The Watershed handicap
Sunday the 2nd July saw the inaugural running of the “Watershed” Tinto hill runners club handicap. Organised and named by Chris Huntley, for the point at which water chooses between a westerly course to the Clyde, or an easterly course into the Tweed.
The race was run on a 5k route, devised by Chris, in the Christmas tree plantation at Elsrickle, and followed a course around many of the tree plantations, taking in a ruin, a short and optional scramble up an unstable rock face, and a final tough loop around a field. Everyone ran a warm up lap together, to get a feel for the course, and with the route firmly fixed in our heads, we lined up ready for the start. The staggered starts took place over almost 14 minutes, so there was some nervous waiting to be done, all the while thinking of runners in front of you who were making good on their advantage. Alan Tait and I were set off last, and initially set a fast pace, until my navigational / short term memory skills were found lacking, and I got us lost, missing out a large section of the course and finding ourselves catching Alick and Alice at the boulder scramble. I left Alan to try and retrace my steps and fit in the missing distance; his scruples didn’t extend this far and he set off after Alick with gusto!
After heading back down to the ruin, and then back up the hill to the boulder scramble I had well and truly lost any hope of catching anyone, and didn’t come within sight of anyone else until the end. The finish times were within 7 minutes of each other, so the handicap drew us all together, and provided valuable information to tighten it up even more next time!
Well done to Chris for organising, and thanks to Alison Huntley for time keeping! A trip to the café in Biggar afterwards was just the ticket, and all in all it was a great day out. If I understand the results table correctly Hugh was the on-the-day winner, well done Hugh!
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Glamaig hill race
Alan Wilson, Colin Macdougall and I took the trip up to Skye to take on the 30th Glamaig hill race. Excited after receiving a nice commemorative slate at the 25th race in 2012 we asked what was on offer this year, only to learn after some debate that the organisers had mistakenly thought that next year was the 30th, and had inadvertently missed the anniversary. So a quick heads up for next year, there may be goodies…
The weather was a bit changeable, but looked to be staying dry as we lined up outside the Sligachan hotel. As we set off I noticed 9 times winner of the race, Brian Marshall, just in front of me (as usual) appeared to have forgotten his shoes. Astonishingly he ran the whole race completely barefoot, quite remarkable in a race which has in the past prompted people to wear an old pair of mudclaws and then throw them away afterwards because they have been so badly damaged.
The run through the bog to the bottom of the hill was relatively uneventful, and we started descending. Luckily being relatively far up the field, I escaped the danger of falling boulders, Alan Wilsons reported afterwards seeing two bad injuries, one a head wound and one a possible shoulder fracture due to falling rocks. In a stroke of very bad luck the chap who sustained the head wound had also suffered a broken leg in last years race due to a boulder catching him up on the descent colliding with him.
As the climb carried on the steepness of this race struck me again; after a few years away I had forgotten just how sheer the climb is. At one point, holding on with both hands and with my foot swinging in mid-air searching for a foothold, I was genuinely worried that if I let go I would fall off the mountain!
On top the wind was truly fierce, making any progress at all difficult in some places. I managed to get round the top and started my descent. Feeling confident and with good visibility I headed for a scree slope and set off down, only to lose control twice and end up clawing at the boulders as I slid down the hill. Taking a more cautious approach I inched down the mountain, loosing places as I went. To further slow me down I had to stop and take both shoes off to empty the rubble out of them.
Finally I hit the path back through the bog, and was able to pull back some places, and a further one on the road, staggering in for 12th place overall. Colin came in 43rd and Alan 82nd, completing his tenth Glamaig.
Results here, a really great if mildly terrifying and traumatic race, hope to be back next year. Don’t be put off by the distance, it’s a great weekend away and very social.