Race Report: Northumberland Coastal Run 2015

Runners line the sands at the start, Beadnell Harbour

What: The 35th Northumberland Coastal Run
When: Sunday 19th July 2015
Where: Beadnell to Alnmouth along the Northumberland Coastline
Distance: 13-14 miles, depending on route taken
Terrain: Sands, country lanes, coastal paths, small stretches of road
Profile: Undulating, but mostly flat along the coastline
Field: 997 (432 women! 43%)

If you’re looking for a race that delivers outstanding natural beauty, the Northumberland Coastal Run is for you. Sign up quick, the popularity of this race means that when entries open at midnight early in the year they sell like hot cakes and are snapped up within a matter of hours.
This is a race I’ve spectated at for a number of years (read: been dragged to in support of my Dad and bribed with ice cream!) and one that I know is popular for all the right reasons – well organised by Alnwick Harriers, a great atmosphere throughout thanks to all the runners, supporters and marshals, and of course a stunning route taking in the best that the Northumberland coast has to offer.
Beadnell Harbour, race start with views to where the race route would take us along the coastline
I signed up for the race well before I had even thought about doing a marathon, but actually it coincided nicely with my training schedule and I felt well prepared for the distance having reached the end of Week 6 of marathon training. My Dad, sister (Tess) and Nige had also entered but on the day it was just us sisters running, Dad and Nige both relegated to the support sidelines through injury. Just before we left the house on Sunday morning it looked like I might be the only one running as Tess suffered a horrible allergic reaction, but thankfully it passed quickly, and we were on our way to Beadnell for registration and a 10.30am start. Depending on the tide, the start times differ every year, so keep an eye out nearer race day!
Always excited to pull on my Fulham RC stripes and represent!
With a well-timed toilet stop in Bamburgh on our way, we arrived in the small fishing village of Beadnell to register, pick up our numbers and timing chips and warm up before the start. Queues for the portaloos weren’t too bad considering the size of the field so Tess and I took another opportunity to go before the start then hopped over the dunes onto the beach for the start.

Capper family out in force (minus Mum) with Dad pointing out the best route along the sands

We lined up on the start line (literally a line drawn in the sand) and looked ahead at the rocks in our path, each runner planning the best route to take to avoid slippery seaweed and wet feet. The klaxon sounded and we were off, to the sound of nearly a thousand pairs of feet scrunching through the wet sands and weaving between rock pools. We had a few miles of wet, compact sand ahead of us with a few ‘river crossings’ to contend with, until we scrambled our way up dry, unforgiving sand onto the coastal path. Passing through a few seaside villages, Newton Links and Low Newton by the Sea, and skirting the side of Dunstan golf course, I settled into a good rhthym alongside some friendly Alnwick Harriers ladies.

We passed Dunstanburgh Castle (where I did a double-take thanking a supporter, I was sure it was Chris Tarrant from the TV!) and arrived in the village of Craster where I met Dad and Nige. On camera duty for the day, Nige was busy taking photos as I signalled to him that I needed my energy drink, so he ran ahead and I grabbed it from him as I went past. I felt comfortable and to my complete surprise Dad told me that he thought I was in the top 25 women that had come through. With half of the race behind me and my legs feeling good, this definitely boosted me and I was determined to try and keep this placing.

After Craster, we headed down onto another stretch of beach, along more coastal path (this all seems a bit of a blur, but the views were stunning) and into Boulmer, another village about 3 miles from the finish. The wind had picked up and I squeezed myself behind a pack of runners to shelter from the strong gusts. Here I saw Dad and Nige again, took another sip of energy drink, tried to drop my arms and relax my shoulders (Dad’s instructions) and pushed on. I knew there was about a mile and a half of road to go before we hit the final stretch of beach towards the finish, so I put me head down (not literally) and stretched my legs out.

After what seemed like a never-ending stretch of road with cars creeping past us, we turned down left onto Alnmouth Beach. Again the wind was in our faces, but it was fresh and cooling, and I ploughed on over the rocky sands, skipping over driftwood and seaweed that had been washed ashore. I knew there was still about a mile to go and the sand was tough going, my legs felt heavy and I couldn’t see the finish, just runners far off in the distance, still running, still making their way towards the finish, where I was also heading. As the crowds grew bigger I knew the end was near, but the sand became softer and harder to run on. I still couldn’t see the finish line and I was willing myself to pick up speed as men hurtled past me in a sprint. Finally I spotted the Alnwick Harriers flag billowing in the wind and the finish line, so I gritted my teeth and struck for home.

I finished in 1:46:37, so happy to have had a good race and placing 24th lady! Tess finished just a bit behind me and considering her race prep that morning felt good and ran a great race. We picked up our T-shirts and wandered down the beach to cheer on the runners coming in.

Northumberland Coastal Run 2015, done!

Post-race we were both starving so jumped into the car and headed to a little village pub for a good re-fuel, can you go wrong with a Sunday roast?! That Yorkshire pudding though!

I love, love, loved this race, the perfect route, a great bunch of friendly runners and top organisation. I’m not surprised at its popularity and will definitely be signing up for next year! Join me?

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