At 14.5km and 850m, this race is a great mid-distance route. In many respects, similar to Dollar, but with several kms of track at the beginning and end, may well suite trail runners (Rachel?) and be a good introduction to hill racing – in good weather at least.
Stuart, Chris, Sarah, Sadie, Alasdair, Jan and myself braved the poor forecast for this nice jolly – but it did feel as we were entering Mordor as we left the sun of Midlothian. Registration was in the No.5 Inn in Alva with the promise of hot soup at the end of the race.
The race starts at the base of Alva Glen and takes an initial convoluted route up through twisting paths, steps, gates and under a pipe before going up onto the side of the hill above the town. The contouring track then enters a woodland of 2.5 kms sprint to Tillicoultry. For those in the know, the route then goes up to the start of Maddy Moss and their starts the steepest stage of the race. Stuart (and 3 others) got a little confused at this point and started running Maddy Moss losing him a good minute before realising his mistake. The ascent slowly becomes more gentle and with the strong wind on our backs was probably more runnable than usual. At ca.300m, we entered the cloud, never to see views again until the final descent.
The next 7-8 kms was a fairly lonely but wild affair with the runners being strung out in the murk with all of us trying to keep the person ahead in sight. I had to stop at least twice to check my map and compass to ensure I was going in the right direction. Of course, along the northern section of the race, we were running either against the wind or with it coming from the left. I think we were all being buffered around A LOT!! This was not a time to stop – potentially very cold – and the only option was to dig deep and battle on to stay warm. I actually managed to catch up a group on Ben Cleuch. Some were in shorts and I think were slowing because they must have been bloody cold. However, on the descent, with a little bit of navigation help from me (no one ever seems to want to look at a map!) they flew off and left me.
The final 2 kms are a fast gravel road which re-joins the original track with only one difficult choice of running around a hairpin bend or taking the direct route through it over some very slimy rocks and through old knotty bracken. My legs were rubber from the road so I think staying on the road would have been better. Luckily, no sprained ankles.
It was with great relief that I entered Alva Glen, navigated the twists and turns and crossed the finish line with bowls of Twixes awaiting my grumbling stomach. The weather was pretty grim, and Stuart (came in 9 minutes earlier) and I did not wait around for the others (sorry) but felt warm dry clothes and hot soup was our primary aim.
Results up already: 95 runners, 1st guy in at 1:10:59.
Stuart: 18th: 1:26:46
Rob: 36th: 1:35:37 [40 seconds slower than PB]
Alasdair: 52nd: 1:44:06
Jan: 71st: 1:50:17
Sarah: 85th: 2:02:11
Sadie: 93rd: 2:26:43
Chris: 94th: 2:26:44
All in all, a great relief that no one got lost. Conditions were miserable, but the soup, oh the soup, was lovely.