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Ailnack Gorge RunSpeyside

Cheers all round, as Speyside running tours resume

Recent relaxation of travel and group restrictions has been good news for runners ... and even better news for companies offering running tours

After four months of cancelled bookings and uncertainty, Scotland’s running tour companies are finally getting back on their feet.

One of them, RunSpeyside, just held its first guided tour since lockdown – a 12.5-mile run from Tomintoul out to the Ailnack Gorge – and runABC Scotland online’s Christine was lucky enough to join them.

RunSpeyside is owned by Jenny and Dave, two friends who met through their shared love of running.  As a team they offer guided tours and adventures – now all fully coronavirus compliant – on the tracks and trails around Moray, Speyside and the Cairngorms. 

Following current government COVID-19 guidance to the letter, six runners left the Speyside village – Christine, Jenny and Dave, plus a single runner and a married couple – making up the five permitted households.

Not having run with anyone else since March, Christine was a bit nervous about heading out on one of RunSpeyside’s more demanding outings with total strangers.

“But within seconds, it felt just like running with my own club,” Christine said. “The pace was perfect: slow enough to chat and see the sights, but quick enough to be able to cover a lot of ground in a reasonable time. There were plenty of stops to regroup, eat or listen to Jenny’s commentary about what we were seeing. The three hours just flew by.”

For Jenny and Dave, RunSpeyside is all about getting people out into the landscapes they know and love – whatever their age, experience or ability. It’s about giving people who might not feel comfortable with tracks, trails or navigating confidence that someone has their backs. 

“It’s so satisfying to help some one achieve what they thought they would never do, like running a longer distance or crossing a burn. It makes it all worthwhile,” says Jenny. 

But it’s also about giving experienced trail runners from outside the area a taste of the splendour of Speyside. 

Christine agrees: “Living in Aberdeenshire, I’m used to some pretty spectacular scenery, but the Ailnack Gorge – Scotland’s largest melt water channel – was something else. You really do have to see it to believe it. The way Jenny and Dave planned their route, it seemed to appear out of nowhere in the last few miles – which barely seems possible. By that point, you really have earned the view, and it feels right to just stop and admire it.”

While most of their runs – like the Ailnack Gorge tour – start in and around Speyside, the pair plan and lead runs further afield on request. 

No matter what their runners want to do, Jenny and Dave take care of all the hard work, like planning and emergency equipment. All their clients need to do is run, making their outings a perfect, stress-busting way to spend a day of the Great Staycation Summer of 2020.  

As Dave says: “In addition to offering specific tours on fixed dates, we organise a lot of bespoke runs for people on holiday. I’m currently planning an 18-mile run for a lady who will be visiting Aviemore with her family in a few weeks’ time. We also regularly organise runs for people who are whisky touring in Speyside, and looking to squeeze a few miles in between the drams.” 

Even though coronavirus has had a huge impact on their two-year-old business – the 30 runners they had booked in for tours in association with the Spirit of Speyside Festival this spring never hit the trails – the pair are gracious enough to recognise that the pandemic has had an impact on others’ finances too. 

As a result, RunSpeyside currently has a ‘pay what you can’ policy, if their standard rates (usually £25 for a scheduled outing) are too much. 

Jenny said: “Even if someone just buys us a coffee, we’d still love them to come out and enjoy Speyside with us!”

RunSpeyside is a member of runningtours.net: an organisation of running tour operators around the world. Most of its members are in cities, including four in Scotland’s central belt.

Image courtesy: The Ailnack Gorge, by Jenny @RunSpeyside

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