Saturday 3rd February 2024
For the uninitiated, Devil’s Burdens is a popular hill relay race run from the pretty village of Falkland, Fife. Teams of six runners take on four legs, with legs 2 and 3 run in pairs. The aim is to mark all the relevant checkpoint letters on a sheet that’s then handed to the next set of runners. Apart from leg 1 that sets off in Falkland, the rest of the legs start/finish in a field in Falkland Estate, which is far better than the old format of shuttling cars around the hills from Falkland to Kinnesswood and back! This means that teams can set up tents and there was a real festival atmosphere this year, helped by the fantastic weather.
We had two teams entered this year, initially a ladies and men’s team, but due to last minute injury and illness ended up as one mixed team and one ‘vintage’ men’s:
Penicuik Harriers – The Peni-Pensioners (Open 50+)
Leg 1 Raymond Richford
Leg 2 Des Crowe & Stuart Sanderson
Leg 3 Duncan Ball & Rob Wilson
Leg 4 Julian Hall
Penicuik Harriers – Ladies (Mixed Senior)
Leg 1 Adam Gray
Leg 2 Sadie Kemp & Jan Dawson
Leg 3 Lauren Johnson & Georgina McAllister
Leg 4 Gilly Marshall
Plus top support from Juliane, who despite having to pull out came along to cheer us on, take photos, make tea and be generally wonderful.
A few of us had done recce runs in the weeks leading up to the race, but there were still nerves and last minute scrutinising of maps and routes. The race started at 10:00 and by 11:00 both sets of leg two runners were off. I was in leg 2 with Sadie and quickly found the CP I had missed in my recce, then watched as runners scattered like marbles out of the woods and headed towards West Lomond. It was tempting to follow runners in front but I was sure where we should be going so forged our own path to the hill. The men’s team leg 2 runners (Stuart and Des) caught us just as we reached the bottom of the hill and powered up and away. We took a more conservative pace on the climb, but flew down the other side, which felt almost vertical in parts, to bag ourselves a Strava crown! I was sure it would disappear as the faster runners uploaded their runs, but it’s still there this morning. Chuffed!
After a slightly technical descent into Drumdreel wood it was plain sailing along the forest paths to the finish, where Lauren and Gina were waiting to set off. Gina says she spent a little longer than hoped finding their second checkpoint, but they still flew into the finish in an impressive time. Then it was up to Gilly, who pointed out that she’d “never had to get up so early to run so late!” to bring the harriers ladies team home.
Gilly was set off in a mass wave of leg 4 runners, which made us question the difficulty of processing results, but they were uploaded pretty quickly to Fife AC’s website soon after. Well done on an impressive event and seamless organisation, Fife AC!
The men’s team had finished about half an hour before us, with orienteer extraordinaire, Julian tackling the bonkers leg 4. This one involved picking off the checkpoints in any order, which saw runners heading off in all directions with their own optimum route in mind. Well done to Gilly and Julian for taking that one on.
After all harriers were safely returned to camp, there was much hilarity taking down the team tent. Probably a great cool down with lots of stretching!
I first did this race in 2013, my first ever trail/hill race and it totally converted me away from road running! It was so good to be back this year and the event has definitely improved. Hopefully we can get a few more teams in next year. It’s great fun and a fantastic day spent with the Scottish hill racing community.
The Peni-Pensioners, 43rd, 04:02:48
Penicuik Harriers – Ladies, 74th, 04:38:21
Full results here: https://www.fifeac.org/events/fife-ac-events/devils-burdens/1423-devils-burdens-2024.html