In the lead up to bigger and better things I opted to sign up for the Speyside Way Ultra as a bit of a warm up but have also always wanted to try this one as it looked very scenic, and I wasn’t disappointed. My brother-in-law Gareth decided to join me and we travelled up the night before and stayed in a B&B.

We registered at Buckie Community High School and got the coach to the Craggenmore Distillery in Ballindalloch where the race started at 9am sharp, we were sent off to the skirl of the pipes playing as we went.

Gareth had recently run the WHW race in under 24 hrs so there is no way we would be running together so he took off and that was the last I seen of him till the finish.

The first 12 miles or so ran along an old railway track, the rails were taken away and replaced by grass or pathway but they had kept some of the stations which were a focal point as you passed through, I also began to notice that it was all downhill at this point a slight gradient but enough to make the start of the race a bit easier than normal.

The downhill continued till the first drop bag checkpoint at about 12 miles in Craigellachie, there was also a kind soul on hand to refill my water bottles as I fumbled about all thumbs. I left the checkpoint drop bag in hand eating as I walked and went straight into a steep uphill section which worked out well as I would walk a good deal of this anyway.

At about the 17 mile mark we reached the peak of the hill and the highest point of the race and I was feeling good, it was at this point I knew I’d finish I just had to keep going. Running down the other side I began to notice my quads were nipping from the constant pressure of braking while running downhill. I adjusted my gait a bit from a shuffle to a hobble then down I went in a heap like a sack of spuds and rolled about a bit before I realised there was no damage done so I hauled myself up and carried on.

This downhill section continued till about 21 miles then another wee uphill which gave my quads another bit of respite (yes I was praying for the uphill) then from 23 miles it was pretty much downhill to the 30 mile mark. In the meantime we ran through a boggy patch of about 100 meters, the only soggy part of the course but my left foot got completely submerged at one point causing a blister to form on the sole of my foot and my foot to slide about in my shoe causing my toenail to bruise. That along with my aching quads made the downhill less enjoyable than I’d hoped but the miles were flying by, the second checkpoint at Fochabers was at 26 miles for more welcome water and a drop bag where I forced myself to eat some snacks.

All the while the scenery was spectacular with very runnable paths and welcome tables with cheery marshals and volunteers popping up all over the place and just enough competitors in front and behind to keep me on my toes.

From 30 miles at Spey Bay we went through a small wooded area keeping us away from the road which was very pleasant until about 34 miles where we hit the seafront prom taking us towards the finish at Buckie, there were about 5 people walking at this point and I just used my momentum to keep going by them and kept going to the finish at 37 miles where I ended 80th in 7hrs 14m 57s from 115 finishers.

Gareth meanwhile (remember him) had covered the first 10 miles very fast then strained his hamstring causing him to walk for about 10 miles then he got going again and still managed to finish 41st in 6hrs 19m 24s.

All in all a great event well organised plenty of watering holes and tables with fruit and sweets and cheery helpful marshals. The whole route was well marked and you couldn’t go wrong and the scenery was brilliant I would definitely recommend it for anyone to do.

1st M -Grant Jeans 4hrs 10m 54s
1st F-Michelle Young 5hrs 22m 42s
Results at http://www.kitst.co.uk/speyside-2019-ultra.html

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