Phil said: “The Speyside Way Race is part of Montane Scottish Ultra Marathon Series. The race is approx 35.5 miles long, and starts at the at the old Ballindalloch railway station deep in the heart of distillery country, and mostly follows the Speyside Way long distance path all the way to Buckie on the Moray coast. There were four water stations/checkpoints along the route which also included two bag-drop points at 12 & 25 miles (basically you handover bags at registration with whatever goodies you think you will fancy during the race and they are transported to the bag drop points for you).
Registration from 6.30am in the community school in Buckie was quick and efficient, and then 95 or so bleary-eyed runners were bused to the start. There was plenty of foliage cover at the start for a last minute convenience, and with a quick pre-race briefing & a blast from a piper to wake us all up we were on our way at about 9am. The first 12 miles was mainly a flat rough path with a few muddy puddles and squidgy bits. After the first bag drop there was a long steady climb on forestry road up and around a broad hill called Ben Aigen. The hill was very runable, but many runners including myself chose to walk short bits of it, to help conserve a bit of energy and stuff down some food from the drop bags. There was a superb view from the highest point, and you could see almost the whole of the route to the sea in the distance – which looked miles away! Then there was along descent off the hill with some quite steep muddy downhill bits to negotiate. I met Elly on the way down as she had decided to go for a short run on part of the route (in the opposite direction), which was a nice surprise. Next there was a rather tedious section of road which culminated in some very humply hairpin bends at about the 25 mile point (just coming up the “normal” marathon distance). At least we were rewarded with the second drop bag, and an excuse to stop for a couple of minutes to take on water and food. The next part of the route was very flat and back on paths, but due to recent erosion by the mighty Spey river a few detours were in operation – one of which I completely missed and ended up following another runner to a dead-end. Had to re-trace back about 200 yards to re-find the route which was rather annoying as my lack of distance training was starting to really show and I was at a low point. However I dropped my pace a bit and found another runner to chat to which helped keep my spirits up.
When we reached the sea at Spey Bay the route turned to go along the coast. On the corner just before the last water station there were sheets of paper pinned to a fence, one for each runner with words of encouragement penned by their supporters and loved ones – a wonderful surprise and a real lift for a tired body and mind. Now running alone, but with only 5 miles to go I managed keep going all the way along the coast to the finish without stopping. The last 50 yards were up a quite steep road to the finish, but I managed to find a bit of speed to finish with a flourish. All the finishers were rewarded with a medal, miniature of whisky and a “Buckie Lugger” shopping bag (ideal for carrying tonic wine?). I’m still in one piece after the race, so now looking forward to the 41 mile RAW ultra (River Air Way) on 18th September!
On the whole this was a well organized, enjoyable and friendly race. It is the second shortest race in the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series and suitable as a first ultra for anyone wanting to experience running beyond marathon distance, although I think the D33 was a lot easier, being out and back along good flat paths (I ran the D33 an hour quicker despite it being only 2.5 miles shorter than Speyside). If anyone is interested the date for next year’s D33 is 19th March 2011 and entries open on 1st Jan 2011 see www.deesidewayultra.webnode.com Also if there is interest would be good to get an ERN relay team together for next year’s 53 mile Montane Highland Fling (4 runners per team approx 13 miles each) see www.highlandflingrace.org
The results have still not been posted on the website, but I know my time was definitely 5:40:52 (saw it on the finishers sheet) and I think I was somewhere around 25th place.”