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The Shadow Series - Off Season Part 1

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

Tom Blair is one of the driving forces behind the Shadow Series - a monthly trail running series in and around Fetternear Woods. The series challenges runners to complete an off road 6.2Km course in the dark whilst raising funds for local Aberdeen Charity - AberNeccessities.

Tom recently too part in Scottish Adventure's Durrish Dash and is ahem.. increasingly getting into his cycling. With that in mind we sat down with him to find out a little more about the Shadow Series, where he sees it going and if he's going to stick with the wonders of two wheels!

Scottish Adventure: Let’s start off by tell us a bit about yourself. How did you start running, what is it that you like about running, what does it give you?

Tom Blair: I started running at primary school doing cross country in the local leagues, I got good results and really enjoyed it because of that. I don’t really know why but when I reached academy, the running just wasn’t a thing anymore. It wasn’t until my early 20’s when I picked it back up again. It was on and off until my late 20’s when I joined the mighty JSK (Jog Scotland Kintore). The JSK leaders offered routine training sessions and provided huge amounts of support and encouragement when taking part in events. Now an affiliated Running Club, JSK RC are showing up at Scottish athletics events and winning medals. JSK, with over 300 members of all abilities, it’s a proper running community which I’m proud to be a part of.

But in general, running is a lot of things for me, sometimes it’s all about me, it’s my time to do my own thing, think my own thoughts and just be by myself. Sometimes it’s about finding and pushing my limits, sometimes its about socialising and supporting others, and the rest of the time its about excusing eating takeaways and Malteser’s.

The Fetternear Shadow Series Course

Scottish Adventure: You ‘ve recently started back up the Shadow Series after breaks due to COVID, what was it like going back to it? Did you have any fears that it wouldn’t be as successful as before? What inspired the format of the series?

Tom Blair: We had to postpone a few of the 2020/21 series races but thankfully we did finish the series. This was despite the last race being on one of the longest days of the year! I think a combination of Covid and the races no longer being in darkness affected the turn out. It wasn’t great for the last few of that series.

Its great to be back on track now though, fingers crossed we can finish out the 2021/22 season as planned. Going back to it has been good, its good to see people coming together again, try out a few new ideas and getting some more constructive feedback. I think its only natural to worry a little about running the same thing more than once, I certainly worried whether people would enter again and if we’d get a decent turn out, I would think all race organisers have that fear.

The format was Happy (Michael Howdens) Idea, although the idea of a series of events isn’t new, the specific format of it being a trail run series at night, is new to the area. I like to compare it to another local event called the SKrunces, which is held at Tyrebagger forest in the summer months.

Trail Runners eagerly to get underway at the start line

Scottish Adventure: You’ve chosen to support Abernecessities thru the Shadow Series; can you tell us a little about the charity and what it does in the wider Aberdeenshire area?

Tom Blair: Yes, we chose to support Abernecessities this year as they are a great local charity who support families with babies and children who are in need of assistance with essential items, things like clothes, shoes and nappies. I wasn’t really aware of Abernecessities until Happy, and Lauren brought them to the table as an option but having had the time to learn a bit more about what they do to help in the local communities, they really are a great charity to support.

Scottish Adventure: You’ve had a great response to the series again this year. Do you have any plans to expand it? Would you take the series elsewhere?

Tom Blair: Thankfully we have had another great response, we’ve had 100 entries this year which is really good!

At the moment we don’t really have plans to expand the event, I’d like to maybe do a few things differently in the future, maybe change the route up a bit between series to keep it challenging and interesting but I think we need to give the event time to settle in a bit more before thinking about going else where with it or trying to make it bigger. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of making this a huge event and attracting thousands of participants sounds amazing, however we’re only three people at the moment. You never know in the future though!

Scottish Adventure: You’ve started cycling in recent years, what led to that – how did you find the Durris Dash and how are you enjoying your Specialized Allez?

Tom Blair: I got into cycling after being badgered by this guy I work with called Steven, I really had no choice, it was either get in to cycling or never hear the end of it. I got in to cycling but still haven’t heard the end of it! On a serious note, Steven has been very supportive and has given me loads of good advice as a newbie. All newbie cyclists need to learn that you don’t wear pants under your bib shorts somehow!

The Durris Dash was a great event, really well organised and I thoroughly enjoyed it! It was good to complete it as part of a small team, even if we did get lost within the first half hour! I’m glad I decided to go with the three checkpoints instead of six but would shoot for the longer distance next time for sure!

The Allez is ace! I’m glad I took the plunge with it. Riding a road bike is still very new to me, cleats and lycra are taking a bit of getting used to but I’m really enjoying the distance and higher average speed that’s achievable on the road bike. I’ve also found having the dropped bars makes for a much more comfortable ride being able to change positions.

Sponsors of the Shadow Series

Scottish Adventure: Has cycling helped you with running? Do you think there’s a few cyclists turning up to the shadow series and using it as training for the winter?

Tom Blair: I don’t know if I notice any direct fitness benefits per say but doing both means that when I’m on a rest day from running, I can get out on the bike without worrying about being over tired or sore for the following days run. I think the biggest benefit of cycling for any runner is its low impact nature. Being able to get the longer workouts in without all of the aches and pains that running brings with it is a bonus.

For sure I know a couple of the JSK peeps that stash their bikes away during winter and focus on the running instead!

Scottish Adventure: What do you hope to see in the future of outdoor adventure in Scotland? Are there events in the area that you would like to do? What type of events would you like to see up here?

Tom Blair: I’d like to see more going on in Aberdeenshire in the future, we have seen the number of running events increasing over the last five years and the popularity of these events has increased too. Some of the more popular events are selling out on the day the entries are opened! It would be good to see more cycling events and in particular off road/gravel types of events that are inclusive of people who are perhaps new to the event or activity type. I think making events open to all abilities can only be a good thing for the future of any activity or event.

I like the idea of doing a road cycling event at some point in time and I’ll continue doing the Scottish cross-country events with JSK throughout the winter months. I’d like to try some open water swimming too!

If you can't beat em!!

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