The 2007 Eskapade

Sunday 16th December

Organised by Willie Gibson
Photos by Gordon Cameron

Come go with me we've got it made - Let me take you on an eskapade - Let's Go!
(Janet Jackson)

We arrive at Carlops in pitch darkness, much frost, dawn still an hour away. But just past seven on Sunday the minibus was already waiting. Clamber into the warm haven to await the stragglers. One minibus and one landrover set off, a commando group of black hats and gloves, but fluorescent lycra is a dead give-away. Knackered already and the trip hasn’t even started. By the time we get to Hillend for a pick-up the eastern horizon suggests that day might yet follow. Takes a while to get to Musselburgh by road, brings home how long the run really is. More arrive at the mouth of the Esk, all shiver while Willie G counts down the minutes. The local residents are still asleep under their duvets, Pentland hills are invisible in the grey distance. It’s 8.30 am, a motley group and one dog, we’re off.

The first leg a nice fast flat run, crossing now and then over the Esk. Aforementioned canine petrified by crossing the water, Gordon had to carry him over! The new A68 now cuts through the Dalkeith estate (where activists a couple of years ago had built a tree village) but there’s a path under the main bridge. Willie and Nick had been out before and had opened up a route through impenetrable rhodies and contrived a ladder over a 10ft wall, magic, brilliant. Now that’s forward planning!

We undulated, as the first sunshine glinted over the hilltops we ran through a golf-course covered in frost, gorgeous, and down into Lasswade, early motorists bemused by a score of runners leaping over a wall and down an improvised firepole. Sadly no mince pies at the village, so up the path to the crest of the valley and down to the river, those atrocious concrete steps covered in ice are still there. First proper break at Polton Weir.

From here the stunning red gorge of Roslin Glen. Sometimes high aloft above the gorge, other times inches from the water on slippery sandstone. Hawthorndean Castle on the other side of the river, Wallace’s Cave too, reeking of history; then spy Roslin Chapel up on the hill. Another mile along the river before crossing at the weir and up to the old railway line to regroup. Pentland Hills still far off, but seem a bit closer. A change of pace, fast canter. The disused rail-bed past Old Woodhouselee Castle (sounds familiar) and after many km we turn up the hill onto Penicuik main street where the Royal Hotel awaits with hot bacon rolls, or not – Willie had phoned ahead but the message fell on deaf ears, we wait. 24 km of trail behind us, according to GPS.

The fast group, an elite band who left Musselburgh an hour or more after the main pack, arrives panting. Lunch arrives too after some delay and we fill up with tea and rolls. More people and dogs arrive, others depart, a milling of Carnethies. We begin to warm up. Now for a bit of endurance. Heading out into a deepening chill we skirt some woods and have a good run over rolling frosty turf in what remains of the sunshine before dropping down to cross the river on the skittery roof of a pipe or something and head back up aiming for navigation pillars far in the distance.

By this time the field is beginning to spread out. Regroup at the furthest pillar and head north to cross back over the river at Drambuie and head through Habbie’s Howe, another narrow gorge, to emerge up to Rogersrig in the gloaming. Now the final sprint across the fields with the lights of Carlops (25 miles) in sight. The lights of the Inn. Doesn’t a pint sometimes taste just great!

WG has made an official video of the 2007 run; an alternative view is here. Which year was that?

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