The Jedburgh Running Festival attracts Penicuik Harriers every year, including 2018, where Ngeme, Sarah, Chris and Romana (aka the Peni Possums) and Allan, Gillian, Rob and Stuart dressed as Allan (aka the Peni Pinchers) competed in the Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultramarathon Relay, while Sadie, Tracy and myself tackled the whole 38 miles.
The registration was very well organised, as were the facilities and the positive and crazy atmosphere the Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra is famous for, soon started to take over. We runners tried to carefully divide the remaining time until the start between the toilet and the warmth of the radiators. The weather forecast for the race day was sunny, but cold, and in addition to my usual nervousness before big races, questions about the appropriate clothes were buzzing around in my head: Shorts or tights? Gilet or jacket? Everything? Thanks to Rob’s advice, I was confident with my choice of clothes and could start to concentrate on the hours that were lying ahead of me (I’m being sarcastic here).
After a short and rough race briefing, we made our way to the start in joyful anticipation of the “YMCA” warm-up. In my opinion, this should be mandatory before every race, it diminishes the nervousness, puts you in a positive mindset and of course, warms you up. Focusing on my dance moves, the signal to the start was rather surprising and so I spent the first few metres fiddling on my watch. Unlike shorter races, no one tried to frantically overtake other runners or to sprint away (Rob would probably do that though) and we even started to chat with each other. It seemed a bit weird first, but I liked the more relaxed atmosphere. I tried to keep up with Sadie for a while, but shortly after we left Jedburgh I had to let her go (speedy lady!) and settled into what felt like my own pace.
The tarmac at the beginning was easy to run on, but I was happy when we finally hit the trails, as running on the fallen leaves on the dry (!!!!) paths was absolutely fantastic and felt like running heaven. The first 10 miles to CP1 at Maxton were everything but boring, what looked quite flat was undulating (I would even say it was uphill most of the time) and we had to conquer wobbly bridges (fun fact: I got my HeartFrequencymax here) and hurdling fallen trees. After Maxton, the route flattened, and we were blessed with a sunny run along the autumnal Tweed and stunning views of the Eildons in the distance (another plus of Ultras: you have enough time to admire the surroundings, probably unless the distance broke you and you just suffer and damn your life). What worried me a bit were the numerous stairs and bridges of this section: although they were a nice distraction at this point, they might be treacherous with tired legs on the way back.
After CP2 at Rhymer’s Stone, where Ultra runner legend Gilly and Ultra runner supporter legend Aldo provided us with food, coke and good vibes, we finally reached the Eildons. I was looking forward to the Eildons section, because I love running on (at? in?) them and thought it would be a nice change for the legs and indeed, the views on this clear day didn’t disappoint and it was a nice break from running. However, the cold wind froze my legs and apparently also my brain. It’s funny, how I had the time to chat with others, eat some food at the CPs and admire the views, but not to put on a god damn jacket (the same happened during the Ochils race, I never learn…). So, I shuffled up (slow!) and down (even slower!!!) the hills with frozen legs, stoically following the runner in front of me as I couldn’t think straight anymore and had no idea where to go. The reward for surviving the arctic Eildons was a piper who greeted us with his music at one of the hillside paths, a true goosebumps moment!
(these nice shots were taken by Eoin Lennon)
The next highlight awaited us at CP3: we were cheered on by the wonderful Ellie and the mad but lovely cow Jan and could satisfy the inner child at the famous playground, while Yan and his crew threw a party in the background. And there was coke!
CP3 gave me a boost after the strenuous Eildons section, but the boost disappeared on the short bit of tarmac that followed, my legs didn’t like it at all… Somewhere on the way to the final checkpoint at Maxton, I found my running form and strength again. Although I normally don’t like out and back races, it was nice to hit familiar grounds and to know what is coming. Funnily, the numerous stairs felt easier than in the morning (maybe because I didn’t feel anything anymore?) and the roots and rocks were not as treacherous as expected. Also, it was nice to see relay-runner Chris, who overtook me at this section, and to “buddy up” with Chiara, who I know from other races and far too much shopping, until the end of the race. All these factors together with a very caring volunteer at the last CP4 put me in good spirits and I happily started the climb out of Maxwell, ready to smash my first Ultra on this final and what I thought mainly downhill section. Well, it turned out, I was wrong. Somehow, the climb just went on and on and on. This section must be a “magic” section, as it feels uphill in both directions…
On the final few miles, we met Romana who was giving everything for her team, and Gilly and Aldo were at the last street crossing (thank god with coke again!!!) to direct us to the finish line. A bit of uphill running on the road, a few metres of cross country in the woods, and a never-ending tarmac stretch in Jedburgh, before the cathedral finally appeared and we sprinted (Haha!) on the grassy patch to the finish.
I thoroughly enjoyed this race, maybe because the conditions and surroundings were perfect, but definitely because of the friendly and crazy atmosphere between runners, marshals, other volunteers and everyone else who was involved. I’m sure this race will remain a constant in the Penicuik Harriers race calendar, no matter if for Ultra maniacs, fancy dress worshippers or tired-runners support enthusiasts 🙂
Sadie Kemp 06:37:20 8th F 39th Overall (PB)
Juliane Friedrich 06:47:06 10th F 48th Overall
Tracy Philp 07:56:50 35th F 123th Overall
(and this crazy lady also did the half marathon the next day)
Peni Pinchers 05:26:06 2nd Combined 3rd Overall
Peni Possums 06:50:46 8th Combined 12th Overall
Finally, in tradition with my other race reports and as this was my first Ultramarathon, here is what I have learned:
- Training on the trails/ hills is so much more fun than training on the road
- The biggest challenge is not to eat all the stuff you bought for your drop bags in the week leading to the race
- Doing an Ultra involves waking up at stupid o’clock (I think I’m quoting one of the Dawsons here)