Bless Bella’s cotton socks, the second year of their Ben Venue race was again touched by the hands of the October weather gods. This year, the rain was more of a challenge than the wind, so for the first time, the complete race course was run and records duly set.
Undeterred, a healthy number of Westies gathered, sopping, on the start line of the tarmac road that leads up to the forest. These first few kilometres sorted the wheat from the chaff, and I dropped backwards, losing sight of Alasdair, Shona, Steffen and Murdo who heave-ho ed up the steadily ascending track to pop out onto the hill proper. I managed to keep near enough Brian the-racing-demon who lead a good path up the steep, grassy hillside onto the ridge. The route swept between the two knobbly summits and, for me, involved a great deal of slipping and sliding up and down clumps of rock and extricating my legs from areas of peat hag and deep bog.
Having performed my quarterly (thanks Brian and Manny for the pedantry) public service of a blood donation not 48 hours before the race, the distinct feeling of running on empty had me consider whether it was wise to sit down for a while until my head stopped spinning, but with such indistinct paths to follow in the mist, I tried to keep with the Brennan lead bunch for fear of being lost in a man-eating bog. Finally, we dropped off the ridge and slid and bumped down the grassy burns to a deer fence, and after a bit of a scramble around a field of felled forest, and a dog-leg which I’m sure was not part of the plan, rejoined a path leading back to the forest from which we had come.
The last 15 minutes was a foot-slapping, continual descent down the track to the finish. With nothing left, I was happy to be overtaken by a few enthusiasts. Shona had an excellent run in first position until she was pipped just before the finish line by Jacqui Higginbottom. Tim Austin and Alan Gilkinson were in the first finishing bunch, with Alasdair, Steffen, Mindy, Brian and John Hamer finishing strongly. The highlight for me was Emma Birnie’s delicious chocolate and ginger cornflake cakes from a makeshift canvas kitchen replete with culinary delights.