Illuminator Run 2022race, trail running

Keen readers of this website may have noticed there’s been hardly any running content any more, and this has been down to a persistent knee injury sustained way back; although I do still run, I need to keep it low-intensity to avoid flare-ups, which precludes running ‘epics’ worthy of a post.

A summer of friends doing well in post-pandemic races gave the odd twinge of jealousy. Autumn saw the announcement of the return of the illuminator, at their last event in 2019 I had kicked ass, but unable to compete this time I was resigned to letting it pass. Some hash house harrier buddies were entering as a “fun run” as part of the HHH “non-competitive” ethos, I wondered whether I could maybe sociably amble round with them: I dug out the headtorch, did a few 5-10k blasts round the Gramps at night, and with the knee not giving me any cause for concern, got my last-second entry in to the middle distance 15k (the main distance being 25 and there also being a shorter walk/run 8k).

The day of the race saw an afternoon stroll around the Falls of Feugh before heading on to Aboyne. Most of the group were doing the 25k and they headed off first. The 15k was busier, and after the warm-up stretches to blaring music we were off. No rush this time to beat the ‘funnel’ into the singletrack.

Registration. About 600? runners this year
Everybody ready for the off
Approaching the start line
Synchronise watches: 3..2..1.. and we’re off

As we headed uphill I stopped a few times to allow our small group to coalesce, although relatively “untrained” nowadays running-wise, my daily bike commute and weekend hikes keep me reasonably fit; I’m pretty sure I could have put the hammer down and accelerated away towards the front, but it was nice to chat and stop and take the odd photo.

Tarmac to the Dee bridge
On to trails and uphill
Getting steeper

Out of the woods there was the odd streak of rain in the headtorch beam and a cold wind, but lucky again with weather: some year it’ll either rain or snow and make it a real trial.

Out onto the moor
Twinkling in the dark
Across the ford, can sneak over slightly upstream

In amongst the pack there weren’t the long dark spells that had been part of “front running” and the time went by quickly having the odd blether. Me stopping to take a photo led to repeatedly falling back then sprinting forward past people, they must have thought I was a right numpty.

No void of dark this time amongst the pack

The lightzone came into view and we strolled in, and not noticing the photographer, cheekily went back out to run past again as a group, before getting a helping of hot chocolate and cake: last time I’d whipped through without stopping, but I made up for it this time, yum!

Across the bridge nearly time for food
Let there be lightzone
Take 2, thanks Mr Photographer
Munch time; nice to stop and take stock for a bit, in no hurry this year

After the rest at the zone though comes the effort up the hill: gradually steepening and relentless, with almost everybody walking it, except the odd 25k front-runner as the routes had now converged (that’d been me last time). On the other side, the descent was horribly slippy with mud, and figuring my friends would take some time on this I decided to do the last couple km at more of a “race” pace and whirled and teetered in and around those more cautiously getting downhill.

Waiting at the top of the final hill for my team
Letting loose on the muddy descent
Nearing the end at Aboyne loch

Although only 15k, and the evening having proceeded at a sedate pace, I
was now beginning to ache on the last km on the tarmac, without the bodily adaption that regular training provides; you can have oodles of cardio from cycling but you need the tendons, joints and bits to be used to pounding ground. I waited for my friends to finish and we headed inside to see the prizegiving and have a beer – hash house harriers always make sure there’s refreshments.

Final push back on the road
Muddy trainers. New balance hierro. Good comfort shoe but lacking grip on the muddier bits
No medal or mug this year – illuminator buff instead

Although no buzz of being on the podium this time, nonetheless it was great to just chill and have the craic with the rest of the gang before heading back to Aberdeen. Good to hear the Edinburgh contingent had all had a great time up in Aberdeenshire too.

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