I hope you’re having a good day or night, wherever you may be. You might be sleeping, or just getting out of bed or maybe it’s the middle of your day. It’s 7pm on a Wednesday night here in Scotland as I post this.
I’ve finally been on some new adventures to share with you. We recently visited Braemar and Balmoral, in beautiful Royal Deeside in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. I’ve not seen much of this area, wow, what I’ve been missing! It was such an eventful weekend.
We left early on a Friday morning to drive to Braemar Caravan Park where we stayed in a lovely spacious fog pod for two nights. This was the biggest pod we’d ever been in. I know I’ll definitely be back.
The main reason for visiting this area was because I was running the Dramathon 10k (6 miles) trail run, checking in at Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown, Moray. Staying in Braemar meant that we could break up our journey and also enjoy exploring this part of Scotland.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to manage this run as my training and motivation was lacking a little this year. Then I thought, just go, enjoy a few days away and the run. That’s exactly what I did.
We travelled to Dufftown, the malt whisky capital in Moray, on Saturday morning. Then on Sunday we explored Braemar Castle and hiked the 10km Balmoral Cairns circuit. I’ll be writing about beautiful Braemar and the stunning Balmoral Cairns woodland walk in separate posts. I’ve found new beautiful places to explore in this part of Scotland.
For the first time ever, I thought I’d write a post about my run. This would be my first official trail run. Running and beautiful scenery mixes well, as long as you don’t stop all the time to take photos, which I normally do. If I’m carrying my phone, I can’t help myself, I see so many compositions for pretty photos.
I’ve been running for over six years now, always struggling but always trying. It’s the hardest exercise I’ve ever done. From not being able to run at all, never being athletic, to now taking part in official runs is definitely progress for me. I have gained some weight from last year, I think this could be why I’m finding running more difficult at the moment.
Dramathon trail run
The Dramathon 10k trail run was on my 2018 My Peak Challenge list. I was inspired by Cara, my online peaker friend from My Peak Challenge, to try this trail. Cara ran the full marathon last year. Wow! I’m always inspired by marathon and half marathon runners with the dedication they put into their training to be able to go this distance. I decided to sign up for the 10k though, hoping for an easier and more enjoyable run.
The event is a marathon distance run along the Speyside Way, starting at Glenfarclas distillery and ending at Glenfiddich distillery. You can take part in the marathon, half marathon, relay race or 10k. There was also a new event this year, Dramathon wildlife walk. The 10k trail route starts at Aberlour, passing through Balvenie to the finish line at Glenfiddich.
I’ve ran a few 10k runs over the last six years, but this was slightly different in that it’s also a whisky tour around the Speyside distilleries.
Running and whisky, does it mix? At first I thought you drink whisky while you’re running … but no, that’s not sensible at all. I could never do that.
For every distillery you run past, you get the whisky miniature in your goody bag at the end. Three whiskies for me please. I’m a newbie to whisky, I don’t drink it often. Last year was my first whisky experience and was surprised that I found one I liked when I visited the amazing Isle of Arran distillery in Lochranza. It’s well worth a visit whether you like whisky or not.
Watch my Dramathon video
If you don’t have time to read my post you can watch this short video I made of my run, which also includes the beautiful autumn scenery around this area.
If anyone from the run spots themself in the video and doesn’t want to be in it, please get in touch. With an event like this I can’t ask for consent from everyone. There’s a funny clip near the end where two guys ran towards the finish line pretending they’d run the distance. Ha ha!
Driving from Braemar to Dufftown
We left the campsite at around 7.30am to drive to Dufftown. It would take around an hour and a half to get there, depending on our driving speed of course. Some roads can be narrow and twisty.
The autumn colours in this area are simply stunning. Everywhere I looked there were huge trees and deep woodlands. You really experience the full sense of autumn.
We drove across one of the scenic snow roads in the Cairngorms National Park as the sun was rising. The empty road was bliss, especially on a single track road with passing places.
The light at dawn is so beautiful. We watched the clouds light up pink and orange as the sun slowly peeked out, beginning a whole new day. I felt good and was ready to do this run. We stopped on the road to try and capture the sunrise and changing sky. It was gone in a few minutes but I managed to record a seven second timelapse.
A cute mini rainbow was floating in the sky next. The light was low, so many of our photos from this trip are a little dark. I have tried to lighten these up in Adobe Lightroom … but my graphic skills are lacking a little and still guess work.
Checking in for my run
We arrived at Dufftown around 9.15am.
The car park at Glenfiddich distillery was already full so we were guided to another parking area further up the road, in a field behind a bonded warehouse. We walked past strange drawings of people that looked like they were coming towards us. They looked quite spooky. Maybe I should I have started running now …
We didn’t have far to walk to Glenfiddich distillery, five minutes and we were there.
I was to check in for my run before 10.30am to pick up my number and electronic dibber. I was also given my t-shirt before the race which was unusual. I noticed some people changed to their new t-shirt for their run though.
I was supposed to be wearing my ‘My Peak Challenge (MPC)’ t-shirt but it was too tight, so I wore my Great Scottish Run half marathon t-shirt instead. I did wear my MPC pin and wrist bands though.
The marathon and relay leg one runners had already left on the organised buses at 9am to their starting point. Buses were shipping out runners throughout the morning.
As we arrived early we’d some time to wait until the bus was leaving to the 10k starting point at Aberlour. The sun was shining, but it was a little breezy now and then. We wandered around the distillery for a wee while, taking photos and video clips. It was a really great atmosphere.
Time to explore Balvenie Castle
Alan remembered there was a castle ruin on a hill next to the distillery. It was within walking distance, only around five minutes. As we walked up the hill there it was.
I’m so happy we decided to walk up to this ruin, it was peaceful. The castle was closed but we wandered the atmospheric grounds, watching autumn leaves flying around in the wind.
I was in my element, sitting on the grass waiting for a gust of wind to throw up the leaves to see if I could catch it on video. Of course, I kept missing these moments!
This was a much needed distraction as I stopped thinking about the run and how my knees and back were sore now and then.
I looked down on to the road towards Glenfiddich distillery. Only five minutes away there were hundreds of people getting prepared to run. I was up on the hill, where all I could hear was the wind whistling around the trees in random gusts. The contrast was a strange feeling. I felt like I was in another world.
I always get nervous before a run. It’s not knowing if my body will get me round. I know that most of my doubts are all in my mind. I do agree that positive thinking pushes you to keep going, but my mind changes back and forth a lot just now.
Bus to Aberlour
It was almost time for the bus, but I started to feel quite tired. I quickly ate half a banana, that wasn’t ripe, hoping this would give me the boost I needed. I also carried a few boiled sweets for sugar in case I needed them. I had been up since 6am, and only managed a few spoonfuls of porridge for breakfast. It was now around 11.30am. The 10k run didn’t start until 1pm.
It was time to board the bus where I noticed a familiar face from Ayrshire. We’d met before on a cycling event I took part in this year from Prestwick to Kilmarnock, so we got chatting. Another friendly girl called Elspeth from Forfar sat beside me on the bus and we chatted along the way too. I was running on my own, but I usually always meet someone else doing the same. We’re all in it together, even though we would run at different paces.
The 10k trail run
When we arrived at the starting point in Aberlour, deep down I was feeling a little nervous. Talking to Elspeth helped take my mind off it though. I was also excited with the fun atmosphere around me. The long distance runners were already passing us, and we cheered them on.
The sun was shining, not too warm or too cold, so it seemed perfect conditions to run. Lots of emotions were swirling around inside my head though. I sometimes wish I had a wee switch that I could push to turn off the negative thoughts.
We made our way to the inflatable starting point. The piper started to play his bagpipes, to the Mairi’s wedding tune, lovely:
“Step we gaily, on we go,
Heel for heel and toe for toe,
Arm and arm and row on row,
All for Mairi’s wedding.
Over hill-ways up and down,
Myrtle green and bracken brown,
Past the shielings, through the town;
All for sake o’ Mairi.”
The tune gave me a step forward for sure. A motivational start to the run for everyone and I was feeling okay.
The start was slow moving and tight with all the runners trying to stay on the trail path. It normally takes a wee while for us all to separate to our own pace. I felt bad for the long distance runners getting caught up in our start though. When you’re trying to keep a steady pace and focussing on keeping your legs moving, to slow down can be difficult physically and mentally.
The autumn colours were so warming to run along with. It was a narrow trail with trees on either side and a glimpse of River Spey now and then. I stopped a few times to take some photos of the trail.
I seemed to be keeping pace with the same people. The two runners in yellow had the names Fargo and Fanni on their running number and were with me most of the way. We didn’t chat but their names caught my eye and made me giggle. I wonder if that was their real names?
I found myself looking down watching my footing a bit and ended up with an achy shoulder most of the way. It’s not good for your posture to look down. I was feeling okay up until around 5km. In my mind I was determined not to walk unless I really needed to. Well I did. I kinda knew that this would happen to me though.
The bumpy trail and gradual incline took its toll on me. I wasn’t the only one though and was relieved that many others were jogging/walking. It was all about enjoying the trail and not about a personal best time for me.
The colours of autumn along the trail were beautiful to my eyes, but my body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to! I had been training for this, but being honest, probably not as much as I should have. Trail running seems harder than road running.
I said hello to some runners along the way and chatted with a lovely lady from Jog Scotland near the end. We both walked together for a short spell.
I reached 1okm on my Garmin watch, but not the finish line. I knew the route would be a little further than that. We were told this in our e-mail briefing and at the start of the run. In my head I was saying, please don’t let it be too much further.
We eventually came out of the woods into the town. Balvenie distillery was in view, but I wasn’t sure how close I was to Glenfiddich distillery. Turns out it wasn’t far at all. Yay!
As the finish neared quickly, I took a deep breath and said to myself I need to run and not stop until the end, everyone is watching. I made it through the uphill finish line, yay!
The crowds were so supportive of everyone, cheering and clapping. 10.76km all in. I picked up my three whiskies:
- Glenfarclas 10 years
- Balvenie DoubleWood 12 years
- Glenfiddich 12 years
Also some shortbread and a unique medal, an oak stave which was part of a whisky cask.
A surge of emotion came over me and tears came to my eyes. I saw my husband standing in the crowd waiting for me, so a cuddle helped.
Alan said he saw Dougie Vipond, Scottish broadcaster, at the finish line as the Adventure Show was filming the run. They would have been following the marathon runners I would imagine. It was a beautiful day for them to film and look forward to watching the show.
This is me looking a little wind swept with my running goodies.
Everyone gathered round for the prize giving, whilst we sat on the grass and ate pies … Alan had a steak pie and I had a macaroni pie. I know it wasn’t healthy but it was delicious.
How I really felt about my run
I was relieved it was over, so happy I finished, but annoyed with myself in that I know I could have done better. I think this was in the back of my mind as last year my running was so much better and probably why I felt upset. I’ve lost my mojo and put the weight back on. My official time was 1:32:05. My moving time according to my Garmin was 1:28:14.
I should have been able to run without walking. This year has been more challenging in that my energy has been lacking a lot. Last year I ran a half marathon without walking. Why couldn’t I do the same with this run? I would love to run this route again. So next year I will return with my goal to run without walking.
What I will say, is if you like running, at any pace, this is a must trail to experience. It was well organised, friendly, beautiful locations and the best goody bag ever! The sun shone for us all and helped us along the trail. Exactly a week later it was snowing!
Driving back to Braemar
I was a little achy after the run, tiredness was setting in and I had a blood blister on my foot, but it didn’t matter, look where I was.
On the drive back to the campsite we stopped off at The Watchers, by John Kennedy, on the A939 at Corgarff. At first I thought they were standing stones.
One is a stone with an inspiring poem inscribed on it.
“Take a moment to behold
As still skies or storms unfold
In sun, rain, sleet or snow
Warm your soul before you go”
The other four are seats that stand at over 2.2 metres in height with views over Glen Avon and Deeside. They are made with corten steel and the seats from hand-crafted Scottish Larch.
I felt cold, the wind had an icy chill to it. I hobbled to one of the seats to shelter from the breeze and closed my eyes. I took a moment to behold, opened my eyes and watched the sky unfold, in the sun and warmed my soul.
The words of the poem were perfect. I could have fell asleep here.
The white building is Corgarff Castle, owned by Historic Scotland. We never had time to visit and it was closed for the season. Maybe just as well though as I read it used to be an army base for hunting down Jacobite sympathisers, and later whisky smugglers … I had three miniatures in my bag … shh, don’t tell anyone.
Alan took most of the photos at the Watchers and this mesmerizing timelapse.
I was feeling hungry and looking forward to another not so healthy treat of fish and chips from the chip shop in Braemar. When we reached Braemar the chip shop was closed, even though it was a Saturday night. It was possibly closed because of an emergency, so no fish supper for me.
We remembered that the fog pod had a small microwave, so we popped into the Co-op for some microwave meals instead. Haggis, neeps and tatties with microwave chips. Not quite the same, but it was a hot meal.
My plan when we got back to the pod was to chill with a wee dram. I was so tired I didn’t even try one of my whiskies. We were leaving the campsite the next morning, so it would be another early rise to pack up and check out before 10am.
I’m now so glad I decided to take part in the Dramathon. Signing up for runs away from home shows you beautiful places. It’s like a running tour of Scotland. I really haven’t seen much of Scotland at all, this weekend was inspiring. As I write this I want to go back.
I’ll show you some of Braemar on my next post. No running involved, I promise, just a short wander around the town and castle.
Thanks for reading.