Race reporter: Ali McLeod
2020 was the 50th running of the Carnethy 5 hill race. The race is over a 6 mile course with 760m of ascent which takes in 5 tops of the Pentlands hills just south of Edinburgh. It is regarded as a classic race in the hill running calendar; the first big competitive race of the fell running season with the 650 entries selling out in minutes, people travelling from the depths of England to compete, a history of “challenging” weather conditions, a memorable spread of food afterwards, and even a bag piper to see you off at the start.
This year 12 Shettleston members made the trip east to take part in the race. As has become a familiar tradition with the Carnethy race the weather defined the day. The impending storm Dennis roused speculation of race cancelation the night before and runners were avidly refreshing their inboxes the morning of the race to check it was still going ahead. The organisers made a brave decision to continue with the race and hundreds of runners descended into a high school gym in Penicuik to register and get dressed in as much waterproof kit as possible prior to the race.
The race start saw hundreds of runners line up in a flat boggy field at the foot of Carnethy hill. Not too dissimilar to the battle scene from Braveheart, the race starts with a line of questionably dressed warriors charging into a bog with the sound of bagpipes in the air. Not everyone made it through the bog unscathed, with many people starting their day out muddier than they would have preferred to be, after unplanned swan dives. However, this was only really the start of what the elements had in store for the day.
As the ascent of the first hill began the winds, which had been 30 mph at the foot of the hill, rose to 50 mph on the tops. These winds were joined by rain, and storm Dennis had announced its presence. At this point every runner realised that their race was going to be a battle of attrition and getting to the end would be the big achievement of the day. Between the next three hilltops runners battled headfirst into winds and rain. Sometimes getting blown several metres by the wind, sometimes being blown into each other and on many occasions resorting to a crawl to ensure they stayed on the hill.
Turning and descending from the third hilltop gave some respite from the wind. Conditions were still the dominant factor in the race though, with the past week of wet stormy weather transforming a steep tricky descent in a water slide. Many people struggled to stay on their feet and falls alongside self-imposed bum sliding were common sights.
The last ascent of the race to the top of Carnethy hill, usually the most physically feared section of the race, thankfully offered some shelter from the wind. This didn’t last long as the summit of the Carnethy and the last descent were the final test for the runners to stay on their feet in the wind.
Crossing the boggy field to the finish the overriding sensation for many was relief. Relief to be out of the wind, relief to have finished the race, relief to get some dry clothes and a hot cup of tea. It was not a day of racing but a day of finishing. Every finisher had a deserving sense of achievement for what they had just done, and the positive chatter in the school gym afterwards confirmed that the race really was a “Type 2 Fun” experience.
Shettleston runners gave a good show of themselves in these challenging conditions – all finishing the race! The teams performed well with the Women’s team finishing 6th and the Men’s team finishing 5th. With notable individual performances from Kenny Richmond who was first in the Male 50 category and, Alasdair McLeod who was 3rd in the Senior Male category.
Notable stories centre around people being very cold when they finished: Ross Cruickshanks won in this category requiring the most people to dress him into warm clothes after the race as he incoherently mumbled, closely followed by Ruth Stanley who shivered her way into a selfless teammates spare clothes, and Peter Mackie who only just made it over the line. An impressive show from all, with the biggest stories of the day being that everyone finished and got home safe.
All that remains is to thank the organising club who hosted the race with help from over 100 of their own members performing voluntary roles and congratulate everyone who finished.
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