Or a tale of two lessons.

Long weekend, time with the family; well how do I get a day pass to run a hill race… Answer: suggest we go down the road to the Gargunnock show, oh and there just happens to be a hill race.

Forgetting the hill race for a moment, Gargunnock show is just great. From the biggest bulls you will ever see, to antique tractors (well at least I thought they were antique, not being a farmer and all…), plenty for the kids to do and easy parking on site. Well recommended for a half day out.

Right, back to the hill race. Pay my entry (bargain £5 for SAL members, a whole £15 change for the £20 I had), line up with the other 41 runners, watch the young farmers team competition (yes, a bit like Helensburgh Highland games, the start time for the hill race here is fluid as well, but the wait it well worth it as you watch the young farmers wrestle with the obstacle course and get covered in water). The other 41 runners are alarmingly dominated by lean young men wearing club vets with go faster stripes on them, hmm not feeling that confident anymore, hope I don’t embarrass myself… Right, start time, hand over the car keys and the change from my entry fee to my wife and we are off. A circuit around the very small arena and I am already at the back.

The race circuit is great, it takes you in a loop to the top of the hill with a piper at the start and another piper at the top with a fluttering saltire. The uphill is fairly steep and ascends up a farm track and then a steep gully, but the downhill is on farmers tracks or footpaths and is all runnable in normal shoes (didn’t really need the mudclaws I had on). I slowly headed up the field until I was sitting in 12th place going up to the turning point at the top. Just before that two runners who had been sitting on my shoulder passed me. Oi I though, and it was straight back past the first one when he slowed to grab a cup of water at the top and then past the second on the descending tussocky summit ridge. Feeling that it was just homeward running now I sped up a little to try and close the gap with the runners in front. But instead of heading straight down, the route takes a scenic, looping path back and even throws in a steep little uphill on a section of meadow. Where did that come from? Now I was seriously knackered: Lesson 1 – look at the map before you run a hill race! In the end the return leg took almost as long as the climb to the top of the hill.

Eventually, after tripping over a gate and almost missing a sharp right turn to the show field the end was in sight. Three runners were just in front but too far away to catch and I enjoyed the finishing run. Back to the family with a great goody bag (immediately pilfered by the kids) and get my car keys and change back… Lesson 2: come with the exact change for the entry fee next time. My change by this time had changed into three (by now empty) bags of candyfloss and some (I was told) very enjoyable turns on the bouncy castle. The end result was not too bad after all, 12th place out of 42, but sadly with no other Westies to compete with. Verdict: Gargunnock hill race and show is a great even and I am already planning my return visit next year, hopefully with some other Westies there as well?

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