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John Muir Way Relay

ERN 10th Anniversary John Muir Way Challenge

10th May 2014

134 miles, 1 day, a few cold ales and many tall tales….

The Concept

It’s always amazing how one small seed of an idea grows and grows – well that’s what happened in September 2013. I received an email in the ERN info inbox from Scottish Natural Heritage saying that they were looking to launch their new long distance walking route, the John Muir Way, and were looking for local groups to run events to mark the occasion. This got me thinking as to what we could do and how we could tie it in with our own club 10th year anniversary. So after a few chats with the ERN committee and a few inspirational pints of beer, the concept of the John Muir Way relay challenge was born. The aim of the challenge was the be the first ever group to cover the whole of the route in one day (all 134 miles of it!), to learn about the man himself, to enjoy a few laughs along the way and to show what a diverse group of folks can achieve. Now we had the aim, all we needed to have now was a plan!

Road to the Way…

The planning for the event started towards the end of 2013 and the first thing to do was gather a band of merry men and women to help make the event become a reality. After studying the OS maps, the John Muir Way route was broken down to eight main sections, with each section to be covered entirely by one Route Finder. The Route Finders job was to reccie the route before the event and to coordinate other runners and times on their section on the day. The route would be covered by two relays, one from the West starting at Helensburgh and one from the East starting at Dunbar. After some cake and coffee (see a theme here?), I had my Route Finders appointed and the date of 10th May 2014 was set. The next step was to recruit as many of the club’s runners as possible and to assign them with a section dependant on how far they wanted to run. This ranged from 3 miles to 22 miles and as you can imagine, the logistics of this was no easy task! But after much persuasion, heranging, forcing, bribing and pestering, I had my runners signed up and was ready to rock. As is the case with these things, ideas sprout arms and legs and as the months went by ‘let’s just run a relay’ turned into loads more. First, Andrew S commissioned our very own special barrel of beer from the Hanging Bat brewery in Edinburgh, with bottles to be handed out to the runners at the end of the relay. Like your work Andrew :-). Then there was the fabulous ERN Baton, lovingly crafted by Mike Joyce and his girls, which would be carried in sections along the way and rejoined at the finish. Staying with the arty theme, we also hooked up with the John Muir Way Festival organisers and managed to be the inspiration for their specially designed runners flags. Finally, as we ERNs are known for a social do or two, we decided that to celebrate our completion of the Way, we would hold a party and pub quiz afters at the Dalriada pub in Portobello. Oh and to make sure we could follow our runners throughout the day on the web, we hired SPOT GPS trackers!! So, finally after many months of prep, the day was upon us and it was time to become Record Breakers….

Our Mega Adventure

On the day, we had 40 runners in total ready to go with Andrew S. in place as Base Camp control. The sections to be run and the runners allocated are shown in the table below. The event kicked off with West relay team braving the dark and heading into the woods at 2am. The Eastern relay kicked of at the rather more civilised time of 12:45pm from Dunbar. The aim was to have both relays meet at the Shoe Tree (Brunstane Burn to others) some time around 8pm. Although the weather forecast was pretty shocking, thankfully they were wrong again with some great running weather presenting itself for most of the day. As part of the Challenge and to tie in with ERN’s birthday celebrations, all runners were asked to bring/re-enact/wear something relevant to them from 10 years ago,and take picture along the way. This and the fab views made for some great pictures of the day…



Distance (miles)

Route Finder


West Relay

Helensburgh Balloch 8.5 Phil Humphries Oz (Ian Ozwald), Andrew Duncan
Balloch Glengoyne Distillery 13.5 Phil Humphries Oz (Ian Ozwald), Andrew Duncan
Glengoyne Distillery Kirkintilloch 13 Murdo Macleod Mike Russell, Jennifer Macdonald
Kirkintilloch Croy 5 Murdo Macleod Gillian White, Mike Newton
Croy Falkirk Wheel 9 David Moir Bex Carter, Gordon Faulkner
Falkirk Wheel Polemont 7 David Moir Ines Castellano, Gordon Purves
Polemont Linlithgow 5 Rachel Moir Ines Castellano, Gordon Purves, Naomi Turley
Linlithgow South Queensferry 16 Rachel Moir David Dye, Joanne Love, Jo Vinall
South Queensferry Cramond 5.5 Krista Black Ellie Barnard, Gina Browse
Cramond Meadows 8.5 Elly Mackenzie Angela Nicolson, Jo Forbes
Meadows Dalkeith Road 2 Elly Mackenzie Wendy Macfarlane, Jo Forbes
Dalkeith Road Shoe tree !!! 4 Elly Mackenzie Wendy Macfarlane, Jo Forbes

East Relay

Dunbar East Linton 7.5 David Hope Jennifer Steward, Sid Bratley
East Linton North Berwick 8.5 David Hope Paul Nelson, Mia Nelson
North Berwick Gullane 5.5 Mike Joyce Gillian D. Grant, Mary MacLeod, Hayley Gooding, Dawn Shepherd
Gullane Seaton Sands 7 Mike Joyce Ann Rautenbach, Leah Lockhart
Seaton Sands Prestonpans 3 Mike Joyce Keith Chinnery, Heather Jones
Prestonpans Shoe tree!! 4.5 Mike Joyce Keith Chinnery, Jackie Macdonald


 Helensburgh to Glengoyne

Glengoyne to Croy

Murdo Macleod: “Stage two started rather aptly at Glengoyne distillery with a dram (Bowmore) where we met Oz, Phil and Andy (and Geraldine!). Bit drizzly but Murdo, Jennifer-M and Michael-R set of on the first 13 mile section. The route starts following the WHW but soon turns off and there is a couple of miles climbing onto a ridge that takes you above Strathblane. Muddy and raining heavily now but dropped down on to the flat Strathkelvin railway walkway (tarmac) all the way to Kirkintilloch where Mike-N and Gillian-W took over and joined Murdo for the last 5 miles. Stopped raining by now, nice flat 3 miles along the canal to Twechar before another steep climb up to the Barr hill roman fort. Lovely views down the valley before a steep and slippery descent into Croy to meet the stage 3 runners led by David-M.  Great support from Nicola Mc too who was the trusty driver for the day. Job done, retired to the Auchinstarry marina for bacon rolls, tea and medals! Brilliant.”

Mike Russell:

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

“That verse of nonsense by Lewis Carroll neatly sums up the two or so hours, which began for us at 6am, and during which Murdo, Jennifer and I ran the 13.5 mile stretch from Glengoyne to Kirkintilloch…..swirling mist and low cloud, drizzle, mud (early on) and an abundance of greenery…”like  a scene from “Lord of the Rings”, said Murdo. And he was quite right!

Phil, Oz and Andy, along with Geraldine, our honorary llama, were clearly well brought up, and had been taught the virtue of good time-keeping, as they arrived at the Glengoyne “change-over” point at almost exactly the planned time, of 6am. And that was after a four hour run. Well done, boys…..and Geraldine. Your one o’clock allama call worked a treat. But seeing Phil in a black wig? It made me think of Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. I am never ever ever going in a shower cubicle with him anywhere near me……….

Once Murdo, Jennifer and I reached that part of the John Muir Way that follows the former railway track, the mud disappeared, as did the relatively gentle hills which peppered the first few miles….and the weather perked up a wee bit. We saw dippers, herons, buzzards and a solitary black grouse, and we heard our first cuckoo of the summer.

I was rather glad to see those Golden Arches at Kirkintilloch, where Gillian and Mike Newton took on the baton from Jennifer and me, with the two of them, along with Murdo (who clearly doesn’t know when to stop…”Run, Murdo, Run”!) continuing to run on to the next change-over point.

A frabjous day…..thank you, Rachel for working so hard to make it so. Murdo, Jennifer and I may not have slain the Jabberwock, nor seen the Jubjub bird singing in the Tumtum tree during our two hour endeavour, but it was truly brillig! ”

Gillian White: “I did the Kirkintilloch to Croy section with Murdo & Mike Newton.  Our first three miles were flat along the canal-side, then a mile up a hill and another back down.  The bluebell woods and views from the top, complete with ruins of a Roman fort, compensated for the trek up.  We had dry weather for our run but the ground was pretty squelchy underfoot, so it was a slow and tricky downhill in places for fear of slipping.  From the hill top down the scenery was lovely, really green and lush, so my progress onwards was somewhat hampered by me slowing down to take pretty photos on my phone!  Top idea from Rachel to go for a big breakfast when we finished an that rounded off my section of the JMW beautifully!”  

Croy to Polmont


Polmont to South Queensferry

Rachel Moir: ” After picking up a bit of time along the previous section, the west relay team (David M, Ines and Gordon) came motoring along the canal at Polmont to hand the baton over to me for the next leg. Me and Naomi were just starting our runs and Gordon and Ines continued on with us. The first part of the run continues along the canal and we were certainly getting our quota of protein for the week from the flys we kept swallowing. Gordon’s moustache survived the run along the canal and then it was time to head down the River Avon path and head to the change over at Linlithgow. Fab riverside path with loads of wild flowers. On reaching the change over at Linlithgow it was time to take on a new crew in the form of David D., Jo V and Jo L. We set off at some pace heading to the coast and continued to fly at good speed along to Bo’ness, Blackness Castle and Hopetoun House. The sun was out and it was getting hot -a wee break was needed in the grounds of Hopetoun House as my end of Fling legs had started to return and pee stops were needed. We then continued on towards South Queensferry and were met by a lovely surprise of iced water and jelly babies as we entered the town from Wendy Mac. We finally got to the change over at the Hawes Inn and were met by the incredible ERNcredibles in full costume- great outfits and definitely entertained the drinkers outside the pub. We sent the superheros on their way and celebrated with a hard earned pint. It was also time for Inflatable Dave to join us (a symbol of me meeting David M, 10 years ago :-)) and come on our adventures to Dalmeny station. Great fun and some great sights and even some sun.”

South Queensferry to Cramond

Cramond to Home

Dunbar to North Berwick

Paul Nelson: “The leg began with a cup of tea and some empire biscuit at Voltadinis Coffee shop before we got the call from David and we set of down the hill to meet him, Sid and Jennifer at the meeting point.  David was suffering from something and wisely chose to call it a day, whilst Sid picked up the mantel and set of with us, having handed over the N part of the ERN baton and posing for photos by a random village information post.  We started up the hill towards the first landmark, the mobile phone mast and were soon taking off across country with Berwick Law beckoning seemly so close by.   Strangely it kept appearing then disappearing as we ran through fields, farms, bogs, fly hatcheries, roads, slurry pits,  paths and tractor tracks, so didn’t quite prove to be the landmark we had hoped to guide our progress.  That progress was sometimes slow due to discussions about the correct route, the need to take photos for the facebook group update, climbing stiles  and taking  water.  We lost a bit of time along the way and deviated (within acceptable limits) from the route occasional due to sparse signage but nevertheless reached the town outskirts, only a few minutes off schedule and sped up boosted by the more frequent signs and the excitement of the approaching baton exchange and deserved beer at the Ship Inn.  As we came into sight of the meeting point we were greeted will loud ands stirring cheers, Then a quick handover and photo with Mike, Gillian,Mary,Hayley, Dawn,Val  and they took off, this time to our cheers, then  into the Ship for refreshment.  Lots of fun, good company and still the festivities of the evening to look forward to. It was fun and a privilege to be a part of to celebrate such a great club and such a great man, so thanks to both and also to  Rachel for her inspiration and  impeccable organisation.”

North Berwick to Home

Gillian D. Grant: “Weather forecast was foul but yippee it was bright and sunny when I arrived in North Berwick ready for my shift. Met up at The Ship Inn and we had time to pinch a few chips from Micheal Joyce’s triplets before we saw Sid, Paul and Mia approaching. I found the hand over strangely moving. Cheering each other in and out. Runners with a common purpose ect ect. Any how off we went on a beautiful scenic run through golf courses, fields, woods and Archerfield Estate. Many thanks to Micheal for keeping us on track. If he hadn’t done his home work I’d have got lost about 4 times. Don’t think all the JMW signs are up yet. Not quite as flat as anticipated but the glorious weather more than made up for it. And stopping to take photos gave us all a breather every now and again. Gentle incline into Gullane and that was it.  My part in this big adventure was over. Anne and Leah  waiting for us and we watched them disappear into the distance with Micheal. Fabulous afternoon out and huge thanks to the organisers for creating it.”

The Finish!

After some stellar coordination work from Andrew S., the two relay teams successfully managed to arrive at the Shoe Tree meeting point within five minutes of each other. Despite a bit of delay building up over the day, the teams arrived almost on schedule at about 8:15pm to a welcoming crowd of ERNs. To commemorate our successful completion of the Way, all three parts of the ERN baton were joined and a few celebratory ales cracked open! Brilliant work done by brilliant folk 🙂

The Party

And onto the party… We had almost 50 folk turn up at the Dalriada pub for our afters celebrations. Nice work from Zoe on the decorations. First things first was to award the prize for the best ’10 years on’ photograph. The prize, awarded by unanimous decision, went the the fabulous ERNcredible ladies, Krista, Gina and Ellie B who we rewarded with exclusive flags, beer mats and whiskey. Amazing costumes! After the awards, we moved straight onto the quiz which was themed around John Muir and ERN’s birthday. After listening to tunes, identifying pictures and tasting some cake, the eventual winners were awarded with sweets and beer maps – well done David H., Jo L, David D and Jo. V.

Fringe Events

Once word of our wee event got out, ERN and friends both south of the border and across the pond in New York put on a few ‘Fringe’ John Muir events to join in the fun. Some great pics from Robyn and Alan in New York with the Hellgate Runners and New York Fliers  and Chris. M and co. down in Harrogate. Great to see ERN reaching out across the globe.

The Day After the Day Before

Well, what can I say… ERN are now officially the first group of people to cover the whole of the John Muir Way on foot in one day and always will be!! A big thank you to EVERYONE involved for your sweat, support, time and creativity and hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Great to see some of you sporting the T-shirts down on the prom already. 10363769_819190558093596_5308702488264962161_n   Only one thing to do now and that is sit back and enjoy a beer….

Inflatable Dave at the end of a hard weekend

…at least until our next adventure 😉