Most people from the central belt would bite your hand off for a day in the sun and the chance to get their ‘taps aff’. Also a boost for the NHS allowing the average Scot to restore some vitamin D deficiencies. Throw in the offer of endless supplies of sweeties and water, some could be mistaken for thinking it was a rave rather than a race. The sights of a rammed Callander town centre on a sunny Saturday afternoon, you could be easily mistaken.
At the other end of the scale, 23 miles up the road, the optimism of some 359 hardy fell runners, was less than enthusiastic. Like most runners, we’re never happy, be it injury, niggles, over training, under training, the cold, the wet, the snow, the wind etc. etc. I could go on and on. The common excuse of the day was the heat. Anyway, Strathyre was the venue for the Stuc a’ Chroin 5,000 hill race, which was also the 2nd counter in the Scottish and British hill championships. A beast of a race on any day, previous years have seen club members helped off the hill by the mountain rescue from hypothermia, no chance of that today, instead it was people suffering from sun stroke or heat exhaustion. The 5,000 in the race name was the giveaway if you did your research, albeit the figure represented a slightly understated amount of climb required over the testing 21km course.
With a few absences in the ranks, most notably, Jethro Lennox who was unable to race due to an expected early arrival of baby number two but unexpected rupture appendix, we had packed plenty of cars. Well, at least for those who could actually get parked with the travelling southerners taking 95% of spaces in the restricted race allocated carpark. On count back, we had another sterling turnout of 17 runners making the start line.
I think the early sun must have been frazzling some people’s memories, there was a lot of missing maps, compasses and standard kit. I had to be reminded on the way to the start to put my number on, thanks Jon Broxap.
A countdown of 10 got the race underway just after its scheduled start of 1pm. Absolute bedlam. I’m surprised there were no reports of people being trampled on, with literally all 359 runners battling for position onto a narrow trod right from the off. From a passer-by, it could conceivably have been a buffalo stampede there was so much dust being lifted into the air as the field ploughed down the next section of landrover track. Normal race order, certainly from where I was, appeared to resume shortly thereafter with the field stretching out into single file through some rough forest plantation.
It was nice actually to have some shade for five minutes in the trees, although minimal respite, as once out on the open hill, there was no hiding from the sun. After a section of reasonable underfoot running, you are faced with the formidable sight of Beinn Each which needs to be climbed after dropping down to Glen Ample valley. It’s fairly savage,1,500ft of climb in less than a mile, one to make
some grown men cry. Runners can be seen below snaking up the first section of Beinn Each, courtesy of Matthew Curry.
Fortunately after crawling up to the summit, the race organisers had put on a fantastic support team, with aptly ample water and jelly babies being handed out literally round ever corner until the summit of Stuc a’ Chroin. To be fair, it was on offer on the long run back which was a reverse of the route out, minus the sheer drop of Beinn Each which you traverse round instead. There’s also the fairly arduous climb back out of Glen Ample on tired and cramping legs. At least the chance of dehydration and bonking should in theory have been mitigated if you had been partaking in fuelling up at all the marshalling points.
Saying all of that, I think probably most of the Shettleston runners can contest that it was a bad/hard day of racing and probably too much for one or two of us.
Anyway, on to the important stuff, whilst we had a large number from the club running, no one, with the exception of perhaps Kenny Richmond and John Connaghan were setting the heather alight. This could have been possible though with the heat and natural combustion. Finlay Wild of Lochaber was leading the race off the summit of Stuc with Andy Fallas of Carnethy close behind in second. Mark Lamb and Carl Bell of Keswick and last weekend’s Three Peaks winner, Murray Strain of HBT weren’t far off the front pair. Finlay managed to extend the gap on Andy, winning it a time of 2:08:44, a mere 11 seconds off the course record. It will be interesting to see if Finlay can break the 23 year old record for the club’s Goat Fell race in a couple of weeks’ time, missing it by only 42 seconds in 2015. Andy Fallas held on for 2nd and Carl Bell got the better of Mark Lamb by 16 seconds to take 3rd. Murray came home in 5th, a minute adrift of Mark.
In the MV40 category, Morgan Donnelly of Borrowdale took top slot in a time of 2:18:16 (9th overall) followed by Danny Hope of Horwich (20th) and Morgan’s club mate, Ben Bardsley taking 3rd (21st). Kenny just missed out on a British podium place by only 6 seconds, right on the heels of Ben in 22nd. However, Kenny was first MV40 in the Scottish Championships, retaining his lead at the top of the table. John Connaghan ran a tactically astute race finishing strongly in 42nd (11th MV40 in the British and 4th in Scottish rankings). With me finishing (54th) and Steve Winter, tapering for Stirling marathon (78th), we did enough to keep the MV40 team on top of the Scottish rankings and 1,2,3,4 in the individual standings. The guys will have their work cut out topple Borrowdale in the British championships.
Robert Simpson (24th), Joe Symonds (35th), Ryan Stewart (93rd), Dave Houston (140th) and Ross Cruickshanks (171st) will probably all agree they had a tough day out in the senior men’s race.
Bill Breckenridge, also suffering from the heat (footage at the summit of Stuc) did enough to keep him at the top of the Scottish MV50 standings, (115th). Our other vets on the day, TJ Pringle (123rd) and Walter Henderson (144th) had an energy sapping fun day out. It was too much for Graham Ramsay, who regrettably had to drop out midway.
In the girl’s race, it was good to see Shona Robertson back who ran well to take 2nd FV40 (118th) behind Lou Roberts of Ambleside who was 1st FV40 home in a time of 2:37:52, who must have been battling it out with Georgia Tindley of HBT, who was first senior lady home 4 seconds in front. Lou’s club mate and namesake, Kelli Roberts was 3rd female home. We had great runs from Clara Horswell, (141st), Victoria Leiper (292nd) and most notably, Susan Breckenridge (339th) who was one of the few people full of energy at the finish. The girls are 2nd overall in the Scottish team rankings, only two minutes adrift of Deeside.
All in all a challenging and tough time had but great effort from the club to keep the pressure on in the championships.
Results can be found here: Stuc Results
Photos courtesy of Matthew Curry can be found here: Stuc photos
More photos taken by club mate, Rodrigo Reis on the summit of Stuc: Rod’s shots
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