Fall running with a Fell-runner

You would think that if you were going to rise at the arse end of dawn and drive two and a half hours to do a run, that it would be fairly important to remember to bring your running shoes?

Well, no: don’t remember to pack your running shoes (choosing from a wide selection of INOV-8 Roclite’s talons and GTX versions……) and don’t even risk it and turn back once you do remember, for fear of being late. Just resign yourself to wearing your Salomon XA “shoes” which are ½ size too big and are generally reserved for kicking about in because they hurt your feet to run in.

So that was the great start to the day, rising at 6 a.m. eating a bagel with jam and promising to eat more on the way down but not managing to. Journey planning and not using the Google map print outs and then losing faith in your ability to follow road signs, thus using the Satnav (which just confirmed you were right).

However, I arrived in Pitlochry ahead of schedule so I drove around the town and finally parked up and used the loo in the local Co-op. My knee was stupidly stiff from all the gear changing (mad other side of the road driving to avoid road-works and ramps) and I generally just felt a bit radge. I unpacked my rucksack and futered until nearer 10 a.m. and then I texted my running partner to inform her where I was. Was it lucky that I had passed on my car reggy, as she had forgotten her phone and wasn’t it also lucky that she had a spare pair of offroad Salomon S-Labs in my exact size? Indeed!

I met the dogs (3 off) and we drove to a small forest carpark off an estate beside Moulin. A slight splash of rain and a brief tryst with a couple who didn’t like dogs (isn’t it great how pets always know which people hate them and then overcompensate trying to win them over?) and we were off up the burnside path. I soon had to adopt a walk due to well, not being very fit and actually I felt a bit white n weak, information I quickly passed on incase I passed out. This nausea disappeared as quickly as it had arrived and later, I put this down to having not eaten enough before setting off. But it was nice terrain and we chatted when the ascent wasn’t too arduous – thankfully the route was between two hills and not up the local hill Ben Vrackie. Maybe next time!

Ben Vrackie in the background

The moors offered a rocky descent and I really enjoyed the views as well as the chance to do some running (as opposed to bimbling or walking). I usually let my mind wander when I’m out in the country so it was a different experience to be running with someone else and a small dog. The dog had this endearing way of tripod-running by folding a hind-leg up towards the belly and hopping quickly with the remaining foot. As the sheep covered moors faded into farm-land, we took a path onto a country road and headed towards the River Tummel.

The weather stayed dry and the scenery was stunning, everywhere we went there were picture opportunities but I tried to commit most to memory and minimised the use of the phone camera! [Yep, these pics really are taken with my whiteberry].The road running was slightly jarring in the off-road shoes but it was a treat to get a “free trial” of broken in trail shoes and I have apparently been wearing the wrong size. these fitted perfectly and my feet only really hurt near the end of the run, when we returned to Pitlochry via the A947 pavements. The next part of the route was on woodland trail which skirted the river and dipped and fell alongside some beautiful water features. This was the time I felt the best during the run and managed to open up a few times, although I was tracking the run via the Motorola MotoACTV on a clip and had stuffed it into my waistpack, so had no idea of pace or distance at that point. We veered in to view a local spot where legend had it that Rob Roy leapt to escape pursuers; but on trying to google it for more info, I couldn’t find anything on tinternet, so it presumably can’t be that well known a legend! Hmmm maybe it wasn’t Rob Roy……

It was during this final stage of the trail run, on undulating ground, that I realised I was running low on water and was feeling tired and hungry. Whilst viewing a local bungee jump point I unfortunately let my own feet get caught up with some gnarly tree-trunks and I took a flyer (without a bungee). Landing on my knee and hand, I ungracefully rolled sidewards but got up with only an “Oof” to draw attention to my plight. I guess falling is all part of running and my run-partner waited unperturbed whilst I recomposed myself for the return leg into Pitlochry. Some more chat about whether training with less water might break me of my “comfort blanket” (I tend to carry water with me for anything over a 10K and anytime I haven’t I’ve always felt my performance was impaired……)

The conversation went back and forth, with me gleaning lots of tips and interesting factoids, no more so than that the sheer nature of hill and fell-running can mean that those athletes who undertake the challenge and travel far and wide, can be somewhat solitary by nature. And private. I think that this aspect of the hills and running there, is what appeals to me (because it certainly isn’t the talent I have for covering the terrain with speed or dexterity). You can’t hide from the land, the elements, the effort required to pass over the Earth and you don’t need to be anything other than what or who you are. Because the hills don’t really care! There aren’t many things you can say that of, in life and living in society can require a certain pantomime. The one characteristic which I really wasn’t prepared for was the lack of an ego, something which is normally associated with talent and achievement. I don’t think I have ever met someone with so little concern for anything other than doing the best that can be done and avoiding the hamster-wheel of commodity living. Probably the most admirable trait I’ve seen in anyone because I know it’s one I’ll never achieve. Even this blog is a token of crass look-at-me-ism and for that I do apologise. However, as the day progressed, I did take heed of the fact that I have still been running a relatively short period of time and that trail running is not easy! I know I am often too judgemental of myself and frustrated, nae, embarassed by my lack of prowess. Running is very enjoyable regardless of ability and I assume that is why a world-class fell and sky-runner was willing to give up a day of her life to (a) a charity auction resulting in (b) a bimble about with a sloth-paced stranger 🙂 Afterwards we reached Pitlochry (running between the tourists, in front of whiskey shops, tartan shops, tea-rooms), we drove back to the car-park, changed and picked up the other car and the dogs who had remained behind. We found a small teashop (which wasn’t jam-packed with retired tourists) and I asked them for “something chocolate” and was presented with my full order: “lashings” of tea, orange juice, water and a huge slice of chocolate crispy! It was much needed and sustained me until the real meal of the day: chicken pie at the Lairhillock Restaurant. We parted after a quick hello to the dogs (I soooo want a furry running partner), who were going to get a walk up Ben Vrackie that afternoon and me? I headed home via a lovely detour, which saw me breathing in as I drove passed an articulated lorry on a single track road, with me on balanced on the sloped side(!). Memories in place, managed to not be too Fan-Girl (I hope) and a resolve to chill out a little bit about what should or shouldn’t be happening in my So Called Running. I’ve a lot to be grateful for and days like today make the crappy ones fade. Happy and looking for pins to deflate my own sense of self-importance 😉

Next long run will be Bennachie range Gordon Trail, back via Oxen Craig. Hills but on my own and in my own shoes.

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