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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.
Remember - we provide guided running tours throughout Scotland. From 4 miles all the way up to bespoke ultra distance tours. Keep fit and see the sights at the same time. Explore, run and laugh. Come and Run the Sights!
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!
by Ali Wyllie
I would like to say my race prep for the Foxtrail 10k at Balgone Estate was textbook and sensible. However, the reality is - I'm rather embarrassed to say - I was horrendously hungover and only just made the start of the race. Somehow it seemed like a good idea the night before the race to go out and consume half my body weight in wine, beer and porn star martini cocktails! When my alarm rudely interrupted my slumber on race day the temptation to press snooze and be a no show was greater than I care to admit. I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed, out of sheer stubbornness - I was not going to be beaten by a hangover! I will admit there were a few choice words muttered, but I was also extremely grateful to my organised self for laying out all my race stuff prior to heading out for the night, and for packing my race bag, so really I was all set and did not have any excuses. I was proud of myself getting up and quickly notched up the score - me 1 - hangover 0.
So despite my rather unorthodox race prep evening, I still managed to keep to my usual routine and be the keen bean parked up first in the events field. I love arriving early for races as I have outlined in previous blogs, and this race was no different. It simply means I don't have to queue for registration or toilets. I can sort out my own hairy kidz in a relaxed manner and I can warm myself up and still have time to mingle and chat. At this point I was feeling somewhat smug, me 2 - hangover 0.
The Foxtrail Winter Series has created a great loyal following. It was fabulous to see familiar faces as racers started to arrive at what turned out to be Foxtrail's biggest event so far with a phenomenal 300 entries. It is such a friendly series and there is a real buzz at the start of these races, they attract a down to earth crowd who just want to get out onto good trails and RUN! I feel there is a warm and cuddly Foxtrail family growing around me and I am delighted to be part of it. It was fabby to grab a quick chat to the wonderful Fitness Soul team whilst I was loitering around, Leszek and Joanna are simply bursting with energy and enthusiasm. Of course I have to mention the adorable 3 cuties I chatted to as they stood in the registration queue, clinging onto their mum; Sarah Horsburgh of the Life and Lifting Blog. Full respect to you Sarah - I can barely get myself and the hairies ready and out the door, let alone have to consider 3 mini people as well. All you parents out there, who manage to balance running and parenthood - you are amazing and I salute you - that is all!
I must say the venue was pretty cool. Having the registration/start/podium in a large grain barn worked really well and added to the rustic and down to earth feel of the race, although that said the external heaters were very very welcome!
I can not even begin to outline how perfect the weather was. Cold and crisp with bright sunshine. The air was perfectly still and the sky was crystal clear. It was one of those mornings you just have to get outside and hit the trails and feel the cold air hit your lungs. As perfect as these conditions are for running, it can be difficult to get race clothing right. I must have still had my alcohol jacket on and decided it was a good idea to race in a vest and sleeves. As it turns out though, I made the right decision as my temperature was perfect throughout the race. Ha ha ha me 3 - hangover 0.
I love to canicross with my dogs, however I also enjoy to challenge myself and run without the dogs. The wonderful thing about the Foxtrail series is that they allow canicrossers. I managed to pimp the hairy kidz off to friends. Princess Jasper was scooped up by her number 1 fan; Jane Irvine. They run and race together regularly and have a wonderful connection, I love seeing them together, revelling in each others company.
Lee Preston very kindly and bravely took Zac for me, Zac is not an easy dog and his affectionate nickname; Dickhead, sums him up in a nutshell, although really he is just misunderstood. He is the underdog, he had a horrible start to life and has a few physical issues, but he lives to run. It is a joy to watch Zac Attack in action, we could all learn a thing or two from his determination and focus.
I watched as Joanna from Fitness Soul led the warm up for the 5k race, and cheered loudly as they all burst away from the start line and disappeared down the trail into the frosty glow. At this point, it crossed my mind that given my physical and mental ailments (self-inflicted), I should have asked to do the 5k instead, however I quickly told myself off for being weak, I had signed up for the 10k and I was bloomin well going to do the 10k if it killed me! But at this stage - this is exactly what I was afraid of - DEATH! hmmmm me 3 - hangover 1.
Again, Fitness Soul led the warm up for the 10k racers, as I tried to follow the routine I realised how uncoordinated I was being, normally I am ok at dynamic warm-ups, but I was all over the shop. This certainly was not boding well for a 10k race! I feared I was in trouble - big trouble. We were given a few minutes before the gun. I arrogantly pawed my way to the front along with the fast guys. Why do I do such stupid things? And that day of all days! When will I learn? I looked around me and gave big "good luck" smiles to friends from Cani-Sports Edinburgh and the amazing show of ladies from Race Fitness. Kieron the boss of Race Fitness was at the front, as was Owain Williams of the Running Beside Me blog I wished them both good luck and got ready to switch my timer on. All of a sudden we were off - 2 ladies shot ahead - including Joanna Brown who ended up running to a strong 2nd place finish.
I was surprised to pass Kieron, but sadly I could not be smug about this as he was wearing his kilt and was running with a dodgy hamstring. As I past him he inferred his bouncing sporran was not the most comfortable of garments to run in, despite our gender difference, I didn't miss what he was on about - ouch! I made a mental choice then and there, I decided that this hangover could go to hell and for the duration of this race I was going to feel hell, and I sure as hell was going to run like hell and slap this hangover in the face for trying to debilitate me and send me to hell. So I ignored the churning stomach, ran tall, drove my legs and arms forward to take the ladies lead position within the first few hundred meters. Physically I was broken, but I drew upon my mental strength and endured 44 minutes of abuse from myself - and believe you me - no one wants to see inside my brain - that race was an ugly mess of mental torture!
After an initial long and wide farm track, the route soon took us into woodland, where the trails got muddier and with the mud the fun started. We flanked a small fishing loch, decorated with swans and set picturesquely amidst the woodland. It was simply stunning. The trails began twisting and turning and the undulations started. I certainly was not bouncing along, but I was making good forward progress, despite the washing machine action of my stomach and the little children hammering on my skull.
The sun made the trail light up in a glow of colours. By this point I was alone on the trail, I could barely see the guys up ahead and Kieron was too far behind me to engage in conversation. I was alone, just me, my thoughts and the trail - to be honest - this is just how I like it. I heard a rustle and looked up to get eye contact with 2 small roe deer who fled in an awkward panic as soon as I drew even with them. Humph - I'm not that scary am I?
Tree routes rose out of the ground, threatening - luckily unsuccessfully - to trip me up. I darted from foot to foot and paid close attention to the trail up ahead. I trudged through a sea of dried leaves and skimmed the surface of frozen muddy puddles. This is what life is about!
And then came the rollar coaster section. Oh wow, this was simply amazing. Single track trail with twists and turns that a mountain biker would enjoy. I giggled my way along, bouncing down and up and right and left, I felt connected with the trail and for a moment Mr Hangover disappeared. From here there was a section from hell, which fitted well with my living hell. Energy sapping, potted grass verges on the side of large arable fields. No matter how much energy I mustered up to run along here I felt I was making next to no progress and my watch told me I was practically standing still.
As I took advantage of a slight downhill I heard a bellow behind me "GO ALI WYLLIE", a small left hand shoulder check confirmed that Lee and Zac were fast approaching. By the 7.5k mark, Lee and Zac had caught up with me. I could barely speak and I felt incredibly rude not being able to chat with Lee and spur on Zac Attack. Zac was in the zone, he barely acknowledged me and continued to try and run past me. Lee and I ran in close proximity for the rest of the race.
As I climbed the penultimate grassy hill I risked a quick check behind me. I could see Joanna Brown making great progress not too far away from me. If I continued to run pathetically and she grew in strength, I was waving goodbye to 1st place. With this in mind I drew upon my reserves and pulled my finger out for the final kilometer. The steep downhill was awesome and allowed me to build up momentum to power up and down the final set of grassy undulations.
I had almost lost the will to live as I ran up the home straight through the race banners and flags. Lee and Zac drew even with me and powered on to overtake me. I was proud as punch to learn that Zac led Lee to a PB, canicross is classed as assisted running and certainly isn't comparable to running without a dog, although it brings with it a different set of challenges.
I finally turned the corner to see the finish sign about 10 meters ahead of me. I normally have a powerful sprint finish, but I was done in. I even stopped a few meters before the finish line and just walked in - almost too cool for school. I've no shame in admitting that was one hell of a tough race given my condition. James was at the finish, he was clearly laughing at my obvious suffering and gave me a big hug of congratulations. I could not help but feel totally bewildered and amused at my 1st place. I am an exception to the rule book - I am faster over trails than I am on the road, but this race I finished in a time of 44:54 - my slowest ever 10k. It still brought me home 9th overall, which made me extremely happy! Full results can be found here.
I grabbed a black coffee and cheered other racers in, enjoying my favourite part of these races - when everyone is relaxed and happy with a post race glow and full of smiles and endorphins and are eagerly chatting about the trails. It was amazing to learn that my good friend in life and training Cath Dolliver came in with an incredible PB only 2 minutes behind me, to bring her home 4th lady. Cath will absolutely beat me very soon, my days are numbered. Cath - I'm so glad you remembered your trainers this time :-). Fastest male went to Owain Williams in a time of 40:11, Owain has podiumed every race so far and I imagine will be set to take the male series prize.
The original plan was to run an extra 10 miles after the race for my ultra training. There was no danger this was going to happen, however as a punishment to myself I still made myself go out for an extra 4 miles. This feat was made easier given I was joined by 4 other wonderful ladies (Sam, Chiara, Cath and Jasper) and one other wonderful bloke - Zac.
I think is is fair to say I chewed up and spat out that hangover, although I also think I have learnt my lesson - NEVER AGAIN will I race hungover!
A massive shout out to all the canicrossers who raced at Muiravonside on the Sunday following Foxtrail. You guys are hardcore.
Well, the next Foxtrail race is the half marathon on 11th February 2017 at Harvest Moon, Lochhouses. This is a tough course and I gather it is being made even tougher! Can't wait! See you there :-). Thank you James, Cal, John & Mandy and your never ending long list of epic team members! Another truly amazing event!
Run the Sights | Running Tours throughout Scotland | Why walk... when you can run | Explore Scotland on the run
by Ali Wyllie
It had been a rather stressful week (new role in my day job & house sale). I needed The 16k Foxtrail Race to unwind and navigate back to my mental equilibrium. A few nights before the race I scanned through the start list and was delighted to see plenty of my friends from both Cani-Sports Edinburgh and Race Fitness were racing. I also noticed a very strong female field - again! Having won this race in the 2015 series with a time of 01:10:13 I knew I had my work cut out if I wanted to beat this time, let alone achieve a podium. I recalled that last years race I had worked beyond my ability level and ended up with a small calf tear.
As is standard, I was the first one on site. I figure if you are early then you are on time. If you are on time then you are late and if you are late then you may as well not turn up.
John and Mandy were all set up at the registration, ready to welcome the crowds and address any last minute questions or concerns. There was the usual hustle and bustle of the start of an event and as racers flocked around the start I chatted with a few friends. However, I really am not very good company before a race, I am distracted and jittery, I flit around like a butterfly and I am certainly not a good conversationalist. So I apologise now to anyone who has ever had to endure me during the morning build up to a race. In fact I apologise to anyone who may have to endure me in the future. There, apologies done.
I needn't have worried too much, after all I had at least remembered my trainers unlike one of my friends (not mentioning any names, ehm, Cath Dolliver) AND I had remembered my watch this time. I'm sometimes proud of myself for just rocking up to a race in one piece with everything I need (I can be such a liability!).
I stood on the start line repeating out loud "don't set off too fast, don't set off too fast", a few folk chuckled at me, but I sometimes need to give myself a stern talking to. I was hoping this message would subliminally filter through to the front line of racers, which would stop me feeling the impulsive desire to tear off after them. We set off 2 minutes before the canicrossers (running assisted with dogs), I knew the speed merchant Fiona Ramsay who was canicrossing, would pass me at some point, and I was curious as to when this would be. I set off steadily and reduced the urge to stay with the front pack. Within the first kilometre I overtook Julie Oswald, she looked strong and composed and I wondered if I was pushing it too much. Running back through Foxlake HQ James shouted after me "You're first female and in the top 10". The elusive top 10 spot - "was it attainable" I wondered. By the 5k mark my watch read 20:01, I felt good, my legs were light and my breathing was settled. I knew if I could maintain this pace I would have a strong race.
I was bouncing along one of my favourite sections; the small single track on top of the mini cliff top adjacent to the sea, when I heard Fi behind me, talking to other runners warning them of her passing with the dog. She left me for dust, I swear Fuzzy was smiling, her big tongue was hanging out and she was clearly enjoying her run.
I clocked Bob Marshall, sitting patiently, waiting to capture each and every racer's experience in a single freeze frame. I summoned up a bit of cheery banter, gave him a wave and tottled off towards the bridge.
No matter how many times I have run across this bridge I always think it is slippy when it is most clearly not!
Just before the trail took us into the woodland, a lone tree stood out on the horizon, as I drew closer I could see it was decorated like a Christmas tree. It made me giggle. I wondered if it was embarrassed and if the other trees were mocking it (did anyone else wonder this? No? Just me then). It certainly gave me a spring in my step and a smile on my face.
The next woodland stage was simply awesome. It was bouncy and a bit more technical with a few twists and turns. This is my kind of trail and I giggled out loud as I danced along the trail totally engrossed in my surroundings and oblivious to the stresses of my week. All too soon I was on the beach, this was a very tough section and is certainly not a strength of mine. I take my hat off to anyone who runs desert marathons. I opted for the firmer sand and ran close to the tide. My orange tinted glasses made the beach and sky look magical and up ahead I could see the silhouettes of several runners all in their own space, scattered along the beach. I wondered what everyone was thinking about and how they were feeling. Me - I was reminded of my emotional Tiree Ultra earlier in the year, but for most of my race whilst I was on the beach I thought of my Carlsberg job in Broome, Australia, where I worked with camels. My role was to lead a team of 18 camels along the beach whilst the sun set.
After crossing the bridge to nowhere, I knew I was over half way. Each time I felt my form collapse I picked myself up, ran tall and ensured my foot placements were underneath my core and not jarring my body with unnecessary braking action. I think it is fair to say I worked my ass off and was delighted to come in with a time almost 3 minutes faster than last years race. The clock read 1:07:18, placing me first lady. But I was even more delighted to be 10th overall. I had finally conquered a top 10 finish.
I am often asked for running tips, which I find quite humbling and sometimes embarrassing as I feel a bit of a fraud, I see myself as a slightly better than average runner. I have good days and bad days like everyone. I work hard and play hard and I don't do anything by half measures. Do or do not, there is no try! For me, I love trail running and I love the person it has made me. If you don't already love trail running, embrace it, let it captivate you and enjoy the journey as you slowly fall in love and once you love trail running, I mean REALLY love it, the world is your oyster for your running.
I always take time to reflect after each race. What worked, what didn't work and what I need to improve on. This has caused me to become quite superstitious in terms of my warm-up, race attire, food, routine, timings etc. My orange glasses are a godsend as my eyes are pretty sensitive and are prone to streaming when I race. I have an array of glasses ranging from expensive Oakleys to £7 children safety glasses. Can you guess which glasses I chose to wear during this race? Big thanks to Allan Ramsay for sharing these glasses with me!
There were some outstanding performances out on the trail with runners smashing through their personal best times and conquering personal goals (Chiara!!!). As cheesy as it sounds, I truly believe everyone is a winner. Perhaps testimony to the spirit of these events several folk who were unable to race for one reason or another made the effort to come and soak in the atmosphere and lend their support to all the racers; just a couple of mentions - Lan; my personal guru & Sarah of the fab Life and Lifting blog - who I had the pleasure of meeting before the race (Sarah - see the comment above about my poor communication skills prior to a race).
Events like this do not organise themselves. They take a huge amount of work. So a big shout out to John, Callum and James and their amazing team for all the work they continue to do to make this such an epic series.
It's always great to see friends old and new and put faces to names. It was fab to finally meet Owain Williams of the Running Beside Me blog, who also had a strong run, coming in 3rd.
I would like to leave you with a top tip. Following the race, I discovered the best way to revive tired legs. Sod ice baths, rest and massage - 5 hours dancing like a fool in silly girly heels is the best medicine - and has left my legs fresh as daisies :-). You have to love a Christmas night out.
See you at the next one on 21st January - in 2017!
p.s no I did not take the pics on my way round. I took the hairy kidz for a run after the prize giving, which allowed me to capture some of the highlights. Princess Jasper was aghast that I wasn't taking photos of her, so just to keep her happy I took this of her at the start of the beach section.
Why walk.... when you can run!
By Ali Wyllie
It is no secret that I love the Foxtrail series. Infact, I have been referred to as a Foxtrail groupie before. I have raced in these races from their initial inception. Originally they were the Tri Trail series, which were launched in 2012, they operated for 2 years and with the closure of the Tri Centre and Stuart McInnes emigrating far far away, along came the Foxlake duo; James Barbour & Cal Mark who, together with John Whittaker, set up what we know today as the Foxtrail series.
The Foxtrail winter running series consists of 6 trail races, ranging in distance from 10k to half marathon. They are a fantastic way to stay motivated and focused during the cold and dreary winter months.
Trail running provides me with the equivalent joy a child experiences splashing around in puddles. I relish undulating, soft and technical terrain. I get a real buzz negotiating trails and working fluidly over the natural landscape. I LOVE trails and the energy I get from them.
I was gutted to miss the first race of the series, so to make up for it, I arrived at Foxlake ready for the night race, embarrassingly early. It gave me the perfect opportunity to say hi to the race crew, check out the most awesome party tent, AKA the start/finish area, complete with DJ and flashing lights and soak in my surroundings. I wandered around with the hairy kidz (Princess Jasper & Zac the Dickhead) and took in the setting, which was pretty spectacular.
I must admit, I am prone to suffering from pre-race nerves. Particularly races I have a history of doing ok in. To date, I have always podiumed at the Tri Trail/Foxtrail races, which simply means I put alot of pressure on myself to continue to strive for a podium place. But the field is getting bigger and bigger and the racers are getting fitter, stronger and tougher and I fear my days of podium finishes are numbered. My primary purpose for each and every race is to enjoy myself and then I concentrate on running like a bad ass bitch. If I get a podium place then that is a wee bonus.
As the other racers started to arrive - at a more normal arrival time than myself - the excitement and slight trepidation on site became palpable. The trail running scene is full of hardcore, outdoorsy, warrior types who live life to the max and thrive on adrenaline. This collection of excited trail runners created a real buzz. I challenge anyone to find the same kind of vibe at a road race.
The race had a saltire theme to celebrate St Andrews day, it was pretty cool seeing the blue and white facepaint and Scottish clothing decorating the sea of racers. To the man in the saltire morph suit - I salute you!
This was my first race with my training group; Race Fitness. It was fantastic to see at least 13 of us there from Race Fitness, all pawing at the ground and ready to put our training to good use. Race Fitness is led by Kieron Ross and is comprised of outdoor fitness sessions in Edinburgh, they take place every weekday evening, with outdoor fitness weekends on the horizon. Race Fitness is an outdoor fitness company suited to motivated people who want to improve. It's always challenging but fun and a great way to meet like minded people
Fitness Soul led a fabulously entertaining warm up to The Proclaimers "I'm Gonna Be (500 miles)", unfortunately during this, I had to sneak off for my usual last minute nervous pee, this almost ended in a DNS as I lost my head torch batteries and had to feel around the ground in the pitch black to find them, only to return to the starting tent with seconds to go before the start, oopsie.
Max Rae, all 10 years of him, piped us expertly over the start line. As my legs rotated I felt myself getting carried along with the fast guys. What a daft thing for me to do, trying to keep up! Who did I think I was? It didn't help that I had left my trustee race watch at home so I had no idea of my pace or time, which I guess is sometimes a good thing.
So I bolted out of the starting tent, through the car park and hit the first fun trail section; lit up with funky lighting. I bounced along the winding trails until I hit the road where I slowed right down. BAH! I don't like road and actually, I don't like 10k as a distance, it is my nemesis. At this point I knew I was first lady but despite being 1k in I also knew I was blowing out my arse and feared this was a sign of things to come for the whole race. The lovely and bubbly Nicola Duncan breezed past me with her signature shorts and perfect pins. She was side by side with Sharon Bird who later went on to storm the race to take 1st place for the ladies. I encouraged the ladies on and considered trying to run with them but that simply was not an option, I knew I needed at least another 3 miles in my legs to find my zone, which is not ideal when the race is only 6 miles!
I continued working, focusing on forward momentum. My legs felt heavy and alien and my body simply wasn't working fluidly. My breathing was laboured and the hard icy ground was unforgiving. This wasn't how it was meant to be. Where was my feeling of splashing around puddles?
The race entailed 2 loops, at the road section of the second loop, I could hear female breathing coming from behind me, it got closer and closer until BOOM - she overtook. Ashley Glen sailed past me as if she was drifting through the air. She looked light and effortless and was completely composed. Comparatively, I was breathing out my arse, had snot dripping down my face and my eyes were streaming as they tend to do in races. It is fair to say I am not an elegant runner.
Initially, I was passive and accepting, I knew Ashley had run into 3rd place putting me into 4th. I accepted it and continued to run, but predictably my internal fighting dialogue commenced. My angel told me to relax, enjoy my run and not worry about a podium. The devil in me swore at the angel and told me to get a shift on and stop being so pathetic and weak. So I pushed on and over the next 2k Ashley and I yo yo'd positions with my strength coming to light on the more technical and uneven terrain and her speed picking up over good going terrain.
Just 1k from the finish things got interesting for the ladies. Ashley and I had caught up with Nicola. I train with Nicola and I knew this was her first race in years due to a horrible series of injuries. This lassie is a phenomenal runner, but she isn't at her peak at the moment. As we entered the final single track trail; the home straight, Ashley led our stampede followed by Nicola and then me. An unfortunate foot placement caused Nicola to trip slightly, I checked she was ok and then pushed on past her.
I was on trail, I was finally running in my zone and I was feeling happy. I pushed on until I was beside the lake and with 200 meters to go I took off like a startled deer, passing Ashley and urging my legs to rotate as fast as possible to carry me home to 2nd place. The Race Fitness classes proved their worth as the strength in my legs propelled me home to a 2nd place finish, only 4 seconds in front of Ashley and 26 seconds in front of Nicola.
I came home in a time of 42.28.2, which I could have predicted at the start. No matter how fit or unfit I am I always get 42 minutes for a 10k. This is the cause of much frustration and as I have said before 10k is my true nemesis. Full results can be found here.
By the time I got in 9 guys and the winning female were already home. Making me 11th! This is a bone of contention with me, I would love a top 10 over all finish but it seems to elusively escape me - just! I learnt Kieron had scooped 3rd male and Tim was also home in a speedie time. I watched as runners came through, smiling and exhilarated. One by one I counted the Race Fitness crew in, it was awesome to see them all finish in the first half of all the racers.
I was reunited with my hairy kidz (the wonderful Jane Irvine had looked after them for me) and I lingered about chatting with friends old and new and revelling in my post race high.
That was one tough race and kudos to everyone who completed it. Full respect to all those who went through the ice/water section. I have no shame in admitting I avoided that section like the plague.
Awesome event as usual guys. It's great to see Improve My Running as sponsors as I have benefited hugely from Matt's expertise on running form. Huge thanks to Bob Marshall Sports Photography for bearing the elements to allow us to enjoy his superb photos.
See you all at the next one! Happy Trails :-)
by Ali Wyllie
WARNING: As this is a blog about the Jedburgh Ultra, in keeping with the vibe of the wonderful race directors there are lots of inappropriate sweary words. Please do not continue to read if you are easily offended by foul language.
You very quickly grasp the tone of a race when the race directors request photos of wannabe racers with their underwear on their heads and the race briefing refers to “earphone twats”. Add to that a route that insists the racers utilise the facilities of a local play park and the warm up consists of jigging your muscles to the YMCA and you have the makings of a unique and wonderful event.
It all went horribly wrong
I was all set to race the stunningly scenic 38 miles of Jedburgh Ultra, until a silly drunken accident left my toe somewhat worse for wear, and certainly not up to running 38 miles . Picture the wrong kind of mix of a 17 stone man, a chair leg, strappy lady shoes and a toe - the result is one fucked up toe nail with all its guts spewing out the middle of the nail.
But when life throws you lemons, you make lemonade right? And what better way to spend my time than to dress up as Sumsie the squirrel and dance like an idiot for hours on end. Hmmmmmm
Now – I say squirrel, others say chipmonk. This has been the subject of much debate. The question remains, is Sumsie a squirrel or a chipmonk? Surely he has to be a squirrel or the alliteration, which goes so nicely; Sumsie the squirrel, would be null and void. Sumsie the chipmonk does not work. So, on this very basis and nothing else, I say he is a squirrel!
Upon realising the toe was not going to be fit for 38 miles, I messaged Angela and Noanie (the wonderfully crude race directors) to offer my services of help and the services of my trusted dog; Princess Jasper. I explained I would be happy to do anything and they could use me as they saw fit. Well didn’t Noanie see a golden opportunity to make me look a right prat (something I excel in), she quickly seized the opportunity to squirrel me away as Sumsie.
And so it was, I spent my day helping with odd jobs – or rather – getting in the way a bit, until the time came for me to go nuts as Sumsie. Sumsie had already led the warm up YMCA with Craig MacKay, I realised, being given the honour to “be” Sumsie meant I had a lot to live up to.
It's all about the squirrel
Sumsie danced for hours at the finish, he congratulated runners as they crossed the line in a wave of emotion, he raced runners home, he played with the pesky Rogue Dog (Cani-Sports Edinburgh’s mascot), he helped hold the finish sign up each time the generator ran out of juice, he played in the leaves, he played with spectators and children, he patted dogs and photo bombed as much as possible. Sumsie kissed the unicorn; yes I did say unicorn - we even had a large inflatable unicorn at the finish! Sumsie helped racers cross the road on their way to hot soup and showers, wobbling on their exhausted legs. For a good few hours Sumsie was joined by little Annie, the most wonderful 3-year-old this Squirrel has had the privilege of dancing with. Annie is already in training for her ultra running future; up at 5am she did not stop helping and dancing until atleast 7pm - what enviable energy.
Why would anyone want to direct a race?
I have set up and directed a number of sell out canicross races. I know a huge amount of work goes into organising races and it can be a thankless task at worst but it also provides the most wonderful feeling of satisfaction. Seeing other people enjoying themselves in your race; running over hills and trails; battling with their own running demons and spending hours on end racing - doing something you yourself are passionate about - provides a real sense of accomplishment. But race directors all have their own reasons for organising races, and seeing Jedburgh ultra from behind the scenes got me thinking, what is the history of this race and what do Noanie and Angela get out of it? Perhaps more to the point – why do they do it? Why do they spend countless hours, negotiating with sometimes difficult people and answering questions on social media when the answer is ALWAYS in the briefing; if only folk could take the time to read it! So with these thoughts in my head - I asked them…….
The birth of the dream team
I learnt that in 2013 the Jedburgh Running Festival team contacted SUMS (Scottish ultra marathon series) requesting help with the ultra, which led to Lee Maclean – the director of the Clyde Stride Ultra – popping a post out on Facebook. Both Angela and Noanie responded independently of one another and hey presto, this was the start of a wonderful relationship. Over the last few years Angela and Noanie have worked tirelessly to defend this unique race. It is now operated independently of the Jedburgh Running Festival, allowing for Angela and Noanie’s creative race vision, to be truly harnessed.
Given this is a voluntary role requiring a phenomenal amount of work; organising, IT, people managing, route recceing, networking ……. I had to ask Angela and Noanie WHY they did it. The answer was simple, despite “shitloads” of paperwork and the odd moaning fool, ultimately it was agreed that it’s pretty cool to have your own race and see the enjoyment experienced by all those who take part on the day.
Working relationships can be difficult at the best of times. I have colleagues I work brilliantly with, but in the real world I would not necessarily be friends with and I have friends who I love to their very soul, but I could not work with (nor could they work with me). This begged the question – what is the dynamic like between Angela and Noanie? On the face of it, they seem to bounce off each other brilliantly, but does it really work or are they strangling each other behind closed doors? So, not being one to beat about the bush, I asked them .
Keeping people alive is quite important
Noanie informed me she liked the lack of bullshit that comes from working with Angela. Being someone who is a bit blunt/rude by nature (her words, not mine), she enjoys not having to filter herself with Angela. I was told Angela is the diplomat of the duo, in a genius way. Together they dream up ideas and encourage and support each other along their crazy notion journeys.
The ultra-running scene in Scotland is going from strength to strength. It is a fantastic community of like-minded people who come together to push themselves through mental and physical barriers and then stay in touch and exchange banter, pictures and videos via social media in-between races. But what makes Jedburgh ultra different? What is its USP? Our trusted race directors pondered this. It is undoubtedly beautiful, especially in the Autumn with the array of colours. Despite it being “only” 38 miles, which is considered short for an ultra, its level of difficulty is deceiving with those bastard Eildens adding a level of brutality not everyone expects. However, Angela and Noanie are particularly proud (and rightly so) of the work they have done making this unique race super duper inclusive to all LGBT and non-binary people – in fact – it is believed that Jedburgh ultra is the first Scottish race to offer non-binary as a gender option on the entry form. Ian McLaughlin at Entry Central was particularly helpful amending the current gender options on Entry Central to include non-binary.
What does the future hold?
So for the long term success and evolution of the Jedburgh ultra, who do Angela and Noanie want to attract to their wonderful rainbow ultra? The answer I received to this question was very simple: “Anyone. Anyone who isn’t a dick”, in particular they would love to see more vet60 woman and more vet70 men, so come on all of you who fit this criteria – your presence is needed! They would also love to keep attracting those who are part of the ultra-running community, people for whom these events are a way of life and not simply a 1-day encounter. The kind of people who add a little bit of themselves into the event, don’t take themselves too seriously and are willing to spend time helping, marshalling and encouraging others; anyone who is a little bit different.
Community & charity
This year the dynamic duo encouraged racers and spectators alike to bring items for a food bank. All the people orientated items were donated to the Bethleham House of Bread and the animal related donations were given to the Bandeath cat and dog home in Stirling. What a wonderful idea, although I’m not sure they were expecting to receive an entire van full of goods. The success of this collection is testimony to the humanity and generosity of the Scottish ultra community and makes me proud to consider myself part of this community.
Woo Hoo to the sponsors!
These crazy cat race directors have specially requested that I put a big shout out to everyone who has helped behind the scenes in one way or another to help make Jedburgh ultra what it is today. They have also asked that I put Beta Running up in lights and sing their praises, with a special mention to Malcolm who is Angela’s Chief Bitch on race day and is a loyal supporter of Jedburgh ultra in all its silliness. Beta Running provide all the wonderful Injinji and Ultimate Direction kit. THANK YOU BETA RUNNING! You are wonderful, awesome and simply faaaabulous!
Lastly (almost) – how can I write about Jedburgh Ultra and not mention the new artwork design on all the tops? What a wonderful design with the words Run, Beer, Peace, Love by the incredibly talented Heather Laing. I certainly run for beer, to find peace within myself and for the love of the outdoors. See more of Heather’s work here.
This race has wiggled its way into its own little unique space in the Scottish Ultra race calendar, it is special, silly, vibrant, bright and fun so check it out for next year and hell – if you can’t race – perhaps you fancy dressing up as a squirrel? Applications for that honour to be sent to the race directors.
From a personal perspective, this race is truly breath-taking and entirely in keeping with the Run the Sights ethos of keeping fit and seeing the sights at the same time. It is a real journey of exploration, sightseeing and running. Run the Sights was delighted to provide a number of spot prizes to the relay teams.
Well done to all those who ran the Jedburgh ultra 2016, whether you completed the full thing, were part of a relay or had to pull out along the way. You are awesome!
by Ali Wyllie
with thanks to Tiree Fitness
Up until 4th September 2016, I had never experienced being waved off, at the start of a race, by a seal. A golden eagle - yes, but a seal - no. This was certainly a race first and as Tiree Ultramarathon panned out it was full of race firsts for me, from start to finish. The magnificent grey seal kept bobbing his head above the water to see what all the racket was about. Can you imagine his amusement when he saw over 200 humans prancing around like nervous race horses, pawing at the ground, then all of a sudden bursting forward in a fury of colour (running clothing is awesomely bright these days).
As I drifted along the first beach the words of Gavin; my massage guru, echoed in my mind "just take it steady". I was scooped up in a pace I was comfortable with, but given I had only just made the start line due to injury, I was possibly being over ambitious. Does anyone else struggle to race, but not race?
Word about the weird human antics soon got out around the seal population, I know this for a fact as I counted 8 of the curious creatures eyeing me with suspicion during the first few miles between Mannal and Hynish. It got me wondering what seals thought of humans, I figured their summary would be simple: "Humans; frequently dangerous, sometimes kind but always bemusing".
I settled into a comfortable pace enjoying the scenery around me. As I overtook Michelle Hetherington, I knew I would see her again and also knew in my heart of hearts I was playing with fire by not using this race as a training run. I hadn't made the start line in 2015 due to pesky shingles. Instead, in 2015 I was stood on the sidelines passionately supporting all of my chums from Cani-Sports Edinburgh, so perhaps this year I felt I had something to prove? For the second year in a row Cani-Sports Edinburgh had the largest representation of any running club present, with approximately 30 people - including supporters. I was proud as punch knowing so many of my running club were out on the course pushing themselves beyond their perceived running limits.
Between Hynish and Balephuil the trails were - well - not really trails. We were lucky if we had sheep tracks to traverse along. The going was tough, but the smile on my face got larger. I love this kind of running, bouncing over uneven terrain with the challenge of finding a line and assessing it carefully whilst simultaneously checking out each and every new foot placement, all whilst trying to move at speed. For a few hundred meters I felt like I was on a hoverboard. The blue seas and white sands were behind me and I could hear the waves crashing against the rocks to my left. It was around about this section that I caught up with Ali Robertson who was skimming over the terrain like it was child's play. Ali told me he was part of a large group who had travelled from Stonehaven. We ran together for a while, pushing each other on and falling into a good pace. We sailed through the 1st checkpoint. I grabbed a glass of water and a banana and made sure I smiled and thanked the marshals - hell - without the superhero marshals races like this could never exist!
I think it was at this point that I drew even with Janet Dickson, who was sat in 3rd place. We ran in the same gaggle of runners for a few miles, sharing food and playing a game of runner leapfrog. Prior to injury my aim had been to podium at Tiree. However, upon reassessment, I realised this goal was wholly unrealistic and my gold plan was reset for a sub 5.30 hour finish, silver plan was a sub 6 hour finish and my bronze plan was simply to finish. As Janet and I played cat and mouse for a while, I began wondering if a podium was in actual fact possible, I was feeling ok, I knew I didn't have the training in me, but I also knew I had the mental strength to drag me round. I had raced in similar circumstances previously in the Highland Fling and achieved a 45 minute PB!
I was running along doing various calculations in my head and tuning into my body to gauge how I was feeling, did I have the strength and fitness to smash this race? I was so relieved to get to checkpoint 2; halfway. I could see Michelle Littlejohn from my club along with her beagles Chester and Lulu, stood silhouetted on the horizon above the 2 old decrepit caravans that I had fallen in love with the previous year. Old and run down, the caravans reminded me of an elderly couple, sat peacefully, comfortable in each other's silence, watching the waves flirting with the beach and reminiscing about their youth. I ran into the checkpoint and chucked myself onto the floor to stretch out a few niggles; gulped down my avocado, banana and soya smoothie; grabbed a few bottles of coke I had already flattened; exclaimed "let's do this shit" then immediately felt guilty and apologised for the sake of any children present, and off I went. I left the checkpoint along with Janet and Bob (I'm pretty certain his name was Bob), he had come all the way from a land far far away (eeeeeek, I forget - but it was exotic and far away!). We ran together for a short distance, swapping stories and motivation. I soon fell behind .........
Stab, stab, stab, stab, stab, stab, stab. What started as a niggle I could ignore, developed into an ache I had to acknowledge. "Not now ITB, why now?" I thought, but the damn thing kept prodding me to my knee like an incessant child. I continued running and ignored him, but this only made him frustrated and angry as he prodded me even harder. I pacified him a little and stretched, promising him that I would treat him amazingly later on if he just piped down and played nice. He was clearly tired as he threw the most almighty tantrum and stabbed at my knee with a claw hammer. The last beach I was able to run along I found myself running sections of it backwards to alleviate the pain induced by the camber, and give Mr tantrummy ITB a break. Yes, you read that right - I ran backwards! TICK - another first for a race.
By this point I had slowed right down, to try and sort out Mr ITB. Michelle caught up and ran past me, leaving me for dust. In true ultra spirit she checked I was ok and gave me some encouragement before dancing off over the trails with confident, experienced strides, I could see her signature french pleats swinging from side to side getting smaller and smaller in the distance until she finally disappeared altogether, off to secure her victorious 3rd place (for the 2nd year in a row).
I hobbled along in pain and realised I had 2 choices. Pull out or finish the race at a walk. I felt totally demoralised, my spirits were crushed as I agonised over what to do. The devil on my shoulder went in a huff and told me to pull out, he told me he would be embarrassed to have to walk the remainder of the race and have a time next to my name, which is not a true reflection of my ability. The devil thought it was a better idea to quit! But my angel told me to get a grip, she reminded me why I was doing the race in the first place - to see the coastline of one of the most beautiful islands in Scotland; if not the world. She reminded me that no matter what anguish we encounter during an adventure, those that rise up and overcome adversity are winners regardless of the time it takes. She told me to relax, switch on my Spotify and look around me. She told me to breathe in the coastal air and sing and dance my way to the finish. My angel won, but I am not going to lie - there were tears.
From hereon in my race/walk/adventure had a sound track, my mobile phone was nestled in the pocket of my shoulder strap, which served perfectly as a speaker, blasting music into my world. For some reason all the songs seemed to be love songs, with running as my lover. The first tune to come on was Mumford and Sons "Believe", my spirits were smashed, scattered out on the floor. This song helped me pick them up and rise up, standing tall and slowly but surely start to take steps forward. Then along came "Bliss" by Muse, "Everything about you is how I'd want to be, your freedom comes naturally, everything about you resonates happiness..." I picked my pace up and walked with determination, I knew I could finish the race despite my set back. I had run 18 miles and I had 17 miles ahead of me, my brain started to do various calculations and I figured I could come in sub 8 hours still. So I lost myself in the music, I cried along with anguish one minute and sung along at the top of my lungs the next minute (checking there was no one within deafening distance). I did silly little dances and raised my hands up in the air like a conductor to emphasise certain points of songs that particularly resonated with me. Yes - I was a crazed mad woman on the loose, even the cows gave me a wide birth! I forgave Kate Bush for taunting me when "Running up that Hill" came on my playlist, especially since it was closely followed by one of my favourite ladies; Shakira "You're a good soldier, choosing your battles, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, get back in the saddle ......." then once all the craziness had died down and my demons had been exorcised through the medium of dance, I settled into really enjoying my walk. The Waifs cooed at me "take it in, take it all in, now is a time that will not come again, take it in, take it all in, this is a day and it's here for the living" reminded me to look about me and live for the moment. The Waifs reminded me how lucky I was to be there and have the freedom and privilege to take in Tiree's stunning coastline.
As I trudged on friends old and new past me in their droves, all offering condolences but lifting my spirits with their smiles and energy. I spotted David Scott skipping over the rocks towards me - wearing his eye-catching Run the Sights buff may I add. David and I had been part of a group of 6 to run 29 miles around the Oor Wullie Statues in Dundee the previous Monday, he gave me a big hug and I sent him packing telling him to smash it. Ali Robertson past me again, he said he was struggling a bit so it was only right that he took my coke - well I wasn't going to need it! Becky Beale drew even with me, we often see each other at these races and are united by our Vizsla motherhood, we had a lovely chat then off she went to conquer her race. Kirsty Archibald sailed past at the start of Gott Bay and Jo Vinall breezed past over a marshy section. Jill Matheson caught me out as she ran past me, I thought she was far enough away not to hear and be offended by my singing, but she turned around and danced along with me.
I walked for miles and miles and my spirits lifted. I'm not entirely sure at what point I came across the lovely mature lady who was stood outside her house waving all the runners past. I was buoyed to see her evident joy as she cheered on the runners and added to the spirit of the race. Her cheeks were flushed with the thrill of being part of this epic community adventure. I asked her permission to take her picture, she blushed, straightened her hair and bashfully indicated her allowance, with an inner glee to have a few seconds of attention, despite not being a runner. I didn't catch her name, but learnt she had lived on Tiree for over 60 years. She made me smile and I spent the next half hour wondering what her life must have been like.
When my watch told me I only had a few miles to go as I past the Scarinish Hotel, I thought "How amazing would it be to have a pint" then "hang on, I'm walking, my race has gone to pot, I have money, I CAN have a pint", so to the amusement of a couple sat outside cheering on the runners, I stepped off the race route and into the pub. It was like going back in time as I was met with a sea of gawping faces who showed no amusement or encouragement at my spontaneous pit stop. Another race first - pint en-route - check. I enjoyed my pint outside, cheering on other runners as they past and offering them a sip of my beverage. Linzi Melville trotted past and to this day I am discombobulated by her refusal of such an offer.
Re-fuelled - and feeling a little bit tipsy (well I had covered 33 miles with limited nutrition, so this pint went right to my head), I continued along the race route, wobbling my way to the sound of my tunes. Gilly Marshall stormed along, she told me she was struggling - but she was looking strong, and besides she has done so many long races this year - those legs surely need a rest. So it was no wonder she was feeling tired. I watched as she disappeared down the grassy embankment of the final beach.
I stepped onto the final beach with a sense of relief, up ahead in the distance I could see An Talla community hall - the FINISH! I took a deep breath and reflected on my journey. Looking at my watch I realised I could achieve a sub 7.30 hour finish time. I slipped my shoes and socks off - another race first - and enjoyed the feeling of the sea and sand between my toes. I made my way along the waterline, giggling at a group of small birds who seemed to be playing chicken with the waves, not dissimilar to a game a gang of pubescent teenagers may play with cars.
Along the beach Amber Merton past me and told me stories of mayhem earlier in the day with our race director; Will Wright's kids going missing and my mum finding them! Then off she ran with a smile on her face and skip in her stride as she made for the finish line. Leaving me picturing the scenes of panic she had painted.
I walked cautiously over the final 200 meter stretch of tarmac leading to the finish line, allowing my bare feet to adjust to the hard surface. David Scott popped down to meet me and spur me on and then along came my life guru, Lan Pham, flanked by my hairy babies Zac and Jasper. I was so overwhelmed I could have just combusted then and there. I scooped up my K9 children on either side of me, stood up tall and ran, crossing the finish line with pride, relief and anguish. Never before have I crossed the finish line of a race with my hairy babies; the souls who are my world - so I clocked that up as another race first.
And so it was, my race was in keeping with the spirit of Run the Sights, I kept fit, saw the sights and had a wonderfully sociable time whilst doing so, furthermore I have come away with cherished lifelong memories. As it turns out I came in at 7:29; which brought me in middle of the field, but what a journey and what an atypical race for me with plenty of learning curves and firsts. It was a joy to sit at the finish line and cheer each and every runner home, particularly my friends from the running club, all of whom had achieved incredible personal feats to start and finish their race.
I can't name EVERYONE I know who was racing, but I would love to give a special photo shout out to all those pictured below as they are established Run the Sighters and have all completed atleast one running tour with Run the Sights. Well done on your runs guys, awesome work! Viv, Avril, Lisa, Jenny, Susan, Gail, Leah, Hayley, Lan, Steph, Paul & Jo.
What a wonderful trip to Tiree, what a fantastic race. A big thank you to Will Wright and his amazing team. It's worth mentioning that Tiree Fitness put on various training weeks to help you prepare for their races or any other race for that matter. Or you may simply want to increase your fitness whilst out exploring this wonderful island. Now there's an idea - keeping fit and seeing the sights at the same time. LOVE IT! Be sure and put 10th September 2017 in your diaries - I know of a beautiful 35 mile race around the coastline of Tiree ........
Explore Scotland on the run | Keep fit and sightsee at the same time | Why walk... when you can run!