Simonside Cairns Hill Race 2019

I have run this race a few times now and as it is the last mid-distance hill race (17.7kms, 460m) of the year it is a good race to keep one’s fitness on point for Feel the Burns in January.

Although one must cross into Brexit land (start/finish is in Rothbury) it is really worth the 1hr 45 min drive. I left Penicuik at 8am in a biblical rainstorm with the Temple road being more of a river. I hoped that the forecast of sunny skies with a stiff SW wind would be correct or it was gonna be an awful day. Luckily, the climate models were correct. The wind was not too helpful I will admit, especially when it was a cross wind.

Simonside Cairns Profile


Simonside Cairns Route – with terrain descriptors

Simonside is one of those annoyingly runnable races with the climb being slight but continuous for the first 11 kms, and then it is all downhill. What makes this race challenging (bar the weather which can be atrocious at this time of year) is that much of the mid-section is rather muddy – and today, it was uber muddy. The first few kms are on road and track, but then there are about 6kms of muscle sapping muddy tracks – all slightly uphill. As one passes Selby’s Cove and start the final climb up to Simonside itself, it is a good test for one’s fitness as to whether you bomb out at the point. Today my legs felt strong, and forewarned with prior knowledge, I wore my Salamon Speedcross trail shoes as the 4kms from Simonside back down to the car park is continuous stone flags and steps which are slippy as hell if you wear Mudclaws. I managed to pass a few runners here who appeared to be running on ice and were cursing the whole way.

Of ca. 90 runners, I came in 21st and 3rd V45 – I quite liked them creating new categories. Wine gums as a prize. My time was 1:42:46 which was only 2 mins slower than last year (much better conditions).

Overall – shoe choice is crucial for this race – Salamons are definitely the best for wet rock, but you still need profile for the mud. Finally – my first race since I turned 49. The number clearly was an omen for a good race. 🙂

lucky number 49

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Wooler Marathon, 16 November 2019

Mark persuaded me to run this race, spurred on by a notification in September from Trail Outlaws that there were only 30 places left for the full marathon, and that the half marathon (running the next day) had sold out. Mark had really enjoyed his run in 2017 – very cold, but with clear skies and good views over the Cheviots. It seemed like a great way to finish off an epic year of racing, so I signed up and booked a bed in the Youth Hostel (also the start and finish line and general HQ of the race) for the Friday night.

Looking through the entry list, I spied some well-known names from the Scottish ultra-running community. So it was that I found myself in the Tankerville Arms on the Friday night, a cosy 17th century coaching inn on the outskirts of Wooler town centre, supping Guinness with the likes of Daniel Kershaw, Jeni Rees-Jenkins, Sharon Hassan and Karen McInderwar. They are all runners I admire, and it was the first time I got to really talk to any of them, which was lovely. Turns out I was also room buddies with Karen, Jeni and Sharon that night, so we all walked home together and got our kits ready for the next day.

During the Friday evening, an email was sent out by Tim and Garry, RDs of Trail Outlaws, to say that due to the poor weather the conditions on The Cheviot were too treacherous to allow the marathon route to go ahead. It had been snowing earlier in the week on the hills, and pouring with rain for two days previous. Instead of cancelling, however, we were to run two laps of the lower-level half marathon route – same distance and elevation overall. I was not keen on the idea of running laps, but glad it hadn’t been cancelled. I hadn’t even looked at the half route and only had a print out of the full course in my kit, but was reassured that it was well flagged and that there would be enough runners and marshals around not to get lost. There was much muttering on social media about it, but as we tackled the half course the next day, it became apparent it was the right decision to make!

The next morning, after a very poor night’s sleep on a hard hostel mattress full of anxiety dreams about getting lost/missing the start/etc we gathered on the road up from the YH for the start. I’d met up with Tracy just before we set off, the only other harrier there, and on her fourth consecutive Wooler marathon. After a delayed start due to registration taking longer than usual (the race has grown from around 150 runners in the first year to over 300 this year) we were off.

It was already pretty damp and drizzly when we set off, and as soon as we turned off the road on to the St Cuthberts Way, it became apparent that this was going to be a tough gig. The trail was very muddy heading into the woods, and coming out onto the common it was also very waterlogged. I was wearing waterproof socks, but they were only ankle high. After only a few miles, I stepped into a large icy puddle that went up to my shins, filling my socks with water. Still, I had Injinjis on inside the waterproof ones, so even though they were wet my feet stayed relatively warm for the duration. I did start to worry about trench foot though…

Some very swift ladies passed me early on, and I couldn’t envisage catching them, so settled into survival mode. I focussed on staying upright and tried not to think too much about placing in this race, despite a great year of racing with podium finishes in most. It took me miles to settle into a rhythm, not helped by crowding in the early stages on narrow trails flanked by gorse and heather either side. There were also a lot of gates, styles and slippery bridges to negotiate. This was not going to be over quickly! I had a target of 6 hours in mind, but that was for the full route. I was hoping the low level route might buy me some time, so readjusted my goal to 5.5 hours and told myself that it really didn’t matter and finishing would be a satisfactory result in these conditions.

The rain was pelting down once we reached the turn off from the original route onto the half marathon course, which cuts across the moor to re-join the full route at Yeavering. The trail was very wet underfoot and I was already soaked through. Every time I squeezed my hands, water poured out of my gloves. A lad in front of me was filming with a Go-Pro, but probably should have been concentrating on the trail as he ended up thigh deep in a bog! He managed to drag himself out, Go-Pro intact, by the time I reached him.

I reached Yeavering CP after a satisfactory bit of downhill running, the first time I felt I’d actually run in miles, and quickly turned around and headed back out. I didn’t need my water re-filling so just grabbed a handful of cola bottles and headed back up the hill. What was a nice bit of downhill running was a total slog coming back out. The route has about two miles of out-and-back to Yeavering CP so I tried to spot as many runners I knew as possible and give them a wave, until the trail turns off along the St Cuthberts Way at the top of the hill. This was when things really got bad! The route was almost completely underwater, pretty much until we reached Wooler Common 4 miles on. I was not enjoying myself, particularly when thinking about having to tackle this section again in a couple of hours. I tried really hard to push all the negatives out of my mind, but it was tough. In the end, dreaming about taking off my wet socks, having a bath and eating some hot food was what kept me going. To illustrate the challenge, see the photo below taken by Daniel. The fact that the runner has decided to take the style despite the gate being open tells you how unpleasant the trail was!

I eventually hit Wooler Common and saw Michael, who was out with his camera and Stella in the rain. Soon after that I saw the red druid guy – a regular feature at Trail Outlaw races – and knew end of the first lap was near. A quick look at my watch at the CP revealed 12.5 miles had passed, so not quite a full lap of the ‘half’, which is usually 14 miles. Still, it had taken me 2:17 so was pleased that it looked like I’d be home and dry well under target. At least the pack had thinned out a bit too, so I was a bit more relaxed heading out into the second lap, fuelled by some Tizer from the CP and my trusty Kendal mint cake.

I’m not going to lie, the second lap wasn’t fun. It went by in a bit of a blur, and I got a bit of extra déjà vu when I passed Jeni at the exact same spot we did near Yeavering CP the first time round! The trails were even wetter and muddier now, having been churned up by 300+ runners and soaked by the constant rain. But I dug in and gave it my best. I had no idea where I was in the race, but not many ladies had passed me on the out and back so hoped I’d be somewhere within the top ten, and maybe in with a shot of a veteran prize. After swearing and stumbling my way through the waterlogged SCW section again, it was down into Wooler and a dash along the road to re-join the trail into the YH. I clocked 25 miles in 4:52:23. Not quite the 28 miles we’d been promised, but a tough day out in any case. I collected my medal and headed into the HQ for a cup of hot, sugary tea. The prize giving was just starting, and I’d just taken a few sips of tea when I heard Tim call my name. 1st F40 prize after all! A lovely surprise after what was a very challenging race.

I dashed off not too long after the race, so didn’t manage to catch Tracy at the finish, but she reassures me that this was her toughest Wooler yet. I’m glad it wasn’t just me! I’d love to come back next year and make it over the Cheviot. Fingers crossed for better weather.


Jan Dawson, 54th, 04:52:23 (5th female, 1st F40)
Tracy Philp, 128th, 05:50:07

Full results here:

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Tweed valley ultra 17 November 2019

Route details:
Route Stats:
65k:Ascent: 1574m/5164
50k:Ascent: 1145m/3757

I have done a couple of other High terrain events and they are always well organised with great support. They often also provide a collapsible reusable cup which I think is a great idea. The start/finish was at Glentress and Andy and I had a few moments to chat before we set off. We were treated to a wonderfully still day for the race, there was low cloud for much of the route so little scenery to be seen in the first half. Once up in the hills and out of the forest we enjoyed superb views and spectacular cloud inversion.

Once up at the Three Brethren there was a nice drop back down to Traquair forest. Followed by a welcome break of some flat by the river. Leaving a sting in the tail as we went back up along the start of the route through Glentress, where I bumped into Tim who was running with a friend. All in a very enjoyable and challenging route.

Sadie Kemp 07:25:32
Andy Briggs 09:17:18

Tim Doyle 06:59:25

Full results:

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Chicago Marathon

My fifth visit to Chicago – my first as a Marathoner!

Chicago was marathon number 3 for me this year and number 6 over the last two years that I’ve been doing this.  Last year around this time I was running around the streets of New York trying to run a qualifying time to run in Chicago this year – luckily enough I managed that ??????.  You see – it’s all happened a bit by accident this marathon thing.  My first marathon in London 2018 was for Multiple Sclerosis and on the run up to that I applied for the NY marathon ballot and was lucky enough to get in!  My plans to run in London quickly turned into London, NY and I threw Edinburgh in too!  My luck in 2018 hadn’t run out – I was then lucky enough to get the club place for London 2019 – and this led to me running a qualifying time to run in Boston 2020, my next foreign adventure!

Anyway, back to Chicago – I arrived a couple of days before to do the usual pre race things – pick up bib and take a few pics!  It was cold, wet and windy on the Friday before the race, however the forecast for the race was a wee bit better but still to be really cold for the 7:30 start!  I laid all my kit out on the Saturday and had a quiet day downtown on the tour bus with not much walking around.

I was up around 4am for race day.  That sounds early but I was still more or less on UK time so it felt more like 10am!  My usual porridge brekkie and a short bus and train ride had me down to the bag drop and changing in Grant Park for 6am! Only issue was it was really cold, around 2 or 3 degrees so difficult to keep warm!  I had every piece of clothing on that I had taken down and was still shivering.  I decided around 6:40 it was time to get ready and as it was a little warmer, but still cold.  At this point I’d decided to run with a base layer and my Harriers vest!  This all changed around 2 mins from the start when I decided to take my base layer off – all a bit of last minute panic!

The elites were off at 7:30 and my wave around 6 mins later.  I wasn’t quite sure how quickly I was going to aim to run, maybe aim for 3:15 which would be 3 mins inside my PB, however as the race started I set off well under my 4:40/km pace – more like 4:28!!!  Therein lies the story of what would unfold around mile 21…I had been injured for a few weeks over the summer and wasn’t quite sure where I was at with training and fitness.  Maybe the rest would have done me good?  Maybe my stamina would still be ok as I’ve been marathon training for the best part of 2 years?  Would marathon number three this year take its toll???

The race itself was going well for a couple of hours – it’s a relatively flat and fast course with great support all the way around.  Big wide streets and lots of space to move around.  I was through half way around 1:35!  This was looking more like 3:12/13 than 3:18!  Way too quick, but I was committed now, I still felt ok and there was only 90 mins to go!  Oops!   Around mile 16 there was a 3 mile stretch into the very strong breeze!  This wasn’t fun!  The turn out of this couldn’t come quick enough and as we approached the turn I knew I was in a bit of trouble – my legs began to feel sore and shoulders felt tight and heavy too.  I dug in and tried to adjust my pace and goal – maybe 3:15 was still possible?  As the miles ticked by it became clear that 3:15 was becoming 3:16, 17, 18…..

I could see downtown and Grant Park appear with a mile or so to go – I picked my pace up a little and as I turned into Grant Park I could see the finish, maybe 100 meters to go….I could see the finish as my PB ticked over on my watch … 19 seconds outside my PB!  Ahhhh – the feeling of disappointment was mixed with pain and elation!  Kind of weird!  19 seconds!!   I know I should have ran to my 3:15 plan but in the end, I’ve no regrets I went for a really quick time, maybe a little outside my current capability but I left everything out there and I’ve learned (again!) about the challenge of running 26.2!

Chicago is a fantastic city and the race was brilliantly organised and very well supported all the way around.  Ideally it would have been a little warmer and less windy on the day – but it’s rarely ever perfect running conditions.  A great piece of advice from Dave on my Facebook post – marathons are a 20 mile warm up run and a 10k race at the end!  This is advice I need ?

As I mentioned earlier, Boston Marathon in April is next for me.  I’m also running Berlin Marathon next September.  For those of you that follow this kind of thing that means I’ll only have the Tokyo marathon to run to complete the ‘Big 6’ (London, NY, Chicago, Boston, Berlin, Tokyo).  In the meantime, it’s winter training and more hills, trails and gym for me!  I’m sure I’ll see you around at the Grand Prix races through the winter and hopefully some training nights if I can fix my schedule and plans!!

Thanks for reading ??????



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Tinto Hill Race

This was one of my first hill races from back in 2013, so I was looking forward to doing it again six years on. We met up at the Penicuik Centre at 12:00 to see how many cars we’d need. Since there was just five of us it was fine to all go in Sadie’s car and the drive only took about half an hour. There were some new arrangements for parking this year, so once we had sorted that out there was about a ten minute walk to the hill from registration, where there was a kit check.

The race starts at 2:00, so we had plenty of time. It was very muddy but my inov-8s were fine for it, it was my legs that felt like they didn’t have much in them as I tried to keep some momentum up the hill. The forecast was for quite bad rain, so we were very pleased that it held off till after the race. There’s quite a few false summits, but I knew it was a four mile race so wasn’t taken in by any of them. There was good visibility for most of the way but got quite misty at the top. As the fast runners started careering back down the hill, it’s important to keep a good eye on them as I clambered on the way up, to avoid any collisions at full speed as they come down. At one point a guy slipped in heavy mud after leaping down above me and only just managed to correct himself as he veered out of control towards me just to the side of a lot of rocks. With a sigh of relief I headed onward and was quite aware I was not going very fast and would not be getting a PB on this run.


There’s a big trig point at the top which you run around the back of, just a bit below the top. There was some fantastic views on the way down, but could only glance up for a second to avoid tripping on the rocks. It’s an easy craggy path all the way up, so no chance of taking a wrong turning. It was very muddy towards the bottom section of the hill and we splashed on towards the end.


We headed from the finish to where registration was and got a free cup of very nice soup which warmed me up before going up to see Des get his prize for first over 50 runner.

A great race which I’d highly recommend to anybody of all levels of hill running.

Des Crowe: 00:36:56
Adam Gray: 00:40:11
Sadie Kemp: 00:53:04
Mark Dawson: 01:00:28
Gilly Marshall: 01:01:53


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Jedburgh 3 Peaks, Saturday 26th October 2019

2 relay teams and 8 solo runners took on this year’s Jedburgh 3 Peaks ultra and relay. Conditions were brilliant weather-wise, if a little muddy underfoot!

As ever, the race was full of well-kent faces, both runners and marshals alike. We set off after a YMCA warm-up, with all relay teams in compulsory fancy dress, and there was the usual detour over the children’s play park at Bowden. This was perhaps inadvisable in the conditions though and poor Susie took a tumble on the wooden bridge! But like a true harrier, she pushed on to finish with a smile on her face.

The relay runners did us proud, with the men’s team fighting hard for 2nd place over all. They looked very pretty too! The Peni-pandas, cosy in their hand-knittted panda hats, claimed 4th combined team. Penicuik always do well in the relay and 2019 was no exception. Well done all!

I just love this race. It’s a blast from start to finish. Make no mistake though, it’s a tough course with a lot of tree roots, boardwalks, steps, mud and rocks to negotiate, plus the small matter of the three Eildons 17 miles in! I felt really good this year though and gave it everything I had to get as close to my target of 6.5 hours as possible. Less time faffing about at checkpoints also helped! Except CP3, I had a wee go on the swing there. It would’ve been rude not to!


Peni-panthers: 04:52:27 (2nd place and 2nd male team)
Peni-pandas: 06:47:34 (10th place and 4th combined team)

Jan Dawson: 6:31:36 (3rd female)
Sadie Kemp: 07:08:13
Yan Horsburgh: 07:22:33
Tim Doyle: 07:59:05
Tracy Philp: 07:59:06 (and 02:01:09 in the half marathon the next day!)
Gilly Marshall: 08:40:46
Susie Maxwell: 08:40:46
Chris Burns: 10:27:59

Ultra results here:
Relay results here:

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Pentland skyline 2019

Another super skyline. So much support from our wonderful club members. Rob Wilson summed it up perfectly:

Can I just say, on behalf of all who ran today, thanks for the amazing support. Epic…. especially as you were mostly in the first half when we were all nice and fresh.
Gillian Cairns (and Lewis) , Mark Snodgrass, Gilly Marshall, Kirsty, Jan Dawson, Julian Hall, Juliane Friedrich, Kate Crowe, Alan Dunbar, Rachel Drummond and of course the beautiful Andrea.

30 Adam Gray M 3:02:32 125.5%
90 Rob Wilson M40 3:35:42 148.3%
175 Sadie Kemp F40 4:15:19 175.5%
228 Mark Dawson M50 4:46:26 196.9%
232 Tracy Philp F40 4:48:00 198.0%
233 Susie Maxwell F40 4:48:00 198.0%

Below are a selection of Michael Philp’s pictures:

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Tweed valley tunnel run 20K

I had been wanting to try this race as it looked a bit qwerky and different. The route was very scenic along by the Tweed then up into the hills behind Peebles. The second half was hillier than I expected and running through the tunnel with all the coloured lights on was fun.

Sadie Kemp 01:58:26
Tracy Philp 02:07:11

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Two Breweries hill race 2019

Although the weather looked threatening on the drive over we were blessed with clear skies and good visibility. The going under foot was rather boggy though. Julianne had to pull out through injury unfortunately. We all enjoyed some soup and sandwiches at the new race venue at the school post race. 🙂

45 Adam Gray M 3:37:26 128.7%
74 Duncan Ball M50 3:58:01 140.9%
76 Rob Wilson M40 3:59:26 141.7%
112 Yan Horsburgh M50 4:31:12 160.5%
131 Sadie Kemp F40 4:39:09 165.2%

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Ben Resipole Hill Race – 2019

Resipole is a good 4 hours drive (+ ferry) away from Penicuik and therefore is not a race that one would often consider. However, as I had fieldwork on Rannoch moor the day before I saw an opportunity to run a new race. It is always nice to lose one’s “race virginity”. For me it does not happen very often now, but there is an added excitement to a race when you have no idea what is coming around the next corner. I asked around if anyone else was interested in coming up and I was surprised when Andrea, Duncan, Kate and Des were game. We decided to make a weekend of it so booked a fixed birth caravan on the Ardnamurchan peninsula.

The Ben Resipole Hill Race is ~12 kms with a hefty 845m height gain.

Ben Resipole – full route. Due to weather we did not do the loop at the summit.

The SHR Ben Resipole website also includes a nice video of the race from 2017:

To be honest, the video is a complete lie – it looks sooooo pleasant. In reality, this is one of the muddiest and more technical races I have ever run but it was a good crack.

So – last Saturday, we woke up around 7-8am (Race start 1pm) to the nice gentle shaking of the caravan. The gorgeous view of the previous day (see below) was now greyed out with heavy horizontal rain – explaining the rocking of the caravan. Luckily, we were completely offline because Twitter and FB were saying that the Ferry had been cancelled, and the race was in some degree of cancellation jeopardy. Meanwhile, Kate “zombied” into the living room looking like death and immediately returned to bed to nurse her migraine (we did admittedly drink perhaps too much while playing cards the night before). So – overall – perhaps not a good start to the day.

Long story short, we turned up to the race start at lunchtime (after completing a 500-piece jigsaw) with Kate feeling somewhat better and the weather much improved. The race had not been cancelled and the compromise was that the summit loop would not be run, and the race would simply go to the summit and back. Andrea – the “hip recovering Uber-Spectator” left about 20 minutes before the race started to get up on the hill to take some pictures.

Only 41 runners – a super relaxed atmosphere and initially fairly good weather although we could not see the peak which was clagged in. I wont go into a lot of detail, but the race started off pleasant enough, but after about 0.5 kms the route dived into the woodland beside the river with no real path – extremely technical with slimey rocks, vegetation and trees etc. It was initially a relief to come out of the wood onto the open hill side until we realised that the whole route was a huge mud pit until the steep technical slimy rocks of the last kilometre. It was a tough leg sapping climb. Des was battling with Angela Mudge with Duncan not too far behind. I could always see Duncan in the distance but lost him once we entered the mist.

Andrea seems to have been everywhere and despite her “not running”, was in fact often running up slope quicker than many of the runners.

Much of the race route was relatively sheltered from the strong southerly wind, but for the final kilometre once the route left the river valley, we were all exposed to the full onslaught of the wind (and now rain). It was all rather grim to be honest – thank god I put my contacts in. I was battling with two guys at the summit and on the turnaround, we sprinted off down through the slippy rocks and mud in a rather terrifying fashion. One of the guys soon fell back but all the way down to the final track I battled with a Lochaber runner – both of us not giving an inch – both of us clearly terrified about twisting an ankle but not wanting to give the other an advantage. It was fabulous fun and we both kept screaming at each other when we slipped or got bogged down but quickly got up to battle on. This is what racing is all about. I love it!

Alas – for the final kilometre the route joined a rocky track which my knees hated. My speed immediately slowed, and I quickly lost him. Meanwhile as I made my way down the track, I saw Des waving and shouting at me. To my embarrassment, I did not realise that Des had lost a shoe somewhere further up in the bogs. I had assumed he had already finished and had jogged back up to shout encouragement. So, I ran past gargling thanks for the support and focussed on the final half kilometre. It was only when Des crossed the finish line about 30 seconds after me (with odd shoes – a random person had given him a trainer to finish with) that I realised what had happened. In hindsight, I wish I had realised so we could have either 3-legged the final half kilometre together or, for more kudo creds, it would have been rather funny to have given him a piggy back. Next time.

I would just ike to add that we did make fun of Des at the state of his shoes before the race. He’s not a newb and should have known better. 😉

When conditions are so bad, it somehow makes the whole process much more satisfying when you finish. There was a buzz of “job well done” in the marquee at the end while we waited for the prizes. It was a lot of fun, but I am sure the organisers were happy and relieved that no one got lost or injured.

Final results:

Anglea Mudge – 7th – 01:27:27 – 1st lady

Duncan Ball – 8th – 01:32:54 – 1st V50 – taking full advantage of Des’ woes

Rob Wilson – 13th – 01:35:33 – 2nd V40

Des Crowe – 14th – 01:36:08 – 2nd V50

Kate Crowe – 32nd – 02:13:57 – 1st FV50

Kenny Cairns – 34th – 02:17:13

Andrea Wilson – did not race but still beat some of the slower runners – she’ll be back!!!

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Ben Nevis race 2019

It was a hot day and the views were spectacular. The heat did make for difficult conditions and unfortunately Chris had his first ever DNF. He was there at the finish though and we all enjoyed a cooling Prosecco together. Stuart managed a dazzling time again, and I got a PB by 1 minute which pleased me alot. Thanks to Gillian for the action shots, it was great to have her and Scott there supporting us.

78 02:07:34 Sanderson Stuart
385 03:01:02 Kemp Sadie

Full results here:

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UTMB CCC race 2019

Ever since running the longer ultras I’ve been keen to use the ITRA points for a UTMB race. I’ve done a few that are 4 points each, and to enter the UTMB Mont Blanc CCC race you needed 8 points within 2 races only (Now changed to 6 points for the CCC). The various UTMB races are quite hard to get into as they are over subscribed each year, and I read it can take 2 knock backs till you get in on the 3rd attempt. With this in mind I applied and didn’t think much more of it. Months later I got an email saying I was in first time! This was brilliant, but I hadn’t looked into any of the technicalities of where the race starts, accommodation and travel etc. A couple of days passed till I could get onto this because of work deadlines. After this though, all the affordable accommodation had gone with hotels going for £200+ per night. I thought I can just camp somewhere. Unfortunately the 3 campsites there do not take booking and say you should get there early. This was a worry as I knew I’d be there late afternoon. I did however get a place late in the day which was very lucky. He could tell I’d walked with all my kit, so wanted to find somewhere for me if possible. I was quite prepared to wild camp in the woods and so had taken all my old kit for camping in case it got taken away or trashed. There was however a very noisy motorway very close to my tent, so I didn’t get much sleep.

There’s a big kit requirement needed for the race and this even covers a cold and hot weather extra kit option which they let you know about a day or two before the race. Thankfully it was the normal kit as my 12 litre pack was not going to work if a cold weather version was needed too, and was going to be very heavy.

I got an Easy Jet flight to Geneva and thought previously I could just hop on a train to Chamonix. With time limits and the change of trains needed to do this I went for booking a taxi minibus which I shared with about another 7 people from the airport. I booked this a month or so before the race. This was great as I got there about 18:00, and I still needed to get my kit checked over at the sports centre and then get my bib number and bag for taking to the start at Courmayeur in Italy. This is for putting the kit I wanted at the end of the race back in Chamonix in. Registration finishes at 20:00 so time was an issue, thankfully the flight was on time.

I was then off to find wherever this camp site was from the map I printed out online. I found it after having to switch back a bit and it was a bit of a walk from the centre, so my legs were getting tired after lugging a full 80 litre rucksack and a second big bag holding all my running kit with the extra set needed for kit requirements. By the time I got the tent up and sorted everything out, it was too late to walk back into Chamonix to get dinner, so made do with a few snacks.

I set the alarm very early and headed down to the pick up point in Chamonix for the bus at 6:15 to Courmayeur on the Italian side. The trip went very quickly and we went to the sports centre there for a while, before walking up to the bag drop off, and then the starting area. There was a very lively fun atmosphere with lots of music and dancing going on in front of the start line. It looked great and the weather was perfect, if not a bit hot. We all got livened up by the DJ and then we set off in sets of our bib numbers. The start is at 1,200 metres.

After running just a few hundred yards my legs felt tired from lugging about all my luggage till the evening the night before. Later it felt like I was running on empty with no dinner the previous night, and just a few cereal bars for breakfast. Normally I have porridge before a long run. We were out of Courmayeur in no time with it being very small. We then hit a bottle neck as we came to our first very steep mountain. I thought there may have been an accident as we were not moving at all for ages. This was a concern for cut off times and hoped it was factored into timing when I realised it was just a normal hold up. As we got half way up and still moving at a snails pace because of it still being held up, it was great to look back at the views. We were so lucky to get such brilliant weather. The mountains looked breath taking! I knew last years race had very bad weather. We eventually really slowly got to the top of this zig zag trail up Tele de la Tronche, which is over 2,500 metres, and then at last we started to space out.

The views were spectacular and I asked another runner who had stopped to look at the view if he could take a picture. I had had my camera out quite a bit and as quickly as possible was trying to take some pictures as I went. I realised I was flagging back quite a bit and when I got to the first check point and had refilled my bladder pack and had some food there, I was really far behind. The marshals were really friendly and a woman asked if I would like some soup and suggested I sit down. It was really great and perked me up a bit. I then set off with a heavy full 2 litre water pack but knew I’d need it in the heat.


The views really started to just get better and better as I looked onto the massive cliffs and buttresses of Mont Blanc with huge glaciers skirting their tops. I thought I must be really far back but started to catch up a bit. We then got into the 2nd food station which was quite large and lively. I saw some cut orange slices and went right for them. They were totally delicious! I then had lots of salami for protein and some bread and cheese. I had a few sweet chocolate nibbles too, but I wasn’t in need of them so much at that point. I was sure the race details said there’d be jells at the food stations, but there wasn’t. I had only taken 4 with this in mind. I asked one of the marshal guys about this and he said in a great French accent “No jells….. Jells are crap! We have this.” I agreed their food looked great and tucked in. The marshals were super helpful and friendly.

We then got a call that the food station would be closing in half an hour, so I dashed out realising I needed to make up some time. After some proper food now, I started to feel much better and was back in the race again, but still had quite a bit of catching up to do. Everybody we passed would cheer “Allez, allez, vite, vite!!!” or “Bravo, bravo!!!” as we passed which livened up the run.

There was now another massive steep mountain to get up called Grand Col Ferret which is 2,537 metres. I really didn’t mind the steep mountain climbs as I was enjoying the race in such an epic place. The top was magnificent, so I had to get a picture! We were now leaving Italy and entering Switzerland. My water was running out so I knew I’d need to fill up at the next station. When I got there though, the water supply was hopeless. There was a garden hose gun that was not working properly and there was a bit of a back log of runners waiting. The marshals were all drinking red wine and not very helpful about this problem. I eventually got my pack full again and headed off. There was a herd of cows in the fields below and they all had huge bells which were clattering and making quite some noise. Poor things have to hear that their hole lives. It was however very Swiss.

I knew I had stopped to take too many pictures but I thought I could make it up over the night running where I would obviously not be tempted. I dashed down the mountain to the next food station at La Fouly which was the most beautiful valley with a huge glacier between two mountains and massive waterfalls gushing from each side of it. Not only that, it was dusk now, so there was a pink sky behind where the sun had just gone down! I managed to resist getting my camera out. The food station was quite big and again very lively. There were a lot of runners lying around sleeping and others in no rush to leave at all. I had quite a bit to eat here as it was around 20:00. I got my head torch on and headed off. I was quite pleased with my Alpkit head torch which totally did the job. However the majority of runners had torches that light up the entire area. This resulted in me running in my own shadow when they were behind me! I’m not into night running much but was fine getting through the course now. We had dropped down quite a bit to around 1,000 metres. Now there was another uphill to get to the next food station which was quite small but very friendly as usual. I got more water and some flat coke and headed out after putting a few of the small squares of energy bar that they had at the food stations, into a bag for eating on the go. This had a peppery after taste and was really good to take away from being too sweet tasting. The dark chocolate went down well too on the trail. In the dark I heard more clanging of bells and run very close past herds of cows here and there on the way.

We now had some big climbs to do. The run up to La Glele which is over 2,000 metres took some time and I started to get quite worried about the cut offs. There was however lots of people either crouched down looking like they had given up, or actually flat out sleeping all around the mountain from here on in. I started to overtake quite a lot of runners now and got to the top eventually. There was just a couple of marshals here to scan the bib numbers, as there were on the peeks of all the mountains. I knew I had to pick up the pace if I was to make the next check point in time. The trail was very steep, rocky and covered in tree roots as many were. I did however manage to get a bit quicker down than expected. My head torch was going dim, so had to waste a few minutes getting the new batteries out of my back pack. Everything was stuffed in so tightly that it was quite hard to get things without dragging lots out. My knees were a bit sore from going faster down hill to about 1,300m or so, so I took 2 paracetamol.

The next mountain, Les Tseppes is about 2,100m and took forever to get up. I’d be running along fine and at various stages realised I couldn’t see anything down to the side of the thin trail we were on, so a huge drop down. At one point there are chains to hold onto to stop you going over the edge. There were a lot of runners again sleeping on this mountain, I was quite worried for them as they would get cold once they had stopped. Then I came across a metal railing bridge clamped to the edge of the cliff to run over. It felt quite secure but knew it was very exposed. It was possibly good it was so dark that I couldn’t see those drops. About half way down this mountain we entered France. I was now sure I would be timed out when I eventually got to the top and started heading down to the check point. There was a very chilled out marshal woman at the desk. I asked her how much time was left at this check point and I was very pleased to hear her say in again a great French accent “You are okay, you have half an hour”. I got a full top up of water again, adding the High 5 Zero tablets and also had a rehydration salt as I was very hot, even though I had been running at night. At every station and anywhere there was water I‘d dip my head in it or pore water over my head just to cool down, it felt brilliant and cooled me down nicely.

When I was running down to this check point I was pleased to see dawn was breaking and it had quickly become a beautiful morning again when I left to head up the last big mountain called Tele aux Vents. The views were spectacular again. I passed another guy that was asleep during the day here as we headed up another very steep trail and clambered up over rocks. I didn’t find this hard going though, which I thought was very strange after my legs being so tired at the beginning of the race. My legs felt totally fine and was pleased I had done so many Pentland hill repeats over the past two months, and also long runs on holiday in Exmoor National Park. I had told myself there was no time left for any pictures, but the views up here were stunning. I quickly took about 5 pictures along this stretch and then rushed down to the next check point which looked like it would normally be a ski centre. It took ages to get there but at least I had enough water already, and I could just grab a few sweets and rush through. I thought we’d be okay now but I had been running down this last mountain for a couple of kms when a guy said “Just 7 kms to go”. This made me go faster as I knew it took 2 hours to get down a tricky mountain last night which was roughly the same trail conditions as this, and I only had an hour and a half to be through the finish line in Chamonix.

I started passing a lot of runners who had started to take it easy on this stretch after so many trekkers were saying “Well done, almost there!” I kept on looking down the mountain through the trees to Chamonix, and it still looked Ike we were a mile in the sky! With this I rushed down as fast as possible and said “Merci” to the huge amount of well wishers who were congratulating us. I don’t think they realised though that it really was quite a way still to the finish line. This last 7kms went on for ages. I looked up to say “Merci” to a well wisher and almost went flying as I tripped on a tree root. I then felt quite unfriendly not looking up when others cheered “Allez, allez, vite, vite” or “Bravo, bravo!”, but I still said “Merci”, but looking at the trail.

At last I was at the bottom of the mountain and we had to go over the main road on a temporary metal bridge which was great. Now on the home stretch through the woods to the town centre, and finally down the High Street. I knew now I’d be okay as there was about half an hour to go. The crowds were incredible and so friendly and enthusiastic as they cheered us in clapping. I had made it through in time at 11:40, when 12:00 was the cut off time of day! Although with being in the last batch of runners through the start I’m not sure if I’d have an extra 20 minutes to make up that time standing waiting to start. Anyway, 12:00 was the official end time and the time to finish within to be sure.

There were photographers at the finish line, as there were throughout the daytime running part of the course. I strangely felt totally awake after 26 hours and 5 minutes of running. I went through to pick up my finishers Gilet which had CCC next to Finisher. The full UTMB and TDS course ones had their race printed on too. The lesser mileage races got a medal.

I got a technical T-shirt when I picked up my bib number, but I also wanted a cotton one, so I headed over to a stall to buy one as they looked great, and were the ones all the marshals were wearing. The two woman there were very helpful and showed me where to get a free finishers beer, and also where the finishers free dinner was. The beer was very small but great anyway. Jan called me when I was there and told me she had been tracking me throughout the race along with a few Harrier friends and my brother. I didn’t know this was active without paying for it, as it sounded that way in the email sent the previous week. It had been just as worrying for them seeing me so close to the cut offs at a couple of stages than it was for me! It was great to talk a bit about how things had gone and I was in very good spirits and not at all tired as I cheered other runners in.

I then found the restaurant where the free meal was and had a fantastic proper restaurant self service eat what you like large lunch. It was fantastic! The man across the table from me was French and had ran all the UTMB courses. He now helped with the organisation. I knew the trackers told race HQ where we were, but they also keep an eye on your speed. If you dramatically slow down it shows them you may be in trouble.

I then got a shower at the sports centre and changed into the clothes I had put in my drop bag that I had left in Italy for taking to the finish. I felt a lot better and headed back to the camp site where I slept from mid afternoon, all through the night till about 8:00am on Sunday. I then packed up and went down to Chamonix to cheer on the UTMB runners for around 2 hours before getting the return trip back to Geneva in the taxi minibus I had hired.

Even when I was slowing down and dropping back at the start I was still so pleased to have such weather to be running in such a beautiful place. Mont Blanc is stunning from so many angles. It makes our Munros look so small. It was great that the food stations were so good and I got some energy to keep on going, and finally got back into the race.

It was a great adventure and so well organised.

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Baddinsgill round 2019

It was a very hot and sticky day for the race. Despite this the route was boggy as ever. I went in knee deep at one point! It was lovely to see Chris Downey on the last hill. 🙂

15 Duncan Ball Male MV50 2:02:03 15 3rd in Category
29 Sadie Kemp Female FV40 2:24:11 29 3rd in Category

Full results:

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Lomonds of fife 2019

Distance 16 km
Climb 750 m

Despite how nice the weather looks in the pictures we had some pretty testing conditions. It was raining when we arrived at Strathmiglo and Juliane and I sheltered in the car for as long as possible (making use of the time to enter the Pentland Skyline race). It was jackets on/off/on as we approached the start and met up with Des and Kate. Once we set off up the hill it quickly warmed up. As we headed off the forestry track and up through the trees I could hear shouts as a few folk had missed the turn. They quickly came hurtling past. It was an enjoyable run up to East Lomond and Des went by me at this point (he was ‘not racing’! But still managed a great time and position). On route to West Lomond the weather broke properly and we were treated to a heavy rain shower that felt like needles on bare skin. It was heads down and run through it. There was also a head wind on this section so it felt tough. The descent from West Lomond was altered to avoid the accidents of the previous year. This seemed sensible and actually a bit of a relief although it did mean doubling back for the Bunnet stone. After that it was a free for all in terms to return route and it was interesting to see the different strategies runners took, some descending quickly and others like me trying to contour round to save a bit of distance. After a final run through the trees, the last bit of tarmac was hard going and I have to say I preferred it when the start and finish was in the woods. At least the walk to the village hall is shorter and there was plently of grub and hot tea to revive weary bodies and souls. Thanks to the lovely marshals and organisers for a fab event and the photographer who got some great shots of us out on the hills. Thanks also to Kate for dropping off my bottle of wine for 2nd FV40. 🙂

12 Des Crowe M50 1:49:38
56 Sadie Kemp F40 2:08:30
62 Juliane Friedrich F 2:14:57
77 Kate Crowe F50 2:27:00

Full results:

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Lakeland 50

I wrote a very long, detailed and ultimately boring race report on the L50. I deleted it. Here is Version 2.

I hurt my ankle. I didn’t think I would make the start line. I ran anyway, it hurt, it rained – A LOT! There were a lot of hills, the checkpoints were fab, the volunteers amazing! Carol Martin kept me on the right path in the dark and stopped me getting lost in the bog. The last bit was really tough and I thought I might not make it, but I did. I finished. The medal was huge! Don’t run on a busted ankle, it’s not big and it’s not clever.

But who said we should do as we’re told! Not me!!



No:  1005
Name:  Gilly Marshall
Course:  Lakeland 50
Category: FV40
Result: 16:03:06


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