You couldn’t get a much more picturesque venue for the third leg of the CaniX Fur Nations series than Glamis Castle in Scotland. The castle was spectacular and grounds were immaculate for the final showdown and since he was representing Scotland, it was effectively a home fixture for Graeme Miller.
The Fur Nations series pitted Canicross runners from England, Wales and Scotland against each other as they looked to score points for their respective countries. Graeme was of course there with his furry friend Chester who had been mightily impressive in all the races they’d done thus far.
The first leg of the Fur Nations series was at Pembrey in Wales and Day 1 featured a twisty, technical 5k course where runners were sent out at 15 second intervals. Getting round in 18:26, Graeme was a little disappointed with his run that day.
On Day 2 it was seeded, so the fastest runners went off first. Graeme was more focused and determined to do better that time and completed the course in 17:45, which was an average pace of 5:48. The two 5k times were then added together to decide the positions. Graeme finished 2nd V50 in a very tight contest, with just five seconds separating him and the first placed runner.
The third day provided the opportunity for him to spend some time on the beach. Not sunbathing or building sandcastles though. He was racing on it. Up early for a 6:45am start so they could beat the tide, the athletes and their dogs gathered for a mass start. Then it was a mile out and a mile back.
Graeme ran well in that to finish in 10 minutes 34 seconds which was an average pace of 5:18. That put him in 4th place overall and 2nd in the V50 category.
It was very close between Scotland and Wales and in the end Wales edged it by 11 points to take 2nd place for match one. England ran away with though, finishing almost 600 points ahead.
The second leg of the Fur Nations series was in Cannock Chase. Day 1 was a seeded start in groups of 15. The course was touch as it was hilly and muddy with plenty of twists and turns. Graeme completed the first race in a time of 20:14 which made him 2nd Vet Male.
It rained heavily overnight and the course was even more muddy the next day. Despite taking a nasty fall when trying to overtake another runner, Graeme went on to finish in 20:09, which put him 2nd in the V50 category.
When it came to racing the 10k on the Monday, both his calves were rock solid from the hills and were very painful. Still managing to finish in 42:34, Graeme came in 2nd overall and was 1st V50.
He was up against some very talented runners at Cannock Chase though such as Tony Lambert of Alton Sports. He won all three races with times of 16:09 and 15:54 for days 1 and 2 and 36:52 in the 10k.
Scotland finished ahead of Wales this time but England were over 1,000 points clear and won the second fixture of the series very convincingly. The Scotland squad were determined to restore some pride at Glamis Castle and put on a good show in the final fixture.
The course they faced for the first couple of days was around 3.25 miles. The first kilometre of the route was all uphill. Then it was down a flight of about 20 steps before heading through a stony burn. On the first day, Graeme completed it in 20 minutes 23 seconds which put him 4th overall and 2nd vet. His average pace for the run was 6:15.
The second day, Graeme got round quicker, putting in a 5:59 for his first mile, a 5:37 for his second mile and a 6:19 for the third mile. His finishing time of 19:32 put him in 4th place again 2nd vet behind fellow Scot Douglas Kenmure. Graeme’s average pace on this occasion was 5:57 minutes per mile.
The course on the third and final day was the same as the previous days for the first half. Then it went round a part of the Glamis Estate that the public do not have access to.
Unfortunately Graeme couldn’t take in too much of the scenery though as he was focused more on just staying on his feet. Clocking an excellent time of 37:03, Graeme finished 3rd overall and was 1st vet, registering an average pace of 6:17 for the 5.9 miles.
Scotland had the top three runners that day, with Jamie Stevenson winning it in 32:30 and Louise Mitchell taking 2nd place in 35:13. Louise was actually the fastest of anyone on both the first and second days.
Scotland won the third fixture, beating England by 549 points which was a tremendous revival from them. It wasn’t enough to arrest the deficit for the whole series though and England were winners in the end by over 1,000 points.
Graeme and Chester more than played their part though over the course of an enthralling series and having the countries competing against each other added an element of spice to the proceedings and made it all the more meaningful.
It’s now the end of the Canicross season but it’s certainly been a very successful venture into it for Graeme and he’ll be looking to continue his top form when the action resumes in the autumn.