We have a number of blogs for you to enjoy. Either scroll down to go through them all, or click on the blog you would like to read.
by Ali Wyllie
Run the Sights
How do you get over the death of your child? How does your world start spinning again despite the emptiness and devastation so cruelly inflicted upon you. Running can often provide comfort and a much needed escape from reality.
This is exactly where Tracy Watt comes in. She is the Fundraising Manager for SANDS Lothians – an incredible charity that provides support for families affected by the loss of a baby.
Tracy herself has been to hell and back with the loss of her beloved son, Lewis Deed, born on 26th April 1991 and left us on 27th April 1991. Little did Tracy know that her high blood pressure in the last few weeks of her pregnancy would be the result of her unborn baby; Lewis, suffering from Spina Bifida and fluid, on his brain. She was told he would not survive long after birth. Tracy’s time with Lewis was cut dreadfully short, this was not how it was supposed to be. Lewis and his older brother Ian, were meant to grow up together, getting up to mischief together.
Several years after the passing of Lewis, Tracy found a comfort in running, she began running further and faster and entered races the length and breadth of the country. She also started volunteering for SANDS Lothians and became a trained befriender. In her experience, very often grieving families may not want to talk, or even be able to talk, but running brings about a physical and emotional relief.
Fast forward a few more years a full time position at SANDS Lothians was opened up specially for Tracy, as a result of her incredible passion to help those who have endured the most painful of experiences, coupled with her natural charisma - inspiring others to run races in memory of their beloved babies - and at the same time raising funds for SANDS Lothian. Whilst she does not FORCE others to run, #TracyMadeMeDoIt is frequently posted on social media, along with a photo of runners with big smiles and rosy cheeks.
Tracy joined us on our beautiful Pentland Taster Running Tour, along with Gemma and Angela also from SANDS Lothians. Knowing the pain and anguish that these ladies have endured, and seeing them bounce along the trails in the hills; with smiles on their faces, highlighted to me the enormous value of SANDS Lothians and how, for some, it is quite literally a lifeline.
I asked Tracy what big things were on the cards for SANDS Lothians and she excitedly told me they are the chosen charity for this year’s inaugural Fort William Running Festival, happening 27th and 28th July. This is going to be EPIC!
They also have a large amount of runners donning the SANDS Lothians vest at the upcoming Edinburgh Marathon Running Festival - with plenty of room for more runners - so do look them up and join #TEAMSANDSLothians
We are so proud to have an ongoing collaboration with SANDS Lothians. If you use the code ‘SANDS’ when booking a tour, you will receive a 10% discount and £2 from this booking will automatically be donated to SANDS Lothians.
We have a number of special running tours to tie in with the Edinburgh Marathon Festival weekend in May, check the running tour options out in full here. It would be wonderful if you joined us for the best fun on the run ever. If you want to learn a little bit more about running tours in general, check out a previous blog on the benefits of running tours here.
And guess what - we are delighted that throughout the month of April £2 from ALL bookings for ANY of our running tours will be donated to SANDS Lothians, whether the discount code has been used or not. As if you need an excuse to join us on a Prosecco Running Tour , Craft Beer Running Tour, or even a lovely reason to gather a group of your friends together and request your own special occasion running tour.
Thank you for reading, if you have been affected by the death of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth or soon after birth, SANDS Lothians are there to support you and your family. You can contact them via e-mail Info@sands-lothians.org.uk or visit them at their Edinburgh centre: Craighlockhart Centre, 177 Colinton Road, Edinburgh – just remember to take your trainers and put Tracy through her paces.
DONATE TO SANDS Lothians
RUN THE SIGHTS | RUN IT & EXPERIENCE IT | RUNNING TOURS IN AND AROUND EDINBURGH
by Ali Wyllie
Run the Sights
Are you coming to Edinburgh over the Edinburgh Marathon Festival weekend? This weekend is all about running and whether you are taking part in the races or not, we have a running tour to suit you.
We have devised 8 special running tours to fit in and around the Edinburgh Marathon Festival. We would love to hear about the journey to your marathon, half marathon or 10k. Come and join us to see and learn about beautiful Edinburgh, these running tours are great as a leg turner before or after your big race. Or perhaps you are in Edinburgh to support a loved one for their big race - well don’t let them have all the running fun - come and enjoy some running of your own.
Over the course of our 8 different running tours for the special May weekend, we are using the route of our popular Edinburgh Nutshell Running Tour, which is literally the best of Edinburgh in a nutshell. We also get a little bit more adventurous with the route of The Volcano Running Tour and as the name suggests - there may be a bit of an incline, and lastly for you craft beer fans out there, we have one of our sell out Craft Beer Running Tours happening during the weekend. Our option 5 running tour at 9.15am on the 26th May has a special treat involved! We watch the marathon runners from a beautiful and historic vantage point.
But what exactly is the point of a running tour? Surely you could just take yourself for a run around Edinburgh, running aimlessly from street to street and hey presto, self devised running tour done!? Well, not exactly, we have spent hundreds of hours devising our running tours to ensure you see and learn about some of the best things in Edinburgh. Check out a previous blog here, where we explain all about the advantages of a running tour.
So - why would you join us? Well, we pride ourselves on our fun and friendly running tours. We are led by runners for runners and we are just full to bursting with passion about running and Edinburgh. We are also pretty chuffed with our 67 glowing 5 star reviews on TripAdvisor and we are so delighted to currently sit 15 out of 107 of Outdoor Activities in Edinburgh.
Good luck to everyone taking part in any of the events of Edinburgh Marathon Festival over the May weekend. We will hopefully run with you on a running tour and hear all about your running adventures.
We are delighted to work in collaboration with 2 very special charities. Maggie’s and SANDS Lothians, click on the image to find out more each of these charities and how they can either help you or you can help them.
We are also work with the Edinburgh based company, Active Root - excitingly - everyone who joins us on a running tour, receives a complimentary sachet of Active Root.
RUN THE SIGHT - RUN IT & EXPERIENCE IT | FUN AND FRIENDLY AND SUPER FUN | WHY WALK…. WHEN YOU CAN RUN!
by Ali Wyllie
Run the Sights
We have had a cracking 2018, a big thank you to everyone who joined us and for all the lovely messages and reviews.
As we prepare to wave goodbye to 2018, we are super excited to have lots of plans for 2019. I appreciate it can get a little confusing as to what running tours we have and when, so this short blog will outline all our tours over the next few months.
Ooooooooo and did you know that all of our running tours are available as gift vouchers? You can either book a specific date for a gift voucher or have the date open. Experience gifts truly are the most thoughtful. We don’t think there is anything better than creating new memories with friends and loved ones and having the best fun on the run ever.
As usual all our running tours can be booked for a time and date to suit yourself. Perhaps you are visiting Edinburgh either by yourself or with a friend or partner and want to get a run in and see the sights - get in touch and we would be happy to arrange a private running tour for you.
We also have a number of special Group Running Tours all organised and ready for bookings, this includes the Craft Beer Running Tour, Prosecco Running Tour, Pentland Taster Running Tour and The Edinburgh Nutshell. Read on to find out when these are and how to book.
January sees the return of our Craft Beer Running Tours, these are currently at 3pm on 6th, 13th and 27th January and 28th April.
This running tour is just £22 per person, and consists of a magical, sociable, fun and cultural 4.5-mile running tour around Edinburgh, with lots of stops for information and photo opportunities. It finishes off with craft beer sampling and then settling down with a beer back at BrewDog, Lothian Road (yes beer sampling and a beer is included).
February brings us our famous Prosecco Running Tours, these are also approximately 4.5 miles long, and are currently at 3pm on 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th February - and the 7th April.
Like the Craft Beer Running Tour, they are set at a steady and sociable pace and with our little secret twist added in, they really are super fun. Basking in the afterglow of the run with a glass of prosecco in hand, and chatting and giggling with our new running friends, is definitely the highlight of this running tour, and gives you that warm fuzzy feeling.
Now, here is one of our best kept secrets! The Pentland Hills are so close to Edinburgh, yet so many locals have never even visited them -GASP!
Our special 6 mile running tour in the Pentland Hills, is spectacular. Whilst we are not bombarded with architecture and places of interest we can enjoy the peace and tranquility of the hills and actually there is still a lot to learn from our surroundings. We can’t wait to tell you all about St Katherine’s-in-the-Hopes; the ancient chapel that lies beneath Glencorse Reservoir.
We have put aside 3 specific dates for a special ‘running’ of the Pentland Taster, which is at the discounted price of £22 per person, which includes a hot drink at the end. So grab your friends and join us on 16th February, 16th March or 23rd March. All of these running tours start at 10am from Flotterstone car park.
Finally, throughout all of the running tours we have pre-arranged - we have a few dates booked in for our 4-mile running tour in the heart of the city. This is perfect for those on a tight schedule and for those who want a whistle stop running tour of the city.
This running tour is £23 for one runner and are discounted at £40 for 2 runners, they are set at 7am on the following dates: 14th January, 11th, 18th and 25th February and 25th March. But remember, these tours can always be put on as a private tour at your request.
Phew, that’s alot already in the diary. Come and join in all the running fun.
We don’t just stop there, as well as all our organised Group Running Tours, we also cater for private groups. So think birthdays, stag do, hen do, mother’s day, father’s day type of thing. We have a few tricks up our sleeve to ensure the special person is really made a fuss of. Do get in touch to learn more about our small private group packages and what we can offer you.
Although we are tincy wincy ourselves, we absolutely love providing solutions for the corporate world. So if you have holding a conference or meeting in Edinburgh and are wondering how best to cater for the health and wellbeing needs of your delegates - leave it to us. We will invigorate your delegates with a super fun and informative running tour - and/or walking tour - leaving them mentally and physically refreshed to focus on their day ahead.
So that my running friends, is a whistle stop tour of the next few months, here at Run the Sights. Craft Beer Running Tours, Prosecco Running Tours, the Pentland Taster, the Edinburgh Nutshell and various private tours interspersed throughout.
Come and join us for the best fun on the run ever - why walk …. when you can run!
RUNNING TOURS IN AND AROUND EDINBURGH | KEEP FIT AND SEE THE SIGHTS | RUN IT, EXPERIENCE IT
by Ali Wyllie
Run the Sights
It’s that crazy day again, when shoppers swoop like vultures to get a bargain.
Sometimes if you can’t beat ‘em you have to join them.
For Friday 23rd November 2018 only, the code ‘RTSBLACK’ will give you 20% off our Prosecco Running Tours, Craft Beer Running Tours and our Gift Vouchers.
We believe passionately in the beauty of ethical gift purchasing. This promotes the giving of memories as the optimum present, and would include event tickets and experience days - and of course our superb running tours fall into this category. After this, the giving of time such as the sharing of skills and providing help with chores is deemed to be a very thoughtful present.
In keeping with this ethos, our running tours are super fun and friendly and are a brilliant way to create new memories with your friends.
I have to say, our Prosecco Running Tours and Craft Beer Running Tours are simply brilliant. They consist of simple, interactive fun, amongst like minded people. We run at social pace, with plenty of stops for information, photos - and our top secret ingredient (come on the tour to find out what this is).
THESE RUNNING TOURS ARE NOT A RACE, they are simply a nice steady jog.
Ann Laidlaw from Kirknewton gave us a 5 star review on Tripadvisor for our Prosecco Running Tour and said:
”Wow, fantastic run around some of Edinburgh sights tonight with Ali from Run the sights. Having lived in Edinburgh for 26 years she still took me to places I had never been before. Great run, company, sights and History followed by a nice refreshing glass of fizz. Looking forward to booking some more tours to go on with running friends to discover more around Edinburgh and the Pentland Hills. Great Evening.”
We think there is something really bonding, in having a social run around Edinburgh, seeing and learning about things you may never have noticed before, followed by a glass of prosecco or a craft beer. These running tours are unique in Edinburgh and have already been hugely successful.
Ishbel MacLean from the Isle of Barra, gave us a 5 star Tripadvisor review for our Craft Beer Running Tour and said:
”This tour was brilliant, not only did we run and drink beer but were introduced to sights and facts I knew nothing about. It was educational,fun and nice to meet other people and share experiences.Very relaxed way to spend an afternoon”
So there you have it, we have joined the big guns and succumbed to Black Friday, we really look forward to running with you and your friends and allowing you to experience the magic of Run the Sights for yourself.
Prosecco or Beer anyone?
Remember - the code will be valid throughout Friday 23rd November only, use ‘RTSBLACK’ to get 20% off our Prosecco Running Tours, Craft Beer Running Tours and our Gift Vouchers. And if you can’t make the dates outlined on the website, contact us with your date specifications.
Thanks for reading & I look forward to running with you soon!
by Ali Wyllie
It’s such a busy time of year and whilst I pride myself on spinning a silly number of plates, I have dropped a few recently in terms of my blog writing. On a positive, this blog will cover race 2 and 3 of the FoxTrail Winter Running Series as well as the Nocturnal Ultra Marathon.
The 1st of December 2017 saw the return of the 10k night run at Foxlake. This date clashed with my work Christmas party. Despite being a bit of a party animal, I opted for the race.
Given I was doing the night time 10k as well as the Nocturnal Ultra Marathon the next evening, I set myself some strict goals. For the 10k – I wanted to take it relatively steady and finish in about 45 minutes, still feeling fresh and strong. For the ultra – which was simply as many loops of a 5k route as you could do in 6 hours – my goal was to achieve 40 miles.
I conquered my goals!
Due to my modest goal for the 10k, this took away all the pressure I normally put on myself, and instead of pre-race nerves, I was actually excited. As I swanned around the race HQ catching up with friends, I was able to properly chat and enjoy my giddiness, instead of feeling distracted by my nerves – which is normally the case.
The 10k route was 2 loops of the 5k race route. The marquee was set up as a proper party tent and just before we started, Abbie from Project Awesome led us through an energising, silly and fun warm-up – the kind of warm-up that actually gives you the giggles.
It’s amazing how different I feel during a race when I take away all the pressure. I felt like I was breezing along. I was enjoying my run, enjoying the trails and loving the funky lit woodland, which created a really amazing vibe, on a pretty warm winter evening.
I passed Claire Hopkins and didn’t realise I was in a podium place, let alone – running into 2nd. I was all set to fall off the podium for this race, as I needed to preserve the legs for the ultra.
I pulled across the finish line to a HUGE hug from Nicola Duncan – one of my favourite training buddies. She had OBVIOUSLY won (she is a complete machine), I asked if I was 4th and she looked at me as if I was a daftie and told me I was 2nd. My dear friend and regular training partner Cath Dolliver came in 4th and achieved a PB! What a result - so delighted for her!
I love hearing other people’s running stories. Everyone has a story to tell and reasons as to how and why they started running and what motivates them. I picked on Caroline Stevenson and asked her a few nosey questions. This is what I learnt.
Caroline randomly entered the Edinburgh marathon in 2006 and has been running ever since! She has raced 3 of the FoxTrail Winter Running Series races. She loves everything about the series, from the impeccable organisation to the smiley, happy marshals. Her running has slotted in, in and around pregnancy and children and her 2017 highlight was completing the Berlin marathon in 4.24, following only 7 training runs! Mentally it was her strongest race with no “I can’t do this” moments - "I loved every stride and the prosecco tasted even better at the end when I found out my running bud and general mummy running machine, Emma (as featured later on), smashed it in a PB of 3.30."
Caroline's 2018 goal is a sub-4 marathon! GO GIRL!
I LOVE music, so I always ask people about their favourite running tunes. Caroline was still answering this question 24 hours later - think of Bubba from Forrest Gump when he talks about all the different ways to cook shrimp and you have a pretty good idea of Caroline's response. She settled for Gabrielle Climi with "On a mission" - I'm off to listen to this, not sure I've heard of it.
Caroline leads a crazily busy life with 2 young children and full-time work. Running is her chill out time - or her silly time if she is running with Emma - then it’s time to have a major gossip and catch up! Caroline told me that "a good buddy definitely makes the miles pass quicker and Emma’s speed and general determination and grit definitely inspires me!" I definitely agree with Caroline, our running friends are invaluable.
A special mention to Owain Williams who was racing the night time 10k on his birthday! Full results from the night time 10k can be found here.
The next again night, was like groundhog day. The race HQ was even bigger and better with a few more sponsors on site (Active Root as well as Improve my Running – who had been there the previous night), plus there was the RAVE BARN en route.
I rarely get nervous for ultras as you have so much time that anything can happen out there, and for this one, given I hadn’t run more than 26 miles recently, I was fully aware it was going to be a test of my current fitness as well as my mental strength, to drag me round the loops.
One of my regular training routes takes me round and round and round a 1 mile loop (it means the d*ckhead dog can join me and Princess dog), so I am fairly used to running round and round and round. The thought of the loops somehow did not bother me, although I had never raced loops before. However, I appreciate that for some this route was the devil himself.
Many people chose to race in a relay team, which meant there were great numbers on site and a really excited buzz. There were people in it to win it and people in fancy dress looking to enjoy it – and everything in between. Racing is such a personal thing, with goals and ambitions differing dramatically and in my opinion there is no right or wrong way to race as long as each individual is being true to themselves and achieving their goal – no matter what that may be!
My game plan was set – 40 miles! Arrogantly, I thought this was pretty achievable, but let me tell you – it got tougher as the night progressed and at one point I thought my goal had escaped me.
I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this race. The first half of every loop was brilliant for morale and due to the number of people at the HQ, the cheers and encouragement was hugely energising. Then on through the enchanted, magically lit woodland, under ZipTrail – the new rope course – (which have officially been named Zippy, Bungle and George – at my very own suggestion) through the rave barn – and then onwards into darkness...... silence and solitude.
I found the second half of each loop tough. They were cold and isolated with no funky music or lights, no people to energise me and just an cold headwind, jeering at me. This is when my dark thoughts spoke to me and I had to use positive self-talk to power me along. It was in this section that I ran past Noel Finegan, I was struggling a bit myself and I could barely muster much chat other than trying to spur him on and encourage him to take on board some fuel at HQ. But at this point, I had to keep my head down and my legs turning in a robotic fashion as morale was low. Sorry Noel - I wasn't being rude.
On the whole I managed to stay positive. I stopped off a few times at the HQ to change head torches, fuel up on Active Root or simply to hand over a Foxy Trail Runners t-shirt to the crazily fun Phil Cunningham, who was there supporting.
It always gave me such a lift to see so many familiar faces and know they are rooting for me. At one low point, I admitted I was struggling a wee bit, I was met with the question of “what would you rather be doing on a Saturday night”, without thinking I simply retorted “having sex and taking drugs” …… hmmmmmmm please note I do not condone taking drugs …. don’t do drugs! Drugs are bad.
So my loops continued from 4pm until 10pm, I ran with so many friends and I ran past and was passed by lots of incredible people. I simply loved how friendly and supportive all my fellow racers were. A special mention to Jeni Rees-Jenkins and Sharon Hassan who are simply bonkers in the most bonkers way possible. Check out their Facebook blog; Ballet Club for the Gifted Runner …… if that doesn’t have you giggling, nothing will!
I was on my 13th lap when I clocked the fireworks in the sky indicating 10pm – the end of the race - and just as I felt the tears well up with sheer emotion, my watch buzzed, alerting me to the fact I had completed 40 miles. Delighted is an understatement. I had a goal and I had achieved it by the skin of my teeth and not only that – this goal had put me in 2nd place! Behind my running guru and shoe twin – Nicola Duncan - of course!
What a relief to finish, but what an elation as welll! And not only that - but I was giddy with the fact that Nicola and I were the only 2 females to have completed both the 10k night run and the nocturnal ultra AND we have both placed 1st and 2nd both nights.
Saturday 16th December 2017 saw us back at Foxlake for the 16k. Historically this is one of my favourite routes, it has a bit of everything! A decorated Christmas tree en-route, fun single track, twisty trails and beach. Although that said, the beach section is extremely tough and can cause havoc with my achilles.
I was full of snotters and sneezes and weighed up whether or not I should race, but ultimately I knew that worst case scenario I could pull out if needed. I loved the start of the beach. I felt great and the sand was fairly hard packed. But by the time I got to the ‘bridge to no where’ I didn’t want to see another particle of sand again in my life! I could feel a twinge in my calf and I knew I had aggravated my achilles – but I pressed on.
All in all I had a good run, a few minutes slower than last year, but I still managed to scoop 3rd place, behind my running guru Nicola in first place (obviously) and Megan Wright in 2nd place. I was followed closely by Emma Peveril.
I picked on Emma Peveril after the 16k race and asked if I could include her pic in this blog, I also learnt a few things about Emma following my wee interrogation.
Emma has been running for over 10 years. She caught the bug at uni, when she signed up for a half marathon “for fun” and has not looked back since. This is her 2nd FoxTrail Winter Running Series, she has fallen in love with the friendliness and community feel of the events. I loved hearing that her running highlight of 2017 is simply being able to run, following the birth of her beautiful baby in January. It would appear we all need to have a baby to speed up - Emma has run faster and achieved PBs at both half marathon and marathon distance this year (3:30 at Berlin in September). Looking on to 2018 her running goal is to complete the Highland Fling Race in April in under 10 hours. I have no doubt she will smash this!
Emma's favourite running tune is a cracker - Bastille by Pompeii, LOVE IT! I asked her what motivates her and she said "we are spoilt with some fantastic scenery in Scotland and in Edinburgh so that inspires me to get out and run". We all have our favourite crazy running friends, Emma continued to tell me about her running inspirations and referred to Caroline Stevenson - as featured above " Also having Caz as a running companion is great as she inspires me, being a mum of two and is super speedy this year." Finally, and beautifully she told me that her little girl is on her mind during each run and race and she looks forward to seeing her face after each race.
Well, that is all folks, thank you for reading. The usual big thanks to all the organisers, specifically James, Cal, John, Mandy and Kate and the marshals, sponsors and supporters of the FoxTrail Winter Running Series, see you at the next one at Balgone Estate on 20th January 2018.
RUNNING TOURS THROUGHOUT SCOTLAND | KEEP FIT AND SEE THE SIGHTS | HAVE FUN, RUN AND CREATE NEW MEMORIES
by Ali Wyllie
“Success is no accident” this is the title of a recent post on social media by Leszek Stelmachowski of Fitness Soul. This post caught my attention and rings absolutely true. In this post Les goes on to talk about the misconception between people being labelled as gifted, talented and naturally fast. When in actual fact, people who are at the top of their game, in their chosen sport, work damn hard, relentlessly, passionately and wholeheartedly. Les goes on to quote Pele by saying “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” You can read his full post here.
I found this article particularly salient after the first race of the 2017/2018 FoxTrail Winter Running Series today, I took part in the 13k trail race. There was also the option of a 5k trail race. I passionately love this race series. I love everything about it. The trails, the fun and friendly community atmosphere, the organisation, the fact that they allow canicrossers (running with dogs) …. the list of why I love this series goes on.
Had I done enough training to continue to live up to the perceived expectations of others? I say perceived expectations for the simple fact that going into the new season as the previous series winner, I feel the pressure and expectation to podium. I worry that if I don’t achieve a podium I let people down. Yet, I am very aware that it is all about who turns up on the day and where everyone is, in their own individual running journey at that present time.
I am bad at training. Yes, I run a lot and I love to run, but I lack structure in my runs to be able to see any real gains and improvements and this is my own responsibility. I cannot rely on “natural talent” as outlined above. I need to focus and work hard. I need to make more sacrifices and I definitely need to add in some interval sessions (Cath – my training twin – you up for this?). On this one occasion, I managed to hold my own and bring home 3rd female, but I can’t be complacent with this and I need to make a few wee changes to my “training” in order to try and stay up there in the medals this season.
Nicola Duncan scooped up the 1st female place. Nicola absolutely fits Pele’s definition of success - and rightly so. Not many people will have known that as we toed the start line today, Nicola’s legs were heavy with race wins! In the past 2 weeks Nicola has completed 2 ultra-marathons - winning both - and achieving a new course record in the Jedburgh Ultra. In actual fact, technically she will have the course record for the Ultra Tour of Edinburgh, given it was it’s inaugural year, and she still managed to scoop a win today, with all those miles of racing in her legs. This is another level of running and is inspirational, yes, she absolutely does meet Pele’s definition of success. She is not handed this on a plate. Nicola works hard at her running and it is lovely to see her reaping the benefits.
So are there any Instagram fans reading this? This is my new favourite social media platform for both Run the Sights @run_the_sights and my personal account @run4thesights. Have you noticed how lots of runners do that thing where they lay their race attire out the night before, all nice and tidy, take a picture and then pop it up with a profound blurb full of hopes, dreams, aspirations, nerves and excitement. Well, that’s not really my style, I like to add a bit of a twist to things. As I was pondering how to capture this, my loveable German Shorthaired Pointer caught my eye ….. what a fool! He won’t be doing that again if he see’s me looking for ideas. Thank you to Zac for being a good sport. What a great way to showcase my race attire, as opposed to it all folded up neatly, laid out nicely...... sorry Zac - my poor suffering loveable son replacement.
The start of my day was the same as ever. Up, get dressed, dogs fed, me fed, head to race. Now, that all sounds very normal doesn’t it. But most normal people don’t arrive at 7.30am when registration doesn’t even open until 8am. I HATE being late. This also meant I got a choice of parking places (well I was the ONLY car there!). I’m such an eejit, my promptness is always remarked on by the organisers, who I swear think I camp out overnight like an excited child (not far from the truth).
I can’t even begin to explain how amazing it was to see so many familiar faces from the last season, as folk started to arrive. This included all the folk who attended the monthly Foxy Trail Runners runs over the summer – these are a fun, free and friendly set of trail runs organised by Owain and Mandy Williams and myself to help get people out on the trails. Find us on Facebook here and come and join in the fun. Whilst there are no formal Foxy Trail Runs again, until after this series, there are plenty of informal runs and running chat being posted up there. We are absolutely for all abilities!
There was the usual chatter at the start line with the regular faces; including Owain Williams; last season’s series winner, exchanging pre-race banter and war talk. Nicola and I huddled together and talked trainers. Then we were off, “run your own race” kept going through my head, courtesy of Abby Fraser-Davidson. It wasn’t long before Nicola was but a dot in the distance - to be fair, she is beautifully tiny, so that could have been her meters ahead of me - but in fact - she was far far away in the distance. I was in 2nd lady place up until just over a mile, however that changed as Joanna Brown breezed past me, effortlessly and looking strong. I encouraged her on and told her she was running into 2nd place, putting me in 3rd. This order did not change throughout the race. I toyed with trying to fight it out with Joanna, but I really didn’t know how I would fare with a 7-mile fight. So I chose to “run my own race”. I focused on my form and I felt really strong and more importantly I felt happy. I worked on my arms and footfall. I have a tendency to run like a chicken with my bum and elbows out. I ran tall and kept my strides short and cadence high, tucking my tail in and keeping my elbows by my side. At the point where we doubled back on ourselves, towards the other runners, I was overwhelmed seeing so many running friends and hearing the comments of support "Go Ali", "well done Ali" - it really spurred me on. We really do have such a close-knit community with the FoxTrail Winter Running Series!
The route is new and improved. I love soft, sandy trails and I particularly love the roller coaster style, single track trail, in the last mile. At this point, I felt I was gaining on Joanna as I was having so much fun over the trails I was positively bouncing. But the gap between us remained and she bolted home in a 25-second lead, with Nicola having arrived home 1.36 minutes before me. I was delighted with my run and really chuffed to gain a podium. I honestly feel I am living on borrowed time for my FoxTrail podiums as there are so many amazing, speedie runners coming along, which is brilliant. If I want to continue to gain podium places, I realise I need to take a leaf out of Nicola’s book!
So was anything different this year to last year? It’s the same ethos and race identity of course, which is what we all love and are drawn to. I would say there is a small difference – John, James, Cal, Mandy and Kate – the key organisers and all their crew - seemed SUPER CHILLED. As in really relaxed, confident and on top of their game – guys you were positively horizontal – in a good way. I guess you can do this malarkey blindfolded now.
I love seeing all the happy smiley faces of people crossing the finish line, exhilarated by their run and embracing other runners like long lost family. You cannot bottle this connection and feeling. The FoxyTrail Winter Running Series does a finish exceptionally well!
Sadly, not everyone’s races went according to plan. Poor Jodie Dunz went over on her ankle causing a fracture and ligament damage! Sending out a big hug and get well soon wishes to Jodie, who was running with Bailley (he is not to blame!).
As has become standard, I took my K9 kids for a run after the prize giving, I was joined by a few friends, which was fabby. It was a lovely opportunity to chat, introduce some friends who had never met each other and loosen the legs off. Not to mention the fact that watching my dogs playing on the beach and running like pros, is one of my favourite things in the world! I tend to do this after every race so if anyone ever wants extra miles, hang around at the end and join us, you would be most welcome (not happening on the night race I'm afraid).
One last thing …. If I still have your attention. Abby Fraser-Davidson and Anna Cathro came down today to see us all finish. These ladies run Project Awesome, which is an amazingly fun, FREE, inclusive and friendly fitness session on a Wednesday morning in Edinburgh. It is for ALL abilities, so if you are looking to add to your fitness social life and start hump day with a giggle, some unicorn magic and a bit of sparkle – check them out here.
by Ali Wyllie
Run the Sights
It seems pretty fitting, that I write this blog, whilst nursing a lovely 12 year old Glenfiddich malt whisky. One of the fabulous miniatures that I found lurking at the bottom of my goodie bag, following the Dramathon race.
Saturday 21st October 2017 was the inaugural Dramathon race, which took part along The Speyside Way. There were several options for runners for this race, which potentially could have been a logistical nightmare. We had a choice of a marathon(ish), half marathon, 10k and relay. The finish for all runners was within the heart of the Glenfiddich distillery, with runners being bussed to their respective starts.
Fiona Russell (Fiona Outdoors), wrote an article about this race a while ago, I spotted it on Facebook and the whole ethos of it struck a chord with me – running along stunning trails in the heart of the Scottish countryside, passing distilleries and earning a miniature whisky from each distillery passed. I knew as soon as I read about this race that I had to do it and I had to drag other running friends with me. I originally set out to do the full distance, however, I dropped down to the half marathon several weeks ago as my achilles have been giving me grief and I certainly can’t risk any injury before the flurry of Prosecco Running Tours, Run the Sights is putting on.
Fiona Outdoors has already published a superb blog on the Dramathon, which gives a real feel for the race, you can read it here.
For me, running is all about the places I see, the people I meet and hearing everyone else’s stories in relation to their hows and whys. We are all different and we all have our own story, it is not about how fast or far we can run. It is simply that we run to the beat of our own drum and we focus on our own personal goals and feel joy and elation along our own running journey. I think it is so important to rejoice in each other’s achievements and help encourage and support our fellow runners.
Let me start off with the master minds behind this race; Ian and Jon. I was surprised to learn that they both lived in France. When I asked what had inspired them to dream up The Dramathon, I was told that the famous French marathon: Le Marathon du Medoc, started their cogs turning and they believed that with the winning combination of the Scottish scenery, the distilleries and an off-road route The Dramathon could sell itself. And how right they were! They had over 750 entries and had to turn down over 1000 interested runners. That is a phenomenal statistic for a debut race. Ultimately –here was a race that Ian and Jon would have loved to complete themselves …. but no luck, as someone has to organise it – thanks guys!
So the question on everyone’s tongue – will this race continue in future years? Ian and Jon very much hope so, with a vision of making it bigger and better and getting more local distilleries and food and drink producers on board.
Whilst Jon and Ian were the brains behind the master plan, they were assisted by the renowned and reputable Durty Events team, who brought their experience and skills to the mix to ensure the vision for the race was met.
So where did the runners come from? I was told 25% of the runners were from out with the UK and almost 50% of runners were female. These statistics blew my mind a little. I was also intrigued as to how the foreign racers had learned about the Dramathon.
Having directed several races myself, I know only too well the organisation, nerves and anxiety that goes with the territory. I often compare the race director’s role, on the day of a race, to that of a bride and groom on their wedding day. They are pinnacle to the day, the day could not go ahead without them, yet they are so concerned that other people are having a good time and things are going according to plan, that they sometimes forget to take it in for themselves, the day often goes by in such a blurry wave that it can take several weeks for it all to sink in.
I asked Ian and Jon what the highlight of the race was for them. For Ian this was when the piper struck up a tune at Glenfarclas, just before the marathon runners set off. Being in the heart of Scotland with bagpipes playing and feeling the nervous excitement of hundreds of runners is certainly very poignant.
For Jon, his highlight was when Callum Fraser, the Glenfarclas Distillery Manager poured him a stiff 1973 Glenfarclas dram pre-race (Jon is 44 – go figure why the date was so special).
Yes, not everything goes 100% according to plan, but on the whole most of the feedback has been extremely positive. There are one or two mutters that the marathon distance was short of a marathon. This is true, it was, however racers were pre-warned about this in the pre-race e-mails and whilst I’m sure this will be taken into account for next year, I personally would like to indicate that this is a fun, friendly trail race with the ethos of seeing the beautiful Scottish country side and accumulating whisky along the way. It is not about pounding the pavement with your eyes glued to your garmin/suunto/tomtom. Sometimes the scenery and experience is worth more than an extra mile or 2, just saying …..
I know how much I enjoyed the day, but I was intrigued to hear from other runners.
Helena Olmas, a fitness instructor from Sweden, finished the Dramathon half in a time of 1:40:54, she has been running for 10 years and completed numerous races of various distances including Stockholm Marathon 4 time, the Swedish Ultravasan (90k) twice, the Elba Trail, 50k sky race in Italy and the Lidingo Ultra, 50k Swedish race. Helena said her favourite thing about the race was the beautiful surroundings, and the nice and kind marshals. The Dramathon was the very reason Helena came to Scotland, having not been to Scotland before she found our beautiful country to be “an absolutely wonderful country”, she made mention of the people, nature and atmosphere being great and said she will be back! In 2018 Helena has set herself an incredible challenge in one of my favourite countries: the Tarawera Ultra in Rotorua, New Zealand, which is a whopping 102k! Best of luck for that Helena – you can see her training progress here.
Chiara Franzosia, is the manager of Run4It at Maybury, Edinburgh. Originally from Italy, Chiara moved to Scotland several years ago and became a running force to be reckoned with, she has not looked back since. She finished the full race in a time of 3.34 hours, scooping up 3rd place in her category. She described the Dramathon as being like running through a movie set, with the old railway paths, autumn colours and the smell of whisky along the way. Chiara’s favrouite bit of kit is the simple yet multi use buff, she may need a few buffs for 2018 as she has the 53 mile gruelling Highland Fling to train for.
Avril Dodds, Gail Grant and Steph Valentin are training buddies from Cani-Sports Edinburgh. Whilst they do a lot of their training with their dogs, they took to the Dramathon ‘naked’ to push themselves without the help of their K9 friends.
Steph took on the full distance and completed it in a time of 4.25 hours, she only started running in the last 3 years, inspired by her fit and energetic dog; Bruce. Steph and Bruce are a regular feature in The Pentland Hills in Edinburgh. Steph loved the beautiful scenery and happy and relaxed atmosphere of the race. When I asked her what her favourite bit of kit was her reply was “do snacks count?”, a reply I absolutely love and yes, yes they do count. In which case, Steph’s favourite bit of kit is jelly beans, hula hoops and lion bars. What a girl! So what does the future hold for Steph’s running? Apparently it’s all about “dabbling with some more ultras”. You will be amazing Steph.
Both Avril and Gail smashed the half Dramathon in times of 2.19 hours and 2.24 hours respectively.
Avril started running 4 years ago, I’m sure she won’t mind me pointing out she was 59 years old at this time. Since then we literally can’t stop her running, she has even completed the Tiree Ultra Marathon – she really is supergran. Avril’s favourite thing about the Dramathon was the friendliness of the race and how well organised it was. She is looking forward to completing the Foxtrail Winter Running Series this winter. Avril wore her favourite Saucony Peregrine Trail Shoes. I love watching you in the midst of such an incredible running adventure Avril!
Gail Grant had dabbled with running for a while, however it wasn’t until she started canicrossing with her little spaniel; Ellie, that she met her lifelong running friends and was encouraged to run further and further and with that she naturally became faster and faster. Huge kudos to Gail for achieving a PB at the Dramathon. Gail’s favourite thing about the Dramathon was seeing the turning autumn leaves in the wooded sections. Gail is also looking forward to completing the Foxtrail Winter Running series. She wore her faithful Hokas for the race. You are going from strength to strength Gail – fitter, faster and stronger! There is no stopping you.
I asked Ian and Jon if they would like any special shoutouts in this blog, a special mention goes to Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich and Tamdhu, Paul and Diane at Durty Events, all the volunteers, and Darach of Darach Gifts who donated the incredible whisky stave medals.
Personally, I’m delighted to have been part of the inaugural Dramathon event and I am hugely excited as to what lies ahead for this fun, friendly and beautiful race. The Run the Sights crew did pretty well, I was chuffed to bits to podium with a cheeky 2nd place in my category in 1.32 hours, which was a lovely wee surprise, coming in 4th place overall. Elspeth Berry, the Run the Sights Glasgow tour leader scooped up 1st place in her category for the full distance.
This race is the epitome of the Run the Sights ethos. I felt I experienced a beautiful sightseeing journey, learnt about some of the history of the area and the whisky, and I had a super sociable time with friends old and new.
I have a sneaky suspicion this race may well sell out within a matter of days for 2018 … fingers poised on the keyboard if you want a space. Remember - "dinnae bottle it"
by Elspeth Luke
Run the Sights Glasgow
I recently completed the inaugural Glencoe Ultra marathon, finishing in 2nd place overall. Here are a few words about my experience running 45 miles through some wonderfully remote glens of Scotland.
This race was a spectacular mixture of ups and downs, trails and bogs as well as crags and river crossings. Unlike many of the current races in Scotland which follow established 'ways', meaning they're well trodden, easy to follow and in good condition, the Glencoe Ultra doesn't! Although it was always on paths, these paths are of a mixed quality, which in places added a fun navigational element to the race, despite the way marking signs.
We were lucky to have a beautiful and sunny day with very little wind which made the scenery all the more spectacular.
The race starts at the Glencoe Mountain Resort and begins by following the West Highland Way. It turns off after 4 miles to take in one of Scotland's most iconic munros; Buachaille Etive Mor. Having seen a lot of rain in the preceding days the rocky path was a little treacherous and towards the top, I slipped. There was an awful moment where I wondered if I was going to lose control entirely, but luckily I managed to straddle a rock and stop myself falling downwards over the rocks. I felt a bit sobered after that and was consequently very cautious on the descent.
The hill path eventually joins up with the Laraig Gartain and from here it's a fun trail down to the road that leads to Loch Etive. However, the Loch side is a totally different story. It's a classic example of how misleading OS maps can be. This path depicted with a single dashed line, like the Lariag Garten path, but the usability is very different. The Loch Etive path was not easy to follow and where it was visible it was very boggy, in places it looked more like a stream than a path. The river crossings didn't seem much wetter! However, it was great to be there; it's wonderfully remote and rugged and on such a beautiful day, I felt really lucky to be seeing the views. I was nonetheless delighted to see the land rover track after almost 10 miles of slipping and sliding and tripping!
Most of the rest of the route was straightforward, and I was so pleased with how strong I felt mentally and physically. I continued to enjoy the challenge, despite feeling tired. It was great to see Jamie Aarons along the way and she kept me company for a while before leaving me to run up a Munro!
There was a final sting in the tail to the route which slightly spoilt the journey for me. The last section of the ultra follows the West Highland Way from Victoria Bridge, almost back to the Mountain Resort where the race ends. Instead of sticking with the path the race then cut off up the hill towards the top of the chairlift. This was an awful plan as it was more swamp like than anything I'd seen on the route so far. It was completely un-runnable and very frustrating as it didn't offer any more views or interest to the race. Still, I suppose it was nice to experience a different bit of the hill side rather than the all too familiar West Highland Way!
It's always a treat to get out and see new bits of Scotland and find routes to connect more familiar areas; this was no exception and I'm so glad to have explored this area.
EXPLORE SCOTLAND ON THE RUN | RUN THE SIGHTS | RUNNING TOURS FOR EVERYONE
by Ali Wyllie
Run the Sights
Cath and I took to the Fife Coastal Path for a 12-mile run, and to quench my desire to visit some cherished family memories. Naturally my super fit, Hungarian Vizsla dog; Princess Jasper, also joined us.
Before I tell you about this amazing running route, let me explain why Elie (the start of our run), is so incredibly special and personal to me.
My Granny was always immaculately presented and well spoken. She was a stern but loveable lady. She had 6 children and 15 grandchildren, and having lost her husband at an early age, she raised her family as a single mum, in a generation that did not favour a strong female. She was the family spine and matriarch. She is the inspiration behind a string of strong ladies following in her footsteps.
Granny ruled at Breakwater House in Elie, this was the family hub, the place all the cousins would congregate; willing away the hours, playing on the beach, whilst the adults did boring adult things. In Elie, I was a feral child with sea salt and sand perpetually in my hair and bed.
I found running a couple of years before Granny passed away. My last memory of this wonderful lady is one I cherish and hold very dear. I was about 16 years old, and by this point, Granny was in a home, at Braids Nursing Home in Edinburgh. Seeing her confined to a small room, was like seeing a magnificent eagle caged. Here was a lady who soared the skies, never missing a beat, but her wings had been clipped. By this point though, she was tired, she wasn’t fighting and she was perfectly content on her perch, as if resting a while, before taking to the skies again.
I had raced in a cross-country race in the borders, my first race out with the school environment. I was buzzing. I bounded into Granny’s room and yapped on and on about my race. She was proud as punch and pulled out the sherry. I had never had a drink with my Granny before, and here I was sipping on a sherry and talking about running.
My Granny wasn’t a runner, but she listened and was enthused by my energy. During this conversation she had a glint in her eye and a softness I hadn’t seen very often.
She didn’t last long after this and I am still grateful for this precious moment with her; to share a running story with her and feel her warmth and pride. I’m not convinced she understood why anyone wanted to run for fun, but she was chuffed to bits for me, and I can still feel her support today.
A little over an hour from Edinburgh, Elie rests on the Fife coastline. You will find the best car park for the Fife Coastal Path (FCP) on the east side of the village, behind the harbour road and conveniently close to the amazing Ship Inn. From here the FCP is well marked.
The first point of interest along the way is Lady’s Tower, built in 1760 for Lady Janet Anstruther (renowned for her physical beauty and flirtatious character), to use as a changing room prior to her morning skinny dips. Tragically Lady Anstruther met her death by drowning in the waters below the tower. I remember many a walk to gaze out to sea, with Granny by my side at this very point, as she told me tales of Lady Anstruther.
The route then skims past the ruins of Newark Castle, an ancient 13th century building, believed to have been the residence of King Alexander III during part of his childhood.
With twisting and undulating, single track, sandy terrain this section of the route is laugh out loud fun! It is heaven for trail running legs.
The view towards St Monans is breath-taking. Like most of the small villages along the coast, St Monans is an old fishing village. One of the most eye-catching features is an old windmill situated on the coast as the FCP leaves the village. This windmill was historically used to power the salt-panning industry.
Then out of St Monans and on to Pittenweem, with a population of over 1,700 and a thriving fishing industry, the harbour in Pittenweem can be a hive of activity. The FCP brings you into the village past rows of stunning white stone cottages with red roofs, then on through narrow alleyways. These surroundings and the smell of the sea, leaves you feeling you could almost be in a hot European coastal village.
Dotted along the trail at this point are various bikes, decorated beautifully and sometimes amusingly for the entertainment of the FCP users.
Finally, for this run, we arrived at Anstruther where we were due to turn around and retrace our steps, taking in all the same sights but from a different perspective. Anstruther is the largest of the coastal communities along East Neuk. Whilst it still has a bustling harbour; tourism is massive here.
We ran past numerous cafes, with patrons spilling out onto the street. Perhaps Anstruther’s most famous acclaim is the Anstruther Fish Bar, which professes to be Britain’s best fish shop (caveated by the word “probably”, after this claim).
Upon returning to the car and stretching off, I had to drag Cath over to Granny’s old house. Perched on the breakwater, taking pride of place. Oh the memories! I was initially taken aback to see a mobile café and seating area taking up a large part of the breakwater; Elie Beach Café, oh how Granny would turn in her grave at the sight of this. But times change and with the onslaught of tourists and the mad coffee craze that seems to have swept the UK over the past decade, there is a real demand for this service.
It turned out the owners of the Café also live in, and own, Granny’s old house - Breakwater House - they very kindly offered me a nosy next time I am in Elie. As kind as this offer is, I feel that would be too much, I can look at the same old familiar shell from the outside. But the heart of this house has changed several times over, I would rather remember it with the sounds of my family and the smell of my Granny.
To me, this running route has everything. Beautiful sights, interesting history, amazing running terrain, fresh sea air and on a personal level - heart-pounding nostalgia. Running on routes like this is exactly why I run. Go on - seize the day and experience as many running adventures as you can, see the world on the run, live life with adrenaline and endorphins pumping through your body. No running adventure is ever a waste of time.
One day I will do the full Fife Coastal Path over a weekend or even in one full stint – running through the night. Anyone care to join me?
EXPLORE SCOTLAND ON THE RUN | RUN THE SIGHTS | RUNNING TOURS FOR EVERYONE