Red Wine Runner

A Scottish Running Blog

Winter X-Country Running – Really!?

Last week I was surfing around the ever reliable Scottish Running Guide looking for some mid-winter inspiration. I’m signed up and ready for the Wildhearts Aberdeen Santa Run on the 12th of December, but I was looking for something to aim for in January and/or February. Basically a short distance race to keep myself motivated throughout the cold months when all I really want to do is sit in by the fire with the cats, a bottle of wine and a Bond film.

I was delighted to find exactly what I was looking for – a three 3-mile race series around Aberdeenshire that was run by local running shop The Running Shop, and the first race took place on Sunday the 21st of November. Further races take place in January and February and if you complete all three you are awarded with a medal! A quick call to the Running Shop confirmed that I could enter on the day, so I excitedly began planning how I would tackle the race.

Many moons ago I ran 1 mile X-country races as part of school sports, but since then I have only ever run on solid ground or a treadmill. I always enjoyed the excuse to run around in forests and get muddy, so the chance to do this again as an adult seemed like an excellent opportunity! And then I saw the weather forecast… Of course, in my excitement I had forgotten that it is the middle of Winter in the North of Scotland. “Arctic blast!” the papers screamed, “Earliest snow for 20 years!” yelped the weather man. “You’re utterly insane” snorked my boyfriend. “Onwards!” hailed the Red Wine Runner!

Race Re-cap – Winter X-Country Series race 1 – 21/11/10 – Knockburn, Banchory

I started the day with some power porridge (golden syrup topped with dried fruit, berries and seeds) and a cup of joe as per. Whilst Badger got as much sleep as possible I wrapped up as warmly as possible whilst looking nervously out of the window at the frost outside.

In my bag I packed: Ear warmer, gloves, thick jumper, water, directions, phone, energy drink. On the way I bought some bananas and an electrolyte drink to have afterwards. Azul supervised!

When we arrived we got bundled up and decided to walk the course after I got registered and paid my entry fee (£12). It was a gorgeous course, and whilst it was very chilly it wasn’t windy or rainy. The ground was VERY wet under foot though.

After considerable amounts of hanging about whilst trying to keep warm, I had my pre-race banana and red bull andbefore I knew it it was time to get to the start!

I was excited to try out my new winter running gear – I’d been given some vouchers from Run4it to buy a new jacket, but decided a gilet would suit the way my body heats itself better, so bought some proper running gloves and an ear warmer as well.

And they’re off! There was about 50 people running in my start – Senior and Veteran males and females, and also U17 and U15 males and females.

The first thing I noticed was how unsteady the terrain was. I’ve had problems with my knees in the past and I was really worried that I might twist something or do some damage. Large amounts of sand had been dumped on areas which were very muddy and this was particularly hard to run on, especially going up hill! The other thing that struck me was how hard it was to breath in deep breaths of the freezing air – it really hurts!

The course had a small loop and a large loop, so there was the frustration of completing the first loop and knowing I had to do it all again! My feet were soaked and muddied but I guess I have a great pair of shoes right now as even though everything was waterlogged they were still a dream to run in.

At this point I was feeling a little less awesome, and slightly questioning my sanity. My nose was streaming and my lungs were aching. I was about to embark on the large loop which involved zig-zagging up a hill and then down again and I had separated out from the speedy pack long ago…it was just me and this hill:I’m in there somewhere.

It got a bit lonely out there. I had decided to not listen to my iPod as I wanted to hear in case people needed to pass me on the trail. Turned out that wasn’t such a problem as they’d all passed me by the first mile, so not to worry! I think I was pacing to some emergency Britney Spears here. Go ahead, judge me. Haters gonna hate. But I have a playlist full of songs which beats are at my ideal comfort pace and are guaranteed to push me a little bit further when all I want to do is fall on the ground in tears. “Womanizer” by Britney is one of them!

At the finish Badger decided to take a video rather than snap some shots, but never mind. I made through the nasty uphill, sandy finish and crossed the line at 28m 58 seconds.

I knew I was never going to make waves with my speed but I’d kind of hoped to do a bit better – that hill utterly smoked me however and I had to walk for about 20 seconds to get my breathing to a normal rate to continue. The chip times came out yesterday and they were done by age group – as a 26 year old girl I’m a ‘Senior Woman’ according to Scottish Athletics, and out of the nine women in my class I placed…eighth. I have to admit my heart sank a little when I saw that and I felt a little embarrassed to have turned up at all. But then I realised a) Hey – I wasn’t last! b) I should be PROUD to have turned up – Looking at the breakdown I was one of very few people who weren’t registered with a running club, and the fact that I had the balls to turn up and rock my way around a cross country trail for the first time in 16 years should probably be commended.

The next race is at the end of January and I’m looking forward to beating my 3 mile PR! Bring it!


  1. Knockburn’s great, isn’t it! I love how well you’ve captured the experience of racing. The anticipation / nerves, then the feeling as you get into the race. I also love your attitude. In my first bike race I got dropped from the bunch in the first 10 miles. It was a 60 mile race. But I soldiered on and finished, about 20 minutes down on the bunch and second last. A year later I was finishing 2nd in the same race.

    I look forward to following you on your journey!


  2. Baerbel McRitchie

    November 26, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    You’re definitely mildly insane, but well done nonetheless! Great motivation.

  3. Very nice write-up. I certainly love this site.
    Thanks! fotballdrakter

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