Distance, 19.3 km. Climb, 700 m
Six intrepid harriers made our way through to Birnam to test our strength, courage and navigational skills against the might of Deuchary hill. Rob, our gallant guide, strengthened himself with a feast of sandwiches fit for a king on the way. We had been forwarned that many an adventurer had come a cropper on this race and so we studied our maps on the journey to registration to make sure we were forearmed. This turned out to be a futile endeavour as when we arrived we discovered that the route had been altered. Hurray! It had been made simpler and also there was apparently less tarmac and more trail than before, double plus! So armed with our fresh parchments we took the short trip to the forest where our trusty steeds were stored to be there for us at the finish. Then began the derobing and inov-8 armery was applied along with lashings of ibuprofen gel (in Rob’s case). Once Stuart had finished his warm-up of ceilidh dancing round the carpark, off we ventured to the Hilton about 2 klicks away, where facilities were enjoyed and we indulged in the usual pre-race photos and nervous chattering. Once a head count had been done, and the organiser realised he himself was the missing runner he was looking for we got started. Onwards and upwards for quite some time, there was a road crossing where Des and Kate were positioned, cheering us on.
At this point I was frantically trying to keep up with Andrea who was dashing up the hill like a mad march hare, it didnt take me long to realise I wasnt going to keep that up for long so I settled into my own pace and started to enjoy the scenery that could be glimpsed through the breaks in the trees. Soon I was quite far behind the runners I was following and found I had to keep my wits about me and began to focus on following the red and white stripped tape that very helpfully showed the way. At times it was like being on an easter egg hunt, where will it be? Up in that tree? Tied round a gate? Will it be high or low? We had been warned that if we hadnt seen a ribbon for a while we should turn back and a few times near the beginning I was turning to ask the runners behind me for reassurance before going on. By the time I had reached the first marshall I had begun to trust the stripey way markers, by now I was pretty much running alone and this continued for most of the race. I was glad of this as I was a sweaty mess, it was warmer than I had expected and I was wishing I had done without the second vest I had on. I was puffing and panting up the hill, and my GPS watch kept going on pause as I was going so slowely it thought I had stopped. Thanks Garmin! I told myself this was good training and not to worry that I was the tortoise, not the hare. After some time I made it to the top and stopped to catch my breath and get a couple of snaps.
I was glad to have made the first checkpoint on the top of Deuchary but struggled to see how to come off it. I could see another runner in the distance near the water so I just made a beeline in that direction. As I descended I picked up the trail again. I was glad to see Des and Kate another couple of times and am immensely grateful to the marshall who was on top of the last hill (checkpoint 3). I almost missed it completely. He was up there waving and shouting ‘Im over here, come this way’. He also supplied me with some much needed water as I had finished mine by this point. He pointed me in the right direction and off I went, through a bog (wet feet) and down the hill. Most of the route is very pleasant track and trail, but there was a little stretch of road near to the end, before you head back into the woods. I hadnt realised just how close I was to the finish and was just contemplating another gel when I looked down and saw the carpark. To my dismay the runner who had been a little behind me for the last couple of km had taken the correct route and was now nearly at the finish while I was floundering around in the bushes.
I was glad to see my fellow harriers patiently waiting for me and off we went to refuel and regale eachother with tales of races past and future back at the Birnam guesthouse.
Well done to Duncan on bagging himself a prize. 🙂