Running the Speyside Way


6 months previous to being stood at 6:30am in Aviemore ready to run the Speyside Way, I had visions of running in a glorious spring morning, wiping beads of sweat from my brow and constantly topping up on fluids. The reality was we were stood at the start of a 65 mile run in -7c bursting on a pee, not exactly the perfect start but an amusing one.

I was running once again with Andrew Milne, who I have spend most of the last 3 months running with in preparation for this challenge. We set off just before 7am slowly jogging to the start of the trail trying to warm up in the winter like conditions. The sun was shining but it was bitterly cold and we would spend the first 15 or so minutes running in the shade of the trees and surrounding houses that lined the path before we headed inwards to more uninhabited parts of the trail. As with any long run we had broken down the run into mentally manageable sections, knowing that  5 miles here and there would soon add up and to a substantial distance in 4 or 5 hours, trying to forget about the full 65 miles that needed run.

We would be met occasionally by Andy’s girlfriend and his potential mother in law(?!) who had given up what would be a large chunk of a day to be out there supporting us on this run and providing friendly faces and food on demand, both were greatly appreciated. But for the most part it would be me and Andy alone in the woods! The first 5-10 miles where as I had expected mixed with the anticipation of what lay ahead and some quiet time as our body’s and thoughts adjusted to the early start and what lay ahead. After about 15 miles we felt good knowing that we had gone over the half marathon stage and this only left us with 2 full marathons to go. Physically I was feeling strong, I was on a 80+ day runstreak and had recently completed a fairly grueling 35 mile run on Arran so in my head I knew I could complete the run all going well. Andy on the other hand had been a bit unlucky with injury and had missed out on the run over on Arran which would of been a good mental and physical boost had he been fit to join us before this run. But Andy had recovered from the injury a while back and was hill running with gusto. The hill runs would make the long flat Speyside Way relatively easy going for Andy as he was now accustomed to running with an incline and showed no signs of  the previous injury.

Slowly but surely we plodded on as we do and made it to marathon distance, this would be a great mental boost knowing we had knocked off one of the 2 marathons needed to complete the run. And as we ran further we acknowledged the fact as soon as we got over the 33 mile stage we would be on the home straight. However at around the 30 mile mark Andy started getting a niggle in his hip and back that slightly put him off his stride for a few miles. I’m sure mentally this was  hard going for Andy as I was still feeling  strong and running in front.  We got to mile 34 and had a short break and Andy confirmed the pain was getting worse and he was starting to struggle. The next section would be around 6 miles and take us to 40 miles, this was well over half way now and soon we would be running towards the 50 mile stage and really the end sections of the run. We had been on the go for around 8 hours now and the pace had slowed with Andy having to slow or stop every now and then due to the pain. His frustration was that his injury was preventing him running but he didn’t feel out of breath nor did he feel like he was worn out and could’t continue, but whatever was wrong was just preventing him from moving properly and thus making running very sore and uncomfortable.

We decided to run to the end of the next section and have a chat about what to do next, we knew it would be getting dark in a few hours and we also knew we had a steep hill approaching at around 45-50 miles. For the last 10 miles we had been running on a very boring and not very scenic section of the Speyside Way and the next 6 miles where more of the same, tracks behind farms and distilleries most of the time with no view of the River Spey or anything of interest for that matter. After a few miles run a few walked and a few hobbling along we reached the end of the section and the 40 mile mark. By now Andy was barely able to run for longer than a mile so after some deliberation it was an easy decision to make….It was over, the run was at an end 25 miles from the finish line! Andy was very angry and annoyed about having to stop but there was no other choice. I had to explain that calling it a day at 40 miles wasn’t anything to be embarrassed or annoyed about but in fact  something to be proud of!

We got into the car and headed home for the night with mixed emotions. Personally I was glad of the seat as my legs were heavy and my knees feeling the miles we had done but I was also disappointed knowing I could go on and finished the run. But what would be the point in me going on running on my own and finishing while my friend and team mate in this run looked on.

“Happiness is Only Real When Shared” — C. McCandless


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