I have been wanting to run this race for a while, but as it is north of the Cairngorms, it’s a real hike to get there. However, as Andrea was away I decided to take the plunge and go on a road trip north.
To ensure I did not have a 4 hr drive and get up super early (race start 12pm), I drove to Aviemore yesterday, stayed at the Youth Hostel and undertook some Guinness sponsored carb loading with friends at the Old Bridge Inn. After a 7.30am continental breakfast and then at 9.30 a full “English” break at the mountain café, I waddled to the car for the final hour drive to Dufftown (you don’t pronounce the w).
The Ben Rinnes Hill Race is part of the Dufftown Highland Games (http://dufftownhighlandgames.com/) – a true traditional Scottish games with pipe bands, track races, traditional dancing, tug of war, caber tossing, loads of food and of course the fell race. Ben Rinnes is also part of the Scottish Long Series (http://www.shr.uk.com/Championship.aspx?ChampionshipID=C-006) and due to my knee, I have missed all of them so far this year. High time to see if there is still life in this old dog yet!
At about 22kms with 1500m of climb, on paper, it is similar to Stuc a’Chroin but in reality is much easier – much less technical. Although the contours look close together on the map and the profile looks scary, this is one of those races that is annoyingly runnable. Even on most climbs I bounced between short bursts of running mixed with walking. Maybe I was burning all that fried fat off from the 2nd breakfast.
The route is an out and back race with 3 peaks, but two of them you have to do twice. I generally don’t like out/back races, but the views were stunning and the terrain (a path all the way) varied from tracks, peaty trails to granite steps and somehow seemed different on the return. Weather was perfect. Bar one heavy shower 10 mins before the start, the race was dry and the sun kept popping out long enough to remind the runners what a summer could be like.
Most of the route was relatively easy going. There were two arduous sections: (1) the initial descent of Ben Rinnes itself where the path has been layed with granite steps. When going up, I thought this would be a nightmare but in the end, rather than zig-zagging down, most runners just went straight through the heather dodging the rocks; (2) The other tough surprise was the climb out from the road crossing. Bloody steep but thankfully not that long. I did not even remember coming down it.
Having never run this race before, I had no idea how long it would take me. However, when looking at past results, I saw that Hillary Holding had been 1st lady in 2007 with 2:48:42 and last year Madeline Robinson had ran it in 2:37:26. So my two friendly nemeses were close in time, so I felt a 2:45 was worth aiming for although, being ever competitive, I kept looking at my watch the whole race thinking, can I beat them?
And what did I do it in?
2:36:31 (27th – no idea how many runners though).