Dolphins and Witches – original post 5/8/13

Really been pleased with the way things have gone in the past couple of weeks. I have not quite topped 40 miles yet but both have weeks have involved over 35 miles of running including some long and some tough sessions. I have also spent most of the last week with my Dad at Rosemarkie in the North of Scotland. The change of scenery and some beautiful new routes and challenges has really helped. I also found time to start writing down some of the story of this journey prior to the start of the blog. You can find this under the new On the Road page.

My daughter Lorna has also been with me and before any more detail about my own running I must digress briefly to talk about Parkrun. This is a brilliant concept which started in Bushey Park about 6 years ago. The idea is very simple, a free, timed 5km run, open to any age or ability, every week in a local park. It has taken off and there are now around 200 events in the UK and another 80 overseas. The whole thing is easy, fun, friendly and relaxing but can only happen through the co-operation of local authorities and communities for use of the parks, the support of a few key sponsors and most importantly a whole host of volunteers who give up their time to run the events every Saturday morning. The volunteers are typically park runners who skip a week once in a while to help out. I have been going along since January so feel a bit guilty about not helping out yet – I promise I will soon.

It is a great idea and if you fancy a bit of no pressure running an excellent way to start. On the other hand, if you are serious you will also find plenty of company up to and including top international athletes on occasion. As an illustration of how great it can be, Lorna has run the last two Saturdays, once in Glasgow and once in Inverness. She will not mind me saying she is not really a sporty type but she wanted to get a bit fitter because she is determined to improve her hockey (she is only 14). The first time was a huge struggle, she walked a fair bit and came in last in just over 52 minutes. Nothing daunted she came back and managed to beat about a dozen people in Bught Park Inverness and finished in just 36 minutes. She was so excited when she heard her time and is now completely hooked. You don’t need to be aiming for Comrades to see that this is just a perfect.

Inverness parkrun was one of several new experiences for me as well and I must say I really enjoyed it. Generally, the running has been fun as well as effective. Rosemarkie is a seaside village and my Dad’s house is right on the beach. There is a 5km lap from there along the road and round firm sandy footpaths the encircle the golf course which has been the main base for my routes. As well as being by the sea virtually the whole way, I also pass the spot where the last witch was burned in Scotland, the place where the Brahann Seer is reputed to have been boiled in oil and the best dolphin spotting place in the UK. As well as this route, I have run the other way along the beach and onto the cliff path which is a bit overgrown but beautiful and I have taken on a fairly stiff hill run up to the farm where my Mum grew up and my cousin farms to this day. I have posted a few pics just to give a flavour and with decent weather it is a pretty idyllic setup.

Those of you with some basic grasp of geography will have figured out that this is also close to where the Loch Ness Marathon will take place. In fact, the event finishes in Bught Park where parkrun happens. I drove most of the route on Sunday as a bit of a recce. It is very undulating with one pretty stiff hill so I think interest will be maintained throughout. Rather than continuous views of the loch, the rod is in and out of trees with regular and spectacular glimpses of the water. Just a couple of examples included amongst the pics. I like the fact that this maintains the air of mystery. Loch Ness is a truly mystical place. It is so deep that apparently there is more water in it than all the rivers and lakes of England and Wales combined. No-one knows how deep it actually reaches. It is also hard to reach because the depths are surrounded on both sides by high mountains. I often think it is as if some ancient god and tried to strike Scotland in two with a massive axe. All of this means that the light is different, the vegetation is unusual and there are several species of fish that are found nowhere else on earth. It also means that few people have ever lived by the Loch so it remains relatively untouched. There is a great little book which my Mum gave me years ago called The Story of Loch Ness. Read this and you will easily understand why the legend of the monster arose.

I guess my conclusion is, I am seriously looking forward to running the race now but it will no be easy. Back home for a few days and then back North to see the Runrig fortieth anniversary concert at the Black Isle Showground on 10 August – you have to be there!

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