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.