Lairig Ghru

Forfar Road Runners had a real outing to the Lairig Ghru Ultra this year with 9 runners tackling this beautiful but technically difficult race.

We set off at 7:15 am in the Boys Brigade Mini Bus with Hugh as our chauffeur and arrived in Braemar with plenty time to register, have our compulsory kit checked and sort out our race gear ready for the 10 am start. It was pouring rain on the journey there but thankfully the skies cleared and it dried up in time for our start. After a quick briefing we were off – the first 3 1/2 miles on road before crossing the victoria bridge and in through the Mar Lodge estate. It’s a bit of a climb on landcover track up behind Mar Lodge before the path opens up a bit near the Linn of Dee. I was conscious that I needed to get to the Derry Lodge within 1hr 30min or the marshals would prevent me from continuing ( I believe 2 runners didn’t make this checkpoint on time). I made it safely by 1hr 17 min and took advantage of the water provided as the sun was out and it was very hot as there had been little or no shade on the route so far. I saw a large group of runners making there way to the right of Derry Lodge but  after checking with the marshal if it was ok to make our own route across the marshy ground to the path in the distance, he agreed, and with that i waded through the river and onto the landrover track which led easily to the path and I was quickly accompanied by a chap from Wee County Harriers, ready to take any easier or quicker route. Donna and I had done this on our recce of the route and found it so much easier than the uneven/boggy ground .
In no time I was at the next river to cross – Luibeg Burn. With all the rain in the last few days the river was quite fast flowing although thankfully not too deep (thigh high). Once across the river, the elevation gets steeper and the terrain more tricky with lots of water, mud, boulders to dodge or skip over. I brisk walked up quite a bit at this point on the route, running when the track was clearer and less muddy. At 16 miles i got my first glimpse of THE boulder fields….this goes on for around 2 miles, the middle part having massive boulders but all of it really quite difficult to cross (for me anyway!) This is where i really found out that my beloved Hokas are fab for cushioning and do not bad on mud but when it comes to boulders – their  grip was…well rubbish actually! I repeatedly was slipping on the boulders and also seemed to step on lots that shoogled and moved! I did however manage to stay on my two feet and avert many a fall! Once through the boulder fields at the Pooles of Dee I asked a fellow runner if she would take my photo and then returned the favour – it really was a beautiful view so i’m glad to have that as a memory. I go a good cheer from the Mountain Rescue Team who were checking runners off before the final stretch of the boulder field. When i got the the end of the boulder field, i was running with a group of around 6 and just following there path, and knowing that they had done it before i was reassured. After about 1/2 mile, one of them suddenly stopped and pointed to the path way below on our right! We had taken a wrong path! We all scrambled for about 1/4 mile downhill through very deep heather to reach the much easier path that we should have been on! The pace quickened and we were soon running alongside the river then up again and it was great to see the view to Aviemore from this point. I knew we were on the home stretch with just under 10 miles to go. I passed the group one by one and made good progress down the path leading to the forest although a couple of times i was mid calf in mud and almost lost my shoe! The path down through the forest was very muddy too so i was trying hard to dodge the deepest parts and also making sure i lifted my feet to avoid tripping on the numerous tree routes. I reached the picaddily junction expecting to see Hugh but didn’t spot him till I approached the metal bridge with 4 miles to go. He was very welcome company and ran beside me , stopping to help a runner who was lying on the side with sever cramp. He rejoined me and kept my spirits up as we reached the road.I found the last 2 miles tough and as I came through the underpass, knowing there was a gentle climb to the finish, i had a wee breather and walked till i reached the main road. Coming through the main street for the last 1/4 – 1/2 mile was tough but a wee shout out from Nari made me smile and then i mustered some energy to speed to the finish. I’d set myself a target of 6hr for this, aware that my achilles tendinitis might hold me up. I was delighted not he day to get to 15 miles before popping any painkillers and that the pain was more of a niggle and didn’t alter my running gait. My finish time was 5:23:24.
The following times I believe are official as announced when runners crossed the finish, although I didn’t note the seconds 😉  – Brian Bonnyman had been and gone – finishing in 3:35 and taking 6th place overall and 1st MV40. Well done! Craig Stewart was next in with 4:17, Paul Morgan (husband of FRR Tracy) finished in a good PB 4:27, Ron Milne had a good race finishing 4:42 then Joe close behind in 4:48 having taken a few tumbles . Dave Smith finished in 4:54 then Keith Headridge in 4:58. Next in was first FRR lady Donna Pass, conquering her demons from last years race and setting a cracking PB , finishing in 5:13, I was next in 5:23 then Liz finished in 5:51 having also had a bad tumble and hurting her shoulder and hip.
Keith’s wife Fiona was a great team support, as was Hugh and it was also nice to get a high five from the Morgan kids a few miles in from the start.