For the first time in my three runnings of this race, we were greeted with glorious sunshine when we arrived at the Meadows Sports Centre in Ellon. It was a gorgeous day for running a race, especially one which involved a refreshing dip in the River Ythan and stomping through mucky forests.
Kynon and I arrived to register at about 10am and were once again pleased with the smooth operations in place. I was especially glad to receive a small t-shirt this year! I have never worn last year’s as it was far too large, but I particularly like the design of the 2013 tshirt so I’ll be wearing this a lot.
We went straight back out into the sunshine and met up with lots of friends. There was a big contingent from Stonehaven Running Club and plenty of other well known faces. I was in the second wave with Kate and a couple of the other girls, but Kynon was in the 3rd wave much to his displeasure. I have no idea how they work out the seedings for the corrals in this race; it seems inconsistent as Kynon’s 10k PB and previous Ythan Challenge times are better than mine, but he was seeded slower.
The race was a prompt start at 11am and the first wave swept off to tumultuous applause. Five minutes later it was my time to go and we were soon gallavanting across the playing fields and down the hill to the riverside. The course followed exactly the same format as the last two years – approximately 2.5 miles of easy running by the river, mainly on tarmac or gravel, 2.5 miles of antics in the forest of the Esslemont Estate, and then 2.5 miles on the same route back to the sports ground with a few final obstacles in full view of the spectators to enjoy.
The riverside path was hot and uncomfortable. I took it reasonably easy as I had 16 miles in my legs from the day before and I didn’t want to go off too fast and hurt myself. The sun was beating down and there was no breeze at all – the river itself was very inviting and I looked forward to the dunking we’d get soon. There were lots of people out and enjoying the sunshine so the were plenty of cheers and encouragement as we headed off to the private estate and the obstacles that awaited.
We entered the forest and first up was a cargo net. This caused no problems other than my ill-advised choice of hair do – a bun on the top of my head which kept getting tangled. In amongst more forest running there were haybales to vault, tree trunks to hurdle and steep slopes to scramble. The descent to the Bog Of Doom followed and I gleefully leapt in and used the high-knees technique to safely and quickly traverse to the other side. It had been beautifully cultivated as usual and the thick, black, smelly mud came up to my knees.
With no hesitation at all it was straight in to the river for a wade/swim of about 25 ft upstream. The water was deliciously cool and washed all the mud off quickly as it came up to my tummy. After pulling ourselves out we had another short run before jumping back into the river again for a longer wade through water which was only knee deep. This was fine apart from the gravel stirred up by competitors which was finding its way into my shoes…
After leaving the water we ran along the river where thankfully last year’s cargo net obstacle had been left out. This caused a huge bottle neck and left runners cold and wet as they waited up to 10 minutes to take their turn. Instead there was a maze marked with tape in amongst labyrinthine pine trees, more haybales, tires, scrambly hills, haybales…haybales etc. I enjoyed the haybales as I’m tall, so traversing them is relatively easy as long as I jump up twisting and roll over on my back. Others of more shorter stature struggled with upper body exhaustion by the end of the race after hauling themselves up and over.
It felt like there were less obstacles than last year and that the section passed quicker. All too soon we were back on the road back to Ellon and back in the hot sunshine; it really was a gorgeous day and I was glad I had sunscreen on. I was able to pick up the pace on my return journey and kept under 9 minute miles whilst overtaking a few. In the last mile the fastest runners from the heat behind me caught me and I wondered how Kynon was getting on…
I was pleased to finally get back to the Meadows and had saved some energy for the final tasks. Like last year it involved climbing up and down embankments on tired legs and vaulting more haybales but this time with an audience.
In the final meters of the race I spotted Ali on the sidelines hollering “First Stonehaven Lady home! G on, you can take him!” referring to the man a few meters in front of me. What the hell; I decided to be an asshole and put the foot on the gas and overtook him, but he put up a good fight and we accelerated across the line together laughing as we finished.
There was a great spread of food available and I picked up cereal bars, fruit, juice and water and staggered away whilst scoffing my spoils. I caught the announcer saying Kynon’s name and was surprised to see he had finished only minutes behind me in a time of 1hr 16 – two minutes faster than me! He had made up so much time on the course even though his wave started five minutes after mine that he was almost on my heels at the finish.
We settled down in the sun and cheered on the rest of our friends as they came in one by one.
Another stellar day out from the Ythan Challenge. This remains one of my favourite races in the North East and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes an adventure. It’s extremely well organised and brilliant value for money. Set a note in your calendars to start looking out for entries in January – it usually sells out within hours on the day it opens.
We headed home and enjoyed the rest of our day drinking beer by the harbour – not a bad way to spend a Sunday at all.