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How to run the Moray Way 100 as a relay team

Written by Fiona

May 01 2023

I wrote this article for the Scots Magazine about a team run of the Moray Way 100 Relay in 2022. Read the article to find out how to run the 100-mile ultra in Moray, Scotland.

Four friends and a 100-mile relay

It’s a wonderfully warm afternoon as I take up my starting position in Lossiemouth, a coastal town in Moray Speyside. Stretched out to my right is a long, wide beach and, ahead, the sun dazzles on the waters of the Moray Firth.

Just as I’m thinking about how nice it would be to pop into one of several ice-cream shops for a cold refreshment, my attention is drawn back to my reason for the visit to the popular north-east Scotland holiday destination.

There, running towards me along the esplanade is my friend, Claire.  After a quick hug and greeting, she hands me a GPS tracker – and then urges me to run away.

It’s now my turn to take up the baton as part of a 100-mile running challenge and I cross a footbridge, head into grassy dunes and then strike out along the sand towards the village of Garmouth.

It’s not easy running on the beach and I find the more compact sand closest to the lapping sea offers the best surface, but that also means I end up with wet feet, even while trying to dodge the waves. 

After a couple of miles, sand gives way to ankle-turning shingle before the in-coming tide pushes me inland and over a high ridge of pebbles to reach a narrow path that winds through a carpet of dry, short grass.

While the heat rises in the sheltered hollow between dunes and woodland, the terrain is much easier to run on and I’m able to relax and stretch out my stride. 

At a wooden waymarker, I obey the arrow to turn south. The path leads to a wide, dusty track and then to a tarmac road and after an hour of solo running, I’m delighted to see Claire again, as well as two more friends, Cath and Kate, waiting for me at the next checkpoint.

We followed waymarkers for the trails – and also red flags placed by the organisers.

It’s now my turn to hand on the tracker to Cath – and tell her to run away from me.

The collective aim of our four-person team – nicknamed Fi’s Flanci Fillies – is to complete the Moray Way 100 Relay.  

Already Kate has run six miles from the inland town of Forres – which is at the start and finish of the challenge – to Findhorn on the Moray coast, before Cath ran seven miles along the seashore to Burghead. She handed over to Claire, who ran further eastwards through several former fishing villages to reach Lossiemouth to meet me.

In total, our team has 12 stages of between three miles and 15 miles to complete with each relay runner completing three sections.  The circular route also takes us along several long-distance walking trails, including two-thirds of the 50-mile Moray Coast Trail, half of the 66-mile Speyside Way and the full 23-mile Dava Way. 

We encounter a range of terrain, from tarmac to country paths, beach, tracks through forests and trails over rolling hills.

When one of us is running, the other three drive in a hired motorhome between checkpoints on a unique tour that links together many attractive villages and towns and journeys through ever-changing landscapes.

We re-fuel on ice creams from Fochabers Ice Cream Parlour, chips from Aberlour Takeaway and The Royal Fish Bar in Grantown, plus a vast supply of our own snacks. We fill our time between each running stage with laughter and chat among ourselves, as well as with other relay teams.

My next stage of the relay – the seventh of the 12 – starts at Aberlour and takes me three miles to Carron on a delightfully flat path along an old railway line. Winding its way below me, is a beautiful river, edged by pretty woodland and wild plants.

But by far the most scenic stage that I run – and also the longest at 14.5 miles and the hilliest  – is the ninth, from Ballindalloch to Grantown-on-Spey. By the time I set off, having again taken the tracker from Claire, the sun is starting to set.

The first couple of miles travel through quiet countryside,  interspersed by sections of wooden boardwalk and giant stepping stones, on the south side of the River Spey. 

Just as I am wondering where all the hills are I meet my first – and climb up and up. Over several miles I ascend towards a high of 1000ft, then descend to around 800ft, then climb again to 1100ft. Over the following five miles, the pattern is repeated over and again as I face several more hills of heights of between 750ft and 885ft.

The constant up and down is very fatiguing and I slow many times to a brisk walk, especially on steep gradients. At times, the trail is too technical to do anything more than pick my way gingerly forwards. 

But as I resign myself to a slower pace – worrying that my team mates will be questioning why the tracker dot is progressing at a snail’s pace –  I also remind myself that I am fortunate to be surrounded by such gorgeous scenery. As I make my way south, I watch as the sky turns from pink to orangey-red over a patchwork of lush green hills, fields and forest.

I am grateful, too, when I reach a more runnable section as I pass through the former railway station of Cromdale. The track that once took trains on the Strathspey Railway Line is now a grassy path.

At the outskirts of Grantown, I run into the darkness of community woodland and I need to switch on my headtorch. At first, the trails seem fairytale magical, lit by my single beam of light, but then I trip over a tree root and land flat out and face down in vegetation. Fortunately, I do no major damage but as I pick myself up with bloody knees and elbows, I suddenly feel drained of energy. 

It is a struggle to push myself on to finish my relay stage but there is relief finally as I hear my friends cheering me on in Grantown centre.

Cath, Kate and Claire take the tracker over the next three stages and, after a total of 16 hours and 28 minutes of running, our team crosses the finish line back in Forres.  

We’re surprised, but delighted, to discover we’re the third team overall. We also win the Masters (over 40s) race. The first relay team home was the Newburgh Dunes Running Club in an impressive 14 hours, 22 minutes. There is also a solo running race and, amazingly, the first solo runner finished in 17 hours 16 minutes.

It turns out that running 100 miles non-stop is a great challenge if you have friends to share the journey.

Make a weekend of it

There is a lot to see and do in Moray Speyside and my team made a weekend of it.

Enter 2023:  The next Moray Way 100 for solo runners and Moray Way 100 Relay for teams of four is on June 24, 2023.

Also see: Scottish ultra running races 2023

Kit list for 100-mile ultra relay

  • Trail running footwear
  • Running clothes 
  • Running pack 

Mandatory kit:

  • Emergency foil blanket
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers
  • Warm baselayer
  • Headtorch
  • Mobile phone
  • Hat and gloves
  • Minimum of 500ml of liquid
  • Emergency food
  • Personal first aid kit (bandage/plasters)
  • GPS tracker

Between running stages:

  • Change of clothes
  • Insulated jacket 
  • Food and water.

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