The Dava Way is the perfect race to transition from marathons to ultras, or if you are a seasoned ultrarunner looking for a quick 50km.
This trail links the historic towns of Grantown-on-Spey and Forres, with a "fun" finish to show you the RD's favourite running spots as a child to make the 50km distance! The route predominantly follows the old Highland Railway line, which means an off road yet runnable trail.
On Saturday 11th December, Cairngorm Runners James, Jez, David and Colin participated in the 2023 event.
Cover Photo: Stuart Ross Media
Tell us about the day! How was the weather, did you run with other Cairngorm Runners? What did you think of the route? How did your run go? What was your time? Was it a milestone? What was the most challenging part of the event? Anything else you can think of?
"This was my first ultra, I had signed up last year, but had withdrawn due to injury, so it was unfinished (I started) business. I had never even run a marathon, how hard could it be. I started training in earnest at the beginning of September I’d been running consistently with the club so felt reasonably confident, hey it’s only five 10k’s. Spoiler it’s actually 52km. My training consisted of a few long runs > 30km but didn’t do any more than 5 of these, but did run three times during the week. Looking back at Strava I did 200km in October. Race day dawned and I was pleased to see some familiar faces in Colin Cadden and Jez, both looking very calm and collected. I was running my own race and had no intention of keeping up with Jez, who was hoping to run it about 6 hours. I had recently discovered pace pro on my garmin watch, I need a separate article in the newsletter to tell you how it works, but put simply you enter either the time you expect to do the race or how fast you’ll run each km and it’ll do the rest. Hence I ended up with an expected finish time of 5h 38mins. The race starts and folk take off like they’re trying to get a PB in the park run. I didn’t and stuck religiously to my timings. The weather was perfect, dry, no wind and cool. After you’re out of the woods and onto the Wava Way proper, it becomes quite a lonely race, you see some folk in the distance and sometimes you’ll catch someone up, but otherwise you’re on your own for a lot of the time. Towards the end I found I began to overhaul folk which is very heartening, I even managed to run up to Nelson’s Tower at the end, everyone else seemed to be walking, perhaps those tullochgrue hill reps really did help. I crossed the line in 5h 33min about 6mins quicker than I had anticipated. I’m now looking for the my next Ultra, what a great day out."
"It was a chilly start and it had been raining all night so I started with my waterproof jacket on . Being my first Ultra, I had decided on an easy pace, planning just to get round before the 8 hour cut-off, but hoping to make it in 7 hours. David and Jez were well gone by the time I crossed the start line. In fact, there were only 2 runners behind me as we started the course. The first 10km loops round Anagach Woodlands and through Grantown so it was a bit of a relief to finally reach the railway track marking the start of the Dava Way. By this time I'd warmed up a bit, was a few minutes ahead of my pacing schedule so I snatched a few bites of Clif Bar and some Torq from a water bottle in an effort to keep my energy levels up. It didn't take long before we hit the first soggy sections. Having gotten wet feet two weeks previously at the Illuminatior I wasn't as precious as some at trying to avoid the puddles. I was occasionally catching and passing other runners as we headed up past Aid Station 1 and the Dava Summit. I'd left some additional supplies to be taken to Aid Station 2. I hadn't eaten all I already had in my bag but enjoyed some home made rice cakes as a bit of a savoury treat. In theory the route is downhill after Dava Summit but it didn't feel like that, more just an easy flat. However, I was feeling strong and was starting to pass more and more runners. There's a final "sting in the tail", climbing up to and round Nelsons Tower in Forres but, even here, I was feeling OK. Despite my fears at not making it back before the cut off, my actual time was 5h49m, securing me first place in the 60-69 Male category. I could not have been more pleased! Given my previous longest run was a marathon 5 years ago, I'd entered the event thinking I'd a 50:50 chance of completing it but hoping to discover something about myself through any failure. To achieve what I did was beyond my wildest expectations."
I went in to this just two weeks after running the Illuminator in Deeside, but tapering went quite well, and I felt suitably rested a few days out from race day. Running conditions were mixed. A comfortable temperature but very wet underfoot with many sections holding deep puddles. The race went out quite fast with a short road section and downhill to the River Spey. I knew I wanted to pace conservatively so was happy to sit back at around 25th place until we at the aid station, and near the high point of the route, at mile 11. From there I picked off a few runners and moved up to 11th. At mile 28 we passed the last aid station and pulled off the Dava towards the finish and ‘that hill’. I was expecting the hill to be much worse than it actually was, so looped round the tower and managed to catch 10th between there and the line.
Would you recommend this event to others in the club and why?
James: "Yes. A great late season target to keep the training going, plus a very runnable easy to navigate course."
Colin: "It's terribly convenient for those in the Strath and isn't as hilly as many other, shorter events. With a bit of preparation and good logistics I could imagine quite a few of the club would manage this race rather well."
David: "This is an excellent intro to ultras, in part because most of it is downhill. Towards the end you’ll see the sea which seems to draw you in and give you a much needed boost. What are you waiting for?"
James Beaumont: 4:01:58
Jez Ivens: 5:02:27
David Henderson: 05:33:10
Colin Cadden: 5:48:29
Thanks guys for taking the time to talk to us, and congratulations on some great running!
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