North East parkrun Review

I’ve done a bit more parkrun tourism over the past few weeks and I’ve now completed all the North East parkruns. Here’s a short review:

Fastest: Hartlepool

Pan flat out and back on tarmac along the promenade. Like any coastal parkrun, it can get very windy but the first half of the course is run along a sea wall so it’s fairly sheltered from the wind. Unfortunately, this is where I fractured my leg and is my slowest parkrun to date!

Hilliest: Gibside

The course is basically one big hill. An out and back on gravel. Up for the first half and back down again. Beware of the false summit! When you get to what looks like the top, there’s a dip and short climb before you turn around.

Toughest: Blackhill

‘Tough’ is pretty subjective. Some people find hills tough while for others, it depends on conditions or the layout of the course. Newcastle is very exposed and Redcar is convoluted with many turns. Although Gibside has a higher elevation gain, I find Blackhill to be the toughest overall. It’s one big lap up a gradual but long hill followed by three shorter laps with some short steep hills. The laps and undulations make this tougher than Gibside.

Most Scenic: South Shields

Any course with a view of the sea gets my vote as prettiest. When I did it, the course started on the promenade, headed out along the cliff top trails, and back down the final mile of the Great North Run. It’s now run in the reverse direction which arguably makes it faster than Hartlepool as it’s all downhill. But it’s also on trail and very exposed.

Biggest and Smallest: Newcastle and Hackworth

Obviously, this category isn’t static but for now, Newcastle averages over 400 runners while Hackworth gets around 25.

Best facilities: Stewart Park, Middlesbrough and Sedgefield

Both parkruns have ample parking, clean toilets, and a café near the finish (opening before the run starts) where you can also leave your belongings. Unfortunately, neither one does a Full English!

Best overall: Tees Barrage

Excluding Newcastle, because it’s my home run, Tees Barrage is my favorite in the North East. The course is one lap on tarmac (I hate laps!) along both banks of the River Tees, goes over two (and under one) bridges and you get great views of the runners ahead of and behind you. It’s by no means a fast course; there are a few twists and turns on the bridges and along a couple of inlets and stairs to climb on one bridge. It ticks all the boxes for me – one lap, interesting and varied course and a decent cafe at the finish.