JANUARY means a businesslike ramping up of training programmes for many active outdoorsy people. And this year brings an increasingly large and inviting range of outdoors events in which to take part.
In line with the rest of the country, the Borders has seen a rapid escalation in off-road races in recent years.
Tweedlove, a celebration of cycling in Tweeddale, will be in its third year this summer. Paul McGreal, the man who began the Durty Tri based at St Mary’s Loch, has given up his ‘proper’ job to start a company running outdoor challenges, many in the Borders, and the Rat Race team’s Deerstalker event in March, now seven years old, almost heralds the season of off-road competitions.
Mr McGreal explained: “People are looking for new challenges. In the 80s the thing to do was run marathons, up to a few years ago it was about cycling sportives, more recently people have started to look for different kinds of challenges, and I think the ruggedness and diversity and interest of doing things outdoors, and specifically off-road, is increasingly appealing to people.”
A project manager for 14 years, Mr McGreal has set up Durty Events (www.durtyevents.com) and added a further two off-road events to the outdoors calendar this year.
Coming up in July is his new Southern Cross Cyclocross and MountainBike Sportive – a 60km ride through the Southern Uplands along paths, tracks, single and twin-track (and it will include four big climbs), starting from the Tibbie Shiels Inn at St Mary’s Loch where there will be camping and a ceilidh the night before. The event has been inspired by the Three Peaks Cyclocross in Yorkshire, but designed to be more accessible to a wider range of people.
Another new Borders event he’s staging is the Bowhill tri-enduro, an eight-hour, off-road duathlon in August.
The award-winning Durty Triathlon, which Mr McGreal and Border Triathletes started in 2008, runs again in July. The event scooped Triathlon Scotland’s ‘Event of the Year’ again in 2011 (it first won the title in 2008).
It features two race distances at St Mary’s Loch – the Short Fast Durty (750m loch swim, 15km mountain bike, 5km hilly trail run); and Long Hard Durty (1500m loch swim, 30km mountain bike, 10km hilly trail run).
New for this year will be a junior open water aquathon as well as the usual post-race ceilidh. The Durty Triathlon hosted the inaugural BTF British Cross Triathlon Championships in 2010, and the Scottish Cross Triathlon Championships in 2011, and they will host the latter again this year. The event has also been shortlisted for the BTF ‘British Event of the Year’ 2011.
Meanwhile, the Craggy Island Triathlon Mr McGreal launched and ran near Oban for the first time this year won Triathlon Scotland’s ‘Most Enjoyable Event of the Year’ in its inaugural year.
Mr McGreal said: “Riding a bike on tarmac is great, but it’s pretty much the same experience all the time. However, riding a mountain bike is a different experience almost moment by moment, something different is coming at you all the time. I love road cycling, but you are very much more aware of what’s going on when you are on your mountain bike or running in the hills or down by the river than if you are pounding a pavement.
“I don’t know how to phrase it: it’s about being in touch with your surroundings and your environment, and smells and noises and the wind. There’s something a bit elemental about getting covered in mud or wet in the rain – that’s a bit more real (than exercising indoors),” he said.
Exercising outdoors is pleasurable for some, but not for others, believes Kelso personal trainer Colin Black.
He said: “Some people like exercising outside – they don’t like the thought of being in a gym. They like the fresh air, but usually the people who train outdoors are already into training.”
z Other Borders events or activities outdoors include the Glentress Duathlon winter races (www.glentressduathlon.com), hill races such as the autumn 2 Breweries (www.twobreweries.org.uk) and Manor Valley (www.carnethy.com/ri_manor.htm), the Kielder 100 MTB endurance races which crosses over to Newcastleton (www.kielder100.com) in September, the summer Selkirk CRC MTB Marathon (www.mtb-marathon.co.uk/events/selkirk.php) which combines natural mountain bike trails around the Selkirk area and purpose-build tracks of Tweeddale, and short cross-country races in the Borders (www.bordersxc.com).
For those who like a beer and bit of chat with their outdoors exercise, there are the Borders Hash House Harriers who hold social, off-road runs the first Thursday of every month (http://bordershashhouseharriers.blogspot.com) and if running with a map is your thing, visit the orienteering Roxburgh Reivers website (www.roxburghreivers.org.uk) for more information.