As we milled around looking sexy, we started to note how many good runners were starting to appear, and by that rationale how far we were going to slide in the race positions. From a modest slide, it became a torrent as the likes of Prasad, Al Anthony, that bloke that won Cairn Table on Wednesday, Gregor Stewart, a nutter from Lochaber with scary tattoos, some people wearing Lakes clubs vest (automatically good, we reckoned), and so on. Then we bumped into Charlotte, just to add to the ‘another runner we won’t beat’ list.
The race director, Maz, was barking orders through a megaphone (I don’t think she needed one) and if you squinted at her with eyes half closed she looked a lot like Mick Hucknell from Simply Red. Remember him? Anyway, the first hint that hill racing wasn’t her thing was the ‘full upper body cover’ instruction. You know, jacket or jumper. Er, okay Maz. So, with our jumpers wrapped around our waists we set off. Having viewed Ben Ledi from the ground, it was a substantial hill, there was no doubt about it (It’s a Corbett, at 879m) and my only other experience of walking up it was many years ago. So long ago in fact, I can’t remember doing it. Holding back the years. I’ve wasted all my tears. I’ve wasted all those years.
The route is a bit of classic, and has a bit of everything (in fact, I’m surprised the race is only 3 years old – where have you been, Ben Ledi Race!). The first mile or so was forest track, winding upwards, and here the field spread out a bit. I saw Charlotte and Jim ahead here, with Neil just behind me. When we reached a wooden bridge, the climb started in earnest after a sharp turn. It was steady climbing here, firstly across a shoulder, and then upwards over a series of false summits. I settled into a rhythm and places were hard to come by – I gained a couple and could still see Charlotte ahead, with Jim slightly further on. I managed to overhaul a Westie and an HBT here and tried to move up to a Deeside Runner. Neil still hadn’t passed me yet, and I was wondering when that was going to happen. At just over 3 miles and 2,770 feet (according to my Garmin), we hit the summit, and the first of four checkpoints on the course. Things were going well for me here, but the downhill was to come where it could all go wrong. If you don’t know me by now, you will never never never know me. After the summit we had a great view of runnable grassy ridge, and as we started to descend the terrain was mixed – tussocks, rocks and grass, with plenty of mud thrown in. The next couple of checkpoints came pretty quickly and after exchanging another couple of places, I thought I spotted Jim just ahead on a section of rocky descent. It was indeed him, and sadly he’d turned his ankle in his haste. A quick pat on the shoulder as I passed was all I could manage as I had my own struggles here to stay with another Westie, and more importantly, stay ahead of Neil. As we came into the last mile or so of forest track, there was a bit of route confusion, but luckily the Westie kept me right and and I thanked him as I hurtled past. I had a quick look at my watch – 5.2 miles – and I assumed it was going to be this track all the way to the finish. I was wrong. With less than half a mile to go we were directed over a road and down into a sharp rocky and rooty descent in the woods. I looked round and Neil was hanging on my shoulder, along with a bearded HBT (male I think). They both shot past here, frustratingly, and we came out onto another section of track for the final finish. It was left to a sprint to the line and despite my best efforts to overhaul him, Neil held me off by a stride or so. As near to a photo finish as you’ll get in a hill race. Charlotte had finished a couple of minutes or so before us and had set a new female record of 1.04.29, overhauling Elke Prasad’s from the previous year. Well done her. Maybe they’ll re-name the unfortunately-named Skank Glen to Charlotte’s Glen, or Charlotte’s Chasm, or something. Prasad Prasad had a great run, lowering his own record to 51.44 and beating some good runners in the process. Soon afterwards Jim limped in (he pretty much had to finish the race, as there was no obvious shortcut home), and despite having a crocked ankle still came in ahead of 19 other runners! He immediately went on the hunt for some (pain-killing) drugs and given the look of blissful satisfaction in the car on the way home, I think he found some codeine or morphine or something.
It was left to enjoy a cup of tea (contributions please! Money’s too tight to mention. I can’t get an un-em-ploy-ment ex-ten-sion. Money’s too tight to mention) and depart for home before the midges got too much of our remaining blood. As the for the results? Neil and were given exactly the same time, to the second (1.07.01), and to make matters worse I’m ahead of him in the order. But we all know who was ahead on the finish line. I’ll get him the next time. Or maybe I won’t.
A great race, on a great course, in decent weather. Shame the organisers are a bit wet behind the ears, but they’ll get there I’m sure. Until then, I wanna fall from the stars, straight into your arms.
Those infamous results here: http://www.scottishhillracing.co.uk/RaceResults.aspx?RaceID=RA-0307&RaceYear=2015