Not quite sure where to start with this one so I guess a quick bit of background will suffice then I’ll get down to the nitty gritty. A group of friends had done the 24 hour race last year as part of a relay team. They had really enjoyed it, so I got a bit caught up in their enthusiasm, so before I really thought about the repercussions, I was sitting refreshing my browser when entries opened.
Fast forward to Friday. Training had been less than ideal due to some ongoing personal issues, however, I did have a couple of marathons under my belt this year, so I wasn’t overly worried.
Just after 9am I was packing up the car wondering if I had too much or too little stuff before I headed off to pick up Ann (Abz1903). Once at Ann’s house, the car was unpacked and the back seats went down and the car was then re-packed. Our crew consisted of Shona (Holburnmum) and her daughter H. We all met at Ann’s place and with a quick check to make sure we had everything and an agreed lunch stopping point at Dufftown arranged we were off.
We traveled through a couple of showers and soon reached Dufftown. We had a lovely wander around and found a very interesting shop selling fossils, crystals, old coins and all sorts and its resident cat Tabatha. Following a small purchasing frenzy (we all bought something), we had lunch and took advantage of the facilities before heading onwards.
Apart from overtaking a particularly slow lorry in heavy rain, the rest of the journey was without incident and as we approached Aviemore then Glenmore I could feel the butterflies in my stomach. By the time we turned into the Hayfield I did feel a touch sick, but there was no time for that. We selected our spot and started to assemble the tent. Shona and H were not far behind, so tent and gazebo were soon up.Both Ann and Shona are football fans, hence the AFC flag!
We got ourselves all set up and I helped some more friends Helen and Scott pitch their tents as Helen was doing the 24 hour relay with one of my best friends Fiona with Tom and Mary being the other team members. Scott was doing the 24 hour relay to raise money for Highland Hospice. Take a look at his justgiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/scott-runs
I took the opportunity to take a few snaps of the views from the Hayfield. Nothing short of breathtaking.We went to register, although I nearly panicked as I was down for the 24 hour race (due to a slight technical glitch) and then we got the chance to relax a little, but before we could we had to deal with the camps other inhabitants – the Scottish midge! We spent some time catching up with friends old and new before heading out for dinner in Aviemore and the we were off to the fancy dress party. The theme for this year was Superheros and Princesses. We didn’t dwell too long, but I managed to finish the entire bottle of Rubis from my spot prize win at the Dyce Half, and then it was time to call it a day.
Had a decent sleep which is always surprising as I’m not great with the whole camping thing. Had porridge and then another wander around taking in the atmosphere.We got ourselves race ready and then gathered for the race briefing. I must admit I was nervous, but it was a strange feeling as this was a totally different type of race from the ones I’m used to.
At 12 noon an air horn signaled the start and we were off with a lap of the Hayfield before heading out on to the trails. I had no idea what to expect so I stuck with Ann and we just took it easy. Ann was nursing an Achilles issue and after the first few laps it became apparent that both of us had blister issues, so we stopped for a change of in my case sock and both socks and shoes for Ann. After this her Achilles was fine and I decided I’d like company, so she was stuck with me for the duration of the race.
Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of the route as I was trying to conserve battery on my mobile, but this gives you an idea.
There were loads of viewpoints on the route and later on during the race I would have been quite happy to sit and have a seat at every single one of them, but despite that we pushed on. We did our best not to hang around every time we finished a lap, but as time wore on the laps were getting slower. We started setting ourselves targets for getting in and out and we were actually doing better, so we made a deal to do go for 9 laps which would give us 36 miles before the last hour when the short lap of 400m round the Hayfield opened.
Was still feeling really good and strong we completed lap 7 which signaled the most distance and time that I’d ever covered and after a refueling stop we went out for lap number 8. This was now getting harder but we were still in good spirits. The running was getting less and the walking was getting more, but we were still moving forwards and it was now getting dark.
By the time we had completed lap 8 it was now dark. I was starting to flag, although Ann was still in high spirits, but off we went for lap 9. I was completely unable to run by this point, so we walked. I swore at the hill, but at the water station there was a male Marshal dressed as Princess Leia. He offered us a nip of Highland Park whisky, so as it would have been extremely rude to refuse we both took a swig and kept plodding on.
I wasn’t in very good humour by the time we finished the lap. I was sore, tired and done in. We had finished about 10 minutes before 11pm so then I had to decide if I was doing the short laps or not. I told our crew and friends that there was no way in hell I was doing any more then came off the course. By the time it got to 11pm, I went back on the course and started the short laps and picked up a can of Gin and Tonic when I passed our gazebo much to the surprise of everyone. Well, I guess it was only 400m and I was being fueled by gin. It would be fine. Ann was somewhere ahead of me, but caught me up eventually as we shuffled round. I decided one gin was enough, so did my best to get around helped by the party tent blasting out tunes such as YMCA and Staying Alive.
I had no idea of how many laps I’d covered, but by about 11.45pm I was instructed I’d get at least 3 laps in before midnight, so I staggered on. Eventually the horn sounded for midnight and I popped my peg into the ground to mark my position and Ann cracked open the Prosecco. We staggered back to our tent for a baby wipe wash and to get changed into clean and warm clothes. I just could not get warm at this point, so after heading over to the fire to get some heat I decided to get a bit of sleep.
Now it was all about the 24 hour solo and relay runners. After a couple of hours sleep and warming up I got back up to see how everyone was doing. Didn’t manage to stay up for long, but was good to see that my friends in the relay team were in the lead and that Scott was still going strong.
Went for another sleep and then got up when it was something more like morning. The midges were out again, so that made trying to eat and drink a lot more difficult. Was fantastic to hear the horn going off which signaled that a runner had reached 100 miles. We all gathered around the finish area and cheered Scott through as he reached the magic number.
Once it got to 11am, the small laps opened up again, and this time it was up to Fiona to run for her relay team. She was blasting round. It was an amazing site to see. I have so much respect for all of these people who were pushing themselves to the limit.
Eventually the air horn sounded to mark midday and everyone popped their pegs in the ground and it was time to relax again whilst the race crew did the measuring to get the final distances.
We spent the time packing up but soon it was time for the prize giving. We picked up our chairs and assembled in the sunshine.Was really chuffed that our friends won the relay with 172.5 miles covered. What really makes this race special is that every single person is called out to receive their medal.
My final distance was 38.55 miles covered, which is more than I could ever have imagined. Am so chuffed and I know I could not have done it without Ann keeping me company and Shona and H pandering to my requests for food and drink (even when I wasn’t sure what I wanted).
I’d also like to thank BAM Racing for a fantastic event, Ada and Julie for their words of ‘encouragement’, Noanie for the party tunes and every single helper and runner who made this event what it is.When I finished the race I said I’d never do it again. Now that a little time has passed I could well be persuaded to give it another bash. If I do, just remind me to request a smaller t-shirt😉