Like so many other runners, Westhill’s Sarah Wallace has been creative in giving herself new challenges during the various spells of lockdown over the past nine months.
Racing opportunities have been few and far between, group training sessions have been shut down for long periods and travel opportunities severely limited.
But none of that prevented Wallace from maintaining her motivation to run. Far from it. She simply refocused her goals and chose new targets.
She said: “At the start of the first lockdown we had to stay local for our exercise. So, I decided to run on all the streets around the block of houses where I stay. You can’t get much more local than that.
“Once I’d done that, I was surprised how much fun it turned out to be. I thought it would be quite monotonous, but it was actually fun running round all the cul-de-sacs and finding places I hadn’t previously noticed.
“So I moved on to do the next block and it grew arms and legs after that. After a few months, I’d run every street in Westhill.
“I did it on 10 different runs and it totalled 115.55 kilometres. It took a combined 11hrs 30min of running.”
“I’ve probably missed one or two streets. But it was hard to work out what the definition of a street might be. There are some housing blocks which are called courts and have parking areas, but no street name. So, I decided if a road had a street name, then I’d do it.”
Having completed this project, Wallace is now tempted to tackle it in a different way.
She said: “I’ve been thinking about trying to do all the streets on a single run, rather than on 10 separate ones. I’d need to plan it in more detail to avoid a lot of back- tracking, but it’s definitely in my head.”
Wallace is an experienced runner who has raced 10 marathons and 10 ultra distance races, the longest being the Dee 99-miler two years ago.
But when she took up the sport, her aims were much more modest.
She said: “I started about 10 years ago and at that time I just wanted to get myself fit enough to run 5k.
“I followed a training programme, starting with a combination of walking and running. It was a real sense of achievment when I ran 5k without stopping for the first time.
“I progressed to doing a 10k then a half marathon and everything progressed from there.
“Now I prefer the ultra distance races. It’s such a friendly community on the ultra scene and the races take you to so many interesting places. When you get to the start of a race it’s just like catching up with friends.”
Wallace’s fondest running memories are, however, reserved for the Cape Wrath marathon, a unique event which she tackled in 2017 and 2018.
She said: “There’s a sea loch separating the Cape Wrath peninsula from the mainland so you get taken to the start on a speedboat ferry. Then you run 11 miles to the Cape Wrath lighthouse and back again.
“Once you get back you have to wait until there’s enough people to fill the ferry over to the mainland where you then have to run the final 4.2 miles to the finish at Durness.
“They stop the clock while you are waiting for the boat, but it’s hard to get going again and that final stretch is all gradually uphill.
“It’s held on a staggered start basis and, the first year I did it, I was involved in a sprint finish with the guy who actually won, despite the fact he started about two hours after me.
“There’s a series of races in the week leading up to the marathon, including a 10k, half marathon, trail race and beach race.I did them all – after all it’s a long journey up there so you need to make the most of it.
“It’s a wonderful event and you get to know everyone so well. I hope it continues in the future.
“I loved it as it was the catalyst for developing my enthusiasm for longer races.”
What does Sarah Wallace have planned for 2021?
Wallace is keen for races to return to the fixture list and already has a few pencilled in her diary.
She said: “I have some races which were postponed from 2020. The first is the Lakeland three-day mountain marathon in May. It’s 40k of running for the first two days, including 2,500m of climbing. The third day is shorter.
“Then, one weekend in June, I have the Glen Lyon 50k ultra run on the Saturday and the Tour de Forth 100k cycling sportive on the Sunday.
“I really got into cycling during the lockdown last year as it allowed me to go much further from my front door.”
In the meantime, Wallace is continuing to train in her local area, exploring some of the lesser=known upland trails as well as the streets around her home.
She said: “I’ve been running some of the smaller hills in Aberdeenshire which are quieter than the more popular ones such as Bennachie or Scolty.
“So, I’ve been up Barmekin, Craiglich near Lumphanan and Berryhill on Hill of Fare.”