I was signed up for the John Muir Ultra last weekend, which I was looking forward to as it followed many of my childhood riding routes. The weekend before was just glorious, chilly nights but sunny warm days making it a midge and tourist-free delight to visit Loch Lomond. I even managed to pursuade my poor husband to come camping so we booked into the tiny campsite on Inchcailloch Island and enjoyed having the whole place to ourselves (until some poor sod arrived by canoe looking for some peace and tranquility early on Sunday morning and got roundly yapped at by Bertie). Not a lot beats snuggling down with your beloved family after an evening of story telling and charred marshmallows around the campfire, even if your husband snores like a pneumatic drill and your son is full of snotters and shedding adenovirus all over the shop.

Naturally I went down with the cold like a ton of bricks and ended up deciding not to do the JMW. Another race entry fee down the bloody pan. My pal Claire had to run by herself and as she’d forgotten her Imodium AGAIN I missed the chance to have a good laugh at her expense (three visits from the poo fairy this time, apparently). Never mind, it is only a race. I was feeling much better on the Sunday so decided to take advantage of my long suffering parents by dumping the kids on them on Monday and doing a decent run in the Cheviots. I figured out a circular run route, guesstimated it was about 20 miles and buggered off with a cheery “I’ll be back around lunchtime”.

Lunchtime came and went. It was indeed a lovely route. I followed St Cuthbert’s way from Wooler Common to where it intersected with the Pennine Way near Kirk Yetholm. The Pennine Way took me up to the Cheviot then I did the Chevy route in reverse back to the car via Broadstruther. The sun shone, there were skylarks about and very few humans. Bertie was having a lovely time, as was I (although I didn’t yap ineffectually at any sheep). But it was considerably further than 20 miles and with a lot of bog hopping plus stops to check the map it was not the fastest going. I got the “where the heck are you” phonecall as I crossed the summit of Cheviot. Luckily the kids had been fairly well behaved.

In way of compensation for not doing the ultra I joined the Carnethy Alternative John Muir Way which was arguably going to be more fun anyway. There have been 4 club organised ultra-length social runs over the winter/spring which have been great for me trying to do Fling training at a time of year where heading out for long runs by yourself can take a bit of mental fortitude. Rumour has it that taking part in the series could result in a reward in the shape of a beer! The alt JMW doesn’t really follow the John Muir Way but intends takes a much nicer route hugging beaches and coastline from Aberlady out to Tynningham. Then a short way inland to Keith’s house (Keith organises the run) for lunch then onward along the river Tyne to the Garlton Hills then cross country back to Aberlady. A sag wagon is provided and you can bring a bike and cycle all or part of the route (35 miles). It is all a bit of a well oiled machine, Keith really does a great job and his family very kindly provide slap up lunch with grandkids on waitress service.

It was wall to wall sunshine again, the East Lothian coastline looked pristine and beautiful, the company was pleasant and the running mostly pretty easy except for the odd scramble around the foot of cliffs. There was a bit of property porn too when we passed some rather swish looking mansions before we entered North Berwick. We had to perform a few military manoeuvres at Tantallon Castle to avoid getting nobbled for the entry fee which had us all giggling like a bunch of naughty 11 year olds as we legged it through the moat. A few hardy souls even went for a quick swim at Tyningham.

The trouble with stopping for lunch is that it feels horrible getting going again and I nearly begged for a ride in the sag wagon before zipping up my man suit and deciding to keep going to the next stop at the monument in the Garlton hills which was supposed to be 28 miles. Well it was 30 so near enough and from the Fling training point of view I wanted to get a few more miles under my belt. Just in the last mile or two I had a vague pain at the front of my right foot which I thought was maybe due to shoelaces being too tight. By the monument it felt like a niggle so I got the sag wagon back to Aberlady. That evening there was some soreness and swelling on the front of my shin and yesterday it hurt to walk so I think infact it is some kind of shin stress reaction/shin splinty sort of thing. Feels a lot better today but continues my fine tradition of injuring myself in my very last long run before an event. Time will tell if it resolves before the Fling or not but to be honest I do wonder about the value of signing up for races when often a social run can be so much more fun with no pressure.

Some great pics and v amusing write up of the day by Peter on his blog here http://bestpartday.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/alternative-john-muir-way-2017.html

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