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City Centre Trail Running - River Don

Although we're blessed with some of the most stunning countryside up here in the North East of Scotland and with some of the best trail running the country has to offer, it's not always easy to get to these places. Family commitments, time & travel constraints can sometimes make it easier just to pound out the miles on the pavements.

However, there are a few gems on our doorstep in the city which give you the experience of the trails without having to travel for it.  One particular area of the town which is often overlooked by runners is the River Don pathways, from Seaton Park to Persley.  The basic loop I've shown is a 7 mile loop, from Seaton Park, crossing the Persley Bridge. There is a shorter 5k loop, which uses the crossing the Grandholm Bridge.

Although it's offroad (well, 99% of it), it's still fine for road shoes. The paths on the south side of the river are hard packed. On the north side, there are some bits which are a bit narrowier and a slightly more gnarly with tree roots, but still would recommend road shoes.

On the south side, leading up to Persley Den, there's quite a bit of iron work in various places.  I'm assuming a lot of this comes from the old mills which would have been on the Don.  Quite interesting to see and definitely needs a little more digging into to see the history of it all.

Once you reach Persley, there is the walled garden which is quite unexpected and spectacular.  Worth a little stop to have a peak inside.

Once you cross over the Persley Bridge, there's a little opening at the entrance of the Bannatyne Gym which you need to take to get onto the riverside path again. Be careful here if it's been wet as it is a little steep and could be slippy.

There's some really nice views of the Don and there's usually some wildlife there to  have a look at.  Plenty of ducks yesterday, as well as swans and a heron (see picture below).  Quite easy to forget that you're in the middle of the city at times.

 

This has just been a little taster for you. Best to just get out and explore. Have fun!

 

 

 

 

  • Andrew Gordon

Foam rolling. Explaining the mystery.

The technical term is self-myofascial release although it's more commonly known as foam rolling. So, what is it and why we should we do it?

Very basically, it is self massage which releases the tightness in muscles or the knots which develop in muscles (trigger points). By applying pressure to specific areas of your body you can aid the recovery of sore, aching muscles and get them back to normal activity sooner.

 

After an activity, such as running,  it is highly recommended to stretch out those muscles to get the flexibility back into them. However, stretching alone is sometimes not quite enough to do the trick and the use of a foam roller can get the blood flowing which will help aid the return of that muscle flexibility quicker.

It can be painful and uncomfortable at times when you foam roll, but it shouldn't be unbearable. After the rolling, the discomfort you'd felt in the muscles should ease.

If in any doubt though, always best to consult with either a doctor or physiotherapist before undertaking.  

For further information on stretching, check out this great recent article by James Cruickshank, a physio at Spear Physiotherapy.

  • Andrew Gordon

Lairig Ghru Hill Race - 25th June 2017

Having heard loads of great things about the Lairig Ghru hill race and seen all the pictures from previous races, I was determined that this was going to be one of the key races I'd enter this year.  Having decreased the weekly mileage I've been doing since the Cateran55 in May, I was a little apprehensive, but hopeful that there was enough in the tank to be able to get round in one piece. I'm also always a bit nervous of races where the mandatory kit list includes OS maps, compass and full waterproof body cover. Wasn't sure I even knew how to use a compass.....

Anyway, got out to Braemar nice and early for the registration and kit check. Such a beautiful drive through Royal Deeside. Weather forecast seemed to be fairly decent, but definitely a bit on the grey side. 

The pre-race briefing.

Due to the fact we were just away to run 27 miles through the Cairngorms, you can't take any chance with safety so it took a little while to count everyone through by number order before we started. The organisation of the event was excellent and hats off to the Deeside Runners who put on the event and in particular Race Director Andy Bain along with all the marshals and helpers. The Braemar Mountain Rescue team were also on hand so big thank you to those guys as well who do an amazing job. The funds raised through the race was for the Mountain Rescue team which requires donations to enable it to function so that was good.

The first section of the race was a gentle 3.5 miles on tarmac, heading west out to the Mar Lodge Estate.  Turning into the estate, crossing the Dee (wouldn't be the last time), the ground was still a good, hard packed, forest track. With a gentle incline it was still very runnable. Weather was holding quite well at this point and was actually starting to get pretty warm so a few of the layers were going to have to come off.

 The Mar Lodge Estate

So far, so good. Everything feeling good, and made it to the Derry Lodge check point well in advance of the cut-off time.  The path after this narrowed more to a single track, but still very runnable at this point.  The sun was now out at this point and getting very warm by the time we reached the Luibeg burn. This was now 10 miles in to the race and although we'd climbed about 1600ft, it certainly didn't feel like that as it was a very gradual incline.

Thankfully the water at the burn wasn't too bad and could be (relatively) easily navigated. I did have a nervous moment with phone in hand and I thought I was going in, but thankfully managed to get my balance and avoided a splash.

The Luibeg Burn crossing.  Photo courtesy of Sarah Simpson

The next section had a bit more climbing, but the track was still good and at this stage and keeping up a decent pace. At this point we were starting to come into the Lairig Ghru and the scenery was quite spectacular.  By this stage, the rain had started and the wind was getting up, so all layers back on! Ah, the joys of the Scottish Summer!

 

With rain now on and getting decidedly chilly again, I was also starting to get really peckish. Thankfully I had remembered to pack a jam sandwich before I had left the house and although a little squashed it certainly hit the spot.

We were now about 16 miles in and had now reached the infamous Boulder field which I had heard so much about. You could see it coming for a few miles, so you get a sense of what's coming your way. The glen, with mountains either side is very impressive. There is a stretch which is filled with massive boulders, formed by glaciers thousands of years ago. There is no path, so it is just a scramble to get through. Thankfully, this bit doesn't last for too long, but it doesn't get much easier to run after this point as it is still strewn with boulders, and becomes a very technical route which needs a lot of concentration. I must have lost count the amount of times I tripped, but thankfully no major falls this time.

The start of the boulder field

From the start of the boulder field, through the technical section, it must have been about 5-6 miles. Was really starting to struggle by this stage as it was very hard going. I found it pretty hard work on the ankles due to constantly having to work to place your foot, and with moving rocks. As we came out of this section though, it then became a bit easier and next few miles were a lovely meander through the forest before descending down to the long path to Colyumbridge. 

The sun was now beating down and I was just thankful that I'd only now a few miles to go as I was starting to burn up. The road down to Aviewmore was mercifully downhill and there were a few families out cheering us on and one little girl was dishing out the Jelly Babies which was a god send for that final boost which was needed!

Murray Strain won the mens title with a new course record of 2hrs 58 mins and the womens champion was Joanna Zakrzewski with a time of 3hrs 53 mins. Well done to all the other runners as well for completing what was a very difficult course.

Will definitely be back for this one. Yes, it was tough, but the scenic route and friendliness of the fellow runners and race organizers really made this one special. Nothing flashy about it, just a good, honest, tough hill race. Would definitely recommend it, but don't underestimate it as it's no stroll in the park!

 Cakes at the finish line - delicious!!🍰🍥🍰

 

 

The Running Shop's Essential Tips for Trail Running

Anyone who knows me, or comes into the shop (as I have a tendency to rabbit on about it) will know that I am at my very happiest when I'm out on the trails and hills. There's definitely something very liberating about running off-road. Pace is not so important. there's not the continual need to check your GPS watch and you get the chance to take in some amazing scenery.  Staying in the North East of Scotland we definitely are blessed with an amazing playground which really caters to everyone's needs, from light trails through to highly technical hill running.

1. Where to run?

If you're new to off road running, then do a bit of research to find out what's new. Ask around for advice, check local Facebook groups (such as Bennachie Running), ask at your local Running shop!!  Even from the centre of Aberdeen there's some close trails nearby including the Coastal path from Nigg up to Cove, River Don/Grandholm, Beach (North side), Hazlehead Park (through to Countesswells Forest), Kirkhill Forest to name just a few.

 

2. Join a club

There's lots of great clubs in the North East who are big into their trail and hill running. Great place to start for tips, routes and companionship on the trails. Can definitely recommend The Cosmics, Insch Trail Running Club, Stonehaven Running Club and Garioch Road Runners (lots of off road runners in there as well!!) but there's loads of other clubs and groups which will have trail elements.

 

3. Safety First!

Once you start heading out onto the trails you probably should be mindful of a few things. Always best to let someone know where you're heading off to and expected time you'll be out.  Take your phone with you just in case of emergencies as well.  I know a lot of people like running with music, but be careful when you're out if you have your earbuds in that you're aware of what's around you, i.e., cyclists, horses, other runners.  To be honest, it's best leaving the earphones at home and just enjoy the sounds of nature. You can beat it. Having said that, when I am out on my own, I do use my AfterShokz bone conducting headphones which give you the best of both worlds. Great music quality but your ears are open and you can hear what's round about you. 

 

4. Shoes!

Yes, there are lots of different types of shoes. What we would always advise is to come in to your local running shop(!!), and have a chat. Have a think as to what you would be doing, and from that it can give an idea of the type of shoe you'd be best placed with. It might be that you need something really grippy, or perhaps an all rounder which can do a bit of both trail and road. You may be thinking about targeting an ultra so cushioning may be a requirement. Whatever you're doing, there will be something which will suit your needs. Like with all running shoes though, because everyone is different, it's always best to come in to your local running shop to test them out.

 

5. Hydration

With trail running, sometimes it can take longer than expected so it's important that you take a means of keeping you hydrated on these long runs.  There's loads of options from hand held bottles, to belts to race vests and back packs.  Again, similar to the shoes, always best to come in and have a try and see what works best for you.

 

6. How to improve your trail running skills

Well, to be honest, it's like everything. Practice makes perfect. It is good to work on getting a good, strong core, so plenty of strength and conditioning work, including lunges, squats and using a wobble board is good for increasing your foot and ankle stability.

Get used to keeping your arms a little wider, which you'll need for extra balance. This is useful as the terrain will be uneven and at times you will be hopping and skipping over boulders and branches so balance is key.

There is definitely an art in downhill running, but it will come with experience and some confidence. It does take a fair amount of concentration, and try and keep looking ahead so that you can anticipate the next step. If you focus too much on your feet, you'll find that you end up having to adjust your movement considerably to navigate obstacles which come on you quickly. As you go down hill, for gradual descents, slightly lean forward and let the hill pull you down. It can be difficult as you'll find that your momentum starts to build up. This is where in time, the confidence factor will kick in though.

 

7. Enjoy the trip!

Trail running can produce some of the most amazing natural highs you can get and we definitely recommend it.  Can definitely seem more like playing at times, and what better playground could you want for than the one we have here in the North East of Scotland.

Once you get the taste for it, you may want to enter some races and there's loads to choose from. Check out our race diary for local hill races or if you fancy something a bit longer why not think about stepping up to an ultra. You'll find a lot of good information here on the Scottish Ultra Marathons Series website

 

 

 

  • Andrew Gordon

Altra Loan Peak 3.0 Review

Altra Loan Peak 3.0 Review

In the words of Monty Python, now for something completely different.  Altra Running, the Running company from the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, have been developing shoes which are distinctly different from the traditional running shoe we've all become accustomed to. Based on years of experience, they have developed the only cucushioned, zero drop shoe, with foot-shaped toe box. You can read the full story Altra story here

I've taken them out for a few runs now, and have done about 30 miles in them. The first thing I noticed about them is the room in the toe-box. Based on the shape of the foot, you really do notice your toes splaying out a fair bit. Initially I wasn't quite sure about it, as it was quite a different feeling. After a few miles though, I did start to warm to it and did enjoy the feeling of not having your toes constricted in anyway. Basically, if you have a wider foot, suffer bunions possibly, then this would be a great option to consider.

Having a zero drop (heel to toe differential) is obviously quite unusual with most traditional running shoes being a 10-12mm drop, although there is a quite a range now of options.  The Altra thinking is that having the zero drop, it encourages a more efficient running form, giving a more natural alignment which will result in lower impact, whilst strengthening the achilles and lower calf muscles. For me, I did find that it certainly promoted more of a forefoot strike than what I usually do and it certainly did seem to be an automatic and natural thing and I didn't need to think too hard about. Haven't had any issues with my achilles but then that's maybe just me as I tend to go between various different drops without any impact. Maybe not the same for everyone though so would probably encourage a gradual transition to this.

Grip wise, did seem to get plenty of traction from the lugs which are well positioned and fairly aggressive. Was fairly dry conditions though, so not tested on wet or muddy terrain. There's also a pretty cool gater grip at the back of the shoe which would come in very handy if you have the need to wear gators.

Overall, really impressed with this shoe.  Certainly offers something a little different with the toe room being a massive plus point. Although zero drop, it's not a minimalist shoe by any manner of means with plenty of cushioning for a really comfortable ride with plenty of protection on both the medial and outside of the shoe.