Aberdeenshire’s Ally Sutherland is well on the way to completing what he hopes will be a record-breaking run along the North East 250 tourist route.
The Cosmic Hillbashers club member got the bid under way from Blackburn, north-west of Aberdeen, on Thursday and hopes to have completed the challenge by late this evening or early Sunday morning.
The current record for the spectacular route, which takes in Deeside, Speyside, Cairngorms National Park and the Moray Firth, is six days.
It was set in 2019 by Moray-based RAF Corporal Jon Ward, a well-respected fundraising runner who died suddenly in June, aged 34.
Sutherland said: “I met Jon at a few races and I remember him telling me how the North East 250 was an amazing experience. When I heard about it I decided it was something I’d love to do.
“It will take me to a new level. I’ve done 100 mile runs before, but this is another step up as the full route is actually 260 miles.
“I’ve been on holiday this week, so I decided it was as good a time as any to go for it. The aim is to get it done in three days. Jon took six, but, to be fair, his main aim was to be the first person to run the route. He could have been much quicker, but that wasn’t his objective.”
Sutherland has spent some considerable time planning the challenge and enlisted his wife Kay to provide logistical support. He had originally planned to start and finish at Aberdeen’s Duthie Park, but the reintroduction of travel restrictions to and from the city required some last-minute changes to be made.
Halfway into his challenge, he said: “I was going to be helped along the way by two running friends from Aberdeen, but because of the lockdown restrictions they can no longer do it. I live out beyond Inverurie, so the travel restrictions don’t apply to me and I’ve amended my route a little to avoid the city. I’ve added in the extra distance elsewhere.
“The plan is to run for 20 hours each day, with 100 miles on the first day then 80 miles in each of the following two days.
“I’ll be mainly following the route on the North East 250 website, apart from the section on the AWPR, so it will be on the road the whole way.
“I’m wearing a reflective jacket and taking it slowly to make sure it’s safe and that I’m not causing any trouble for drivers.
“Kay will be supporting me with food and drinks on a regular basis. That means I don’t have to carry too much with me, which is a big help. After setting off, I headed to Glenshee then back up to the Braemar area, finishing at 8pm on Thursday. I started again at 4am on Friday and hoped to have reached somewhere around Buckie, Cullen or Banff by the end of the day.
“After another short rest, I’ll be on the final stretch back towards the outskirts of Aberdeen with the aim of finishing by midnight on Saturday.
“That’s the plan, but I have no idea how it might go. I have all day Sunday if it doesn’t work out as well as expected, so I’ll just carry on until I get finished.”
Second endurance test of the summer for Ally
Ally Sutherland’s North East 250 Challenge is the second major endurance running test he has undertaken this summer.
Earlier in the year, when furloughed from his job because of the coronavirus lockdown, the Cosmic Hillbashers club member successfully completed 51 solo marathons in 50 days.
He was motivated to embrace this challenge after reading about legendary American ultra distance runner Dean Karnazes, who ran 50 marathons in 50 different states in 50 days.
Sutherland said: “At the start of lockdown my enthusiasm dropped a little and I needed something to fire up my motivation.
“I had read Karnazes’s book and was totally blown away by what he did. I didn’t think the human body was capable of those sorts of things.
“The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced I wanted to give it a go. I’d been furloughed from my job because of the coronavirus, so there was no excuse, I had the time to do it. It was an opportunity I couldn’t let slip.
“I never doubted I could complete it – I’ve never failed to finish a race. But I won’t lie, there were some tough days.”
He actually ran further than the marathon distance of 26 miles 385 yards on a number of occasions, sometimes adding on another mile or two.
In all he covered 1,420 miles, running from his home near Daviot on loops which frequently took in the upper reaches of Bennachie, climbing more than 32,000ft over the seven weeks.
He said: “I decided to do the double marathon on the final day just to finish with a flourish.”