Tag Archives: Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra Marathon

Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra Marathon, Jedburgh, Saturday, October 27, 2018

38 miles

Aaron Gourley

This is a race I’d had my eye on for a number of years but never seemed to get round to entering. This year, with me being home alone as the family went away on holiday, it fell perfectly for me to run the race then have time to get home, changed and be back at the airport to pick them up later that evening.

At 38 miles, Jedburgh 3 Peaks is a pretty serious race – but only in distance. From an organisational point of view, this is as fun as it gets. From the encouragement to wear fancy dress for the opportunity to win a spot prize to the YMCA warm-up ahead of the start, this race is a lot of fun. This is very much like the Hardmoors Princess challenge but with unicorns!

With my alarm set at 4 am, I set off on the long drive up to the Scottish Borders. The morning was cold and the first snow of the winter was falling quite heavily as I drove up the A19, which was a little disconcerting.
Upon arriving at the rugby club in the centre of Jedburgh, it struck me as to just how cold it was going to be, so I immediately put on an extra layer then headed to registration. Before long we were all back outside at the start-line waiting to get going, but not until we were all made to dance the YMCA as part of the pre-race warm up. Such was the silliness that I forgot to set my watch and before I knew it we were off on the long run up the road and out of the town.

After a mile or so the route swings out to the river which is followed for another mile or so before crossing a very bouncy bridge which felt as though it was winding up to fling-off anyone who dared try and run across it. The route then meandered its way across fields and tracks and back along the riverside for a few miles, mainly following the St Cuthbert’s Way route. The recent high winds had felled a lot of old trees, which provided obstacles for us to negotiate.

The day was bright and the sky was clear and blue, but there was a bracing wind and it was extremely cold in the shade. I tried to maintain a very steady pace and not get carried away by running too fast on what was a fairly flat and very runnable surface. I’d set myself the goal of completing the race in 8hrs. This was a very comfortable amount of time for the distance but meant I could enjoy the race without overcooking it. Given how badly I’d crashed in my other races this year, this was all about pacing and keeping my heart rate low.

The route was proving to be quite spectacular in the cold late autumn sun and the colours of the leaves added to the overall beauty of the route. The lack of rain over the summer meant sections that would normally have been a quagmire were fairly dry which those veterans of the race around me commented on.

I didn’t stop at the first checkpoint at Maxton Church, but continued my run over fields, along tracks, through plantations and across roads until eventually reaching the second checkpoint at Rhymer’s Stone where I had a drop bag waiting with some supplies such as a milkshake and a few energy bars. I grabbed my bag, stashed my food and drinks and made off as quickly as possible as now, up ahead, were the Eildon Hills which form the 3 peaks in this race.

At the foot of the first, I looked up to see a long line of runners making their way up the side. I joined in the trudge up the steep climb until eventually reaching the summit. Ahead lay the second and third peaks, which got respectively lower. I made my way across them before dropping off the third and circling back around underneath them and into the woods that leads to the third checkpoint at Bowden and the ‘Play Park of Doom’!

Silliness is dished out by the bucket load at Bowden where, following an ambush by someone dressed as a bat (or at least I think that’s what it was), runners are funnelled into the play park where they must negotiate the obstacles which are essentially the climbing frames and slides of a children’s play park.

From Bowden, the route retraces its steps back to the finish and I was running well at this point and really enjoying the race. I was still making good ground on those that had been drawn into running too fast at the start but always conscious not to get carried away.

The run back was pleasant and I arrived back at the final checkpoint at Maxton to grab my last drop bag which had a few treats in to see me through the last 10 miles. I’d been starting to tire in the run back here so I set off at walking pace to try and conserve a little energy. The route, back retraced our steps from the start of the race and before long I was heading back across the bouncy bridge for the final few miles back into town.

I shuffled my way up the road with the finish in sight, which was as lively as it had been when we left. There was music playing and supporters lined the finish funnel to greet runners as they wearily made their way to the finish line.

As I crossed the line I was handed my medal and a goody bag, which was probably one of the best I’ve had in a race – mainly because it contained beer and a fine t-shirt. I’d highly recommend this race to anyone who is looking to step up to ultra-distance but worried about the challenge and the seriousness of the runners. This is a fun race where runners get lots of support in a beautiful part of the world.

Results http://www.kitst.co.uk/jultra2018.html

 

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Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra Marathon, Saturday, October 28, 2017

38 Miles

Matt Claydon

So after my reasonably successful bash at a full-distance triathlon, I decided to try and delay the inevitable slide towards couch-potato-ism by finding another foolish endeavour to undertake. I’ve never attempted to run past marathon distance, and I have never finished a marathon thinking ‘ that was good, but I wish It went on for ages more with some big hills in it’, but everyone seems to be pushing the boundaries these days, so I thought I’d give it a crack. Hello Jedburgh Ultra.

Another early start, 4.30am alarm, long drive up the A68 in the dark. Arrive still yawning at the car-park next to the abbey. It’s not yet 7 am, still pitch black and happy people in hi-viz direct me in. Collect race number from a happy person, have chip attached to wrist by another happy person. Have a wristband put on my wrist by happy person that says ‘Rule #1: don’t be a dick’. Happy people and not being a dick become themes of the day.

A quick kip in the car, coffee, race briefing (don’t be a dick), a jolly warm up to YMCA and we’re off.

This race is awesome. Solid tracks and trails up from Jedburgh to Melrose, through woodland, fields, along river banks, up over the Eildon Hills (three peaks), through a children’s playground where you are made to tackle the rickety bridge, climbing frame and slide (or you’re disqualified), and back. Beautiful scenery throughout. I planned to take some photos from the hilltops but 50mile-an-hour winds nearly blew me off so I didn’t want to hang around up there, this ropey effort from distance is all I’ve got:

It’s inevitable that regardless of the distance I’m running, by the time I’ve reached the last quarter of the race, all my optimistic plans of finishing times and pace have gone out of the window and I just want to get it over with before my legs fall off; it’ll happen at parkrun next week. The thing about this kind of distance is I still had 10 miles to go when I reached this conclusion, and the scenery doesn’t help much in this regard. That said, if you reckon you have it in you (I barely did) I sincerely recommend this well organised (drop bags at check-points with redistribution of ket from the discarded bags), well signed (no need for map and compass), lovely friendly (got a hug from a giant squirrel) race. The tech T-shirt is emblazoned with Peace, Love, Run, Beer. I just wish I could have stayed on for the post-race pub party.

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Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra Marathon, Saturday, October 29, 2016

38M / 3000ft

David Brown

The Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra starts in the shadow of the 12th century abbey, and winds along forest tracks, hillsides, country lanes, and various bridges new and old. The route hugs the River Tweed, passing through St Boswells, Melrose, and passing Rhymer’s Stone. Runners are then faced with three extinct volcanoes known as the Eildon Hills which offer panoramic views of the Scottish Borders. A brief passing through the villages of Bowden and Newton St Boswells, before following the Tweed back to the start / finish.

Eildons

A 04:00 alarm saw me up and ready for 05:00 drive up to Jedburgh, with the tune of Highland Cathedral blasting through my car stereo as I crossed the border, in tribute to my late Grandad Angus. Still dark, I arrived at registration with plenty time to faff around in the car boot and use each of the toilets. It was mild, so I opted for short sleeve, before huddling inside the hall in anticipation for the set off. A quick briefing which suggested runners, “remove headphones when asked, and don’t be a dick”.

07:45 and we were ushered over to a grassy mound, where the enthusiastic RD’s and a squirrel warmed us up with a YMCA dance routine, runners shuffled their feet feigning any sort of dance, before a countdown, and we were off.

As usual with any long race I was aware of everyone flying off, I was aware not to be hasty, knowing I had up to 8 hours ahead, but still away they sped. Mild concern dragged me with them, but sense prevailed and I knew I’d be seeing a lot of them later.

I was running alone and settled into a gentle pace, it was a beautiful morning, crisp and clear, with fantastic autumnal colours. We were quite packed as we left the road and started onto the single tracks. We passed a newly built bridge after a couple of miles, and I made a note that the next time I crossed the bridge I’d be nearly home.

Running up that Hill.

On we went, open fields allowing the packs to disperse, yet stiles and gates still causing bottlenecks. It wasn’t long before we caught sight of the three peaks of the Eildons, and it was here that the journey there and back again truly started.

I was easing along nicely until Maxton and the cp at 10 miles; this race allows for three drop bags, somewhat excessive maybe for an ultra of this distance, but I thought I’d make use of them nonetheless. I grabbed some peanuts and a snack bar, and topped up with Tailwind, stuffed them in my pack and went on my way.

Before I had chance to eat anything the nausea started, mild panic came over me, I was now only 11 miles in and started to feel sick. I had eaten well all week, my breakfast was as standard to all race days – sweet tea / porridge – so this unsettling feeling came as shock so early on.

Thankfully I had a multipack of Polo’s in my vest pocket, and so popped two into my mouth and let them do their minty thing. Immediate result as the nausea and panic left as quickly as they came.

Onwards, and after 17 miles we arrived at cp2 Rhymer’s Stone.

“The Rhymer’s Stone marks the spot on which the fabled Eildon Tree once grew. It was under this tree that Thomas the Rhymer took a fateful nap while hunting on the estate of Melrose Abbey. He was awakened by the Queen of Elfland, who he kissed. He then spent seven years with her in the Land of the Elves before returning to his home in Earlston for seven years, then disappearing for good: presumably back to the Land of the Elves.”

We were now in the shadow of the Eildons. I was warm, but had kept my short sleeve tee on in case the true Scottish weather presented itself, it did not, and just before the first climb I stopped and removed my shirt, just down to a vest.

Eildon Top

As the first Eildon towered over us, runners, became walkers, bent double; hands on knees, knees on scree. Occasionally pausing in awe at the conical mountain ahead. The track was sloppy, with prints from the lugs of runners sliding in the mud, loose rocks trickled down, and ramblers cheered us on behind the safety of their thermos.

At the first peak we were offered a superb panoramic view of the Scottish borders, and one could not help but smile at the beauty before a technical descent onto the saddle between the first and second Eildon. One or two runners already limping, casualties of the peaks.

The second peak was much the same, Border Search and Rescue Unit sat patiently with their stout dogs; collies that clearly new better than us fools, just waiting to do their jobs. The seriousness of their work apparent as the land rover sat waiting some way up the peaks, of which an unsuspecting number of runners would be treated to a ride in.

Reaching the final peak I realised we were halfway through the adventure; all that was left to do was leave the Eildons unscathed, and begin our journey back again. This filled me with delight, and I was able to play with numbers in my head. I also realised at this point that my target of 8 hours was going to be met as long as I kept moving forward, at reasonable(ish) pace for a further 19 miles.

Where once the field was packed, we were now spread out. As I scrambled down the final descent I began to overtake runners that had flew past me in the first miles. And as much as my pace never quickened, this was to be for the remainder of the race.

I was safely down from the peaks, and started my journey back. I always knew even before the start that once I got to this point I just had a trail race to go, pressure was relieved and I started my solitary venture back. However I was now tired, the Eildons had sapped my legs, and as much as they were still turning, my head wanted a rest, just to lie down in the shadow of the trees amongst the leaves.

I needed a focus, as usual and in times of trouble I don’t always find comfort in the scenery, I needed facts to settle and focus my mind. I decided if I ran to 25 miles, that would give me 13 miles to go, and so from this point I would be able to fathom my ETA.

I’ll point out here (as I can’t recall what happened around this section) that the marshals for this race were the most enthusiastic, friendly, welcoming folk I have ever met, race or otherwise. Every cp I passed through I was made to feel like a Brownlee, the drop bags were handed professionally, and words of encouragement, comfort, and praise were delivered with gusto.

Jed ParkThis race does not come without a sense of humour, as we passed through Bowden around 22 miles in, the markers took us up and over a play park, climbing the frame, over a bridge and down a slide, grown men whooping as they slid on their backsides!

Drop bag collected at the final cp, which was Maxton again at 27 miles, I refilled the Tailwind and took a jam piece from my drop bag, a handful of peanuts and a swig of coke. The cp was filled with supporters, applauding as runners fumbled with their overly packed bags. I was aware of half a dozen runners bent double, either through nausea or cramp. Not me though, ten miles to go and I wanted to go home.

This is where it started to go awry, and the enthusiasm started to be replaced with doubt, not that I wouldn’t finish, but the voices in my head just wanted me to stop. They didn’t understand, they tried in vain to make sense of the numbers but nothing they worked out was reassuring. Ten miles? At this pace we may be talking about another 2 hours on the trails. In future this is where I need to improve.

I was aware of cramping up in previous races, so began a routine of peanuts and Polos. This was a strict procedure that got me through the next 8 miles. I would grab a handful of peanuts from my pack, munch them, swill them, swallow them, then take a Polo. Each pattern got me through one mile.

Six miles to go and I hadn’t seen anyone for 4 miles, I saw a runner up ahead who was cramping as he attempted to haul himself over a stile, a brief greeting and vague words of encouragement were shared before he stepped aside and I past stealthily.

Jed River

Fields, rivers, bridges, forests. All of that happened and it was beautiful, I’m sure it was beautiful as I’d seen it on the way out, it looked different now though. The winding steps, the tree roots, the sound of the river, all started to seem unreal. I started to shout out loud, words not to be repeated.

I past another two runners in the forest, cramp again being the victor as they leaned against trees in attempt to stretch out their demons, an attempt at uttering came out my mouth but we just glanced at each other like forest animals going about their way. No acknowledgement that we were in the same race. Was I even in a race?

Woodland

As we left the forest I encountered life by way of marshals guiding us across the road. Such a welcome sight, and again the enthusiasm wasn’t wearing thin, these Scots must have a brilliant marshal academy somewhere. I was led to a table with refreshments, water, coke, and sweeties. Such a delight as I wasn’t aware of it being here. I was advised two and a half miles to go, and those words were like Christmas morning.

As I left that small humble table on the side of the road, I began my way up the road. I could see two runners as the road stretched, not running now but mimicking extras from The Walking Dead. I caught up with the runners one at a time, both of them glancing over their shoulders as I crept up behind them, at first attempting to run before admitting defeat and letting me past before turning back onto the trails.

Finally the bridge, the very bridge I had seen at the beginning, still there, still standing, what a sight it was. Less than 2 miles to go, and I picked up my pace. I’m not aware of how it happened but suddenly the trail was wide and ran adjacent to the road, I was a solo runner approaching Jedburgh, and the finish. I glanced behind me just in case I was being hunted, once happy I was alone I began my final mile.

As I approached Jedburgh signs and cars built up, folk milled in and out their houses, I caught view of two figures gazing confusingly into my path. My mother and wife, I had estimated to them I would be finished in 8 hours, but the clock was ticking just after 7 hours so they had wandered from the finish to applaud runners, not expecting to see me just yet.

How fantastic to see them, inside I was jumping and throwing my arms around them, but I knew I still had to finish the thing, so I powered on.

The Abbey came into distance, as did the mound on which we started, cow bells and rattles and applause echoed down the road as I ran up the mound, my name was called out to whoops and whistles, up the mound, across the line, medal, goody bag, done. Finished in 7hrs 15, and position 63rd / 193 from 230 starters.

I stumbled around the place, fiddled with my Garmin, found my supporters, and felt overwhelmed at what had happened.

We crossed the road and into the rugby club, I inspected toe nails (two down), and showered, downed the free beer, and slurped the soup. There was a buzz in the hall as runners staggered about the place, some looking fresher than others, wearing their new race tees and hoodies, or slumped still in their race gear, unable to figure out what to do next.

I said it during the race, after the race, and still say it now; this was the greatest race I have ever ran, indeed the weather helped, but everything from the pre-race information, the atmosphere that built on the Facebook page, the route, the goody bag, to the friendliness and enthusiasm of the marshals and runners, it would take a very dreich day to wash away such a positive atmosphere. I cannot praise this race enough, if you’re looking for a braw day on the trails, then I’ll see you in Jedburgh next year!

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