The first weekend in May is always something to look forward to – a long (normally sunny) Bank-holiday weekend and Stuc a’Chroin hill race!
This year we left Glasgow for the first long classic of the season bathed in morning sunshine, all hopeful of another glorious Stuc race. Niall was driving Gregor, Gwyn, Ben (Garscube) and me to the start where we were greeted by another great Westies turnout – captain John, Manny, Brenda, Owen, Steffan, Don, Brian, David to name but a few. Owen had the vehicle of choice though, able to change in comfort in the back of his van while the rest of us sheltered from the rain in the cars, the chances of a warm, sunny day having been washed away.
Being a championship race there was a field of over 200 set off from the field with the rain having temporarily ceased. I always forget what a long way it is up the track through the forest, but as I was taking it easy (hoping to maintain my pace to the end) it was over soon enough without too much hardship.
The run over the top and down into Glen Ample was as boggy as ever. We nearly lost Niall to one of the bogs – he disappeared thigh deep and would have required a rope to get out had it been any deeper.
Heading up the never ending climb to Beinn Each we formed a Westies peloton with Niall, Owen, Manny and me snaking up in formation, maybe chatting a bit much for Manny’s liking! The perfect gold line snaking up the hillside was soon broken though, not just as Manny disappeared over the horizon, but as the waterproofs were pulled on as the wind and rain drove stronger and bit deeper.
I had a good run along the ridge to the summit of Stuc and maintained my body temperature well. ‘Well’ until we turned back with the wind and rain now driving in the face. I was miserable now and even a few surfs down snow banks couldn’t pick me up. Only the marshal directing us off the ridge and down into Glen Ample brought a smile to my face.
Gregor and I descended out-of the rain and into the glen together, passing Gwyn and Ben who were finding underfoot conditions challenging. And a couple of Jelly Babies were enough to fuel me up and back out of Glen Ample, propel me through the bogs, and back down to the track. Having picked up a few places since warming up I pushed hard down the track, really benefiting from starting easy. I was delighted to finish at 2 hours 45 minutes about the same as my previous best despite the hideous conditions.
Well done to all the other Westies running – not the most enjoyable running ever but a huge achievement to successfully complete the run.
But I think a huge thank you is needed to the marshals out on the hill as well as all the spectators and other runners who helped out those struggling with the cold. Stuc is always extremely well marshalled with lots of water, Jelly Babies and encouragement offered, but this year in particular they did an amazing job helping keep us all safe!