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Whisky chaser; Get your running shoes on and nip along to the Dramathon, a unique event which takes places around stunning Speyside and its many distilleries.

Byline: FIONA RUSSELL

Whisky and running created the perfect partnership for an inaugural event in the Highlands.

The Dramathon attracted 700 participants from across the world to compete in a marathon, half marathon, 10k and marathon relay through Banffshire and Moray.

The idea is the brainchild of two friends, Jon Dunderdale and Ian King, who took their inspiration from the famous Marathon de Medoc.

Instead of the wine of the Medoc, which takes place in France, the Dramathon is based around Scotland's Speyside whisky distilleries.

On October 21, more than 200 marathon runners started the Dramathon, leaving Glenfarclas Distillery, Ballindalloch, in the valley of Ben Rinnes at 10am.

They encountered a few hills before reaching the manicured lawns of Ballindalloch Castle and then Ballindalloch Distillery.

The runners joined a fairly flat section of the long-distance walking trail, the Speyside Way, to reach two more distilleries, Tamdhu and Knockando.

The next distillery on the Dramathon route was Dalmunach with its awardwinning architecture before reaching Aberlour Distillery.

The final 10k of the race was a gentle but muscle-punishing uphill. The final two distilleries came one after the other, with Balvenie first and then neighbouring Glenfiddich, where crowds cheered runners to the finish line. As they competitors finished, they were handed a unique goodie bag filled with a collection of whisky miniatures from Glenfarclas, Tamdhu, Tomatin and Glenfiddich, Monkey Shoulder and shortbread from local company Walkers.

The medal was a wooden peg made from the staves of whisky barrels by a small company, Darach, of Inverness.

Marathon winner Hywel Davies finished in 2:39:43.

The fastest woman was Ann Robin, of Bellahouston Road Runners, in 2:55:20.

It turned out that the full distance was two miles shy of an official marathon due to an enforced last-minute diversion.

Hywel, from south Wales, said: "I ran this event for fun because it was such a fantastic idea.

"As a whisky drinker, it was great to see the countryside that is home to so many distilleries and to enjoy the smells as we passed them by. It was not an overly challenging route either so I was able to really enjoy it."

Next to start were the 160 half-marathon runners, who left the halfway point in the route, close to Tamdhu Distillery, at 11am.

The route was the same as the second half of the marathon to reach the finish line at Glenfiddich.

The Half Dramathon was won by Louise Cartmell, of Moray Road Runners, in 1:28:16. First man and second overall was Gordon McLeay, of Craigrossie Cycle Club, came home in 1:30:53.

Impressively, Gordon runs in the male super veterans category (age 50 to 60).

Second-placed lady was Ali Wyllie, of Edinburgh running tour company Run the Sights, in 1:32:52.

She was fourth overall, just behind second-placed male Chris Haworth, of Harmeny Athletic Club, in 1:32:13.

The Dramathon 10k also followed the final section of the route, leaving from Aberlour Distillery.

The winner from 110 runners was Craig Grieve in 45:01, which perhaps reveals the challenge of a mostly ascending route.

In ninth place overall was first woman Ashley Toner-Maxwell in 52:17.

Some 55 relay teams of four runners completed the full Dramathon. The winners were the Teviotdale Harriers in 2:36:02.

At the awards ceremony that afternoon, Paul McGreal, of organisers Durty Events, said: "The founders of the Dramathon, Jon and Ian, presented me with what sounded like a brilliant but crazy idea.

"I thought it might just work if the distilleries could be persuaded to come on board.

"What was so fantastic was that the distilleries showed us an open door and so we have been able to put on this superb event."

The Dramathon 2018 is planned for next October. Keep an eye on the website to find out when entries open. See www.

thedramathon.com

FIONA'S REPORT RUNNING THE HALF DRAM

The fact that my summer was hit by illness and injury meant I was not properly fit for a half-marathon race.

Plus, I had not run 13 miles for at least a decade. But the lure of whisky and a beautiful off-road route saw me lining up for the start of the Half Dramathon.

Despite taking place in the Highlands, the route was surprisingly flat, at least for the first half.

As I ran, I chatted with other competitors and discovered an international field. Swedish runner Orjan Magnusson told me he had read about the Dramathon in a Swedish whisky magazine.

He said: "Whisky is very popular in my country and because I like a dram and running I thought the Dramathon sounded good.

"I have come to Scotland for the weekend with friends and I am really enjoying the route so far.

"The countryside is very beautiful and the trail is muddy but quite easy to run."

The halfway point of the Half Dram was Aberlour Distillery where we enjoyed the encouragement of many spectators.

If I had been offered a tray of whisky I would most certainly have enjoyed a dram but for health and safety reasons the whisky was kept to the finish line.

Instead, I took advantage of a water station and a quick snack.

The final 10k of the route seemed suddenly much harder than I had expected. My legs were tired and I realised the trail was heading continually uphill.

However, there was a moment of unexpected fun when a few of us ran across a bridge that bounced like a trampoline under our combined weight.

Then a short dark tunnel made me squeal because I was wearing sunglasses and could not see anything at all.

As I began to slow due to sore legs, a few of the 10k runners sped past me, making me feel even more lethargic.

They had started at Aberlour and had fresh legs.

Again I found a few people to chat with and that helped to take my mind off tiring muscles. As I passed one runner he said: "Well done. Keep going. Only a few kilometres to go."

I felt suddenly more enthused and could almost taste the promised whisky as I pushed on towards the next distillery.

Seeing a sign for Balvennie I thought, 'Wow. The finish line already'.

Then I thought for a minute and realised, 'Doh! It's Glenfiddich not Balvenie where the race finishes'.

Fortunately, Balvenie and Glenfiddich are close neighbours and a marshal kindly reported I had just 500m to go.

I ran through the back of the distillery, around a corner of the loading bay and into the home stretch.

There was a cheering crowd supporting the runners and I found I could smile despite my exhaustion.

As I crossed the finish line someone handed me a precious goodie bag filled with whisky treasures.

I promise you I drank the bottle of water before opening a miniature of Glenfiddich 18-year-old.

Surprisingly, I finished eighth lady and 29th overall.

GEAR OF THE WEEK

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See www.inov-8.com

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 19, 2017
Words:1270
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