1.06.2014 – sunny, warm, minimal breeze. Always good weather in Yetholm!!
Despite a 1.5 hr drive, this is one of the better mid-distance races on the calendar as far as I am concerned and is well worth the drive. We left the grey cloudy weather of Midlothian and entered the sunny south-east of Scottish border region.
Stuart, Mike and I ran Yetholm last year when it was part of the British Championship (231 runners). This year however, it was a much more relaxed affair with only 37 participants. We were joined by Mark and Kirsty. As per advice from Melanie, I had bought some new hill shoes as the bevelled heels of the INOV8 300s appeared to be a possible factor in my calf problems. So, with Paolo Nutini ringing in my ears, I was all set:
“Hey, I put some new shoes on, and suddenly everything is right,”
Yetholm is a ca. 12.5 km loop on the Scottish/English border with about 750m of climb.
This year the course went clockwise (the harder way around) as opposed to last year’s more normal anti-clockwise easier option. This meant that times would likely be a tad slower.
The first half follows the final stage of the Pennine Way with a well marked path. However, it is a gradual climb, so is annoyingly runnable in a rather exhausting way. Last year running down this eastern side of the loop was fabulous. However, this time the return trip was down the western side loop which is much rougher and much more undulating.
A slow start by most runners except for “dummkopf” moi where I found myself not only in first place but stayed so (with Stuart, I think, shouting encouragement) for much longer than was probably wise. After about half a kilometre the universe righted itself and the proper lead runners passed me and cruised on by – all probably thinking, “idiot!”. Stuart and Mike soon followed. Once my legs forgave me for my quick start, I started to get into a rhythm and concentrated on keeping Mike in sight who was hovering between 50-100 meters ahead of me.
It took about 40 minutes of steady climb to get to the high point (The Curr) which is roughly the half way point. Apparently the views were lovely, but all I saw was Mike’s back end just ahead. The descent of The Curr is steep and rough and Mike was just in front of me and I was determined to keep up with him. Despite a tumble half way down (with appropriate screaming to try and get some sympathy from him – none came!), I managed to keep up with him. On the immediate steep upslope, I passed Mike who was making rather strange grunting noises. Having never beaten him in a race (although we have had some battles) I knew it would be tough to stay ahead. The next 4kms, although on average a descent, undulates between steep ascents and descents. Hard to get a rhythm. I focussed on the runner ahead in the distance and tried to think about catching him rather than worrying about Mike behind. This section seemed endless and I was happy to have brought a small water bottle with me as it was getting quite warm.
At the top of the last peak, I looked back – Mike was surprisingly far behind – could I actually beat him for once? Possible. The final descent was marked with a Saltire flag – with no time to think about yes/no votes, I plunged down the steep slope worrying that Mike might make a final push. A last mad dash through thistly scrub, over a cow hooved rutted field, through a small woodland and the final stumble across the finish line. Stuart shouting, “where’s Mike?”. I grinned and pointed back.
So – this has been all about me, but the real success story was Stuart. Last year, Yetholm had been his first race for almost 4 years after injury. This year he was back in top form. Of the 5 Harriers running, our places and times were:
Stuart Sanderson (6th): 1:19:10 (last year: 1:23:04)
Rob Wilson (16th): 1:27:30 (last year: 1:27:14)
Mike Brooks (17th): 1:28:38 (last year: 1:22:51)
Mark Dawson (31st): 1:52:36
Kirsty Loudon (37th): 2:47:15
A final thank you to the race organiser Les Turnbull who kindly brought Kirsty to the pub in Kirk Yetholm as we had buggered off to “sup up” in the beer garden there. In Kirsty’s own words: