After hearing several positive reports of this ‘race’ from reputable sources, I decided to sign up, as a run through the Scottish wilderness is always a treat. The challenge starts in Braemar, and follows a 12k loop through river crossings, bogs, swamps, hills, and trails.
Ronnie picked me up at a reasonable time as the race doesn’t start until noon, and we swung by Westhill to pick up Claudia. Everything was running smoothly until I noticed the distinctive pain in my stomach that heralds the onset of severe period cramps. Yep, we’ve already reached the ‘overindulging’ section of this post. Having used the contraceptive pill continuously for over a decade, I recently decided to give my body a bit of a hormone break, but what I had not counted on was the return of my teenage female curse. After trying to play it cool and make chit-chat in the car, white-knuckling my knees, I was forced to interrupt Claudia with a fairly straightforward request:
Do either of you have any drugs?
This was met with a little surprise, as I normally shun drugs in favour of just dealing with it. In fact, I think the last time I took painkillers was after my most recent operation in 2011. However, after wasting an entire weekend day curled up in bed grimacing on more than one occasion over the past few months, I knew drastic action had to be taken if I was going to be running.
We stopped at a gas station just before Braemar, and I basically inhaled painkillers with reckless abandon before curling up into a ball in the front seat and waiting for them to work their magic. About 11 minutes later, we were parked and Ronnie and Claudia were collecting race numbers. I remained in the car. The drugs had not yet worked their magic.
Ten minuted later, I saw Suzy and her boyfriend walking past, and tapped on the window. She laughed at how crippled I was, and confirmed we would be running together before heading off for a banana while I silently cursed my womb. Despite a forecast of heavy rain, the sun was out, so I started to change into my running kit and out of my warm layers. The drugs were starting to work.
There was an announcement that a race briefing would be happening in 10 minutes, so we all started making our way to the grassy area with a very real warmth from the sun beating down. Runners were quickly counted before the countdown and low key briefing. Looking around, we were surrounded by hills, and Claudia, who ran last year, confirmed that we would have an uphill start. Which we did.
Claudia, Suzy and I followed the stream of runners up the hill and onto the trails, and at the top of the first hill, I was finally starting to feel normal again. I was so overjoyed at this that I was smiling as everyone else was grimacing uphill. This is when I started having a blast!
After the downhill, we hit our first river crossing, and the cold water was a welcome sensation on my legs (though not welcome enough to submerge myself fully, as some had chosen to do). Full submersion was still to come, however not in a river, but in a bog, as we were soon to discover (apart from Claudia, who was a big Cheater McCheaterson and stuck to the grassy banks). Cloaked in thick mud, it was time for the second main ascent before a semi-treacherous descent onto a very runnable trail that eventually dumped us onto the road for a short while.
After the road, we turned onto another grassy trail, for our second river crossing, bumbling bog crossing, and final river crossing before scrambling up the last hill, and beginning our descent to the finish.
Now, during my last 2 marathons with Naomi, I had wanted to carry her, piggy-back style, across the finish line, just for fun. At Strathearn, she ran a PB, and understandably wanted to finish under her own steam. At Giants Head, it was her longest run, and again, didn’t want someone to carry her over the line. Suzy, however, had no such issues, and was fully on board with finishing in style.
It could have been perfect. Instead, she launched herself onto my back, head butting me in the process, and the momentum pushed me forwards so that I had to try and jog, not walk over the finish line. It didn’t work out, and we tumbled onto the grass inches behind the line as Claudia looked down and pretended she didn’t know us. Still, at least all the spectators got a chuckle out of it, as we literally crawled over the line.
We grabbed some water and snacks, and settled onto the grass amongst familiar faces until the awards ceremony. Then Ronnie and I headed back to the car, and then back to Aberdeen, where, after a solid 15 minutes of hard scrubbing, I managed to get the remains of the swamp off of my legs.