Pop pop, it’s show time, show time, guess who’s back again? Our recently crowned men’s and vets teams, an all star men’s selection and our fabulous girls were all looking to have a shot at the medals in the last major finale to the hill racing season, the British FRA relay championships.

Despite the crème de la crème of British mountain running being present, we had a squad full of talent from across the club raring to have a crack at the competition including some old, some new, some borrowed and plenty of blue. 111 teams in total had come from all over Britain to compete.

The location for the race was Luss on the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond, well maybe some fields close by anyway. The village, made famous by Take the High Road, was probably the only way most of us would be heading, no chance of any roads either to keep us on the straight and narrow. Despite the microclimate of low hanging cloud and some rain looming, spirits were high amongst our camp. Once the Shettleston tent was up the chat turned to tactics and route choice.  There had even been some discussion in the car on the way up as to what level of marginal time gaps we could allow the opposition.

It should be noted here that there is an assumed knowledge the hardy fell runners have more than just running talent, but a wealth of map reading skills and mountain craft.

So when an unnamed runner, or maybe runners in our camp piped up, ‘so how exactly do you read a map’ the alarm bells started ringing. But then again, our respective captains had spent weeks selecting the teams in the full knowledge that leg 3, to be run in pairs, required navigational skills, the map of the route being handed out to runners in the starting pen minutes before heading into the abyss. So what was all the worrying about? Order was soon restored as orienteer extraordinaire, Oleg Chepelin gave the troops a crash course in how to use a compass.

The race was being run over 4 legs, 1 and 4 were solo efforts and 2 and 3 were being run in pairs. So in total we had 24 runners in action, a fantastic turn out on the hills for the club.

There wasn’t much chance of a warm up for our leg 1 runners who were off on their way at 10am. Joe Symonds took the lead and the rest of the field up the first climb. A short sharp 4.2km, the route was challenging enough to wake everyone up. Joe handed over with a 30 second gap in 1st place to Ali McLeod and Jethro Jennox. Our vet’s team had El Presidente, John Duffy on leg 1 and despite his hamstring going pop, he solidered on to hand over to Steve Winter and John Connaghan. Graham Ramsay, who had some issues with his glasses steaming up, had a good run for the all stars team as did Susan Breckenridge for the girls.

Leg 2 – 13km, 1,096m climb. Ali and Jethro already had their work cut out, being tasked with keeping recently crowned British Fell Running Champion, Rhys Findlay Robinson and last week’s new course record holder of the Pentland Skyline, Kris Jones both of Dark Peak at bay. The boys ran well, handing over in 2nd place to Oleg and Kenny Richmond for the nav leg. In the vets, Steve Winter did his bit to make John Connaghan do some work on the first climb, this changing throughout the leg. Both had a strong pairing run to pull through the field, taking 71 teams on the way. I spent most of leg 2 hanging on to Matt Sullivan, fresh from honeymoon who was flying round. We also managed to claw back 53 places.   Emma Dunnett and Ruth Joss had a particularly good run for the girls given the difficult conditions, the cloud on the summit now down to less than 10 meters.

Leg 3 – unknown until minutes before the start. This was when the real fun and games began. A challenging route on a good day but a nightmare on a bad day for most of those competing. Kenny was suitably impressed with Oleg’s navigational skills, both emptying the tank to hand over to Tom Owens in 2nd. Dark Peak, at this point, had built up a four minute lead at the front. Bill Breckenridge and Alastair were also strong on the navigational front, keeping the vet’s team well up the field in 24th. Shona Robertson, our girls team captain had to withdraw due to illness, so Cristina Rankin, had to step in at the last minute to pair up with Victoria Leiper. Cristina was delighted to pull on the Shettleston vest, despite it being a tad small. The girls, despite having a torrid time, had a remarkable run hitting all the checkpoints. Between 5 and 6, they met the all stars pair of Ross Cruikshanks and David Houston who were having and even tougher time, having to reconnitore back to a missed checkpoint. There was chat of sending out a search party to find our runners at this stage. However, despite a very long day and some added miles, the boys returned back to base camp safe and hungry.

Leg 4 – 8.3km, 653m climb. Tom also had his work cut out to catch Jonny Crickmore of Dark Peak, given it was such a short leg. Despite Tom having the 2nd fastest leg 4 of the day and managing to reducing the gap, there was no stopping Dark Peak who went on to take victory. Nonetheless, a tremendous second position for the senior men’s team of Joe, Ali, Jethro, Kenny, Oleg and Tom against some quality opposition.

Walter Henderson had a solid run for the men’s vets finishing 27th overall and bringing the team home 5th in the competition. Another fantastic result for the recently crowned Scottish vet champions.

Given the poor weather conditions and a number of runners missing in action on leg 3, the majority of the leg 4 runners had a mass start. Mike Deason, who’s had a commendable season on the track for the club, ran a strong anchor leg for the all star men’s. For the girls, despite the previous night on heels and a sore ankle, Clara Ursitti managed to dance up and down Beinn Dubh pretty well to wrap up the action.

HBT, took third slot in the men’s race and their girls took the female title, followed home by Black Combe and Helm. The men’s vets title went to Borrowdale.

Overall, it was an outstanding performance for the club across the board with some magical performances from all of our 24 runners. A special thanks goes out to Westerlands for putting on a spectacular event and also to our team captains, Jethro, Bill and Shona for getting everyone to the start line. A special mention should also be made for Raymond, Hayley, Craig, Viv and Malcolm F and P who helped with the marshalling and kit checks.

The team celebrated afterwards with some well earned stovies and beers, although the appealing offer of a ceilidh wasn’t taken up. It looked like a rare night too!

Results and leg times can be found here:  http://www.sportident.co.uk/results/2016/BritishFellRelay/

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