Tweed Valley Tunnel Trail Run 2016 – race report

The Tweed Valley holds some trail running gems, and it’s great to see a growing recognition of this. But a 600 metre long railway tunnel filled with disco lighting effects has to be one feature few trail races can boast!

This weekend saw the inaugural Tweed Valley Tunnel Trail Run brought to Peebles by the inexhaustible Hillside Outside. The trails chosen for the route were pretty familiar territory for me, often featuring in my evening and weekend training runs, but that didn’t mean I was going to find it easy…


Saturday dawned freezing cold, with a thick mist hiding the sun, leading to much procrastination over kit choice. My deliberations continued as I bundled up warmly and headed down to Hay Lodge Park to register, with some alternative kit in my bag if the temperatures picked up. As I walked down I realised that this was no small event, as there was a steady stream of people in fluoro trainers heading the same way as me.


I finally decided my new and lovely FINDRA long-sleeved merino base layer would be give the perfect combination of warm hands (those cozy thumb-holes!) and a bit of initial warmth, but plenty of wicking later on for when I was putting some serious work in! But my other competitors were wearing everything from vests and shorts to leggings and jackets.


After the departure of the 20km runners (one for next year when my training has not been interrupted by shoulder surgery!), the crowds massed for the 10km. It was great to see such a mix of ages taking part and more women than men for once, hooray!


Knowing the first part of the route to be narrow singletrack I headed to the front of the pack to avoid ending up in a traffic jam. To start we followed the riverside path along the Tweed and under the impressive Neidpath Castle. The sun had just started to burn off the mist and we were in luck!


It was pretty muddy underfoot as the trail wound up and down along the river and I was glad of my trail shoes to prevent a slip or even an inadvertent dip in the Tweed! I found myself feeling strong and near the front of the pack which was a great place to be.


We met the old railway line and doubled back over the beautiful old viaduct to head up into the trees. A couple of women flew past me on this section but I was pleased to note one of them was also clad in FINDRA – go team! At first the going was steady in the trees but this turned into a steep and sustained climb straight up towards the Manor Sware. It was tough to maintain pace although I was aided by the suitably silly trail signs.


It was a good feeling to pop out into the sunshine with amazing views down to the Tweed. Crossing through the car park I had a quick swig of water before diving up the slope into the next section of trees – another steady uphill and I could feel the last one taking its toll but pushed on with some other runners around me. After a loop of the nice forest trails here I headed out over the fields to cross back over the road and start heading down towards the river. Some great trails in the wood followed with plenty of twists and turns, fallen trees to jump over and fast descents. This was a really fun section and made all the previous uphill worthwhile to be able to enjoy the effect of gravity now!


Soon the trail signs indicated I was approaching the tunnel and I was super excited to see what it was going to be like inside. The tunnel is a relic from the old railway line and at around 600 metres long made for a very original addition to the race route! The ends of the tunnel were not lit for the sake of the roosting bats but a little way in the spectacular lighting experience started.


Colour change ground-level lights lit the way and picked up the texture of the curving brick walls, while moving patterned spotlights brought the tunnel to life. It was very surreal – especially with some smoke effects and the echoing voices of other runners – it also did a great job of distracting me from the fact that I still had several kilometres to go!


Out into the railway cutting, another muddy section followed before I crossed the Fotheringham bridge for the final lap of the park. A cruel final uphill finally gave way to a fast downhill finish through the archway. I was really pleased to come 3rd in the Under 40s Women in my first race back after my surgery in 50:29, and it was great to see team FINDRA well represented yet again. Thanks to the event organisers and all the friendly marshals on the course who made it such a good day out!


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