1st September 2012


There were only two Westies at the Braemar Gathering last weekend and only one of them wearing the gold vest. The one in the gold vest was me (although I have more flattering options in my wardrobe) and the other one was sporting what I can only assume was his ‘away strip’ – a red and white number which referred to Loch Tay! I will leave you, dear reader, to derive the name of the other, erstwhile loyal Westie, however a wee hint is- if I was playing charades I would mime his Christian name as sounding like a big cat that roars!

Personally I was lucky to get an entry for the event at all. The Gathering Hill Race was pre-entry, which I hadn’t organised and despite having felt lousy and a very viral all week, I went up north looking forward to the purple of the hills and on the off chance of a late entry – but with a Munro backup plan just in case! Fortunately, the charmingly relaxed and betweeded race organizer was expecting some no -shows and was therefore allowing ‘discreet’ late entries. There were a few familiar faces but not that many, amongst them -Tom Owens, Davy Duncan, the Queen and a good friend of Westies, the Silver Fox of Badenoch, gratefully fully recovered from his brief hospitalization following a post Newtonmore Games confusion which involved beer, a bike and a kerbstone!

For anyone who hasn’t taken part in the Braemar event I recommend it, even if you maybe have avoided it because of its royal connotations and/or your Ben Nevis aspirations. Braemar Gathering takes part in a very lovely, compact arena which intensifies the sound of the massed pipe bands ,the visitor numbers contribute to the buzzy atmosphere and the inter-services tug o’ war has great visual appeal! More importantly, the event hosts a great wee hill route, not dissimilar to Newtonmore in its length and height but a bit steeper and more immediate to the arena; a classic mix of track circuit, car park, rooty birch wood trail, stony climb, grazed heather moor, wet grassy short cut and back onto stony trail.

This year from the off, I did not feel great and in fact, rather weak and wobbly but the strange thing was, despite this I managed to pass and for 3 minutes stay ahead of the man with the Christian name that sounds like a big cat that roars. Moreover, I reached the summit within meters of same man, the Silver Fox of Badenoch and Davy Duncan, all of whom had been further ahead at the same point of the Newtonmore Games. However, my knees and I agreed to let the boys increase their lead on the descent and I enjoyed a controlled tumble down the hillside and something approaching a sprint across the car park. Normally, my least favorite phase of a Highland Games hill race is the stagger round the track in front of a bemused and minimal crowd but no – not this time! I entered the arena about 40 meters behind a tall, dark but clearly struggling stranger and astonishingly managed to pass him on the track, accompanied by huge cheers from the amassed visitor crowd – I enjoyed my own wee Mo moment! Apparently, the Sliver Fox of Badenoch enjoyed a similar moment of glory when on entering the arena, the announcer, Mr. Robbie Shepherd no less, called out his name and number and demanded that he give the crowd a wave! Our exhausted but valiant friend raised both arms and ran round the track acknowledging the applause of the crowd! So impressed was one woman from Canada, that she asked him to give her his tartan running shorts as a gift for her sporting nephew back home; uncharacteristically however, modesty prevented him from doing so an yet as we pointed out, he could have named his price!

I am not sure if the man with Christian name that sounds like a big cat that roars had a glorious track moment; he is a frequent racer and therefore perhaps immune to fame; but if he did, he didn’t share it with me in his post race chat, perhaps because he felt a wee bit undeserving not being in his the gold vest!

I think Tom Owens won the race and Veronique ex-Marot won the ladies race but the results aren’t out yet and I didn’t check on the day.

Christine Menhennet

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