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by Ali Wyllie
“Success is no accident” this is the title of a recent post on social media by Leszek Stelmachowski of Fitness Soul. This post caught my attention and rings absolutely true. In this post Les goes on to talk about the misconception between people being labelled as gifted, talented and naturally fast. When in actual fact, people who are at the top of their game, in their chosen sport, work damn hard, relentlessly, passionately and wholeheartedly. Les goes on to quote Pele by saying “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” You can read his full post here.
I found this article particularly salient after the first race of the 2017/2018 FoxTrail Winter Running Series today, I took part in the 13k trail race. There was also the option of a 5k trail race. I passionately love this race series. I love everything about it. The trails, the fun and friendly community atmosphere, the organisation, the fact that they allow canicrossers (running with dogs) …. the list of why I love this series goes on.
Had I done enough training to continue to live up to the perceived expectations of others? I say perceived expectations for the simple fact that going into the new season as the previous series winner, I feel the pressure and expectation to podium. I worry that if I don’t achieve a podium I let people down. Yet, I am very aware that it is all about who turns up on the day and where everyone is, in their own individual running journey at that present time.
I am bad at training. Yes, I run a lot and I love to run, but I lack structure in my runs to be able to see any real gains and improvements and this is my own responsibility. I cannot rely on “natural talent” as outlined above. I need to focus and work hard. I need to make more sacrifices and I definitely need to add in some interval sessions (Cath – my training twin – you up for this?). On this one occasion, I managed to hold my own and bring home 3rd female, but I can’t be complacent with this and I need to make a few wee changes to my “training” in order to try and stay up there in the medals this season.
Nicola Duncan scooped up the 1st female place. Nicola absolutely fits Pele’s definition of success - and rightly so. Not many people will have known that as we toed the start line today, Nicola’s legs were heavy with race wins! In the past 2 weeks Nicola has completed 2 ultra-marathons - winning both - and achieving a new course record in the Jedburgh Ultra. In actual fact, technically she will have the course record for the Ultra Tour of Edinburgh, given it was it’s inaugural year, and she still managed to scoop a win today, with all those miles of racing in her legs. This is another level of running and is inspirational, yes, she absolutely does meet Pele’s definition of success. She is not handed this on a plate. Nicola works hard at her running and it is lovely to see her reaping the benefits.
So are there any Instagram fans reading this? This is my new favourite social media platform for both Run the Sights @run_the_sights and my personal account @run4thesights. Have you noticed how lots of runners do that thing where they lay their race attire out the night before, all nice and tidy, take a picture and then pop it up with a profound blurb full of hopes, dreams, aspirations, nerves and excitement. Well, that’s not really my style, I like to add a bit of a twist to things. As I was pondering how to capture this, my loveable German Shorthaired Pointer caught my eye ….. what a fool! He won’t be doing that again if he see’s me looking for ideas. Thank you to Zac for being a good sport. What a great way to showcase my race attire, as opposed to it all folded up neatly, laid out nicely...... sorry Zac - my poor suffering loveable son replacement.
The start of my day was the same as ever. Up, get dressed, dogs fed, me fed, head to race. Now, that all sounds very normal doesn’t it. But most normal people don’t arrive at 7.30am when registration doesn’t even open until 8am. I HATE being late. This also meant I got a choice of parking places (well I was the ONLY car there!). I’m such an eejit, my promptness is always remarked on by the organisers, who I swear think I camp out overnight like an excited child (not far from the truth).
I can’t even begin to explain how amazing it was to see so many familiar faces from the last season, as folk started to arrive. This included all the folk who attended the monthly Foxy Trail Runners runs over the summer – these are a fun, free and friendly set of trail runs organised by Owain and Mandy Williams and myself to help get people out on the trails. Find us on Facebook here and come and join in the fun. Whilst there are no formal Foxy Trail Runs again, until after this series, there are plenty of informal runs and running chat being posted up there. We are absolutely for all abilities!
There was the usual chatter at the start line with the regular faces; including Owain Williams; last season’s series winner, exchanging pre-race banter and war talk. Nicola and I huddled together and talked trainers. Then we were off, “run your own race” kept going through my head, courtesy of Abby Fraser-Davidson. It wasn’t long before Nicola was but a dot in the distance - to be fair, she is beautifully tiny, so that could have been her meters ahead of me - but in fact - she was far far away in the distance. I was in 2nd lady place up until just over a mile, however that changed as Joanna Brown breezed past me, effortlessly and looking strong. I encouraged her on and told her she was running into 2nd place, putting me in 3rd. This order did not change throughout the race. I toyed with trying to fight it out with Joanna, but I really didn’t know how I would fare with a 7-mile fight. So I chose to “run my own race”. I focused on my form and I felt really strong and more importantly I felt happy. I worked on my arms and footfall. I have a tendency to run like a chicken with my bum and elbows out. I ran tall and kept my strides short and cadence high, tucking my tail in and keeping my elbows by my side. At the point where we doubled back on ourselves, towards the other runners, I was overwhelmed seeing so many running friends and hearing the comments of support "Go Ali", "well done Ali" - it really spurred me on. We really do have such a close-knit community with the FoxTrail Winter Running Series!
The route is new and improved. I love soft, sandy trails and I particularly love the roller coaster style, single track trail, in the last mile. At this point, I felt I was gaining on Joanna as I was having so much fun over the trails I was positively bouncing. But the gap between us remained and she bolted home in a 25-second lead, with Nicola having arrived home 1.36 minutes before me. I was delighted with my run and really chuffed to gain a podium. I honestly feel I am living on borrowed time for my FoxTrail podiums as there are so many amazing, speedie runners coming along, which is brilliant. If I want to continue to gain podium places, I realise I need to take a leaf out of Nicola’s book!
So was anything different this year to last year? It’s the same ethos and race identity of course, which is what we all love and are drawn to. I would say there is a small difference – John, James, Cal, Mandy and Kate – the key organisers and all their crew - seemed SUPER CHILLED. As in really relaxed, confident and on top of their game – guys you were positively horizontal – in a good way. I guess you can do this malarkey blindfolded now.
I love seeing all the happy smiley faces of people crossing the finish line, exhilarated by their run and embracing other runners like long lost family. You cannot bottle this connection and feeling. The FoxyTrail Winter Running Series does a finish exceptionally well!
Sadly, not everyone’s races went according to plan. Poor Jodie Dunz went over on her ankle causing a fracture and ligament damage! Sending out a big hug and get well soon wishes to Jodie, who was running with Bailley (he is not to blame!).
As has become standard, I took my K9 kids for a run after the prize giving, I was joined by a few friends, which was fabby. It was a lovely opportunity to chat, introduce some friends who had never met each other and loosen the legs off. Not to mention the fact that watching my dogs playing on the beach and running like pros, is one of my favourite things in the world! I tend to do this after every race so if anyone ever wants extra miles, hang around at the end and join us, you would be most welcome (not happening on the night race I'm afraid).
One last thing …. If I still have your attention. Abby Fraser-Davidson and Anna Cathro came down today to see us all finish. These ladies run Project Awesome, which is an amazingly fun, FREE, inclusive and friendly fitness session on a Wednesday morning in Edinburgh. It is for ALL abilities, so if you are looking to add to your fitness social life and start hump day with a giggle, some unicorn magic and a bit of sparkle – check them out here.
by Ali Wyllie
Run the Sights
It seems pretty fitting, that I write this blog, whilst nursing a lovely 12 year old Glenfiddich malt whisky. One of the fabulous miniatures that I found lurking at the bottom of my goodie bag, following the Dramathon race.
Saturday 21st October 2017 was the inaugural Dramathon race, which took part along The Speyside Way. There were several options for runners for this race, which potentially could have been a logistical nightmare. We had a choice of a marathon(ish), half marathon, 10k and relay. The finish for all runners was within the heart of the Glenfiddich distillery, with runners being bussed to their respective starts.
Fiona Russell (Fiona Outdoors), wrote an article about this race a while ago, I spotted it on Facebook and the whole ethos of it struck a chord with me – running along stunning trails in the heart of the Scottish countryside, passing distilleries and earning a miniature whisky from each distillery passed. I knew as soon as I read about this race that I had to do it and I had to drag other running friends with me. I originally set out to do the full distance, however, I dropped down to the half marathon several weeks ago as my achilles have been giving me grief and I certainly can’t risk any injury before the flurry of Prosecco Running Tours, Run the Sights is putting on.
Fiona Outdoors has already published a superb blog on the Dramathon, which gives a real feel for the race, you can read it here.
For me, running is all about the places I see, the people I meet and hearing everyone else’s stories in relation to their hows and whys. We are all different and we all have our own story, it is not about how fast or far we can run. It is simply that we run to the beat of our own drum and we focus on our own personal goals and feel joy and elation along our own running journey. I think it is so important to rejoice in each other’s achievements and help encourage and support our fellow runners.
Let me start off with the master minds behind this race; Ian and Jon. I was surprised to learn that they both lived in France. When I asked what had inspired them to dream up The Dramathon, I was told that the famous French marathon: Le Marathon du Medoc, started their cogs turning and they believed that with the winning combination of the Scottish scenery, the distilleries and an off-road route The Dramathon could sell itself. And how right they were! They had over 750 entries and had to turn down over 1000 interested runners. That is a phenomenal statistic for a debut race. Ultimately –here was a race that Ian and Jon would have loved to complete themselves …. but no luck, as someone has to organise it – thanks guys!
So the question on everyone’s tongue – will this race continue in future years? Ian and Jon very much hope so, with a vision of making it bigger and better and getting more local distilleries and food and drink producers on board.
Whilst Jon and Ian were the brains behind the master plan, they were assisted by the renowned and reputable Durty Events team, who brought their experience and skills to the mix to ensure the vision for the race was met.
So where did the runners come from? I was told 25% of the runners were from out with the UK and almost 50% of runners were female. These statistics blew my mind a little. I was also intrigued as to how the foreign racers had learned about the Dramathon.
Having directed several races myself, I know only too well the organisation, nerves and anxiety that goes with the territory. I often compare the race director’s role, on the day of a race, to that of a bride and groom on their wedding day. They are pinnacle to the day, the day could not go ahead without them, yet they are so concerned that other people are having a good time and things are going according to plan, that they sometimes forget to take it in for themselves, the day often goes by in such a blurry wave that it can take several weeks for it all to sink in.
I asked Ian and Jon what the highlight of the race was for them. For Ian this was when the piper struck up a tune at Glenfarclas, just before the marathon runners set off. Being in the heart of Scotland with bagpipes playing and feeling the nervous excitement of hundreds of runners is certainly very poignant.
For Jon, his highlight was when Callum Fraser, the Glenfarclas Distillery Manager poured him a stiff 1973 Glenfarclas dram pre-race (Jon is 44 – go figure why the date was so special).
Yes, not everything goes 100% according to plan, but on the whole most of the feedback has been extremely positive. There are one or two mutters that the marathon distance was short of a marathon. This is true, it was, however racers were pre-warned about this in the pre-race e-mails and whilst I’m sure this will be taken into account for next year, I personally would like to indicate that this is a fun, friendly trail race with the ethos of seeing the beautiful Scottish country side and accumulating whisky along the way. It is not about pounding the pavement with your eyes glued to your garmin/suunto/tomtom. Sometimes the scenery and experience is worth more than an extra mile or 2, just saying …..
I know how much I enjoyed the day, but I was intrigued to hear from other runners.
Helena Olmas, a fitness instructor from Sweden, finished the Dramathon half in a time of 1:40:54, she has been running for 10 years and completed numerous races of various distances including Stockholm Marathon 4 time, the Swedish Ultravasan (90k) twice, the Elba Trail, 50k sky race in Italy and the Lidingo Ultra, 50k Swedish race. Helena said her favourite thing about the race was the beautiful surroundings, and the nice and kind marshals. The Dramathon was the very reason Helena came to Scotland, having not been to Scotland before she found our beautiful country to be “an absolutely wonderful country”, she made mention of the people, nature and atmosphere being great and said she will be back! In 2018 Helena has set herself an incredible challenge in one of my favourite countries: the Tarawera Ultra in Rotorua, New Zealand, which is a whopping 102k! Best of luck for that Helena – you can see her training progress here.
Chiara Franzosia, is the manager of Run4It at Maybury, Edinburgh. Originally from Italy, Chiara moved to Scotland several years ago and became a running force to be reckoned with, she has not looked back since. She finished the full race in a time of 3.34 hours, scooping up 3rd place in her category. She described the Dramathon as being like running through a movie set, with the old railway paths, autumn colours and the smell of whisky along the way. Chiara’s favrouite bit of kit is the simple yet multi use buff, she may need a few buffs for 2018 as she has the 53 mile gruelling Highland Fling to train for.
Avril Dodds, Gail Grant and Steph Valentin are training buddies from Cani-Sports Edinburgh. Whilst they do a lot of their training with their dogs, they took to the Dramathon ‘naked’ to push themselves without the help of their K9 friends.
Steph took on the full distance and completed it in a time of 4.25 hours, she only started running in the last 3 years, inspired by her fit and energetic dog; Bruce. Steph and Bruce are a regular feature in The Pentland Hills in Edinburgh. Steph loved the beautiful scenery and happy and relaxed atmosphere of the race. When I asked her what her favourite bit of kit was her reply was “do snacks count?”, a reply I absolutely love and yes, yes they do count. In which case, Steph’s favourite bit of kit is jelly beans, hula hoops and lion bars. What a girl! So what does the future hold for Steph’s running? Apparently it’s all about “dabbling with some more ultras”. You will be amazing Steph.
Both Avril and Gail smashed the half Dramathon in times of 2.19 hours and 2.24 hours respectively.
Avril started running 4 years ago, I’m sure she won’t mind me pointing out she was 59 years old at this time. Since then we literally can’t stop her running, she has even completed the Tiree Ultra Marathon – she really is supergran. Avril’s favourite thing about the Dramathon was the friendliness of the race and how well organised it was. She is looking forward to completing the Foxtrail Winter Running Series this winter. Avril wore her favourite Saucony Peregrine Trail Shoes. I love watching you in the midst of such an incredible running adventure Avril!
Gail Grant had dabbled with running for a while, however it wasn’t until she started canicrossing with her little spaniel; Ellie, that she met her lifelong running friends and was encouraged to run further and further and with that she naturally became faster and faster. Huge kudos to Gail for achieving a PB at the Dramathon. Gail’s favourite thing about the Dramathon was seeing the turning autumn leaves in the wooded sections. Gail is also looking forward to completing the Foxtrail Winter Running series. She wore her faithful Hokas for the race. You are going from strength to strength Gail – fitter, faster and stronger! There is no stopping you.
I asked Ian and Jon if they would like any special shoutouts in this blog, a special mention goes to Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich and Tamdhu, Paul and Diane at Durty Events, all the volunteers, and Darach of Darach Gifts who donated the incredible whisky stave medals.
Personally, I’m delighted to have been part of the inaugural Dramathon event and I am hugely excited as to what lies ahead for this fun, friendly and beautiful race. The Run the Sights crew did pretty well, I was chuffed to bits to podium with a cheeky 2nd place in my category in 1.32 hours, which was a lovely wee surprise, coming in 4th place overall. Elspeth Berry, the Run the Sights Glasgow tour leader scooped up 1st place in her category for the full distance.
This race is the epitome of the Run the Sights ethos. I felt I experienced a beautiful sightseeing journey, learnt about some of the history of the area and the whisky, and I had a super sociable time with friends old and new.
I have a sneaky suspicion this race may well sell out within a matter of days for 2018 … fingers poised on the keyboard if you want a space. Remember - "dinnae bottle it"
by Elspeth Luke
Run the Sights Glasgow
I recently completed the inaugural Glencoe Ultra marathon, finishing in 2nd place overall. Here are a few words about my experience running 45 miles through some wonderfully remote glens of Scotland.
This race was a spectacular mixture of ups and downs, trails and bogs as well as crags and river crossings. Unlike many of the current races in Scotland which follow established 'ways', meaning they're well trodden, easy to follow and in good condition, the Glencoe Ultra doesn't! Although it was always on paths, these paths are of a mixed quality, which in places added a fun navigational element to the race, despite the way marking signs.
We were lucky to have a beautiful and sunny day with very little wind which made the scenery all the more spectacular.
The race starts at the Glencoe Mountain Resort and begins by following the West Highland Way. It turns off after 4 miles to take in one of Scotland's most iconic munros; Buachaille Etive Mor. Having seen a lot of rain in the preceding days the rocky path was a little treacherous and towards the top, I slipped. There was an awful moment where I wondered if I was going to lose control entirely, but luckily I managed to straddle a rock and stop myself falling downwards over the rocks. I felt a bit sobered after that and was consequently very cautious on the descent.
The hill path eventually joins up with the Laraig Gartain and from here it's a fun trail down to the road that leads to Loch Etive. However, the Loch side is a totally different story. It's a classic example of how misleading OS maps can be. This path depicted with a single dashed line, like the Lariag Garten path, but the usability is very different. The Loch Etive path was not easy to follow and where it was visible it was very boggy, in places it looked more like a stream than a path. The river crossings didn't seem much wetter! However, it was great to be there; it's wonderfully remote and rugged and on such a beautiful day, I felt really lucky to be seeing the views. I was nonetheless delighted to see the land rover track after almost 10 miles of slipping and sliding and tripping!
Most of the rest of the route was straightforward, and I was so pleased with how strong I felt mentally and physically. I continued to enjoy the challenge, despite feeling tired. It was great to see Jamie Aarons along the way and she kept me company for a while before leaving me to run up a Munro!
There was a final sting in the tail to the route which slightly spoilt the journey for me. The last section of the ultra follows the West Highland Way from Victoria Bridge, almost back to the Mountain Resort where the race ends. Instead of sticking with the path the race then cut off up the hill towards the top of the chairlift. This was an awful plan as it was more swamp like than anything I'd seen on the route so far. It was completely un-runnable and very frustrating as it didn't offer any more views or interest to the race. Still, I suppose it was nice to experience a different bit of the hill side rather than the all too familiar West Highland Way!
It's always a treat to get out and see new bits of Scotland and find routes to connect more familiar areas; this was no exception and I'm so glad to have explored this area.
EXPLORE SCOTLAND ON THE RUN | RUN THE SIGHTS | RUNNING TOURS FOR EVERYONE
by Ali Wyllie
Run the Sights
Cath and I took to the Fife Coastal Path for a 12-mile run, and to quench my desire to visit some well-cherished family memories, naturally my super fit, Hungarian Vizsla; Princess Jasper also joined us.
Before I tell you about this amazing running route, let me explain why Elie (the start of our run), is so incredibly special and personal to me.
My Granny was always immaculately presented and well spoken. She was a stern but loveable lady. She had 6 children and 15 grandchildren and having lost her husband at an early age she raised her family as a single mum in a generation that did not favour a strong female. She was the family spine and matriarch. She is the inspiration behind a string of strong ladies following in her footsteps.
Granny ruled at Breakwater House in Elie, this was the family hub, the place all the cousins would congregate, willing away the hours playing on the beach whilst the adults did boring adult things. In Elie, I was a feral child with sea salt and sand perpetually in my hair and at the bottom of my bed.
I found running a couple of years before Granny passed away. My last memory of this wonderful lady is one I cherish and hold very dear. I was about 16 years old and by this point, Granny was in a home, at Braids Nursing Home in Edinburgh. Seeing her confined to a small room was like seeing a magnificent eagle caged. Here was a lady who soared the skies, never missing a beat. But her wings had been clipped. Although by this point, she was tired, she wasn’t fighting and she was perfectly content on her perch, as if resting a while before taking to the skies again.
I had raced in a cross-country race in the borders, my first race out with the school environment. I was buzzing. I bounded into Granny’s room and yapped on and on about my race. She was proud as punch and pulled out the sherry. I had never had a drink with my Granny before and here I was sipping on a sherry and talking about running.
My Granny wasn’t a runner, but she listened and was enthused by my energy. During this conversation she had a glint in her eye and a softness I hadn’t seen very often.
She didn’t last long after this and I am still grateful for this precious moment with her; to share a running story with her and feel her warmth and pride. I’m not convinced she understood why anyone wanted to run for fun, but she was chuffed to bits for me and I can still feel her support today.
A little over an hour from Edinburgh, Elie rests on the Fife coastline. You will find the best car park for the FCP on the east side of the village, behind the harbour road and conveniently close to the amazing Ship Inn. From here the FCP is well marked.
The first point of interest along the way is Lady’s Tower, built in 1760 for Lady Janet Anstruther (renowned for her physical beauty and flirtatious character), to use as a changing room prior to her morning skinny dips. Tragically Lady Anstruther met her death by drowning in the waters below the tower. I remember many a walk to gaze out to sea with Granny by my side at this very point, as she told me tales of Lady Anstruther.
The route then skims past the ruins of Newark Castle, an ancient 13th century building, believed to have been the residence of King Alexander III during part of his childhood.
With twisting and undulating, single tracked, sandy terrain this section of the route is laugh out loud fun! It is heaven for trail running legs.
The view towards St Monans is breath-taking. Like most of the small villages along the coast, St Monans is an old fishing village. One of the most eye-catching features is an old windmill situated on the coast as the FCP leaves the village. This windmill was historically used to power the salt-panning industry.
Then out of St Monans and on to Pittenweem, with a population of over 1,700 and a thriving fishing industry, the harbour in Pittenweem can be a hive of activity. The FCP brings you into the village past rows of stunning white stone cottages with red roofs and through narrow alleyways. These surroundings and the smell of the sea, leaves you feeling you could almost be in a hot European coastal village.
Dotted along the trail at this point are various bikes, decorated beautifully and sometimes amusingly for the entertainment of the FCP users.
Finally, for this run, we arrived at Anstruther where we were due to turn around and retrace our steps, taking in all the same sights but from a different perspective. Anstruther is the largest of the coastal communities along East Neuk. Whilst it still has a bustling harbour; tourism is massive here.
We ran past numerous cafes, with patrons spilling out onto the street. Perhaps Anstruther’s most famous acclaim is the Anstruther Fish Bar, which professes to be Britain’s best fish shop (caveated by the word “probably”, after this claim).
Upon returning to the car and stretching off, I had to drag Cath over to Granny’s old house. Perched on the breakwater, taking pride of place. Oh the memories! I was initially taken aback to see a mobile café and seating area taking up a large part of the breakwater, Elie Beach café, oh how Granny would turn in her grave at the sight of this. But times change and with the onslaught of tourists and the mad coffee crazy that seems to have swept the UK over the past decade, there is a real demand for this service.
It turned out the owners of the Café also live in and own Break Water House, they very kindly offered me a nosy next time I am in Elie. As kind as this offer is, I feel that would be too much, I can look at the same old familiar shell from the outside. But the heart of this house has changed several times over, I would rather remember it with the sounds of my family and the smell of my Granny.
To me, this running route has everything. Beautiful sights, interesting history, amazing running terrain, fresh sea air and on a personal level - heart-pounding nostalgia. Running on routes like this is exactly why I run. Go on - seize the day and experience as many running adventures as you can, see the world on the run, live life with adrenaline and endorphins pumping through your body. No running adventure is ever a waste of time.
One day I will do the full Fife Coastal Path over a weekend or even in one full stint – running through the night. Anyone care to join me?
EXPLORE SCOTLAND ON THE RUN | RUN THE SIGHTS | RUNNING TOURS FOR EVERYONE
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by Elaine Omand
As marathon season is now fully upon us, and lots of people are preparing to run their first big event, I’ve been thinking back to my first experience of running a marathon. My relationship with running started when I left school and moved away for uni. It came about almost by chance, as a couple of friends wanted to get fitter by going running, and I liked the social aspect, so tagged along. When they announced they were going to enter Edinburgh marathon for the following year, I was filled with awe, but had no expectations in my mind that I would ever be able to achieve something like that. To go from our little 5km ambles round town to 26.2 miles? No chance!
So the weeks went by, and I continued running with my friends as they built up, while I stuck mainly to the shorter distances. Until one Sunday a few weeks before the marathon, it was a lovely sunny day, so I decided to keep running with them a bit longer. I have no idea now how long I did run that day as it was before the time of GPS watches, but I kept up for the whole of their long run, and absolutely loved it. Being out in the fresh air, taking in the smells and sounds, and seeing so much, gave me an adrenaline rush that I previously hadn’t experienced. When my friends completed the marathon a few weeks later, I was so proud and excited for them, but it also lit a spark in me, and I decided straight away that if they could do it, I wanted to give it a go.
I quickly signed up for the following year, and set about planning a training schedule, nutrition, kit. There was so much to learn about. I decided to enter a couple of local races beforehand to get a feel for what was involved.
I then joined a running club to get advice from other runners. Joining the running club has certainly been a life-changing experience. The beauty of a running club is that everyone is equal. We turn up in sports kit, people from all walks of life, and it doesn’t matter what your profession is, how many kids you have, where you come from. It’s all about getting out in the fresh air and enjoying life. Whether you want to be super competitive, or push your body to the limits, or just have a chat and a bimble with your friends, there is a place for everyone in the running community. I certainly learned a lot from the people there, and made many friends.
The most exciting part of training for your first marathon, is that every week when you do a long run, you are running further than you have ever run before. Every week is a little victory. To go that little bit further, explore that bit more, push yourself that little bit harder, allows for personal growth and satisfaction that can only be achieved through something big like this.
As race day came around, I developed a niggle in my knee, which only came on after 20 or so miles, but I couldn’t sort it before the marathon, and decided I would give it a go anyway. I had done all the training, so I had to try. It was an unusually hot morning. My parents dropped me off near the start, and I walked along to find my starting pen and get myself sorted. I had never taken part in an event so big, with people milling around everywhere. I found a little corner of pavement to sit on and save my legs for the race. I can still remember the nerves in my stomach at the thought of what I was going to attempt, and the doubt of whether I could actually achieve it.
The race started, and we got going, through Leith and out along the coast towards Musselburgh. It didn’t take me too long to settle into my pace, and remember that I had done the training, and this was what it was all for. With the sun shining down, I took in the sights of the beaches, enjoyed the music of the bands along the route, and smiled at the crowds lining the streets to cheer us on. The atmosphere was intense and so positive, it was impossible not to enjoy yourself. I was a part of this movement. We were 16,000 people, doing this for our own reasons, but doing it together.
About 20 miles in, my knee did start to hurt again, and the last 6 miles, were a pretty disappointing jog/walk to the finish. The worst part was getting passed in those last couple of miles by a giant Barney the dinosaur. However, when that finish came into view, and I knew I was going to make it, I certainly found the energy to sprint down the last hundred meters, cheered on by people on either side. I crossed the line, was congratulated by the volunteers and collapsed on the grass in the sun. Relieved, sore, but elated; I was a marathon runner. I had done it, and I was hooked.
Since then, there have been many other races, from 1 mile sprints, to hill races, to marathons and ultras. I still love the challenge and the buzz I get at every one of them. If racing isn’t for you though, this is just one side of running. I have experienced so much, and met so many people, through my passion for running. So go out there and find your adventure.
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by Ali Wyllie
To many people, the 1st of April is all about practical jokes and fooling their friends and family. However, to approximately 250 runners, Saturday 1st April 2017 was all about running the John Muir Way from Port Seton to Foxlake, Dunbar, either as a solo runner, completing the 50k ultra marathon or as part of a 2 person relay. This date had one other special meaning to me; Zac's birthday. Zac is my lovable but rogueish rescue dog. I was told his birthday was sometime in March, but if you knew his personality you would understand that April Fools suits him perfectly as a day to celebrate his birthday.
My awesome training partner, Cath and I, completed the relay last year; scooping 1st female team. This year I was meant to run the whole thing. But for reasons I won't bore you with, I found myself off the start list and on the marshal list.
Being on the marshal list is not a bad thing at all. I get a real buzz out of marshalling at races and sharing in the excitement of the day, without having to endure my own nerves and emotional battle.
If you're early, you're on time; if you're on time, you're late and if you are late - just don't bother turning up. My embarrassingly early time keeping is not just applicable when I'm racing, but also to all other areas of my life. This allowed me to take in the views at the start, breathe in the sea air and chat with a huddle of nervous friends as they arrived.
The top team of organisers including; James, John, Mandy, Cal, Zak and Kate were all kicking about at the start. All cool as cucumbers, they certainly seemed comfortable with the organising during the lead up to the day and given this race was in its 2nd year they had the experience of the previous year to draw upon, making for a very chilled out race start.
I scurried off to my first marshal point, just as the buses started to arrive. It was pretty cool to see so many friends and familiar faces from the ultra community, make their way down to the start.
It was simply awesome watching the swarm of runners make their way towards me, where I directed them off the yucky road and onto the wonderful sandy trails of the John Muir Way. I then moved to Longniddry Bents carpark 3, and turned the music UP, singing and dancing runners on as they passed me (sorry if I was annoying). I only just got there in time to see my old mucka Steve Rowntree zoom by, resembling a racing snake with go faster stripes.
Runners buzzed past, some in huddles and some in solitude. They were all there for different reasons. They had all faced different mental and physical challenges to get there. They were all from different backgrounds, different countries, different religions and ethnicities. But none of that mattered, as collectively they belonged together, everyone with equal standing as they aimed for North Berwick and/or Foxlake. I was SOOOOO excited to see my favourite Italian, Chiara, as she ran past with a massive smile on her face, clearly enjoying her first ultra experience.
After Aberlady I was free to make my way to North Berwick and bide my time before taking up the sweeping role.
There was a real party atmosphere at North Berwick. Relay runners nervously waited on their partner, before heading off to tackle the 2nd half of the race. Friends and family of racers, congregated above the beach, watching as the runners made their way along the beach like little ants.
I really enjoyed catching up properly with friends during this stage of the race. There is never a dull moment with the Cani-Sports Edinburgh crew that is for sure!
Armed with scissors and my running pack and joined by Princess Jasper my super duper trail running dog, I set off from North Berwick on my sweeping duties. My job was to be the eyes and ears at the back of the race, administer any urgent first aid and take down all the signs. Easy right? Well it would have been if the signs weren't so damn high (to be fair it was only the one sign that was touching the stars - and I later learnt the original one had been stolen, hence the reason this one was so high up). It made me feel like a failure not being able to reach it and take it down. DAMN you OCD tendencies!
As I passed North Berwick Law, I wondered if next year the race should send runners up to the top. Surely it has to be done?
I was gutted that the gorgeous Exmoor ponies, who live on the Law, were nowhere to be seen. They are normally pretty curious creatures so I imagine many of the runners before me would have been spurred on by them.
Just as I was leaving the Berwick Law area I saw Princess Jasper licking at the ponies salt lick. I couldn't help but wonder if any of the racers had given into temptation and had a few licks themselves; having got their race nutrition so wrong and feeling desperate for salt. Maybe this could be a new race thing? Perhaps race directors could place nutritional race licks in strategic and convenient places along a race. Heck, that would make everyone run faster, as I sure as hell would not want to be the last one out of a race of 200+ to have a lick!
Nutritional race licks - you heard it hear first!
You know when you approach an area you are familiar with, from a completely different direction, rendering the area totally alien! This was me as I ran through the buildings of Balgone Estate. I had no clue where I was, until I actually hit the trails and the penny dropped. Or maybe it's because the last time I was there was with the Foxtrail race and I was so hungover that only 1 brain cell, instead of the standard 2, was firing that day? But these trails, oh my, the trails at Balgone are simply heaven. Princess Jasper and I trotted along under the blue skies and glorious sunshine, to be met by the happy faces of Owain and Mandy Williams who had what I called their own wee en-suite marshal point. A table full of food, a portaloo and a wonderful bed of reeds to snuggle into. What more could you possibly need or want? This duo are so speedy their blog is already up, check it out here.
James popped down when I was in this section. He told me of a dog graveyard about a mile further along, which I "could not miss". Hell, I'm glad he did tell me, as I would have run right past. What a joy to stop and take in this perfect beauty spot, overlooking the wee pond/loch. I counted over 13 graves all with lovely inscriptions. As anyone who has ever read any of my blogs knows, I'm a bit dog mad. My dogs are my pride and joy. Stood there amidst the K9 graves I was overcome with contentness in the knowledge that these dogs had been loved so deeply by their people. But as I trotted on, my mind panicked as it turned to thoughts of what I would put on my own hairy children's gravestone. For them to have a gravestone in the first place, one obvious thing needs to happen and I am wholly in denial of that obvious part of life. So ... moving swiftly on ....
How much fun was the roller coaster single track trail beyond the estate? I mean seriously, Jasper and I were free of signs at this point, meaning we could throw ourselves into the trail and enjoy the ride. Pure trail porn! This section made me smile from ear to ear.
I could see Erin; the last runner up ahead. But each time I stopped to faff about with signs I lost her. It wasn't until we passed the farm of death that I caught up properly and managed to introduce myself and see how she was. Hang on, rewind. Farm of death? Yes, I did just write that. Come on racers, you all ran past that farm, which smelt like it had rotting corpses inside. EUGH and BOAK is all I can say and I seriously do not want to know what it was!
On our way over to the East Linton aid station Erin was in good spirits, her cousin Jenny; who was visiting from Australia; had joined her for moral support and the 2 of them walked and ran intermittently making good forward progress and sharing a very special experience together. We came face to face with one of the most beautiful dovecots I've ever seen. It was perfect in every way that for a split second, my life's aspirations were simply to be a dove.
Sensibly (she was in jeans and a jumper and not meant to be running), Jenny stopped off at East Linton, leaving Erin to continue the rest of the race herself. We walked and jogged together, although at times I fell behind, fighting with race signs or being so heavily ladened I struggled to run. I took great delight in building piles of race signage for the race vehicle to collect later on.
I'm a little embarrassed to admit that Erin and I took a wrong turn and went off course. This is particularly embarrassing as the point of error was exactly at the foot of the most obvious official John Muir Way sign AND James had only just phoned me and warned me not to go off course. Ach - what's a race without a little adventure huh?
Back on track, we circumnavigated the trails towards and then away from Tyninghame village.
I learnt Erin was celebrating her 40th birthday over the weekend and completing this race was her personal challenge. What an amazing thing to do for your 40th. It isn't THAT long until I reach the big 4 - 0, I'm racking my brains on what adventure I can have. Any suggestions?
We drew closer and closer to Foxlake and I could feel Erin's determination and strength grow.
For the final kilometer Erin really pushed on. I was lost in her wake juggling an armful of signs. I'm so glad no one could see me, picture the scene, about 5 signs on poles and 7 loose signs and I looked like a bust couch. I dropped them all at least 3 times, only a few hundred meters from the finish, and naturally each time I had almost picked them all up, and was moving forward again I would drop one. Of course, I could have just left them for the vehicle to pick up, but I was not letting those pesky signs get the better of me, I was carrying them to the end if it killed me!
And so it was, I reached the finish just before the drizzle started. The top team were clearing everything up and I heard fantastic reports of a fabulous and successful day. I was reunited with Zac, who had been treated like royalty by Gail and Avril and off I raced home for a well-deserved night out (even if I say so myself).
Next year I HAVE to race this epic event. It just gets better and better so year 3 is apparently THE year to do it. Whilst I do love marshalling I am always filled with envy as I watch the runners tackling outstanding trails and going through emotional and physical battles that bring me a strange sense of comfort and familiarity.
Well done top team for another awesome event. Well done to everyone who started this epic race - whether or not you finished - you are all heroes! Massive congratulations to everyone who became ultra-runners for the first time - Chiara this shout out is to you!
A full breakdown of results can be found here for the relay and here for the ultra.
Here's to the John Muir Way Ultra 2018, who's joining me on the start line?
EXPLORE ON THE RUN | RUNNING TOURS THROUGHOUT SCOTLAND | WHY WALK .... WHEN YOU CAN RUN!
by Ali Wyllie
The 4th March 2017 saw the final Foxtrail Winter Running Series Race. This 13k route could be described as being fast and furious, with it’s relatively flat and energising trails, idyllic for all the trail loving runners out there.
However, this was not set to be a good race for me. Having been floored with the lurgy in the previous weeks and struggling to get back to fitness, I knew I would be playing a dangerous game trying to race, but I also knew I needed to complete a 4th race to be in with a chance of scooping the female series win. With two 1st places and one 2nd place under my belt, I calculated I simply needed an ok finish to secure the series.
I made a tough but essential decision to race but not race. I find this really difficult and all too often I ignore my own rules and get scooped up with other racers, contrary to my race plan, but on this occasion I was determined to stick with my plan. I even took it one step further and set myself a target of coming in 4th, 5th or 6th, telling myself that if I podiumed I had failed. I set an additional goal of a finish time of 1 hour. Before the race, several people asked me how I was feeling and if I was looking for a win. I voiced my race goals and by saying them out loud, it meant I was committed. My fear of trying to achieve a podium was that I would run too hard for my fitness level and end up not finishing the race or worse still injured.
Lining up on the start line for the last race of the series, I was struck by an overwhelming feeling of sadness. I felt I was surrounded by friends and a familiarity that brings with it a certain level of comfort. I’ve loved seeing my fellow racers tackle each new route with vigour and enthusiasm and bask in their post-race glow in a flurry of chatter and excitement at the end. Yet, here I was waiting to start the final race, lost in my own thoughts and feeling emotional; almost tearful, at the finality of it all. I crept up near to the front and stopped short of joining the speedy folk right at the front.
It felt strange to hear the gunfire and set off at a calm and composed pace . I felt I was sauntering along with ease, but that is exactly what I needed to do and was precisely what my plan was. Nicola Duncan and Jacqui Thomson were quickly lost to sight along with some of the speedy guys. I was sat in third and this bothered me, until about a mile in when Amanda Ferguson zoomed past. For the first time ever in a race, I felt a tremendous sense of relief as I came crashing off the podium. I encouraged her on and told her she was running into 3rd place. She went on to have an incredible race finishing 2nd female.
I cannot profess to this race being easy for me physically or mentally. I ran hard enough to challenge myself, but not hard enough to break. I struggled emotionally with settling for a place outside the podium. The first non-podium place for me in the series and in fact in any Foxtrail race I have ever entered. I felt people had high expectations of me and I was letting them down. I felt I was letting myself down. But I drew strength from my race plan and reassured myself that finishing the race and being injury free was far more important than striving for a podium finish.
Ultimately I was delighted with myself. I stuck to my race plan like glue, coming home in the EXACT time I aimed for: 1:00:16 (this was fluke by the way, not good pacing skills), and in the best position I could have hoped for – 4th female. Let me be clear, although I raced to a plan I do not for one minute think I could have beaten any of the top 3 females, who all ran brilliantly. Nicola Duncan scooped 1st, Amanda Ferguson took 2nd and Jacqui Thomson took 3rd.
Although I felt confident I had done enough to secure the series, I was not 100% sure until I heard my name being called at the prize giving.
I was warmed to hear my Foxtrail family roar in applause. Stepping up on the podium to accept the 1st female series prize I was overwhelmed with pride. I was joined by Amanda Ferguson who took 2nd place and Jacqui Thomson who took 3rd place. I was chuffed to bits seeing Owain Williams take the 1st place for the males series, following by Richard Laucht and Dave Saunders.
Whilst the Foxtrail Winter Running Series 2016/2017 is complete, the John Muir Way Ultra Marathon is just around the corner. I have sadly had to withdraw and instead offer my services as a helper, I will hopefully see many of you there.
BIG thank you to everyone behind the scenes who make these race happen. James, Cal, John, Mandy and Katie plus all your amazing helpers, you do an outstanding job and it just keeps getting better and better. I don’t know about anyone else but I cannot wait for the 2017/2018 Foxtrail Winter Running Series.
One of my favourite things about the Foxtrail Winter Running Series is how inclusive the races are. I love that canicrosssers are welcome (although if they achieve a podium place they must surrender it as canicross is a dicipline in itself and runners are assisted by their dog). Also, with the introduction of the 5k series this year, many more people have been able to experience the buzz of a trail race - and no doubt become hooked.
Following my race, I cooled down with a celebratory walk on Tyninghame beach along with friends and fellow racers; Lee and Jenny, and our selection of hairy kids.
See you at the 2017/2018 Foxtrail Winter Running Series, the pressure is on to aim for the series win again. EEEEEEK!
by Ali Wyllie & Chiara Franzosi
Having been floored with the dreaded lurgy for a couple of weeks, it was with a heavy heart that I made the final assessment and decided not to run the half marathon. Given I was struggling to walk up stairs let alone run 13 miles, I feel this was the right decision.
I hadn't even run for 2 weeks due to this lurgy I was in a state of panic that my fitness was dissipating into thin air. How do other runners cope with illness and periods of no exercise?
Whilst I knew I could not run, I still went along to the race to support my fellow runners. I love watching races, but I find it particularly difficult to merely spectate if I should have been running. I rocked up after the runners had started and whilst I was annoyed with myself for this I was impressed I had made it full stop, as I had really struggled to drag myself out of my warm bed.
The weather was cold, wet and windy, I wasn't actually prepared for how brutal it was, luckily the amazing Boardside cafe ladies were there; as always, with their selection of hot drinks. I warmed myself up with a coffee and joined friends who were also unable to run for various reasons, and together we cheered on all the runners as they passed the tent. I have to admit that I also spent a lot of my time clinging to the outdoor heaters inside the tent.
Owain Williams bolted through the site as first male with a huge lead on 2nd and 3rd place. I was ecstatic to see Nicola Duncan powering along in first female position. I watched, cheered and felt increasingly envious as all the runners and some canirossers ran through, heading back out onto the trail with the tough beach section still to come (maybe I wasn't so jealous of this section).
It is very difficult to write a blog on a race I haven't actually run, so it gives me great delight to introduce my favourite Italian lady, the wonderfully kind and amazing Chaira Franzosi, who penned a few words of her own experience.
"This time, the most difficult part of the race was getting to the race itself. I always look forward to a FoxTrail event; but for the Harvest Moon Half Marathon, I was quite nervous and worried about the rain, the snow, and the 50mph freezing wind. I could feel my apprehension growing when I arrived at the site: my eyes got a thermal shock as soon as I stepped out of the car and I was struggling on the way to the marquee for the race registration. I couldn’t walk, was I meant to run in that weather?
Fortunately, the friendly atmosphere I found in the tent managed to change my attitude towards the race. A lot of friends who were unable to run (because of flu) had been driving in the awful weather conditions just to come to support. I was grateful for this and felt like I should have run for them as well.
As soon as the runners gathered at the start line, I started getting excited about the race and remembered that I was there to enjoy it. I was ready to run and I started to believe I could have a great race.
I soon realised that it was going to be the worst weather conditions and the most stunning course I had ever run in. The scenery was spectacular and changing all the time – 21 kilometres of breath-taking trails, woodland, farm fields, cliffs, and a magnificent section on the beach.
Around half way, I was running on my own: the very fast people were further ahead and nobody was immediately behind me. It was ok to be alone, but I felt it was a quite long portion of the race – 6 or 7 kilometres. I was constantly listening to my body, checking every part was good, focusing on the arms and on the short steps. I was very focused and enjoying it.
The wind became music and I was singing to myself:
I love my life / I am powerful / I am beautiful / I am free
I love my life / I am wonderful / I am magical / I am me
I was smiling all the way!
In the second half of the course, we had the section on the beach. It was tremendous. An overwhelming force of Nature. The legs got tired as they were hitting the sand and the wind was pushing hard from the sea, however I was loving it. My trail shoes were now running on the ebb tide, stepping on a thick sea foam. The waves were enormous on my right hand side and, from a distance, I could see the Bass Rock standing up wonderfully against the storm. It was epic. I could spot people again and I remembered I was not alone.
I had great fun crossing the shallow Peffer Burn – to the marshal who was standing there, you are a superhero!! – and after turning point, waving at the cani-crossers Lee and Steph – Lee & Bear, when did you overtake me? I did not see you overtaking at all, you speedy! I felt a well-deserved coffee was getting closer and closer as soon as we left the beach and turned back into the trails, one last great scenery with the farm enclosures and some horses that got curious about the passing runners.
I feel like this race can reflect quite well the state of my life at the moment - in fact, this is probably one of the toughest and most beautiful periods of it. The Harvest Moon Half Marathon was a great reminder that no matter how chilly and windy and stormy is, no matter how many trip hazard there are going to be… everything is going to be alright. There will always be someone beautiful I will be running with, some running gurus to meet, some amazing people cheering me up, giving encouragement, and sharing their emotions."
Chiara finished in a very respectable 01:48:09 and as has become standard for this series Owain Williams of the Running Beside. Me blog, scooped the first male place with an amazing 01:24:00 with Colin Williams and Richard Laucht 2nd and 3rd place respectfully. Nicola Duncan stole the first female place in 01:34:51 with Amanda Ferguson and Jacqui Thomson in 2nd and 3rd place. For a full breakdown of results see here.
Whilst I am incredibly gutted to have missed this epic race, I was delighted to have been part of it in a small way and to celebrate other people enjoying the podium and to watch racers sheer delight as they crossed the finish line after accomplishing such a difficult race in tough conditions. As ever James, Cal, John, Mandy and all the team did an amazing job and what a wicked venue Harvest Moon was.
See you at the next one: 13k on 4th March at Foxlake. More info can be found here. In the meantime, I will be hoping to shift this lurgy and get out running again, when this happens, I will be the one counting my blessings and feeling extremely grateful for my health and the sense of freedom and release running provides.
EXPLORE ON THE RUN | RUNNING TOURS THROUGHOUT SCOTLAND | WHY WALK.... WHEN YOU CAN RUN!