The Deer Runner

The Deer Runner

Monday, 31 December 2012

Guest Blog

Well I never thought I'd see the day, Coach following me around the house, running kit on, chomping at the bit to go out for a run! Yes, it was day 31 of Marcothon and I'm so proud of her achievement I've given her a guest posting on my blog -

Well what an honour being guest blogger ~  I feel like a celeb!  My name is Lynne - wife of the Deer Runner who has been running for the past 7 years 'just because he enjoys it'.  What?  How could anyone enjoy running?  You have to have that natural ability to run.  That kind of skinny runners body.  You have to be sporty.  You have to have no boobs.  You have to have some stamina to last more than one minute.  You have to be fast.  You have to be non-asthmatic.  You have to be mad!

I have seen George progress from running for a hobby, to his first marathon in 2007, to the crazy 95 miles of the West Highland Way this year.   Our 12 yr old daughter Skye, myself and other kind family and friends were his support and I look back with fond memories even though at one point I was extremely worried about him.

Supporting him over the years has only re-enforced my beliefs despite George's several attempts at coaxing me into running, all ending in me giving up as it was too hard.  Anyhow, it was boring.  As I love music so much I've always preferred dancy kinda exercise especially Zumba of which my friend and motivator Claire is an instructor.  In January this year I got the Zumba bug and some weeks attended up to 4 classes per week.  Not every week though and some weeks not at all.  Even so, I believe these Zumba classes were the basis of how I managed to take part in Marcothon this month.  

George didn't give up.  If he couldn't convince me, he would convince Skye to run instead.  So this year the two of them have been out running together and when she went to academy this year she even joined a jogging club.  In the run up to December George started encouraging her to take part in Marcothon 2012 which involved running every single day of the month for 3 miles or 25 minutes - whichever came first.  The rules are every day and if you miss a day then you're out.  He kept asking me if I was going to join them.  "Yeah" I would reply.  ("Yeah right" in my head).  The 1st of December was a Saturday.  George was on call and working all day so I was left with instructions to accompany Skye on her first run otherwise she would be 'out' on day one of Marcothon.  Off we set on a run/walk up the road to the trees and back.  We had fun as she was doing constant impressions of her dad and his little running techniques and sayings he'd use to keep her going.  Well that was day one done.  Thank God he'd be back to run with her tomorrow.  No offence Skye but I'll leave the running malarkey to the two of you thanks very much.  Too much like hard work if you ask me.

Now I do like the internet and later in the day I discovered Marcothon had a facebook page.  I had a wee nosey and found myself pressing the button to join.  OMG what did I just do?  Who am I to take part in this crazy challenge and even dare to post about my first run in front of all these expert runners who must all be laughing their heads off at me and be much too far advanced in their sport to even give my effort a second glance.  Ach well, who cares, there are over one thousand people taking part, I'll just not post again when I fail and no-one will notice.

I can't actually remember days 2,3,4, etc.  It is all a blur of pain, utter breathlessness, cold, windy, dark nights, head torches, scarves, gloves, buffs, wingeing, whining, swearing, body niggles, twinges, back pain, ankle pain and hangovers.  Re-enforcing yet again why on earth would anyone want to do this???  Poor Skye was really struggling one night and a visit to the docs next day confirmed she had come down with a horrible chest infection and was put on steroids and antibiotics.  She was unfortunately 'out'.

On day 11 due to George working late and Skye unable to run, I ventured out on my own.  In daylight.  How embarrassing.  No one to hide behind, the thought of people sniggering in their cars driving by thinking they could walk faster than that.  Seeing my massive backside swinging from side to side almost knocking them off the road.  Funnily enough, not many cars passed and the thought of sending a message to George when I got back to tell him I'd ran all on my own and not stopped once made me do just that.  I mistakenly posted on my own page rather than his but this prompted some questions from friends about what I was up to.  Mmm well, I can still drop out I suppose.  Meanwhile.... daily posts on the Marcothon page were surprisingly and very heart warmingly encouraging.  These people who I am so in awe of are talking to me and saying how well I am doing.  Wow!

On day 12 I took the more difficult route up a very steep hill and managed not to stop and ran further than ever before.  In my whole life.  Excuse my language, but WTF?? ha ha ha!

Day 13 - a downer, felt like I was back to Day one.  Why bother?  If it wasn't for posting on Marcothon and all the support it would have ended here.  Day 18 saw my lower back giving way and my ankle playing up from all the previous torn ligaments.  I even ran with a heat pack on the next night which ended up a falling into my punts by the time I finished!

Days 14 to 25 were quite utterly horrendous.  The most severe weather conditions.  But having the support of coach throughout these nights were what kept me going.  George is either sadistic or a saint, I haven't quite decided on that one!

Day 25 Christmas Day, I got the best presents ever!  An Ipod shuffle from coach and the Paloma Faith album from Skye.  Well this definitely was the turning point.  Why oh why knowing my love of music didn't I realise this before?  When volume at correct level, I could no longer hear myself struggling to breathe (could still see the spit flying from my mouth from time to time lol) or hear my footsteps trying to keep in time with George.   Things just seemed to progress from there.  Boxing Day I had the pleasure of company from my special nephew and overcame running with 'someone else'...  The day after... day 27 I completed a 5k.  The biggest ever feeling of achievement throughout this whole process.  Something I never ever thought I'd do in a million years and not realising at this point I'd do it again two days later on day 29.

Day 31.  Quite an anti-climax day.  I ran the whole 'loop' which was so refreshing to run out and not double back.  A total of 8k in one hour, 11 minutes and 54 seconds.  I had to do it even though I was seriously risking injury of sorts.  I couldn't turn back, I just couldn't.  Funnily enough, it wasn't hugely difficult which just proves to me now that no matter how big, overweight, unfit you are, it's the mind that controls your body and tells it what it can do.  No disrespect meant to runners who had to pull out due to injury.  I was one of the lucky ones, but the biggest challenge for me has been the mental one.

Wow, it's been emotional and I am going to miss my new friends on Marcothon very much.  Biggest disappointment is that I have lost no weight at all, in fact put on 2 lbs.  Highlight of the month has been the constant support from everyone, getting my Ipod (no brainer) and seeing friends being inspired!  Me?  Really?  No way, not in a million years!!!!!

I signed up to my first race last night - The Garioch 10K on 24th March 2013!!!   Another OMG moment!

Happy New Year everyone and biggest thanks to coach.  The Deer Runner.  Love you xxx

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Happy Birthday to Me

Its my birthday, blogging birthday that is so I thought I'd better update it today.
My running went out like a damp squib lately. Juggling between work, home, DIY, family time and doing a course meant something was going to get dropped and yes, it was running. I didn't make it to the Fraserburgh half marathon despite what looked like perfect weather conditions.

On a positive note, I have secured a place in the Fling, Cateran and hopefully (fingers crossed) the WHW next year. The places in these races fill fast and it's thanks to another blogger posting the amount of space left in the Fling that I was able to step in and gain an entry. I kept a close watch on the Cateran and entered as soon as it opened, this being one of my favourite races.

With virtually no training done during the last month I needed something to buck things up and that's where Marcothon comes in. It's my first year of participation and what better way to get out and build up some training foundations. Not only am I benefiting from Marcothon, my wife and daughter have decided to give it a go as well, despite being beginner runners. Day four completed and all going well, hopefully we can all keep it going through December. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

WHW race, round two.

I didn't make it to the GO33, a busy schedule topped off with a hacking cough forced the withdrawal. I was disappointed but knew it was the right decision. Preparation had been going well with a 26 mile session completed two weeks ago but I haven't run since. Tonight was a choice between restarting the training or updating my blog, the laptop won.

WHW race entry opened where I found myself staring at the screen for a long time, weighing up the pros and cons of doing it all again. Eventually I pressed the go button, I can't think of a better place to be on the 22nd of June, running with the "family" supported by my family and friends. Here's hoping I secure a place for the 2013 race.

Next up and last race of the year is the Fraserburgh Half Marathon a week on Sunday, a great atmosphere and one of my favourite races so I better get running again.

MP3 of the week, it's got to be - Here I Go Again by Whitesnake. 

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Dark Sky

I set myself a target this past week, a last attempt to kick start the "ultra" training and make it to the Glen Ogle 33 in November. If I had the motivation and trained properly it would be time to taper rather than put in a desperate week of running, mostly late at night around the local roads. I decided to do eight miles every night for five nights, an attempt to bring my weekly mileage up from virtually nothing to at least forty.

It was after ten before I got out on Monday, a beautiful clear night. I was half way through the run when I noticed a peculiar glow above. The northern lights, streaking all the way from one horizon to the other. It's not the first time I've seen this phenomenon, New Deer is in the heart of North East Scotland well away from urban light pollution.

Another clear night on Tuesday, no northern lights this time but I could see the orange glow of Aberdeen low on the horizon which got me thinking about light pollution. It dawned on me that the head torch I had on was a form of pollution and decided to switch it off. The difference was remarkable, once my eyes got used to the dark I could just make out the single track road I was plodding along. This wasn't as reckless as it sounds, I knew the road was in good condition and was pretty straight for around a mile. In fact, the biggest risk would be stumbling upon a fox or badger. I ran on the crown of the road and was able to see vehicles coming a long way off, allowing me to step onto the verge. I was a lot sharper, more aware of the surroundings, free from looking at the circle of tarmac illuminated by my head torch. Trees were silhouettes against the dark sky and stars above.

A three mile lunchtime run on Wednesday meant a split shift, with just five miles to do at night. Just as well, I was getting fed up running the same distance and route.

Thursdays run was a thought, the weather taking a turn for the worse. I had to force myself to go out and endure another eight miles in the pouring rain where I got absolutely soaked.

Friday was out. I didn't go which annoyed me in not achieving the goal I'd set. So much so, I decided to run after work on Saturday. Twenty miles, I finally found the motivation and time to put in a decent training session, on roads, over hills and through forests. I was pretty tired at the end of this run but I should be able to scrape through at the GO33.

So a "huge" total of 52, I have to go back to April where I completed that sort of miles in a training week.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Nature Puts on a Show

It's been a while, my running and blogging have turned as cold as the weather. So much so, last week I considered a DNS for the Glen Ogle in November, my last ultra of the season. The last few weeks have been a struggle, running sessions squeezed into a busy routine and viewed as inconvenient rather than a pleasure. Short distances, mostly on road with no motivation or direction.

Yesterday I finished work, changed into my kit and got into the car. Tuesdays are usually eight miles for my training and to be honest I couldn't be bothered. My intention was to park at Methlick on the way home and run the Braes o Gight. This is one of my top training areas - forest tracks, muddy trails, wooden bridges, the river Ythan and a ruined castle. I arrived at Methlick and almost drove straight through, not really in the mood for running. I willed myself to stop, park up and put on the head torch.

I've blogged and photographed the Braes of Gight on previous posts, so I must apologise for repeating myself. From Methlick its three miles of forest track and grazing land before reaching a two mile loop of muddy track around the Braes before returning back to Methlick.

I lock the car and stiff legged hit the forest track, following the Ythan upstream. It's beautiful and clear on this autumn evening and one advantage of the dark night is reclaiming the trail from families and dog walkers, I have it all to myself. The solitude is eerie and exhilarating at the same time. I usually tell Coach where I am running and when I'm due back (health and safety and all that) but tonight no-one knows I'm here, it's a bit reckless I know, but it adds to the "stripped back to nature" feeling I'm getting tonight.

A couple of miles in and I need to switch on the head torch. I pass through a couple of gates and keep a steady pace heading for the Braes. Not long after there's a silhouette on the track in front staring back at me. It's a Stirk and he's not wanting to move. I don't want to turn back so we stare at each other, both not wanting to back down. A deer in the field to the right has had enough of the standoff and makes a dash for cover, disappearing into the hillside in seconds. I talk quietly to the beast like some ancient cattle drover and usher him to the side before making a break and running past to continue my run. Owls hoot to each other, their lonely calls echoing into the still night. One more cattle gate before I hit the braes, fast fleeting shadows catch the upper illumination of my head torch. It's the aerobatic display of bats, swooping and turning in pursuit of insects.

I turn off the forest track and follow a path through trees and reeds towards the river Ythan. There's a cold mist in the valley above the Ythan and my headtorch struggles to show the way. I eventually reach squirrel bridge, climb the steps and am just about to jog across when I hear a loud splash in the river. "Now that was too loud to be a trout" I think to myself turning my headtorch over the side to illuminate the still water below. All is quiet as I scan the flat water with my torch before there's a snort of air under the bank. I turn the torch quickly but the creature is nowhere to be seen. The beam from my torch scans the river before picking out my unhappy companion climbing onto a log, it's sleek coat reflecting the light. An otter, not very impressed with me clumping across the wooden bridge then shining a light on it's face. It dives into the water once more, another attempt to evade the rude intrusion but I stand and wait knowing it will come back up for air. Once more it surfaces and climbs onto the log, looking a bit agitated. I watch it dive in and swim away downstream beyond the reach of my torch. I'm left standing in the still of the night in awe of the creatures all around me.

I continue my run through the woods, animals scatter and roosting birds thrash through the woodland as this unfamiliar figure makes it's way through the trail. I'm sorry and apologise to the creatures for the disturbance caused as I make my way back to the river bank and head back to Methlick. I have company though, through the trees a huge yellow moon dances and shimmies, a brilliant show of light just for me to finish off one of the most memorable runs of my life.


Thursday, 30 August 2012

Speyside Way Ultra

Around five o'clock I began to stir, aware of the noise, soft at first but getting louder, I realised it wasn't a dream. The noise even drowned out the sound of a nearby burn I'd fallen asleep to. "Oh no!" I thought, memories of the whw raced through my mind, "not again!". Rain hammered off the roof of the static as I tip toed round the caravan and got ready for the day ahead. Coach appeared "your not running in that are you?" she asked. Admittedly, for a micro second I thought about pulling out, but I put on the hardest face I could muster and replied "wimping out is not an option". 

A short drive to Buckie, registration and a nervous wait before we boarded the bus at half seven. I chatted to a fellow runner doing his first ultra which passed the time. Rain continued to fall, the bus threw walls of water as we made our way to Ballindaloch. At half eight it was time to leave the comfort and warmth of the bus and step into the rain. With half an hour before race start, everyone tried to seek shelter under the trees. Unfortunately, even the trees couldn't offer solace as my weatherproof jacket gave up and let the water through. I was getting cold and just wanted to get going.

Nine o'clock and we were off. My strategy was try and average 10 minute miles for as long as possible and hopefully finish around 6 hours later, a tall order considering the lack of high mile training since the whw.
I start at the back of the field and am surprised at just how flooded the disused railway line is. There's absolutely no point in trying to avoid the mud and floods so I quickly employ the straight through method.
A bit later I refine this strategy further by realising I have a choice of surfaces to run on. The soft grass verge and mud which saps my energy or the hard compacted footpath mostly under water. I choose the water and take great delight splashing through deep puddles without a care in the world. The only downside is I can't see whats under the water but it's a good strategy where I splash past a few runners.

Twelve miles later and the first checkpoint. I'm doing another strategy where I collect my drop bag and continue without stopping. On leaving the checkpoint I'm cheered as I run through the deepest water pool of the day, great!! Across the road and an uphill section where I eat my sausage roll and have a strawberry milk shake. I'm passed by one runner on the uphill but soon catch up once I've finished the food. A few other runners catch up before hitting Ben Aigan but I hold my own, alternating between power walking and running before reaching the top and being rewarded with the view towards the Moray Firth. Downhill now and we're guided off the forest by a marshal onto a steep washed out stony track. I take it easy here not wanting to go over an ankle. I'm still holding position here and averaging 10 min miles but I start to feel a bit tired, time for Mrs Tilly's tablet. It's quite a long road section to Fochabers including a quad busting downhill section just before the second checkpoint at around 25 miles.

I grab my bag and carry on, eating the contents. It's here where the wheels fall off my pacing strategy and the minutes per mile start to head up. I'm beginning to suffer and resist the urge to walk as I run through Fochabers, under the road bridge and head towards Spey Bay. I take a walking break here and am immediately passed by a runner going strong which irks me. I run as much as possible but get passed by another two runners. This time I have a talk to myself, I must not get carried away with other runners, I must run my own race against the clock. At Spey Bay I lose time trying to phone coach, my fickle phone is playing up and I can't see it in the strong sunlight. I eventually get through and give an eta at Buckie then start running as much as possible again. I manage to pass a few runners before reaching Portgordon and make a mental note to come back and photograph the seals here in the future. It's all road now and I am alone running through Buckpool and Buckie, guided all the way by the excellent marshaling we have had for the duration of the race. Uphill and follow the flags across the line, 6 hours 24 minutes 46 seconds, 45th place.

Thank you to Sarah-Louise Grigor and the marshals for organising a cracking ultra race and giving what the Deer Runner thinks is one of the coolest medals yet.

So, one more ultra for 2012, Glen Ogle 33 on the 3rd of November which just happens to be entry month for WHW 2013.......

Saturday, 18 August 2012


This was my last run in France before heading back home. The village of Serignan is a few miles from the Med and surrounded by vineyards. The Orb flows through on it's way to Valras. No hills here so a flat run following the river to Serignan Plage was on the cards. From there a three mile barefoot jaunt along the beach was completed before getting shod and heading back to Serignan.

 I departed from the square at Serignan where the market was setting up.

 Like many times during this holiday I cross the Orb.

 Sunrise over the vineyards.

 Road follows the route of the river.

 The Orb is still and quiet here, reflecting on it's journey from the mountains.

 Dingy on it's way to the coast.


 Beziers in the distance, a backdrop of the mountains where I previously ran.

 The harbour at Valras.

The Orb finally meets the Mediterranean.

 Serignan Plage on the Golfe Du Lion.

 Running on the slope at the beach can cause joint pain, particularly if running one way and not turning round. I walked back the way a few times to give the ankles a break.

 After three miles its time to turn inland and head back to Serignan.

 This is the commercial part of the beach, plenty of camping around these parts.

 Feeding time at one of the two ranches.

 Murals catch my eye by the road side on the way back.
Back at the square where the market is in full swing.

So in the space of a week I go from wine country to whiskey country, the Speyside Way Ultra.
I'm not sure where my fitness is for taking on over 36 miles as I have not put in high miles during training. When I have run it's been mostly on the hills and trails so hopefully I'll stand in good stead for this Ultra.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


Its difficult to fit running around a family holiday, particularly when the climate is hot. I squeezed an evening run in even though the temperature was still over 30 deg. I stayed in the valley this time, crossing the Orb to Vieussan, a picturesque village perched on the hillside with a dramatic back drop where a trail hugs the side of the mountain.
 A view of the destination from our terrace.

 Cross the Orb on a concrete footbridge.

 Cross the road and up past the town house.

 Up the hill and through alleyways of Vieussan.

The trail is quite hard to find at the village.

 Brilliant views of the Orb valley.

 I had to carefully negotiate the scree slope as I didn't want rocks to fall on the road far below.

 This was a quick run so I turned around at a forest on the hillside.
 A view of the road below and the footbridge I crossed earlier.

 On the return I cross a road bridge over the Orb.

Back up the other side and one of my favourite views of Vieussan.

Soon we leave the mountains for the Mediterranean coast where I hope to get one more run done before heading home.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Wine Country

Boissezon, the Orb Valley, South France, 0600 on the 08th August. The Deer Runner has been on vacation for almost a week without putting in a decent run. Good food and red wine has made him idle in the high temperatures experienced in this region of France but this is about to change. He quietly puts on running gear, fills a two litre plastic bottle with water and pockets two brioche breads. On the doorstep is some of the most beautiful scenery he has ever run. These mountains have miles and miles of tracks snaking their way through vineyards, peaks and valleys. Today the destination is Naudech, a peak he has run in the past and where plenty of water needs to be carried.
 The trail leaving Boissezon.

Cross the road and climb a steep rocky scree slope.

 Up into vineyards and a view of the destination.

 The Deer Runners favourite part, a trail above the valley floor where the smell of pine wafts up in the heat.


 The destination, golden in the morning sunshine.

 A view of the Orb.

 The sun peaks over the mountains, its going to get hot.

 A view of where he has been, a water storage tank.

 Caroux mountain range.

 The track zig zags up towards the summit.

 The sun makes it's presence felt.

 Armstrongs footprints are directly above.

 Olargues with the bridge built by Eiffel.

 Target practise for the hunters.

 Miles of trail through the hills, this area would make a great ultra.

 The highest peak is not the most scenic, you have to double back and make your way to a rocky outcrop.


A cracking run and one of my all time favourites. Happy holidays.