Sunday 11 February 2024

Ardgartan Trail Race (Tim Warner)


OK, the idea of a 21-ish mile trail race over the hills of the Ardgartan peninsular on the first weekend of February might seem a little mad, but when I saw this being offered by Rocket Events last year I knew it had to be done.  This was only the second year of the event, but I know the Rocket team through their Glen Lyon and Glen Ogle races, and they are a highly professional outfit - beneath an outer layer of quirky gritty humour lies a very well-organised team who truly love and understand trail running and always offer tough, uncompromising yet eminently doable routes with proper safety backup.

I entered the race in September, and it sold out soon after - always a good sign.  As the winter storms raged, the route became fluid, though it was always going to be “between 20 and 25 miles”, until with a few days to go an approved course emerged - like the 2023 course but with one major deviation taking us over the top via what became known as the “Bog of Doom” and thence down “A*se-slide Hill”.  This was the toughest (most fun) bit of the course, but the preceding 14 miles or so were pretty spectacular - forest trail with some single-track bits, undulating above Loch Long and then up above Loch Goil.  Great views, great company, and, amazingly, perfect running weather -even some sunshine! There were two water stations, at 7ish and 14ish miles (Rocket Races have a loose approach to distance measurement), and route signage was very clear throughout (even I didn’t get lost - and I was running by myself for the second half of the race). By myself but not completely - every so often someone would overtake me, (or vice-versa), and friendly encouragement kept everyone going.

The weather became atrocious going over the top - incredible gusts of wind combined with calf-deep bog and raging burns to nearly have me over a few times, and clambering down what was practically a cliff face kept the concentration going (I really, really don’t want to fall over again!) - but soon the mountain was behind me and it was back onto the final 5 miles (ish) of good undulating forest trail before the welcome sight of Ardgartan Hotel and the finish.  Hot soup, tea, coffee and the loveliest race volunteers you can hope to meet were all  in the finishing marquee - it doesn’t get much better than that. (It did, actually - very soon I was in the Arrochar Hotel, showered, in front of the rugby on TV with a pint and some chips👍).

The numbers :-  21.1 miles, 4,144 ft ascent; ok it took me over 5h35min, but I finished and I didn’t fall over!  Race limited to 150 max, sells out pretty quick.  Race starts 08:30, lots of accommodation in nearby Arrochar. 

Do I recommend it - oh yes!  Would I do it again? See you there next year!

Thursday 8 February 2024

Devil's Burden Hill Relay 2024 report


The mere sight of the Moorfoot team had the elites worried

A team of Moorfoots made the journey up to Fife for the Devil's Burdens hill relay last weekend - it's one of the biggest hill races in Scotland based on numbers (typically over 100 teams of 6 runners per team) and a great event to kick start the hill running season.  Hamish has kindly reported back on the day's action:

"As the day dawned on Saturday 3rd February a team of Moorfoot Runners assembled in Peebles for a 7:40am departure to head up to the Devil's Burden relay race, to arrive in time for a 9am registration at Falkland.  Danny Lavin, Craig Walling, Nigel Shekleton, Martin Quirke, Colin Williams and Hamish Parkinson were the lucky six representing.

The event consisted of 4 legs, with leg 1 involving a steep ascent up from Falkland to the summit of East Lomond hill, then dropping down the South flank of East Lomond, before heading West to the final checkpoint, before a descent back to the finishing line where the second leg commenced.  Legs 2 and 3 are the long legs; Leg 2 taking in the summit of West Lomond and Leg 3 a bit of a navigators leg with checkpoints to be visited in any order.  The short and sharp Leg 4, mostly in forest rather than the higher hills, finishes the race off.

As the runners assembled at the starting line Jasmin Paris was spotted yawning, like the majority of the Moorfoot Team she clearly hadn't had a lie in!!

First off was Hamish Parkinson doing the solo Leg 1. Unfortunately, along with about 20 other runners I managed to run past the first checkpoint, which necessitated back tracking once the mistake became apparent, costing a little bit of time and I finished the leg in 76th place out of 111 runners.

I handed over to Danny Lavin and Nigel Shekleton, who were running the second leg and put in a strong showing, finishing 39th overall, moving the team up the leaderboard. Particular mention needs to be made of Nigel's performance. He was clearly under the weather and struggled in the second half, but displayed very impressive fortitude to tough it out and finish the leg. However, at the finish it was clear he had been suffering.

Martin and Craig were next up on Leg 3 and put in a really strong performance, finishing in 26th place overall.

Last up on Leg 4 was Colin Williams, who put in a stellar performance - definitely the top Moorfoot performance of the day - finishing 17th overall in the leg, which moved the team up to 32nd overall.

We were all grateful to Matt for putting a team together, hopefully next year he will be injury free and able to take part.  It was unfortunate that we weren't able to enter a second Moorfoot team and a shame that we couldn't manage to involve some of the many talented female members of the club - maybe next year.

Analysing the individual Moorfoot performances, I think the learning point is clear, the performance enhancing effects of a lie in and breakfast in bed are not to be underestimated!!"
Full race details and results here:

As Hamish mentioned, it would be great to get some more teams entered for these kind of events.  They're great for a bit of club camaraderie - running is such an individual sport that it can be very enjoyable to run as a team, even when paired up!  There's next years' event to think about of course, but a few other relays before then - notably the UK fell relays in North Yorkshire in October.  A club weekend away trip???  Watch this space...

Sunday 4 February 2024

Club Champs 2024

First of all many thanks to Dean & Gillian for organising the club champs for the last two years. In the link below is the full list of races and criteria for points. A few tweaks to the scoring but essentially it is the same concept as previous years.

New for this year will be Club Championship Medals for anyone scoring 125 points or more - creating an incentive for all active club members irrespective of what's going on at the very top of the leader board. The person with the most points of course will win the prestigious Club Championship Golden Boot!

A few of the gala week type races still to confirm dates so hence some TBCs.

Good luck to all!

17th Feb - Updated link below with dates now added for Wobbly Bridge, Penicuik 10k and Kelso 10k, plus one change to age graded time trials to avoid a clash.