The Dramathon - Speyside Way

by Ali Wyllie
Run the Sights

The calm before the storm

The calm before the storm

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.

My whisky haul

My whisky haul

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. 

Setting up the flags - Image by Lee Carson

Setting up the flags - Image by Lee Carson

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

Stunning Autumnal colours we were treated to along the way - image by Lee Carson

Stunning Autumnal colours we were treated to along the way - image by Lee Carson

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.

Your organisers - Ian and Jon with Paul from Durty Events - image by Lee Carson

Your organisers - Ian and Jon with Paul from Durty Events - image by Lee Carson

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!

The epic trails along the way - image by Lee Carson

The epic trails along the way - image by Lee Carson

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.

Me, Jodi, Gail and Avril with pre-race nerves

Me, Jodi, Gail and Avril with pre-race nerves

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.

The lone piper at the start of the half - image by Lee Carson

The lone piper at the start of the half - image by Lee Carson

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). 

Time to get DURTY! - image by Lee Carson

Time to get DURTY! - image by Lee Carson

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 …..

Helena Olmas - image by Lee Carson

Helena Olmas - image by Lee Carson

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, me and Elspeth smiling at the end

Chiara, me and Elspeth smiling at the end

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.  

Chiara with her Run the Sights buff on - image by Andy Upton

Chiara with her Run the Sights buff on - image by Andy Upton

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. 

Avril, me and Gail with post race smiles and elation 

Avril, me and Gail with post race smiles and elation 

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. 

Steph - image by Andy Upton 

Steph - image by Andy Upton 

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!

Avril - image by Andy Upton

Avril - image by Andy Upton

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. 

Gail and Ellie (image taken from a Cani-Fit race)

Gail and Ellie (image taken from a Cani-Fit race)

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. 

Me, happy as larry - image by Andy Upton

Me, happy as larry - image by Andy Upton

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.  

Chiara, Elspeth and me - podium winners!

Chiara, Elspeth and me - podium winners!

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.

Look what I found at the end, wish she had been my medal!

Look what I found at the end, wish she had been my medal!

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"

Me and Elspeth goofing about

Me and Elspeth goofing about