Every year, the club organises a long-distance relay, known as an Extravaganza, which is organised by an ad-hoc Extravaganza Eating, Drinking and Planning Committee (EEDPC). This year, after months of meticulous eating and drinking, the EEDPC knocked together a hastily conceived proposal to run the Speyside Way – an established trail connecting Buckport to Aviemore along the banks of the Spey river. The idea of spending a day running through whisky country ending with a party evidently appealed to the club membership, and entries were sold out in record time.
With accommodation booked, participants divided into three teams and legs allocated, all that remained was for a few minor cracks in the detailed planning to be papered over. Following Representations, the 6am start was adjusted to allow time to travel from the lodge in Aviemore to the start (4am being deemed to early for both late night revellers and those in need of their beauty sleep). Last minute leg updates were made, adjusted, and re-adjusted until a sufficient level of confusion was reached. The troupes duly assembled in Aviemore for a meal at the Worst Restaurant In The World, and retied to a night of peaceful slumber in the Sliochd Mhor Lodge.
Saturday dawned tranquil and crisp, a perfect Spring morning. Breakfast over and kit packed, we set off for Buckpool and the official start of the Speyside Way. Astonishingly, no-one got lost and we arrived only slightly after the designated starting time. Time enough for for a team photo, and Leg 1 was off! I had wondered why the start of the route was Buckpool rather than the mouth of the Spey at Spey Bay, but the reasons became clear just a few minutes into the run. A gorgeous trail through pine forest, emerging all too soon at the picturesque handover point. Batons passed to leg 2, I sought a moment of solace in a portaloo, only to emerge to see an empty car park. I have a dim recollection of something like this happening at previous Extravaganza. Are they trying to tell me something, perhaps? With an air of resignation, I set off on leg 2 in the hope of eventually catching up with a lingering driver. Fortunately, my absence had finally been noticed and I was duly reunited with the team.
The day continued more-or-less smoothly from there. We ran and drove through pretty countryside, variously warmed by the sun and cooled by the chill air, comparing the quality of the camper van tea offered by the Flemings with that of the Hutchinsons, knocking over stone mushrooms lining the curbs of country houses, playing Pooh sticks, and occasionally cheering runners in and off. A particular highlight was arriving at the Tormore distillery to find the train station open and serving free whisky cake with samples of the local produce. Not a train in sight, mind. Tempted, I risked being abandoned for a second time and nipped down to the office to purchase a bottle.
Some confusion arose at the Pollowick changeover, resulting in the leg 10 runners being left abandoned in the mistaken belief that they had miraculously arrived at the leg 12 changeover without being noticed. A period of disorganised searching ensued, and despite which the bemused runners eventually turned up, having endured a somewhat longer and more difficult leg than anticipated. Excitements over, the relay continued smoothly and the final leg crossed the finish line and the day unanimously declared a success. All that remained was for Sheila to be abandoned and accidentally found, and we all retired to the lodge to enjoy a perfectly splendid shared dinner.
Fed and watered, I took a moment to sit back and look around at a room full of friends new and old, enjoying each others company, recounting the stories of the day, days past and plans for days to come. Yes, a most excellent weekend indeed.