Stuc a Chroin 2012 was my first Long Classic hill race.
In preparation I’d done a few 13 mile runs around the West End on the basis that Stuc was about 13 miles. Coupled with my general diet of hill-walking/climbing at the weekends I figured that this would leave me in prime shape for the race. I hadn’t quite figured out training at that point.
Alastair Duke and I mistimed our drive up, but as we managed to arrive 2.5 hours early that was no bad thing. The registration was in the same room in the pub as it is now. I didn’t recognise any of the faces. Back at the car park I saw some dude lubing up his nipples, a new sight for me – I’d led a sheltered life.
Back in those days the start of the race involved a few extra miles of forestry track, as opposed to the current boggy trails – all very civilised.
I remember at the top of the first descent into Glen Ample I looked across at the impossibly steep-looking Beinn Each and thought ‘It can’t be up there’. But it was. I’ve had the same thought every time since.
After the endless slog up to the first summit I looked across to Stuc a Chroin itself and said out loud ‘It can’t be up there’. But it was. Each time I’ve been back I find it hard to believe.
It was a cold day and there was a fair bit of snow around; running through this terrain in shorts and vests seemed a bit out-there. Manny passed me before I got to the summit Christine M was at the top of the hill cheering everyone on – some things never change.
The second descent into Glen Ample was painful and lasted forever. The climb out was a desperate affair. Some things never ever change.
Once I got back to the forest tracks I stopped for a pee. This is the first and last time I’ve done this in a race. These days I don’t stop.
(Stuc a Chroin is rightly famous for the volume of sweets and water provided on the hill. I learned precisely the wrong lesson and for my next long race, the Culter Fell Horseshoe, I didn’t take any water and brought one small Snickers bar. It still ranks as my worst ever ‘wheels coming off’ experience in the hills.)
I crossed the finish line in the sunshine and dropped to the ground – tired but satisfied. After I while I decided I wanted some soup but was surprised to find that I. Couldn’t. Move. My. Legs. A new experience for me so I decided to sit a while longer until, hopefully, they sorted themselves out.
Prasad Prasad won, Manny & Ian Stuart came 8th& 9th.
Most of what I’ve written could be applied to each of the five times I’ve ran this race. Like the feller said, it doesn’t get easier, you just get faster.