6 December 2015, ran up Capelaw from home with Tim Doyle, Rab Walker as well as dogs Tally and Charly. So what? From my home in Colinton it’s only 3.7k and 300m of climbing, for me though, it was the 100th time I’d run up Capelaw during 2015 and it felt a bit special. Tim, Rab and the dogs had come to help me celebrate. It was from Tim (my personal trainer) and Rab that I got the idea of running up a hill 100 times a year: they have been doing this for years. They in turn, got the idea from Prasad Prasad who had a training regime which involved running up Ben Ledi twice a week
As we plodded across through the new wood at Dreghorn, Tim and Robert gallantly pretended that my 6 minutes per Km pace was too fast for them, a nice touch. Even at my pace I was feeling a bit puffed as we climbed the military track and turned right up White Hill. As a diversionary tactic I pointed out the new seat, hoping that Tim and Rab would be curious and keen to go over and stop (!) for a look. But no, they’d seen it before. So on we went. I was managing to keep ‘running’ while Tim and Rab had adopted the ‘runners’ uphill walk’, and not only kept pace with me, but pushed me to run faster. There were not many people about, none in fact, and I could find no compelling excuse to slow down or stop, so we made the top in just over 32 minutes from set off. Then, we could stop. not only that, but I insisted on photographs and had even brought a tripod – this occasioned much faffing about since it was repeatedly blown over before I could get the all-important group photo. That done, it was back home for me, while Tim, Rab and the dogs went off for a real run.
100 done and how’s it been? It’s been great. There were days when I did not fancy the run, but always, once at the top, it was worth it, and not just for the views. There were some cracking views and rather a lot of grey, cloudy ones, but even on the grey, cloudy days and even on the day when I was ‘running’ at 16 minutes per Km, the run was enjoyable. Some of the views are recorded in photographs on my blog: Pentlandplodder.blogspot.co.uk. I started this in March, with great plans to write interesting posts about what I saw on the ascents and how I felt as I ran. I quickly found out that I didn’t actually notice all that much on my runs and what I did notice I often couldn’t explain: ‘saw big bird this morning’, ‘lovely blue flower in bloom’ , ‘legs a bit heavy this morning’ and ‘shouldn’t have had that beer last night’ are the sort of insightful and imaginative comments I managed. The depths of my ignorance of the natural world is apparently boundless. Some of the photographs are ok, though. One day I might get around to posting the photographs from January and February.
The rule I had set myself was that I could count 2 ascents on the one run as long as I climbed another hill in between. So Capelaw’s two neighbouring hills, Allermuir and Harbour Hill, were climbed a bit as well. They are about the same distance from the top of Capelaw, though Allermuir involves marginally more climbing. Since it takes me nearer home, and the prevailing wind favours running to it from Capelaw, I probably climbed Allermuir more than Harbour Hill. 2 was the most ascents of Capelaw in the one day and 5 (2×2 and a single) the most in one week, which I managed a couple of times.
Apart from a little-visited blog, what have I achieved in running 100 Capelaws? Well my average time to the top measured over the first 5 ascents was 37 minutes and 36 seconds, while over the last 5, the average ascent time was 35 minutes and 46 seconds. So at least I can say that I’m better at running up Capelaw! But I’ve also had 100 very satisfying moments. For those of you who use Garmins, I’m also the leader on a segment called ‘Capelaw Ascent’ – but I am the only one on the leader board.
Why climb Capelaw 100 times? The classic, clichéd answer to this sort of question, as delivered ironically in this year’s Everest film is: ‘because it’s there’. But a better response was provided by Doug Hansen, one of the would-be summiteers in that film: ‘because I can’. This really resonated with me; I’ll never climb Everest and won’t be able to run up Capelaw for ever, so I feel I owe it to myself to do it while I can. Will I be doing it next year? No way! 2016 is ‘The Year of 100 Allermuirs’.