Saturday, 20 April 2013

Alternative John Muir Way. 14/04/13

I'm in danger of getting out of sync with runs and the blogging of them, so I'll keep this short. I got an invite to run with the Carnethies (again) on their wonderful Alternative John Muir Way run. The route is around 34 miles although a lot of the team jumped on their bikes once we left the coastal trails, with only a handful running the whole distance. The minibus carried bikes and equipment shadowing the runners and rescuing those who reached their limit before the end of the day.

Gio gave me a lift which was really appreciated. We arrived before 9 and set off around half past from the bridge and small car park at Aberlady. A rainbow across the bay was a good omen. The forecast had changed its mind over the preceding week going from excellent to mixed, but settled for a rainy start with sun later, and this proved to be the case.

I had a couple of concerns (the weather, and whether to carry my bulkier but better camera, and the state of my shoes) but with the back up team and available transport, quickly relaxed into the business of the day, watching the skies as the grey clouds moved around then slowly dispersed. I kept a poly bag over my camera for the first part of the day as there were light showers. After North Berwick (11.30) the skies cleared and the poly bag was packed away. The size of camera and tripod raised a few eyebrows but it has a nice balance and is not as much of a burden as it looks. I shot some video but it was so windy all day it was tricky to get smooth hand held shots.



My other concern was a 4” split between upper and sole on my right shoe. I was desperately waiting for the new delivery of Hokas to Run and Become and had hoped they would have appeared by now. They hadn't and the split let in quite a bit of sand and water (crossing the Peffer Burn) nearly causing a blister. The split didn't get any worse and after a spot of maintenance at lunch the shoes were no further trouble.

I was hoping the blue skies would arrive before we got to Ravensheugh beach. It has to be among the top ten Scottish beaches and not only was the sun blazing by then but the tide was out making huge vistas backed on one side by massive dunes and the wind blowing the tops off the waves on the other. Gio was the only person bold enough to strip off and go for a swim. I had been in at Gullane the day before and have rarely felt the water so cold. So I'm afraid I opted out. I think the shallow shoreline of Ravensheugh must have warmed the water slightly, or maybe Gio is just made of sterner stuff than I. Hats off to him.

Tyninghame House

For me its difficult to match the splendour of the coastline and perhaps the second half of the route doesn't have the same visual beauty. I knew some of the route to East Linton. We passed Tyninghame House which has a non-symetrical gothic look about it, on the other side of the road from Binning woods where my late dad resides. I reassured Tim this was an official resting place and not a clandestine middle-of-the-night installation.

Preston Mill

Phantassie Doocot


We were down to a handful of runners now as most took to their bikes after the minibus met us coming off the beach. Mark was leading the navigation with only scant reference to the map and I felt even though we got to the lunch time rendevous (Keith's house, East Linton) he was doing it more by instinct than knowing absolutely where we were at any given moment. We arrived ahead of the bikes who were led by Keith on a muddy scenic route judging by the tyres.

Lunch (around the 20 mile mark) was brilliant. I was well ready for something other than the sweet snacks I had carried and some great hot soup from the kitchen hit the mark. Thanks to Keith's other half Bärbel! Lots of sandwiches, cakes, homebakes and cups of tea. (We had all contributed homebakes and the like: I took along a home-made loaf.) We all sat around in the sunshine listening to the birds chatter before refilling waterbottles and setting off stiffly past Preston Mill and the Phantassie Doocot, both of which I've seen from the John Muir trails but never actually gone past as closely as today. My legs eased off after a mile or so and started to work properly again. We crossed the bridge in East Linton and followed the riverside trail raced along in the Traprain Law Hill Race. Instead of crossing it we carried on until Sandy's Mill then re-crossed the A1 and headed to the Hopetoun Monument.

Quite a lot of windy exposed climbing here but lovely views to Traprain and then over to the coast and Aberlady – and our finish. The bikes had taken a more direct route and having been behind, had got ahead. Graham and I managed to catch a couple on the long climb past some troglodite looking ruins. I was looking out for the Hopetoun Monument which only reluctantly appeared after far too many miles of farmlands, choppy trails and gate climbing. I think being on foot was an advantage at times as the bikers had to negotiate gates and fence climbs with bikes on shoulders. As a result Nasher and I were first to the tower and up the dark spiral staircase to the battlements and marvellous views of East Lothian. The howling wind did not encourage a lengthy stop at the top. In fact on the way up the stairs there was the feeling you might get most of the way up the long tube then be sucked out the top by the massive updraught. Took a few photos then crept down squeezing past those on the way up.

There's where we are heading.

The last few miles were a bit achy: Tim and Mark chose to skirt a field – a more direct line than Graham and I who followed the road. The Hokas were preferable on such hard ground. A couple of miles on and we caught them just before Luffness and final mile back to Aberlady. The cyclists (with spot on timing) overtook us just one junction before we all arrived back at the start / finish. It was after 6pm and we all had had a splendid day out. Many thanks to Keith for organising this, providing a great lunch and letting me tag along. A brilliant route for a long day out with some truly spectacular scenery and great running/biking trails.  

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