Hobbit up a Hill – A Runner’s View of the Gibside Fruit Bowl Trail Race


Report submitted by Neil Capstick

Overall Score (out of a possible 35)




PB potential

0 – the only way you are going to get a PB here is if it is your first ever race or you are jammed full of illegal substances


5 – lots of encouragement and shouting


5 – seamless


4 – hard to beat and probably amongst the best in the UK

Value for money

3.5 – good shirt, no medal but not an expensive race

Beginner friendliness

3 – you would need to be comfortable running the distance regularly

Club support & social



In short

A tough, physically demanding run set in the beautiful North Durham hills

In full: Even though still nowhere near fully fit I had to enter the Gibside Fruitbowl Race. It is only two miles away and so is within the Shire boundary and of course – us Hobbits just love, love hills!

I nearly didn’t run it though. I had run Darlington Park Run the day before and it had not gone well. I posted a poor time, was passed by a guy pushing a buggy but worst of all I had developed a pain in my right hamstring.

I decided to fortify myself with……………..drugs. Mrs C has some industrial strength painkillers and so I took those, did 30 minutes stretching and then was out of the door – Tantobie’s answer to Linford Christie. (Mrs C said I was more like Tony Christie but her opinion is invalid.)

I arrived with around 45 minutes to spare, passed pleasantries with a few people and soaked up the atmosphere. Car parking was painless and well marshalled. All was good.

Then we were off.

Now this race has a fierce reputation for hills and so I thought I had better take it easy at first. Hills, hamstring and other things beginning with H needed to be treated with utmost care. I started from almost the very back of the race so as to keep out of any hill related accidents and plodded on. Mile one though is very flat and it was very tempting to go a little quicker. I felt strong and fit and had to reign it in. Mr Garmin said 8:56 for mile one – going so steady was killing me. 1.5 miles in and still no hills: was this a massive Bounders joke, and there were actually no hills?

Then, like Vesuvius emerging from the mist, I caught sight of the first hill. It climbed for almost a mile and rose 370 ft. That said, it was early in the race and remember Hobbits like hills! I actually covered mile two in exactly the same time as mile one which is remarkable considering how steep and long it actually was. There is something about hills that gives you a great feeling of achievement. Providing they are not too steep, and this one was not, you can really dig in and eat away at the elevation, and the feeling when you have conquered it is difficult to replicate, though I did have a similar sense of achievement the night I ate 100 Jaffa cakes in one sitting.

Immediately that you finish the “up” there is a down, and it is a good old canter for about half a mile. The downhill stops and rises very, very suddenly though, no flat running in between, no gentle handshake and an introduction like “Hello, my name is Mr Hill, mind how you go”. No, just straight into a mile long climb that takes its toll on legs and lungs. This time I slowed by a minute.

I was going well though and still felt strong. I could have gone a little faster but was mindful of everybody saying how brutal the course was and something sinister about “the hill at the end”. I had no problems with my injury niggles and was running pretty well. My only real problems concerned my footing and the downhill sections.

I was wearing Saucony-Go Anywhere-trail shoes. I think they were a little too trail as every now and again, when running on stone or a hard surface, they would slip a little. I think I need a pair in between these and pure road shoes. This did not help the downhills either and I had a couple of glute clenching moments as I hared downhill. I have only just begun to run fast downhill. Many runners, and I used to be one, slow down a little and take it easy when faced with a descent. I have learnt to make the most of the downhill section. I still take a breather but certainly push on much faster than I used to. These downhills were very steep and on least two occasions I just had to freewheel and hope I didn’t fall over: the grip on the shoes was so poor, I simply could not stop.

The hill that showed me Gibside was a real contender and not just a jumped up street fighter arrived, without warning, just before mile five. Oh my word, how we laughed about it afterwards. (Not). It was short and very painful, so painful that I almost walked – but Hobbits don’t walk!

Seeing other runners in front of you disappearing around the bend and still climbing has a massive effect on your will to keep going. This hill was the Mike Tyson of Gibside, but like Mike, it was eventually beaten.

As suddenly as Mike had arrived, he was gone and there was another descent. I made good time and at the bottom there was a good old stretch of flat running alongside the river. It was nice to be on level ground for the first time in about three and a half miles but this stretch was quite windy and the wind did steal a few seconds from all of us. The wind even managed to steal a woolly hat from a runner’s head and plonk it precariously close to the river. The runner actually went back for it – ha! Loser, another position place up for me was my thought on the matter.

By now I had tired. My legs belonged to an 80 year old who wanted them back and they were complaining very loudly. I had no option but to slow. That said, it was my fastest mile at 7:50.

Just around now my Garmin shivered on my wrist and told me, with a breezy smile, that we were at mile six. I had overhead race organiser Amanda say the race was closer to seven miles than six, but even so I figured the pain would come to a stop soon. How wrong can a Hobbit be!

Mike Tyson was but a memory now because what loomed before me was the Floyd Mayweather of hills. Lasting no more than about one tenth of a mile, this colossus rose about 130ft. I was also about to make a terrible, earth shattering discovery and the world was about to fall out my bottom – Hobbits do walk! Defeated and battered I walked up the hill. Floyd defeated me…this time.

Once up the hill I had nothing left. The final straight was just under half a mile long and ever so slightly downhill, but I had nothing left to give and just ambled toward the finish line, a broken corpse and a shadow of the runner who had stood less than an hour ago at the start line.

Gibside 1 Hobbit 0

Support and running groupies

The support was fantastic. I had so many cheers I thought there was someone else called Neil running behind me. (Thinking about it there maybe was). I am sorry for not acknowledging you at the time but as a new member I do not yet recognise everyone. Plus, sweat in the eyes does not help one to distinguish faces. Thanks though, it was all terrific and much needed.

The course

The course was very clearly marked and the marshals placed at exactly the right points. The marshals also cheered a great deal and must have lost their voices by the end of it. Thanks to you too.

Tee Shirt

This is ace and I especially like “Brought to you by Blackhill Bounders.”


I am not sure how many water stations there were but on short runs like this I don’t think you need lots anyway. Can we have hot pies next year?


Runners are always keen to know their times and the race results were posted quickly.

I had a Chip time of 59:11 which I am more than happy with considering the hills, wind, lack of training and lingering injuries.

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