As a newcomer to this hill running malarky I thought I could provide a slightly different perspective from winner Niall. As a recent convert from cycling there are several aspects of hill running that I still find rather perplexing and dare I say it, uncomfortable: the naked shoulders, the very short shorts, vaseline on one’s nipples, being willing to drive for 5 times as long as you will run, and the ridiculous physical challenges that you are willing to set yourselves, to name but a few.
On the flip side, there are numerous things that have already endeared me to this rather bizarre sport: the stunning scenery, that even during a race fellow competitors will cheer you on, the fact that race can be over and done with in just over half an hour, the inclusiveness and sociability, and of course the ridiculous physical challenges that you are willing to set yourselves.
Anyway, back to Kaim. As my first solo hill race I had no idea what to expect and had very low expectations of my own potential performance. With my only previous experience being Devil’s Burdens in January I immediately felt very lost without my running buddy Tom E. I toyed with the idea of holding his hand at the start line as a comfort, but wasn’t sure if this was appropriate etiquette. With the sheer number of Westies on the start line I consoled myself that regardless of where I was on the course, there would no doubt be a Westie close by.
The starter’s gun sounded and I enthusiastically charged off down the road. We hit the hill and I again enthusiastically trotted up fast on the heels of Ally and Tom. At this point Harry glided past us up the hill and I somewhat foolishly decided to up my pace a little, spurred on by a cocktail of caffeine, adrenaline, and newcomer naivity. Following the climb up from the burn I had the rather disturbing realisation that I had gone out WAY too hard, was gasping for breath and could feel my heartbeat in my ears. With my garmin taunting me that I still had well over a km from I summit I had 2 choices- slow to a walk, catch my breath and resume at a more sensible pace for the remainder of the climb, or continue on stubbornly at an unrealistic pace and hope that I could somehow hold on to the top. I was inevitabley passed by a couple of runners including Ally and I made it my sole mission in life to hang on to Ally’s coat tails to the top. By the time I reached the top I was seeing stars and was presumably rather close to a cardiac event, but none-the-less I had come this far, I might as well crack on. Due to now seeing 3 of everything on the way down I was never going to get close to Ally on the descent and decided instead to focus on staying upright while attempting to hold off the chap heavily breathing down my neck. Unsurprisingly he had timed his effort a little more wisely and overtook me on the final descent. The home straight was excruciating and I collapsed in a heap at the finish tasting blood and seeing stars – it was tremendous!
All in all it was a wonderful albeit rather painful experience. I exceeded my own expectations and learnt several important lessons regarding pacing a hill run (i.e. don’t try and keep up with the fast boys). And it was a mighty impressive sight getting a front row seat to Niall, Gregor and Harry’s dominant display.
It’s fair to say I’m hooked….
P.s. Another lesson I clearly need to learn is my finish line facial expression!