Ben Lomond Hill Race

10th May 1997

After about the third visit to the toilet, I manage to prise myself away and get out to Rowardennan for 12ish. I sign in as usual, and then things start to go wrong: the club vest that Alisdair promised is waiting to be adorned. ‘Sugar’ – so much for plans of drifting by anonymously in the middle of the pack, not caring about time or position; now I have a greater entity to be concerned about – THE CLUB!

Alasdair shouts the instructions and I think I’m confused, but not sure. Not to worry, I’ll just follow the conga line. Bang, and off we go. Round by the toilets and already I’m breathing like an 0898 number in the back of The Sun (allegegly). Up through the forest, I follow the guy in front, and he’s wearing a pair of these loud-graffiti lycra leggings – or is he – maybe I’m just hallucinating with the strain. Get out of the forest still managing to jog, but that soon comes to an end when I start on the first of the marker sections. Time for the good old ‘hands-on-thighs’ position – thank goodness the mates aren’t about or I’d never hear the end of it. At last the tourist path again for an ‘easier’ section where the rubber legs are coaxed into a slow jog. I pass several extremely obese people with woolly, bobbled hats, who are shouting abuse at me for having a large W declare my persona – then I realise they are Westie marshalls under twenty layers of clothing, giving encouragement – most excellent, think I, and I manage to raise a hand and give a mucus filled grunt in response.

The leader appears coming down, and goes flying past. For one devilish second, my brain cells entertain the thought of sticking my foot out to see him really fly, but the pain of the final steep marker section quickly brings reality back. At last I recognise one of the Michelin Men – it’s the editor himself, Brian B. Alas, however – what’s that in his hand? – aaah! No, its a camera, and the wind carries his dreaded words … ‘Smile!’ – smile, is Brian taking the piss or what? Eyes are watering, nose is running, mouth is foaming, sweat everywhere, and he’s asking for a smile! Still, in between gasps for air, I manage to comply, and struggle on up.

The object of the last hour’s struggle comes into view. I touch the blessed trig-point, flash my number at the Michelin men (or womwn), then turn for the best part – over 3000 feet right down to the pub-door – you can tell this is a Westie’s race. The stride begins to lenghen and soon I’m hurtling, or so it seems, down past Brian again – much bigger smile this time. Half of the descent gone and I feel I’m running with drawing pins under each heel – this is pain, but can’t slow down now. Into the forest again, and I catch up with my loud-legginged friend – so they are real after all. Onto the road and there’s Manny shouting at me to go for it and pass the lycra man. Can he not see that this is me ‘going for it’, and I’m doing my best not to puke on the guy, never mind pass him.

Anyway, in a minute it’s all over and I’m bent double in the carpark, gulping air and swearing never to do this again. I raise my head to see about half a dozen others all doing the same – all looking as if they’ve just just been kicked in a certain place with size 11 steel toe caps. Still, such are the joys of hillrunning. Five minutes later and the agony has reduced to mere pain, and a smile can once again be achieved. General chit-chat ensues, with guys comparing the size of their blisters and the ladies discussing the pros and cons of Ariel versus Persil in getting their club vests back to original condition.

And then that’s it – it’s all over and time to go home – a Westie virgin no more. Thanks to everyone at the club for a great welcome. Now that the lager anaesthetic has worked, (after several doses), and the blisters have been drained, the hill-calendar is being searched for the next Westies race.

1 Colin Donnelly Eryri 69:28

2 Dave Weir Perth Strathtay 69:52

3 Anesti Davenhill Shettleston 72:18

26 C. Campbell Westies 86:17

30 Don Reid Westies 86:54

44 A. Farrel (1stF) Helensburgh 92:24

45 Pete Baxter Westies 92:56

69 Drew Turnbull Westies 104:26

74 Elspeth Baxter Westies 107:53

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