At 15.5kms and 870m, this is one of the classic hill races in the calendar. It is therefore very surprising that hardly any Harriers in recent history (only Stu I think) has run it. Although Arran might seem far away, the drive to the Ardrossan ferry is only about 1.5 hrs, followed by a relaxing 50 min boat crossing and you’re in Brodick with only a short walk to the start. Easily done in a day with the race start and prize giving nicely organised around the ferry times.
As Andrea could not go due to tennis (and injury), I decided to pop over for the day while the rest of the Harrier posse drove over to stay the night and make some mischief (that’s another story!). Harriers in attendance were Michael Greens, Andy Briggs, Jan Dawson, Gregor Gorjanc, Gill Cairns, Kevin Anderson, Sadie Kemp and Moi.
The race is a simple there and back route – the first (last) section is 2kms of road (ugh!), then from the woods behind Brodick Castle, the route ascends with an ever-increasing gradient. It is very runnable at first, but as it steepens it gets more and more technical. The upper 100 metres (up and down) seemed incredibly steep to me.
Weather conditions were almost perfect – 14-17 degrees (elevation dependent), cool SW wind and sun and more sun. So – at 12pm, despite a very loud pipe band doing its hardest to ensure we would not hear the starting claxon, we were off. A 2-km sprint along a road – a detestable section which would be worse on the return. Michael soon passed me, but I managed to keep him in sight as we entered Brodick Castle state. Once in the woods, the route changed to a forest track which slowly became thinner and rockier as we climbed. It was quite warm down at the lower elevations but as we left the wood the slight breeze soon brought the temperature down to a more manageable level. With legs feeling much stronger than they did at Stuc O Chroin 2 weeks before, I soon passed Michael and kept focusing on passing the next runner in front – ticking them off one at a time. Unlike the Ben tourist track, the GF track is a more haphazard affair and, as I said, very technical with nice grippy granite boulders. Fine for running, but horrible if you fell……………some did!
There is not much to say about the ascent except, it got harder and harder as you went up and I started thinking, jeez, we’re gonna have to run down this. On getting to the summit, I was momentarily disorientated. It was packed with people and someone was shouting my name. There were several Carnethy runners up there who were doing the Scottish Island Peaks Race (respect!). After a quick frantic smile and a wave and a look down towards Brodick below, I started the hellish descent. Not initially realising that my summit confusion had befuddled my sense of direction, I took a different track than the one I went up on. In hindsight, I don’t think this made a huge difference but I had a slight panic for the first few minutes of descent as I thought I had gone the wrong way.
The next 15 minutes was probably the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Knee pain? What knee pain! I seemed to bounce down the track and, I guess luckily, did not trip once. It was frantic, manic and very exhilarating. Much more fun than the descent off the Ben. As the gradient lessened, I soon started hearing someone huffing and puffing behind me – did I recognise it? – yes – it was Michael who finally passed me as we entered the woods. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not keep up with those long gangly skinny legs. All I could do was try and keep him in sight as my legs screamed at the last 2 kms of tarmac!
What a cracker of a race!
My 150th official SHR race (thanks to Shettleston Harriers for providing an appropriate number), with a total distance run (since 2005) of 1931 kms and 102,915 metres height gain – that’s 11.6 Mt Everests!!!
The final Harriers results:
Of 169 runners (6 did not finish), we came in at:
31st Michael: 01:46:11
32nd Moi: 01:46:44
59th: Gregor: 01:53:26 [gonna be a fabulous LAMM partner in 10 days]
63rd: Gillian: 01:54:33
100th: Jan: 02:05:03
121st: Sadie: 02:14:18
127th: Kevin: 02:15:39
166th: Andy: 02:48:34