Chris Richardson was planning to make a low-key ultra-distance running debut in the Speyside Way 59km ultra trail race but ended up with an impressive victory and a course record time.
The Metro Aberdeen member got the better of an experienced field which included his clubmate, Dee 33-mile race winner Jason Kelly, and Elgin’s Scotland 100km international Grant Jeans.
Richardson became the first man in the 11-year history of the race to complete the route between Ballindalloch and Buckie in under four hours, clocking 3hr 56min 52sec.
His result erased from the records the previous best of 4hr 1min 42sec set by former Cromdale athlete Terry Forrest in 2014.
Kelly had to settle for second position in 4:03:30 while Jeans, the 2019 winner, was third in 4:19:56.
Richardson said: “It went as well as I could have hoped although it was a bit harder than I expected.
“I had decided to go into it just to gain experience and to find out if it’s something I might enjoy. That was probably a good way to approach it.
“I knew Jason was aiming for a pace around the four hour mark so I decided I would aim to stay with that.
“We ran together for the first 42km but as we came down the hill into Fochabers he developed a stomach problem or stitch and had to slow down. I was fine so I just kept the pace going.
“It wasn’t until the final 9km, from Spey Bay to Buckie, that I really began to feel it.
“All my muscles were hurting, but I managed to survive.”
Richardson, who set a marathon PB of 2:27:41 at Dorney Lake, Buckinghamshire, at the beginning of October, admitted he benefited from Kelly’s presence.
He said: “I didn’t have time to check out the course beforehand so it was handy having Jason there as I knew he had been over it.
“I had a general idea of what the route was like by looking at maps and checking on Strava to see what other people had done.
“However, I very nearly took a wrong turning when we were on Ben Aigan but Jason kept me right. And after I left him, there were a couple of occasions where I wasn’t quite sure of the way but I realised the errors before they became significant.
“I’m happy with the way it worked out. It was good to get a race to fill the void as there’s nothing much else happening.
“So that’s me finished now until the end of the year.”
Gavin Taylor (Insch Trail Running Club) was fourth in 4:36:35 with Jamie Pallister fifth in 4:43:39.
Colin Barnett won the 40-49 age group prize when taking sixth position overall in 4:44:13 while 12th placed David Naughton was first in the 50-59 division, 12th overall, in 5:15:03.
Nairn’s Gordon Main, recently awarded a BEM for services to athletics, was first over-60 in 6:48:48.
Nicola completes Metro double, winning first-ever ultra race
Nicola MacDonald has completed just two marathons in her relatively short running career, but the Metro Aberdeen member found little difficulty in stepping up in distance to win the Speyside Way 59km ultra trail race women’s title.
The Banchory-based athlete completed the route in 4hr 53min 12secs – a time bettered by only five other women in the 11-year history of the race.
It was a remarkable achievement given that MacDonald’s entry was only confirmed a few days before the race.
She said: “About a month ago I noticed it looked as though the race would be allowed to go ahead so I got in touch with the organisers to express an interest.
“But it was only five days before race day that I finally got a place after some people had pulled out.
“The longest training run I’d done since Easter was 29km but I’d been running 100km each week in total for a long time.
“I felt really good up to around 42km but after that point the course was quite slippy which made it tough. Also, my hips had tightened up so I was struggling a bit with that as well.
“But overall I enjoyed the race. It was quite a good one for an ultra-distance beginner like me.”
Sarah Simpson (Metro Aberdeen), who has not broken the six-hour barrier in her previous three outings in the race, was second in 5:38:45. Jenni Rees-Jenkins (Insch Trail Running Club) led the way in the 40-49 age division when finishing third woman overall in 5:41:24, her best time in six appearances.
Rebecca Easton was fourth in 5:51:35, Angela Davidson fifth in 5:56:03 and Paula Boon (Forres Harriers) first in the 50-59 category in 6:11:46.