Deeside way Ultra

Myself and Mark Fowlestone decided it would be a good idea during the Coronavirus Pandemic to run the Deeside way Ultra (D33), an out and back route that takes you to and from Duthie Park in Aberdeen via Banchory alongside 200 like-minded snotty and sweaty souls. Mostly ran on a cycle path with a smattering of trail we both chose road shoes and massively under dressed for the Aberdonian weather. A quick change into more suitable waterproof jackets and we were good to go with a fool proof pacing plan…

Quick note: My memory is hazy so do not use these mile descriptions as an accurate representation of the course if you are planning on doing it next year!

Mile: 1

Location: Duthie Park – 127.2 miles north of my comfort zone

Weather: Cold with a decent cross wind and a bit of rain….to be honest that was the case for the whole run so I’ll

just skip the weather bit from now on

Pace: 7m23s

Mark and I had a strict pact to stick together for the first few miles at a rough pace of 7m 45s. As he joins the elite runners in a sprint around Duthie Park, a good 30 seconds ahead of me I remember that people cannot be trusted no matter how good a friend they pretend to be.

Mile: 2

Location: A boring tarmac cycling path with a gradual incline

Pace: 7m31s

Caught Mark. He is acting like he didn’t just betray me. I remind him that we are running faster than the plan dictates. We speed up.

Mile: 3

Location: Same inclined tarmac cycle path. Passing the bench I used to snog my old girlfriend on until she left me

for one of the older and more mature boys at school.

Pace: 7m29s

There’s a good pack of 20 or so runners ahead, we begin to discuss sensible plans of sticking to this pace and start hunting them in the second half of the out and back course. At mile 22 I will remember this optimism and curse my younger self.

Mile: 4

Location: Cycle Path. Tarmac. An area prone to flooding that was mercifully dry. Too early for wet feet.

Pace: 7m15s

Forgetting the plan almost immediately we start chasing down a runner in front of us who went off too quickly. As we cross in front of him a stealthy runner from behind overtakes us. Circle of Life. Ego destroyed. Resume plan.

Mile: 5

Location: Look…It’s basically a tarmac cycle path with zero visibility of the surrounding areas. I’ll update when

things change.

Pace: 7m14s

Trying to work out this ultra thing. I thought there would be more chatting and walking but everyone seems in race mode. Runners are starting to thin out and the guy who overtook us is getting further away, though his enthusiasm is infectious and not helping us stick to our sensible plan.

Mile: 6

Pace: 7m13s

Feeling really good and enjoying the run, up and over the new bypass. Decide this is the time to remind Mark that we are approaching the site where on our recce of the course last year he fell over and destroyed his Nike’s and his arm. Mind games beginning early.

Mile: 7

Location: TRAIL!

Weather: Nae great

Pace: 7m17s

Running is ace. On a wee lovely bit of trail now and I don’t even mention to Mark that this is the site of his aforementioned disaster, nor do I complain that the rain has just increased dramatically. Mark asks if we’ve passed where he fell. I lie and say yes. I think this makes him feel better.

Mile: 8

Location: For the first time we turn right! Up a wee trail hill no less

Pace: 7m29s

Heading off the main path we get our first proper incline and on to some country roads. A bit of rain and as we’re off the path we find ourselves more exposed to the wind, but these roads can get really icy so we take some comfort that it’s not below zero today. If you’re used to Edinburgh running know that Aberdeen cold is noticeably chillier!

First drop bag location was around here. Not needing anything so we march on.

Miles: 9-13

Average Pace: 7m45s

OK… miles 9-14 went fine. Mark and I ran together and felt good and there is very little interesting to say that would warrant a full paragraph. Here is a random assortment of things that happened in no particular order.

  • We ran in a straight line…a lot.
  • I asked one of the cheering spectators to bin a used gel wrapper that I had been carrying when no acceptable place to fling it could be found. He refused out of Coronavirus based fears; Fair enough.
  • No one overtook us.
  • We overtook no one.
  • We actually stuck to the plan

Mile: 14

Pace: 7m41s

If you know esteemed Portobello Running Club committee member Mark Fowlestone you will know that he falls when running…a lot. About 90% of these falls are because he is infuriatingly social when running. As runners pull up beside him he enters into an unspoken agreement that they are now best friends, often craning his neck like the Exorcist to give them the eye sight that social tradition decrees is polite and showcases his active listening skills.

Then he trips over a rock and falls on his arse.

Thankfully Mark did not fall on this occasion, remaining upright and intact for the whole run. However at mile 14 he started chatting to a new candidate for running buddy causing the pace to slow and as I am unsociable git with a strict plan I pushed on. I would be running on my own for the next 18 miles or so.

Mile: 15

Location: The Royal Deeside railway. Coolest thing on the route.

Pace: 7m36s

Front runners start passing me as they begin their descent back in to Aberdeen. The first three are looking VERY strong. Annoying.

Mile: 16

Location: Banchory. That’s half way!

Pace: 7m23s

Have you ever thrown a pouch of baby food at a middle aged woman before? No?

Then you are not me.

At the halfway drop bag point I raid my stash to top up gels and cereal bars and I mistakenly grab an Ella’s Kitchen pouch of baby rice pudding. I do not know why I brought this, I do not want it and in my confused state I lob it at the poor marshal striking her directly in the chest whilst screaming ‘I DO NOT WANT THIS! SORRY!!!’.

I await my disqualification email.

I turn around and start making my way back. I’m in 29th position at this point but this is where the hunt begins as I am absolutely going to win this thing. Mark and his new best mate are very close behind. I’m not jealous. You’re jealous.

Headphones on. Beast mode playlist on Spotify, naturally.

Miles: 16-21

Location: Same as miles 11-16…but backwards.

Average pace: 7m25s

There’s something nice about an out and back, you know exactly where you are and every step brings you closer to home. These few miles went well and I was still really enjoying myself. I’d picked up the pace and passing the runners as they approached the halfway point, most looking very cheery and shouting niceties, was very pleasant.

At one point I saw a really colourful bird and I thought to myself If I was Peter Buchanan I’d probably stop and take a lovely picture of that for my blog. But alas I am not, and also if I was I’d probably be further up the field.

Passed one tired looking runner.

28th place

Miles: 21-24

Location: The downhills are now uphill’s. Didn’t see that coming.

Average pace: 7m45s

Tough part of the course where some prankster turned the downhills into uphill’s. Was hoping to increase pace here but clearly not happening. Still, 7m45s average is OK – starting to hurt a bit but not in a dark place yet. Remembering mile 3 Alan’s youthful optimism. How naive.

Passed one EXTREMELY tired looking runner

27th place

Miles: 24 – 26.2

Average pace: 7m55s

Slowing a bit. Starting to feel crap. Probably not going to win this thing; 27th place will do.

I use two of the stupidly expensive Meurtens gels to channel my inner Kipchoge. My daughter doesn’t need new shoes or to go to University right?

Marathon completed in roughly 3 hours 18 minutes which is actually a race PB for me so feeling OK.

Miles: 26.2 – 27

Pace: 8m00s

Not feeling OK. Can’t believe I have another 7 miles to go.

Miles: 27-30

Location: Too far away from Duthie Park

Average Pace: 8m06s

OK I’m slowing, my feet are hurting. This bloody boring out and back course is 90% tarmac and my feet are feeling it. But I’m alright, I’m not in a dark place. One heavy step at a time. Step in horse poo. It’s OK, just keep going. In-fact I’m about to pass my mum’s house and she’ll be out to cheer me on and that will spur me on for the last three miles!

Mile: 31

Location: Passing my mum’s house

Pace: 8m14s

Mum is out to cheer me on. I tell her I don’t want to speak to her and emotionally hurt her in that way that only your child can. Don’t feel guilty until later. Give myself a talking to and cheer up, increase the pace. Nearly there.

Sorry Mum.

Miles: 31-33

Location: Should be the end…Isn’t

Pace: Average pace 7m58s

The support on this part of the course was great, loads of people out including kids cheering us on as we approached. I’m ready to finish but back in a good mood. Let’s finish strong

Enter park. See the finish line approximately 15 metres away when I am told there’s a bonus half mile lap around the park. SURPRISE!

I am no longer in a good mood. Trust no one, they will all betray you.

Miles: 33-33.65

Location: Hell

Pace: 5m42s

Finish on grass. Too muddy to lie down. Sit on a bollard. Make a snide joke about it being the D44. No one thinks I’m funny. I am now an ultra runner. I’m tired and very cold. Chafing is real.

Post race:

Mark popped up shortly after, scooping the 3rd Super Vet prize and looking much cheerier and in better condition than myself. Sadly, I missed him cross the finish line as I was shivering and had hobbled to the car to get my jacket, though I did fortunately seem him collect his prize which was well earned. I may add that his new mate from mile 14 did not stay to see him collect it. No loyalty.

Shout out to the marshals and the support on the route which was surprisingly abundant and enthusiastic despite the fairly miserable conditions.

Full apologies to the woman who took a chest full of rice pudding. I owe you a pint.

Final result:

Miles: 33.65

Time: 4hrs 18m 53s

Final position: 27th

Deeside Ultra AJ
Deeside Ultra MF
Deeside Ultra AJ & MF