Red Wine Runner

A Scottish Running Blog

Cateran Countdown

At some point in October last year I decided that it was a good idea to run both the Highland Fling and the Cateran Trail Ultra this Spring. After a bit of dithering I took the advice of some friends and decided to just go for it and really level up my ultra running this year. Neither race in itself is a monster challenge, but the fact that they are only three weeks apart is quite intimidating.

cateran trail ultra

The last few months have held plenty of distractions as we know, and without a structured training plan for the last two months after the D33 it has been very easy to forget about the larger challenges on the horizons of this year like this double-header. My tactic for sanity, much like last year, was to take each week at a time to stop myself from freaking out over the thought of multiple 50+ mile races (and that big 70+ mile one too), and just do my best to keep uninjured.

Despite having a great Fling, I’ve been desperately trying to put off thinking about the Cateran in the hope that it would make the time in between the two last longer. It made absolutely no difference of course, and now with just over 12 hours to go I must face up to some more race planning and strategising to get the best out of my day tomorrow.

cateran trail ultra

image from

I have 15 hours to run the 55 miles of the Cateran trail after the race starts at 7am. It’s a pretty small race, with 84 registered runners in the 55 mile race and 15 runners in the 110 mile Double Cateran race. The race starts and finishes at the Spittal of Glenshee hotel, which is about an hour and a half drive South West from Stonehaven, and the route follows a circular route on a mix of roads, trails and farm tracks. It appears to have none of the rugged terrain that the Fling/West Highland Way is known for, but it still packs plenty of proper hills including a monster 5 mile long climb at the finish. The total ascent is 5754ft.

cateran trail ultra

Elevation profile borrowed from Jonathan at

The race is unsupported with 6 drop bags at check points at 6, 15, 26, 31, 28, and 49 miles. I’ve packed the following for checkpoints 2 onwards:

cateran trail ultra

There are quorn sausages and slices of pizza to be added when they are cooked tonight after work.

The weather is looking weird – it’s supposed to be very warm all weekend but the forecast for where we will be is 10 – 12C with rain. Given how wrong the forecast for the Fling was I’ll just pack all my suitable kit and pick it on the morning. I’m hoping for cloudy and warm.

I have taken some advice and will try toe socks on my feet this time and will see if they make any difference to my horrific between-toe blisters. I will wear the same shoes (Salomon speedcross 3’s) and hopefully will see some improvement as I really need to crack this problem before the Great Glen Way in July.

In terms of time, I’m hoping to come in around 12 or 12.5 hours. I’m ready to work really hard and throw everything I’ve got at this race and really test myself. I know what it feels like for me to run for this kind of time and distance now, so it’s time to start trimming the fat off my time and get more efficient at this distance. On the other hand I don’t really know what to expect out there as I don’t know the course, so anything can happen.

I’ve had a challenging couple of days, so at the base of it all I’m really just looking forward to a day out to myself in the hills working hard and running away from the world. Of course the course is a circle so whatever I run away from I will eventually have to return to, but hopefully I’ll have found some peace along the way.


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