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Running up Grags Trail, the reason I run

7 days to the race; the Three Mealls Trail Race, part of Skyline Scotland, in Kinlochleven. But for today; Grags Trail. 7 am alarm. Fifteen minutes later I’m dressed and running through a deserted Callander. It’s Sunday today and the little village looks asleep. Just like Sara when I sneaked out of bed.

Today we will drive to the Scottish highlands, but before we go, I want to get a run in. My last run here. There is one trail I haven’t done yet, Grags Trail. It will turn out to be one of those I run for.

Old graveyard

View over Callander, ScotlandI cross the bridge over the river Teith, run past the old graveyard and take the little path left, passing Tom-Na-Kessaig (Hill of St. Kessog) and run onto the parking lot in front of Eas Gobhain, the water that will become the river Teith.

From here I run towards Main Street, cross over into Station Road, where I turn left onto the next parking lot. Without any problems, I find the little path that will take me up into the woodlands. It’s funny to see how small villages become familiar quickly if you visit them every day and if you run through them every day.

Testing my legs

As soon as I hit the soft path underneath the trees, I speed up. The trail goes directly uphill, and I’ve decided to give my legs a test. I am more like a diesel. I need time to warm-up and find my pace. It’s the reason my first kilometers are always slow. But not today. Today I turn things around and force myself to run uphill as fast as I can.

It goes easier than expected. Maybe it’s the scenery. Sara and I walked here before, but the forest still looks magical. Everything is green; leaves, moss, tree trunks, rocks. And this morning the forest is there, only for me. Nobody else around.

Back to Bracklinn Falls

When I reach Callander Crags car park I leave the trail for a moment. I want to run at least 10 kilometers today and the Crags trail is shorter than that. So I cross the road and make my way to Bracklinn Falls.

There used to be an iron bridge over the Allt a’Choire Bhric, making it possible to cross the falls. But a flash flood in August 2004 swept it away, and it was replaced with an award winning bridge, made out of locally sourced larch and four Douglas fir tree trunks, each 12 meters long. However, this bridge showed signs of deterioration and was taken away. The new bridge should be in place at the end of this year.

I turn around at the falls and make my way back to the parking lot, where I left Grags Trail. Running underneath the trees I see a little path to my right. It is not more than thirty centimeters wide and consists mostly of big stones, surrounded by high grass, forming some kind of stairs going up steeply. Running has now become walking, and in some parts of the trail I have to support my quadriceps with my hands to keep going.

Queen Victoria

A cairn for Queen VictoriaAfter a couple of minutes climbing I reach a ridge, where a sign tells me the trail goes left, but the top is to my right. I decide to go for the top, running over a small muddy path, in between Erica shrubs. After 200 meters I reach the highest point of Callander Grags, where a cairn was erected in 1897 in honor of Queens Victoria’s diamond jubilee. It also celebrates the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away on the day we arrived in Callander.

The sky is totally clear, offering me panoramic views of the Menteith Hills, Loch Venachar, Ben Ledi and the Highland Boundary Fault. I sigh. This is why I run.

I make a quick video of it for Sara, before I run down through the Lower Woods, back to Callander and onto breakfast and our ride to the Scottish Highlands.

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