Arthur’s Seat Handicap 2010

But many that are first will be last; and the last will be first.

Matthew (verse 30)

Runners trying to get a better handicap Part of the course Garry MacInnes Runners recover after their hard effort

Having been allocated my best handicap time in the, methinks, 22 years that the handicap series has been run (and in which I’ve also run (although not necessarily competed in) every year) there was absolutely no way that I could lose this traditional last race in the series, erm, except that I was the organiser of the “busiest” handicap of the year – the race which is the final, final, decider and so wouldn’t actually be running. B*gg*r. (A town in the Clyde Valley).

A careful consideration – aye ok, hurried glance – at the score sheet to date led me to think that it was potentially a “ten’s” not tense situation. If Andrew Shepherd (running well and with fitness V high this year) finished in the first 10, the overall trophy was his for the taking but if Matthew Grove (also running V well) finished in the first 20 it was his.

Amongst the 44 runners who took part, our President possibly suffered most from our handicap’s underlying principle – that “many that are first will be last; and the last will first – Gordon’s punishing handicap (as a result of winning outright last year and continually improving this year, oh and of course being Pres’) meant that our “First Lad” was third last.

The two principal contenders arrived in different moods – Andrew aware of what could be won and lost, Matthew thinking that he might not take part but would just go for a run somewhere. (One of his beloved dogs is nearing death). At each of their respective times the runners set off – or perversely didn’t (arriving late, arriving too early, changing, chatting, forgot) and Matthew was the worst. Arriving some 3 minutes after his scheduled start time he dallied and dillied, dillied and dallied before he lost his way home or eventually ventured (more like wandered) off, only heading when we told him that this was his final start time whether he ran or not.

With route choice comes the natural consequence - route error – and so with only two, logical, out and back bits on the course, runners were reportedly confused by running past other runners running in the completely opposite direction, although seemingly less confused by those crossing their paths at right angles (?) So only two rights make it wrong apparently. Runners listening to others listening to their older but, alas, no wiser counterparts, led to the predicable unpredictably of it all. Carnethy, hill running, its all about choice, even if it is only just about the route.

With route choice comes another natural consequence – those marshalling the finish have no way to know which direction the runners will come from – and they came from everywhere. Plus, with no marked start / finish line, every runner stops where they think “the line” is and, for me it was interesting to watch them zigzag around trees, parked bikes and cars to “cross” their perceived idea of the line as if it was actually there within the confines of the car park and not an arbitrary and ambiguous scratch across the planet in the mind of the handicapper and / or organiser, or finish marshals. But a simple observation, all those using their own watches to time their “finish” stopped when they thought they were done regardless. Everyone 2 to 3 metres short of my imaginary line. All those who had no such care ran through and beyond the finish. Finish times were of course where recorded where I recognised that the runner reached, crossed, got close enough to, where I perceived that ambiguous scratch was. (Note if your time doesn’t accord with the results, then you’ve run off scratch).

Aye, so what actually happened? Well a lot of the Carnethy women had their hair “done” before the race, a lot of the Carnethy men had recognised that their hair was already done before the race, but in the race itself Michael Wilkinson won the race, just marginally from Moi, who finished a close second, whilst potential series winner - Andrew powered into the finish in 8th finishing position and overall victory whilst a disconsolate Matthew truckled in under half-way up or down the field.

So, like every Carnethy event – no matter how it’s organised – the runners decide and Matthew, who was apparently mentally locked on to Sam ahead of him in the run, was somewhat surprised and abashed to find that he’d slipped into victory, somewhat more easily than he later slipped into the winner’s vest. So we had Matthew fulfilling (St) Matthew’s maxim – another first!

The usual, excellent, and informal bash provided by Gaynor and all the staff at Edinburgh Uni’s King’s Buildings rounded off the race, the series and a few stomachs. My thanks to all those who contributed.

As for the handicapper? May the handicaps remain forever Young.

Nick Macdonald




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