28th May 2011
How good does hill racing get? Just getting to Jura is an adventure. A drive along the Clyde, Loch Lomond, Loch Long, Loch Fyne, Loch Gilp, Crinan Canal, Caol Scotnish, Loch Sween to Tayvallich. Then on board the 12-seat ferry, pounding through the swell, hills coming in and out of view through the clag. Setting up the tent in the drizzling rain, the smell of roasting barley wafting across from the distillery. The rain abates by Saturday, but the wind remains.
The race starts, a farm road gives way to swamp, easy running to the first hill. On the first descent I take the opportunity to stretch out, pushing myself while I still can. Paula and JD pass me up the next hill. I catch them up after a downhill scree slope, but they’re away and gone by the third hill. Conditions worsen briefly at the top of Bheinn a’Chaolais, with a burst of stinging, horizontal hail, but it soon clears. More steep climbs, and difficult descents through scree of varying sizes. There is fine scree, good for sliding down and filling your shoes with sharp rock chips. There is medium scree, rocks that twist your feet, cascading micro avalanches onto the runners below. The worst is the large scree, loose boulders that toss you off as soon as you stand on them. In between, we pass pretty lochans and streams.
Corra Bheinn, the final hill, arrives sooner than I expect. The track to the road is fast, easy running at first, but then degenerates to a swampy mud trail. I can’t find any pace, and reduce to a shuffle, preserving some strength for the road section. I drain my camelback at the bridge, and focus on catching runner ahead of me. I pass him within a few hundred metres, then I pass another, and then a third. But the fourth is too much, and I have no sprint left to close the
final ten metres at the finish. My time seems utterly unimportant. I’m elated, filled with pure joy at having finished. What a race!