Year in Review: 2023

2023 was a whirlwind of a year! We’re just back from a proper good break over the Christmas and New Year period… including both taking a few days off from running 😱

It’s always fun to look back on what we got up to last year, take stock of what went well and look ahead and set goals for the coming year. We hope 2023 was a good to you as it was to us and you’re refreshed and ready to take on 2024 too 😁

Iain

2023 turned out to be a bit of a mega year for me! Besides the Lionsgate Backyard Ultra (more on that later), I managed to win all of the ultra races I entered (By Way of the Glen, Loch Ness 24, and Ochil 100) as well as a couple of shorter races earlier on the year (Bertha Park Trail Race and The Drop). Running races isn’t all about winning but it’s certainly nice when it happens and it’s finally been my turn to add some silverware to the Miles Together trophy shelf 🤣

The biggest positive for me from the year was increasing my longest race distance and time to 170 miles and 48h50 at By Way Of The Glen – I was especially pleased with the way I managed to overcome issues throughout the race including sleep deprivation, achilles tendinitis and some grim weather and pace my effort well enough to pass the other competitors and finish strongly at the end. Next year’s “big race” challenge will be the 8-day, 250 mile Cape Wrath Ultra. After volunteering there this year I have a good idea what’s involved but have never done a multi-day race like that before. I’ll be spending the first few months of the year building up my hill fitness and preparing as best I can to give it a good shot. I haven’t yet worked out a time goal, but I’d like to be able to finish in good style, not hobbling to the lighthouse on day eight!

The other highlight for me was our joint last-person-standing DNF at God’s Own Backyard Ultra in November. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every minute of it and it was a perfect way to cap off a great race season for both of us. In 2024 we’ll both be back at the Cow Shed BYU in April, representing Team Scotland in the Four Nations Backyard championship. My first outing in Scotland colours at this year’s championship race at Lionsgate in May ended with an abject 10 yards. Looking back, this was due to a several reasons – I was carrying an ankle injury that flared up on loop 2, failed to manage my electrolyte levels well enough in the heat, but mainly it was a mental capitulation that I didn’t genuinely believe I could win! Both years at GOBYU I have had an absolute belief that I had what it took to out-run everyone else, and it worked! I’m aiming to arrive at Cow Shed in great shape and with the right mental attitude. We’ll be running firstly for Team Scotland and secondly for Team Miles Together – but we’ve agreed there will be no mutual DNF allowed this time 😲 As far as goals for the year go for Backyard Ultra, I am currently on the roster for Team UK at the Backyard World Champs in October so I’m aiming to stay there, and if things go well put in a mega effort to book a spot at Big’s in 2025!

Two other goals from the last few years have been carried along in the background, and both of them are possible (depending on how Cape Wrath and the BYU go). I made a second attempt at Ramsay’s Round this summer, going both further and faster than the first time but stopped at the Mamores (2/3 of the way round), about 2 hours behind schedule. If my hill fitness improves – Spring hill races and Cape Wrath will prove if that’s the case – and there is a good weather window in the summer, I might just have another crack at it. I’m also seriously considering attempting a “fast” Marathon effort which would most likely be the Loch Ness Marathon in September, if I can fit in a solid training block during the late summer.

Keep an eye on my Strava throughout the year to see how I get on 🤞

Julie

2023 has been a great year of epic races, where I have learnt so much in every single one! It has been great to catch up with friends old and new and I have had the added bonus of finishing first female in all my ultras this year 😲 I started the year in January running my own accumulator (=496 miles in total) which really set me up for the year and boosted my confidence in my ability to keep going even when I wasn’t feeling it!

In April I headed down to London for the Thames Ring 250 which was everything I imagined and more. I was made up with finishing joint second and hope to go back in the future to try and beat the female course record. There is something really special about this race and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to try a really long ultra.

In June I ran Ultra Scotland 100. This was probably the most challenging race of the year and the only one I thought I wouldn’t finish. I struggled with the heat and the amount of hills, in particular the section after Lowther Hill, but with the help of my amazing crew I managed to turn it around and again finish first female (4th overall). This race was mentally challenging and I didn’t cope with it well. The write up is still in progress so watch this space to find out all the details, how I fell apart and managed to put myself back together mid race! I feel I have unfinished business with this route and have signed up for Race Across Scotland this year to see if I can run the whole southern upland way with a more positive attitude!

July was another highlight of the year with an outright win at Orkney Backyard Ultra. A fantastic event in an amazing location. I hope a return trip will be possible in 2026 when it next runs. This run will always stand out as I enjoyed it so much and was smiling every single lap.

And then Lon Las in October, another tough one. This time the biggest challenges were sleep deprivation and the cold and wet. Another mentally taxing race where I had to dig deep at the end to hold on to 2nd place. It taught me a massive amount about the importance of believing you can and what the body is capable of. Again the write up is still in progress – in part because I was so tired there are large sections I can’t remember!

The year was rounded off with GOBYU in November. It was great to run with Iain and DNF together. It was a lovely finish to an amazing year.

After a few quieter weeks over Christmas it is back to training for 2024. We have a few short hill races over the next couple of months which are always far too hard and leave me so impressed by those that bound up (and down) them at amazing paces. My first ultra race is Rasselbock Backyard Ultra in March and I am super excited for this one – I know I can do several days running but can I put it together with the pace needed for a backyard? I have now completed 31 yards at 2 backyard ultras and on both occasions I had plenty still to give so it will be great to see how far I can go.

In April I have the privilege of running on Team Scotland at the Cowshed Backyard Ultra. Iain and I will also be going head to head again and this time there will be no joint DNF, we will support each other to go as far as we can, the big question is who can go further??? [That’s fighting talk! – Iain]

In June I hope to run the Whopper 12hr looped course with plenty of elevation in preparation for Race Across Scotland in August. It will be great to have the chance to run the Southern Upland Way in better form and I will again be lucky enough to run in some beautiful hills and countryside.

The end of the year is more open at the moment. I am also hoping to get a place at the BYU world team championships in October and also loved the course at Golspie Backyard Ultra so would also love to run there. Whatever I end up doing it is shaping up to be another year full of amazing events.

Training will continue to be based around what fits into family life and work with lots of easy runs and 1 or 2 harder efforts each week. There will be more hill running and I will also be adding more strength work having joined a gym in November. Whatever you have planned for 2024 enjoy the journey, learn from the event and most importantly, have fun! 🏃🏻‍♀️🏃‍♂️😁

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