Four hardy Banchory athletes aim to run the length of the River Dee, from its source high in the Cairngorms to its mouth at Aberdeen harbour, in the space of 24 hours.
Barry Chalmers, Scott Birse, Peter Torrance and Daniel Christie are making meticulous plans for the Source-to-Sea 90 mile challenge, which they aim to tackle in mid-July.
Chalmers said: “It was Scott’s idea. We were out for a run at the beginning of the year and he mentioned it was something he had always wanted to do. So, of course, we decided there and then to go for it.
“There’s not likely to be any big races before the summer, so it’s a good opportunity to do something different. It’s certainly not the sort of thing we could do during a normal season.
“No doubt it’ll be an epic adventure and we are all really looking forward to doing it.
“However, now that the training for it has started, I think we are just beginning to realise how hard a challenge it’s going to be.”
The run will start on Braeriach, Britain’s third-highest mountain, where the springs of the Dee are found.
The Banchory runners will make the long descent towards Braemar, then on to Ballater, where they’ll join the Deeside Way for the final 50 miles to Aberdeen and the finish line at Footdee.
It has been done before. Aberdeen runner Andrew Gordon completed the source-to-sea run with his friends Rod Wallace and Sarah Simpson three years ago. It took them a little under 29 hours.
Chalmers said: “Peter has spoken with Andrew to get some advice, especially about that first part of the run.
“When Andrew and the others did it, they followed a path which closely follows the line of the river, down through the mountains, but apparently it was very boggy. However, more recently we’ve been told it’s ok.
“So we need to check it out. We plan to run up there at the beginning of May to get a better idea of the best route to take.
“Our recce run will start and finish at Linn of Dee, going to the summit of Braeriach, possibly taking in Devil’s Point on the way back down to Corrour Bothy, then we’ll follow the path back along the river
“We’ll be taking in three Munros along the way and we’ll probably be out for seven or eight hours, so it’ll be good training.
“We’ll benefit from the fact that Peter comes from Braemar originally and he knows the area up there pretty well.”
Three of group ‘haven’t really got any ultra-distance experience’
Chalmers admits that taking on a project of this magnitude is very much a step into the unknown and will be a serious test.
He said: “Peter has run the Lairig Ghru race and the Bennachie 50k ultra trail race, but the rest of us haven’t really got any ultra-distance experience.
“It’s going to be difficult to get the pace right and we’ll have to be sensible at the beginning.
“We aim to start at 9pm on a Friday night and it will take us a couple of hours to get down from Braeriach. That should ensure we don’t go too fast as it will be getting dark and it’s also probably the toughest terrain.
“We’ll have a number of stopovers along the route to get a change of clothing and to refuel with food and drink.”
The Source-to-Sea runners have also been picking the brains of another Banchory runner, Stuart Ross, who won the Dee 99 mile race on an out-and-back course between Aberdeen and Ballater in 2018.
Chalmers said: ”Stuart has done a lot of ultra races so Scott spoke with him and got some good tips on refuelling and training for ultras.
“He suggested doing back-to-back long runs. So some weekends we might try a 20 mile run on a Saturday then maybe an even longer run the next day.”
No stone is being left unturned by the quartet in preparing for the gruelling test of endurance and Chalmers knows it will still be a daunting physical and mental challenge.
He said: “I think one of the toughest parts will be just before our home town of Banchory. That will be after 60 or 65 miles and obviously we’ll be really tired. Psychologically it will be tough to pass our homes.
“But we also hope a lot of people might come out to cheer us on at that point. Peter is organising a tracking GPS so people can follow where we are.
“There’s no doubt we’ll all experience some bad patches, maybe not always at the same time. So we are going to stick together and help each other through it.
“At the end of the day the aim is to get the satisfaction of completing the course. We are hoping to be under 24 hours, but if it takes longer, then that’s ok.
“We also want to raise some money for two worthy causes. We are running for Charlie House, and 50% of anything we raise will go towards a new respite centre for the charity. The other 50% will be for the development of the recreational ground community sports facilities in Banchory.”