David Shepherd Memorial Glamaig Hill Race

“ The mountain [Glamaig] whose steep flank I turned after I passed Sconser, can from here be inspected leisurely, and is, to my mind, extremely ugly. In summer it is as red as copper, with great jagged patches of verdure upon it, which look for all the world as if the coppery mass had rusted green”. “All at once a sodden, dingy, world had become a brilliant one and all the newly revealed colour and brilliancy promised to be permanent”
Alexander Smith (A Summer in Skye 1864)

Aye, and so it was on race day.

It is said that a joyous heart makes its own weather and the congregation of 107 joyous hearts massed on the start line bore this out. A week of wild and woolly, wind and wet which had halted the ferry and led to warnings about crossing the bridge shifted into a fine, soft summer’s day. Even the midges had a day off! Cloudless, robin’s egg blue skies and gentle zephyrs to cool the massing runners who had come out to play.

There was all to play for of course, as seven times in a row winner Brian Marshall was now becoming old and decrepit, having turned forty and first timer Al Anthony promised to give him a run for his money. Brian with typical humility said that if he was beaten, he would like to present the winner’s trophy.

Right from the off, however, Brian’s vest and humility were cast off and he showed he wasn’t quite as ready to hand the trophy over as he’d implied and by the time they started across the superbly wet and muddy bog Brian – with Al – resolutely on his heels was someway ahead of the pack. The crowds at the start line watched the long, snake-like procession of runners wend their way up the unforgiving “coppery” slopes but most eyes were on the two lone figures in front in what was now a two man race.

As the race progressed their lead grew but Brian just wasn’t shaking Al off and after some 32 minutes it was still neck and neck as they rounded the summit cairn and leapt into the descent. At the finish, crowds and marshals alike waited to see who would come into view first and eventually a dim and distant single figure could be seen running down from the screes before being swallowed up by the landscape. But it was only one runner not two. Was Brian beaten? Was Al lost? We waited, scanning the moor for approaching runners but no one was in sight. Then, of a sudden, there was a figure on the road – where did he come from? And Brian was bounding over the bridge to safely secure his eighth consecutive win in 51:39 - a minute and a half under Ghurkha Harkibir’s 1899 time. A second speedy figure on the moor proved to be Al who crossed the line no doubt wondering how - despite some impressive running - he’d lost nearly three minutes on Brian on the descent! In a superb run, third home and first M50 - Alan Smith crossed the line less than a minute later.

Then it was fast and furious, with runners splish-splashing across the bog whilst others were still swarming over the top. A first timer, possibly even to hill running, was Jose Torres – from Spain - who sprinted in under hour and another first timer Emma O’Shea easily won the Ladies’ race in an impressive 64:01. The first M23 was Niall Till and the first local was Francis Shepherd who clocked up 63:05 but we also had runners from the Ukraine and America too. Harry Nelson from Maine came to thank me after the race. “That was great”, he said. “I’m glad you enjoyed it”, I replied. “Oh, I didn’t enjoy it but it was great”. Monstrous, abnormal, chaotic as Alexander Smith described it. Aye.

My thanks to the local lads who marshalled on the hill, to John and all at the Sligachan Hotel for their hospitality, friendliness and assistance and to Alison, Avril and Keith for registration, start and finish. And if anyone wondered if there was a use for a retired banker they should know that 5 minutes after the last finisher crossed the line, Alison had miraculously produced the results and the prizes were being handed out. Thanks too, to Andrew Shepherd who helped give out the prizes (and refrained from drinking a gallon of ale as he did last year post race with Willie G)!

Finally thanks to Steven Fallon (7th and 2nd M40) who donated 2 signed copies of his book Classic Hill Runs and Races in Scotland as prizes.

Nick Macdonald

PS The colour and brilliancy wasn’t permanent!


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