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  Return to Lairig Ghru

Former WACer Andrew Douglas now lives near Aberdeen and in 2007 along with a couple of Wimborne runners ran in the infamous fell race over the Cairngorms. Last year’s race was a sharp learning curve for us ‘southern softies’. This time Andrew knew exactly what he was up against and was much better prepared, then fate played its part. Here is Andrew’s race report.

I’d been a bit under the weather with some sort of virus for the last 10 days before the race, but I had hoped that I had got over it. Unfortunately I had not. There were 86 starters for the Lairig Ghru which is quite a big field for such a niche event (including myself, John and Andrew, two friends with whom I had done most of the big training runs). With some trepidation we noted that there hardly seemed to be an ounce of fat between the competitors, and there were certainly plenty of muscles and a few shaved heads. We started off near the back of the field (well actually at the back of the field), in order to save our energy for the next 28 miles. With a race of that distance I should have still been feeling fresh at the five mile mark, however, it was clear that my cold was still in full swing and I felt absolutely terrible. If it were not for my very generous sponsors, I think I would have given up there and then. Things were just generally dreadful until the crossing of the Luibeg Burn at the 10 mile stage, when the soaking actually made me feel a bit better.

It was at this point that with some surprise I overtook quite a few people. Next followed the long eight mile slog up the Lairig Ghru, now in driving cold rain and low cloud. Excellent, this is what I came for. I focussed myself on keeping up with John and Andrew, who were much stronger than me on the day. Once the high point of the race is reached at the 18 mile point (The Pools Of Dee, 2700ft), the course rewards the competitor with five miles of ankle snapping loose boulders and rubble. If there was one surface designed to stop you running on it, then this is it. Fortunately, the hill training paid off here and we must have overtaken at least 10 or 15 people through this section. I actually started to feel good. These were probably road runners or soft Southerners. By this point everyone feels pretty wrecked so I didn’t feel so bad in comparison. We kept up what felt like a breakneck pace for the next few miles down through Rothiemurcus Forest, where we were rewarded with a proper path, even with a few hikers to applaud us and marvel at our stupidity.

At this point the remaining 4 miles through flat forest track then down the road to Aviemore seemed to last for eternity. Some of the runners that had left us standing during the first few miles were now barely running at all, having burnt all their energy in the first half. John accelerated ahead at an inhuman pace and left Andrew and I to battle it out, whilst overtaking at least another 10 competitors. In the end I finished at around 4.45, with John a few minutes ahead and Andrew a few minutes behind. It was all I could do to avoid throwing up at the finish line, a feeling that was replaced by elation and satisfaction only a few minutes later. We don’t have the official results yet so I’m not sure of the exact time. It was a shame to miss 4 ½ hours. Still, there is always next year.


Despite Andrew being somewhat less than 100%, he beat his previous time by around 20 minutes and indeed, as he says, there is always next year. He says, ‘I'm fairly satisfied, but left wondering how well I could have done without being ill’.

A golden opportunity

Once again Andrew & Jane have extended their invitation to WACers to come up and stay with them so that the red shirts can conquer this considerable challenge in 2009 – 28 miles of some of the most demanding terrain that you are likely to encounter in a UK event. I know many of you like a challenge – if you would like to know a little more about the race see also the 2007 report – click here.

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