The Deer Runner

The Deer Runner

Wednesday, 7 June 2017


I have a new routine.  I put on running kit and head out for a test run.  Ankle pain shows up right at the start, struggle through whatever mileage I decided to do (anything from 2 to 5 miles), leave it for another week and repeat.  It's the same every week, I have no expectations, medial pain makes it's appearance as soon as I strike off to run.

My right leg has thrown the toys out of the pram.  It's the weak leg and I've asked it to step up to the mark and get me running again.  Fat chance, it now complains along with my back muscles.  I have no running form and as for core strength? that fled the sinking ship long ago.

The 3 miles home from my work has become a chore, I've finished the D33 in better shape than my commute, stumbling through the door broken, wheezy and sore.  11:40 minute miles was my average pace during a recent 5 miler and that was as fast as I could run.

I've turned alternative and wear a magnet inside my sock.  I take glucosamine tablets to speed up the healing.  I don't think I have been rehabilitating the ankle enough, a few exercises now and again has not been sufficient.  I use an elastic band and wobble board every now and then and have started exercises to strengthen the tibialis posterior tendon after consultation with doctor Google.

On the plus side I have marshaled, both at the Highland Fling and Cateran.  Missing my favorite ultra was painful but Karen and George allowed me to join the team last minute where I had a great weekend helping out.

Future events - needless to say, my East to West challenge is out the window, for this year anyway. Looks like I'll have to withdraw from the Hardmoors 60 in September which is disappointing.  Not getting back to running means there's no way I have time to get fit enough for the 60.  Both Lynne and myself are signed up for the Glenmore 24 and if I'm still the same? sod it, I'll walk it instead.

The Glen Ogle 33 opened at the weekend,  I entered it to give myself a target and inspiration to get training again.  I would also like to get back to the Cateran and run the 55 miles solo which may well be mid winter, here's hoping.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The long denial

A three mile hill run confirmed I wasn't ready, it was a test run before my physio.  I went to the appointment, it seems the soft tissue has heeled but there's pain on the inside of the ankle when I run. This is on the opposite side of the ligament damage, the conclusion being this is bruising to the bone inside the joint.  It's going to take time to heal so we tried taping the ankle to see if this would alleviate the pain and allow a slow return.

Every day walking is fine, but when I run it's the impact and pushing off that's the problem forcing my body to compensate.  The ankle was taped and I attempted a run but aborted after 50 yards, the pain was still there.  My physiotherapist advised another two weeks cross training before attempting another run, did I heed the advice?  Nope.

Sunday saw Lynne and I head for Bennachie, it was time to get Lynne fit for the G24 in December.     Lynne would run while I walked but once again I couldn't contain myself.  It was such a beautiful day we ended up hiking and running for 5 miles, this was considerably uncomfortable on the ankle.

Wednesday saw a work colleague, Lynne and I head for the Braes o Gight, another denial run and uncomfortable eight miles with no lesson learnt.  I kept thinking the next run will be the one with no pain and a return to normal.

And so to this past weekend, a recce of the G24 route in the Cairngorms and another eight miles, it's all I could muster as the ankle swelled up.

The Fling is less than three weeks away, I still have not pulled out but it's inevitable.  I also need to heed the advice from my physio, lets see what this week brings.

Week ending 02nd April - Sun 05.  Weekly total 5 miles.
Wed 08, Sun 08.  Weekly total 16 miles.


Sunday, 26 March 2017


 With fine weather and blue skies over the weekend, my Facebook feed was full of fellow runners sending photos from all over the country.  A visit to the physio is booked this Wednesday so it was time to test the ankle once more.  Brimmond Hill was the destination, time to pull on the trainers and give it a decent go, the first time since the 24th of January.

For those that don't know Brimmond, it has a car park at the base and a tarred road used by service vehicles to the top.  It's not too long nor very steep but would be quite sufficient for the test today.

I was accompanied by Lynne, she wanted to get training for the Glenmore 24 in September.  Once out of the car I advised a wee jog around the car park to bring our heart rate up before ascending the hill. It quickly became apparent the ankle was not going to play ball, with stiff shooting pains I decided to walk up the hill while Lynne ran ahead.  I couldn't contain myself though and jogged some of the uphill regardless how my ankle was feeling.  I couldn't help thinking, am I doing myself damage running in pain or is it time to tell the ankle this is how it should be, time to get back to normal.

When I say jog, I don't mean a normal jog.  The body compensated to deal with the injured ankle which meant my right leg was doing most of the work.  I was subconsciously protecting the ankle from striking and pushing off.  Uphill was the worst but I was thankful to be out and getting some sort of exercise regardless of the circumstances.

Once at the top, we decided to descend to the rear of the hill and return.  This was trail and I didn't have my ankle strapped up.  I took it real easy, baby steps while Lynne ran ahead.  At one stage I decided to go all out, just to see how the ankle responded and yelled out as the ankle protested.  that put the brakes on, even though going downhill was much easier.

Run / walking back up reminded me just how unfit I was as I struggled for breath.  Lynne was now way ahead, reached the summit and was making her way back down the tarred road as I shuffled behind.  I had a chuckle to myself as Lynne turned around and started running back up towards me, doing hill repeats with a grin on her face and enjoying being out in front, the audacity of it all.

Never the less, I managed to jog back down to the car, an estimated 3 miles completed but at what cost.  Today was either a turning point and time to get going again or a setback with the ankle needing further recuperation, at this point I'm not sure which.  I'll find out when I visit the physio on Wednesday.

Sunday 03.  Weekly total - 3 miles.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

D33 - Marathon Man

I had to pull out of the D33 but that didn't mean I couldn't take part.  I volunteered to marshal and at such a late stage didn't expect to be called upon.  A road crossing at Peterculter required a marshal, a post I was perfectly happy to accept.

And so I found myself at Duthie Park on race day, it felt strange helping out rather than getting ready to run.  I didn't hang around for race start, I wanted to drive to the road crossing and get ready for runners coming through.

Station Road East has a small car park - runners, cyclists and dog walkers are using it for access to the Deeside Way.  The road crossing is seven miles into the race and as it is an out and back just happens to be exactly marathon distance on the way back.

I wasn't sure what time the leaders would come through, so I took up position  in plenty of time.  The trail exits to the road and turns downhill for a short distance before a left turn then runners rejoin the trail on the right hand side of the road.  From where I stood I could just see where runners rejoined the trail.

I stood in position, nervously waiting for runners to come through, chatting to inquisitive locals and letting them know about Aberdeen's premier running race.

It wasn't long before the escort push bike came into sight, closely followed by race leader.  I clapped and cheered all runners through while watching for traffic and warning motorists.

I was into the swing of things, "well done, keep left, downhill, rejoin the track" I repeated as runners passed.  Some obviously knew the route and arrows were spray painted on the ground but I mainly tried to keep runners to the side of the road.  All was going well until one runner came through, I advised the directions but made an error, instead of downhill I advised down the bottom of the hill.

The runner was on her way before I could rectify my instruction.  I could just see her, hoping she would turn onto the track rather than run to the bottom of the hill.  Oh no, she missed the turn off.  I asked the next runner through to shout after her.  I kept an eye on the turn off, there was still no sign of the runner coming back up the hill.  Another two runners passed through, I asked them to keep an eye out for a wayward runner wearing purple.

After a couple of minutes there was still no sign of the runner, there was only one thing for it, I sprinted downhill to look for her.  My left ankle complained straight away, between having to run and wearing boots.  The road led the a tee junction, I turned right and was dismayed to see the road disappear into the countryside.  Blast.  There was a dog walker coming towards me, "have you seen a wayward runner"? I asked.  "Yes, I've given her directions to get back onto the track" I was relieved to hear.  I sprinted back to my marshal post with an unhappy ankle, my decision to pull out of the race was the right one.

Once all runners were through I returned to the camper and had something to eat.  The weather had changed with quite heavy rain falling.  A soaking wet and bedraggled runner appeared in the car park, I thought it was someone pulling out of the race, I jumped out of the van to assist only to be told she was a local who got caught in the rain.  She enquired about the event and shook her head in disbelief when told the distance before getting in her car.

Brolly in hand, I took up position for the runners returning to Aberdeen.  I watched for runners appearing and running up the hill.  I slowed local traffic down making sure nothing happened to George and Karen's participants.  The front runners ran through fast, muddy legs showed the course was rather wet this year.  It was fascinating cheering all runners through, some walking, some running but all putting in gritty performances.  There were some carrying injuries, the camaraderie was a breath of fresh air as runners teamed up with each other, another left freeze spray for a runner who would come through limping.  Sure enough, 10 minutes later the spray was used by the limping runner before continuing on his way.

I didn't realise I was standing at 26.2 until a few runners mentioned it passing by, with one calling me marathon man as he crossed the road.  I was having a great time, "beer this way" I would call out, pointing to the track leading to Aberdeen.  Haribo sweets were offered, I enquired after tired looking runners, making sure they were okay as they continued.  Most had passed and continued on their way before I got the message to stand down at 1500.

I returned to Duthie Park and watched runners cross the line before helping to dismantle the marquee. Unfortunately I had to leave and missed Julie, the most determined and gritty runner of the day cross the line.

Thanks to George and Karen for allowing me a part in their race, it was a pleasure to marshal for runners that were polite and said thank you as they passed by, both out and back.  

So marshalling is very satisfying, which is just as well, I might be offering my services to the Fling.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Aspiration versus reality

I envisaged a good winter training schedule leading to race season then taking on a personal challenge.  All this planning and race entries did not take into account life, work or injury.  The growing popularity of ultra running means races fill fast, forcing participants to enter months ahead of race day.  I had a race schedule worked out to bring my fitness up using the tried and tested SUMS ultra calendar.  Events are used to build strength and stamina, I was so confident in having a good season I threw in the Hardmoors 55 as well, a relatively high mile race for me during March.

As previously posted, it went belly up on a run home in the dark, a pothole brought me to my knees. A physio appointment put paid to the Hardmoors but gave hope in running the D33.

I was advised to cross train and get on the bike.  I did, 30 miles on my old mountain bike which felt like 3 hours of torture, I'm not into cycling.  I have a rowing machine, another torture device which I don't like.  I do sessions on the rower in fits and starts, only doing a session when I can be bothered.   I should have been on the rower, but decided to sit and update my blog instead.  As for swimming?   Difficulty fitting time in for swimming and a dislike of water means no visit to the public baths for me.            

It's safe to say I struggle with cross training and always have.  The result?  After six weeks of very little exercise, I feel as if my fitness has ebbed away.  In such a short time, my midriff has expanded thanks to a lack of running, bad diet and alcohol consumption.

The ankle kept swelling, but I was still on track to do the D33 after a second visit to the physio.       One more visit was required where I would be shown how to strap and support the ankle. Unfortunately I was unable to make this appointment which has been postponed and with ongoing ankle problems pulled out of the second race of my year.

The Fling is fast approaching which is now in jeopardy.  My rescheduled physio appointment is over a week away and although the ankle feels like it's getting stronger, pain stops any sort of running whatsoever.  Obviously this is going to have a knock on effect, not only is the Fling and possibly Cateran under threat but my personal challenge as well.  With no running and racing, there's no way I'll be fit enough for my east to west.

The next couple of weeks is going to determine how my summer running will go, I'm going to need a rapid improvement in ankle recovery.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017


Only one 15 minute session on the rower is all the exercise I've had during the last three weeks.  It was too soon, my ankle did not like the stress placed on it and let me know by swelling up again.  Last week I walked about a mile after which a lump appeared on the left hand side.  I had resigned myself to being out of running for quite a while.

I made an appointment with my sports physiotherapist and made my way to the appointment with trepidation, fully expecting confirmation of my self diagnosis.  After a thorough examination the news was much better than I expected.

After around 10 days (cross training which I have not been doing), exercises and another visit I should be able to tape the ankle for support and resume running.  Great news, I didn't expect that.  I then presumed I'd have to withdraw from my first two events of the year, the D33 and Hardmoors 55.  Not necessarily, as the D33 is flat with no hills it should be doable with the ankle taped.  Unfortunately that's not the case for the Hardmoors 55, with rugged terrain and hills, that one is not going to happen.

Running the D33 will let me know exactly where I am, it also follows a bus route, so if things go belly up I can jump aboard the bus.  So now I have a target to rehabilitate the ankle and get fit for the Highland Fling at the end of April.  I withdrew from the Hardmoors 55 and entered the Hardmoors 60 which takes place 16th September, I'm going to have to wait a bit longer before my first "foreign" race outside Scotland.  

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Oops, I did it again.

January was going okay, nothing spectacular, mileage down on what's required for 2017 in 2017 though.  A 10 mile hill run was completed on Bennachie with plans to do more in future.  It was Tuesday night when I decided to run home from work, only 3 miles but every little helps.

It was a fine, clear night but I still needed my head torch to run on the road.  I was about half a mile out, running on the right hand side of the road, when a vehicle approached.  Rather than jump onto the verge (which is what I usually do when traffic approaches), I crossed over to the left hand side of the road.  The vehicle stopped (unknown to me this was a farmer tending to livestock) with the headlights shining and blinding my vision.  In hindsight I should have slowed to a walk, stupidly I carried on running with my vision dazzled.  My left foot hit a pothole, my leg buckled and over I went, skidding along the muddy road.  I promptly got onto my feet but there was no way I could continue, I knew something was wrong with my left foot.

In a daze I shuffled to the side of the road and sat on the verge.  I was just about to phone a work colleague when a car noticed my predicament and stopped.  Even though I was covered in mud with a bloody knee, they covered the back seat of their car and took me home.  So Kenny and Alex, thank you for the assistance it was much appreciated.

I hobbled to the shower, removing the sock exposed a huge lump and rapidly swelling ankle.  Once cleaned up I iced the ankle (I'm getting familiar with this routine after just recovering my right ankle) but it continued to swell.  I would sleep then see how it was on Wednesday.

I could hardly walk, time for A & E, praying no bones were broken.  After examination and X ray I was glad to be given news of nothing broken.  I do however have ligament damage which is perceived as worse than a break, I'll take the ligament damage.

So here I am, giving the ankle RIPE, that's Rest, Ice, Pain control and Elevation - latest medical advice is not to compress.  I can't put full weight on the foot for the time being, a far cry from running the hills and trails at the weekend.

Obviously this will affect the start of my season, the D33 and Hardmoors 55 are in jeopardy, I will probably have to withdraw but I won't do it yet, I'll take it easy then see that the physio says.

Week ending 8th Jan - Mon 6, Wed 3.  Weekly total 9 miles.
Week ending 15th Jan - Wed 3, Sat 30.  Weekly total 33 miles.
Week ending 22nd Jan - Tues 3, Wed 3, Thurs 3, Sat 10.  Weekly total 19 miles.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Almost 50 Nearly 50

Going over my ankle early December forces me to find an alternative challenge from running the West Highland Way.  I doubted it would recover soon enough and allow me to do ultra distance.  After three weeks my ankle feels a bit better, it's still uncomfortable at extremes of mobility but if I strap it up I may be able to do an ultra before the end of the year.

With New Year booked in Inverness, I turn my attention to the Moray Coast Trail between Cullen and Forres.  I begin to organise the logistics, Lynne and Skye can pick me up from Forres on the way to Inverness for our break.  I have to be fair though and want us all checked into the hotel early afternoon. This means I cannot run the route during daylight, an overnight run will make it a bit different and more of a challenge.  I consider running from my house which would add around 32 miles to the MCT 50 but I'm not fit enough for 82 miles.

I'll take on the run overnight 29th / 30th December as my birthday is on the 31st.  The last bus passes through Fyvie at 2120 and arrives at Cullen 2230 hours.  I will give myself a generous 12 hours to complete the route, Lynne and Skye will pick me up 1030 at Forres.  I'll do this unsupported, in the event of an emergency it's an early morning phone call to Lynne.

I regularly check the weather forecast as the 29th approaches.  It's very mild and a bit windy, I was hoping for a clear starlit night but this is not going to happen.  I nervously pack kit on the 29th, questioning the decision to take this on unsupported through the night with a dodgy ankle.  My mind is made up though, I need to do something that scares me before I'm 50.

I get my North Face back pack ready, with only two 500 ml bottles hydration is going to be a problem, one contains water, the other contains Nunn tablets.  On the pack I have a foil blanket, bandage, ankle support, pain killers, toilet roll, whistle and £20 note.  I want to pack a ski jacket in case of emergency but there's no room for it.  Instead I pack two lightweight running jackets and a woolly hat figuring plenty of layers would suffice.  Food is two packets of crisps, a pot of rice, galaxy bar and chocolate fudge.

I will take my Tikka head torch and Phoenix hand torch with spare batteries for both.  I will also take a portable charger for my iphone so I can be sure enough power is in my phone at the end of the run.

My attire is Hoka Speedgoats, running leggings, long shorts, a teeshirt, long sleeve running top, high viz gilet, gloves and buff.  I will take my mp3/radio player which is mounted on an arm band, I have a running playlist on my iphone.

I intend to sleep during the day before I set off but this does not happen.  I also have second thoughts, it would be nice and warm to stay at home so all of us can travel to Inverness together but I'm committed, there's no turning back.

Lynne drives me to Fyvie, I'm apprehensive as we wait for the last bus.  It arrives early, I have £8 in my pocket for the fare, the driver asks £12.75.  Blast, I didn't expect it to be so much.  I have to fumble in my back pack for the £20 note which will now be broken into change for my pocket.

I take a seat near the front, there's a draught that chills my feet but I stay put and stare out the window.  Christmas lights penetrate the darkness as I concentrate on the challenge ahead.  Shoppers and revellers access and egress the bus as it makes it's way through towns and villages.  I get strange looks now and again, wearing full running kit at such an odd hour.  There's no one else on the bus when I ask the driver to drop me off at the square in Cullin.

The bus pulls away and leaves me standing alone, the place is deserted.  I stand for a few minutes, the wind blows an empty plastic bottle down the street.

Cullin to Buckie.
I leave on the viaduct overlooking Seatown.  The night is overcast so no stars to show the way.  It's clear though, orange glow of town street lights can be seen for miles up the coast.  There's a stiff headwind which won't change direction for the duration of the run.  Portnockie is mostly deserted, the loose change jingles in my pocket which irritates me as I run.  I don't want dogs barking and causing a commotion as I move through.  I'm now on the exposed cliff top path where the wind forces me to lean and walk.  I need the wind strength to ease as the effort to move forward is tiring me out already.  The cliffs are high above the Moray Firth, there's nothing to see, it's pitch black but I can hear the surf below.  Two pairs of eyes are reflected back to the head torch.  Are they foxes?  I can't tell but they stand their ground and watch warily as I run by.  The path drops into Findochty, the MCT is way marked but signs can be sporadic.  I know where the trail goes, through the campsite which we have used previously.  Tonight the site is closed, vans sit empty and ghostly out of season.  The trail is on the coast at the foot of cliffs, I cross a cove with crashing waves below, a small footbridge keeps me safe.  I'm concerned, the tide is in which will make some of the beach crossings ahead out of bounds.  Up to the top once more, I skirt the golf course expecting to drop into Strathlene on the edge of Buckie but no, the trail heads towards the sea on a precarious narrow track.  No running here as the trail lowers to the rocky shoreline, the crashing waves nearby are alarming.  At last there's lights ahead and civilisation, I can leave the uneasy feeling behind for the time being but know there will be more ahead.        

Buckie to Spey Bay.
I'm familiar with this part of the MCT as it's shared with the Speyside Way to Spey Bay.  A couple of taxis pass as I run through the streets.  A smoker stares as I run past, I resist the urge to go into the bar for a pint.  I leave the lights of Portgordon behind and run steadily on the long disused railway towards the woods.  I was sheltered from the wind by buildings but now it makes it's presence felt.  I reach the woods where there's some respite, physical respite but not mental.  The wind shakes and sways the trees as I run through, branches screech and rustle high above which allows my imagination to escape and wreak havoc.  Hair on the back of my neck stands on end as I follow the torch light, there's something ahead, a huge bird with a large beak is going to cross the trail.  I get closer before realising a tree stump won't be able to cross the trail, it's too early for hallucinations.  I'm happy to see the lights of Spey Bay and exit the woods, I get hold of my imagination and lock it away.

Spey Bay to Lossiemouth.
In all my years running the Speyside Ultra, I never realised there was a nearby railway viaduct that crosses the Spey.  In fact, when I first looked into this run I thought I would have to run inland to Fochabers to reach a bridge then make my way back to the coast.  I am concerned, during darkness I might miss the turn off to the viaduct but it is easy enough to find.  The path is in good condition which leads to the viaduct, heavy steel work ahead is picked up by my torch.  The structure has now been demoted to carry pedestrians rather than heavy locomotives in days gone by.  I move onto the concrete path in the centre of the bridge, there seems to be slats either side of the path, I don't shine my torch through to the river below.  The river Spey is possibly the fastest flowing river in the UK, at one section loud rapids can be heard, the river is in a hurry to reach the Moray Firth.  Once across I have Garmouth and Kingston all to myself, following the trail through lanes, snaking between sleeping houses.  There's a rifle range after Kingston, the trail is closed during exercises.  A daytime number is supplied to check if it's in use but I haven't checked, surely it's not in use at night, or is it?  Red flags fly when the range is in use and now I'm worried a night exercise may be held and my run will be all over.  I reach a nature reserve car park and wide track that leads back towards the coast.  Tank blocks are here, interspersed with pillboxes, their empty black eyes watch me running past.  The track is full of pebbles, running is precarious with my weak ankle.  On some stretches it is impossible to run which forces me to walk and make sure I don't twist the ankle.  I consider crossing  ridges of pebbles to reach the beach but I'm convinced the tide is in, I can hear the crash and hiss of waves.  I decide to stick with the pebble path and creepy pillboxes even though my progress is slow.  I reach the rifle range warning sign and turn my torch to the flagpole.  The wire slaps against the post, the wind ringing it like a bell in the darkness but there's no flag.  Before continuing I shine the torch up the pole a second time, just to make sure, then go.  Imagination breaks loose once more, a mixture of crashing waves, staring pillboxes and the possibility of someone forgetting to raise the flag keeps my senses alert.  The track continues to follow tank blocks and boxes for miles, sometimes there's a sand trail at the side allowing a short jog but I mostly walk.  I arrive at a junction in the trail, an alternative route to Lossiemouth through the woods.  I stand for a few minutes then decide to run through the trees.  I leave the coast but the trail is full of large pebbles and not marked at junctions.  After a quarter of a mile I turn back for the coast, I don't fancy being lost in the forest and losing time.  Lights can be seen in the distance but as I continue they don't seem to get closer.  Lossiemouth is the new Kinlochleven, taunting and illusive as I run towards the town.  The trail exits onto the beach, still a fair bit to go to the street lights.  Waves crash and roll to the right, a desperate attempt to reach inland.  Streetlights of Lossie come into focus, bright and decorated for Christmas.  Then a thought crosses my mind,  oh no!  The river Lossie may flow between the beach and street ahead and if it does I don't know where the bridge is. The street is only a few hundred yards away and it looks like I'm okay, I crest the sand bank then look at  reflections, street lights bounce off the river ahead and I come to a halt.  I switch on my powerful hand torch and scan the river ahead, there's a wooden structure to the right.  I hope it's a bridge, but no, it's a wooden barrier that stretches into the surf, I'll have to run inland to a crossing.  I follow the river expecting to travel for miles but not long after the beam picks up another wooden structure, this time a foot bridge.  Relieved, I walk across the creaky structure, the dark river flows silently below.  It's four o'clock in the morning as I sit on a bench overlooking the bay and send a text to Lynne.  The wind blows as I eat then drink the last of my water, hydration will now be an issue.

Lossiemouth to Findhorn.
If I come across someone, I'll ask for water.  I run to the marina, once again the MCT signs are non existent.  I can't find where to join the coast trail then decide to leave Lossiemouth by the road. There are various paths that lead to the coast but I'm so sore and exhausted by the last coast section I'm perfectly happy to run on tarmac.  The whole town is deserted which means no water for me, I'll have to wait till Hopeman.  Red beacons scatter the countryside ahead, it's not till I get closer I realise what they are.  Landing lights for RAF Lossiemouth, a place I am familiar with from my youth in the ATC.  It's all quiet, no Typhoons will be flying at this hour.  I reminisce on times gone by when the base was home to Buccaneers and Shackletons.  The road to Hopeman passes Silver Sands Caravan Park which is silent, no thirst quenching water here.  Covesea lighthouse is to the right, RAF Lossiemouth to the left and red light towers in front which is where I head.  Traffic begins to travel on the road forcing me to periodically get on the verge.  A sign post guides me away from the road back to the coast and cliff top paths.  Once again the trail twists and turns above the surf before reaching a fence and "danger, keep out" signs.  It's a quarry and I've no desire to go anywhere near the face, I stick diligently to the trail which takes me into Hopeman.  It's too early for shops to be open, I hope to bump into someone getting ready to leave for work, I'll request water.  No sign of life here either, I end up on a tarred ex railway line to Burghead.  It's only a few miles, there's a huge factory lit up in the distance, Burghead Maltings and the start of the whiskey trail.  The lack of signs finds me at the caravan site and a slipway down to the beach,  I can see two red towers far in the distance around the curve of the bay and presume this is Findhorn.  My torch picks out the surf, the waves are far enough out to allow me to run on the beach,  I hope the tide is on it's way out as to the left of me erosion has left a formidable vertical wall of sand held together by the forest on top, there's no way I would be able to scale this.  The wind has picked up and once again I have to lean and walk to make progress.  It's now 0815 and I still need my torch, dawn is taking an age to reach here.  My torch illuminates a whelk, I stop to pack away my torches and the shell.  I'm getting closer to the red light towers and realise I have been mistaken, the bay continues on.  The eroded wall is around 10 feet tall here, so I climb the next path through to get an idea of the lie of the land.  The sun is just rising now, there's a path at the top which follows the bay, I'm guessing this would have to be used if the tide was in which would add time and distance to the MCT.  I descend to the beach once more and eventually make my way to wooden steps.  These lead to the public car park and Findhorn.  
Findhorn to Forres.
I have a raging thirst now, a shop is open in the village.  I purchase and down a bottle of water and a bottle of coke which sets me up for the last leg of my journey.  There is a footpath come cycle way which is signposted 5 miles to Forres.  Buses are running and commuters are on the road, I'm back in civilisation again.  I'm beginning to tire and run walk, saying good morning to runners and cyclists.  I pass RAF Kinloss with it's redundant Nimrod parked at the fence.  The wind has dropped, for the first time during the run I can listen to music.  Appropriately Brian Eno - An Ending plays through the ear phones.  My muscles and joints are sore but it feels good to be covering this distance the day before my 50th birthday.  I've made it to Forres, my watch shows 46 miles as I cross the pedestrian bridge over the A96.  I have deviated from the trail a few times which may account for the 4 mile short fall, but with the head wind experienced I claim 50 miles.  Content, I lie down on the grass verge and wait for my lift.

Week ending 18th Dec - Thurs 3, Sat 2, Sun 2.  Weekly total 7 miles.
Week ending 25th Dec - Thurs 2, Fri 2,  Sat 2.  Weekly total 6 miles.
Week ending 01st Jan - Mon 2, Tues 2, Wed 2, Thurs 2, Thurs/Fri 46.  Weekly total 54 miles,