Dave Gaffney raced well at Yethom this weekend after a considerable layoff with injury. Here's his account:
140 runners gathered at Halterburn, just outside Kirk Yetholm, for the latest race in the Scottish Hill Racing Championships. This one is a medium distance counter for the champs, packing 2,700 foot of ascent into its 7.5 miles.
The low-lying cloud hid much of what lay in store at registration, but the race organiser’s start line briefing gave a suitably detailed description of what we could expect.
“You go up this first hill, round the flag, then follow the dyke/fence line across quite a few more hills, turn left at that big cloud in the distance, then get back here as quick as you can. And I wouldn’t recommend going over the top of that hill there,” he said, pointing to a big lump rising above the Pennine Way to our left. “That’s definitely not the quickest line home.”
This news came as a fillip as it meant that, if nothing else, at least one of the many hills I could currently see wouldn’t have to be summited before I returned to this point.
Before I had too much time to enjoy that reprieve we were off, up and away on a farm track then onto steep open hillside, headed for the aforementioned flag at the top of Staerough Hill, the first of eight tops on the anti-clockwise round.
A quick chat with Craig Walling on the first hill revealed that he and Katie had spent a successful night with five-week-old baby Iona and two dogs in their camper van in the car park. Nothing like getting there early to avoid disappointment!
From the flag, it was straight down to the bealach between Staerough and Sunnyside hills, giving the first taste of what was to become a familiar experience over the next hour or so, i.e working hard to gain height only to plummet downwards again and forfeit all the altitude you’d sweated to achieve just moments before.
The toughest of those steep descent and steeper re-ascent combinations was hurtling down the south side of the 403m Latchly Hill, only to climb precipitously up the north side of The Curr, a 564m top featuring one of the two Trig points on the route (an added bonus for Trig-bagging geeks like me).
We had now reached the point in the cloud where we were instructed to turn left, which we dutifully did, to pick up the Pennine Way path and thus slightly better running over Steer Rig and the last proper climb up White Law. At this point, I was still competitive in the women’s race, but was soon overtaken on White Law by second and third place in that category and watched them both stretch away, with my legs unable or unwilling to respond to my brain’s instructions to go with them.
From there it’s a good, fast, gravity-assisted run (if your legs are the obedient types) down the grassy track of the Pennine Way and a final splash through the burn into the car park and the finish line.
Every penny of the £5 entry fee was donated to the local mountain rescue team, whose members were out in force on the route, meaning it was exceedingly well marshalled. The team’s £700 windfall – welcomed by a generous round of applause from runners at the start line – was well earned and, as Norham Running Club’s race director explained before the race: “All the money is going to Borders Mountain Rescue, so don’t expect much in the way of prizes, especially if I decide just to keep some of the beers for myself.”
Nobody would have argued that he deserved it for a well-organised and very friendly race which I’ll definitely return to in the future, if only in the hope of experiencing some of the views we were denied by the stubborn clouds on Sunday.
Shettleston Harriers’ Tom Owens finished at the front of a strong field, as you’d expect in a Scottish Champs race, in 1:03:45 with Eoin Lennon from Carnethy in second place and HBT’s Jonathan Crickmore third. Stephanie Provan held off a barnstorming finish from Heather Anderson of Fife AC to take the win in 1:22:29 and make her trip from Deeside well worthwhile. Claire Barry of HBT was third.
I was very happy to be first (ie only) Moorfoot and to just scrape a top 40 chart entry in 1:23:37.
Full results: http://www.scottishhillracing.co.uk/RaceResults.aspx?RaceID=RA-0056&Year=2018