Last year Suzy Devey called into FINDRA HQ and we chatted about her adventures. We’ve since caught up to discover what she gets up to on the trails and mountains around Lochaber.
Hi Suzy, can we start by asking you where you live and what you do?
I’m based in Fort William in the West Highlands and mostly you can find me running around the hills of Lochaber. I moved here to be closer to the mountains and hill running seems to have evolved naturally for me over the last 8 years – along with embracing lots of other activities; hill walking, skiing, climbing and mountain biking, to add a bit of balance to running. And I still really enjoy taking my old hardtail mountain bike for a spin on the (easier) trails whilst catching up with friends.
I do a mixture of other jobs and having two or three jobs in the Highlands is still very much what people need to do to live here. I’ve been working part-time with a shipwright assisting him on all sorts of renovation jobs on sailing boats and it is really interesting work. It keeps the creative mind really busy, there is never a dull moment! With this work I am always learning. It would take decades to learn all the skills and experience involved with working on boats and what I love is working alongside someone who has these incredible skills. He is a true craftsman.
I also do some work for a local company called Girls On Hills whose main focus is to positively encourage more women to get out into the hills and break into trail and hill running. It is really wonderful to encourage others into the wilder side of running!
It is great to see more women and men equally gaining skills to take themselves further into the remote hills and seeing the landscape from a different perspective. It seems pretty natural for me to help people to experience all that our environment has to offer.
I was kindly asked to share some of my artwork and I enjoy working in print, often drawing or sketching from places locally. Taking sketching from some of my runs and the landscapes is what I truly enjoy doing as I want to capture these vivid experiences from hill running through my work. From some of these initial studies I have developed wood engravings, lino prints and paintings.
I’ve also been progressing my website over this year too and excited to launch it soon!
How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
Going into the environment and connecting with it has been part of my life since I was a child and I think it naturally grew stronger in me as I got older, becoming drawn to live within a mountainous environment. We grew up with a good understanding and respect for the Scottish hills and landscape and our parents’ passion for hill walking took us up many Munros on holidays.
I fondly remember recovering from harsh winters on the ski fields when I was 5 or 6yrs old. Often a blur of memories – a combination of severe cold, playing in the snow, then warmth, being piled back into the car and being thrust a cup of hot tomato soup from the thermos then inevitably falling asleep on the journey home. Lulled by dad’s favourite tunes on the stereo – usually The Rolling Stones.
Whats been your favourite trip/adventure?
Often I find it is the more recent adventures you end up chatting about. For me, it was this year when projects or trips became closer to home. In August I did a run over the Mamores in Glen Nevis which links the summits of 10 Munros together.
I left at 5am running through Glen Nevis in fresh cool temperatures with no people around (bliss) and various thoughts in my mind about how the run would go? Was I capable and ready to do a decent time on it? Did I have all the right supplies with me? I was ultimately rewarded quite early on by the most stunning sunrise on top of Binnein Beag.
As I pushed onwards and began to see all of the hill tops laid out in front of me all the initial thoughts just dissolved: the run would be what it would be, no matter how long I took. I had an overwhelming sense of just wanting to breathe it all in and I shall never forget it.
A combination of local runs and races over years led me to the point of considering trying this in a whole round. The idea was to run efficiently and in the best time I could manage. It was a great journey and adventure, knowing myself, being happy with my abilities and allowing for all that to come together.
For information on my time, others times on this route and lots of inspiring runners you can see on www.gomountaingoats.com.
How do you make/find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities?
There will always be the chores! I find making time for my running and time outside is essential to getting the other things done. Sometimes it is hard to fit it all in, but the more I would try to fit in a walk, short run or time out on the bike, the more it seemed to help me sort upcoming task or a particular thing I’ve been questioning in my head. It allows the freedom for ideas to grow. I do feel lucky to be able to balance my jobs, as it helps to make the most of the place we live.
Of course somedays it doesn’t all fit in and that is ok too. I tend to leave longer trips and runs for weekends and through the week I can focus on tasks and splitting up my work. This allows some gaps to fit in shorter runs and bike rides.
Is there anyone who inspires your love of the outdoors?
I am inspired by some local ladies, Kathy Tighe and Nancy Kennedy, who are people I’ve known or heard about since I started living here and whom I have got to know better over the years. They are just quietly get on doing great stuff in the mountains, mostly climbing and running – possibly not realising they had been inspiring a generation of younger women to get on with it and get out there too! I love that.
Do you find being outdoors has a positive impact on your mental health and well being?
Completely! Being outside has a wonderful impact on positive mental health. Meeting others outside too has been something we’ve done for centuries, to share in activities and stories.
What is it about running specifically that you love?
What I love about running is that you can run almost anywhere and you only need a pair of running shoes to do it. There is a freedom, going out into the hills and being able to link up trails or certain mountain paths. It can be different every time you go, even on the same routes. Running to experience these places throughout the changing seasons is difficult to beat.
When did you discover FINDRA?
I’m newish to FINDRA. I walked into the Innerleithen store whilst on a short running trip to the Borders a few years ago, met Alex and got chatting. It was a lovely experience. We also discovered we’d both studied Textile Design at the same University in Galashiels. I walked out that day with leggings and a long sleeve base layers I have been living in the leggings ever since.
FINDRA designs are great: I really love all the merino layers, the materials are super practical and feel good on. I’m pretty excited about outdoor wear for women that is well cut and designed for doing what we want it to – yet at the same time looks good, lasts and is designed in Scotland.
Whats the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
‘’The only permanent thing in life is impermanence.”
What motivational or inspirational message would you like to highlight to our followers that would inspire them to get outdoors more?
To people who are thinking about running – if you’re thinking about going out, go for it! Anyone can take up running, all you need is a few local trails to make up a couple of 5km routes you can do once or twice a week. In time that can possibly grow to 7-10km or more. Even doing a little and stopping is still better than not going at all.
I tend to love the wild weather settling in at this time of year. One of my favourite things is to embrace some bad weather with your chosen activity, then once back inside you can fully enjoy those warming autumnal delights! That hot chocolate never tasted so good after a brisk encounter with the weather. Enjoy the movement, smile and savour the journey of going out to see what you may find.
Very inspiring Suzy and thanks for your contribution!
If you would like see more of Suzy’s artwork or follow her adventures you can find her on the social links below:
POEM OF THE WEEK
I like a lot of Kathleen Jamie’s poetry also difficult for me to choose one poem. This is from her book
‘The Bonniest Companie’.
Walking in a waking dream
I watched nineteen deer
pour from ridge to glen-floor,
then each in turn leap,
leap the new-raised
peat-dark burn. This
was the distaff side;
hinds at their ease, alive
to lands held on long lease
in their animal minds,
and filing through a breach
in a never mended dyke,
the herd flowed up over
heather-slopes to scree
where they stopped, and turned to stare,
the foremost with a queenly air
as though to say: ‘Aren’t we
the bonniest companie?
come to me,
You’ll be happy, but never go home.’
BOOK OF THE WEEK
Lost Connections by Johann Hari
I came across this book, over lockdown, I have read various books about depression, anxiety and mental health to try to understand it more fully. I have a genuine interest in how the mind and body work together. It also saddens me it still not talked about openly enough in our society.
It is written in a really wonderful honest way that puts the difficulties and problems of society/culture into some manageable terms.
MUSIC OF THE WEEK
King of You All by The Return of Fly My Pretties
This is the second album from Fly My Pretties, I fell for this album while travelling over in New Zealand, so as well as a constant reminder of all the memories, I just love the musicians. It was recorded live in Wellington. It’s a wonderful diverse range of musical styles. The whole album is wonderful.
The Return of Fly My Pretties – King of You All