A place where things (or runnners) are heated in a furnace hammered into shape.
It was a driech Friday night. Low cloud, drizzle and a smattering of midges welcomed me to Badrallach campsite. A handful of Westies were hiding in the bothy sipping beers; Katie and Tom discussing their lengthy adventure over the Fannichs- they’d been deep in clod for the entire day. Others arrived in dribs and drabs having been stuck behind a crash on the Kessock bridge and some even later having taken the opportunity to go for an evening jaunt up a Munro off the A9.
I awoke Saturday morning in my tent to the dulcet tones of Brian Brennan (the only Westies to have run this relatively new race). He was explaining his woes after enthusiastically following a “local runner” (and someone who turned out to be rather speedy) up the gully and quickly falling to last place as the rest of the race followed the well demarcated path. Instantly the Nerves kicked in and I was relieved to be able to kill some time taking a dip in the sea with Ally, Kerry, Outi And Jenn. If only someone had got a snap of Ally striding back up the muddy path to the campsite in wellies, boxers and an open shirt. He’d have the #HunksOfHillrunning contest won (clearly vying for April in the Westies Calendar)….
The cloud remained low, I wasn’t convinced there was really one of Scotland’s finest hills above us (which was probably a good thing). Kit was checked (also with hindsight a good thing), A wee blonde runner next to me on the start line whispered to me that she bloody hoped she didn’t get lost as her dad was on the mountain rescue team. And we were off…
The ground was wet, rocks were slippery… but the ascent was mostly runnable. Rod and I were neck and neck, the fog grew thicker, the drizzle heavier, breeze stronger …. the marshals were all buried deep in the collars of their coats hiding behind orange covered cairns. The sequence of walking poles and cairns leading us to the final summit were much needed in the cloud. Finally I saw the first runners decending- 2 chaps in red in the lead (Andy Fallas, closely followed by ?) then a few minutes later Sam. He yelled ‘how far in front are they ?’ But it took me about 3 minute to process the question and a further 2 to get any breath to reply (no idea?!) and he was gone.
As I approached the top the Next Westie I clapped eyes on was Chris Butler flying off the summit free from the path. Finally touched the summit cairn and Rod flew past me in seconds later with his footballers agility, and the lady (who sounded Swedish?) also disappeared into the fog. I longed for better descending skills – it was slippery, wet, boggy , rocky, bouldery… all the good stuff?!. Runners overtook and disappeared . “God I should have checked the route better…” luckily a highland hill runner yelled as he disappeared out to the left “I think the gully is over here”… I followed (given he was pretty much a local?!) ……Although remembered Brian’s utterances about the gully. But that was the up, right? Someone said “Meg” behind me as I was snailing it down this heathery gully. Pleased to see Mairi we bounded down together.
Relived to be finished, next Arron and then Kerry came flying down the decent with her usual grace . Followed by Emma in one of her first race debuts although she’s well versed in Munro’s with only 40 odd to go. Jenn later came valiantly running with her impressively bloody knees (that I must say complimented her running top) still smiling.
Tom E also with a grin on his face told us of the extra peak he bagged on the ascent with a few other runners… just getting their monies worth. Damien Theaker was standing still looking happy with some impressive fresh facial wounds – having kissed the ground on the way down he was lucky to have any teeth left.
The after race snacks were second to none and as we tucked into our 5th flavour of soup we looked up to the hill to see a yellow vest bouncing down the gully….it was Andrew Fullwood who’d rather unusually taken a small detour 😉
Scores on the doors will have I wait until the results are out haha. But Ruth Crewe was on the podium as 3rd lady – gifted with Tesco’s own ‘Juicy’ Rose (that Gwyn and James bravely managed to polish off that evening). And Westies women Ruth, Mairi and myself nAbbed the women’s prize.
The race was a reminder of the need for nav , a few ladies had come down the wrong shoulder and were running an extra 5k down the road as we entered the pub…. and Shettleston owe mountain rescuea few beers after a rather expensive helicopter taxi home for a couple of runners.