Ultra running and the girl from Buckie

Long ago through the mists of time, Nywanda moved to a Morrissey town on the North East coast of Banff-Shire, from her childhood home (on the East coast of Ross-Shire).

As the eldest child of a single parent family and having previously attended an Academy and therefore sporting a “posh” accent, notwithstanding the complete inability to comprehend the local Buchan dialect, it’s safe to say that the years spent as a teen in this town, were not the happiest.

Question: did anyone actually ‘like’ their teenage years? Well, well done you if you did!

To be blunt, I frikkin HATED the place and my time there. Of course it’s not really the place or the people or any one thing but a set of circumstances which collided and caused several pivitol critical path events to occur. To say I survived is probably true; but I got out just in time and by that I mean, things might have been very different if I’d stuck around. And not in a good way.

The reason I write this for posterity in the main blog is to contextualise my recent entry and completion of the Spey-side way ultra which culminates in a couple of miles coastal run, passed my childhood home in Harbour Head Buckpool and into the town of Buckie. The registration and post-race catering were also held in Buckie Community High School; somewhere I had not set foot in since summer of 1992……to be honest, I ran this race not just for the achievement of completing a darn long run but also so I could return to Buckie under a positive guise and (hopefully)in a triumphant manner. I had visualised running up that hill towards the line for months and months, over and over. So, as a cathartic means of putting some long lurking demons to bed it was quite suprising that I didn’t really realise that’s why I was doing it until about mile 14 on race-day!

As I plugged in my ipod at Check-point 1 and settled into a maintenance paced jog up the tarmac roads towards Ben Aigan hill, the ghosts of a past which I have tried so very hard to NOT let define me, came to a fore. As I walked and jogged and eventually eased into the down-hill Ben Aigen section of the Speyside Way, I found myself overcome with memories and actual sobs sounded out and tears came. I suppose if anyone had seen me, they might have thought I was just struggling with the distance. In truth, I was venting a lot of history and dead-weight I’d been carrying around in very heavy bags labelled “guilt” and “regret”.

This happened one further time as I started down towards the Boat O Brig spur- an involuntary sob and a few stray tears. By the time I was in sight of the marshall (whom I just wanted to hug and hug, such was my lifted mood) I was feeling so happy. Just so very very content. I stopped and had a quick chat with him and he said I was looking well. Of course I did! I’d somehow just disintegrated a large chunk of ill-feeling which had been burbling away in the background for more than 20 years!

After this, I was more or less completely free to enjoy the race, suffer the sore belly and all the other experiences which come with ultra-running. But it was such a strange feeling. My teenage life seemed to have lifted, almost like I’d forgiven myself and separated that person from the person I am now. I know people say we are the sum of our experiences and I’d really tried to see my Buckie-youth positively, but it can be really difficult and I’d never fully managed to move on.

A few hours later, I neared the finish with a loiter on the pavement by my old house in Buckpool. I could see into (what was) the kitchen and there were people sitting there; the light from the window of what would have been my old bedroom, outlined the dark bodies of the people: obviously they’d knocked through and made one big room.

A boarded up Harbour Head-thankfully lived in again in 2012

I’m glad the house is still there and that it’s been changed. As said, it’s not the house or the people or the place and it’s not even my experiences and what went on IN that house, back in my teenage years. It’s my own willingness to forgive and forget. I looked in that house and suprisingly and honestly felt nothing. I took one last look and then got my head down for the mile or so to the end of the Speyside way and the completion of the ultramarathon. My smile at the finish stood for so many things. I was very happy I’d completed a 36.5 mile ultramarathon but also, I felt consciously free-er than I have done in a very long time. The days afterwards were spent in a kind of slow motion relaxed “daze”. I thought I was tired and felt less alert because of the exertion but as the days go by, I am more inclined to think that this is what “less stressed” is. I think I have come to accept the fact that this is what my life feels like without those heavy bags from the past. It’s amazing what 36.5 miles of self-absorption therapy can do.

PS “Actual” race blog to follow 🙂


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