I was really nervous about this race. Coming only a week after the Northumberland Ultra and my first hilly trail race on my own. The course was originally 18 miles, up and down Beinn Dearg, but with a last minute course change it ended up being 19.6 miles. My biggest concern with the race was all the elevation gain was in the first half of the race and all the down in the second. I had never run anything like this and had no idea how it would feel like!
I decided to carry all the fluid and food I would need to avoid time delays at aid stations (there were 3 in total – the first very early on hosted by Red Bull, the second at about 7 miles and the third at about 15 miles). I must admit I do enjoy running past people at aid stations and keeping going! The mandatory kit list was short so overall my bag wasn’t too heavy.
Race day morning was hard with lots of waiting. It was going to be a hot day and the already late start times (waves at 10.30 and 10.50) were delayed 20mins. I was in the second wave as I had put I was expecting a slow time (I think I need to stop doing that and accept I am middle of the pack!), which meant even longer waiting in the sun and made me feel even more anxious.
It was a relief when we finally started and I settled into the middle of the group at a comfortable pace. It was already hot and I was glad I had brought a light covered buff to cover my head (and my sunglasses). The first part of the run was mainly quiet roads and landrover tracks through the woods. It was quite shady which was lovely. I had already decided to try and run as much of the early uphill as possible at a steady pace. This worked really well and I enjoying getting going. The first few miles flew by! The track then left the woods and the rest of the way to Beinn Dearg was on moorland landrover tracks, gently climbing with a few steeper ups and downs thrown in. I enjoyed the remote feeling of this path and seemed to find a space where there weren’t too many runners close behind me and I was able to overtake the odd runner along the way! My main challenge at this stage was people had started to walk for spells and it made me question if I should be walking sections as well – it was after all still a long way to go and was super hot. I gave in to those thoughts and did have a few walks along this section. In future I would have more confidence to keep running more as I think I did have it in me! I also enjoyed a few short chats with other runners during this section of the race. At around 7miles, at a junction in the track, we ran past a bothy with an aid station. I kept going, with a little more walking until mile 8 where you leave the main track and head up the smaller, steeper path to the summit of Being Dearg. Where I was in the mid-pack everyone was walking this section so I joined in the line and walked as fast as I could up this steeper track. I was keeping pace with another runner and we ended up chatting most of the way to the top. We were still able to overtake a few runners who stopped to take photos or to just walk at a gentler pace! Once past the steep section there is a peaty section that is slightly gentler slope where we were able to run a little bit. The last bit to the top is a small boulder field and then I was there – 10 miles from the start! The views were absolutely amazing and the gentle breeze on the top was much appreciated!
A quick check of the dibber on my wrist to make sure it had recorded my time at this point (it beeped and flashed red) and a photo and then I headed straight back down the path. The path down at this point was nice and wide and so there was plenty of space to pass those runners still heading up. I was nervous about this stretch of downhill running as I am always scared of falling so never fully commit! I had a nice chat with another lady who followed me down this section. I think this helped me go slightly faster as I was aware of her running behind me! I surprised myself and really enjoyed this running – not super fast but a reasonable pace! I did have to slow down on the steeper narrower section before rejoining the landrover track and heading off to complete the loop back to Blair Atholl.
After joining the landrover track there is a short uphill before a gentle downhill the rest of the way. This section also had the added interest of several small burns to run through (or jump rock to rock if you preferred!). I loved the remoteness here and found myself with no one in front or behind for quite a while. It felt just like I was on my own! I again passed several people at the last aid station at mile 15. Shortly after this the lady from the steep downhill caught me up and we had a nice chat on and off the rest of the way. She was faster than me on the downhills (my left knee was a bit sore so I deliberately slowed down on the downhills) and I was faster on any ups! I was really pleased by how good I felt and how well the legs were working. (The left knee is a frustrating result of meniscus surgery pre running days!)
At about 16.5 miles we got to run along the edge of a rifle range which wakes you up when they are firing! Then back into the trees for some welcome relief from the sun. The final push for the finish was made even more fun when I found Iain and the kids waiting to cheer me on. Angus and Isla then ran the last mile with me which was lovely (once we had worked it out so they weren’t nearly tripping me up!) Isla took a short cut through the campsite at the end and Angus ran to the finish with me. I even managed a bit more speed to overtake 2 people in the final field 👍
Was a great race that I absolutely loved. Hot weather but a great route with lovely runners, volunteers and marshals making for a great race day. I came 65th out of 151 finishers with a time of 3hr 53mins.