Sunday, 1 February 2015

Forfar Multi-Terrain Half Marathon 2015

Gun Time: 1:55:22  Position: 127/182
This year I promised myself (and my family) that I would be (slightly) more selective with the races I enter and that I wouldn't sign-up for races that I have previously completed, just for the sake of it. The exception to this being, routes that I've really enjoyed and races that I have unfinished business with. The Forfar Multi-Terrain Half Marathon fitted into both of these categories. Although, being a multi-terrain event and not an ordinary half marathon, I hadn't felt my best on the day last year and ran a personal worst (at the time) of 02:02:34 for the 13.1 mile distance. I even had to walk up some of the steep hill section. This year I was determined to improve on my time and resolute that there would be no walking!

Impeccably organised by the Forfar Road Runners, this event is the first half marathon in the Scottish running calender and sells out very quickly. Like an increasing number of races these days, in order to secure a place, you have to be very quick off the mark. I was poised by my keyboard fifteen minutes before it opened, refreshing Entry Central DoS attack style and was relieved to secure place 33 out of the 250 available.

As the name suggests, this race covers a multitude of different terrains, including bog, farm track, fields, ice, muddy paths, pavement, tarmac and usually has a knee\thigh deep "water feature". Unfortunately, this year the course had to be re-routed to avoid the water section due to health and safety concerns. It is stated in the course description that this is not a race for novice runners and that all entrants should either study the map in advance or carry one with them, but with all the signage, marshalls and checkpoints I think getting lost would be quite a challenge in itself.

Map of the usual route, however the water section was removed this year.

Registration opened at 9am in Strathmore Rugby Club's club house with the race kicking off from a nearby playing field at a 11am. I arrived just after ten and after a short wait to get a space from the limited parking available, I met up with Peter, Murray and Bob. It was Bob's 71st birthday and his partner Margaret had also come along to spectate. After a brief chat I headed off to register and then pinned my race number to my shorts in case I decided to remove my jacket during the race.

Glad I arrived early as car parking was very limited.

With the 11am start approaching, we all began to assemble on the nearby rugby pitch at the loch side. Since Forfar was the birth place of Bon Scott, I thought it only fitting to have a blast of Highway to Hell to help motivate me through the first few miles. After a brief countdown we were off, running the first section around the loch. The ground here was pretty firm and made for easy going. For the first couple of miles I kept pace with both Bob and Murray, covering mile one in 7:55 and mile two in 7:50 (my fastest mile of the race). For mile three the course turns uphill onto tarmac, before heading back down a rough farm track to join the Kirriemuir Road. 

Running around the Loch. Photo courtesy of Gordon Donnachie. @fishygordon

I'd taken my phone with me to snap some pictures whilst running and was surprised at how clear they turned out. A couple of months previous to this, whilst out on a very wet, sixteen mile training run, I almost managed to kill my iPhone with water damage. Water had leaked into my jacket pocket and saturated the phone. Thankfully, although still an unnecessary hassle and expense,  I managed to revive it by stripping it down, drying it out, then flushing the mineral deposits from the circuit boards using Isopropyl alcohol and then replacing the screen. It was a tense few days! After that incident I don't take any chances and now carry my phone in a zip-lock waterproof freezer bag inside my jacket pocket whilst running.

Approaching checkpoint 1

After arriving at checkpoint one and balancing on one leg, whilst waiting for the marshal to clip my race number, I began to regret attaching it to my shorts. However, I was soon able to head on my way down the road, turning onto a very potholed farm track for mile four. The ice had been broken on most of the large puddles leaving a very rough surface to run on. Some of these I managed to jump, others I just ran through, but a few forced me up onto the verge, which was quite a hazard in itself.

Photo courtesy of Gordon Donnachie. @fishygordon

Around mile six the course changed to a comforting trail section which provided much needed relief to my poor knees.

After a couple of miles of trail running, passing landfill and quarry sites,  I was again spat back out onto the road. One mile further on and another checkpoint later, I arrived at the foot of the hill. This hill is very deceiving. Just as you think you've arrived at the summit, you take a right turn and realise the climb has only just begun. I passed quite a few people who had chosen to walk at this point, but was pleased to make it to the top, without having to do so myself.

The sunlit forest trail made for some picturesque running.

Once I reached the summit I couldn't resist taking out my phone and snapping a few pictures of the scenery and view over Forfar, whilst I ran.

Looking over the town of Forfar from Balmashanner Hill.

From this point the route is mainly downhill or relatively flat, but there are still many trip hazards as you run down from Balmashanner Hill.

Balmashanner War Memorial, a c-listed monument built in 1920.

Arriving at the bottom of the hill, my race number was clipped by another friendly marshall, I then headed along a short section of the Dundee Road, before turning down another farm track. From here the route passes the farm and descends another steepish icey track, then along the side of the farmer's field. Last year the field was much harder going as it had just been ploughed, this year the farmer (or season) seemed to be ahead of itself and the crop had already began to sprout

After crossing the field, it wasn't long before I arrived at the next checkpoint on Glamis Road. Across the road lies the industrial estate and from there I knew it was only a short run along the lochside trail before I would be finished. With only about fifty metres to go, I mustered up a sprint and managed to pick off a couple of runners I had been keeping pace with for several miles. (I'm only ever competitive in races when I have the finish in my sights.)

Approaching the finish. Photo courtesy of Gordon Donnachie. @fishygordon

After crossing the finish line, I met up with Bob and Margaret and headed back inside the rugby club to enjoy some of Forfar Road Runners excellent post race hospitality. There were several different soups to choose from, tea and coffee and a wide selection of sandwiches, cakes etc. The bar was also open from 12:30pm, although I couldn't enjoy a post-race pint this year due to Scotland's newly imposed drink drive limit. I stayed around to watch the prize giving in which Bob received the veteran over 70's prize with his fantastic time of 1:47:18, putting many of us younger men to shame.

It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)

My only complaint with this race is the lack of medal or memento for finishers. I appreciate that it is only £7 entry fee for Scottish Athletics affiliated runners (£9 for non-affiliates), but I'd be more than happy to pay a few extra pounds if a medal, buff or some other commemorative item was included in the price.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Green Man 5k 2015

Gun Time: 25:34  Position: 06/31

When you're fundraising for a charity, no matter how many or how extreme the challenges you are undertaking are, there are only so many sponsorship requests that you can make before you feel as though you are becoming a pariah to your family, friends and work colleagues. To survive this depressing hiatus you have to become more creative! Last year I found my way around this by holding a charity breakfast at work. My colleagues were very supportive, offering to cook, wash dishes, put up posters and obviously eat their fair share of bacon and egg rolls! So much so, that with only a modicum of "managerial input", I found that it almost ran itself and boosted my sponsorship total by a couple of hundred pounds. Thanks guys!

In 2015, I wanted to try a different approach and came up with the idea of organising a race of my own. I thought this was a great way to raise funds whilst also getting people enthused about my own obsession.. running (well actually medal collecting!) In order to get people to sign up I approached a talented sculptor friend, Ellie, who attended Glasgow School of Art with my partner Clare. Ellie owns the website, Pretender to the Throne along with her Etsy store from which she sells some of her amazing creations. Knowing she was the right person for the job, I commissioned her to design thirty original medals based on the Green Man. I chose the Green Man as he is a symbol of rebirth and a representation of the cycle of growth in Spring, which ties in with all those people looking to get fit in the New Year. As I expected, Ellie came up trumps and produced a fantastic batch of medals which really helped sell the race! It's amazing how easy it is to get people to part with their hard earned money for the privilege of enduring physical punishment in severe weather conditions, with the promise of a nicely designed medal at the end. Trust me, I should know!

Medals and medal photos courtesy of Ellie Tarratt.

In order to maximise the field of competitors, I made the race both physical and virtual. In that, as well as being able to turn up on race day at a specified location and time, it could in theory also be run from anywhere in the world, at anytime, a day or two around race day itself. By submitting their results via Garmin, Runkeeper, Strava, Endomondo, etc.. it allowed friends and colleagues in different parts of the country and others who were unavailable on race day, to take part. The thirty places soon filled up. Ellie had kindly included a few extra medals, which she had made as spares in case some didn't survive the firing process. This allowed me to extend entry to a total of 32 runners.

The race itself, took place in the grounds and farm tracks around Battleby House. Under duress and with the rare promise of a post-race Happy Meal, my two year old son, Jack, had come along to spectate and help distribute the medals. The weather was abysmal and I didn't envy anyone for having to run on a day like that. I had ran my own 5k a few days prior to race day, as I needed to be available on the day to do the timing. Despite the weather, ten hardy humans and one faithful canine competitor lined up on the start line, transforming the race into an impromptu canicross event.

Since I'm not in possession of a firearm (legal or otherwise) and improvised explosives are quite rightly frowned upon in this day and age, I used the following starting pistol to kick off the race. With a shout of "BANG!" they were off! As the runners headed out of sight, Jack and I retired into the warmth of Battleby House with our clipboard and stopwatch, to await their return.

The Starting Pistol.

After many requests from Jack of "I want my mummy!" and "I want my eggy!" (don't ask!), the first of the runners began to return. George, Philippa and Andrew were first home, crossing the finish line together in a time of 24:01. Considering the extreme weather and the conditions underfoot, this was a great time. Over the next 15 minutes, in short intervals, the others began to cross the finish line. In no particular order, other than alphabetically; Alex (and her dog Rissa), Gill, Jess, Morag, Sharon, Stewart and Suzanne. Everyone of them a winner! Jack and I ventured out to distribute their well deserved medals, but it was far too cold for us to hang around for long. Besides, Jack was getting impatient for his lunch!

Alex & Rissa both sporting their hard earned medals.

Meanwhile other groups had chosen to run in other parts of the country, with Craig, Jeremy and Sarah running in Kinross..
Sarah & Jeremy aka "The Kinross Contingent"

Maz and Malcolm enjoyed running what was their first 5k race from Fife..
Malcolm & Maz proudly displaying their new medals.

Whilst Ruaraidh, Odette and Lousie had run their race a few days beforehand in Inverness.
Ruaraidh, Odette & Louise post-race selfie.

Nina and Steven also ran their race in Inverness through horizontal sleet, wind, ice, slush and snow.
Nina & Steven never took a photo on the day but sent one of  their new trainers.

Aga had ran the race in Perth as part of her 40ᵗʰ birthday celebrations along with her husband Arek and a couple of their friends; Alicja and Wojtek.
Alicja, Arek, Aga & Wojtek. Happy 40th Birthday to Aga too!

Other competitors who equally deserve a mention are Carmen, Geoff, Lachlan, Margo and my daughter Sophie, who ran the race at different times, but also did very well!

The prizes for fastest male and female runners.

With all results combined, the first female home was Philippa in 24:01 and first male Craig in 23:25. Well done to both of them! They both received a £10 gift voucher, redeemable online at Ellie's Etsy store.

The race was such a success that I'm considering running it annually with a different themed medal each year. Perhaps increasing the length to a 10k and upping the number of places available to maximise charity profits. So, if you would like to take part in the "Demon 10k" (my current idea for 2016) please get in touch, you have a full year to train for it!

Possible medal design for "The Demon 10k" 2016.

A huge thank you and well done to everyone who took part. After medals and prizes were paid for, together we raised over £200 for War Child, which takes the current total to around £1150.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Hardmoors 30 2015

Hardmoors 30 2015 Finisher's Medal
Gun Time: 06:49:58
Position: 144/194

I first heard about the Hardmoors 30 race on John Kynaston's excellent ultra-running blog. Since there appear to be no marathons or ultras in Scotland in the months of January and February, I decided I would need to travel further afield to allow me to complete my charity fundraising challenge of at least 20 marathons in 2015. With this in mind, I booked the Hardmoors 30 for January and the Northumberland Coastal Marathon for the end of February.

The Hardmoors 30 race takes place in and around Fylingdales (near Whitby) on New Year's Day. This is a day I usually wake up on a floor somewhere, wondering not just where I am but who I am. This year would be different, I would wake up, put on my running gear and set out to complete my second ultra-marathon; a tough 30(ish) miler over some very challenging terrain in some very harsh conditions.

For accommodation we booked a Gypsy Cabin for three nights at Middlewood Farm Holiday Park in Fylingthorpe. We use wigwam style accommodation quite a lot when I'm running races further afield. As well as being economical and relatively comfortable, the children find it much more of an adventure than staying in the usual hotel or B&B.

Middlewood Farm, Fylingthorpe, Gypsy Cabin
Sophie being her usual helpful self, busily unpacking our bags.

After a 4½ hour drive, we were relieved to arrive at Middlewood Farm. Clare checked us in and settled the children into the cabin whilst I headed back to Whitby to get some of their famous fish and chips for our supper. After washing that down with a couple of beers, we all cosied up in our sleeping bags and drifted off to sleep, whilst listening to the rain and wind lash the outside of the cabin.

Hoping to emerge from my cocoon in the morning with the ability to run 30 miles.

Registration took place between 8-9am in the Fylingdales Village Hall, in Robin Hood's Bay. As this was only one mile from our accommodation, I didn't have to get up until around 7:30am. After a quick shower and change into my running gear, I leisurely sat outside the cabin and enjoyed a few cups of coffee and a couple of croissants with cheese. I was relieved to see that the storm had abated and although still very cold, it looked like it could be a promising morning. I thought it best to err on the side of caution and had chosen to wear two base layers, a technical t-shirt, a waterproof jacket and a pair of running trousers under my shorts. 

Determined? Serious? Nervous? Worried?
All of the above ✓

The race rules require that you carry the following items of compulsory kit (I now completely understand why!):
  • Hat and Gloves
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Minimum of 500 ml water/sports drink
  • Headtorch/Torch
  • Whistle
  • Emergency food supply (chocolate/energy bar)
I arrived at the hall at about 8:30am and after getting my kit thoroughly inspected and my hand stamped to say everything was present and correct, I joined the registration queue. I was surprised to see a familiar face in the form of Zoe from my work in Scotland, helping behind the registration desk. She explained she had also signed up for the race but had to pull out due to an injury so was instead assisting with the race organisation.

At 9:15am we were all called into the main body of the hall to receive the race briefing from the race director, John Steele. After receiving our instructions and a bit of impromptu pantomime from the stage, we headed outside to the start line.

199 runners lined up on the start line. Not all will finish. (Photo courtesy of Ann Brown.)

The race commenced at 9:30am. I remember seeing one guy in the above photo sprint off as if he was running the 100 meters. I'm not sure how he fared for the rest of the race, but it seemed unsustainable for over 30 miles, even for Superman.

The course takes the form of a figure of eight which uses the Fylingdales Village Hall as a start, middle and finish point. The first six miles of the route heads North along old railway line and cinder track from Robin Hood's Bay to Whitby. With a tailwind I found this leg of the race fairly easy going and settled into a steady pace covering the first six miles in around 55 minutes.

Chewing Jelly Babies at Checkpoint 1: Whitby (OS 890 107). (Photo courtesy of Ann Brown.)

After checking in at the first checkpoint, I downed a couple of cups of water and some jelly babies and preceded down through the town of Whitby, onto a cobbled street and then up the 199 steps to the ruins of Whitby Abbey on top of the East Cliff. The steps are over two-hundred years old and have "landings" on them to assist the coffin bearers on their journey to the graveyard at the top.

The famous 199 steps up to Whitby Abbey. A challenge in itself!

At the top of the steps the route heads back South along the coastal paths of the Cleveland Way to Robin Hood's Bay. The going got much harder here, starting out through fields and then along very slippy, muddy paths which dozens of runners had already churned up before me. There were also quite strong headwinds for much of this stretch which made the going even tougher. Due to erosion, the cliffs were treacherous in parts and I spotted a couple of bunches of flowers along route where I can only presume, people must have sadly lost their lives by one means or another.

The view heading South along the Cleveland Way.

Unusually for me I ran the whole race without any music. I did have my MP3 player in my backpack, but instead just enjoyed the scenery and chat with other runners I met along the route.

The view back to Whitby along the cliffs.

Things got a lot muddier before I arrived back at Checkpoint 2 in Robin Hood's Bay. In some places it was a challenge just to walk never mind run.

Mud.. mud and more mud!
What's worse than steps? Mud AND steps!

Thirteen miles done, I arrived back in Robin Hood's Bay. I checked in with Zoe and then began to eat my own body weight in watermelon. There was a fantastic spread of food, but slices of melon were the only thing I craved. In retrospect I think I must have been quite dehydrated by this point.

Reverse psychology and food at Checkpoint 2: Robin Hood's Bay (OS 952 055)

After a couple of minutes I headed back out to face leg three; the route to Ravenscar. A few miles further in my legs were getting quite weary and I struggled to maintain a steady pace along the incline of cinder track, instead deciding to alternate between running and power walking every few 100 meters, to conserve energy for later on.

I began to hate cinder paths!

Arriving at checkpoint 3 at Ravenscar, I met a group of runners, some of whom I'd been loosely running with over the past few miles. After a handful of jelly babies and with a new lease of life I set off toward Hayburn Wyck. Unfortunately, a few people up front had missed a turn off, which led to around twenty of us following them down a dead end and adding at least another half mile onto our journey. My only consolation is that I was able to snap this picture of some llamas up to no good.

What did the llama say when it took a wrong turn? Alpaca my bags and turn around.

Once back on course I soldiered on to checkpoint 4 at Hayburn Wyck. Just after this, at around the 22 mile mark, I resisted the temptation of an extremely inviting pub by persuading myself it was probably just a mirage.

Not just the jokes!
More de-motivational signage at Checkpoint 4: Hayburn Wyke (OS 0086 9678)

From here I carried on to join another rather challenging section of the Cleveland Way which took us back to Ravenscar and checkpoint 5 via lots of steps and wind beaten coastline. The weather began to deteriorate at this point. Most people around me seemed to be struggling including myself. I remembered I had a Cliff Bar in my backpack. I'm not even all that keen on raisins and walnuts but at the time it seemed like the most delicious thing I had ever eaten.

Arrgh.. more steps!

26 miles in and feeling broken I set about the final leg back to Robin Hood's Bay. This involved a lot more muddy coastline, many more punishing steps both up and down and a switch back to tarmac which was a killer on the knees. Arriving in Robin Hood's Bay, even the thought of the extremely steep hill back up to the village hall couldn't dampen my spirits and I managed to complete the race with a sprint finish to find Clare, Sophie and Jack waiting for me at the end.

Another t-shirt for the collection.

I really enjoyed this race, it was impeccably organised and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a serious challenge and an alternative to the traditional forms of New Year's Day over indulgence. I'm also hoping that it has been a great training run for the 53 mile HOKA Highland Fling which I have booked for April.

Sophie and Jack enjoying the water at Scarborough beach.

We spent the rest of our time exploring Robin Hood's Bay, Scarborough and Whitby with a few stops at Marske, Sunderland and North Shields on our route back up to Scotland. I hope to return next year to improve my time. Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Perth Kilt Run 2014

Sophie: Chip Time: 0:42:07  Chip Position: 623
Daddy: Chip Time: 0:42:08  Chip Position: 625

This post is a bit more different than usual, as today I have a special guest blogger. Her name is Sophie and she is just five years old. Sophie has entered several races in the past and has now earned the respectable total of four medals. I have recently been in correspondence with Santa and I'm led to believe that she may even receive her own pink medal rack as one of her Christmas presents. When I asked her if she would like to take part in the Perth Kilt Run, she was really excited, I think this was more due to getting to wear a pink kilt and the promise of an ice cream afterwards, rather than the running itself. However, true to her word, when the day arrived we got dressed, dropped off my two year old son, Jack, with his grandparents and set off to the North Inch. My partner Clare was coincidentally face painting at the same event, so we helped her set up her stall. Much to Sophie's delight it was in-between a magician and a juggling workshop.

Sophie psyching herself up for the run.
After a quick trip back to the car to fetch some water, we attached the timing chips to our trainers, our numbered bibs to our tshirts and then headed back to the North Inch to join the awaiting crowds. Last year I had run this fun run dressed as a Golden Eagle, along with four other 'animals', to help promote Scotland's Big5. Sophie was too young to join me as the minimum age limit is five years old. So instead, she adorned her pink cowgirl hat and pom-poms and came along to cheer me on. I was pleased that this year was the first year she could actually take part.

The Golden Eagle with his chick.

"Fly Eagle, Fly!"

Sophie was excited to see Hairy McKilty and all the other mascots and also really enjoyed listening to the bongo drum band. She had asked to borrow my mp3 player to help with her running, I don't normally allow her do this in case it were to damage her fragile little ears, but on this occasion, as an incentive I agreed and locked it on a low volume. The furthest she had ever previously run without stopping was just over one mile, so the step up to a 5k was a bit of a challenge. This didn't bother either of us as we both knew that if she got tired daddy would pick her up and carry her for as long as necessary.

"Faster Dad, Faster!"

After not too long, we were off. I felt really proud and emotional running alongside my little girl. For the first mile she managed a solid run, but then she spoke the sentence I always knew would come but was dreading: "Daddy, are we nearly finished?". "Eh, em, yes Sophie, nearly. Well kind of.", I replied. I'm not sure she believed me! Anyway, after another half mile of run/walking, I asked if she would like me to carry her, at which she gleefully nodded. Carrying a five year old on your shoulders whilst running can be quite challenging. I'd previously run the Kelty Coal Race, which involved carrying almost eight stone of coal on your back over the course of a kilometer. Whilst Sophie only weighed 3½ stone and was a lot softer than coal, I still found this tough going. If I was asked which is easier, running with a sack of coal or Sophie on my back, my response would be, Sophie, but sacks of coal are a lot less bossy.

A very proud dad crossing the finish line with his daughter.

As we approached the last 300m, after some mild encouragement, Sophie asked that I put her down as she wanted to run the last section and cross the finish line herself. I eagerly obliged and together we ran down the home straight and crossed the finish line with cheers from the spectators. After collecting our medals and goodie bags we headed off to meet Clare to tell her all about our adventure.
From there, I then headed straight over to Giffordtown in Fife to run the 6k road race that afternoon, the penultimate race of the 2014 Tour of Fife.

Another reason I love running, is that I think it sets a great example to my children. Playing video games and watching films have their place, but I want to bring my children up to know that this should always be balanced with regular exercise. They should never be afraid to expand their boundaries either physically or mentally. Running requires both. Something I think Sophie is already beginning to understand.

Bye, bye!
Postscript: Many details for this blog entry came directly from Sophie's memory of the event, she also typed it up, whilst I was made to meticulously point at every key. The joys of fatherhood, I wouldn't change it for the world.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Scottish Coal Race, Kelty 2014

Gun Time: 7 mins 48 secs

After running both the Calderglen 5k and 10k in East Kilbride the previous evening, my legs felt a little tired when I woke up and remembered I was running the Scottish Coal Race in the Fife village of Kelty in only a few hours time. I had arranged to pickup my friend Dom at his flat in Perth that morning. He was going to come along to provide moral support and down a few pints in Kelty whilst watching me suffer. Naturally, I would have done the same for him.

After parking the car I headed up the stairs to Dom's flat. We played a game of pool on his table, before he racked up 50kg of weights on his bench. He seemed to take amusement in letting me know what I was letting myself in for. He certainly succeeded in giving me the fear! 50kg is quite heavy! The equivalent of two cement bags or 2½ times the weight of my five year old daughter. In itself it's lift-able, but to run a whole kilometer over a hilly course with a rough heavyweight sack containing 50 kilos of black diamonds digging into your back is a different story! 25 minutes down the M90 later we arrived in Kelty.

Original photo pre-editing courtesy of Dom Egan

After parking the car down a side street we headed onto Kelty's old main drag. With the Kelty gala due to follow after the Coal Race the village was in full swing. According to the official website, Kelty reputedly had 14 pits in its locality at one time and the race originates from old nineteenth century stories of the Kelty colliers running home from the pits with sacks of "rakers" or clugs" on their back. I was about to experience just how hardy those pitmen were. The race runs the full kilometer from the Smiddy to the School. The women competitors carrying a 25 kilo burden in their race. The men, the full 50 kilos. There are also races for both local school children and charity mascots.

Original photo pre-editing courtesy of Dom Egan

After speaking to some experienced coal racers before the start, I picked up a few tips. The main one being to jump up and down on your sack of coal beforehand. This breaks up the lumps and stops them digging into your back and shoulders as you run. Although, you are allowed initial assistance with lifting the sack onto your back, once the race has begun, you are on your own. If you drop it and can't pick it up again by yourself, it's over. I witnessed a number of people who dropped it and had to carry it in their arms because it was too heavy to hoist onto their backs by themselves. Thankfully, although it was one hell of a struggle, I made it from beginning to end without letting go.  
Original photo pre-editing courtesy of Gordon Donnachie

Running up some of the hills with that sack on my back was torture. Afterwards when Dom and I went for much needed refreshments in a few of Kelty's watering holes such as "The #1 Goth" and "The Crown Inn", I was approached by  some very hard looking locals, who were surprisingly supportive and said that it was something they had always wanted to do. In my opinion the villagers couldn't be more friendly and welcoming to folk who had chosen to come to their gala and support their race.

Original photo pre-editing courtesy of Dom Egan
If you are interested in experiencing the 2014 Scottish Coal Race from a first hand video perspective you can watch some footage here: Scottish Coal Race 2014

Original photo pre-editing courtesy of Gordon Donnachie

The Kelty Coal Race is impeccably organised by local resident Michael Boyle. I am also led to believe he initiated it after visiting a similar event in Yorkshire with his wife.  It is obvious that it is a labour of love for him and he has created a great boon to both the local economy and status of the village.

I've completed the Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, several marathons and some nasty hill races but in many ways this is tougher. At least for that 1km it is. This race is very real and is a lot more raw than most. It's just you and that 50 kilo sack of coal, digging into your back, making your legs feel like they're strapped to anvils with every step, but it certainly makes you feel alive. I recommend it! Anyway, good luck if you take up the challenge. Tomorrow, I'll be running the Peterhead Half Marathon for my sins and probably still picking coal dust out of my ears!