed covered rocks, up a sandy hill and onto a coastal path. This I found much easier to run on. I’m a road runner mostly so when we hit road I was more at home. But soon enough, at Lower Newton we’re back on the beach. The worst sand, apart from soft sand, is ridged sand. Your trainers and socks are soaking and I think this gave me the blisters that I’m now so proudly sporting.
From then on it’s a mixture of beach/coastal footpath/minor roads. There is very little shade to be had and it was a blisteringly hot day. I was coated in factor 50 and have still caught the sun (although I am especially pasty and sun burn prone it has to be said). Thank god I wore a running cap.
There are no mile markers, but just past Craster (home of the smoked kippers) there is a water stop and signs that say ‘about half way’.
The toughest two miles were the two on Alnmouth beach to the finish. There was that awful ridged sand again, the estuary waters were a cooling relief on my lacerated feet, the deep sand was the worst but thankfully in shorter supply. At the finish a good crowd to cheer you in. The t-shirt is a black polo-shirt, I quite like it.
For a ~14 mile run on mixed terrain I really didn’t know what time to expect. On road races I run 13.1 miles in around 1h46-48 on form. I had 2 hours as a goal in mind, and finished in 2h4m20s, about half a mile off the 2h mark. I was pleased with that given the relentless sun.
I then sat submerged in the sea in full running kit for a good long while, with fellow runners doing the same. It was bliss cooling my burning feet and heavy tired legs. To complete the day my running companions and I went to the local pub (Schooner Inn) for a big portion of fish n chips, which I think it would be fair to say we inhaled.
To summarise: this is an extremely scenic and challenging run. I really enjoyed it and will definitely look to sign up again next year.
Good points: scenery, organisation, challenging, friendly organisers, and a change (for me anyway) not to be running on roads
Bad points: not enough toilets at Beadnell beach (the start). The baggage bus being so very far from the finish when you just want to collapse in the pub. I want to put in ridged sand, but I guess that’s part of the race, but I’m going to say it anyway: ridged sand, oh and deep sand.