The Motto: Relentless Forward Progress.
Headed north on Friday night with my pal Carole Fortune (Gala Harrier, IronWoman and veteran of 30 odd marathons but still an ultra newbie). Seemed a long way in the dark (the Fettercairn pass went on forever) but eventually we saw the lights of Banchory. Rule One in ultra running: make sure your cousin lives at (or near) the start of the race – we couldn’t wish to be looked after by better hosts than my cousin Jackie and her husband Mike. I had been tracking the weather for several days and things were looking better and better but we all know Scotland only too well and I wasn’t holding my breath. However, a true Deeside treat was in store when I got up at 06:30 hrs – incredibly enough, the weather was as bright, sunny and cool as it was exactly one year previous when I to was an ultra-virgin! Tripped along the south side of the Dee in Carole’s wee car to the start at Duthie Park (Aberdeen) – it’s a beautiful park and well worth a stroll around (never mind some bonkers distance) – there are even Winter Gardens in huge greenhouses. Anyway, the irrepressible and amazing George Reid (race director) held court and we all duly lined up at the start. Once underway in the most glorious sunshine, I remember saying to Carole ‘please just head off’ (as she is just a wee bit faster than me) but there in lay ample justification for me getting a muckle Garmin – it was me going too fast and not Carole going slow. Once I’d sorted out my pace and I padded along quite the thing with a huge pile of music on the iPod and a large supply of cereal bars, High 5 gels and Nuun juice – what more could you ask for? Well the halfway point hove into few and all was looking good – re-stocked goodies and juice, said ‘hi’ to my cousin, auntie and the Robbie the dog and then turned through 180 degrees and set off back down the trail. People often talk about perfect race conditions and for me at least, this was certainly one of those days – the sun was bright, the breeze was light and the temperature was cool – for goodness sake, the wind was behind you all the way home ! These are the days we remember. Journey back was just fine and not at all stressful. I was so pleased that there was something left to up my pace for the last 6 miles and delighted to come in a very proud Penicuik Harrier at 5 hrs 43 – a whole 17 minutes quicker than last year. This placed me 146th out of 192 finishers. Carole came in at 5 hrs 6 mins which put her in 88th place overall – word on the street is that if she’d run the race the other side of a certain forthcoming birthday, she would have been placed in the relevant category but I say don’t wish time away – there is always next year. The winner was Gareth Mayze who finished in a perfectly outrageous time of 3 hrs 32 – OMG ! George Reid and The D33 crew continue to top all other races with their finish goodies: medal was a slice of wood with D33 burnt into it, there was also a bottle of D33 beer and to carry it all home in, a D33 logo’d re-usable shopping bag – how about that? Bit of chat and a Guinness at the finish then back to Banchory for a shower and the last 20 minutes of the Wales / France rugby game. Finally, we set off over the hill and into the sunset. These days are golden and you know what I’m bound to quote now . . . Run and Become ! (now that’s a cool name for a running shop – wonder if anyone else has thought of this?).
Footnote: For anyone interested, my running motto (Relentless Forward Progress) comes from a book by Bryon Powell which I highly recommend – loads of short essays by various US ultra gods (who seem think nothing of taking on 100 mile races) wrapped up by really helpful stuff from the author. It’s available on Amazon: Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons.