An unlikely combination of spectacular scenery, salty chips and a traditional Scottish ceilidh all helped power Kerry Prise to victory in last year’s Devil of Deeside challenge at Balmoral.
The Aberdeen-based drilling engineer will return to the Royal estate in April to defend her women’s title in the gruelling endurance test which has become an iconic feature of the two-day race meeting.
Competitors must race in the ConocoPhillips 5km and the Stena Drilling Tartan 10km on day one before stepping up a gear to tackle the 27km Apollo duathlon followed by the Trac 15-mile trail race on day two.
Prise completed the challenge last April by posting a combined time of 4hr 37min 08 secs to finish 29 minutes ahead of her closest rival.
She admitted, however, that a less than health-conscious nutrition regime allied to some inspirational natural features and a boisterous ceilidh all helped her take top spot.
She said: “The first day doing the 5km and 10km wasn’t too bad and I felt quite good afterwards.
“In fact I went to a ceilidh in the evening which was a good way to relax.
“The second day was definitely tougher. The duathlon wasn’t too bad as the cycling gives your body a bit of a break, but the 15-miler was really tough.
“When I finished the duathlon I was straight over to the van for some salty chips. It was just what I needed, some carbohydrates to fuel me up, and it seemed to work.
“I rarely eat chips, but needs must, and I felt fine on them, so it was all good.
“But what really kept me going during the 15-miler was the course itself which is truly amazing. The first part is through the woods then you open out on to an open trail with Lochnagar in the background and the whole estate laid out in front of you.
“It’s absolutely stunning and that was a big part of the whole thing for me.”
Prise is clearly a huge fan of the event and she is urging others to take up the Challenge and join the band of Devils taking part.
108 people entered the Challenge last year but that figure seems sure to be overtaken on this occasion with 90 already having signed up for the event to be held on April 21-22.
Prise said: “The Devil was held for the first time last year and I’m really looking forward to doing it again. I’m sure more runners will be doing it as a lot of people maybe weren’t aware of it last year.
“I have certainly been talking with a lot of folk who say they are interested, so I’m sure it will be more competitive.”
“I think more people should try it as they will be amazed at what they can achieve.
“It’s good in that it’s not like one long marathon. It’s broken up into attainable chunks, four races spread over two days.”
Prise hopes to be in peak condition for the event and is now putting together her thoughts on how best to prepare.
She said: “Last year I was working offshore quite a lot but as from the end of this month I’ll be pretty much finished with that until the race.
“So, it should be easier for me to get organised with training and racing at weekends.
“I’m not good at making training plans but that’s my resolution for the new year. I need to make a plan.
“I’d like to do quite a lot of local races in the lead-up to Balmoral. I’m interested in some of the Aberdeenshire duathlon races such as the ones at Aboyne, Inverurie and Knockburn.
“I’ve done them in the past and they are always good.
“I’d also like to do the Run Garioch half marathon in March. That’s a tough one. I did it a coupe of years ago and was surprised by how hilly it was.
“I’ll maybe do some 10km races as well but I need to look and see what’s out there.”
The Run Balmoral meeting celebrates its 21st anniversary on April 21-22 and entries are coming in thick and fast for all the races.
In addition to the 5km, 10km, duathlon and 15-mile trail race there are also events for younger and less experienced runners.
The Saturday programme includes the MPH primary schools boys’ and girls’ 1.5km races, followed by the FOS Group secondary schools 2.5km.
Then on the Sunday there’s the Trac three-mile Wee Trail race.
Entries can be made for all the races at www.runbalmoral.com