Running with the Stars

My husband describes me as a star struck teenager. That’s not quite true, but I have been riding on the crest of a celebrity wave since yesterday.

We’re on holiday, staying at a campsite at Brora in Sutherland. It’s 50 odd miles north of Inverness and 40 odd miles short of John O’Groats, so not far off the top of the country. We arrived on Thursday and went for an exploratory walk out of the campsite to be greeted by a beautiful, fairly clean, sandy beach beyond the golf course that lies between the campsite and the shore. Please don’t tell anyone how wonderful the beach is because every time I’ve been down there it’s been deserted. There’s two miles of brilliant running when the tide is out, four if you turn round and go back. Apparently there’s another mile if you head up to the golf course.

On Friday morning I donned my Sketcher GoRun minimal trainers, collected my eager to run Jack Russell and headed beachwards. Unfortunately the tide was in and this made running quite difficult. It certainly slowed me down, especially when the sand was either too dry or too full of water. Finding a middle ground was difficult. However I persevered and managed a reasonable 5k in 35 minutes without trying too hard.

I wondered about heading out on Saturday as well, but as my hip flexor has been really tight of late, I decided instead to spend the day doing some walking and stretching. We walked two miles along the beach and a further three into town and back.

On waking on Sunday morning I could see that it was going to be another scorcher (we’ve been experiencing wonderful weather in the UK over the last few days) and decided that an early run along the beach was the best idea, so again I donned my GoRuns and hitched up the dog. We ran south along the beach to its farthest point before you have to turn towards the town and from there I could see a runner heading along the cliff towards us. Murphy hasn’t been very well behaved when he sees people on the beach, I don’t know why other than the one guy he did run after was walking in a really aggressive way – arms and legs flying about. I was wary of him chasing the runner (and perhaps biting him) so I kept an eye on how far behind us the other runner was. He wasn’t making up much ground, but by then I was throwing a few intervals into the mix, effectively stopping and starting. I decided to stop, put Murphy on the lead and let the runner past.

But the runner didn’t pass. Instead he stopped and came across to chat. And when he did I suddenly realised that I was talking to Ally McCoist, the ex-Scotland soccer player and the now Rangers manager. He asked me how long the beach was and, after me acknowledging who he was – OK, I admit it, I told him I was a big fan – we chatted a bit more before he shook my hand and ran on. The dog wasn’t at all bothered by him, so I chanced it and let him off the lead and followed Ally along the beach. By the time he reached the end of the beach I’d caught him up again and so I asked if he minded me running back with him as our pace was so similar. We chatted as we ran, about our families, the team, running and such-like. It was a very pleasant run and I wondered if should run at this easy pace with a partner more often. I felt comfortable and happy to run.

I left Mr McCoist’s company half way back to get back to the campsite, although I was happy for the company and the pleasant chat. Ally came across as a nice bloke, easy going and, well, ordinary. He wasn’t a “celebrity” in the bad sense of the word. He asked me as many questions about me and my life as I asked him about his (although I was careful not to be intrusive – I’m sure no one in his position likes being grilled about his personal life. I restricted my questions to his professional life.) We shook hands again and told each other how nice it was to meet each other. I wasn’t starstruck, just happy to have met a nice guy to run with.

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Delighted to be running with me, as you can see.

As you can imagine I was eager to get back and tell my husband who I’d been running with. So eager I managed to walk across a fairway with golfers teeing off. Oops. They missed me and I’m here to tell the tale!

The rest of the day was spent watching Andy Murray win the Wimbledon Men’s Title and Vettel win the F1 German Grand Prix and feeling decidedly unwell. After returning from my run we had a sausage breakfast. When I ate mine I sensed something was wrong, they just didn’t taste quite right. Subsequently I spent too much time on the loo or curled up in a sleeping bag yesterday afternoon and evening. I feel better today, although I’ve put my 8 mile long run on hold until later or maybe even tomorrow when my strength will have built up a bit more. I don’t think that I have enough in reserve at the moment.

Where I run depends on the tides. I could do several lengths of the beach or I could venture out into Brora. I know that it’s three miles into town and back, but I still need another five. I may have to buy a map or get a decent interweb signal at a local cafe in order to research possibilities. Heading out blind, I’ve found, isn’t a good idea when you’re running in an area you’ve never really been to before.

In the meantime I’m enjoying the sun and the peace. Life is grand.

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