> 2009 race reports
05/09/09 Ben Nevis Race 2009 - from David Armstrong

shaken but not stirred - photo: JGreen

The rain started at around 5.30pm on Friday evening, about 15 minutes after we had arrived at the campsite. More accurately, I suspect that was just a brief lull in the precipitation as the ground was already well sodden and every stream was in full flow. It stopped …….. well, actually I’m not sure when it stopped, because it was still raining at 9.00am on Sunday morning when we stuffed a saturated tent into the boot of the car and headed home!

With about 15 minutes to go to the start, as we tried to warm up in teeming rain, the announcer informed us “Visibility at the top is 50 feet and the wind chill is -1”. About 10 minutes later, now soaked through, it became “The wind chill on the summit is now -3. You might be advised to wear your windproof jackets”. 

rain from the start - photo: JGreen

It was my 14th Ben race. I think once or twice it’s been colder; one year we had to start the race in full body cover. The visibility wasn’t that unusual; it’s common to get cloud above half-way and sometimes it’s lower. I’ve had windy races; it’s 4,400 feet on the top after all. I’ve suffered the rain regularly; probably less than half of my races have stayed dry. But overall, we had just about everything together this year. I don’t think the combination of the elements has been as testing in any of my previous 13 races. The biggest challenge was the sheer volume of water. You expect cold temperatures, with a brisk wind and probably a shower or two. But this was something again. Every stream was overflowing. In fact there were streams where I’ve never seen them before. The ground was sodden. The mountain seemed to crumble away underfoot as the water made everything so loose, grassy areas were a quagmire; rocks were so wet we had no confidence to step on them. Driving rain. Cloud. Wind. Mud. Spectators, walkers and even mountain bikers to dodge amidst the mayhem. Very testing. I suspect not entirely familiar conditions to the dozen or so runners from Spain who returned after a successful visit last year! Although one brave signorita ran the race in only a vest!

Rob Jebb’s winning time this year was 3 minutes slower than last year’s winning time. It was also 3 minutes slower than the three other recent occasions that Rob has won the race. In fact other than 2007, when Ian Holmes became the first V40 ever to win the race, in absence of Robb Jebb and one or two others, every winning time in the last 12 years or so has been 1.29 or faster. Last year’s winner was actually 11 minutes slower this year, much of which came down to descending conditions. So it doesn’t take a genius to conclude that the extreme conditions this year added around 3 minutes to the time of the winner, and so in equivalent terms, a little more for the rest of us. So a real baptism of fire for the three NFR runners making their debuts at the race; Karen Robertson, Phil Green and John Telfer. Very well done to them all.

A special mention for Karen’s achievement. A time of 2.14.46, which must have been worthy of a 2.10 or faster in any normal year, gained her 14th lady overall, and 3rd FV40; a fantastic debut result. Even more so when it is noted that most of the places above her were taken by international runners from Spain and Italy, England Team representatives, and local Lochaber runners, who know the route intimately and can train on it all the time. The only 2 faster FV40’s had travelled from Italy and Ireland. What might she achieve on a return visit now that she knows what to expect from the race?

landslide victory for Karen? - photo: Margaret MacDonald

David Armstrong

results on event website

more photos from James Green

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