This race took place on Easter Sunday, and not only that, but the day after the clocks changed, meaning a whole hour of sleep lost and, in my case, some regret about eating a hefty stash of chocolate eggs the night before! The drive through the Borders to get to Melrose didn’t bode too well- dark skies and heavy rain- but I was hopeful that my lucky pants would stave off the bad weather…
There were a few Penicuik harriers competing: Sadie Kemp, Michael Greens, Gillian Cairns, Yan Horsburgh, Tracy Philp, Andy Briggs and myself. This 10.2 mile route is mainly trail and is essentially the middle section of the 38 miles Jedburgh 3 Peaks Ultra which is held in October each year.
Registration and most excellent post-race food took place in the Melrose Rugby Club, a great race venue complete with showers (very useful for folk travelling on to Easter engagements) and comfy seats!
A short walk up to the start line in the rain, with lots of discussion about whether to run in waterproof jackets or not. I was glad I whipped mine off and stashed it just as the race started, as the sun came out (must have been the lucky pants) on the first section and it suddenly became warm work on the uphills! The race starts with a pretty brutal climb up the eastern most Eildon hill, particularly difficult following the previous days heavy rain and there was an awful lot of slipping and sliding. At one point the guy in front slid back down into me and I had to give him a helpful shove back up the hill! I was glad that I had put on my hill shoes rather than trail ones, especially on the first steep downhill where they gave me the confidence to go for it, despite the mud, and overtake a few people. Really blustery and cold on the tops but soon warmed up again with another shorter slog up to the second Eildon. What a cracking view from the top, you could see all the way over the Cheviot hills to the south and away over the Tweed. Had a very welcome sight of a grinning Mark, and my two dogs, to give us a boost at the top of the hill, then a long and fun descent back down again on a winding gravelly path through the heather. One more, much smaller Eildon hill and then we were through the main hilly part of the course and the trail running began.
What a fabulous route- down through the lovely beech woods south of the hills was so much fun- lots of lovely mud, gentle descent and gorgeous scenery. The route is pretty much undulating for the last 7 miles, with only short sections on road and a wonderful stretch along the river Tweed- especially lovely with all the spring flowers starting to show and the smell of wild garlic. At a couple of places the path went really close to the river- could see why we were warned not to fall in! I spent the middle part of the race trying desperately to keep up with Sadie (a challenge!) but overtook her with a couple of miles to go on the section coming away from the Tweed and over the A68, mainly because she slowed down to adjust her pack. The last wee hill climb was a killer- my legs were pretty wobbly by this point and I had just started to walk when a bellow of “Keep running Sarah Burthe!” from Sadie spurred me to dig deep and keep going- thank you Sadie! Sadie then powered past me on the hill and despite managing to keep her in my sights she was too strong and fast for me to catch again. The last mile was, thankfully, downhill for about a mile on the road- what a fabulous race. Welcome banana, bottle of water and muddy greetings from the dogs at the end.
Some great running from the harriers and would really recommend this race. The only downside to the whole event was the state of poor Yan’s knee- he had slipped off one of the very slippery wooden bridges and completely trashed his knee (and apparently inner thighs and had a bruised testicle, but he didn’t show us that!). Maybe Yan also needs some lucky pants. Heroically though Yan had carried on running and still ran a fabulous time. Really great atmosphere at these Melrose races, and well organised, with all profits from the event going to The Brathay Trust, a charity who helps young and vulnerable children who have had a bad start to life. A thoroughly enjoyable mud-fest of a race and one that I will definitely do again- wonderful!
Race results not available yet but will post when I can.