Blair Castle Trail Weekender 2021

We’re just back from an awesome weekend of running and outdoor family time 😁 The running may have been separate but there were plenty of Miles Together supporting and cheering on the runners over the weekend at the Blair Castle Trail Weekender. This was a new event for this year and as it’s pretty much local to us signing up was a no-brainer. Camping on site was a real bonus for us as it made it easy to bring the family and meant everyone could be involved. It would be great if in future years there are children races as well but understand with COVID restrictions planning any event has been tricky this year! Julie signed up for the 30k Dearg Up ‘n’ Doon race on the Saturday and Iain signed up for the 60k Full Tilt Ultra race on the Sunday. There were also 10k and 5k routes on offer. Full race report blogs to follow soon!

Saturday

Camping and registration opened at 8am on the Saturday with Julie’s race being started in 2 waves at 10.30 and 10.50. This meant a relatively leisurely start in the morning! The car was loaded the night before, with only a few last minute extras (including a lot of food!) to be added in the morning. Julie had been overly optimistic in thinking everything would fit in the car without the roof box or trailer so it ended up being a tightly-packed journey, but luckily less than an hour up the A9! We arrived at the event village at about 9 am, Julie registered for her race and we found a spot in the camping area to pitch the tent. There was space for the car next to the tent which was ideal. The camping area wasn’t the most scenic area of the field, but did the job and was flat! There were plenty of portaloos, so no queuing required and they were emptied and restocked with loo roll on the Saturday evening which meant they were ‘ok’ all weekend!

This was the first outing for our new weekend / backpacking tent for 6! We got a cheap Ozark teepee tent from eBay as we wanted something lightweight and a small pack size that Iain and I can carry between us for future family adventures. This teepee tent was the best we could find and on its first weekend outing performed brilliantly. Because of only having the single middle pole it goes up in minutes and has loads of room and height inside. We comfortably slept 6 inside with bags as well. The tent felt nice and secure with plenty of guy ropes and it has an inner with sewn in groundsheet and separate outer which meant there was no water leakage after a rain shower overnight and no midges inside (the kids were good at keeping the inner tent zipped up!). The kids loved the teepee and everyone slept well – Iain and I were cold but that was our own fault as we also tried out our very lightweight sleeping bags.

The tent went up so quickly we had lots of time before Julie’s race started. Julie found the waiting around quite hard, especially as it was turning into such a hot day, it felt like we were missing the best bit of the day for running in! However it meant there was time for a little extra food and even a cup of tea before the race. There was a degree of disorganisation which meant the race eventually started 20mins late. Julie was in the second wave which didn’t start until 11.10 (more waiting in the sun). The race was timed on wrist dibbers that linked to recording boxes when you were within 4-5m of them. This system worked well as it was non contact and you could check it had worked as the dibber flashed and made a noise when it had registered. There were recording boxes at the start, finish and top of Being Dearg (on both tops on the Sunday). Finally Julie was off!

Iain then had to entertain the children for a few hours while Julie went to have some fun in the hills 😁 After spectating as the 5k runners passed by – although we weren’t quite sure where they would come from as the course had been changed the day before – some tree climbing, and a trail-side Spotify disco, Julie ran into view. Angus and Isla ran the last mile to the finish with her, and the others short-cutted to the finish line for the all-important finish photo!

After the race we had a quick fuel and re-hydration stop at the tent before having a wander down into Blair Atholl village to get some ice creams and a quick play in the very small park. As a bonus we saw a train pass at the level crossing! Sadly there were no ice creams in the event village but you could get hot food, coffee and beer (Top Out Brewery). There was also a physio that seemed to be busy all weekend, Våga caps (Iain’s review coming soon) and ‘Adventure Yoga’ at different times over the weekend. We stopped at the food van on our way back from the village and got some lovely chips to go with our hot dogs and beans for tea – luckily just caught them before they closed for the night! You can’t beat a camping tea after a day outside in the sun! There were a few midges but not too many – Julie is usually a magnet for them but got away with only a couple of bites all weekend. We then played a few games before an early night for all!

Sunday

We woke just before 7 the next morning having all had a reasonable nights sleep. Iain cooked breakfast of bacon rolls on the stove and everyone got themselves sorted for the day. Iain’s race started promptly at 9am and then Julie and the kids stayed around for the 10k start at 10.30am (a few card games while we waited as no one quite had the enthusiasm for yoga!). Once we had seen the 10k race off we headed up to the half way point on the 60k race so we could cheer everyone on. It had the bonus of also being on the 10k route so we were able to also give them a cheer as they finished their uphill section at just about half way. There were a few 10k runners out in front before the rest of the pack came through. The 60k runners were already well spread out and quite a few were ready for the aid station that was aa little further down the path. The aid station had looked very well stocked and the kids had been quite upset they couldn’t have the Haribo (they had to make do with the hula hoops in the picnic!). While we watched the 60k runners, waiting for Iain, we had an early picnic and the kids played in the trees. We were all pleased to see Iain, he came past at about 3hrs from his start, he looked strong (if a little hot!). We watched him head off down the path through the trees and headed off down the other track back to Blair Castle. In all we walked a nice little 5 miles route (not recorded on Strava). By the time we got back it was properly hot!

We tidied up a little at the tent and then headed to the finish line to make sure we didn’t miss Iain. Julie wasn’t sure how long he would be so erred on the side of caution. It was really hot by the finish, Julie got a coffee and the kids had plenty of water. Julie then headed back with a couple of the kids to take down the tent and pack the car! It was as easy to take down as it was to put up. We then played some more cards and enjoyed the Red Bull DJ playing at the finish. The first finisher came in after 5hrs 27 min and then another wee wait before 2nd and 3rd places. The runners then continued to trickle in having done an amazing job in the heat. Well done everyone! We then got a space under the Red Bull shelter which gave some relief from the heat. Julie was worried we would miss Iain heading to the finish as the view was blocked! So after a while we headed back to the finish line. The kids were getting a bit restless as Julie didn’t know how long Iain would be, but the kids passed the time with a ball game and then we played guess the finish time! Finally we spotted Iain heading down the final turn round the camping area. Julie nipped to the finish to get the finish line photos and the kids cheered Iain in. We were all super proud of him. His final finish time was 7hr 15min and 20th place. A quick lie in the grass and cool down then we headed back to the car for a drink and snack (and a change for Iain). Finally time to squeeze everyone back into the car for the trip home. An awesome weekend that everyone enjoyed!

Northumberland Ultra 2021

It’s now 3 days after the Northumberland Ultra and the legs are feeling a lot better – we’ve both managed a couple of shortish runs! We had a fun but hard run, finishing 63rd and 64th out of 153 starters (139 finishers). We didn’t quite hit our 6hr 30min target but managed 6hr 42min – not bad for Julie’s first ultra race and fastest 36mile run! Spoiler alert – full activity below:

Pre-race

We travelled down to the area the evening before, and stayed at the excellent Olde Ship Inn in Seahouses, just a few miles from the start. They also have a dining room, serving good quality pub food – with proper runner-sized portions! Bags packed, we settled down for a good night’s sleep.

The race was well organised with a car park at the finish (Bamburgh) and coach transfer to the start line in a field on the outskirts of Alnwick. With our coach leaving at 7.45am, we had a relatively leisurely start but still too early for breakfast in the Inn, unfortunately. We were dropped off by the coach literally a few minutes before our assigned start time. Julie really loved the individual start times as it meant no bottlenecks near the start! We were probably ‘sandbagging’ a bit with our estimated completion time – but on the plus side this meant we ended up with a later start slot, and managed to make it right through the race without being overtaken by anyone 👍

The Start

With the excitement of a first race since pre-COVID times, Julie had to spend the first few miles reminding Iain that she didn’t run at his race pace as he got carried away. The first 6 miles of the race were mainly along the edge of the river Aln. Interesting running, mainly on riverside paths, with a fun stepping stone river crossing. All of the ups were easily runnable, no excuses for a walk break! We probably ran this section on the fast side, at just under 10 min per mile – the challenge of race excitement! The weather was weird, very misty and humid, not much of a view!

Along the Coast

Once we hit the coast there was an interesting mix of running, with some quiet roads through small villages (including passing 100 yards from where we slept the night before in Seahouses), some running on soft sand up and down onto the beach, packed sand beach running, and running through golf courses and along cliff paths. The mist was heavier here and meant minimal views most of the way. At least we weren’t baked by the hot sun but it was at times quite demoralising and meant we missed all those amazing coastal views. Julie in particular did not enjoy the humidity. On the beaches the mist meant it was almost like running at night with people materialising out of the mist. It was quite eerie! It also meant we had to be extra careful not to miss the flags that indicated where you came back off the beach!

Aid stations were well spaced roughly every 6 miles, they had a good mix of food and water refill stations using a foot pump (COVID secure). We were trying not to have to stop at these but did need to refill our 2L of fluid as it was so humid we were sweating loads and drinking more. Julie also had a happy banana at the 25 mile aid station. Overall we only had 5 mins non-moving time for the race, which doesn’t seem too bad.

The beach itself was not as difficult to run on as expected. Once you had run through the soft sand onto the main beach the sand was well compacted and easy to maintain a steady pace on. The soft sand did end up in shoes but not enough that we had to stop and do anything about it! Julie managed to keep under 10min 30s per mile until mile 15 but then slowed. She thinks it was probably due to not being used to running long distances in the heat (something to practice!). These were a hard few miles as Iain continued to try and encourage a steady pace but was running just far enough ahead that it felt really demoralising to Julie and she did become a bit grumpy! Once we had worked out that a slightly slower pace was needed and running together with a bit of chat was what was needed things improved!

The last beach section into Bamburgh (around mile 25) was still in the mist, so no view of the castle until the last minute! During this section we had to break the news to a group of other ultra runners that they still had 10 miles to go and not the 6 that they were thinking (they thought the course was 32 miles not 36!) – hope they didn’t find the extra 4 too hard 🤣 Here we had to run past the path to the finish (direct for the 10k, half and full marathon) and carry on for the extra ultra loop. The running here in the dunes was hard – lots of soft sand. Luckily this section wasn’t too long and we were soon on country lanes.

Final Loop

Julie had been looking forward to this section as she does a lot of her running on road so thought it would give her a boost. But she had obviously been giving her all and they were just hard work! As we went inland the mist cleared, the sun came out and it was just hot. Julie was a little grumpy and needed quite a lot of encouragement! The bottle of flat coke came out to give a little boost – the last aid station also had some but we didn’t stop. The sign at the last aid station saying 5.8miles to go gave a boost and we just plodded on – but still no walking! Iain thought that when we got back to the coast we just had the dunes to go but Julie was sure we had to do a short stretch on the beach again (she was right!). When we turned off to the finish we had to go back through the dunes but for the last half mile the ground was slightly firmer. Julie managed to find a little something left in the legs and we managed to pick up the pace slightly to the finish where we crossed the line hand in hand 😍

A great race, well-signposted route, no-faff organisation and lovely volunteers manning the checkpoints – thanks to everyone involved 👏👏👏 Despite not being able to see much thanks to the mist, the Northumberland coast really did live up to its designation as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty! Definitely worth a repeat visit, either for another crack at the race, or for a holiday.

Northumberland Ultra: Pre-race prep

Our first race of the year (and my first race in 2 years) is this Saturday. Postponed from February I finally get to run the 36 mile Northumberland Ultra with Iain 😍 And I am a little nervous…I am as prepared as I can be and know I can run the distance – the big question is how fast? I haven’t ever really run on sand and there is a fair amount of beach/dune path running – how much will it slow me down? My fastest ever marathon distance is 4hr 37min – but I can’t consistently run that far at that pace – will I be able to in a race and keep something in the tank for the last 10miles? I ran 35miles in December in 7hrs – is it unrealistic to hope to improve on that time (even with the sand???). I am being confident and hoping I can run the first 26miles in under 4hr 30 min for a new marathon PB and then keep a decent pace for the last ten – 6hr 30min finish time is the target. Positive mental attitude goes a long way (and lots of food 😁)!

It’s interesting how differently Iain and I like to fuel on longer runs. When I first started running further I copied what Iain used – a lot of SIS gels, jelly sweets, cashew nuts and dried fruit mix! But I have found that if I have too many gels and sugar I get terrible stomach cramps at about 18-20 miles in which isn’t much fun, so I have started trying different foods. I have found that I love Nature Valley cereal bars – they are easy to eat while running and satisfy my need for ‘real’ food. I also like Kallø corn cakes (like rice cakes but made with corn) with peanut butter – slightly harder to eat while running but great if you know there is a hill you are going to be walking up (so maybe not this run)! I do share Iain’s love of cashews and dried fruit as a quick snack every couple of miles and tend to keep some in a waist pocket of my bag for easy access. I also find I get a surprising mental boost from a banana later in the race!

A recent exciting discovery of mine is that the Kendal Mint Cake company are now making energy gels and a Kendal Mint Cake bar with added electrolytes and vitamins under the brand KMC NRG – both vegan and gluten free. I had to order some! I have tried them both in the middle of shorter runs to check they don’t disagree with me and can’t wait to try them on the ultra (a review will then follow!).

We have decided we are going to carry 2L of fluid each so we can reduce the number of aid stations we need to use. This is mainly because with COVID precautions in place and a 1 person at a time policy we were unsure if there would be queues! We are both used to carrying plenty of fluids as we have been running a few longer runs fully self-sufficient. We will have to wait and see if it is a good plan or not!

Otherwise the kit list isn’t too long, and the weather forecast looks good 3 days out. Race numbers have arrived, so we are good to go! I am counting down the days 😀

The Dunbarney Loop

One of the major advantages of working from home (thanks, COVID) is that it has dramatically increased our opportunities to run together. The kids aren’t quite old enough yet to leave at home, so for the next few years our Miles Together are either at lunchtime, during a day off or with kids in tow on bikes!

Our usual regular weekly outing is the “Dunbarney Loop”. At just over 4 miles it’s the perfect length to fit into a lunch break and still have time to shovel down some food before going back to work. It’s also a bit of a go-to run when you can’t quite be bothered to actually plan a route as we’ve both done it so often it’s easy to follow on ‘autopilot’. It also has a nice mix of road and trail, but without any extremely technical bits, or significant climbs – the total elevation gain is only 120ft!

You can find a typical lunchtime outing linked below. Despite being mid-May, there was a strong wind blowing which made it quite chilly, and although it was mostly dry during the run, there had been heavy rain the night before, making for muddy conditions underfoot! If you’re in the area and fancy trying it out, the rest of this post is a description of the route with photos.

Starting from Main Street in Bridge of Earn outside the school and Co-op, follow Manse Road and Chaise Road round behind the school, then turn right onto Station Road / B935 up and over the railway. There’s pavement all the way to where the road turns sharp left – cross and go straight on here onto the Dunbarney Drive. The drive goes dead straight, passing through the 1 mile mark as you start a gradual climb up towards Dunbarney House. There are good views to be had across Strathearn to Kirkton and Mailer Hills on the right. Follow the road round to the left, where it becomes a gravel twin-track, and continue on for about a quarter of a mile until you reach a T-junction. The main track turns right, but take the path on the left to the “Dunbarney Walk” which narrows and twists and turns down a wooded border between fields. This can either by hard-packed with a few roots, or like today a bit of a slippery mud-fest! As you reach the end of the path at the 2 mile mark you’ll emerge suddenly onto the B935 – be on the lookout for traffic before dashing across the road.

Cross over, turn left and follow the pavement for a short distance before turning right into the road to Pitkeathly Wells. There are great views here of Castle Law and West Dron Hill as you run the short downhill. Where the road bends right, take a little step down onto the Silver Walk on the left. This is a half-mile tree-lined footpath with a little burn running alongside it. After heavy rain it can flood, so be prepared for possible puddle dodging! It also happens to be a Strava segment, if you are looking to put in a fast interval and the underfoot conditions allow. Shortly after crossing a footbridge, you’ll pop out onto Forgandenny Road and go left to head back towards Bridge of Earn. As you pass 3 miles you’ll see Kilgraston Walled Garden and the back of the school on your left.

The road turns left and you’ll have houses on your right as you re-enter Bridge of Earn. Keep going straight, ignoring the streets to your right and the main entrance to Kilgraston school on the left. Immediately after ‘The Roost’ restaurant, turn right and follow the footpath that bears left past a play park. Sidestep through the barrier and cross over Balmanno Park, taking the footpath between houses immediately opposite. Follow this path (known as Badger Lane) as it winds along beside the burn and eventually pops out onto Main Street near the bus stop. Take a left and follow Main Street up and over the railway again, past Victory Park on your left (4 miles done!) and either enjoy a gentle cool-down jog or a sprint finish back to where you started in front of the school.

We hope you liked the route, and if you try it do let us know! If you have your own favourite routes to share, post a comment below. See you on the trails!

Flanci Skort Review

So I have been wanting a running skort for a while but don’t like just buying things for the sake of it and had a perfectly decently pair of running shorts… however, that doesn’t stop me looking 😜 I found it hard to find many running skorts and I have to say that most of what I did see weren’t very inspiring (or were more than I would want to pay!). And then I stumbled upon Flanci while searching for ‘colourful running skorts’ in Google and I immediately fell in love with their colourful and fun designs. I kept going back to have a little look!

I have been trying to increase my running distances but must admit the next step to a 50 mile run felt somewhat daunting (we won’t mention the 100 mile race I am signed up to later this year!) so I decided a little incentive was in order – if I completed my 50 mile run I would treat myself to a Flanci Skort.

So at the beginning of April I plotted my route (a 50 mile loop from home including Dunning, Loch Leven and Glenfarg), collected all my kit together and planned my food and hydration (everything had to be carried!). I set off aware I was feeling a bit defeatist about the run but stubborn enough to get out and go anyway. I have to say it was hard, I struggled most of the way with talking myself out of it, that I couldn’t do it and I wasn’t ready. I was unsure what pace to run at and my legs hurt! At about 38 miles I sent Iain a message saying I was struggling, hoping he would come and rescue me! He was very encouraging and told me I could do it and to have some food/drink and walk a bit (but no offer of that car ride home). So I had a little sit in a convenient bus shelter and gave myself a little talking to and walk/ran the rest of the way. 50 miles completed in 11 hrs 5 min. Not fast but reasonable for me and a first attempt. And I had earnt my skort 😃.

And then I had the tricky decision of which pattern to choose. With so many great designs it was really hard to decide on the right one. The whole family got involved, but all had different favourites! In the end I went for the orange ‘trailblazer’ flames design – picked for its bright fun colours and nice undershorts (and its name!). I then struggled with knowing what size to get. I have changed shape a lot over the last year with increased exercise and am now very much between a size 10 and 12 in clothing, with a 30” waist. Flanci do have a very good size guide which I used – I came out very much between a small and medium but at the bottom it suggests that if you are between sizes to get the bigger size, so I went for the medium.

The website is nice and easy to use and my new skort arrived without delay. Initial impressions were good – it looked as good as it did on the website and is well made with a super thigh pocket in the shorts and zip pocket on the back. My only slight negative was with its weight – it is quite a sturdy fabric so with the extra skirt layer was heavier than I expected!

On trying the skort on I found it on the looser side of comfortable but I was too impatient to send it back and swap for the smaller size! The length of the shorts is great – 7.5” inside leg so a longer leg short which I prefer. The outer skirt allows just the smallest amount of the undershort to be visible. The thigh pocket was the perfect size for my phone and the zip pocket on the back is ideal for gels, snacks, keys etc. It also has a long drawstring on the waist which did make the skort feel more secure when I used it.

I have now used the skort on numerous runs of varying length (4 miles to 26 miles) and terrain and varied weather conditions. Overall there is still lots I love about this skort but I do have a few niggles and one bigger downside. The skort is comfortable to run in but I do think I should have got the smaller size. I do not agree with the comment on the sizing guide to get in the bigger size if between sizes – I would suggest going with the smaller size as there is plenty of stretch in the fabric. However I stuck with the medium and because of this I do find the legs are on the looser side (however this hasn’t caused any chafing even on longer distances). The drawstring is useful in making the skort feel more secure but is a major pain on those longer runs when a wee stop is required! Again if I had gone for the smaller size I don’t think I would need to use the drawstring at all. Also because of the looser fit I do find the legs ride up slightly (but again I only think this is a problem because I went for the larger size). If I bought another skort I would definitely get the smaller size but saying that I am quite happily running in the medium with a looser fit!

I absolutely love the thigh pocket for carrying my phone. It is secure, comfortable and easy to access – all running bottoms should have one! The back pocket is useful for keys or a gel and has plenty of space (haven’t tried my phone in it as I love the thigh pocket so much!)

And so to my big negative – it is not good in the rain 😭 I was caught in a downpour just after half way on my last marathon run. The skort got soaked, became heavy and stuck to my legs. This wouldn’t have been too bad if it had dried quickly but it didn’t! The shorts and skirt section were still wet when I got home and it was not pleasant! I have had many wet runs in shorts and tights and never had such a horrible feeling of heavy wet fabric around my legs. How it compares to other skorts I don’t know. It may just be the extra layer of fabric that is the problem but I expect it is partly because the fabric is a heavy weight fabric. For me this now means I won’t me able to use the skort for any of my ultras races where there is a chance of rain in the forecast. I am gutted about this as it looks so good.

Overall, I think this skort looks great but the performance in rain would put me off getting another. I would however try the shorts and maybe even legging (they do a tall option) as I love the colours and patterns. They can’t help but make you smile. If you are looking for new running clothes and like bright colours Flanci is well worth a look.

Happy running everyone!

My running story: Iain

I wasn’t always a runner. My main sport as a teenager and student was kayaking – both whitewater and slalom. Edinburgh University Canoe Club was actually where Julie and I originally met! However, through my late 20s I gradually drifted away from paddling and by the time I turned thirty I was fighting the ‘battle of the bulge’ against good home cooking and a mostly sedentary lifestyle, commuting an hour each way in the car to work in Edinburgh, while being convinced that I was still young, fit and healthy! One night in early 2014 I got a wake-up call… Our dog got out and I ended up running about a mile until she was eventually cornered and apprehended. I wheezed my way home, woke up the next day with a chest infection and spent a week in bed on steroids and antibiotics – and decided I really needed to do some serious exercise again!

Getting in to running: zero to half-marathon

I needed something that would fit in to the daily routine, so I packed some shorts, an old cotton singlet and a pair of trainers and went out in my lunch hour for a couple of laps of the King’s Buildings campus in Edinburgh. Next day I could barely get down the stairs! I managed to stick it out and by the summer was stretching my distance enough to enter the monthly work handicap “KB Dash” 4.1 mile race. It’s a great event – really friendly bunch of people and as a handicap caters for everyone from plodders to bone-fide superstars. Over the next 3 years I gradually improved my times from 32:55 mins down to 26:26. I also entered a series of local off-road winter duathlon (MTB + run) races, which were great fun, despite (or perhaps because of) the snow! In April 2016 I ran my first ‘proper running’ race – the 10 mile Great Edinburgh Run. It was a freezing cold day, especially for Julie and the kids who came along to watch, but I remember really enjoying getting to run around the city centre of Edinburgh on closed roads, suffering through the 8-9 mile mark around Duddingston, but still having a little bit left for a fast(ish) finish. I’d even discovered a bit of runner’s tech, and recorded the race on my phone. I think I was originally using MapMyRun, but I’ve since switched over to Strava:

By this time the bug had well and truly bitten – I think my not-so-hidden inner competitive side had realised that running wasn’t just to get and stay fit, but I could actually be competitive (at least with myself). I ran several more races, setting a 42:09 10k and 1:36:00 half-marathon times – the time for the half I still haven’t improved upon!. Don’t let it ever be said that you need lots of expensive gear to run in – at this point I was running in a pair of Slazenger tennis shoes, cotton socks and shorts 😮

Next steps: first ultra distance!

Quite early on in my running journey I’d realised I preferred running off-road and up hills much more than running on roads. I’d always enjoyed walking in mountains, and I think something about going a bit off the (literally) beaten track appeals to me. I ran several local trail races and at some point I started to find out about ultra-running. Then for no apparent reason decided to skip the marathon and just go straight to running hilly trail ultras… As things turned out, my first ‘Ultra’ turned out to be only 25.5 miles, and my second – the awesome Lakes Mountain 42 – was cut short due to extreme snowy weather, but ended up just over the marathon distance, at least according to my GP! I did eventually finish a couple of genuine, complete ultra races in 2018 – the Keswick Mountain Festival 50k (part 1 and part 2) and the Warrington Way 40 miler – so I was officially now an ultra-runner, without ever completing a marathon.

It would be impossible to talk about this period of my running story without a mention of Run Sandymoor. For the couple of years that we lived in Runcorn, I was a member of the club. Whether you’re just starting out with a couch-to-5k programme, love Parkrun, or want to push your abilities with the weekly “Killer Hills” or the annual Warrington Way and Sandstone Trail ultra races you’ll not find a better bunch of people to go running with!

Pushing the distance: 100 miles

In 2019, I set out with the goal of pushing my distance further and completing a 100 mile race. With that in mind I entered a series of increasingly longer distances, starting with The Fellsman (61 miles) in April, The High Life (80 miles) in July and culminating with the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Race 130 miler in August. I really enjoyed the Fellsman, despite some pretty grim weather for the first half of the race – it was the first time I had run through into the night, finishing around 1.15am, and ended up grouped with a great gang of four other runners. The High Life went really well and to my surprise I ended up winning! Perhaps starting with a bit of overconfidence I ended up with a hard reality check at LLCR. Went out too fast (especially given the hot August conditions), started to struggle from 40 miles in, eventually hobbled my final 10 miles and registered my first ever DNF (Did Not Finish). On the positive side, I did make it past the 100 mile mark (just!).

One final race at the end of 2019 that deserves a mention was “The Drop” – two days after Christmas. I really love races which have a navigation element, in this case the race involved being driven blindfold to an unknown location 30 miles from the finish and being left to make your own way back – no GPS allowed! Apart from a couple of mile detour near the start, I managed a fairly direct route and finished first overall. A great end to a good year… the less said about 2020 the better!

Running Together

As well as my own races, as Julie started getting in to running we arranged to run a few races together. So far this has meant me “pacing” her, but as we have done longer and longer races her endurance really starts to kick in, so when we eventually run a hundred miler together – it may be the other way around! The highlight so far was the Edinburgh Marathon 2019. Not only did we arrange a child-free weekend, we stayed at the Peebles Hydro hotel before and after the race so had a swimming pool and sauna to relax in. I promised Julie that if we could finish the race in under 5 hours I would pay for a hot stone massage at the spa. While we were touch-and-go for a bit around miles 17-18, we managed to pull through and had an emotional finish together in 4:53:41. Running together definitely makes the race experience that little bit more special!

Goals for 2021

With racing (and running anywhere further afield than the local area) out of the question for most of 2020, I’m looking forward to what 2021 has in store. Although my first race of the year (Ultra Scotland 100) ended up being cancelled at the last minute, we’ve got quite a few events booked up already. At the end of May we’ll be running the Northumberland Ultra together, and the following week have a family weekend of camping and running at the Blair Atholl Trail Weekender. Another event that was postponed from last year will be the OMM in October – 2 days together of navigation and camping out in the wilds of Argyll. I’m also looking forward to crewing Julie through her first 100k and 100 mile races! Finally, I’ve got unfinished (literally) business at the LLCR130 – hopefully I can learn the lessons from 2019 and complete the whole distance.

My running story: Julie

Hi, I am Julie, I’m 42, wife of Iain and stay at home mum of 4 wonderful children. I have been running on and off for the last 6 years, and seriously since March last year. I still find it hard to believe I am a runner having spent most of my life believing I couldn’t run! It has taken me a long time (since school days!) to realise running doesn’t have to be about competition with others but it is about challenging yourself, about doing something that is good for you physically and mentally. It can be getting out and run-walking, running your first 5k or pushing for an ultra distance. It is about taking one step at a time, embracing the journey and seeing where it goes. Everyone’s journey is unique and individual to them but we can encourage each other along the way, with Miles Together with partners, friends, family and even strangers we meet on race day. Each mile together leaves a small mark on our individual journeys – how special is that?

I ran my first 5k race in 2016. I started running because Iain ran and I wanted something that we could do together. But I struggled to run regularly and still didn’t really believe I was a runner. I ran different races on and off and then when I was contemplating turning 40 I decided to challenge myself. Iain and I signed up for the EMF 2019 marathon (Iain was already running ultra distances). It was really special that we could run together. It would have been a lot harder and been much less fun without his company and support. In the run up I ran my first half marathon on my 40th birthday and then finished the EMF 2019 marathon in just under 5 hrs, I hadn’t trained enough and it was seriously hard! After that I only ran once or twice over the next 9 months.

In February 2020 I started getting out running again and this time it was different. I haven’t just been running for the races I have been enjoying getting out and just running, exploring new places, and seeing so many benefits. I have done a couple of run streaks during lock downs, built up to running 35 miles on my 42nd birthday and 50 miles at Easter. I mainly run on country roads if I can, but am trying to build my confidence on trails (I enjoy trails but worry about getting lost!). I love the space running gives me, the physical and mental challenge. I love running with Iain when we can, but I also love running alone! And this year has new challenges ahead including a 36mile race running with Iain and then 100k and 100 mile races that Iain is going to crew me.

We encourage the children to run for fun. During lockdown we had a great time running ‘garden miles’ as a family. The primary school run daily mile several times a week and we managed to continue this during the last lockdown for just over 26 week days. The kids were really pleased to have run their marathon.

However you run and whenever you run it’s great to be able to fit in Miles Together, to encourage each other and challenge ourselves. Happy running everyone 😀

Welcome!

Welcome to Miles Together! We’re Julie and Iain Bethune from Bridge of Earn in central Scotland and we love to run. Right on our doorstep there are loads of country roads, trails and hills just waiting to be explored. You’ll find us out and about most days – check out our Strava Club to see where we’ve been recently.

Running can often be a solitary pursuit and most of the time the demands of work and family mean we’re running solo too. However, most weeks we manage to make time for a run together – and it’s totally worth it! Having a partner along with you on your running journey (literally as well as metaphorically) has so much going for it. It’s a great time to talk, share time in the great outdoors, encourage each other to reach your goals, and explore new places.

Over the coming weeks and months we’ll be sharing our running stories, race reports, goals and favourite routes as we keep you updated on what we’ve been up to. We might even throw in some thoughts on our favourite running gear and training tips. It will be a ‘warts and all’ view of the highs and lows of running with your significant other – hopefully more highs than lows 🤞

Whether you prefer to pound the pavements alone, run with a club, or already have a partner or friend(s) you run with we hope this blog will inspire you lace up your shoes, join us and get out there to log some Miles Together!