Speyside Way Race 2012

There were 95 finishers at the 2012 Speyside Way Race, with times ranging from Donnie Campbell’s amazing 4:31:15 through to the group of 5 (Geraldine Curry, Marion Summers, Andrew Fyffe, Christine Fyffe and Catherine Wardlaw) who finished in 8:30:39.

The race was won by Donnie Campbell, followed by Gareth Mayze and Terry Forrest in times of 4.44.20 and 4.46.19 respectively. Charlotte Black, Emma Baker and Judith Dobson led the ladies with times of 5.34.36, 5.38.00 and 5.47.43, and in overall positions 15, 16 and 22.

I finished in a time of 7:16:33, in 68th position, an improvement on my 7:23:45 and 81st position at the previous years race.

I had mixed emotions as I toed the start line at the 2012 Speyside Way Race. I was glad to be at my 7th and final ultramarathon of 2012, with the potential for a much needed break awaiting me at the end of the race. With the relative close proximity of many of the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series of races, the signs had been there that my body was in need of a rest. In fact, it had pretty much been telling me this since the 95 mile West Highland Race and yet, ignoring this, I had managed to squeeze in the Clyde Stride, the Devil O’ The Highlands and, now, the Speyside Way Race.

On the other hand, I was sad to be at the finish of what has been, for me, a very successful year. 6 new PBs and a West Highland Way Race completion on the first attempt. What’s more, having got to know many more of my fellow ultramarathoners these past few months, I will miss the camaraderie and the shared sense of purpose. It seems such a short time ago that I was looking forward to the first race of the year, the D33, and yet, here we are, coming to the conclusion of the 2012 Scottish Ultra Marathon Series. There is 1 more race in the series to go, the River Ayr Way race (RAW), but I will be sitting this one out.

Unlike the Devil O’ The Highlands, when I didn’t sleep a wink the night before, I enjoyed a long and uninterupted sleep before waking just before 5 am for the Speyside Way Race. What a difference it makes to feel well rested, even at that ungodly time of day!

In previous years Leanne has driven me to Buckie to register and then down to the start at Ballindaloch. However, this year, I opted to make use of the transport laid on by the race organisers. I ended up sitting next to Angus, who I first met at the Cateran. On that day, Angus stuck with me over the final miles of the race as I nursed an achilles injury up and over Glenshee when he could easily have sped off for a faster time.

The journey passed quickly, as we reminisced about surviving the West Highland Way Race and various other races. If nothing else, the crazy weather conditions experienced at some of the races this year have at least served to add to the tales of woe and of triumph in the face of adversity.

Back at the Speyside Way Race, it may have been chucking it down outside, but, by West Highland Way Race standards, this was little more than ‘light rain’! It’s amazing how the experience of a single race can redefine your perception of the weather!

I started at the back of the field, as I like to do. The first 12-13 miles were extremely muddy and very wet. Large parts of the route resembled a stream more than a path, and it was often difficult to judge exactly what lay beneath the water and how deep it was (I was surprised on more than one occasion!).

Moving on to a road section after the first checkpoint at Craigellachie, conditions improved underfoot and I soon found myself back on forest trails climbing Ben Aigan. I met up with Neil who I met properly for the first time at this years Clyde Stride. We covered approximately 20 miles together at the Clyde Stride, from the mid way point to the finish, both suffering from the exertions of the West Highland Way Race from a month previously. The Speyside Way Race was a final ‘training run’ for Neil before heading out to Chamonix for the UTMB this coming weekend. I hope that all goes well for Neil in this, surely THE toughest and most iconic of races, a race that I aspire to – one day!

At the second checkpoint, just beyond the evil hairpin bend that throws you downhill and trashes the legs, I was just about to get going when Alan and Tommy arrived. I waited the couple of minutes required for the guys to get the contents of their drop bags down them and we all headed off together. It was good to see Alan back on form and enjoying his running after a short absence and he soon shot off and left both myself and Tommy. Alan went on to finish in a time of 6.51.28.

Running through Fochabers I was surprised when one of the spectators called out my name. It turned out to be someone who had been in the year below me back at Elgin High School some 20+ years ago. I don’t know who was more surprised but, if you had known me 20+ years ago, an ultramarathon would certainly be the last place you would expect to find me!

I ran with Tommy until the final water point at Spey Bay. I slowed considerably over the last few miles, especially, over the long grassy stretch that takes you up towards the coast. You can see for miles on this long, straight part of the route and, for some reason, I have always disliked this stretch. However, this year, I did not seem to mind the long slog towards the coast as much as usual.

Despite slowing in those final miles, I crossed the line in a time of 7:16:33, recording a new PB by approximately 7 minutes.

As always, everything about the Speyside Way Race was excellent, from the friendly, welcoming Race Directors to the smiling, happy marshals (despite the far from perfect weather) and the finishers goodie bag and medal. It’s a great way to finish the year and I look forward to returning to this race time and time again.

So, 7 ultras done and dusted. 6 PBs and 1 non PB (Clyde Stride, by 12 minutes). Only a few days left at work and then it will be holiday time.

Upon my return, it will be time for me to turn my attention to things that I hope will help me to improve further for next year – mainly weight loss and speed work – though there may well be some additional factors to impact on my running next year – More on that to follow!