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In past issues this interview has been conducted by our President, Keith Burns and has been used to fish out some interesting information about some of the members who make up our club. In this issue, interviewer becomes interviewee, as the spotlight falls on Keith himself.


1. I know you roped the mountains as a climber and Munro-bagger before they roped you into running. When and why the transition from hill climber to hill runner?
I first started running as a way to get fit for a climbing holiday in 1967. This slowly developed into regular running in the Renfrew hills with friends (Ed; Alex Menarry and Brian Cunningham - both now foreign members of the club) in the early 70's. In fact we independently invented hill racing, oblivious of the fact that others had been doing it for years. I very slowly realised that I was enjoying running in the hills as much, if not more, than climbing, particularly because it was easy to organise, and did not involve humping great payloads up a mountain followed by long cold pauses on ledges wondering whether I was going to survive. The slow change-over to a ruling passion was complete after surviving my first hill race (Kentmere) in 1979.


2. Which of your hill sports has given you the greatest satisfaction?
That’s impossible to answer. They are all complementary and the accumulated experience from anyone has been of value to all the others: walking, cycling, running, climbing or skiing. The satisfaction comes from being able to enjoy and combine them all.


3. Next year (Ed; 1992) you will move from vet to supervet status and will hope, presumably, to follow in Bill Gauld's footsteps, or perhaps be hoping that he will be following yours. What are your personal plans and ambitions for running in the next couple of years?
I'd like to make an attempt to win the Scottish Supervet Championship before others start turning 50 shortly behind me. But this requires serious training and the exclusion of other things. I'm going to have a go. So watch out Messrs Gauld, Amour and Armstrong.


4. The creation of new bodies to administer running, promises to change the face of hill running just as the cessation of hill sheep subsidies promises to change the face of the hills themselves. Do you see hill runners as endangered species and how do you view the future of hill running.
Hill runners are not an endangered species, but hill-running as we know it is. The hazard is popularity and it has already taken off, even in Scotland. There's nothing wrong with popularity per-se but if it takes away one of the main attractions, peace and quiet, then we need to take stock. I foresee an increase in small informal races between friends (Dave Peck's Affric Tops race is a good example); no flags, no permits, no reports outside club newsletters, no hill running commissioners or red blazers. This is my consenting-adults-in-private philosophy. Enthusiasts who want to race against the best will keep the national race calendars going.

5. For many runners, what they eat is an important factor in how well or badly they run. You have recently started to follow a vegetarian diet. How has this affected you and your running?
The vegetarian diet is not total or principled. It's a family change to avoid two meals having to be cooked each night. My normal diet is demand feeding; I eat everything I see. Any effect of the extra vegetables on my running has not been noticed except a slight increase in jet thrust.


6. You wrote recently about the team selection for the Kettlewell relays. As President of Carnethy how do you compare and contrast both hill racing and hill running and how do you think the club best serves both interests?
For me, hill racing has always come second to mountaineering in its widest sense. The commitment to a race keeps the pressure on training. That in turn, keeps me a lot fitter for trips into the mountains, on foot, bike or ski. The Club should cater for runners like me and for the dedicated racer who wants to win. There should be no problem in doing this. But the Kettlewell shows that you have to be very careful affair (Ed; he defended the selection of “also-rans” rather than leaving team places unfilled – causing some offence to a prominent “also-ran” who subsequently became president). The secret is to have the right mix on the committee and making sure that no individual dominates selection policy.

7. Have you ever won anything?
Yes, a number of relatively minor prizes, by accident, but they are of no particular importance.

8. It has been rumoured that you are the Widow, based upon the fact that her article refers to Jim being hit on the head by a rock and that this fact was not generally known in the club until you referred to it in your as Mountain Trial article. Can you confirm or deny that this is the case?
I am not. My wife is delighted that someone has opened the discussion because she feels very sorry for the widows who do not have a partner as considerate as I am (Ed; other members feel this can only be an attempt at a joke). The reference to Jim, his head and the rock is a diversionary tactic, as I suspect is the reference to the member who has installed his wife on the committee so that she could see more of him. We have a sub-committee working on a textual analysis of the article using a super-computer. The truth will emerge shortly I'm sure (Ed; it never has).

9. What has been your most memorable moment in the hills?
Another question which is impossible to answer. even a shortlist of a dozen would be difficult. One at random; skiing to the bottom of a steaming volcanic crater in the middle of an Icelandic icecap after spending two weeks pulling a sledge to get there. Nothing on the shortlist would be connected with running in the hills.

10. If you could choose a venue for the perfect hill race where would it be (other than Traprain Law)?
The questions get more difficult. It would have a deep river to wade, a gorge, a very exposed rocky ridge, a number of summits, difficult navigating with no obvious best line, some fast downhill including scree, some cloud, rain, snow and sunshine and only enough competitors to be able to see two in front and two behind you most of the way. (Having strung that together it's interesting that the Affric Tops Race is a fair model) .

11. Why is it that handicapping a club race proves to be so difficult?
It's because of a macroscopic version of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle; as soon as you start observing and cataloguing the form of a group of runners, you disturb their performance. There is no scientific basis for this yet though. It's similar to Sod's Law.

12. How do you train?
Very irregularly. The problem is that I go out running to enjoy myself. Jim Darby gave me a glimpse of the other world of running and suffering at his hill-reps. But I've lapsed back into sybaritic mode. I'm going to start again in the New Year. Meanwhile a typical week has a long run in the mountains if possible, an hour up and down Traprain Law, 4 miles on each of 4 lunch times, one session of hill-reps up and down a rubbish dump and numerous trips up a 38m staircase ascent at a run.

13. When did you realise that your limited athletic ability would not allow you to achieve your athletic dreams?
I'm like Pat Hannaford here. I've achieved far more than my athletic drop-out role at school ever suggested I could.

14. How did you learn to live with being an athletic drop-out?
Nothing to reconcile. Every athletic experience is a triumph.

15. What is wrong with Carnethy Hill Runners as a club?
We don't have a core of junior runners. This is a pity and we ought to do something about it.

16. Anything else to add in the way of words of wisdom, inspiration or warning?
Don't publicise hill racing. Don't take hill racing too seriously. Never go running in the hills alone without knowing how you- would survive and get rescued if you broke an ankle in bad weather.

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