Glamaig is a hill race I’ve wanted to enter for quite some time but holidays and other events have tended to clash leaving it on the to do list. Finally, the stars aligned and I was able to make my way to Skye to take part in this classic race.
Given the 3.00 pm start, I decided to drive to Skye on the day. The weather was fantastic and along the way the usual Munro starting points were crowded with cars as people piled into the hills. The Buachaille and the Aonach Eagach were going to be busy! Through Invergarry over the hill into Glen Shiel and then… what is that? Rain? High winds! By the time I reached the Skye Bridge it was absolutely lashing and more like a winter’s day than the height of summer. Tourists were sent scuttling to the safety of tea rooms and art galleries. A local was forced to don a light jacket.
At Sligachan I dashed from the car to register and then back again to get changed in the car. Thirty minutes to go and the start line still looked a little quiet. Oh well, nothing for it but to brave the elements and head off for a wee warm-up run. On the way I bumped into George and benefited from his past experience of the race and some advice about the descent. Now completely soaked I returned to the start where it was getting busy at last. 98 runners had registered and were ready for the off.
I’m sure on a sunny day the tension would build with lots of spectators eagerly watching the spectacle but there were only a few brave souls and the runners seemed to be of one mind …let’s get on with this to get out of the rain. With a couple of minutes to go I was surprised when an unattached runner from foreign parts asked ‘Which hill are we running up?’ I pointed into the clag in the direction of Glamaig which was not visible despite its situation only a mile away. ‘Just follow the fleet’ was the best advice I could offer. Fleet seemed appropriate as the ground was swimming and the river a foaming torrent.
The start time finally arrived and we piled across the road and the old bridge. The pace was comfortable and I was near the front with relatively little effort. However, one man was going for it. Finlay Wild was already in the lead and by some margin at only the far side of the bridge and this yellow clad figure quickly stretched away. He was on a mission obviously eager to better his record run of the previous year.
Off the main road and onto a muddy track, we slowly moved closer to the hill. The initial ramp was runnable but it quickly steepened and was soon very steep. The rain was coming in from the right and at one point my windward contact lens started to swim and I faced the prospect of running the descent half blind. Fortunately, it dropped its bid for freedom and remained in contact with its friend the cornea. Onwards and upwards through a few bands of rock and onto scree; the yellow clad spider disappearing into the gloom. I was glad this would not be the way down. Even on a clear day it would be dangerous.
Finally the angle eased a little onto a grassy slope and running a few steps became possible but it then reared up again on yet more scree. The leaders were now coming down. I saw Brian Marshall but no Finlay Wild and I realised later that he was miles ahead and would have cut to the left minutes before I arrived. Manny went past and I shouted some encouragement. I then could see the summit cairn and gave it a little burst to keep ahead of the group I was in and spun around the cairn. The absence of a marshal was a surprise but who would want the job on a day like this?
The initial descent was technical through rocky outcrops and I made a couple of places quite quickly. Then I found the fantastic scree slope which was a joy to run down and quick too. Nice small stones near the middle and bigger blocks at the side which only came into play when there was a need to head right. Not everyone found the scree such fun and I was quickly making ground on those ahead. There was then a traverse to the right on grass where it became more difficult to keep a solid footing and in some places it was quicker to bum slide and let gravity do the work.
The fun of the steep stuff was soon over and there followed a run over tussocky ground to re-gain the path of the outward journey. I was in a group of three and Ross Bannerman was closing in reducing the lead I had created after passing him on the scree. Up, down, slip, fall, jump, slide and repeat. On the final slope before the road I tripped and cracked my knee off a rock. I stood up and tried to persuade my left leg to get going again but it took a while and my wee group got away from me. A possible 11th turned into a 14th but I was glad to make it home under the hour and was the last of the finishers to do so. Manny had finished 8th a few minutes ahead, a fantastic effort given his recent illness and limited running. I limped off to the river and sat in a little pool to ease the pain in my knee. From my vantage point I could watch other runners nearing the finish as the rain continued to beat down. Sitting in a river, in the rain, with a tough run behind me. Bliss. It’s a crazy game we play.
Finlay Wild had finished in 45.57 nearly 10 minutes ahead second placed Brian Marshall. Finlay said he had lost a little time on the way up because of the slippy conditions and the run out had also been more tricky compared with last year when the track had been largely dry and a lot firmer. It is quite amazing he got anywhere close to his previous time.
A fantastic race and very enjoyable despite the weather. I highly recommend it to all, particularly if your thing is steep, technical descents.
I had planned to camp and head home on the Sunday but with the wind still blowing and rain pounding down, I decided my own bed was a better option than a cramped tent.
Perhaps a wee Westie outing next year with a trip into the Cuillin on the Sunday?