If someone were to stop you on the street and ask you who Ralph Metcalfe was you’d probably have a puzzled expression on your face, yes? Here’s the thing. Despite breaking the world record in the 1936 Olympic Games in the 100m dash, he finished second by a 10th of a second to fellow countryman, Jesse Owens. Bet you all know and remember who he is, right?

So at the start of the week, we had on paper, four strong teams set for the Devil’s Burden hill relays. Some might say that retention of the trophy, a tilt at both the vets and maybe even a shot at the ladies titles, might have been within the realms of possibility. But then paper headlines, as we know, very quickly become tomorrow’s chip paper. The inevitable late casualties and drop outs meant that new hill captain, Bill Breckenridge was already sweating before he’d even had the chance to lace up his mudclaws.   A busy few weeks in his new role but, like the seasoned pro he is on the hills, Bill carefully re-worked the teams and meticulously planned the complex travel and logistical arrangements which meant that all we had to do was turn up and race. On reading this, one would expect that everything was in hand and our 21 Shettleston Harriers would be like coiled springs ready to go into battle.

But wait a minute, what’s that famous mantra, yes that’s right, the 5P’s – proper, planning, prevents, poor, performance. Now in theory, the 5 pillars should not have been an issue for the smart folks we had in our ranks, particularly given that Captain B had the majority of the squad out recceing most of the route in the weeks leading up to the race. Let’s just say that to their despair, some of our talented runners found out the hard way on Saturday that, if you recce the wrong route, well you’re just asking for trouble.   Others are spared their blushes having not had the opportunity to recce the leg, instead we’ll just need to put their schoolboy errors down to a bad day at the office. For the time being, I’ll maintain anonymity.

So down to the nitty gritty, here’s a brief overview of the performances on the day:

Leg 1 – 7.7km (150m climb) (wet and blustery but had the protection of the woods)

Men’s A – Grant Boyne, 4th fastest + 4th overall (25:25) – first outing for the club on the hills and appeared to relish the challenge, putting it down with the big boys and not far adrift of Eoin Lennon of Carnethy in the lead. Grant was still around for the team photo so hopefully he’s had his appetite whetted for more action on the hills.   One to note.

Men’s B – Rodrigo Reis, 66th fastest + 66th overall (35:46) – having had an injury plagued 2017, Rod looks to be back on form. Sterling run, good to see you back running, Rod.

Mixed All Stars – Charlene McCallum, 36th fastest (5th category) (32:34) – another first timer racing on the hills, took to it like a swan to water, gliding along in her new trail shoes and getting stuck in to the mud and the competition by all accounts. 6th fastest female on the day. Enough said.

MV40 – Walter Henderson, 16th fastest + 16th overall (3rd in category) – ever enthusiastic, Walter was running the first of his three competitive legs, this weekend. He only needed two today.

Leg 2 – 11.5km (700m climb) (Blowing a hoolie and for sections, the wrong way)

Men’s A – Ross Gollan & Robert Simpson, 4th fastest (3rd overall) – the two R’s (R for rockets). The young pedigree. Knew the competition in front well, knew what they had to do to bridge the gap. Some hard running added with some extra mileage – 90 seconds adrift of Westerlands and Ochil. Surely not?  More like the two B’s ‘the flowerpot men’ in action.

Men’s B – John Duffy & Dougie Porteous, 41st fastest (45th overall) – appeared to be a good pairing. The yin and yang of the uphill and downhill. Plenty of gear on, sure they were working hard enough? Job done, nonetheless.

Mixed All Stars – Iain Pender & Ross Cruikshanks, 32nd fastest (31st overall) – this was a first time pairing and outing for these boys on leg 2. Had done the recce, a few nav. misjudgements but overall a good performance. Rising stars.

MV40 – Jethro Lennox & Peter Mackie 5th fastest (8th overall) (1st in category) – Jethro had a cold, whoopee. Despite this, still like a dog into a burst ball, chasing down everything and everyone aka the Rees brothers from Fife. Like a dutiful master, made sure his servant didn’t stray too far off his leash. Efforts not in vain – eventually hunted down the two Dave’s from Ochil. Little did we know, Carnethy had gone AWOL!

Leg 3 – 11.5km (420m climb) (Blowing a hoolie, side on, then the right way)

Men’s A – Kenny Richmond & Matt Sullivan (3rd fastest) (2nd overall) – this pair know how to race at the business end (safe in the knowledge Matt can nav. in a white out). A minor blip at checkpoint 13, not enough to do any collateral damage. Matt’s puffer exerts the previous week didn’t result in Kenny breaking him, well nearly.

Men’s B – Jethro Lennox & Peter Mackie (14th fastest) (30th overall) – started off as a bit of a social, maybe a bit too much chat with the competition. Gale force winds buffeting about didn’t help the lethargy. Supposedly ‘taking it easy’ – got it together on the run in from West Lomond.

Mixed All Starts – Kathryn Pennel & Alistair Pringle (32nd fastest) (29th overall) – first outing on the hills and in a Shettleston vest for Kathryn (albeit nobody thought to provide her with one). Stalwart, TJ was understood to have put himself through the wringer on the uphill sections. Little did he know that Kathryn was a bit of a speed demon, making conversation and running on the flatter section somewhat more of a challenge? A perfect combination of youth and ‘experience’ – both appeared in good spirits at the finish, no doubt plenty of well- deserved high 5’s on the line.  Nice gloves, more MJ than TJ.

MV40 – Captain Bill & Steve Winter (8th fastest) (8th overall) (tied 1st in category) – no nonsense, no mistakes, no wonder. The backbone of the team, arguably just got the job done, like silent assassins. Strong climbing and fast descent by all accounts. Wouldn’t expect any less. Good to see from the photographic evidence that they had the competition in their back pocket.

Leg 4 – 5.5km (390m climb) (cross winds; sheltered for good parts)

Men’s A – Ryan Stewart (2nd fastest) (2nd overall) – Westies had a 4 minute lead at the handover. This boy I’m sure ran eyeballs out, probably didn’t put a foot wrong, went the right way, halved the gap, but just couldn’t quite catch Steve Hallsall, who’s a tad handy.

Men’s B – Walter Henderson (19th fastest) (27th overall) – 2nd outing. Not a problem, this man can go all day. Can’t read a map to save himself but nav. wasn’t a problem for Walter. He’d chase down your granny if it meant a win for the team. Can’t fault a workhorse.

Mixed All Stars – Victoria Leiper (54th fastest) (33rd overall) – diligent recce of the route. Victoria delivered on all accounts, strong run and also 6th fastest female overall on the day on leg 4.

MV40 – John Connaghan (restricted) (8th overall) (3rd in category) – John C is the man to watch. Reliable to put the hammer down when the chips are on the line. No doubt flew to the top of East Lomond and into a big gap. What happen next – well, let’s spare the man at that? We’ve all been there, just ask Walter …

In summary, overall results:

2nd – Male Seniors (won by Westerlands, for the first time)

3rd – MV40 (won by Ochil, also for the first time, 2nd Carnethy)

4th – Mixed Seniors

27th – Male B

On a more serious note and despite a few hiccups on the day, commendation goes firstly to Bill for getting 21 runners out for Shettleston. It was great to see that we had representation from across the club and also some new faces turning out. Some fantastic performances and as our Head Coach/Guru Malcolm Paterson would say, ‘onwards and upwards for the rest of the 2018 season’.

Special thanks again to Bill for working his magic, hosts Fife AC with support from Lomond Hill Runners and a few others for accommodating over 151 teams (c900 runners) and putting on a great event, as one would expect.

Slices of Malcom’s 60th ‘Shettleston’ birthday cake, courtesy of Susan Breckenridge were rationed to only half slices on Saturday night, as punishment for the misdemeanours.

Results, leg and split times can be found here: Devil’s Burden 2018 results

Photos, courtesy of Fife AC can be found here: Devil’s Burden 2018 photos




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