Chris Upson thought up this race to raise some funds for the upkeep of his great Scottish Hill Racing website. There was a good turn out of the hill running fraternity to support it. Far from 'run of the mill' as it turned out....It was a stunning cold but sunny autumn day, just right for running. We were swithering about whether to wear long sleeved tops under our club vests but were both glad we did when we got up a bit higher and encountered a real stinger of a cold wind.
I thought our race preparation might not have been ideal as we ran a hilly 9 miler yesterday and then I had a craving for meringue nests which I gave in to while Peter necked a couple of glasses of red. Peter then stayed up til 2 or 3am trying to sort out a report for the XC last week and I couldn't sleep because I'd only got up at 10.30 that day and the moon was shining brightly in the window and the great and good of Leith were out in full voice, laughing, screaming, beseeching, threatening, berating and breaking glass as they went...So this morning when my alarm went off at 8am I kind of hoped Peter might have left me a note saying "Lets not bother racing today!"
He hadn't though - he'd left his kit out all organised for the race and left a none-to-subtle note saying "I'm getting up at 9am....tea." (He told me later he thought it might be a 'subliminal' message as he'd written tea in a different colour.)
So anyway...Alva, some slight navigational challenges, registration, meeting lots of hill runners, the start...GO!
Off we surged and then stopped and then surged again as there was some bottle-necking. I wasn't liking the first bit of path because it was rocky and covered with leaves...just right for turned ankles...and I wasn't warmed up yet so fell a bit behind for the 1st 2 miles. Onto the hill and I was gambling on my legs being strong from the 2 Brews and then the Pentlands, and so it proved. I got past teams of people on the way up and not daring to look behind me just kept it up as insistently as I could. Derek Jablonski spotted me and told me I'd just given him something to run for. (I thought maybe he wouldn't see me) and Matt of Lothian who I chatted with in the Skyline came on up with me. Its always a worry passing people, expecially ones who can beat you, because its amazing how often they rally and come too (while I'm thinking "no, no, that wasn't the idea, go at the speed you were going at before"). I went past some of the 'Fife Wifies' (their term) who have consistently beaten me this summer and hoped that they wouldn't take me seriously.
Eventually the angle eased off a bit and the running got easier and then there was some pretty intense but enjoyable undulating running on the top with that knife-like wind and the sun beating down and a great view of some windmills. (Peter thinks the mill in the name of the race is a water mill and I thought it must be these windmills. Answers anyone?). The marshalls were clearly freezing and did very well to stick it out up top. Eventually I was aware I was cresting the last hill and I was close to a Corstorphine lady who always beats me by a good margin so I was feeling really positive about my run. All that remained was to not disgrace myself on the way down. I had to accept that there'd be a few folk going past me - just so long as it wasn't too many.
I felt I made a fair job of the downhills. Any monotony was broken up by the sound of Derek Jablonski calling from on high. "I'm COMING TO GET YOU MARY HUNTER", making me laugh and breaking my concentration. He can charge down the Ben race so there's no disgrace there. Then I was aware that there was a lady breathing behind me and I dared not look but was pretty sure it must be Hilary Ritchie of Fife because I'd passed her on the up but she's been in great form this year and I was pretty sure she'd come back for me at some point. At a stile that took us off the hill and onto a pleasantly soft road I saw that 2 behind was Hilary right enough so I did my best to keep moving but inevitably she went by. Plenty to keep my mind occupied anyway, down and down and down hill and then a wee bit of trail running and just when I was thinking "Oh no I hope its not another mile or something" I rounded a corner and it was the end.
Hurray! What a blast of a race. It was great seeing all the hill runners out and there was a lot of chatting to be done. Results not up yet but I think Al Anthony won and Natalie White for the ladies?
This race and the Largo Law Hill race get my vote for best races of the year so far.
Top 2 photos thanks to Melanie Sinclair of Carnegie Harriers
next 4 thanks to Peter
action shot thanks to Bill Fairmainer