La Marseillaise á Dollar

A belated report by Andrea

This year’s Dollar hill race starts with a pre-race dialogue at the Wilson home: Andrea: “Rob, have you seen my compass?”  Rob: “Ah yes, I forgot, I lent it to XXX; she never gave it back. Here, take this one – it kind of works”.

[editorial: the needle points in the right direction, but the bearing adjustment (now stuck!) is about 10 degrees off – she had been warned! No excuse anyway!!]

Not long after, 5 happy Harriers (Des, Gillian, Gregor, Rob and me) set off in beautiful sunshine to brave the Dollar hill race. It’s one of my favourite races – nice mid-distance race in the Ochills at the perfect time of the year, 15km long with just under 1000m climb. It starts with a gentle warm-up through the park before you gain height pretty quickly (get the most strenuous part over and done with), cruise along several smallish peaks and finish off with a nice long and easy down-hill that makes your running heart sing.

This year’s race was marked by the guest appearance of the Montpellier running club. One couldn’t miss these ~25 extrovert Frenchies in their All-Black running outfits, face-painted with a French flag and a very strong French accent – oooh lálá! [editorial: down girl!]

Just before the race, Gregor warned us: “don’t follow the French”. As it turned out, he should have warned these innocent people “don’t follow the Germans”.

There is not much to report for the first half of the race.  It started to become exciting when the weather filled in about one hour after the start. Out of the blue, I could no longer see any runner in front of me, and the landscape had turned blurry and featureless.  I was relieved when I eventually heard some footsteps behind me – just to find out that it was one of the Frenchies. He was so “appy to ave find me”, because he had no idea about the race route – indeed, he hadn’t even bothered to look at the map – let alone take one.  Starting to feel a bit apprehensive, I got my map and compass out. My navigation skills are pretty rubbish at the best of times, but I soon realized that it’s even more difficult to determine exactly where you are when you can’t see what’s around you. Worse, the compass indeed only “kind of worked” with the needle dancing the Marseillaise between West and North West. Furthermore, the Frenchman had this gormless look on him – they don’t seem to do maps and compasses in France. So we plodded on as well as we could, constantly checking the map and compass bearings, and obviously loosing time. It didn’t take long until the next runner caught up – now we were 3 on a long path that felt suspiciously too much downhill. The cruel reality hit when we could eventually see 2 big lakes close by – these were not on the map! We were seriously lost and we didn’t have the faintest idea where we had gone wrong. All we could do was turn around and hope to get back on track. As we slogged back uphill, more runners came our way – each one had just faithfully followed the runner in front. Eventually, we met 10 errant but still happy compatriots of my new French running buddy – all “Perdue”. At some stage we were about 15 people having a “lost and found” party at God-knows-where-in-the-Ochills. By that stage my soggy paper map had almost disintegrated. Luckily one of the other lost locals got his laminated map and compass out, and could actually navigate. Hurray! Unfortunately he needed to work a bit more on his social attitude – he just plodded away through the thick fog, and didn’t give a damn if others could follow or not. So he, and my French buddy from before (the traitor abandoned me after he saw the guy with the laminated map) rushed on ahead, while the rest of us tried to stick together to make sure nobody got lost again in the mist. Coming to peace with the fact that I wouldn’t get a PB, I started to embrace the opportunity to get to know some fellow runners a bit better and share this unique experience. We had a good laugh about our mountain-wisdom. Eventually we ran into the sweeper who had been frantically looking for us, and he made sure that each one of us was back on route.

Dollar route plus Andrea’s diversion to the lochs to the north

The race took me almost 3 hours – almost 1 hour more than what I was aiming for. I won’t ever forget this race – but I’m grateful for this unique experience and very important navigation lesson: don’t venture into the hills without being able to properly navigate and get your map and compass out early, before you are seriously lost. Thanks to my 2 new running friends for making this a pleasant experience, and for the other Harriers who went out to look for me after finishing the race.

Congratulations to Des for a fabulous 7th place (and for finishing the race in almost ½ of my time!), to Gillian for coming 2nd F40, to Rob for finishing well in the top third after the Lairig Ghru the week before, and to Gregor for reaching the finish line fresh and easy under 2hours.


PS: I did still win my tennis league match the next morning – in case anybody cares. It’s a bit easier to navigate around the tennis court. 🙂

Happy smiles before the start

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6 comments on La Marseillaise á Dollar

  1. Jan Dawson says:

    I do love this report! Quite reassuring to learn that the French are even worse at navigation than some of us though! Well done on a tough gig 🙂

  2. Dave says:

    Lessons learnt (hopefully). I’m sure it wasn’t quite as entertaining on the day as it sounds in the report. All safe and accounted for. Well done everyone. Major respect to Des too.

  3. Mel dunbar says:

    Ha ha!! Well done Andrea great read. I love your positivity in the face of adversity ??

  4. Duncan says:

    Ho, ho, ho, you should write stuff for Private Eye or something Andrea! Blinking Scottish weather! Actually you should place all blame on the dodgy compass. By the way I charge a mere £10 an hour for Extreme Navigation courses!

  5. Gill Cairns says:

    What a great report Andrea – hilarious! Though I’m sure it wasn’t quite so hilarious at the time. Well done for hanging in there, all great training :-). I’m booking on a navigation course asap – it’s only a matter of time before I get myself seriously lost in the hills!

  6. Good reading, maybe not my kind of race. But never say never. ?

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