Bringing in the distant bells o 2021 fae the top o Creag Choinnich, near Braemar, I felt hopeful fur the year aheid. I didna ken fit the year wid bring, but I did hae an explicit intention. This being tae cycle, run an dauner 300 miles atween New Year’s Day an the 6th February.
It aa stairted in een o the Nixon faimily group chats, wi ma auld man suggestin ma brither an I jine him in logging oor miles fur the Doddie Aid Challenge. This coming tae a conclusion jist afore Scotland’s Calcutta Cup clash wi England in the Six Nations.
Maist importantly it wis aboot raising awareness an donating tae the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation. This charity wis inspired bi Scottish rugby stalwart Doddie Weir, following his diagnosis wi Motor Neuron Disease a few years syne.
Efter a gladly uneventful descent o Creag Choinnich, ma mither an I woke early the next morn tae gaun an find the Secret Howff. As the name suggests, the location o this wee bothy is meant tae be kept secret. This meant battling through knee deep sna fur a guid hauf an hour until we finally stumbled across it on the side o a steep outcrop.
This first daunder ended up being aroon 10 miles lang an at several moments I felt the cauld stairtin tae ease intae ma bones. Spikkin tae Maw did help warm me up, but I wis pretty jilt bi the team we reached the car again. Indeed, it proved a guid excuse tae catch up wi ma mither efter the endlessly sporadic nature o the previous year.
I left Braemar, three furry companions an ma mither ahint taw days later fur Aiberdeen, jist afore anither lockdoon wis announced. I had added anither nine running miles tae ma total afore I left, an kent I had tae keep that momentum gaun faan I reached the Granite City.
Throughout January, I daundered every day, varying ma route atween Leah’s flat an mine, or gaun doon tae the beach on mony a bracing nicht. Fur some reason ma telebuffle canna handle GPS, sae I had tae painstakingly log every mile manually using Strava’s routes function. Sadly, I actually rather enjoyed this progress.
Meanwhile, ma running wis steady if nae scattered intae intermittent blocks o intensity which wid last a few days at a time. I became obsessed wi running alangside the River Don, faar I cuid find a wee bit o countryside wedged intae the city scape.
On twa successive Saturday morns I completed loops aroon the River Don atween Bridge of Don an Danestone. This involved timing masel on a 7.4 mile loop which took in baith banks o the Don. I wid return hame aroon 90 minutes later, smothered in mud an cauld sweat, smelling like I had passed ma best afore date. I enjoyed the freshness o the air beside the river an the trails proved a refreshing chinge fae never ending pavements.
The weather wis actually the maist difficult obstacle tae overcome, wi the mercury hovering near freezing maist days. Sadly, this aa but ended ma hopes o brushing the cobwebs aff ma bike. I wis too nervous tae gaun near it as the roads remained slick, hivvin nae rode it since ma crash last summer.
This meant rowing ma original target o 300 miles back a bit. I decided I jist wanted tae keep moving an figures ootside ma daily totals began tae feel less important. At a time o constant chinge, I took comfort in takkin each day as it came.
January flew bi relatively quickly an soon it wis the eve o the Calcutta Cup. That penultimate day o the challenge involved four easy-ish miles aroond the beach, but it wisna until later that I realised ma overall total wis sitting at 190.4 miles. Ma plan for the day efter had been tae donate a tenth o ma mileage tae My Name’5 Doddie Challenge, drink some alcohol an then watch Scotland tak a hammering fae England. Fooiver, een figure loomed large in ma heid an ma total jist didna sit weel wi me.
An sae the next day I leapt precariously oer the Spital’s mony cobblestones, passing the University of Aberdeen unner ominous looking skies. This wis followed bi a breathless ascent o Gordon Brae, ma enthusiasm outweighing ma actual fitness. I wis leaving the city fur the first time since 3rd January an daenin it bi fit.
In fact I wis loving every minute o it until the Raynaud’s in ma gloveless hauns stairted tae kick in mercilessly. This wisna helped bi passing a raging River Don as I looped back towards Aiberdeen. I shivered uncontrollably everytime I glanced at its icy waters as the sky stairted tae fill wi snaflakes.
I wis in full survival mode bi the time I reached the Granite City’s pearly gates again. Wi nae pockets fur ma phone, I switched this noo gelid object fae een painful haun tae anither afore I finally reached ma last glorious descent.
Sae, we jist minutes tae spare afore kick-off at Twickenham, I finished Doddie Aid Challenge 2021 wi 200.4 miles unner ma belt. I hadna reached 300 miles, but the feeling o accomplishment wis still immense. As I desperately tried tae wairm ma numb extremities in a towel, I realised that getting oot fur a worthwhile cause in the depths o a Scottish Covid-19 winter had been warmly welcomed.
Fur some 200 miles in five weeks bi fit is impressive, while fur eithers it’s less sae. Fur me, I wis jist glad I had something tae keep me gaun faan there wi little tae be cheary aboot. Aiberdeen’s pavements had taen a hell o a purposeful pounding an ma year had got aff tae a suprisingly guid stairt.