Devils Burden Race 2013

This year the Harriers managed to put two teams together – the girls and the boys. The forecast was light wind, ca. 4 degrees and low mist in the morning – lifting by lunchtime. The reality was much more dreich with the low cloud not clearing and the mist/fog more like a thick mizzle – especially on the higher ground. However, I think the less than ideal conditions added a navigational challenge for at least legs 2 and 4 which made the race much more fun and challenging.

As the girls were likely going to be a tad slower, we went for the early 9.30 start. This meant an early 7.30 start from Penicuik with Hillary making her own way directly to the start of leg 2 as she needed a lie in! (although apparently she had a different reason). All my carefully laid plans of shuttles, kit swap etc quickly broke down into blond chaos (not my place to go into details) but we somehow all made it back to Falkland. Perhaps for next year, we’ll go with Julian’s formula as it was obviously clearer than mine: Car k goes to changeover k with runners for leg k+1 and “get warm” kit for the runners on leg k and then is driven back to Falkland with the runners from leg k and the “keep warm” kit of the runners on leg k+1. However, beware the theoretician whose axioms do not admit team members needing a lie-in.

The PH teams were:


Girls                                       Boys

Leg 1      Jan Dawson                      Kevin Anderson

Leg 2      Hillary Holding                   Duncan Ball

Leg 2      Sarah McKechney            Julian Hall

Leg 3      Susie Maxwell                  Ian Forrest

Leg 4      Andrea Wilson                  Rob Wilson

Leg 4      Sadie Kemp                     Carl Proctor

Those bolded have written a short spiel below:

Leg 1

Ladies (Jan): Being a novice not only to trail races but also to trail running, I was honoured to be asked to join the Harriers team, and a bit scared as to what lay ahead of me! At least Leg 1 required the minimum of map reading and not too much hill running. Not wanting to let my team down on the first leg though, I set off as close to my road pace as possible (after some great pre-race warm up tips from Kevin, who put me through my paces and kept my feet from freezing into solid blocks). The trail, which for the most part was well-packed rocky forest track, climbed fairly steadily towards the woods and the runners very quickly spread out, with not too many people passing me after the first few minutes. Before long there was only one pair of male runners in front of me that I could see, and after almost following them into a side lane where they had clearly headed to relieve themselves (blush) I was on my own until I reached the first checkpoint. Just past this I almost veered left too soon off the trail but a distant ‘NoooooOOOO!’ from a runner behind saved me from disaster. Turning left – at the right spot – off the forest trail I hit tarmac, my running ‘home’, so I scoffed a jelly baby, sipped some water and gave it some welly. A bit of trouble with my bum bag (resulting in a ‘wardrobe malfunction’) distracted me a bit and I forgot to open my waterproof to reveal my team number so had a load of marshals shouting ‘Number!’ at me as I approached the finish, whilst trying not to slip on the quagmire farm track that was the finishing stretch. I also forgot to get the race card out ready to pass to Hilary and Sarah, who were raring to go. But still, I finished in a not too shabby time, and I got a hug from my navigational running saviour, who had caught me up near the end. But I didn’t get out of the post-race stretching and Kevin put me through my paces once again (photographic evidence on the Harriers Facebook page)!

Really enjoyed the race and have definitely caught the trail running bug! Thanks for letting me be an honorary Harrier for the day.

Leg 2

Boys (Julian): After Duncan and I had trotted back up the slithery field and onto the tarmac, we could see the team ahead of us, but my lack of road speed meant that it took a long time to reel in two women who weren’t running very fast.  It was already clear that Duncan should punch the controls so he could get a few moments running at a respectable speed as he caught me up. Gradually the other teams ahead of us came into sight. Out of the forest, the terrain became rougher, and after contouring round the base of West Lomond wondering which misty re-entrant to climb, the leaders turned up what proved to be the right one. On the ascent, we steadily caught and passed the leading team so had the task of navigating off the summit of West Lomond. I followed my bearing and then, confident of my direction, stopped looking at the compass and veered off the right line. When almost down into the valley, Duncan spotted three other teams further west, and after we had got back onto their route we were about 50m behind. The four teams then followed each other across the moor hoping that they were going in the direction of Bishop Hill. Another team appeared from behind: they must have found a better line since they didn’t overtake us. Navigational uncertainty continued as the leading teams crossed snow, semi-frozen marsh and mud until a forest looming out of the mist indicated that it was time to look for White Craigs. After that, it was mainly a question of finding the right way down to Kinnesswood. Again, we were fortunate to be following folk who knew the way. Once we had dropped out of the mist and could see the steep route straight down to the village, we shamelessly left some of our guides behind. A pink-vested lady coming back up the hill indicated that we were a minute or so off the lead, although the scatterings of pairs at the bottom of the hill made it very hard to tell our precise position. When Susie heard that the leaders were coming down, she assumed we wouldn’t be among them. However she eventually spotted us, alerting Ian just in time to be almost ready to go when we arrived.

Leg 3

Girls (Susie): When I heard from Jan that she had run the 1st leg in 37 minutes and Sarah & Hilary were on the next one I started to get a bit anxious that I wouldn’t keep the pace & place of the team.  My leg started with 250m straight up to White Craig, I ran 1/3 of the way up it twice to warm up and then ran back and forth and the bottom in between chatting to Ian and other people.  Heard a shout that the leaders were coming and looked up the hill to see not only the leaders but 2 guys with PH vests on too, looked round and realised no Ian so amidst the silence I am shouting his name and the poor Ian came running up the path pulling off his jacket & gloves, they changed over and he was off up the hill. As I watched him I spotted Sarah & Hilary almost at the bottom so my turn to throw off my stuff! Quick changeover and I set off.  The hill was hard, imagine the steep bit to the post at hillend multiplied by 20 and that was the first half followed by more hill but less steep.

Once at the top I punched my sheet and set off through the deep snow by the wood on an undulating path until turning into the trees, from there it was the most fantastic long, straight never-ending paths that were a wee bit snowy but very runable.  Because everyone else on the team had done so well I pushed as hard as I could (yes, I was making that full effort noise!) and was so glad when I saw the changeover and heard Andrea & Sadie shouting for me.  Couldn’t speak so just gave them the punch sheet, took their jackets and that was it, they were off.

I passed one guy on the way up the hill and was passed by another guy so I maintained our position and as I couldn’t have run any faster I was really pleased.

I then drove Rob’s car back to Kinesswood where I rescued a very cold Duncan & Julian who, due to an organisational ‘blip’ were stranded.

Great soup, marshmallow cake (if I say so myself) and laughs afterwards, a really great team spirit and all pleased with our efforts.  Rob & Carl were first home from the early cohort with the girls not far behind.

Thanks to Jan for coming onboard last minute and sorry that your new trail shoes got messy – not!

Thanks to Rob for organising us all and sorry for my part in messing up the car/bag/key thing, as Hilary said , “Boys and girls shouldn’t mix!”.

Boys (Ian): Panic at the start as I was away ‘warming up’ (ie trying to stop from freezing)  as Julian and Duncan arrived, caught my hand on a briar as I ran to the start so blood, sweat and tears were part of my effort (sweat and tears going up that hill at the start).  Was passed by a female runner just before the top of White Craigs, but then somewhat gallantly I thought, helped her out of a bog later on. She kept asking me for directions and I was following her! Anyway once we hit the track it was a great run to the reservoir; kept trying to catch that blasted woman and kept failing.  Apologies to Rob and Carl for the blood-soaked chitty.

It was great to be back running again and loved being part of the team.

Leg 4

Boys (Rob): Carl and I were reasonably balanced and once Ian arrived at the changeover we sprinted off in 5th place (of the early cohort) along the road towards the misty mess that should have been East Lomond. The initial road soon changed to a boggy track which had been churned up due to logging activities. Luckily this section was relatively short although I did find this initial ascent quite tiring. Once on top of the first rise however, the course levelled off around the 2nd reservoir and we soon got into a good rhythm, although we both had to take layers off as it was surprisingly warm. We soon overtook three teams before the mid-section road but once we were back on the fells, we could not see the other two teams which we assumed were way ahead. We ran well over the moor section and although steep, we did not really have a problem going up East Lomond (Carl might say something differently). From the check point at the top of Lomond, we wisely had our compass bearing pre-prepared and we soon plunged off into the mist looking for that all important bit of woodland that would guide us to the final check point. I was fairly blind with the mist fogging my glasses. Carl was adamant that he could see the wood and that the compass bearing was correct. Finally, out of the gloom, the woodland did appear and we quickly followed its edge and with the shouting help of some lone guy, we quickly found the last check point. There then followed a fast 1.5 km sprint through the woodland back to Falkland. This was definitively Carl’s element and I struggled to keep up. We crossed the line with a leg time of ~43 mins to find out that we were the first team back. Somehow, the other two teams in front of us had gotten lost. We celebrated!!

As usual, the soup, buns, cakes and tea were much appreciated, but the added free massage was the cream on the cake of an excellent day.


Final Results

Overall, either because of the direction change and/or weather, times were slower this year than last (even for the winners). However, I think we did OK and should be proud that we did not get horribly lost and we all made it back in time to get some grub.


Runners                                                               Leg 1

Kevin Anderson                                                  00.33.27

Jan Dawson                                                        00.36.59


Runner                                                                 Leg 2                                      Total

Duncan Ball Julian Hall                                        01.26.21                                 01.59.48

Hillary Holding Sarah McKechney                        01.28.54                               02.05.53


Runners                                                               Leg 3                                      Total

Ian Forrest                                                           00.36.30                               02.36.18

Susie Maxwell                                                      00.37.09                               02.43.02


Runner                                                                 Leg 4                                      Total

Rob Wilson Carl Proctor                                      00.43.05                               03.19.23

Sadie Kemp Andrea Wilson                                 00.55.05                               03.38.07


Julian went a little geeky and delved into the results to pull out the leg (cumulative race) positions.

Leg 1: 46
Leg 2: 48 (46)
Leg 3: 72 (50)
Leg 4: 27 (36)

Leg 1: 73
Leg 2: 51 (53)
Leg 3: 77 (56)
Leg 4: 56 (49)


Maybe three teams next year? Carl wants to mix and match to make is more competitive within the club. Could be a recipe for disaster!!!

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5 comments on Devils Burden Race 2013

  1. Dave cairns says:

    It almost sounded like you enjoyed it. There’s nothing quite like being a part of a team, especially in an event like this one. Well done to you all.

  2. Jan Dawson says:

    Am seriously considering it, just need to see if I can fit one of the sessions into my mummy schedule! Have been meaning to join since I moved to Penicuik 9 years ago! Will try to make it along to a Tues session soon.

  3. Susan says:

    What great race reports! Well done everyone, it certainly seems like you all more than held your own and no one got lost!! I can’t wait to hear all about the blonde chaos that resulted…
    And thanks to Jan for stepping in as the sub! If you’d like to join the Harriers, then give me a shout!

  4. Kirsty says:

    Well done. Fantastic effort, if i can, happy to help out next year. My chest is hurting from xcountry yesterday so I know had a work out at Gala. I asked St Columbas to help me across the water at the end but the photographers just laughed and clicked! Well done Kevin, Carl, Duncan on a cool down run at Gala after efforts the day before and Rachel for her Borders xcountry medal.

  5. Sadie Kemp says:

    Great day out! Really enjoyed the race and thanks so much to the drivers for getting us there and back in timely fashion. Looking forward to next years!

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