Lairig Ghru Race

After reading Rob’s report on his effort in this race last year, I had decided that this might be my next race challenge. Having not run a marathon distance and having ruled out attempting a road marathon, this race seemed very tempting. As a family we have spent a lot of time in the Aviemore area but with young children never get to venture far into the hills. Rob’s description of some of the ‘challenges’ he faced was not quite enough to put me off! The route runs 43 kilometres through the Cairngorms, from Braemar police station to Aviemore police station, with 640m elevation and some of the most amazing scenery and views! So when entries opened earlier this year, I had decided I was going for it, along with a few other Harriers.

As race weekend approached, a combination of illness, injury and circumstances sadly resulted in a smaller group of us Harriers heading to Braemar, i.e. me, Al Hind and Duncan, who had managed to get a last minute place. Rob – I am sure you will be there next year and your memories of last year’s race will have faded entirely!! I am very glad that I had some Harriers buddies there, as real nerves set in as Scott and I drove up on the Saturday. The focus of my nerves had shifted from the distance to cover etc, to the weather forecast for unbroken sunshine and temperature in the mid 20s. I was beginning to wonder ‘what on earth am I doing?!’. We arrived mid afternoon and after a brief interview with the lovely Adventure Show people, we booked in to our B & B and met up with Lori and Ritchie for dinner (lots of it!) and one wee glass of wine.

As promised, we woke to gorgeous sunshine and the lightest breeze. I managed to shovel down a half – decent breakfast and then got ready to head to registration, kit check and the start. Duncan and Al had come up that morning and were there, both looking a tad nervous too. There were a few familiar faces amongst the runners, but so many looked like elite marathon or ultra runners – cue more nerves jangling. 10am came and we were off!

The nice thing about the longer distance is that there is no need to sprint off at the start (unless you are Rob and looking for a photo opportunity :-)). So for the first few kilometres on the road I settled in to a half decent pace and felt very comfortable despite the rising temperature. I had a catch up with one of the lovely HBT ladies Cat, who I’m used to battling with in hill races, and managed to distract myself from worrying about the mileage and the challenges ahead. I was happy to get off the public road soon after and on to the track at Mar Lodge, and enjoy some slightly more varied ground. However, along here I realised that we had all acquired our own team of what I affectionately call ‘cheerleading’ flies. Oh my god, they just would not go away, and with no breeze they just carried on with us for miles!! The other issue at this point was that I’d managed to tie one lace too tight and had a dead foot. I reached Derry Lodge at 1 hour 15 (1 h30 cut off), and had to take my shoe off and revive my poor foot. Rooky mistake!

We had no problems with crossing the Luibeg burn as it has been so dry lately, but it was nice to have a paddle at this point as the heat was difficult to ignore. After this, the route climbs and was really enjoyable, especially as the flies seemed to have given up the chase. The trail became more technical later on, and my pace began to drop quite a bit. You can also see where you are heading and I began to wonder about why I’d thought I could manage this – it went on forever. I had not taken any photos at all so far, so as we approached the boulder field, I stopped briefly and took one of the view ahead and one of the where we’d come from. It was worth stopping to look at the scenery, just absolutely stunning!!

I had been worried about the boulder field but although it was challenging, it was not as bad as I’d imagined and I quite enjoyed this part. There was a drone filming us overhead, and an Adventure Show camera man filming our feet as we hopped balletically from rock to rock (at least that’s how I imagine we looked :-)). At the far side, the pools of Dee looked incredibly tempting as the heat now was definitely taking its toll, plus the lack of breeze. However, if I’d stopped again here, I might never have left! I’d also for some reason thought that the next part would become more runnable but it was way tougher underfoot than I’d imagined. I had to have a wee chat with my negative thoughts and focus on not falling over. The nausea had also firmly set in, and it was getting harder to force down the tailwind or water. I also remembered the warning from those who have done the route that you can see Aviemore from many miles away and that it’s best not to think about the distance! There was another cameraman who asked how I was doing, but I hadn’t noticed him and just muttered something like “good to see you” – oh dear….

At this this stage, a few of us were running in a little group which really helped me and the pace suited too. I did then manage to pass a few runners as we began to head downhill, and then came across Duncan sitting on a rock. He had succumbed to the crazy heat and all I could do was walk with him to the next marshal checking our numbers and then leave him to keep walking slowly down. There were a number of heat casualties on the day.

I was very glad to reach the Rothiemurchus forest trail which gave a bit of shade at times and was nice running underfoot. I felt briefly stronger here and picked up the pace. There were a couple of lovely marshals somewhere around this point who had some water for us, but one of them said something about “only about 50 minutes running to go”. For some reason, that number made me feel suddenly like I could not possibly run another 2 minutes, let alone 50 – so I had my second mental meltdown. Thankfully it was a brief moment of darkness, and my legs were working just fine so I shuffled on. I caught up with one of the ladies I had been running with earlier and we reached the road at Coylumbridge and ran to Aviemore and the finish together. Scott had walked to the last bridge to take photos and we were just about able to smile and wave. I have never been quite so glad to see the finish and we had a comical moment of trying to decide which of us would run through the finish first. All thoughts of placings had clearly left us as were both just so relieved to be there!

I had a brief teary moment on my own at the finish, just so glad to have made it. I could not quite face the amazing array of cakes supplied by the lovely Mountain Cafe people, so had some soup instead. Al came in to the finish a little later, also very glad to be done but also slightly broken by the heat. We sat with our soup, along with many other dehydrated souls, waiting for Scott to bring Duncan back from where the route joined the road. Unfortunately poor Duncan then had to get on the race bus back to Braemar and drive from there.

Safe to say this was a year for finishing and not for PBs, and I felt very lucky to have made it to the start line injury free. I was more than happy with my time, as I’d hoped for around 5 hours. Will I be back next year? Absolutely!! I hope a few of us, especially those who had to pull out this year can make it too.

102nd Gill Cairns 5:04:57

155th Al Hind 5:43:04









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Seven hills of Edinburgh 2018

Thankfully not as hot as last year!

23 Adam Gray 1:56:01
130 Michael Greens 2:22:53
159 Kevin Anderson 2:28:57
187 Charlie Crawford 2:40:23

21 Gordon Bee 2:25:56
50 Sadie Kemp 2:33:26
101 Mark Dawson 3:03:39

Full results:

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Strathearn marathon 2018

This is a cracking wee race and it lived up to its name as a friendly event. Pipers, cake and bucket loads of support from the marshalls.

6. John Gibbs M 02:58:38
36. Jan Dawson FV40 03:37:50 (First FV40)
43. Sadie Kemp FV40 03:43:32 (Second FV40)
49. Allan Dunbar MV40 03:48:39
71. Tracy Philp FV40 04:02:03

Full results:

A wee film made by Michael Philp of the event.

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The last LAMM

It all started about a year ago with a rainy/misty Durisdeer hill race with Rob – there I was exhilarated by the navigational challenge and achieved a solid run without getting lost. During post-race Facebook banter Julian suggested I should try a mountain marathon. At first I thought: “Are you crazy, I will never be able to run such a distance in hills”. I nevertheless mentally committed to the challenge. When a couple of months later Rob was looking for a LAMM partner the “are you crazy voice” was long gone. He suggested we should go for the C course – I didn’t really know what that meant.

In the following months I ramped up hiking and hill running, but somehow constantly failed to do this extensively. I generally try to be active most days so have stamina for hours on hills, but a two-day event with spartan camping in between must be extra hard. During all this time Rob was training intensively (RW: actually – I have still not trained half as much as I should have) for the Lairig Ghru and the dread of an exhausting first mountain marathon was growing in me. Once the organisers announced that this year LAMM will be in Harris I was exhilarated about a great travel adventure to a remote part of Scotland and pushed aside doubts of struggling with the race. The C course was advertised at 24km with 1,300m ascent on Day 1 and 20 km with 1,000m ascent on Day 2. OK, I thought, I can do one day “easily”, perhaps two, if the pace is not too intense.

(Un)fortunately, Rob caught more than Man’s flu just days ahead of the LAMM and prospects seemed grim. We had already spent a lot of money on the registration and travel arrangements and did not want to lose this nor the race/travel adventure! Rob was somewhat stable (Lemsip-ed to the eye-balls) the day before the race and we decided that we go up there and evaluate his state on the fly. I decided that in the worst-case scenario I will spend two days solo hiking/running on Harris.

On Thursday we met and double checked our kit. Since the race was so far away, we had to ensure we had enough “stuff” essentially for camping four days. We travelled from Penicuik to Ullapool by car. In Ullapool we hopped on a 3h ferry to Stornoway with a host of other runners. I found it interesting to observe the variety of runners participating in the race. In addition, the weather was spectacular all the way through (sunny with 20+C) so it really felt like an awesome holiday adventure. I constantly felt bad for Rob and his flu (RW: I was on a 4-hour symptomatic roller-coaster ride between Lemsip infusions), but his humour kept our worries at bay. We arrived at Stornoway around 20h and hopped on a bus to Tarbet. At this point I was getting sick of travel. While driving through the flat undulating Lewis I kept wondering how can one organise mountain marathon in such a landscape. However, once we reached Harris most runners started to intensively observe the hilly landscape and we all wondered about the possible race routes. Upon late arrival in Tarbet we setup the tent on school playground and prepped kit for the next two days – waterproofs, additional clothes, food, and camping kit. Julian informed us that he pulled out of the LAMM A course (32km with 1,900m ascent on Day 1 and 26km with 1,900m ascent on Day 2) due to knee issues, but would be ready to run a lower grade course if needed. This meant that I could potentially run with an even stronger partner in case Rob’s flu would not give way. Midges spoiled the evening somewhat and forced us into tent. We needed the sleep anyway.

The night was short as I was waken by snoring runners in neighbouring tents. Luckily, Rob woke up with practically no flu symptoms and decided to run the race (RW: in hindsight this was still a risk as I had not eaten much the past 3 days! Probably should at least have downgraded to the D-course). I was both glad and worried at the same time – hoping that he would not collapse on the hills! We checked kit once more, applied sun cream and were off. After registration, a bus took us from Tarbert to the starting location (see the map below), where we obtained a map and a checkpoint OS coordinate sheet. This time it was super easy to locate checkpoints – maps had numbered circles and you simply had to cross-reference numbers between the map and the checkpoint sheet. We crosschecked our maps with checkpoints and were soon running towards the first checkpoint on a hill ahead of us. Soon after we hit the hill I got struck by the steepness, heat, high humidity, rather heavy backpack, and Rob’s strong pace – I thought he was sick just some hours ago! It made me wonder how will I sustain this for two days. However, I soon burned in and we reached the first checkpoint in no time. Then we decided to approach the next checkpoint and it seemed we were going really well. We made sure we ate a bar or something else every hour and drank plenty of water with electrolytes to avoid cramping. When approaching the second checkpoint it was interesting to observe how different teams were taking different routes. It was also interesting to see the dynamics of the race as different teams chase different points on different courses – in essence this means that navigationally you are pretty much on your own, though when you’re near to a checkpoint you can take advantage when many teams run to the same point. When nearing the third checkpoint Rob’s pace lessened and we had to take a break. We lost about five places, which obviously frustrated both of us. However, there was no point in pushing Rob just to have him collapse on the next hill. So we decided we proceed slowly, but firmly to the next points. At this stage we descended from hills and had to run a long section on boggy ground. Recent spells of nice weather had dried the bog, which made the crossing easier, but not fully bog free. However, running that section proved really hard due to 20+C temperatures and rough terrain – you could see that all runners were really struggling and most of us were mostly marching like lemmings. At the fourth checkpoint we replenished our water supplies and plodded to the fifth and sixth points cursing the heat. We were constantly debating navigational options and through clever choices regained quite many places lost in breaks. After reaching the sixth point Rob was really low and my blisters from Goatfell started to swell up. However, we finally managed to get some running on the last leg to the mid-camp (RW: Despite my physical state, Day 1 was very rough terrain and bar the last 2kms, there was NO track at all!). We came in 15th place (06:08:18) to the mid-camp among the C course teams, which kinda surprised both of us – we definitely did not feel we should have been so well positioned – I guess we must have done very well with navigation, but we also did work hard with the pace, as much as Rob could take it;) I think that other teams also struggled with the heat. This result definitely gave us a boost!

The mid-camp was in a lovely remote part of the Island with white sandy beach surrounded by mountains. The location was simply stunning and the weather could not have been nicer – high temperatures and mild breeze (RW: no midges!). Everybody was leisurely setting up tents, resting, replenishing calories, and debating the race. Some of us had even dared a swim in the sea! It truly was a magnificent mid-camp. Since the day was long and weather great we had plenty of leisure time. I used it to again observe the different runners, their approach to stretching, resting, refuelling, kit, and other trivia. Despite having not cramped during Day 1, while chatting and resting, Rob’s thighs cramped severely (RW: the cramps were excruciating and felt like my thigh muscles were being ripped apart!), which he managed to salvage somewhat with gentle stretching. The night eventually came and we aimed to have a good rest.

The second day started with a piper at 6am, when slower teams with long (> 9 hrs) times from Day 1 had to start already. Weather for the second day did not look that promising with quite low clag and mist, but at least this suggested less heat. We leisurely prepared coffee, porridge breakfast, and packed the tent along with the other kit. You could see a team starting every few minutes and soon there was a time for our start. As we were within 90 minutes of the leading pair, we were part of the chasing start and were scheduled for 8:03am. The start was up a steep slope into a clag. Here navigation became soon very important and I think we did really well by aiming for the trig point near the first checkpoint – and the stream junction. However, although we should have hit the checkpoint, we somehow missed it and went down by the stream for too long only to realise we need to go higher (RW: I am pretty sure we hit the check point perfectly, but with the thick mist and steamed up glasses, we very likely walked past the bloody thing!). All-in-all we lost about 20-30 minutes there! Quite frustrated, we pushed on, but Rob soon realised that he was really struggling with downhill running due to pains in his thighs (from the cramp the day before). On the way to checkpoints 2, 3, and 4 we caught up some lost places. On the way to checkpoint 5 the clag lifted and heat from the first day came back and stayed till the very end of the race. Rob started to suffer quite severely and was near to quitting the race. He hobbled downhill to the sixth checkpoint that was special – we got a leisurely break with bus transfer to the next checkpoint. This was done for courses C and D so that the distance of these two courses could reach the mid-camp on Day 1 and the Tarbert finish on Day 2. Rob inquired with marshals about options for pulling out – bus would only take him to the next checkpoint, while he would have to walk back to Tarbet on the road. Not a nice option in that heat. After an hour break of waiting for the bus and the drive itself and realising that we only really had just one more major climb and two descents gave him energy to continue. He really struggled with these last checkpoints (6-10). While I was still strong, I also suffered with heated and blistered feet – we simply ran too slow at that time to not think about this. Despite the struggles we made it to the finish 20th (12:04:12) out of 75 (7 were disqualified or did not finish), which I am very happy with.

At the finish we got some food and drinks to replenish energy. While Rob went to shower in the school I opted for a sea swim just next to the campsite – it would have been shame to miss the opportunity with such a nice weather I spent quite a while swimming and on the way out of water realised that my towel and clothes were floating on water next to beach – I completely forgot about the damn tide! Well, one more “drama/adventure” event;) While swimming and relaxing I missed the prize giving and speech of the organiser Martin Stone – apparently this was the LAST LAMM. After 22 years he decided to leave on a high. It was quite emotional (RW: many misty eyes from exhausted runners), but we have already heard that Shane Ohly will organise a similar event in 2019. That evening we went for the LAMM dinner, which was a total rip off – we paid £7 each for a tiny portion of rice with curry. The taste was great, but simply too small of a portion for all the effort we had put in during the last two days. Being somewhat crippled we did not join the ceilidh and returned back to the campsite, but did stop at the pub for a pint of Guinness and a dram and life was suddenly much better! We camped one more night in Tarbert and travelled back to Penicuik on Sunday.

All-in-all I found the whole LAMM thing great! It was in a stunning location, it was fun, daring, though, organisationally challenging, and with lots of drama. The first day was somewhat too technical and I missed running. The track simply lacked runnable sections. The second day was better in that regard, but then the heat was quite excruciating and Rob was truly struggling. Hats off to him for running when he had flu just a day ago. It was very foolish and likely the cause of bad cramps, but we nevertheless had a great time together. Thanks Rob for the first, but sadly also the last LAMM.

RW: I got a severe rollicking from Andrea when we got home for not downgrading to the D course. However, I have no regrets. If I had let Julian run in my stead, I would have simply felt miserable for the 2 days. Our place of 20th clearly showed that even in my low energy state, the course was doable. What is life without a few risks? I feel I owe Gregor a proper “speedy” Mountain Marathon and I don’t think this will be the last for us as a pair. I believe over these distances we are well balanced. So – roll on 2019 and other MM options over the next 12-18 months.

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CAAC 5 mile Road Race 2018

Being one of the harriers Grand Prix races this was sure to attact a few of our runners. Its a nice distance and quite unusual in the running calendar. The route is undulating with many club runners and its easy to get carried away and go off too fast which is what happened to a few of us. It was a warm and sunny evening making it very pleasant at the start but hard going as the race continued. Lots of nice snacks at the end and a bottle of water to refresh before the journey home.

44 30:39:00 Ritchie Thomson SM
59 31:41:00 Michael Greens SM
84 32:07:00 Allan Dunbar 40M
130 35:56:00 Robin Hall 40M
131 36:02:00 Charlie Crawford SM
142 36:33:00 Sadie Kemp 40W

Full results:

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Gypsy Glen 16-May-2018

What else would I do on my birthday, but run a hill race? Weather was fab and a great turnout from the club. Gillian was out on the hill dishing out encouragement and taking pics and Bill was there at the start/finish. Fun had by all!

17 Michael Greens M 00:37:28 119.90%
22 Duncan Ball M40 00:38:51 124.30%
33 Allan Dunbar M40 00:41:09 131.70%
52 Robin Hall M40 00:45:00 144.00%
53 Sadie Kemp F40 00:45:30 145.60%
56 Ian Forrest M40 00:46:12 147.80%
59 Juliane Friedrich F 00:47:09 150.90%
61 Tracy Philp F40 00:47:55 153.30%
63 Scott McIntosh M40 00:49:24 158.10%
65 Mark Dawson M40 00:49:45 159.20%

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Rigg race 2018

We had fantastic weather for the race this year that was as always very colourful and had a great atmosphere with lots of folk in fancy dress. There was a lovely spread of food at the finish. Derek won first in his category and Juliane won a spot prize.

18 38:00 Derek Newport M50
50 43:24 Cameron Newport MJ
61 44:43 Sadie Kemp F40
80 46:07 Juliane Friedrich F

Full results:

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Goatfell Hill Race

At 15.5kms and 870m, this is one of the classic hill races in the calendar. It is therefore very surprising that hardly any Harriers in recent history (only Stu I think) has run it. Although Arran might seem far away, the drive to the Ardrossan ferry is only about 1.5 hrs, followed by a relaxing 50 min boat crossing and you’re in Brodick with only a short walk to the start. Easily done in a day with the race start and prize giving nicely organised around the ferry times.

As Andrea could not go due to tennis (and injury), I decided to pop over for the day while the rest of the Harrier posse drove over to stay the night and make some mischief (that’s another story!). Harriers in attendance were Michael Greens, Andy Briggs, Jan Dawson, Gregor Gorjanc, Gill Cairns, Kevin Anderson, Sadie Kemp and Moi.

The Team

The race is a simple there and back route – the first (last) section is 2kms of road (ugh!), then from the woods behind Brodick Castle, the route ascends with an ever-increasing gradient. It is very runnable at first, but as it steepens it gets more and more technical.  The upper 100 metres (up and down) seemed incredibly steep to me.

Race Route and Profile

Weather conditions were almost perfect – 14-17 degrees (elevation dependent), cool SW wind and sun and more sun. So – at 12pm, despite a very loud pipe band doing its hardest to ensure we would not hear the starting claxon, we were off. A 2-km sprint along a road – a detestable section which would be worse on the return. Michael soon passed me, but I managed to keep him in sight as we entered Brodick Castle state.  Once in the woods, the route changed to a forest track which slowly became thinner and rockier as we climbed. It was quite warm down at the lower elevations but as we left the wood the slight breeze soon brought the temperature down to a more manageable level. With legs feeling much stronger than they did at Stuc O Chroin 2 weeks before, I soon passed Michael and kept focusing on passing the next runner in front – ticking them off one at a time. Unlike the Ben tourist track, the GF track is a more haphazard affair and, as I said, very technical with nice grippy granite boulders. Fine for running, but horrible if you fell……………some did!

There is not much to say about the ascent except, it got harder and harder as you went up and I started thinking, jeez, we’re gonna have to run down this. On getting to the summit, I was momentarily disorientated. It was packed with people and someone was shouting my name. There were several Carnethy runners up there who were doing the Scottish Island Peaks Race (respect!). After a quick frantic smile and a wave and a look down towards Brodick below, I started the hellish descent. Not initially realising that my summit confusion had befuddled my sense of direction, I took a different track than the one I went up on. In hindsight, I don’t think this made a huge difference but I had a slight panic for the first few minutes of descent as I thought I had gone the wrong way.

Brodick below – I did not take this!

The next 15 minutes was probably the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Knee pain? What knee pain! I seemed to bounce down the track and, I guess luckily, did not trip once. It was frantic, manic and very exhilarating. Much more fun than the descent off the Ben. As the gradient lessened, I soon started hearing someone huffing and puffing behind me – did I recognise it? – yes – it was Michael who finally passed me as we entered the woods. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not keep up with those long gangly skinny legs. All I could do was try and keep him in sight as my legs screamed at the last 2 kms of tarmac!

What a cracker of a race!

My 150th official SHR race (thanks to Shettleston Harriers for providing an appropriate number), with a total distance run (since 2005) of 1931 kms and 102,915 metres height gain – that’s 11.6 Mt Everests!!!

The final Harriers results:

Of 169 runners (6 did not finish), we came in at:

31st Michael: 01:46:11

32nd Moi: 01:46:44

59th: Gregor: 01:53:26 [gonna be a fabulous LAMM partner in 10 days]

63rd: Gillian: 01:54:33

100th: Jan: 02:05:03

121st: Sadie: 02:14:18

127th: Kevin: 02:15:39

166th: Andy: 02:48:34

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Race Day Photos

On the day of our race we were lucky enough to have the incredible photographic skills of not one or two, but three photographers!  Juan Suarez and Julian Hall are club members and Steve Reid is a commercial photographer and friend of a club member who all took some fantastic photos.

Our grateful thanks to them for giving up their time and being able to capture the spirit of the race on the day.

Here is a bit more information about Steve and how to purchase photos if you would like to:-

Steve Reid is an Edinburgh commercial photographer that shoots a variety of work for companies and himself. From sports & action, to lifestyle, portraits, corporate, through to highly produced and stylised advertising work.
You can see more of his work  Anyone looking for new photography for their company please drop him an email on and he’d be delighted to chat.
Hi-res & un-watermarked images and prints are available.
Please email Steve and quote the image number in the watermark and your runner number.
1 image is £5 and for 2 images or more are £10 per person. 
A5 prints are £5 and A4 £10, plus larger sizes on request.

If you go to the Photograph album and choose ‘2018 10k Race’ or click the link below then you will see a selection of some of the photos with links to the full albums from each photographer.  There are still more photos to come from Juan so please check back there in a couple of days 🙂





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35th Penicuik 10k Road Race

A record number of 260 runners on the start line this year, all ready for an undulating jaunt round our beautiful route in the sunshine, supported by our incredible marshals and refreshed post-race with our home-baking and savoury foods. Results are available on our results page.

Thank you to everyone for being part of this race; welcome back to old hands and a warm welcome to new runners alike. Our shift to a mornig start seems to have proved particularly popular, no doubt helped by the forecast for lovely weather.  This caught us out slightly however; unfortunately we didn’t have enough medals for all the finishers. Our sincere aloplogies to those of you who finished later in the race; this will be rectified very shortly and we’ll endeavour to contact every runner affected.

This highlights one problem of not closing entries before the day and trying to be friendly and allowing people to decide on the day if they want to run. As we also don’t know how many may pre-entires may drop out (it was 32 this year) it is an difficult to predict. Although we only advertise ‘medals for the first 220 runners’ this has rarely been an issue in the past. We will make sure this doesn’t happen again though.

Photos are being organised and links will be posted here soon; I believe there a fair few!

Well done to our category winners and apologies for the 3rd lady mess up – a recording error followed by a (human) name mix up made for an uncomfortable few moments! Thanks to our video evidence we had the problem sorted before the end of prize-giving 🙂

I would like to reassure everyone that the runner who had medical difficulties during the race is recovering well and hoping to run the race again next year. I would also like to thank the marshals and first aid team who acted quickly and professionally and showed me that the emergency procedures we have in place worked, and this runner was fully supported in their time of need. Most of all, I need to thank the retired Doctor, David Begg who provided vital medical assistance to this gentleman and had he not been there then things could have been very different. Also to his duaghter who luckily was spectating and ran to get her Dad. This is a testament to the community of Penicuik and how lucky we are to be part of it.

Our efforts to raise funds for SIMBA proved worthwhile with £370 raised through our post-race refreshments. The Penicuik High School  teachers running to raise awareness for MYPAS have raised £1,447 so far – a fantastic effort on their part.

I would also like to thank our sponsors who help support this event; their financial support to our club is something we are very grateful for.

Harriers club members did what they do naturally on Saturday and showed the field of runners what proper marshal support and encouragement is – I have recieved dozens of messages from runners saying how grateful they are.

Next year’s race will be on Saturday 11th May 2019, once again at 11am – hope to see you all there!

Susie Maxwell (Race Convener)


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Stuc’A Chroin Hill Race 2018

Stuc’A Chroin at Scottish Hill Racing website

The race website

As a preparation for LAMM I scheduled this race for mileage and hill training. However, too much travel this year, battling with a cold few weeks ago, and not much endurance training suggested this race might turn out ”interesting”. I managed to persuade Romana and Janez to join me as spectators and spend a glorious day out hiking. We left sunny Penicuik in high spirits only to realise that weather was getting grimmer as we neared the destination. Sadly, Strathyre was completely overcast and one could not see a hill from the valley! I met Rob and Gillian at registration, while Romana and Janez started their hike soon after this to gain some distance. After a short warmup a sizeable crowd of runners gathered for the start. Weather conditions made it tricky to judge what to wear – I opted for short sleeves and gloves and obviously full body cover in the backpack – organisers made sure you had all the required kit even before giving you a number – this is so much better than kit check just before the start. Rob ensured us that even in bad weather there should be no problem with navigation in this race as there are many marshals and flags, which was indeed the case.

This year race organisers moved the initial track to a forest road (the original/old route?) due to waterlogged forest. I found the runnable road a nice way to burn into the race, but with the steady climb I found it quite hard to keep with my “progress meter” – Gillian;) She is stronger on climbs and if I manage to keep her pace I am content, but weary I might burn out too soon. After we left the road underfoot conditions changed – there was so much water everywhere that even running in Inov8 x-claws was tricky and slippery business. At some point I jumped over few “streams of water” and suddenly left Gillian behind. Soon after that Romana and Janez gave me additional boost, but it only lasted few meters for me to slip on my all four in an instance – bloody water! I was muddy all up to my knees even before the first mayor climb. I pushed towards Glen Ample. The descent into the glen was steep, and did I mention wet?, but keeping to the heathery side I managed good pace. It felt very encouraging. However, the climb to Beinn Each out of the glen was tough. I could not really see where we were heading. I simply followed the well-trodden track, which had massive steps in places. It felt more like a never-ending cross-fit training than hill running. Gillian caught me in that section and we stayed together for quite a while. The visibility up there was very limited, but it would have been hard to get lost with the well-trodden track and so many marshals and flags. More importantly, underfoot conditions were bad – lots of stones and rocks everywhere and boy were they slippery! Very tricky. It took quite a while before we reached the Stuc. In the morning I was hoping for nice views from this Munroe alas no luck. I took a sip of water from the kind marshals and started to descent. I dreaded this part with all that slippery rock, mud, and water, but it went surprisingly well. I started to feel the legs, but somehow completely forgot about them by focusing on the active descent  When we passed the turning point the rocks and stones were gone, but heather and tussocky grass made the going still challenging. I managed to leave Gillian behind at this point and dashed towards our spectators. This time they managed to take a photo of me and Gillian, but they missed Rob who was well ahead. The contouring descent was gnarly, but I was able to dash through heather and overtook some runners. I reached the bottom of Glen Ample in no time and in high hopes to smash the final climb out of it. Dang! At the start of that climb I got a massive cramp in groin area and could barely walk – only to realise that Gillian is just few meters behind me. I guess a sachet of tailwind and two bars did not provide enough electrolytes and energy to prevent cramps. I can’t see how I could have drank or eaten more. Anyway. I pressed the cramp area with fingers in hope for the better and with tiny steps climbed the darn hill – at places it felt more like walking up a stream than a hill! The cramp eased and ahead of me was a mild long final descent – just what I like most. I managed to pass some runners on a grassy/bogy part and some more on the road. I reached the end with a good finish. Gillian followed soon after me. Rob was already well rested by then. This was definitely a challenging race and great training for LAMM. I kind of like its toughness and the weather definitely made it “interesting”. I am looking forward to run it in nicer conditions.

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London Marathon 2018

I was thinking about running the London Marathon from the moment Susie and Julie shared their emotional memories about this special race with me after hill training. Since I loved my first marathon I decided to put my name in the hat for the club place and was lucky. As trade-off for this luck, we got a harsh winter, with a lot of snow, ice, more snow and dangerous traps covered under the snow…

Although I managed to stick to my training plan most of the time I felt less ready than for the Loch Ness marathon and after the ‘manhole incident’, I started to have aches almost everywhere from the hips downwards.

I felt much better closer to the race (thanks to my running buddies with their encouraging words and a nice walk in the Pentlands the weekend before) until I saw the weather forecast. Here’s Juliane’s Marathon tip (JMT) number 1: When you’re training for a spring marathon, you should consider running on a treadmill… In a sauna….

My fellow club runners Raymond and Amy (ok, she is running in other club colours in reality but I definitely consider Amy as huge part of the Penicuik Harriers) were going to run London Marathon as well.

On the day before the marathon, it was hot and humid in London, but you could already sense the buzzing atmosphere that gives you goose bumps on race day. On top of that, everything was so well-organized!


I slept well, got up early, had my champions breakfast (1/2 dry bagel) and hopped on the bus. While I shared the bus primarily with people who were on their way to work, London Bridge train station was bursting with runners. Chatting to some of them and seeing all the happy and excited faces, the spirit of London Marathon started to take over.

In the start area, I tried to stay out of the sun if possible, drank more water and applied the tenth layer of sun cream. The procedure at the start had been changed this year: the runners were starting in waves and although I don’t know how crowded the start was in the last years, I think this was a huge improvement. The start itself was a bit unreal: from one moment to another, the silence of nervous runners was replaced by the insane noise of spectators and event staff, which was going to follow us everywhere along the route until the finish line.

I felt so emotional during the first 3K: seeing the runners running for loved ones, the children waiting for high-fives (this might be the reason why I ended up doing 43.5k), the fancy dresses (‘Beatles’ playing ‘Here comes the sun’ while running and every runner around joining in) and one of my highlight was when I passed the firefighters (in full equipment!!!) running for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. Another plus was that all the aches I had the weeks before the marathon had disappeared. So JMT number 2: my physiotherapist is a magician (or I do express a severe case of Maranoia).

After 3k, I saw the first collapsed runner and this was the moment when I realized the brutal heat. Seeing more and more runners in distress the next miles, I allowed myself to slow down yet I still started to struggle from around 10k onwards. I just couldn’t imagine running in the heat for so long… The water stations were quite frequent, there were six showers along the route (how stupid I was making jokes about them in the winter!), and several fire hoses were in use. Also, members of St. John Ambulance were present everywhere doing an amazing job and spectators were handing out water and fruits. Seeing everyone working so hard for our well-being made it feel save to continue running.

Although running in this heat was not pleasant, I still could appreciate the marathon. It was a giant party in the centre of London along the famous landmarks, with people having BBQs, bands playing weather-appropriate songs (‘Gimme shelter’ was my favourite, has anyone ever tried dancing while running?) and, at the risk that I repeat myself, the crowds cheer you on as if you are a star or a kind of superhero. The moment I remembered the most was crossing the Tower Bridge, people went absolutely crazy, just wow!!! And then you have these little moments of kindness with other runners: I had a lovely wee chat with a Scottish guy whose daughter was born in Edinburgh Castle, we helped each other with water and applauded the extraordinary runners (I was especially impressed by the visually impaired runners). It’s also funny how memories stick in your head when you suffer: I’m still thinking about the pink Gin Tonic (that’s at least what it was in my imagination) in an ice-cooled carafe I saw in a woman’s hand and the taste of oranges! Here’s what I’ve learned next (JMT 3): Never ever have gels with Mojito flavour, even if it’s warm. Absolutely never!

While I was craving for all these things somewhere in the middle field of runners, the amazing Amy and the brilliant Raymond were in a heated head-to-head race far ahead of me. Thinking about running that fast in these conditions makes me feel slightly uncomfortable 😉

Luckily, Amy, Raymond and I finished save (and more or less sound) with 03:47:50, 03:48:59 and 04:26:44. While Raymond was enjoying his well-deserved reception with the MS Society, I was so happy to see Christian again and to catch up with Amy at the “P” (for Penicuik 😉 ).

Another amazing thing about London Marathon: it doesn’t end at the finish line. I had to catch my plane to Germany on the same evening, and no matter where I went (train station, tram, airport) people started to applaud and congratulate me, I guess I scared some of the children because I was so touched that I started to cry.

Despite all the suffering I’m grateful for this experience. The London Marathon left a profound impression about what the body can endure and foremost about how special the running community is. Finally, everything is put into perspective when one of us didn’t return from this race and thousands #FinishForMatt instead.



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Highland Fling 2018

Saturday 28 April, 2018

Ten hardy (or just plain crazy) harriers gathered on the start line of the 13th Highland Fling Race, a 53 mile ultra along the first half of the West Highland Way, from Milngavie to Tyndrum. A few of us had met up the evening before in the Burnbrae Inn, Milngavie, to register for the race and grab some food. Fling virgins (Mark, Allan D and myself) took on sage advice from experienced veterans (Chris, Sadie, Tracy, Lori and Gilly) over dinner, along with super support team Michael and Ngeme, who was crewing Chris in preparation for the full WHW race 6 weeks later. Yan and Alan Marshall were on finish line duties in Tyndrum and we were looking forward to seeing them the following day.

Alan T and Tim joined us the next morning and we lined up at the start, ready for the 6am start gun from Milngavie train station. Michael took ‘before’ photos of us all, to compare with ‘during’ and ‘after’ pictures he planned to take later that day. Much hilarity and silly poses helped ease race nerves and get us into the spirit of the Fling, one of the most popular ultra races in the Scottish calendar with around 800 runners taking part.

After letting the speed goats off first at 06:00 sharp, the 10-12 hour wave started at 06:03. Allan and I set off together and eased into a steady pace, trying not to get carried away and run too fast, the downfall of many a Flinger before us. We had a double marathon ahead of us, and I was trying only to think of the race in sections, concentrating on getting to the next checkpoint, rather than focusing on the intimidating distance as a whole.

The first third of the race is fairly flat and runnable, and progress was good. The chat was flowing and before we knew it we were past the first checkpoint at Drymen and scaling Conic Hill. Monument photos were at their usual spot near the top, ready to take our photos as we soaked up the incredible views before a quad-crunching descent off the other side.

The first drop bag station at Balmaha is almost 20 miles in, so a welcome pit stop to refresh water supplies and have a bite to eat. I was surviving mostly on Tailwind though, which I’d put in small bags to top up my hydration pack with. They looked very suspicious though, so I felt the need to clarify…

Balmaha to Rowardennan is a lovely stretch of the route, heading up the east side of Loch Lomond, which was still and like a mirror in the lack of wind. In fact the weather was perfect, cool and sunny and the rain stayed off until well into the evening. I hit a wave of fatigue just after Balmaha, and was explaining to Allan that this always happens to me at 21 miles in, but it is usually followed by a wave of euphoria a few miles later (Yan can confirm this!). Sure enough, as I hit Rowardennan I was buzzing. Allan was beginning to feel the fatigue, and thinks I probably got his wave of euphoria as well as my own! After spotting Sadie at the checkpoint and saying hello I was raring to go. I felt bad for speeding ahead but really needed to use the energy while I still had it. It lasted well into Inversnaid, and I ran most of the hills until I got to the checkpoint, where Michael was ready to take our ‘during’ photos. I chugged back some orange Tango and breezed on, blissfully unaware of what was to come next.

The route out of Inversnaid hugs the Lochside, in a twisty, rocky, muddy, wet and slippy assault course of narrow paths, where it was not only impossible to run, but sometimes to stay upright. It was slow progress, and difficult to get past folk who were struggling with the challenging terrain. There were slips and grazed knees, but we all looked out for each other and picked up those who had taken a tumble. There were also a fair few walkers on this stretch, so I made sure I thanked every one of them as they let me past, and apologised for ruining their walk! After a few miles of this I started to huff and sigh, and a runner in front said “Oh, sorry do you want past?”. I apologised and explained that I was just getting a bit frustrated and was looking forward to being able to run again.

Eventually, after about 3 miles (which felt like 10) the route left the Lochside and headed into a glen. Although the elevation picked up, it was good to be running again. My wave of energy had been totally zapped, so I ate some Kendal mint cake – food of the gods – and took a good drink of water.

The Lochside section had dampened my spirits a little, but as I had practised in training, I pushed the bad thoughts out and replaced them with good ones, along with a good dose of gratitude for being able to take part in such an event. I’m not a religious person, but ultra-running has become my pilgrimage, my celebration of the human spirit. I began to think to myself, after witnessing many acts of kindness, support, encouragement and community from both participants and marshals alike, that the world would be a much better place if ultra-runners were in charge! That really lifted my spirits, and the fatigue began to abate a little.

The Inversnaid section had put an end to my dream of a sub 10 finish, but I had gold, silver and bronze goals for this. Silver was sub 11, and as long as I got to the A82 checkpoint in 10 hours, I knew I could do it. The last 6 miles is familiar territory for me, having run various bits of it over the years. I just had ‘Cow Poo Alley’ to tackle first, a grim section on the other side of Beinglas which is infamously covered with large amounts of mud and cow pats. Just before I hit this, at the 45-mile mark I spotted a familiar face. Chris Downie was out to support us, having fit in a hike up a Munro earlier that day. It was such a tonic to see him, and a big hug gave me a much-needed power up. I did warn him I smelled like a mountain goat, but that didn’t stop him! I’d seen the wild goats just before the Beinglas checkpoint, as they casually munched away, nonplussed by the steady stream of traffic. I’d been warned you would smell them before you see them, but on this occasion it was probably the other way around!

As I trudged my way through the cow pats I could see Ewich in the distance, the rollercoaster section through the forest. I made it to the bottom of the hill with my shoes still on my feet, to be greeted with a fence covered in flags and some lovely ladies handing out Irn Bru – heaven. I bounced up the hill towards the sound of accordion music, where two ladies were sitting under the trees blasting out tunes. I attempted a wee jig, but the hill made it look more like a half-hearted Morris Dance. Still, I got a cheer for the attempt.

I’m not sure where the energy came from, as everything from my head to my toes hurt, but I ran pretty much the rest of the race without walking. I passed quite a few folk, exchanging a few encouraging words along the way – mostly about how beer was not far off (although I was really craving a huge mug of sugary tea). I crossed the A82 and just before St Fillan’s kirk there was Gordon Donnachie, taking photos and shouting encouragement. I was still smiling, and was on target for sub-11. I ran through Auchtertyre to clapping and cheering from campers and crossed under the A82 again to reach the last 2-mile stretch. Adrenaline was flowing, and I could picture the finish. I spotted Michael again – who’d been having a grand day out on boats and trails, cheering on the club. He took a few photos and said, “Only a mile to go!” which gave me a boost. Sure enough, before long I could hear the clamour of cow bells and cheering crowds. I spotted the finish line in the trees up ahead and ran past a piper with a huge grin on my face.

Turning left onto the red carpet is something I will never forget. It’s insane! The flags, the camera flashes, the hands held out for high fives, and that carpet. You are made to feel like a superhero. I slapped as many hands as I could and headed towards the finish, clocking 10:47:09. Incredibly happy with that!

The marshals in the finishers tent were incredible, bringing that much-longed for sugary tea, fetching my kit bag and showing me to the showers. They were so sweet, every single one of them, all along the course. After a shower I got a great massage and headed to the tent for a feed. Sadie wasn’t far behind me, having got a huge 53-minute PB in just over 11 hours, despite knee pain and feeling sick in the last stages. Allan came in within 12 hours, managing a victory jig on the red carpet, followed by Gilly, Tim and Tracy (who finished together), Mark, Lori, Alan and Chris. All harriers home in one piece and injury free! Ding Ding!

But the party didn’t stop there. A few of us gathered in the food marquee, cracked open some beer and reflected on the day. Yan, who had made himself hoarse shouting at the finish line, and Alan joined us when duties allowed. Later on, Yan broke out his Bodhrán and joined a few other musicians to deliver a cracking session of fast-paced Celtic music. Mark and Gilly eased off the legs with a Gay Gordons, while I jumped around to “500 Miles” by the Proclaimers. Motion is lotion, after all!

All in all, an absolute belter of a day out. I can see why this race is so popular, it has just the best atmosphere of any race I’ve done (including Boston). I was contemplating London marathon next year, but the Fling has stolen my heart. After all, why do one marathon when you can do two for the same price? The scenery is much better too!

A last word is saved for Gilly and Chris, who are taking on the full distance of the WHW in June. Kudos to you two, I couldn’t have run another step at Tyndrum, much less another 42 miles! You guys are absolute legends in my eyes!


174 Jan Dawson 10:47:09
200 Sadie Kemp 11:06:16
323 Allan Dunbar 11:54:55
343 Gilly Marshall 12:12:28
348 Tim Doyle 12:16:43
349 Tracy Philp 12:16:44
430 Mark Dawson 12:40:03
460 Lori McCrae 12:53:20
616 Alan Thornburrow 14:11:53
649 Christopher Burns 14:38:19

Full results here:

I was hopeless at taking photos (couldn’t be bothered taking my phone out of my bag) but here’s a cracker Mark persuaded a fellow runner to take of him. Says it all really! Michael is putting together an album of the day, as there are just too many to include here. Check the PH Social Page for more!

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Hunters Bog Trot

A few of us harriers made it along to the Hunters Bog Trot race this year on a lovely sunny day, possibly our one day of summer :-). This is a short and fun race hosted by the Hunters Bog Trotters. It always involves a hilarious pre – race briefing and some crazy spot prizes at the end, such as a brown jigsaw puzzle, some brown fabric dye…..

The race was as painful as always; the climb up the Radical Road is tough and none of us had been training in warm temperatures until now, so it felt a bit toasty. It’s a great speedy race to do, with a bit of hill thrown in, and much handier than most of the hill races. We had some ice cream at the finish too.

Des Crowe: 29th 33:58

Michael Greens: 39th 35:35

Rob Wilson: 43rd 36:28

Gill Cairns: 50th (1st F40) 37:09

Sadie Kemp: 84th 43:55

Chris Downie: 100th 47:08

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Pancharevo Trail Marathon

A Facebook post about the landscape of Bulgaria from the mother of my PhD student, Ivet, put the thought in my mind “might there be a mountain marathon I could enter as an excuse to visit to visit this country I’d heard so much about!”. Thus I found out about the Pancharevo Trail Marathon and, ten days into a great two-week trip to Bulgaria, was on the start line of the race – with Ivet running the half marathon. Although it was only April, and the race started at 09:00, the weather was forecast to be as warm as I’d feared (28C at 16:00). My plan was to run hard for the first ten kilometres so that I could get as far round the course as I could before it got too hot! It begins with 3km on a tarmac cycleway beside Pancharevo Lake, and I covered these in less than 14 minutes before entering the forest for a steady 8km climb from 600m to 1140m. By then, half the route was in open country, with extensive views of Vitosha – the snow-topped 2300m peak above Sofia which my wife and I had walked up earlier in the week – and the more distant Rila mountains which reach almost 3000m. A gentle descent took us down to a col (1050m) where the half marathon runners double-back. I was glad of the second refreshment station to keep myself hydrated without using up too much of the 1.5 litres on my back. Indeed, the six well-placed refreshment stations were welcoming both morally and nutritionally. We were then faced with a stiff climb and, even walking, I started to get warm, and then hot. The route goes over three tops, with about 50-100m climb for each, and at the first it passes close to the edge of a big drop, so I took two minutes out to take some photos and cool a little! At the final top, the highest point of the route at 1182m, we were given a “Pancharevo” wrist band to prove we’d got there. I picked up speed on the descent, but was limited by the roughness of the trail. After the 21km refreshment stop, the route undulates and, with no-one around me, I started to wonder whether I was on the right track! [Ivet and I had done a recce of half the course the week before, but this section was new to me.] Although I should have been able to run harder, not being sure I was going the right way dampened my enthusiasm. It was also rather warm! Eventually the route turned downhill again, and I ran well into the village of Dolni Pasarel which, 28km into the race, was its low point (720m). We’d come down to Dolni Pasarel on the recce, so I knew where to leave the village. I also knew that it would be a long climb back up to the col (1050m) I’d passed through earlier. I managed to run bits of it which were not climbing, but it all felt very slow. I was steadily overtaken by a couple of young women – who were chatting all the way – and another guy, but I also picked up a place. From the col (34km) there was an undulating section I knew, and I could run its shady and downhill stretches. However, I was “Garmin-watching”, looking forward to the last 6.5 km which drops steadily from 1150m to the finish at 600m. By now my feet were killing me, with the thick skin under both big toes and one heel having separated and “shifted”, and I cursed every time a bruised toe hit something – for the trail was far from smooth. As the track steepened and went into the forest I sped up, but could feel the temperature rise as I descended and worked for pace. I wasn’t catching the guy about 100m ahead of me, and thought I had no danger from behind, until I head footsteps in the last kilometre. By now I could see through the trees to the lake, which getting nearer below me as I descended. I sped up and was going flat out as I reached the last 50m back on the tarmac track and flew through the finish into an area bustling with people. Fortunately I managed not to hit anyone before I could bring myself to a halt. I’d held off the woman behind me by 9 seconds, only to find out later that her chip time was faster! At the finish there was a great atmosphere, partly because there was a free, quality, craft beer for every finisher. Mine soon went down, and when I found Ivet, her parents and twin school friends (who had also done the half) in an open-air bar, I was immediately provided with another beer by her dad! It was a great way to relax as the twins also spoke perfect English. Ivet had taken 2:47 for the half which was the same time as I’d taken for the extra 21km loop she hadn’t done. I’d done the half marathon course in 2:14, indicative of my fast start and its easier terrain. Thankfully the Bulgarians had data on their phones, so could follow the excellent on-line results service. With a time of 5:02, I was first Brit (of 3), first M50 (of 5) and, overall 26/137, so was satisfied. Taking the photos might have cost me a sub-5 hour time, but I was on holiday. The running standard in Bulgaria isn’t what it is here, particularly at the older end of the scale, as measured by my placing of 2/49 for runners over 40. Although an impressive-looking young woman was first in 4:16 [the men’s winner took 3:51], women’s running also doesn’t appear to be strong. Indeed, Ivet [a judoka by sport] came 10/25 for women in the half, but only 84/127 overall.

All in all, it’s a well organised race through beautiful countryside with a great atmosphere. The organising club, Begach, arranged for photos to be taken professionally, and then put them up on Facebook rather than selling them! I definitely recommend it as a “running holiday”, particularly as race entries, flights, accommodation, food, and beer are all cheap and good in Bulgaria! I’m keen to go back next year: anyone up for it?







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