St Cuthbert’s Way 45mile Ultra

This was a race of two halves – the hot, hilly and unbearable half then the stormy, made a pal but in pain half.

I entered this Ultra as I hadn’t done one in a while and figured if I do a bunch of other races in the area then I’ll get to know the route. I loved the 3 Cheviot trail races and the trail marathon; I could run from Wooler to Kirk Yetholm with my eyes shut now 🙂

As the day of the ultra approached so did the amazing sunny weather. I tried not to worry and prepared for it as best I could.  For reasons I still don’t understand we didn’t start running until 10.30am so right into the heat of the day. I had convinced myself that I would be fine because all my races had been in the heat – this one was just a bit longer.

The heat really hit during the first 3 miles of climb out of Wooler, I stayed just off the back of 3 ladies who I’d been chatting to before we started but I couldn’t chat so I shamelessly used them to pace myself.  However by mile 5 I had to pass them and one of them came with me and was chatting but I needed all my breath so at the water station I left her, she was waiting on her pals anyway. The climbing got longer and steeper with lots of fields with cows, calves and bulls. Some of us just stopped on this really steep bit, none of us spoke, we were just trying to breathe but we were all thinking ‘this is complete and utter hell’ 🙁   We kept going with a few jokes about why had St Cuthbert had to walk so far anyway. We got up that hill, down the other side and then started on the next one. I’d stuck with a guy called Neil for a bit, he was running his first Ultra, he was suffering so I pretended that I wasn’t and encouraged him to drink and eat and just take it gently down the next hill.

He fell behind so I shouted was he okay and he told me to go on. I got to the bottom of the next hill and there was Iain and his wife Herbie, I know Iain from Jed Ultra and have stayed in touch, he said he would come and see me but little did I know that he and his wife would become my guardian angels for the rest of the race. After pouring a bottle of water over my head he chummed me up the next hill and I continued on my way with his total encouragement.

I carried on pretty much by myself for the next 7 miles, drinking and eating and determined to get to Morebattle checkpoint at19.5miles ‘if you get in to Morebattle checkpoint and leave again then you’ll finish’ said the organiser and Iain. So I had to flippin’ do that.  At Morebattle Iain & Herbie had ice-lollies, can you believe that?!! I still can’t!

After they had filled my water, put a cold buff round my neck and given me all the encouragement I set off again, just 25 miles to go 😀  I met Sarah who’d also had a lolly just down the road and we chatted about how lucky I am/we are to have I&H there supporting us. So Sarah and I ran on together and seemed to be coping the same and running at the same pace, I had a heat rash on my arm and a reaction to grass pollen on my legs so I was in a bit of a state but I felt strong. We caught up with 2 guys from Whitley Bay who were struggling, they tried to stick with us and we had a bit of a laugh at one of the paths we were running along where we all got to the end with eyes and mouths full of flies – gross but laughable.

Sarah was great at focussing on the distance to the next checkpoint because I was starting to suffer with blisters. The sun had gone behind the clouds but the heat was still there and I was having to hold my breath because of the pain in my feet. At the Bonjedward checkpoint we couldn’t believe that I&H were there to get us drinks, melon and apply Compeed and tape to my feet, I am so ashamed at the state I was in but Iain just got on with it, taking it in his stride 🙂

We ran with the Whitly Bay guys for a bit, they seemed to be using our strength and determination when, if not running we were walking fast. But they couldn’t stay with us and we couldn’t slow down. We now had to get to Maxton and then we only had 10miles to go, it was starting to get dark but we were determined to not get our headtorches out; we were so mad at all the heavy kit we had to carry that we were damned if we were using it.

This section was really overgrown and seemed to go on for ever, you could hadrly see the trail or the waymarks at times. Our determination and chat kept us going and we made it to Maxton 😀 Despite having run 35 miles we actually managed to get our own cups of coke and fruit here I&H just stood smiling st us – we were possibly slightly manic and over-excited so a bit scary.  They gave us the best encouragement to continue and were so pleased that we had each other, they knew we’d do it, we knew we’d do it as there was no other option!  We were so grateful to them and would have hugged them but we were not really huggable, bit smelly and sweaty 🙁

We went into the woods, bit dark, Sarah used her phone torch as we were still refusing to get headtorches out 😀 We then got onto the beautiful river section that had so many steps, up and down – don’t know how our legs did it.  Then the thunderstorm started, it was absolutely pouring we were undercover but not for long. We embraced the rain and soldiered on until we hit the dark, dark woods :-O Headtorches out!!! If I had been on my own I doubt I would have got through here but together we were brave and had totally and utterly had enough and wanted it to be over. I knew this section but going the other way and I was trying to explain what was ahead – a long climb!! We got up it and onto the new path off the Eildons, it was lovely until we reached the unfinished section and it clogged up our shoes and we were carrying an extra kilo on each shoe 😀

We could then see the lights of Melrose and we were so happy, we blasted down and into the rugby club for a very underwhelming finishline but the best hug from Sarah!

As Jan said in her WHW epic report, friends and support are what is important when you set yourself a challenge. My challenge was less than half of hers but I am so grateful to Iain, Herbie and Sarah for getting me through my 7th Ultra marathon.

My body has suffered badly because of the heat, the details of which would put you off your tea but my muscles are fine – I was prepared for this race, I just couldn’t cope with the heat.

Will I do another Ultra? Not in the Summer that is for sure 😀



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Seven hills of Edinburgh 2019

I love this race, with it’s chaotic vibe. I seem to manage to find a different route every year! We had great weather and it was fantastic to have Dave and Michael out taking pics and giving encouragement.


26 Craig Davenport 2:28:35
95 Sadie Kemp 2:43:35
118 Anna Close 2:48:11
138 Susan Maxwell 2:52:27

131 Raymond Richford 2:25:25
167 Charlie Crawford 2:36:16

Allotment pics:

Michael Philp’s pics:

Our doubler:

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West Highland Way Race 2019

95 miles, through four counties, with 14,000 feet of climb and a 35-hour cut off. It’s a lot to take in, and it’s only just settling in my mind three days later. So much preparation, training, and planning went into this race that now it’s all over it’s taken me a while to process my emotions. It hit me late last night, sitting in my 4th salt bath in two days… I just ran 96 miles!! Yes, 96 on my watch due to the new finish line at the Nevis Centre, which is at least half a mile further than the old finish line at Lochaber Leisure Centre. And I ran as much of it as I possibly could, even when it felt like my legs might fall off. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but the most epic and humbling too.

So what possesses a 43-year old mum of three to want to run such a distance? Well, ultras are addictive. I entered my first as I turned 40 years old, as a rebellion against ageing. It seemed insurmountable at 31 miles. I did it and loved it. Then came Glen Ogle 33, just a bit further, and I loved that even more. How much further can I push it? Oh look, a 100k (St Cuthbert’s Way)! Which led me to the Devil O’ the Highlands, the Highland Fling, and on to the West Highland Way for the first time. Inspired by Chris and Gilly, who have also taken on the full distance, my path was set. This time, however, it really did feel insurmountable. The outcome was not certain, but I was willing to give it my best shot.

Training had gone really well and I’d put together a fantastic crew – Mark and Mairi on driving duties, Juliane and Sadie on running support. Juliane also came to Milngavie with us to register and helped Mark with food, drink, kit, etc. until her running leg at Auchtertyre. She then hopped into Mairi’s car at Glencoe to help her out until the finish. What an absolute star! They pampered me all day long and I didn’t have to do anything or worry about anything for the duration of the race. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

We assembled at the start in Milngavie train station and met up with fellow runners and crew. Graham and his crew looked fresh and excited, and Yan’s crew had painted their van in bright colours with “Team Yan Bro!” written on the side. He certainly wouldn’t miss them at checkpoints! We were all nervous though and you could feel the tension in the crowd as we gathered for the 1am start. Before we knew it, after a thorough briefing from Ian Beattie, race director, and Sean the race medic we were off up the steps onto Milngavie High Street, trying to stay as quiet as possible for the slumbering residents.

The first section to Drymen is pretty straightforward, and a bit boring to be honest. It was dark though and felt different lit up by all the head torches. I caught up with Graham and ran with him for a while, the chat helping the first miles fly by. I was very conscious not to run too fast and Graham and I were holding a similar pace. Yan passed us and had a quick chat but he soon disappeared into the distance. Then Graham dropped back and we began to run our own races. I wouldn’t see either of them again until the ceremony the next day.

The sun was rising as I headed up Conic Hill, so I switched off my head torch and took the opportunity to walk up the hill and admire the views of Loch Lomond. I called Mark as I reached the top to say I would be at Balmaha soon, and Chiara (fellow Project Awesome and ultra runner friend) sped past me and flew down the other side. It was tempting to try and catch her but I knew I’d need my quads in good shape for the descent into Kinlochleven in another 60 miles, so held back and trotted slowly down into Balmaha, arriving just behind my inside target in 3:36:58 (I’d estimated a window for each CP, with inside and outside times). Porridge, a banana, coffee and ready-filled bottles of water and Active Root greeted me as well as a change of top and buff. It felt so good to put on fresh clothes and I bounded out of the checkpoint feeling brand new.

I wouldn’t see my crew again for 30 miles, but had three drop-bags to collect along the way at Rowardennan, Inversnaid and Beinglas. I was eating really well at this point and was managing savoury snacks and Kendal mint cake. The loch was still, like a mirror, and the sun was getting warm. The trees along the loch provided adequate shelter so I never felt too hot. The midgies weren’t too bad at all, although I did have to fish a few out of my eyeballs and swallowed one or two more! The route drops onto the ‘low road’ just after Rowardennan, which, unlike the ‘high road’ taken by the Fling is gnarly, twisty, rocky, and frustratingly difficult to run on – almost as bad as the notorious ‘lochside’ section that heads out of Inversnaid. I did not enjoy the low road and hit my first low ebb here, but I usually have one about 21 miles in so wasn’t too concerned. I caught up with Chiara just as the path re-joined the high road, and she looked good and was in high spirits. It must have rubbed off on me as I started to feel really good as I approached Inversnaid. I took the opportunity to use nice, clean hotel toilets here, and prepared myself for the torturous route towards Beinglas. I was still feeling great though, so I put my iPod on and my head down and got on with it. Out of the three times I’ve now tackled this section this was by far my favourite. The high I was feeling lasted right out of the lochside and up past Dario’s Post. I blew him a kiss and patted his ‘head’ (the metal cone on top of the post is designed for this) as I went past. I never met Dario Melaragni, but know so many people that did that it felt right to pay my respects. A former WHW race director who died of a heart attack at too young an age ten years previously, Dario was instrumental in making the race as popular as it is now. The view from his post looks back down Loch Lomond and is the perfect spot to pause and reflect on the distance already travelled. But there was still plenty of distance left to travel so I didn’t stop!

On to Beinglas, which was Johnny Fling’s CP. In previous years crews would have met runners here, but space is really tight and the race wasn’t granted permission by the landowner this year. I’ve heard so many stories of blown tires and break downs on the road into Beinglas that I was quite glad Mark & Juliane didn’t have to come. Best they had a chance to sleep on route to Auchtertyre, and before the road up the west of Loch Lomond filled up with tourist buses.

I’m not too keen on the route out of Beinglas, but my iPod had enough charge to get me to Bogle Glen. As I approached the ‘Alley formerly known as Cow Poo’, Mötorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’ came on, which powered me towards Bogle Glen and to Chris Burns, who cheered me on and took a selfie. So lovely to see a friendly face! The rollercoaster through Ewich was really pleasant and far less painful than it had been at the Fling two months ago. The half way point and my crew were in sight!

The field usually used by crews at Auchtertyre had flooded in the days prior to the race so marshals were letting crews in for short periods at Strathfillan Farm when their runner was due in, waiting in Tyndrum until they got the call. I called Mark from the rollercoaster and as I arrived Juliane met me with more fresh clothes and took my race vest. I was weighed here and had only dropped about 1.5 kilos, so no cause for concern. I had some chicken noodle soup and was craving an apple so took that and ate it on the run. Juliane joined me from here, and it was lovely to have some company and a chat at last.

It was torture to run past the Fling finish line, no piper or cowbells, and still 42 miles to go! Juliane told me not to think about it though, and to enjoy the present moment. Very good advice! Up out of Tyndrum we climbed and onto Bridge of Orchy, where I’d heard the real race begins. My stomach bloated really badly on the trail out of Tyndrum, really quite uncomfortable and distracting. Must have been the chicken soup, or eating apples on the hoof? Anyway, another stop in the lovely clean toilets of Bridge of Orchy Hotel and I was right as rain again. Oh my, did I crave a pint of cold lager here. But no, save that for the finish line, if I made it in time for last orders. I made do with a good slug of cola instead.

The run up towards Jelly Baby hill, where race devotee Murdo McEwan waits with colourful trousers, flags and a tray of jelly babies (I took a red one) and towards Glencoe was amazing. I wouldn’t say it was another high, but I found a rhythm. Juliane was superb company and ran just ahead, pointing towards the softer bits of the path as she found them. From here to the end of the Fire Road into Fort William is relentlessly rocky trail, and it was already starting to take its toll on the soles of my feet. I had the right shoes though, Brooks Cascadia 13s, which left me with only a tiny blister on one toe and no pains in my feet the next day. My legs were another story (more on that later). I ran solidly along Rannoch Moor until the last uphill, which then drops down for two miles into Glencoe. I passed my previous furthest distance of 65 miles here, caught on camera by Juliane.

I’d had such a good run on this section that I arrived in Glencoe having made up a bit of lost time and clocked in at 16:09:19. That meant I was going to get to enjoy the Devil’s Staircase and hopefully the Lairig Mor in daylight. I ate some tomato pasta and drank fizzy water while the crew swapped over. Mairi took on the driving and Sadie got ready to run the rest of the way with me. Food was beginning to be a challenge though, and I couldn’t face the rice pudding I’d said I wanted so filled my pockets with more Kendal mint cake instead. I did promise to try and eat more pasta at Kinlochleven too. I said goodbye to Mark who was going to head to Fort William for a well-earned rest and to check in to our rooms at the Garrison hotel. Mairi and Juliane, who’d never met before this point, got acquainted and became firm friends by the end of the race!

Sadie and I headed off for the Devil’s Staircase and the relentless drop into Kinlochleven ten miles away. I was starting to feel really tired now and my left hip was complaining. I was looking forward to the Staircase as I knew I’d just be walking it, but even that felt really hard. I’m sure they extended it this year! A photographer was hiding half way up, so I ran for the camera and then quickly returned to puffing and panting as soon as he was out of sight. Eventually the top came and Sadie caught this superb photo.

You have to stop and look around here. It’s sublimely beautiful. Glencoe and Buachaille Etive Mor behind you, the sweeping Mamores in front. They looked stunning in the early evening light and lifted my flagging spirits. Ellie wrote in a post-race email to the harriers “What a great way to spend your time on this earth, moving through beautiful, vast parts of it under your own steam”. I couldn’t agree more. So, down into Kinlochleven we went, me feeling glad I’d taken it easy on Conic hill as my knees and quads held out really well. Half way down though my left hip started to really hurt. I’d taken paracetamol a couple of hours ago, so faced a long wait for some more. Then everything started to hurt, the relentless descent on rocky trail shuddering through a body that had already travelled almost 80 miles. We passed the Bunkhouse and got cheers from the campers and reached the Community Centre in 19:03:13, half way between my targets. I headed into the toilets with a change of clothes and was enjoying a wee rest when suddenly Juliane knocked on the door. “Jan, I think we have to move out of this checkpoint as soon as we can, I’ll explain outside!” I wrestled myself into my Harriers t-shirt and rushed out of the cubicle. Apparently I had been 3rd F40 up to that point, but the 4th was just behind me and threatening to jump ahead. So I scoffed a little more pasta, drank some cola and fizzy water and rushed out of the CP. In so much of a rush in fact that I forgot to take my head torch! It had been given to me but I’d put it back in the bag when I’d fumbled out of the toilets. I realised my mistake as we headed into the trial that leads up to the Lairig Mor. Sadie asked if we should go back for it. Out of the question! I texted the crew and asked them to come to Lundavra and give me it there, as it would hopefully just be getting dark then. I hadn’t wanted them to bother going there as it’s a nightmare of a road, but they gamely went, ever so apologetic for forgetting to check I had the torch. So, Sadie and I headed up the steep climb out of Kinlochleven towards the Lairig Mor, and that’s where things started to get really bad…

Poor Sadie had to put up with a lot from here to Lundavra! I had my first proper ultra meltdown. Tears, me whinging “Who’s idea was this?” and complaining about pain. Sadie gave me a hug and a pep talk, but just had to let me get on with it and put up with my lack of chat for quite a few miles! If she hadn’t been there though, I’m sure I’d have curled up on the side of the trail and sobbed. About half way along the Lairig Mor the 4th F40 passed me. I didn’t care. The pain in my hip was intense. I think the sleep deprivation was affecting my ability to handle pain and I couldn’t envision myself finishing in a positive way. I was going to get there though, no matter what. I started to think of something Fiona Rennie (ultra legend, two-time cancer survivor and 15-time WHW finisher) said. “Pain is a luxury of the living”. I thought about my beautiful friend Paula, who after years of struggling with her weight had found running and was completing half marathons, until a niggle in her back turned out to be an aggressive, metastatic breast cancer. She passed away 7 weeks after diagnosis, 5 days before her 39th birthday. I thought if she could see me now she’d kick me up the arse and tell me to get a grip. I ran the rest of the way for her.

Lundavra, the ‘party checkpoint’ finally appeared on the horizon, bonfire burning. Mairi and Juliane met me with my head torch wearing midgie hoods as they were really bad here! Norrie, my friend from Haddington Running Cub was here manning a photo booth, which provided comedy relief for tired minds. A balloon archway framed the route out of the CP and onto the final 7 miles into Fort Bill.

The sun started to set as we headed off on the narrow trail towards the Fire Road. My eyes began to play tricks on me and I saw faces in every rock, and every tree trunk was an animal of some sort in the gloaming. We passed, then were passed by the same pair of runners a couple of times before we eventually lost them on the last climb up to the forest. We could see trails of head torches coming off the Ben (or going up, I couldn’t be sure) as we began the long slog down into Glen Nevis. There were tiny frogs on the track, which I was careful not to step on but it looked like a few had come a cropper from earlier runners. Down, down, down we went, everything hurting in equal measure. I’d taken some paracetamol at Lundavra, which had taken the edge off a little, but I think my body had just got fed up of sending pain signals to a brain that was wilfully ignoring it. Ultra legend Yiannis Kouros insists, “Pain is the reality, but your mind can inspire you past it”. Coming out of Kinlochleven I was convinced that this was utter bollocks. Coming down the Fire Road I wasn’t so sure. It’s frankly amazing what you can put your body through when you have the will to succeed. Bar my limbs falling off I was going to get to bloody Fort William! Sadie asked if I wanted something to eat or drink but I muttered, “No, just want to get to the finish!” My appetite had disappeared and I was surviving on sips of water and Active Root. Eventually the trail flattened out and took us out onto the Glen Nevis Road. Sadie called Mark to let him know we were nearly there. We ran past the old finish at Lochaber Leisure Centre and across the road, finally reaching the finish at the Nevis Centre where Mark, Juliane and Mairi were waiting and cheering. I crossed the line in 23 hours, 13 minutes and 27 seconds, well within my target of 24 hours. To be honest, I didn’t care about time at the finish. In fact the finish line marshal had to remind me to stop my watch! I was more focussed on the fact I’d been able to dig myself out of a massive hole and finish strong and happy! No tears, just smiles.

My crew immediately took over my welfare and I was offered tea and toast by about four different marshals. I joked to one of them that ultras are a bit like childbirth – it hurts for hours, you swear never again, then are offered tea and toast and are so happy you forget about all the pain! I sat down for only the second time in 96 miles trying to take in what had just happened. Then it was time to get to the hotel to get washed and warmed up and in to bed. After only a couple of hour’s kip I woke up with throbbing pain in both legs. I struggled out of bed and lay on the floor with my legs up the wall, but that didn’t help. I slathered Biofreeze on my hips, which barely took the edge off. Eventually I lay on my slightly less sore hip with a pillow between my knees and checked the live results to see how my running buddies were doing. Yan had finished half an hour ahead of me, while Graham was still out on the trail. Eventually I drifted off to sleep after another couple of paracetamol.

Mark and I met Mairi and Juliane for a hearty breakfast in the hotel restaurant the next morning. I still didn’t have much of an appetite, but it was good to get some hot cooked food down me. Then it was off to the prize giving to collect my goblet. I finally saw Yan and Graham, who both looked remarkably fresh. The atmosphere in the Nevis Centre was amazing. Runners and crew, marshals and families, all gathered to celebrate an epic adventure. There were tears and hugs and cheers as each and every finisher walked, staggered and in one case had to be helped up to collect their prized crystal goblet. The final finisher, who arrived only half an hour before the ceremony to rapturous applause, was awarded his goblet by the winner of the race. A wonderful gesture, closing the circle of what is an incredibly inclusive and diverse event. I collected my goblet from John Kynaston (the race team were taking turns to hand them out), which I was really chuffed about, as his podcasts had been absolutely essential in my planning and run up to the race. I cradled it like a newborn baby, feeling welcomed at last into the West Highland Way Race family.

I’ve heard previous runners say that “nothing is ever the same again” after this race and I can understand why. To have toed the line along one of Scotland’s toughest, most beautiful trails, all in one go is truly humbling. There’s definitely a ‘face’ people pull when they ask how far the race was – a mixture of disbelief and wonder. That’s exactly how I feel right now. There is so much more I could say, but I’ve wittered on for long enough. Well, just one more thing… never again!

Yan Horsburgh (Harrier at heart) – 63rd, 22:42:43
Jan Dawson – 75th, 23:13:27
Graham Flockhart – 173rd, 31:41:17

Full results here:

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Eildons Hill Race 2019: In Sarah’s dust…….

While other members of the Harriers were performing remarkable feats of endurance, Sarah and I had a more “leisurely” time around the Melrose Eildons.

7.2kms and 480m of climb – short, but not so sweet – a tough fast little fell race. The race route takes you across all 3 of the Eildon Hills but, this year, in a different order to that of the Eildon’s Trail race or Jedburgh Ultra.

Eildons Three Hill Race Route

The race is part of the local Melrose Highland games so there is a nice atmosphere and one needs to be very careful to run the correct race – it would be embarrassing to lose the egg and spoon race.

The climb up to the 1st peak is a real thigh burn, but from the summit it is all rather runnable and a little mad as the paths are often more scree than path.

At the start gun, I did my usual and sprinted off to get some seconds of glory. Soon however, as the my legs started getting heavy, runners started passing me – including Sarah. I was determined to keep her in sight.

This was my first short race of the year and I certainly had not trained for this kind of intensity. My calves and thighs were screaming, but I manage to at least Keep Sarah in sight for most of the race. The final descent was a blur of mad arm waving and screaming muscles as we went back down into the warm temperatures of the town. The heat in the sun after crossing the finish line was intense and everyone looked like they were melting.

Of 92 runners, Sarah came in 11th (2nd lady and 1st in her category). I came in a rather sweaty 20th, but at least got a PB which aint bad at my age.

Nice to be back attempting some speedy running.



Sarah McKechnie 00:44:29

Rob Wilson 00:45:49

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Corstorphine 5 Mile Road Race – 5 June 2019

A cool but thankfully dry evening saw a good collection of runners assemble for the latest CAAC 5 Mile road race.

Despite being a Wednesday night and with a hill grand prix race also taking place at Red Moss Kips, there was a healthy turnout from the Harriers. Me, Charlie, John, Ritchie and Zoe were all competing and coach Dave was there supporting and offering encouragement.

It’s a race I always look forward to as I enjoy the midweek races and this is long enough to be worthwhile but short enough to be able to go reasonably fast.

The route is on the open road starting from the end of Turnhouse Road and circling Turnhouse Golf Course and Cammo. There is a fast downhill start before doubling almost towards the town and round Cammo, a good uphill is quickly followed by a sharp downturn in the road to the 3 mile mark. Just before the 4 mile mark there is another incline before the course drops to a fast finish just off Turnhouse Road.

This year it was chip timing and there were no entries on the night. At only £6 for entry it is good value.

Our Harriers did well amongst a strong field where the race was won in a time of 26:44.

Harriers results below:

Bib Name RaceTime ChipTime Gender Age Team RANK
121 John Gibbs 00:28:32 00:28:28 M 38 Penicuik Harriers M 11
94 Ritchie Thomson 00:28:41 00:28:38 M 34 Penicuik Harriers M 15
202 Allan Dunbar 00:33:21 00:33:14 M 43 Penicuik Harriers M 74
193 Charlie Crawford 00:36:22 00:36:10 M 40 Penicuik Harriers M 118
195 Zoe Fowler 00:37:20 00:37:09 F 39 Penicuik Harriers F 129

There were bananas and water for finishers at the end of the race and, as I only discovered much later, a selection of tray bakes and other sweet treats were also available to those that managed to find them.

As always a really well organised and competitive race. Thanks to Corstorphine AAC for putting it on.

Sorry I don’t have any photos – I think Dave got a shot of us after the race but I’ve not seen it yet.

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Strathearn marathon 2019

About the route: ‘predominantly quiet B roads in Strathearn, starting and finishing at the Cultybraggan Camp just outside Comrie, with about 1500 feet of ascent. The route initially heads south west up Glen Artney before a turn back to the east and then south on the B827 towards Braco. This stretch of the route gets up to a height of nearly 800ft. Just after the 10 mile mark, the route joins the A822 north for a short stretch before carrying on along the route of the old Roman road, and then joining quiet back roads into the southern edges of Crieff. At the 18.5 mile mark, the route turns west along the South Crieff Road to Comrie, before returning to Cultybraggan. The Strathearn Marathon is organised by Strathearn Harriers with assistance from the Comrie Development Trust, owners of Cultybraggan Camp.’

Route profile:

I think this is the fourth time I have completed this marathon and I am sure I will return another year. I love the friendly and relaxed atmosphere and the real character of the race. Although I was a few minutes slower than last year it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the beautiful course. John and Adam got super times on such a hilly route. The weather was kind to us too with only a few light rain showers and the sun trying to break through the clouds. There was a downpour just after I finished so I made a hasty retreat back to the car and didn’t stay to enjoy the lovely spread of food that is always on offer. The marshals were so supportive and I like the fact the race organisers are trying to become more sustainable by providing compostable paper cups at the water stations. The medal was fantastic this year being made of local pottery.

About the medal: ‘We commissioned fantastic local pottery artists MoKa (based at Cultybraggan Camp) to design and create a stoneware squirrel medal and with support from our friends at House of Tartan in Crieff, have teamed this up with a very smart Strathearn tartan ribbon (yes – the very same that Kate Middleton has sported at various royal events)! We think they look fabulous and we hope you do too. The best thing is that they are all unique and are in keeping with our ethos of supporting local businesses and products.’

Pos Name Time Cat Pos Gen Pos
2 John Gibbs 02:48:04 Top 3 Overall 2 2
4 Adam Gray 02:51:26 1 4
53 Sadie Kemp 03:49:25 4 11
102 Tracy Philp 04:17:12 7 32

It was fantastic to have Michael Philp among the photographers and he got some great shots of all the runners. Here are some of his:

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Scottish Mountain Marathon – Mark and Julian’s 2 day race

The Scottish Mountain Marathon has taken the place of the previous orienteering marathon run by LAMM (Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon). After looking into all the kit requirements for this race I was not going to take part, as you need a tent that’s super light and packs down small, which are around £400! I’d never manage to get my bulky Vango two man tent into a small rucksack, although it is great for general camping. However Julian Hall had one and agreed to join up with me on this two person team event. We were an unlikely match as a team as Julian is a much faster runner than myself. We however agreed to go for it as Julian wasn’t sure of having an injury over the training period. It turned out Julian turned his ankle very badly up the Pentlands just over a month before the race and was unsure if he could take part. Thankfully with Tim Doyle’s help he was cautiously match fit for the day. With this in mind we switched from the B course down to the easier C course.

Julian came round a few days before the race to go over kit packing as mountain marathons need you to keep your backpack weight right down as you’re running with all your camping kit as well as food and a stove etc. It was great Julian had a smaller one season sleeping bag I could borrow too. Again mine was too bulky.

My navigation is okay when the mist isn’t down, but I knew I’d have trouble without a GPS if the weather was bad with little visibility. GPS’s and smart phones are banned from the race as it’s all about self navigation. Julian has run many such events, and so I thought we’d be fine even if the weather did turn. The forecast was for terrible weather and I was a bit fed up as the last five races I’ve done have been in heavy rain, and even in storm Callum for Lakes in a Day last October!

Rob Wilson was also running with a work friend called Tim Kinnaird who hadn’t done any hill races, but was a fast road runner. They were also running the C course. This made for great car sharing up to Torridon for the race. Julian picked me up at 1.45 and met up with Rob and Tim in Perth, where Rob drove us up from there. We stopped of for a meal on the way up, but had breakfast booked for the morning before the race which was great. We got up there for 8:00 and registered. I picked up my pre ordered T-Shirt which was an extra cost to the race price.


We got our tents up and had a beer in the main tent before heading to bed. I didn’t get much sleep but was fine in the morning for the race. After an age of faffing around I finally got my pack sorted out with plenty of time before the start times of between 8:00 and 10:00 (This was an open period where you could start any time between then). I got quite a slagging off for how much I had packed, as mountain marathon runners pack down to next to nothing to keep weight to a minimum. I had taken a tooth brush and some plasters which was seen as an outrageous thing to pack for weight 🙂 Very amusing but I wasn’t going without brushing my teeth over the 2 day race. I had also packed a thin puffer jacket which is very light and packs down to nothing. More than on the kit requirements but I’d like to have it if I had an injury up there. It turned out to be great as both nights got really cold in the tent.

We were very lucky with the weather in the end! It was lashing down back in Penicuik but sunny up in the Attadale Forest in the south of the Torridon area. We set off at 8:45 and my back pack with the tent, sleeping bag, food and other kit did feel quite hard to get used to for the first mile, but I was fine after that. I was however feeling quite dehydrated as we headed up the steep hills in the sun. I finished off all the water I had in my bottle and filled it up right away from a small stream. We knew this would work fine as there had been a lot of rain and the rivers were really swollen. It was great that Julian’s ankle wasn’t causing him any trouble and he led the way with his brilliant navigation skills. Even with Julian being injured he was still quite a bit faster. We all had dibbers to put into devises that bleeped and tagged you as completing that point. There were 8 on Saturday and 7 on Sunday to get round. The highest hill of the day was a Graham called Creag Dhubh Mhor at the 5th point. A bit further on we stopped very briefly to get a few snacks out of our backpacks for lunch, and I also regularly grabbed an energy bar etc. along the way too keep me going (Julian didn’t need much himself). The views were fantastic with perfect visibility. We could see the Munros up to the north and even over to the Cuillin in Skye. By the time we got in to the finish line I was quite knackered but with nothing sore which was brilliant.

We quickly got the tent up as we could see rain clouds quickly coming our way. By the time it was up it was bucketing down. We were so relieved we weren’t still out there. We had however to wait quite a while till we could cook our dinner after it had all passed. Rob and Tim had been back for quite a while before us, so had plenty of chilling out time at the camp site. We got in at around 2:00, so there was ages to kill before going to bed! Rob and a Swedish team were neck and neck throughout the day and they had camped right next to us, so there was some friendly banter between the two teams over the afternoon. The Swedes were having a great time and it was good to listen to their language as we sat in our tent away from the rain. Julian could have a sleep instantly wherever he lay down but I couldn’t, but still had a good rest while the rain battered down. It finally cleared and we all went for a short walk along the trail to ease out our legs for tomorrows run. We had an early night and I got a much better nights sleep. As well as Saturday, we also had the piper to wake us up at 6:00 which was really great to start off the day. There was a lot of clapping from around the dozens of tents when he / she had stopped. We got up quite quickly and I had some porridge which involved just poring boiling water into a tub and waiting one minute. Our dinner from the previous night was pot noodles as this was also a quick meal with carbs that was also just adding water. I had thought of pasta but that’s a lot of boiling time as Julian had pointed out earlier, as we wanted a small tin of gas to pack.

There wasn’t too much to do in the morning as I had slept in my Sunday set of running gear and we set off at 8:00. We headed right up a very steep hill and we were then on our way up a Corbett called Beinn Dronaig. I was very pleased to have something to tick off in my Corbett book. The views were fantastic from there, and there was a lot of runners taking a break there. We dibbed our timers in the machine at the top and were on our way to the next point. When we got there, there was a runner that had a drone buzzing around everywhere and he was standing in the way of the check point, which meant we missed it to start with, but Julian was quickly on it. Another couple of runners had missed it for this reason but had gone much further down the slope.


There were quite a few more steep hills here and there, but there was one check point where people were really finding it hard to find as it was around a few lochans. They had missed the contour lines showing it was a bit higher up from right down next to the lochan. It was quite tough going towards the last check point as I realised I had only had a couple of energy bars since breakfast. I was starting to feel quite burnt out without being able to get into my backpack for another jell or energy bar while running. We were however very close to the end and we headed down towards the finish line. We had a bit of a dash to beat another team before finishing. Rob and Tim were waving us on from their tent as they saw us approaching.

Again the rain was about to come in quite quickly after being so great over our running time. There was a bit of a rush to get my tent down which we had left there from Friday night, before it got wet. We just made it and got back into our normal clothes before it started bucketing down again! We went back to the main tent and had our very hearty free after race meal. There wasn’t any cups for the coffees and I had left my collapsible camping one in the car after changing, so I had a beer which was brilliant!

Rob and Tim had a very fast race coming 6th after a mad chase with a Swedish team throughout all of the day. Unfortunately they couldn’t quite catch them over the last stretch.

If you want to see a lot of an area you’d like to visit in a very short time, a mountain marathon is fantastic to take part in. You just have to invest in or borrow much lighter, smaller kit than normally needed, and have some navigational knowledge. Things would be quite tricky if the mist came down and landmarks were not so easy to see.

Rob and Tim’s times:
Saturday 03:51:57
Sunday 03:57:03
Total 07:49:00

Myself and Julian times:
Saturday 05:16:58
Sunday 05:44:48
Total 11:01:46
Also our veteran handicap time reduced to 10:02:12

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Scottish Mountain Marathon (SMM) – 2019: Rob and Tim’s Story

After the sordid flu-induced disaster of 2018’s Mountain Marathon on Harris, I was determined to give Gregor a “good time” in 2019. However, after registering in January for the SMM, he came back to me a month later saying he would not be fit enough, and could I find someone else. Enter stage right – Michelle Hetherington – one of the top V50 Scottish women on the long hill race and Ultra circuit. I knew she was partner-less and she jumped at the chance of dragging me around some rugged hills for two days. On longer 3-4-hour hill races we are well balanced and are usually within 10 mins of each other. Disaster struck however two weeks ago when she sliced her knee open on the Jura Hill race and had to pull out of the SMM. Exit stage left – I was partner-less again.

After many e-mails and discussions, I managed to persuade a colleague, Tim Kinnaird – who has run several half/full marathons and a few shortish ultras – to join me. With a week to go, he ran consecutive days of 20 kms (with a little hill climb ?) and e-mailed me and said he felt he could do it. Although I had originally signed-up for the B course (~55kms, ~2500m over two days), we felt, wisely, that Tim’s lack of experience off-track meant that we should do the C course (~45kms, ~2000m over two days). In hindsight, this was definitely the right thing to have done.

Rob and Tim - raining at registration

Rob and Tim – raining at registration

So – last Friday, I picked a very nervous Tim up from Cupar, and met Julian Hall and Mark Dawson (also running the C-course) at the Broxden Park and Ride and so started the road trip up to Attadale in the NW Highlands. The drive was sunny and beautiful, but the forecast was not good. The drive was lovely, but the heavens opened as soon as we got to Attadale for registration. Luckily, it was just a heavy shower and we soon registered, pitched our tent and tried to go to bed early so we would be fresh the next day. I don’t know about the others, but I did not sleep well at all. Nerves getting the best of me again.

Mountain marathons generally follow no tracks and require pretty good experience for navigation. The C-course is the easiest of the courses, with the Elite class covering 75kms (4000m) over two days. Tim and I started around 8.40am (choice between 8-10am start) with Julian and Mark starting a little later.

Start!!! An epic awaits for Tim, Rob, Mark and Julian

For reference – see full map at the end of this post.

The first kilometre was tarmac, and Tim set a way too quick pace with me telling him he would suffer later. We constantly passed teams who had started at 8am. As the single-track road changed to track and then a small path and then no path, the pace thankfully slowed down. The first main climb of the day up to checkpoint (CP) 1 was about 300 metres and I think this was when Tim realised what he was getting himself in for.  However, before we knew it, we had dibbed our first point (always a good mental boost) and the next few check points (2, 3 and 4) went by in a blur of bouncing descent and bog hopping. There was even a short section of trail to keep Tim happy.

day1 – profile

The 2nd major climb of the day, another 300+ metres, however, hit Tim hard and he was struggling with eating and leg fatigue. On reaching the top at CP5 we then had a rather straightforward descent and contour to CP6. However, Tim slowed considerably here, but I politely forced some salted crisps down him and by the time we got to CP6, he seemed to have recovered somewhat. After a boggy bouncy jog, we had a short sharp climb up to CP7 followed by a 3km decent across tussocky heather and grass down to the last CP and the last kilometre of track to the mid-point camp. Overall, day 1 had been quite straight-forward. The navigation had been very easy and the terrain mostly bouncy and not too technical. That would change somewhat for day 2.

Mid Camp

our 3rd meal I think at the mid camp

When we arrived, hardly anyone had come in yet and we were the 3rd team to build a tent. There were almost 200 teams running that day. The weather had been perfect – maybe too warm in the lower elevations – and we in fact had a very nice 2 hours lounging around the tent eating and drinking before the rains finally hit around 2.30. It rained rather heavily for 3 hours and we all bunkered into our rather small 2-man tents. Teams were still out running in the poor weather and we were simply very thankful that we did not have to put up the tent or run in that! The weather improved a little for the evening and everyone started emerging to chat and take short walks to ease off achy muscles. We, after all, had to do it all over again the next day.

It thankfully did not rain again overnight, and we woke up to a dry but marginally cooler day. It turned out that Tim and I had done quite well and were 6th. We were also in the racing start. What this meant was that at 8am the 1st team (two young 16-year olds who were not allowed in higher courses) started day 2. As we were 56 minutes behind them, we could not start until 8.56 am. Meanwhile, for anyone not in the racing start, they could start day 2 anytime between 7 and 9am – Julian and Mark – being further down the order left about an hour before we did. Tim and I were the 2nd-to-last team to leave the site. This meant that everyone running the C course was in front of us – lots of people to catch up. The team at 5th place – the Swedes as we called them – becuase they were from Sweden 🙂 – were only 4 minutes in front of us, and papa Swede (father son team) obligingly had a bright yellow backpack so we could always see them ahead.

Day 2 profile until km 14 when Tim’s watch died

So – the day-2 route – to get Tim in the zone – started with a ~600 m climb. Ugh! This was a steady steep  affair and was a great warm up. On reaching the summit CP1, we had made up some time on the Swedes and were only about 30-60 seconds behind them. Game on. Competition. This is what I run for and love. We flew along the ridge between CP 1 and 2, and we certainly went way to quickly on the steep descent down to CP3 – me oblivious to Tim tumbling all over the place behind me with his flailing road/trail runner legs. Happily, no broken legs. The Swedes had however gained on us again, and we saw them disappear off over the next rise. They however had taken the straight-line route up and over a small hill. Time for some smart navigation. We took the longer contouring route round without any major climb and caught the Swedes up at CP4. 🙂 The hardest navigation of the day was between CP4 and 5. While most teams took the compass straight line route, I again felt that the slightly longer contouring route would be better – but riskier. CP 5 was nestled between some lochs so I hoped it would be obvious when we got there. So – between these points, Tim and I were running alone. Everyone was above us somewhere out of sight. After about 2kms, I started getting twitchy. Had I messed up – where were the lakes? I stopped a couple of times to triangulate – convinced I must be right – but where were the damn lakes. While doing this a second time, thinking I had somehow royally screwed up, Tim had jogged ahead and shouted – “There’s a loch!”). We had done it. If I had not worried so much we would have been ahead of the Swedes, who had just left the CP as we got there. We raced after them and we caught them up (plus the 4th team) at CP4. Phew – what an epic this was turning out to be!

Unfortunately, the mad rush from CP1 to 6 had done its toll on my legs. I was goosed and the climb out of CP6 and the long 2+ kms of bog to CP7 was my low point. I stuffed everything into my system to try and get some energy back. By the time we had reached CP7 the Swedes were off in the distance. No chance with my legs wobbling to catch them. So we focused on trying to find the optimal route for the last 4kms down to the finish line. There were lots of areas ‘out of bounds’ which allowed for only 3 route options. We took the most direct one, but in hindsight we should have first gone NE and joined a track that went northwards down to the valley. In our rush, we missed the track on the map. Our descent was therefore very rough and the so-called “intermittent track” did not exist. Although some semblance of strength had come back to my legs, Tim did not like the rough terrain at all. However, by the time we crossed the finish line, we were only 10 mins behind the Swedes. They had simply had that extra bit of fitness and very much deserved their place. The second half of day 2 had been much tougher than day 1 – trickier terrain and more complex navigation but to be honest we had nailed it pretty good. Fitness had cost us possibly a place or two, but we are not grumbling at all.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing this year. We retained our place and finished 6th overall (53 finishers in the C course). Day 1: 03:51:57 and Day 2: 03:57:03. Total: 07:49:00. Pretty consistent to be honest. This was Mark’s first MM and with the ginormous size of his backpack, coming in 33rd with a total time of 11:01:46 was very respectable. I am sure he will say more in his report – and possible Julian would say a LOT more about “weight advantage” 🙂 .

Day 1 in black – Day 2 in blue

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Red moss kips 2019

Looking out my window at teatime I was regretting my decision to pre-enter the race this year. The rain was battering down and I was picturing myself as a drowed rat at the top of West Kip. As it turned out I needn’t have panicked as by race time the cloud had lifted and the rain had eased. Unfortunately this gave way to clouds of midgies and we were all jumping around like highland dancers trying to ward them off. Once the race got underway this wasn’t a problem and we were able to enjoy a lovely, if a little muddy race.

13 Adam Gray M 0:48:02
91 Sadie Kemp F40 1:08:04
93 Chris Downie M55 1:08:58

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Cheviot Trail Marathon

We left Wooler on our way to Kirk Yrtholm in hot sunshine and it was only 9am!

A steep uphill for nearly a mile on the road wasn’t the best start but we soon went into the woods, trails and more hills. The route to Kirk Yetholm takes you across fields, over open moorland  and through little hamlets with the most beautiful houses. When in the hills you couldn’t look up from the path very often but when you did the views were stunning!

Touching the wall was pretty cool at Kirk Yetholm, a quick camelbak fill up and then straight back up the massive hill we had just run down. I was nice running back the way you had come because you knew what to expect but you wouldn’t believe how many people went the wrong way!  I had my usual struggles and aches about mile 19 but kept going and was encouraged by lovely walkers who you see lots of on the route.

Very relieved to finish and have a proper chat with the various people that I had run with during the race.

Some photos

Map of the route

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Penicuik Harriers 36th Penicuik 10k Road Race

The weather was perfect, the club members had swept (with brushes) the course the week before, had volunteered for lots of jobs and then turned up on the day with their baking and their enthusiasm ready to support the runners!

The winner was Neil Renault, Edinburgh AC (33.12), second place was Darrell Hastie, Gala Harriers (33.27) and third place was Iain Whitaker, Edinburgh AC (33.45).

The ladies race was a little more spread out with the winner being Freya Ross, Falkirk Victoria Harriers (37.10), second place was Kirstin Maxwell, Gala Harriers (39.38) and third place was Jocelyn Moar, Edinburgh AC (41.04).

A record pre-entry of 280 led to a start-line of 261 which was a record by 1

Grateful thanks to all the runners for bringing contributions for the foodbank, the Penicuik North Kirk were overwhelmed with the amount of bags. Also, thanks for the donations for the post-race refreshments, we raised £330 which will be split between our chosen charities Macmillan Cancer Care and The Penicuik Youth Band. This amount was boosted by a generous donation from the runner who required medical assistance during the race, he wanted to thank Penicuik Harriers for looking after him so well.

Our Sponsors that support our club annually and allow us to be able to put this event on are: Run & Become, Stuart & Stuart, Headcases Hair Studio, Fraser Murray Car Sales, Tesco and Flowers By Lindsey.

Scottish Athletics officials give up their time for our race and their expertise is much appreciated.

896 Penicuik Air Cadets were at the water station handing out water to our runners, no doubt much appreciated.

Our wonderful photographers out on the course captured the day well, I’m sure you’ll agree! A link to some are below, I will try and get a link to Chris’s too…

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to comment on facebook, the website or email – we are quite blown away by the positivity and thanks.

The date for next year’s race is Saturday 9th May 2020 – hope to see you there!!

Michael Philp’s Photos

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London Marathon – 28 April 2019

Many of you have ran in London previously (I ran last year,  it was way too warm!!) and as you’ll know, I was lucky enough to receive the club place for London 2019 😀

The bit before London 2019…

Before my first ‘race report’ I thought it might be useful to add a wee bit of context about how I ended up on the start line of London 2019.  I’m relatively new to ‘racing’ (my debut was our own 10k race in 2017) so hopefully this might help others who come from a limited background of running.

I’ve always been reasonably active (and accident prone!), playing football locally for Whitehall Welfare for many years (Dave can confirm, he’s seen the pics at Roswell at the Lasswade 10!!) – highlight of that was being part of the squad that played against Celtic in the Scottish Cup in 1996.  I say ‘squad’ as rather unfortunately I broke my leg playing against Gala Fairydean a few weeks before the Celtic game.  I moved on from football and after years of OU study, career stuff and starting a family (I’ve two girls, 18 and 21) I finally got back to a level of fitness, mainly social running and cycling – until a disagreement with a lorry at Howgate led to a first hand appreciation of the NHS that summer.

Fast-forwarding now to early 2017, the running group I was part of at my gym disbanded and I decided to drop Susie a note about coming along to the Harriers :-).  As I said earlier, my first race was our 10k race in May 2017, 47:21 minutes.  That year I ran a few park runs, 10k races and half marathons; those HM’s seemed to go on forever!!, before deciding to apply to run for The Multiple Sclerosis Society at the London Marathon in 2018 (my Mum has MS).  When the MS Society accepted me into their team of runners for London 2018 I decided then that I would seek sponsorship for London and Edinburgh marathons.   New York was added to my list after I was fortunate enough to come through the ballot (I applied on a whim late one night, only a couple of days before the ballot closed).  2018 would be London-Edinburgh-New York.

2018 – London, Edinburgh, New York

Julianne reported on London 2018, so I won’t go over that again.  London 2018 was my first marathon, making it over the finish line in 3:48:59.  The temperature made my time almost respectable but I’d trained for 16 weeks and 3:48 wasn’t what I thought I was capable of!  Lucky (???) for me the Edinburgh Marathon was next, only 5 weeks later….3:38…..better, but maybe still carrying London in my legs?  New York (November) training went well and I managed my first sub 3:30 marathon, finishing in 3:28:30 – a time that qualified me for a good-for-age place in Chicago 2019…

…You get the picture now 😀  I’ve been taken over by this bloody running thing!!!!  2019 was to be Edinburgh and Chicago.  I had applied to run in London through the ballot but wasn’t successful – and then the Harriers place luckily enough came my way :-D, I now had the opportunity to settle my unfinished business with London.  2019 would be London-Edinburgh-Chicago.

2019 – London

Let me be honest from the start, this has now become a bit of a quest (I’m sure you’ll recognise this).  My challenge for this year was to qualify for a good-for-age place for Boston 2020, meaning I’d have to run around 3:20 (the qualifying history suggesting that the cut-off will be around 5mins quicker than 3:25)

Having had the experience of running three marathons I decided that this year I would run a couple of more races and not just the marathon plan I’d mostly followed for my previous three marathons and maybe the odd hill run (yes, hill runs are ‘odd’ for me).  Training started on Hogmanay and was quickly followed by the Portobello Promathon on New Years Day.  Most of my training runs are in the morning and these go well throughout the 17-week plan.  Further races follow at the Devil’s Burden (thanks to the ‘old gits’ for looking after me – my very first team prize!!), Lasswade (…that was tough!  great day for the Harriers though!!) and the Alloa HM.  In amongst all this Gemma dragged me around the Pentland’s a few times too!

London was fast approaching, I’d made it through to taper with no injuries and feeling stronger thanks to all the help and support – at last, my race report actually begins!!

I made my way down to London on the Friday, picking my things up from ExCeL centre on the Friday.

From the excitement of picking up my envelope at the ExCeL it was to the DLR and off to my Airbnb at Crossharbour and my final training run – around 30 mins of easy running with some strides. Around 1,200 km’s of training since hogmanay.  A good meal and off to bed early – couldn’t sleep but at least I tried!!  My plans for the Saturday were borne out of my 2018 London experience, no wandering around London sightseeing (I managed to walk for around 18,000 steps!) – I’d booked into Avengers End Game at the local Cineworld – seems like everyone had he same idea as it was rammed!!  Anyway, that killed loads of time and after a good lunch and a pint of peppermint tea I settled down to watch the football results, then my favourite pre-marathon meal – time passed really quickly and before I knew it I was organising my kit for Sunday (yes, I packed way too much)…

Finally made it into bed around 10pm, remarkably got to sleep quite early – my tried and trusted method of listening to, A Brief History of Mathematics!  Seriously, I like this!

Race Day (…at last!)

I was up around 7am, my usual porridge breakfast and off to the start.  I was only a few DLR stops away from the start at Blackheath.

I always think there’s going to be loads of time to prepare and finalise before handing my bag to the drop – never quite works out that way for me.  Anyway, before I knew it I had all my kit in my bag, and top off to tape up my sensitive bits and off I went to the start!

I COULD DO THIS, I COULD FOLLOW MY PLAN AND RUN 3:20, I WOULD RUN AVERAGE 4:40-45 MIN/KM – that’s what I’d been telling myself for the last few days.  Anything less would have been disappointing.  That’s just the way it was for me.

Off into my 2nd wave pen and before I knew it I was jogging through the start line.  The chill of the breeze quickly disappeared and I steadied into my running, knowing the first few km’s were slightly down hill I was happy to run around 4:30-35 min/km pace, but I was holding back, I knew from previous races not let my legs  rather than my head dictate what was going on.  As the course flattens out and the blue, red and green starts merge it’s a little more difficult to find my own space to run – if you know London, you’ll know that’s part of the challenge.  Everything is going to plan, a gel every 30 minutes, two jelly babies in between each gel and a little water at every stop….I’D PLANNED FOR THIS AND IT WAS GOING WELL!

That’s me at Cutty Sark, around 5 or 6 miles I think.

As half-way approached I was feeling good, comparing it to how I felt in 2018, this was good.  I ran around 1:38 for the first half, that felt good and on track, I knew the second half was tougher, more undulating in the final 10k.  The post-race stats suggested I’d passed 1,762 runners and 326 had passed me – interesting!

The second half continues in much the same fashion – I’m sticking to my plan and can gradually feel the challenge of the pace and race setting in.  I’m ok though, i’m not leaking lots of time, not really much at all and not a large drop-off in pace that I’ve faced before.  This planning the extra miles and experience of the marathons before is really helping!  The final 10km’s had arrived and I knew I was digging in now (only 2 park runs to go!) – the final 5k and I start thinking about the finish, the right turn off Embakment, through Parliament Square and up to Bird Cage walk – I’d give it what I had left from Parliament Square…

…and I got there…!


Whilst feeling tired and a bit sore – I knew I’d done what I set out to do and trained 17 weeks for, sub 3:20 and 4:40 min/km!  My 2nd half was around 1:40, passing 1,214 runners and (only) 56 passing me!

At this point I should say, the crowds in London are amazing – the sheer number, the level of support and absolute good nature is brilliant, amazing support all the way around – and I mean ALL THE WAY!

Funnily enough shortly after the finish I ended up being asked to take someone’s finishing picture – she was from Carnethy!!  I headed off to meet up with a few EAC runners in Covent Garden to reflect on the race – as they set-off for dinner I decided another quite beer / celebration was in order…

And that’s my journey to the finish line (and slightly beyond) for London 2019.

If you get the chance, run London, it’s amazing!!  Thank-you once again to the Harriers for the club place – I’m now at peace with London 😉

Thanks all for reading – I’ll make the next one shorter!  Hahahaha….




Next marathon stops for me;

  • Edinburgh, 26 May
  • Chicago, 13 October
  • Boston, 20 April 2020 (…hopefully!)

My marathon journey so far…

  • 2018, London, 3:48:59
  • 2018, Edinburgh,  3:38:01
  • 2018, New York, 3:28:30
  • 2019, London, 3:18:23




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Hunters bog trot Saturday, 27 April 2019

We had fantastic weather for this years bog trot. With glorious sunshine and warmer than expected temperatures. The route was altered as there had been some rock fall on the Radical Road so they were unable to use this section as it is currently closed to the public. This led to much discussion before the race as to where exactly the route went.

And much discussion afterwards as to whether it was prefered to the traditional one.
It was great to have Bill there at the start and he reminded us we should be warming up before hand. Being a shorter race it is quite intense and demanding. At the prize giving I was shocked to be awarded the FV40 prize and Des won MV50, beer galore! Juliane came away with a spot prize of some brown socks in true HBT fashion.


Des 35:50
Juliane 46:05
Sadie 49:53
Chris 51:38

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Kassios Dias “Twin Peaks” Trail Race


The Kassios Dias running festival takes place on the Greek island of Corfu and features a number of trail races of varying distances, all held on the same day, that showcase the mountainous forest terrain.  This year was the 9th running of the event, but the first time with all-new extended routes: a 35km “Twin Peaks” trail, 19km “Erimitis” trail, 9km charity race and a 1200m children’s race.  I was taking part in the longer race, described by the organisers as: “a total of 35km and 2,100m elevation. It will combine the North-East side of Corfu, the two highest peaks of our island, traditional hamlets, forest footpaths, alongside the coastal area of the pure and unspoilt natural environment, our own ecosystem, Erimitis, which is abundant in flora and fauna, rare and distinct in this area only, there are three lakes (home to the otter Lutra Lutra) and remote paths which will make the event an unforgettable experience. The runners will have the opportunity to try out their ability and strength in what is considered to be a demanding race, on a variety of terrain, constant ascents and descents, constantly challenging the runner.”



The night before the race was quite stormy, and the rain was still falling along with a chilly breeze as we gathered by the harbour at Kassiopi for an 8am start.  I had been fearing hot, humid conditions and a battle with dehydration, but ended up with some very Scottish-like weather which probably suited me a lot more than it did the locals!  The route took the main road out of town and then headed for the hills, following tarmac for about a mile before turning off onto trail paths.  The terrain from here on out was truly epic, probably the most technical I’ve ever seen, winding round dense forest and scrambling up (not-quite-so) dried up riverbeds, past abandoned villages and grazing goat herds, all the while climbing continuously for the entire first half of the race to reach the two highest points on the island.



The “Twin Peaks” were shrouded in cloud, so we were robbed of the views but the course was very well sign posted with orange markers, meaning there was no risk of getting lost, even on the more “vague” sections of trail.  Once the mountains were out of the way, life became a lot easier as we headed back down to the coast, but roads were still an endangered species and it was fairly slow going navigating the slippery stones and mud.  The final 5 miles hugged the coastline as the sun finally made an appearance, taking us along some pebble beaches before returning to the town and back to where we started.


I was intending to use this race as a stepping stone towards the Highland Fling and Cateran 55, but it quickly became an endurance test in its own right as the difficult terrain combined with the rapid early ascent to make the first 10 miles some of the most brutal I’ve ever run.  The gentler second half made it easier to enjoy the race and the relatively slow pace meant that I crossed the finish line still feeling pretty good, ending up in 6th place overall and 3rd in my age category (full results: ).  I would highly recommended this event, and Corfu in general, for anyone who loves hills, trails and good food afterwards!


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Kielder Ultra and 20 mile race 6th April 2019

Never having been to Kielder before I was excited to see what it was like and experience the ‘dark sky’ I arrived the night before with Billy and our dog Skye. We drove up to one of the top carparks where you are allowed to park overnight for a tenner. The skies didn’t dissapoint and we were treated to a spectacular view of the stars amongst the high conifers. We settled down for a kip in the back of the van and after a bit of barking from Skye whenever there was a strange noise we were able to get some shuteye. It’s been a while since we have slept in the van and I had forgotten how cold it could be, after getting up and putting more clothes on I was able to drift into a sleep. We were disturbed quite early however as the 100k race registration opened at 5.30AM at the castle just down the road from us.
I headed down at 7.30 for my registration and after the usual faffing was ready to go at 9.30. I met Alan and Lynne who were doing the 20 mile race, I also bumped into Nicola Duncan who was the only other person I knew, she of course went on to win the ladies race.
The route is beautiful and rather hilly. It reminded me of Glentress marathon a bit which High terrain events also organise. There is alot of mountain biking at Kielder and much of the route was on these trails, There were also some nice sections by Kielder water. There were many people out walking or fishing and just enjoying the scenery.
We had planned to stay another night in the van but after the race I was eager to just get home for a hot shower, some homecooked food and a good nights sleep. I would like to go back and explore the area some more although I have been told the midges are vicious there so I will have to pick my timimg carefully.

Sadie Kemp Finish Time 05:16:09 Overall 36 / 143 Gender 5 / 51 Category 1 / 20
20 mile
Alan Thornburrow Finish Time 03:58:14 Overall 40 / 78 Gender 27 / 41 Category 12 / 14
Lynne Stevely Finish Time 03:58:58 Overall 42 / 78 Gender 14 / 37 Category 4 / 12

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