And so it was, off to Duthie Park in Aberdeen early on Saturday morning in conditions so perfect that I wondered if I was still in bed in the middle of a rather good dream! Temperature well under 10 degrees, blue skies and a light breeze – it really doesn’t get any better that this. The race director (George Reid) is quite a character – his byline on emails is “Pass the weak hurdle the dead” and the advice he offers to anyone who gets halfway and wants to quit “phone registration with your race number, tell them you are a loser and take the bus home”. I have quickly realised that the world of ultra events and the people who take part in them is like none other. The field has doubled this year to over 200 runners which shows there is clearly a growing appetite for this kind of nonsense. The route is entirely along the Deeside Trail which is almost all off-road and only 2 or 3 road crossings. It’s a mix of tarmac, hard packed earth and track. There are no hills as such but a few small rises and the scene is fantastic especially the River Dee itself ! The big advice I got from people who know lots about this kind of thing was 3 fold: make sure your hydration and carbohydrate strategy is well tested and organised for the race, avoid the temptation to look at your watch and instead, listen to your body and you will know how fast to run and finally, divide and rule – don’t see it as 33 miles but more as 33 mile-long runs one after the other. How did I apply all this? I used my Karrimor backpack with glucose water mix and a load of gels and cereal bars. I only looked at my watch once – at the halfway mark – and this worked well. I planned for 10 minute mile pace and when I reached the 16.5 mile mark in 2:42, I was only 3 minutes / 1.8% off this. I expected the second half to take longer not least because I’ve never done this before so I wasn’t quite sure what to plan for (not to mention getting a wee bit tired by this stage). I listened to music all the way so my divide and rule strategy was based on this – just make it to the end of the current track and so on and so on – this worked well. All said, the seasoned campaigners all have GPS and know how far they have run and at what speed all to the nearest inch. How was it then? I spent the first 16 miles wondering whose idea this was. The halfway point was a high as the extended family were there in support (and for refueling) and being more than halfway is always a good thing. Next hour or so was bad as I felt like I was going to be sick at any moment. Thankfully, this passed and I can honestly say that the last 10 miles was actually really, really enjoyable – I was not begging for the finish, was spared cramp and the weather was just gorgeous soft sunshine with a light tail wind. I even managed to lift my pace through Duthie Park to something more like running. Finished in 6 hrs and 22 secs and picked up the most original medal I have ever received (a small piece of slate with ‘D33 MMX1’ stenciled onto it plus a bottle of race beer ! So, would I do this or anything else like it again ? you bet !
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