The Two Breweries Hill Race
September 2008

by Michael O'Connor

I did not have the best preparation for this race. Twisting my ankle last weekend should have ruled me out, but a SHR mug was at stake so there was nothing for it but to strap up my ankle and just get around the course. There was a great turnout for this very well organised race. The weather forecast was for rain later in the day, but at the start of the race the sun was shinning.

The start, at Traquair House, commenced with the usual mass charge for the gates. I hopped along for the first few metres and then settled down into a fast walking pace until I reached the road. At this point I was then able to jog slowly until reaching the farm, when I set in for a long day of power walking. As I turned onto the farm track (Pic 1) I could see the very last runner moving off into the distance.

Birkscairn Hill, a Donald, with a height 661 metres was the first serious climb of the day. The checkpoint at the top of the hill closed at 1.15pm. I arrived at 1.13pm. I was not the last to reach the top, which gave me some encouragement. I seemed to be coping quite well with the climbing, which allowed me to catch up with the runners who were making better progress on the flat. I was soon back in last place, as it took me 20 minutes to get from the top of Birkscairn Hill to the river crossing. At least I could see the two-route choices being taken by the runners in front. One group was heading up the gully next to the stream whilst the other was heading up the hill next to a small forestry plantation. I was told later, by JBF, that there is a path leading from this point up to the top of the hill. I headed for the gully towards Hundleshope Heights (685 metres). The checkpoint on this hill closed at 1.50pm. I arrived at the summit after covering 319 metres of ascent in 21 minutes. I was now 6 minutes behind schedule.

There seemed to be two very different route choices from this checkpoint to Stob Law. The first was to run along the fence line before turning right. I opted for the short, boggier route direct towards the next checkpoint. This had the danger of heading off too far to the left but luckily I was able to move around to the right without difficulty to pick up the path around the side of the hill on the approach to the short climb to the checkpoint on Stob Law. The checkpoint, at 665 metres, is just short of the summit of 676 metres. This checkpoint closed at 2.25pm. I arrived there at 2.19pm.

The next descent to Glenrath Farm was quite frustrating. Normally I would blast down a hill like this but could only pick my way one step at a time until I reached the road. I reached the checkpoint, past the farm, just before the closing time of 2.40 pm. After the farm I made a minor navigational error of turning right instead of left when I came out into the road. Luckily I was called back by a marshal and pointed in the right direction. It was then onto another uphill section before reaching the forest. I was now passing a number of runners who clearly had run out of steam.

The ascent onto the Whitelaw Hill checkpoint was actually a pleasure. On my way up the firebreak an incredulous Westie, who I had run past me on every descent since the start of the race, said that she could believe that she was being passed again by someone who had walked the course. The checkpoint closed at 3.05pm and I arrived there at 3.07pm.

It was not long before the incredulous Westie ran past me on the descent towards Stobo farm. I was able to hobble along the road, passing another couple of runners who had also run out of steam. Stobo Home Farm checkpoint closed at 3.30pm. I had picked up some time and arrived there at 3.28pm.

I managed to keep the quick pace all the way to Trahenna Hill, (549 metres in height) (Pic 2). Trahenna, with it’s 250 metres of vertical climb, is usually a killer at the end of this race. As I approached I could see a number of runners struggling to make progress up the hill. The scene was not quite as bad as last year, when, in the heat, runners could be seen wandering around the hill like zombies. I quickly ascended, moving past almost everyone on the hill. This checkpoint closed at 4.30pm. I arrived there at 4.23pm. As I made my way gingerly off the hill I was overtaken by the runners who, a few minutes previously, I had overtaken. More runners streamed past me on the steep descent towards Ratchill Farm checkpoint. This checkpoint closed at 4.50pm. I arrived there just before the cut off point. Once onto the road I was able to pickup the pace to a sort of jog. I was now moving faster than I had all day, as I wanted to ensure that I made it to the end before the cut off time of 5.00pm. I passed Jim Wining and Peter Walker before turning right onto the main road. The support from the passing cars (thanks Gordon) and other runners really does lift your spirits at this stage of the race. I crossed the finish line at Broughton Ales, at 4.56pm, 2 minutes and 23 seconds slower than last year. 18 other Carnethies also made it across the finishing line. The beer and food, in the village hall, was excellent. The rain even held off until I was almost over the finish line.


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