escape running

My friend Cat runs a great website called Escape Running, and conveniently she’s also the one who organised our recent trail running escape weekend up in Scotland.

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Cat, Claire, Simon, Frida, and I met at London City Airport early Saturday morning for our flight up to Inverness, from there we hopped on a train through the Highlands to Aviemore where we settled into the Youth Hostel for the weekend as our Cairngorm running base camp.

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Welcome to Aviemore

When we sat down to look over our maps and pick some routes to explore we were spoiled by choice.  Being on the edge of the Cairngorm National Park we had walking paths, cross country ski routes, mountain bike trails, and even a funicular to choose from. With only 48 hours (and two legs each) we decided to narrow it down to 3 routes, one each day.

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On the first day we stepped out the door of the hostel and conveniently right on to the Craigellachie nature reserve for a snowy 4 mile run up (and down) the closest peak. It ticked all the boxes for my route selection: easy-to-follow path, steep sections to hike up, and sweeping vistas of the Cairngorm mountain ranges from the top.

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Simon, Claire, Cat, Frida

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Photo: Cat Simpson

We ran through some deep snow and up some slippery rocks and made it to three of the smaller summits and had views towards the Cairngorm ski area and even over a small loch on the summit. Quite windy at the top we snapped a few pictures and then headed back down the steep snowy path as confident mountain goats Frida & Cat led the way.

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Back at the hostel we warmed up by the fire with crisps & Irn-Bru (when in Rome) and then headed out for some Cairngorm beers. The pub had stopped serving food by the time we were hungry so we went to the Happy Haggis chip shop for some true trail running fuel. Deep Fried Haggis, Scampi, Chips, and a few Deep Fried Marsbars were on the menu for dinner that night. Perfect meal.

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Up with the sun the next morning and we set off in the direction of the Cairngorms for our long run. We followed the Old Logging Way through the valley six miles to Glenmore and spent about 50% of the time taking photos. The route was mostly snow covered trail which was really fun to run on, sorta like running on compact sand. We all wore trail shoes and they seemed to work really well on everything but the bits of black ice. Only a few little slips along the way.

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After the Old Logging Way we ran along the shore of Loch Morlich which was partially frozen and absolutely shining in the midday sun.

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After a quick tea stop in the Pine Martin Bar we set off on the second part of our journey up to the Ryvoan Bothy on the Ryvoan Pass.

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We followed our map and some of the trail signs up a (closed but we didn’t realise that at the time) logging road and then along a beautiful single track trail that closely hugged the mountain edge.  The last push up to the Bothy was a beautiful trail with lots of walkers & xc skiers out for their adventures too.  We got a few looks in our minimal running kit compared to the walkers in 3+ layers and big ol’ hiking boots but didn’t pay much attention as we tucked right into our ham & cheese sandwiches, tunnocks, and banana bread lunch.

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The route back to Aviemore started with a long downhill trail where it was nice to let our legs just run after about 300m of climbing on the way there. Unfortunately, while trying to navigate around a barely covered marsh bit on the trail my feet went right into a very icy stream up to my ankles.  Poor Claire was following me and went in too. The cold was bracing but wearing my merino wool socks I just kept running and eventually my feet warmed up again and couldn’t even feel the wet. We ran back past the Glenmore Reindeer Centre (they were sleeping when we ran by) and back into the Pine Martin Bar for another quick drink and drying time by the fire. With “just 5 miles” to run back to Aviemore we hit the Old Logging Way at our own paces and it felt good to just get some consistent (easy almost all downhill) running time in in such a beautiful place.

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A 17.78 mile round trip found us back in Aviemore in time to do some shopping at the outdoor stores & grab a hot chocolate and some free wifi at a local cafe. After some legs up the wall at the hostel we went out for a great meal at The Winking Owl and more Cairngorm beers and even some Whiskey!

The next morning saw us crawling into the same running clothing we had worn for the past two days (aired out on the radiator obviously) and grabbing the map to direct us towards Loch an Eilein and the Rothiemurchus Forest.  The castle ruins in the middle of the lake is said to be an old stronghold of Alexander Stewart, the Bear of Badenoch. My Alex Stewart wasn’t on the trip with us so we couldn’t claim it as our holiday home.

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Photo: Cat Simpson

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Clarie, Cat, and I set off on very tired legs but quickly found some pace running along the undulating trail through beautiful forest and along the Lily Loch banks. We met up with a small road and ran past some lovely horses & ponies waiting for their breakfast and made it to the Loch for a quick view of the ruined castle.  We quickly ran back to the hostel as our second breakfast was waiting for us before we had to pack up back to London.

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I can’t imagine a a better weekend with the perfect group of friends, great food, amazing routes to run, and 3 days of Scottish winter sunshine in the Cairngorms! That never happens!

Flights: London – Inverness (Flybe out of London City was great but I heard they’re stopping that route)  & 30 minute train to Aviemore.

Stay: Aviemore Youth Hostel. The hostel was fine. Beds were squeeky but the rooms, toilets, and showers were clean. The place was warm (key in the winter)! and couches comfortable.

Kit: I wore the same thing all weekend and had zero issues with any of it.

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Photo: Claire Pepper

A buff. No explanation needed.

New Balance Leadvilles I’ve reviewed these before but they were the perfect shoe for the snow/ice/trail mix and I love them even more now.

Under Armour brushed winter tights (bought on Sportspursuit for way cheaper than this)

Lululemon runswiftly long sleeved shirt There is no better running top than this in my opinion. It didn’t even smell a bit after 3 days of running

Oiselle Wazzie Wool baselayer long sleeved shirt I wore both long sleeved tops as when we ran through exposed areas the wind was biting. I never overheated as both were super breathable.

Merino wool socks Mine were a last minute £3 purchase from Mountain Warehouse and worked out great. Cat had a pair of goretex ones I really want to try next mountain run!

Ultra light down gilet This was a key purchase as it weighed nothign to carry but kept me so warm whenever we stopped for tea or to take pictures.

Running jacket This (also) last minute purchase from SportsDirect was perfect and someone even thought it was a much more expensive brand! It cut the wind on the summits and the hood folded away when not needed.

Mountain Hardware Fluid Racevest Pack I love this so much, considering I got it for under £50 on gearforgirls.co.uk (as recommended by Laura!) it is consistently outperforming much more expensive ultra vests. It fit my gilet, jacket, a ham & cheese sandwich, tunnocks, a picky bar, babybel, 500ml of water, my camera, debit card, and a whistle with no problem and zero weight on my shoulders.

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