I loaded up the car with my long run equipment (Camelbak, bottle of Lucozade, jelly babies, banana, sunglasses, running hat, phone, iPod, and camera) and drove 45 minutes to the Wellhill car park of Culbin Forest. It's a place that I know fairly well in a walking sense, including knowing that the trails are more or less flat and well maintained, and it seemed a logical place to test out whether this trail running lark is for me.
It occurred to me, as I drove into the car park, that I had never been there in the summer. The sheer number of shouting parents, shrieking children, and snarling dogs reminded me of why I had always given it a miss during this time of year. However, operating on the maxim that the majority of people don't wander far from the car park in any given outdoor situation, I optimistically set off on an eight mile run. And sure enough, as soon as I turned the first corner, I left everyone behind me and didn't see another soul until I was back in the car park at the end of the run. Bliss!
I had my route mapped out - it's one that I've walked many times before - and I thought that I knew where all of the turnings were. I even had a map with me. But the forest looks different at a running pace and I got a bit disoriented, went straight where I should have turned left, and then had a not unpleasant five miles of wondering where the hell I was. The wide forestry road that I thought I'd be running on had morphed into a lovely narrow trail, so no complaints there, and I figured that I'd eventually come across a junction that was on my map. I didn't, not until I surprisingly ended up back at the car park, but it all felt very adventurous in a safe and contained kind of way.
I was a bit disappointed that the beach with views across Findhorn Bay that I had planned the original route to take in wasn't on my alternative route. In fact, there were no views at all, aside from the trail and trees. There were, however, lots and lots and lots of flies. It wasn't too bad while I was running but, when I stopped for a drink or to dither over the map, they pinged off my head and tried to climb behind my sunglasses and a horsefly bit me twice on the arse through my tights and they generally made it so unpleasant that running was a relief.
|Culbin Forest: trees, trees, and more trees|
|Findhorn Bay: what I had hoped to see|
On balance, I think I'll try it again. But next time, I'm definitely going to the beach!