Stuc a Chroin 5000 Hill Race

If it wasn’t for Rob’s emails I would still be blissfully ignorant of this amazing hill run. Three intrepid Harriers set off on Saturday morning to drive the 1 1/2 hours to the scenic village of Strathyre, 9 miles north of Callander in the famous Trossachs. The weather forecast was good and we could clearly see the impressive peaks of Ben Ledi, Stuc a Chroin and Ben Vorlich in the distance whilst driving up. Even from afar they looked a bit daunting and Mike, who had done the race before, enjoyed telling Rob and I how painful and challenging it was. I was becoming slightly apprehensive as the longest run I had done for months took about 1:45 in the Pentlands, and this thing was 13.5 miles in length with a 3199 foot Munro in the middle. In fact the total ascent is 5000 feet!
We arrived in Strathyre in good time and paid a mere £6 for the privilege of enjoying a well-supported hill race in stunning scenery and immaculate weather. Incredibly the sun was out, it was warm with little wind and Rob and I had to strip off our third layer despite knowing we would be running at over 3000’. There were people running in vests for goodness sake. Having been caught before in blizzards in May on smaller hills, I still made sure I was carrying light over-trousers and my trusted Harriers top (plus gels, carbo-drink, map, compass, etc.) in my rucsac. I thought that I would be safe leaving the primus stove behind.
It looked like a record entry and at 13:01 we set off up the gently sloping forest track. I quite like longer races (at the beginning) because you can start off more slowly and don’t have stinging legs and heaving lungs after 100 yards. In fact it was very pleasant running as a threesome on a good surface for a couple of miles before the gradient began to get steeper. Then suddenly we were out of the forest and running alongside a deer fence on a mixture of narrow path and boggy bits. Climbing steadily up towards Creag a Mhadaidh the valley was opening out, but not much time to admire the scenery as the terrain required plenty of concentration. Then the plunge down into Glen Ample. This was slightly worrying – we would have to come back up it.
Yet another water station and the start of the mega-climb up to Beinn Each (2667’). I have to admit I rather enjoyed this – I was still quite fresh and my weight advantage meant that whilst other runners looked like they were toiling, I felt quite comfortable. I was also conscious of having to last the long race and didn’t want to overdo anything at this stage. I did manage to overtake a few runners (well we were walking actually because of the steepness) so that I wouldn’t be affected too much when the mental descenders came past later on. At the top of Beinn Each we could see our goal – still quite a long way off – and what a cracking ridge. This was a hill-runners paradise – undulating terrain, firm ground, mostly narrow paths with only a few boggy bits and nice technical rocky bits. And there were enough runners in front and behind to judge pace and compare abilities. It was along this bit that the lead runner Prasad Prasad passed me on the way down at 14:25. Good grief. Quite a long time later I had huffed my way to the summit and collected a couple of jelly babies. Wow, what a magnificent view! Unfortunately I couldn’t enjoy it for long and started back down.
A very short time later I passed Mike who was only a few minutes behind, but no sign of Rob. I assumed that I had missed him whilst concentrating on where to put my feet.
The descent was loads of fun, but my legs and feet were starting to protest and I was still favouring a dodgy ankle. Amazingly hardly anybody passed me on the way down and I was keeping up with a couple of other runners. And then the dreaded wall ahead and climb out of Glen Ample. I was convinced that some Caledonian Mountain Orogeny was still in progress and the thing was getting bigger. In desperation I found the gel in my rucsac, sooked it down and dug in. Huge relief at the top with more water and more jelly babies. Despite my legs starting to feel like the stuff I was eating I was confident now that I was going to make it to the bottom. Fatigue was definitely taking a hold and my first and only falling over event was into a very wet and slimy bog. I also had to stop and find my carbo drink to ward off some worrying cramp-like twinges.
At last on to the forest track and despite very sore legs and very sore feet, I was able to keep up with a fellow runner and we pounded down together. Within sniffing distance of the finish another two runners joined us and then whack – painful cramp in the inside of my right thigh. I had to stop and pummel and stretch the offending limb but fortunately I got running again and was able to run over the finish line rather than hobble.
Crikey, there was Rob at the finish already. Oh rats, he was forced to pull out half way due to an annoying calf problem, a great disappointment for him. We both cheered Mike as he crossed the line only a few minutes behind me and under three hours (about 14 minutes quicker than last time).
No official results yet, but my time was approximately 2:54 and Mike’s 2:58. Prasad won it in 2:10 and was 15 minutes in front of the next man.
On the way back to Penicuik I provided some amusement for my fellow passengers when we had to make an emergency stop at Dobbies beside Stirling to relieve stomach cramps and leg cramps. I blame it on not enough electrolyte and overdosing on jelly babies.
Many thanks to the organisers of this epic hill run which was well-organised and well-supported. We will definitely be back next year.
Duncan Ball.

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4 comments on Stuc a Chroin 5000 Hill Race

  1. sooz says:

    Gosh it sounds like a fantastic run, maybe I should have asked for a pass but didn’t want to push it! Your report is great Duncan, I hope you surfaced from Dobbies feeling a lot better hee hee

  2. Pingback: ‘Hills are where I’m happiest’ – Prasad Prasad on training, work and running fast races - The Caledonian Mercury

  3. Susan says:

    what a fab report Duncan, I felt I was there with you! Very well done to you and Mike, sounded like a killer although I’m sure the views made up for it. And a dash for the Dobbies facilities afterwards! Bad luck Rob, you were brave even trying it with your recently injured calf. Rest up all 3 of you!

  4. Rob says:

    Cracking race for Duncan and Mike. Was very jealous but the big climb out of Glen Ample would probably have finally snapped my calf. Hard decision but the right one.
    I might disappear for a while as I somehow need to re-build my legs.

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