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Stepping up and stepping down at Speyside ultra

By Alan Beresford

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THERE were celebrations and farewells at the end of what was a very special Speyside Way Race ultra marathon on Saturday.

A last-minute blow was delivered to the line when previous winner and many people's favourite for the race Terry Forrest had to withdraw due to injury.

For Elgin native Grant Jeans, who now lives and works in Glasgow there was victory by some distance to savour after taking the tape in the 36.5 mile course in a time of 4.10.54. He was almost 17 minutes clear of second-placed Adam Gray, who clocked 4.27.39.

The event itself had cause to break out the champagne to celebrate the tenth such race since it was resurrected by race organiser Sarah Louise Cull and a team of fellow enthusiasts back in 2010, having since gone from strength to strength.

It was an emotional day for Mrs Cull herself as she brought to a close her association with the race, handing it over to Kyle Greig at Aberdeen metro.

She told the Advertiser: "The course was in incredible condition and despite an early scare due to the landslips near Fochabers it all came out right.

"A big thanks goes out to the Speyside Ranger for his efforts.

"It's been a perfect race to say goodbye, a very satisfying send-off.

"I've got such a strange mix of emotions standing here at my last Speyside Way Race, it feels weird bowing out after this one.

"Congratulations go to Grant and thanks to all the runners who took part, especially the 17 former category winners and ever-presents from down the years who joined us for our tenth anniversary. A big thank as always go to the team of volunteers and marshals who make it all happen.

"Everything has gone so smoothly this year apart from some early worries over landslips on the route near Fochabers.

"I definitely feel I'm leaving the race in a good place and it will be in good hands with Kyle Greig at Aberdeen Metro.

"To be honest I never imagined when i stepped into former Speyside Way Race organiser Don Ritchie's shoes that would ever have become what it is now. it was a massive learning curve – I'd never organised a race before in my life before this!

"One of the things I'm particularly proud of is that the Speyside Way Race has developed the reputation as being one of the friendliest races on the circuit. That means so much to all of us who have loved the race and put so much passion into it over the years.

"It's become special to not only us but to lots of other people, too, and I'm really going to miss it."

Mr Jeans, who has run for both Scotland and Great Britain, had previously finished third in the 2010 Speyside Race.

He said: "It's great to win it, although I wanted to go for the course record for Sarah's last race in charge.

"This is a great course, and that's coming from someone who's not too good on grass, I run better on concrete.

"As there's both on the course it meant I had to run tactically to make up the time I lost on the grass stretches.

"For someone starting off with ultras, this is a very good course to begin on."

Mr Jeans added that he hoped to be up next year to defend his title.

Sponsoring this year's race were: Buckie Tesco; Walkers, John Dewar & Sons; Baxters.

Buckie Area Forum Economic Regeneration Group, who have supported the race in a number of ways since it returned in 2010, also pledged to match the £250 put up by the race team for the first person to break the four-hour finish barrier.

New group chairman Councillor Sonya Warren said: "Sarah has made an immense contribution to the area and the sport itself by bringing back the Speyside Way Race from the dead.

"The dedication, energy and passion shown by her and the race team has been nothing short of inspirational down the years.

"It has certainly helped raise the profile of Buckie and the surrounding area as well as increasing the footfall coming into the town.

"I'm delighted to say that the regeneration group will be continuing to back the £500 prize for the fist runner to smash the four hour barrier.

"We wish Sarah all the best for whatever she turns her energies to and look forward to working with her successor Kyle."

A total of 130 lined up at the start lie at Cragganmore distillery for the gruelling yet scenic challenege which is part of the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series. To score points, competitors had to successfully complete the route in nine hours or less.

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