As I got closer to the end of this challenge, the permutations I could arrange the runs in grew less and less, until a few weeks ago the remaining runs could really only be done in one order. This was due to a few commitments we have, and my wanting to run the Edinburgh runs last, with my home run at Portobello the final finale. The fallout from this was that July was always going to be quite a tough month. Last week’s adventure to #24: Montrose was a sort of warm up with a follow up trek to Ellon for this weekend, then next weekend I’ll complete the northern set when I run Aberdeen.
One of the reasons for choosing Ellon this weekend was that wifey and I could drive up, then come back via a visit to the in-laws at their annual holiday lodge. Sadly at the last minute we found that wifey had to work on Sunday so this wasn’t to be, but this does come with the silver lining that as I write this I’m back at home and tonight I’ll be in my own bed again. One of the other bonuses of driving is the odd conversations you have on the way. Here’s a selection of some of my favourites from this time around:
- If you tried to be a human hair dryer, i.e. attempt to blow on someone’s hair to dry it, how long would that take? Would it even be possible, given the moisture in human breath?
- What on earth is going on with car names at the moment? We saw a Ford ‘Kuga’, Renault have a ‘Kadjar’ – it’s as if they’re throwing letters together at random until they form some sort of guttural two syllable thing that sounds vaguely plausible at a marketing meeting.
- If cars were to drive in close formation like the peloton in cycling, how much energy / petrol would that save? Would it offset the huge growth in car accidents that would no doubt follow? We reasoned this one would have to wait until driverless cars.
- We had a great deal of amusement watching the growing tail attaching itself to the British Transport Police van as drivers flew past us, then on seeing the BTP van reasoned that actually 65mph was plenty and dropped in behind. I reckon if I were driving that van, I’d slow down and down to see how slow I had to go before people dared to overtake.
Arriving into Aberdeen, the evening was lovely, and Annie Mac was the best of the radio choices after Kingdom FM could go no further with us up the road. We’d made good time, and found the hotel without any issues. We decided to have a quick nightcap in the bar, which, given the two different radio stations being played from speakers on either side of us, wasn’t really as relaxing as we might have hoped. Sadly things weren’t any better in the room since our neighbours seemed to be under the impression that their room had been fully soundproofed. How is it best to handle this situation? Hammering on the wall risks making the situation worse and provokes conflict. Going and asking the offenders to shut up just bypasses the risk and goes directly to conflict. Waiting and hoping for the best that they will see sense can sometimes work, but is not exactly a solution. We eventually plumped for the ‘ring reception and let them deal with it, then hope that our neighbours didn’t figure out who dobbed them in’ tactic. This was thankfully incredibly effective, and once I’d finally relaxed I drifted off and got a pretty good sleep.
Arriving into Ellon, we quickly spotted the telltale signs of a parkrun nearby. A quick loo stop at the lovely Ellon Academy then a very short warm up revealed that the two interval sessions this week had left my legs not very happy to be running again so soon. Today I reasoned I’d be looking for a tempo run, probably around optimistic half marathon pace (7.20-7.30/m) and see what happens. The brief got under way, the crucial details today were the names of the two marshals who would be out on the course. I’m terrible with names, but tried to lodge them in my brain for use later.
Off we go! We’re heading downhill on the short road from the academy. I’m opting to run on the grass on the side of the path which is softer under foot and more fun. As the road runs out, we go around a small roundabout and onto a boxfresh-looking walkway complete with street lighting. This runway continues downhill and arches slowly right as the green bridge we’ll soon cross comes into view. Onto the bridge which is of the sort that wobbles slightly as you walk on it. We’re over the river, then the path darts right and we corkscrew round onto the path which heads under the bridge. As I go under I see wifey passing overhead, and I’m now locked onto the heels of two guys who are casually chatting as we drift right and up, then drops down left to reveal the riverside path we’ll be enjoying for the next few miles. What a view we’ve got to enjoy as well. We can’t see the river yet, but we’re surrounded by wild flowers, tiny thistles speckling the grasses, rusted browns of ferns (I think) which give more an impression of autumn but with the richness of colours on display I’m not complaining. As we turn another corner, the river is revealed as the grasses around us are trimmed back to a lawn where we see benches I wish I was sat on. Ahead of us in the middle of the path is a small dog who is held in place since his lead is tied to a golf club which is stuck in the ground. Fortunately Sir Didymus seems un-phased by the horde passing him by, and that’s mile #1 done in 7.05.
We come up to a stone bridge which crosses the river and as we go underneath I pass a guy with I presume his young son who very kindly squeeze in and let me pass. I personally would have preferred to hang on their heels for a little while, but sadly I’m now obliged to chase down the next person up the road. The path continues along as the river slowly and silently flows past us arching slightly round to the right. We come to a tight right hand bend which throws us up a short ramp, before a left turn and into the park. We’re greeted by a marshal at this point and I’m amazed I remember his name and thank him. Into the park, and we have a loop round here to do which will then send us back the way we came. Before I know it I’m back to see my new friend again who directs us back down the path back to the river. Down the ramp and a sharp left, and I have some runners coming toward me now to give some encouragement to. I set about cheering on everyone I see, which is achieving its secret second aim of cheering me on. Mile #2 done in 7.17.
Under the bridge again and although I’m slowing down I’m still managing to reel people in. I can feel I’m starting to flag now, and that even at a reduced pace the next mile will be quite tough, but with smiling at people just out for a walk, and cheering on fellow runners I am really loving being out today. Sir Didymus is still gallantly guarding his post. The river leaves us and we’re back into the wild garden as the bridge comes into view. We wind our way around and up onto the bridge which takes us up and over the river and back onto the runway up and up and up to the finish. The gradient isn’t too bad, but fatiguing after a few hard days I’m having to dig in a bit. The lights are starting to go out as I now purposely zone out completely. Everything is chucked out of my head except the 5 metres of road in front of me as we push through the last stretch. As we get near the line I’ve caught up with a fellow runner who’s clearly working hard. I slow up, get him on my shoulder and tell him to run with me. It’s not a race, it’s a run, and sometimes that finish line can feel very far away. We cross the line together.
Wifey hasn’t been able to come along to a lot of this tour, which, given the early starts involved, has suited her very well. When I have dragged her along for the courses which are much better suited to an overnight stay, it seems that they always start with a beautiful day on arrival which rapidly disintegrates overnight. This has so far been the pattern in Elgin, Aviemore, Oban and Inverness. It wasn’t until the drive back on Saturday afternoon from Ellon that we noted that for the fifth time the pattern had held.
Thankfully though, the weather in Ellon held beautifully until we had both finished the run. I think it was about 5 minutes after actually.
Scores! 37th place, 22.50