Let’s get into the nitty gritty details of this race, my first ever ultra marathon held in the beautiful Scottish Borders starting and finishing in Jedburgh. Held in association with the Jedburgh Running Festival and the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series, the race can be entered solo or as part of a relay team. On Saturday 29th October, I took part in the 5th Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultramarathon –
- 38 miles
- Start and finish in Jedburgh
- Mainly off-road following trails of St Cuthbert’s Way and the meandering River Tweed
- 3 hills to climb at half way – the Eildon Hills overlooking the town of Melrose
- Some undulation to keep it interesting, totalling just less than 1000m elevation
- Checkpoints and drop bag stations at miles 10, 17, 22 and 28
- Runners are required to carry a waterproof top, emergency foil blanket and mobile phone
With a race start time of 8am you have plenty of daylight time to enjoy the route and leniant cut-off times to cruise through if you so wish, although if you are planning to spend more than 8 hours out on the trails it’s recommended to pack a headtorch or place it in your final drop bag.
The first ten miles takes you out of the sleepy town of Jedburgh as the sun is still rising and onto the trails along Jed Water, hopping over the river a few times on some wobbly bridges and passing the majestic Monteviot House and Gardens until you arrive at CP1 in the small village of Maxton.
CP1 Maxton 10 miles/ 2h30
The next 7 miles take you onto the banks of the River Tweed, where salmon spotting can become a distraction, skims the golf course of St Boswells, and brings the Eildon Hills into view as you approach the second checkpoint at Rhymers Stone.
CP2 Rhymers Stone 17 miles/ 4h30
After being fed and watered at the checkpoint the course begins to climb as the three Eildon Hills stretch up and ahead of you. It’s a hands- on-knees brisk walking climb among the heather to the top of the first and highest Eildons, a quick shuffle down to the saddle and then another short climb up to the summit of the second hill. A scree path leads you down and around to the bottom of the third Eildon Hill, which faces South and directs you homeward bound as the halfway mark approaches. Cutting back onto the St Cuthbert’s Way, a deep forest trail with some chicken wire-covered wooden steps brings you into Bowden, but not before you have to let your inner child out and clamber over some obstacles and down a slippy slide of the childrens playground.
CP3 Bowden 22 miles (no bag drop or cut off)
Leaving the small village of Bowden on a country road, the course follows the water of the Bowden Burn and brings you through the town of Newtown St Boswells, hops over the A68 and then finds the familiar riverside path along the Tweed. After a short stretch of undiscovered trails you’re soon retracing your steps along the river, back in the direction of Maxton, where the once uphills become downhills and vice versa.
CP4 Maxton 28 miles/ 7h30
With just 10 miles to go and each step one closer to the finish line it’s unfortunate that the first few of these last miles is a long slog back up what feels like a never ending tarmac road. Getting back onto the trails and among the trees couldn’t come soon enough and eventually the miles back to Jedburgh start quickly ticking down, the town comes into sight and the last mile brings us back along the main street and to the finish.
Finishers are rewarded with a medal, technical T-shirt, goody bag, a free beer, mug of homemade soup and tea/coffee and there’s even hot showers to use to warm yourself up post-race. This is a very low key, minimal frills race, perfect for your first introduction to ultra running – not too long, not too hilly – and as a first timer I would highly recommend. The race is capped to 300 runners with no waitlist and this year entries (£35) opened at the end of May and places filled up very quickly, so if you’re interested keep an eye out and let me know if you’ve signed up!