On a tip from Tim Darlow, a few Harriers signed up for this relatively new local race (1st time last year). At 17.8km with 700 m climb, it had the potential to be a very runnable race although everyone who knows the southern Pentlands said that the terrain would be much rougher than what we see in the more manicured north.
Despite the forecast stating that it would be cloudy most of the day, the mist had already burnt off and the cloud was only just touching the tops as we started the race at 10am. In fact, the weather conditions for the race were perfect. Just sunny enough to be comfortable but not too hot.
Anyway – 4 Harriers (Andrea, Mike, Julian and me) plus Hillary (who had turned up for a 9am start – she gets more blond by the year!) and Kate Darlow (who had the kid freedom ticket for the day).
The first 500meters was a sprint along a tarmac road (of which I am happy to say I was 3rd :-)). However, very soon on the ascent up Faw Mount, Mike, plus many others, passed me. Oh gawd – here we go again! This is the longest ascent of the race so once on Mount Maw, the route undulates with the route following either a fence or stone wall. In fact, the route follows pretty much the estate boundary, so theoretically the route should not be too difficult to follow – even in the mist – as long as you have a 1:25 000 map. The 1: 50 000 map does not show this detail! After a big grinning Chris D shouted encouragement somewhere after Mount Maw, we were on our own to battle our inner demons and keep upright through the more technical sections.
Mike steadily extended his lead I assumed that this was one race I was not going to have much chance keeping up with him. However, on the ascent up Wether Law, I suddenly found that he was only about 100-200 meters in front of me. I tried to push a little on the descent but then fell in a boggy hole and twisted my ankle (no badly). In fact, it was my left knee that took the strain and my patella tendon screamed. To recover, I had to slow down on the climb up to East Cairn Hill and my knee was still grumbling down the steep unpathed rocky descent. Mike had left me in the dust! Luckily, after crossing the old Thieves Drove Road, the pain seemed to dissipate and I managed to get back into a reasonable rhythm.
On the final climb up to west Cairn Hill, however, I looked back to see Hillary only about 100 meters behind. Typical – I thought she was supposed to have a sprained ankle. I focussed on Mike in the distance and was determined to push ahead. The moorland track and the ever so slight descent off West Cairn Hill was a lovely runnable section. Not too boggy and just enough track that you could really go for it. After about 2kms however, the track veered off to the west and the race route went south across a 1.5 km stretch of heather and bog towards Wolf Craigs. This is the roughest and toughest section of the whole route and if you’re gonna twist an ankle anywhere, this is the section. My legs were still relatively fresh and I battled through trusting my compass (and a Carnethy bod ahead of me) to take me in roughly the right direction.
As I crossed the burn at Wolf Craigs and started the ascent up Byrehope Mount I suddenly realised that Mike was just ahead of me – closer than Hillary was behind. I shouted at Mike that Hillary was just behind us which probably did not help me as he seemed to dig deep and push ahead. We were now in the final few kilometres. On the final ascent up Kings Seat, Mike was about 200-300 metres ahead and Hillary was only about 50 metres behind. The summit was marked by a simple wooden post which we had to run around before heading in a north and north-westerly direction towards the finish. Initially the ground was very tussocky and I
tripped very gracefully (I might add) which resulted in a summersault. Unfortunately, despite my acrobatics, Hillary still managed to pass me.However, I overtook her going up a slight rise up Lamb Rig. At this point, we joined a grassy path with a simple sprint to the finish. My legs felt fine, but I simply could not keep ahead of Hillary and she slowly cruised effortlessly past me. :-(. Despite having a mental breakdown and now living with eternal shame about this, I honestly can say this was the best final kilometre of any race I have ever done. Just the right gradient not to hurt the legs and it was a pure pleasure to blast over the finish line.
Full results are here:
1st man came in at 01:38:49. Of only 38 runners we came in at:
16th: Mike Brooks: 02:00:54
17th: Hillary Holding: 02:01:15 1st Lady!!!! Race record!!!!
18th: Rob Wilson: 02:01:31
25th: Julian Hall: 02:17:43 Looks like he had his own battles with some Corstorphine gals.
33rd: Andrea Wilson: 02:29:54
34th: Kate Darlow: 02:30:38
what a great race – perfect weather and a great competitive spirit.
Thanks to the organisers who took time at the beginning to discuss some of the sections of the route. Much appreciated.
I would heartily encourage other Harriers to run this race next year