So, first major hill race of 2017, the Devil’s Burdens relays, run by Fife AC over and around the Lomonds of Fife. 147 teams of 6 running this year, plenty of competition. Defending champions, no pressure right, surely nothing could go wrong?

For starters, getting 24 people fit, indeed all available on one day including the organisational aspect of having everyone in the right place at the right time is no mean feat. But with some careful planning from team captain, Jethro Lennox, the club was able to field four teams – two senior men’s, men’s vets and senior ladies. Not a problem either for our head of operations, Bill Breckenridge, who ensured that logistics on the ground ran like clockwork. However, despite Bill’s sterling efforts, certain members of the team were operating more on the punctuality of a certain well know rail service provider.  More of that later.

With an array of talent on display from the club, some new faces competing in the Burdens, others pulling on the Shettleston vest for the first time, even one or two taking one for the team, it was set to be eventful.

Leg One – 7.5km, 220m climb

First up we had Peter Avent for the men’s A team running his first hill race.  Unfortunately, Peter hadn’t had to deal with an orienteering kite before on the road racing circuit. Just to be safe, Jethro had consider that his warm up for leg two should involve going to the checkpoint 1 to make sure there were no slip-ups. Fortunately Peter hit the target without issue, handing over in first place, with a 59 second lead over Gwyn Bellamy of Westerlands.

Walter Henderson was next in for the vets team, well positioned in 15th in a strong field.   We then had Graham Ramsay coming in for the men’s B and Susan Breckenridge for the ladies, both running well.

Leg Two – 10km, 680m climb

So our seasoned British and internationally decorated runners Joe Symonds, Tom Owens and Jethro had gone for a ‘short’ warm up at about 10.30.  With the first runners expected at the change over around 10.55, surely they would get back in time before Peter and Walter appeared? Maybe not so, as Joe was seen frantically removing his trousers as Peter handed over and Jethro was reported messing about with his bumbag as Walter came storming down the field.

The low hanging cloud and mist which shrouded most of Fife on Saturday morning, appeared to cause our dream A team some trouble with navigation and route choice. That said, even with a few extra hill tops bagged, Tom and Joe blasted round to record the fastest leg of the day handing over with a lead of 1 minute 45 over the chasing HBT team.

Captain J was having his first outing as a vet, pairing up with John Connaghan. As you would expect, no messing about here (4th fastest leg of the day), with John receiving a ‘helping hand’ from Jethro along the way to bring the gap down to 1 minute 10 on Carnethy who were leading the vets race, at this stage.

Matt Sullivan pulled me along for the men’s B team, in doing so overtaking a few opposing teams on the way. There was a little respite on the last downhill section.

The girls had Ruth Joss and our favoured second string, Cristina Rankin on leg 2, both having run together before. Despite the girls having no complaints that cloud was obscuring the visibility up top, lets just say their maps reading skills didn’t quite match their formidable running talent, having to retrace their steps after missing a checkpoint.  At least they were still smiling.

Leg Three – 11.5km, 420m climb

Leg three for the A team appeared to go unhitched, with GB orienteer, Ali McLeod leading newish recruit, Robert Simpson round some perfectly executed lines to record the fastest leg 3 time of the day by nearly two minutes. You would have thought that the boys would have it all wrapped up by this stage with over a 3 and a half minute lead, it turned out not quite to be the case.

Ace logistics man Bill and Stephen Winter were next off for the vets team, Bill taking one for the team after suffering damage to his ribs racing the previous weekend. We salute you, Bill. No messing about for these boys either, drilling out the 5th fastest round of the day. A few minutes behind for the men’s B team were Ross Cruickshanks and recent joiner to the club from Dundee Hawkhill, Ryan Stewart. After the first steep climb, Ross appeared to be a little miss matched with his pair, Ryan seen below looking on for his partner. However, once reacquainted at the top, the boys ran well together for the remainder of the leg.

Another new face in the ranks, Bryony Harding paired up with Clara Horswell for the girls.  A week on nightshift didn’t appear to have any ill effect on Clara, maybe Bryony has a different view, but they combined well to run the 7th fastest female leg 3 of the day.

Leg Four – 5.5km, 390m climb

When Ali and Robert ran into the finish in the lead of leg three, new boy Ross Gollan was nowhere to be seen.   After a few panicked seconds with Ali and Robert looking around in despair after emptying the tank, Ross appeared out of the mist.  Unperturbed, Ross nailed leg 4 (2nd fastest of the day) to bring the men’s team home in a clear first, despite Tom Martyn of HBT in hot pursuit.  Cambuslang were also on form on Saturday taking 3rd spot, ahead of strong Carnethy teams in 4th and 5th.

At this point, the men’s vets team had built up a 13 minute lead on the chasing men’s B team and were less than 2 minutes behind Carnethy’s vets team.   It turns out Alistair ‘TJ’ Pringle, running leg 4 for the vets,  has a formidable ‘lack of’ talent when it comes to reading OS maps.  Always helpful to have one in the first place, right enough.  After going the wrong way in the woods, fortunately, TJ was able to find former club mate, Oleg on his travels who kindly directed him back on track, or at least a track which got him to the finish.  A good run nonetheless, but not enough to hold of Lucas Cheskin running for the men’s B team, who ran the 5th fastest leg of the day and taking us up to 8th place.  The vets team held on for 2nd in the rankings, 11th overall,  behind a seasoned Carnethy team.

Most of the Breckenridge family were in action on Saturday, good to see Myrtle back in a Shettleston vest who ran strongly enough, indeed 1 minute 40 quicker than TJ, to bring the girls team home in a respectable 79th, (8th overall in the female rankings) which was won by HBT.

Great to set out our stall so early in the season and to see many new faces turning out and contributions on the hill from right across the club, not only to retain the men’s title but with an ever strengthening vets team, senior men’s coming through the ranks to supporting the A team and our girls performing well.

There were some post race celebrations at the Drygate on Saturday evening.   Photos can be found on our Facebook page and more courtesy of Fife AC Burdens photos

Results, leg splits and fastest leg times can be found here: Burden results

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