Merrick Hill Race

My first go at this particular race.  The lure of a trot, a Corbett and the highest hill in the Southern Uplands all combined to justify a lengthy car trip.  Sunday was a beautiful day with a temperature close to 20 degrees and a clear sky.  Perfect.

The entry was relatively small which I presume was due to the distance from the Central Belt as it is otherwise a cracking race which would attract car loads in another location.  Owen and I were the Westies contingent and reccied the first part of the route as a warm-up.  The route had been revised to follow the tourist path due to forestry work and at least carried a ‘no chance of getting lost’ guarantee.  The downside was a very narrow section over the first kilometre.

At the start, I made the bold move of lining-up at the front due to the narrow path and was part of a group of four that moved away from the rest of the field with Owen sitting in second place and me fourth.  Thankfully I avoided the embarrassment of holding anyone-up and seemed to have the edge on speed over those behind and the gap continued to grow.  Through the trees, past a bothy, more trees and then onto the open hill side with great views opening-up.   The path had a pleasant gradient which was very runnable with intermittent walking on a couple of ramps.

I thought I was in some ghastly horror film as the sound of heavy breathing grew louder from behind as we approached the crest of Benyellary but I passed the summit cairn still in fourth and opened-up a gap on those behind as we crossed the Neive of the Spit, the ridge connecting with The Merrick.  This section offered wonderful running with great views in all directions and a nice steady climb to the trig point.  Rounding the trig, the first four places had not changed order and retracing the outward route allowed the separations to be assessed and I thought there was a good chance I could retain fourth and Owen had the chance to secure a win.

The climb of Benyellary was quickly polished-off and there was then the fun of a nice long descent.  This was excellent on the upper sections but the made path lower down was a little tricky with tight bends, loose hardcore and large holes either side which meant the path couldn’t be avoided.  I was gaining on those ahead and opening a greater gap on those behind and in the final kilometre thought I had a good chance of challenging for third.  I got within 15 metres of Colin Glencorse when I clattered my knee off a projecting rock in a corner and spent the next 50 metres hopping and cursing and had to accept it would be fourth.  I’m not sure I would have gotten past him in any case unless I could have climbed one of the rocks and jumped over his head.  Narrow, very narrow.

Owen had an excellent run and finished second behind Jim Haworth and in the end the first four places hadn’t changed from the start gun.  All very enjoyable and an excellent hill race.


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