Jason Kelly has put down a strong marker for others to follow with an impressive run along the Deeside Way.
The Metro Aberdeen ultra-distance specialist completed the 44-mile route from Ballater’s Victorian railway station to the gates of Aberdeen’s Duthie park in 4hr 45min 46secs.
That’s an impressive average pace of 6min 32sec per mile for a route which includes a few testing climbs as it winds its way down the Dee valley.
Kelly’s solo performance gives him the fastest known time (FKT) for the run, bettering the 6:00:45 clocked by his Metro clubmate Bryan Kinghorn at the tail end of last year.
Kelly, who won last year’s Dee 33-mile race, was more than satisfied with the outcome.
He said: “It was tough, but enjoyable, although I was feeling pretty sore the next day.
“An attempt on the FKT wasn’t on my radar until I read about Bryan doing it.
“My aim at the beginning of the year was to defend my title in the Dee 33 race, but when it was cancelled, I decided that Plan B would be to run the length of the Deeside Way and go for a fast time.
“I had been feeling good in training and thought that getting under five hours would be an achievable target, although I wasn’t sure how hard that might be.
“I decided to set off at a pace that would give me that sort of time, then see how I felt when I got to Banchory, which came at the marathon distance.
“I reached there in three hours and I was confident I could push on from that point. The toughest parts of the course are over by then.
“There’s really only two significant climbs and these are just before Dess, then the section from Potarch up to Scolty Woods.
“I decided to take it easy on these climbs and let the average pace drop a little so that I’d be fresh at the top.
“After Banchory I was able to run quite strongly and pushed it fairly hard over the final 10k.
“The conditions were ideal with hardly any wind and it was actually quite warm, so I was able to run in vest and shorts.
“Stonehaven’s Chris Cowley joined me for the first 14 miles and Victoria Presly crewed for me by providing drinks and gels at five different points. Robbie Simpson cycled alongside for a few miles at Banchory.”
Kelly’s dad Neill, another accomplished ultra-runner, also decided to take part and did extremely well to complete the route in 5:22:39.
Having gained confidence from setting a FKT for the Deeside Way, Kelly is now hoping he won’t have to wait too much longer for conventional competition to restart.
He said: “The Moray Coastal 500mile race in June is a possibility for me if it goes ahead, but I’m also thinking about the Hardmoors 110 miles race in North Yorkshire.
“There’s also the Lairig Ghru race, which is one of my favourites. It just depends what’s allowed to happen.”
Kelly’s big target, however, is to make an impact at 100k level, with the aim of earning a Scotland international ultra call-up.
He said: “I’m not sure when there might be a 100k race. There has been some talk of one being held in September or October.
“I’m certainly keen to do one at some stage this year and I’m targeting going under seven hours. That’s an average pace of 6:45 per mile, which is slower than I ran on the Deeside Way run, but the 100k is, obviously, much further.”