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Speyside Way Race

22-Aug-2020 Craigellachie, UK (Scotland)


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Trail Race Race Terrain
59KM / 37Miles
1 Day - 150 Runners

DIFFICULTY Race Difficulty Intermediate  

The route of this event follows the Speyside Way from the Cragganmore Distillery, in Ballindallock, to the town of Buckie, combining woodland tracks, roads, forest tracks and old railway lines. There is a bus in place to take participants from Buckie to the start line.

This is a self-supported event and there will be two drop bag points along the route. Support crews are welcome. Food and drink will be provided at the finish line.

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Elevation: Very little change < 500 metres. Benign running terrain, not technical.

Suitable for: First ultra runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running in the last six months.


Elevation: Increase of up to 1000 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed at least one ultra distance race (or similar event) or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.


Elevation: Increase of up to 1500 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.


Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat) and or technical terrain

Suitable for: Experienced runners who have completed at least regular ultra distances in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.


Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude) and or technical terrain.

Suitable for: Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.

Endurance - Multi-activity

Type: An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

Suitable for: Experienced multi-skilled athletes who have trained for the different activities included in this event. Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements and any specialist equipment required such as a wetsuit, skis or a mountain bike.

Global - Virtual

Type: A virtual race which can be run at any time shown on the dates shown, on any type of terrain in any country.

Suitable for: For runners from beginners to experienced as you choose your own course and challenge based on the guidelines and options set by the virtual race organiser.

Review Speyside Way Race

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10:17 29-08-16

A great run if you are stepping up to Ultra. Well organised with a Race director local to the area and passionate about running ... always a good combination!
The run breaks nicely into 3 parts... 13 miles downhill from Cragganmore to Craigellachie.. 14 undulating miles up & over Ben Aigen to Fochabers.. then a final flat 10 miles to the Speyside Way finish in Buckie. The trail is a mix of forestry track, pathways and road and can, if the weather's been good, be run in road shoes. The scenery is fantastic and there are plenty of places for friends, family and support to see you.
My 2nd Ultra this year and I will definitely be doing it again.. If only for the mini dram in the goodie bag and totally awesome medal 🏅🏅 😊

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10:29 29-08-16

If you're looking to make the transition from Marathon to Ultra then this race is absolutely perfect.
Low key yet full of fun and organised perfectly from registering to transport and the drop bag points.
The only thing you've gotta do is get from Cragganmore Distillery to Cluny Square in Buckie.
I did (and in glorious weather too)
You can even run in road shoes (weather permitting) as the terrain isn't fierce.
It my first and won't be my last 👍🏅
Well worth the trip for a scenic serene route that'll leave you aching but smiling all the same.

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10:17 27-12-15

Early in 2014 I was browsing for some more Ultra races when I came across the Speyside Way Ultra. This particular race jumped out at me because between the ages of about 9 and 15 I used to holiday in in the Moray/Speyside area with my parents and family at least three times a year so I know it fairly well. When I saw this race was on I entered immediately. By complete coincidence entries had literally JUST opened and I was only the second person to enter the race.

SWU is a trail Ultra and is a dangerously long 36.5 miles. Why do I say dangerous? Well I don’t mean that it is hazardous in any way, the course is pretty safe. More so that when you are running 50, 75 or 100 miles if something goes wrong at the 30 mile point you still so long time left that you can pull back time, run off niggles etc. 36.5 miles is ‘just’ 10 miles longer than a marathon so can attract some awesome marathon runners, but the most dangerous thing when considering a 36.5 mile race is being in the ‘Well it’s half the distance of the Great Glen Ultra, so it should be easy enough’ mindset. I can assure you that 36.5miles is still a F***ING LONG WAY!!!

When you set out to run 70 miles, it is all about pacing, and I mean REALLY pacing yourself. With a 36.5 mile race there is a very real temptation to think ‘Well I can do XX:XX:XX for a marathon and I can do XX:XX:XX for 10 miles and add them together and that’s what you might just be able to do if you had an amazing race. The reality is a marathon is VERY, VERY hard. To add an extra 10 miles on and run to try to continue running at full marathon intensity, off-road, on terrain with 1000ft climbs would destroy any runner. Conversely must ‘serious’ Ultra runners will be looking at their main races being 50, 75 or even 100 miles (there was even a 184 mile race on this weekend!!) and the pacing and fuelling for these races is completely different again. Try to run a 36.5 mile race at 70mile pace and you certainly won’t be drinking Champagne that night (maybe Lidl’s sparkly wine might be more appropriate).

So, Mr Smarty-Pants Pascale-Jones, how do you run a 36.5 mile race well? Well, probably the best way is to work out the best pace or heart rate (or even power output if you have that level of tech available) and run at that level. OR; the simplest way is probably to run the first 10 miles at a warm up pace and then try and run a flat out marathon.

So, how did I do it on the day?

EXACTLY as you would expect. By doing completely the OPPOSITE of what I would recommend!!!! Racing,eh!!!??

I’ll go back to the start before I get into the race details. The SWU race takes place over 36.5 miles (58.8km) from Ballindalloch to Buckie on the Morayshire coast. The terrain is predominantly trail with just a couple of short road sections thrown in towards the end.

Race registration took place at Buckie Community College at 6.30am. As Buckie is about 80 miles from where I live my lovely sister, Louise, and top brother-in-law, Stuart kindly volunteered to be my support crew/cheerleaders for the day. The poor things got up at 3am (yes, really) to drive to my house and pick me up just after 4.30am. They arrived just as I was prepping my feet for the coming miles and had a quick espresso (surely the only kind of espresso?) whilst waiting for me to have some breaky (oats and yoghurt, pancakes and golden syrup, 2x espresso’s). All fuelled up and off we went.

The drive to Buckie passed without incident and we arrived at the college. I registered and left my two drop bags for the checkpoints at 12 and 24 miles. Almost straight away I bumped into Richard, from Leeds, who was a runner I met at the Great Glen Ultra. Richard, Louise, Stuart and I had a nice chat, then it was off to the start.

Two buses left Buckie to drive the 97 runners down the road to Ballindalloch. This was a nice relaxing hour for us to all take in Malt Whisky country, Highland Cows and the beautiful River Spey. I loaded up on my the last of my US-Strength formula Gatorade so that I was adequately fuelled and hydrated for the miles ahead and had a chat with some of the other runners. As usual, nerves were in the air, I could taste them! Or was that the toilet on the coach? Hmm.

Anyway, we disembarked (I love that word; had to use it as I don’t think there is any other context in which it can be used, it’s so much better than ‘got off’) the coach and milled about doing the usual nervy runner things of endlessly adjusting clothing, repacking race packs and queuing for the Portaloo’s even if we didn’t need them! There was also the nice touch of McToot the Piper greeting us on arrival.

The race organisers were spot on and didn’t keep us waiting long. We were ushered onto the start of the trail, given a quick “5,4,3,2,1, Go!” and that was it.

I started more-or-less where I expected to finish about a quarter of the way from the front. About a dozen guys started really quickly to open a gap straight away. I started hard myself, running at about 170bpm from the start, much higher than the 158-162 level I was looking to stay at. Never mind, I was shifting so getting some ‘time in the bank’ as it were.

The start of the trail was flat but VERY narrow and recent rains had turned into 50% bog, 40% ice rink and only 10% firm ground. Still, conditions are the same for everyone.

I was quickly joined by the awesome runner Sophie Mullins who I had followed on Twitter just the day before and she recognised my Racetime Events kit. I confessed that I had maybe started a bit too hard really and commented that she was going well. Sophie told me this was her first Ultra and that she was going for the win!!! Well I know she is a 3:02 marathon runner (compared to my PB of 3:50) but such spunk and chutzpah were to be admired!! Her tactic of start hard and get out of range were the order of the day. ‘Right’, I said, ‘Let’s work together.’ I offered my services as a domestique for as long as I could and we worked well together, going through the first 8 miles (12.88km) in 59m31s. I managed to pace Sophie for one more mile but then dropped back to concentrate on my own, slower, race.

By the time I settled back into my rhythm I was coming towards the first checkpoint (CP1) at Craigellachie, one of my favourite places from family holidays of yesteryear. Just as I neared the CP I started getting some cheers and it took a few seconds for me to cotton on that Louise and Stuart had found their way onto the course and had spotted me. They informed me that I was ‘About 8th place’ which came as a big surprise really. I grabbed my food and rounded the corner onto the first big climb of the day. I took the opportunity to replace some lost calories by hiking up the hill whilst eating some energy bar and trail mix. About a third of the way up I got passed by a couple of runners who must have started slower and chosen to attack the climb, including the second placed lady.

The first part of the race had been almost all flat but now the course veered away from the river a bit and the next 12 miles or so were fairly hilly. Fairly hilly in this case means a couple of climbs to 920ft and 570ft. Once these were dispatched though it was downhill/flat all the way to the finish. Other than losing a couple more places as I tried to even out my effort, things were pretty uneventful. I paced myself and took in nutrition as and when I felt like it. CP2 arrived and, whist I knew I had lost a few places, there were LOADS of drop bags left so I knew I wouldn’t be last at least. I took on some more water, thanked the marshal and carried on. I passed quite few people doing a charity walk and received a few cheers and words of encouragement which was nice.

The River Spey reappeared on my left hand side and suddenly I could see it opening out into the sea. It was beautiful. At this point I turned right and the rest of the course followed the coast eastwards, through Spey Bay, Portgordon and onto the finish in Buckie. I got to Spey Bay where there was a water stop and LouNStu were there again cheering me on which was so nice :-) I paused for some water, a hug and a photo and carried on. A brief section of road then led onto a really nice piece of trail that rolled and ebbed and flowed over rocks and roots and sand and stones and it really seemed to aid momentum. The smell of salt in the air was lovely too. When this bit finished it opened out onto an exposed piece of coastal path. I looked at my watch. 1:59pm. It was due to rain at 2pm. 2pm ticked over and it immediately started to hammer it down! Well done Met Office!

I didn’t care though and the cool rain was refreshing to me. I cut through Portgordon and as I crossed a road I slowed a black Peugeot down a fair bit. It pulled up alongside me and it was LouNStu again!! “Meet you at the finish” they said. So I pressed on along the seafront, half jogging, half walking. One of the hardest things in Ultra’s is the lack of information and I didn’t know if it was 400m or 4 miles to the finish, so I just kept to a steady pace enjoying the scenery. Eventually I started seeing a couple of runners who had passed me who had just finished. They encouraged me a bit and I rounded a corner up a slight hill to the finishing straight, crossing the fine in 5:34:08. Pre-race I had worked on a time of 5:30-6:00 so was generally happy. Knowing the course now and how relatively fresh I was at the finish, I am sure that I could have ran a 5:20 or maybe a bit quicker if I had got everything right. Still, was very happy with a 5:34 and what turned out tone 18th place out of 97 finishers. All in all my race results are going in the right direction!

Special thanks go to Louise and Stuart Kelman for being awesome supporters on the day and for getting up at 3am on their days off! Thanks also to The Speyside Way Ultra for putting on a great race and to all the volunteers at CP’s, water stations, turns etc. Thanks.

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09:57 27-12-15

Ran this in both 2014 and 2015. A really friendly and close knit race with great RD and marshals. The route is beautiful, following the Spey to the sea. A few miles on roads, but the rest of the trails more than make up for that.

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11:17 27-12-15

Fast, flat start then the best bit, an undulating 14 miles before a flat finish. Mainly on roads or old railway trails. A nice friendly race but I found the last 10 miles really tough, being so flat!

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