You know that feature at the front of Runner’s World, ‘Rave Run’? Well I had my very own one of those at the weekend.
Mr. Duff and I were up in Aberdeen for a family visit. The purpose of the visit was a birthday surprise, so we were actually hiding out in Aberdeen for a couple of days. Not a massive place, Aberdeen, and given that we both had 20 milers to tick off and couldn’t go to either of the local parkruns for fear of being rumbled by Mr. Duff Snr alternative plans had to be laid.
I have a talent for getting lost, which is partly why I canvas for running buddies for unknown routes and partly why I run so many races during marathon training – even I can’t get lost if someone has helpfully stuck a load of fluorescent arrows up.
Anyway, to avoid ending up lost forever in rural Aberdeenshire with only the coos and sheep for company I decided to run from our hotel to the Duthie Park about a mile away, and from there pick up the Old Deeside Line. This is a footpath which follows the route of the old railway line from Aberdeen out into the countryside. My plan was just to head out for as close as I could get to 10 miles and then turn round and come back, making up any extra back in the park if I needed to.
I thought it was going to be a bit dull and a bit of a challenge, being a flat, straight line, and I comforted myself that at least it would be practice for the long stretches of Thames Towpath I am due to run in September at my autumn marathon.
It wasn’t dull. It was beautiful.
Now, I make no secret of the fact that I think Aberdeen gets a bad rap in terms of the fact that it’s actually a really nice city. It’s got great architecture, an impressive sweep of beach and it’s at the foot of the Cairngorms. Deeside is absolutely beautiful. There’s a reason the Queen holidays in Balmoral.
The Old Deeside Line didn’t disappoint. At first the areas to either side of the tree line were residential, but the route itself was still interesting; old platforms and sidings were visible and there were even a few old railway buildings here and there. There were lots of other runners, cyclists and dog walkers. Everyone smiled, said good morning or let you know when they were overtaking. I’ve got to say it – that doesn’t always happen in London. Many’s the time our Sunday run group have nearly been totalled by someone coming the other way. I appreciated the simple courtesy.
Before long the views started to open out and I could see the valley our wedding venue had looked out over, but from the opposite side. I uttered an out loud ‘wow’ and decided that on the way back I would do something I never do and run with my phone in my hand to make sure I captured what I was running amongst.
On it continued – a pretty new view, set of gorgeous trees or fairy glen appearing every quarter of a mile or so. I made it to Culter station and followed the route out beyond Peterculter. The tarmac path suddenly vanished and there weren’t as many people around, and between this and the going getting rougher underfoot I decided to run til my watch got to 8.5 miles and then turn back.
When my feet stopped moving I had one of those moments when you realise that, sometimes, silence can be an actual sound.
These were the views around me on a gloomy but atmospheric late Aberdeenshire morning, just me, one solitary bird singing in a tree and the sound of silence.
After a couple of minutes a lady with two gorgeous dogs came past. I had a few words with her about how beautiful and quiet it was compared to London, tickled one of the dogs’ ears and set back off the way I’d come, leaving them to get on with their bunny-hunting in the hedgerow.
I arrived back in the city centre and completed my run feeling like I’d been given an amazing treat; what a joy to go for a real off-grid run and get some proper country air for once. I’d run the whole thing pretty much by feel because the tree cover and the middle-of-nowhere nature of large parts of the route messed with my GPS, so I was pleased to see I had run consistently progressive splits and finished the run about 7 minutes inside my previous best time for the distance. Amazing what your body can do when your brain is distracted!
And just to prove that Aberdeen really is a nice place, the next day I planned a recovery run route that would take in the strange juxtaposition of the modern harbour and oil containers standing opposite the old fishing village of Footdee (pronounced Fittie. As an aside, Aberdonians like to say fit a lot and it doesn’t always mean the same thing – for example you might hear: ‘fit fit’s that fiba boot fit oan?’ to which the correct response, if you are not from Aberdeen and haven’t a clue what they’re getting at, would also be ‘fit?!’).
Confusing Scots dialects aside, how pretty is Footdee (ignoring the oil stuff)?!
And the beach – look at that blue sky!
It was lovely to run somewhere different for a change and to feel like I’d discovered a new gem of a route. I’ve run at the beach a few times because there is a parkrun there, but I’ll definitely be returning to the Old Deeside Line in future for more country air and loud silence.
And, I ask, fit’s the matter with that?!