> 2009 race reports
02/05/09 Stuc a' Chroin - from John Telfer

14 miles, 5000 feet
Saturday May 2, 2009

Billy deep in concentration - photo: Scottish Hill Runners

The Scottish Battalion of NFR (i.e. Billy Fraser and myself) took the high road beyond Stirling and up into deepest Perthshire for a bit of Munro bagging (and peat bogging) for this British Championship race.

The race was won by Jon Duncan of the interestingly named Warrior Orienteering Club in just over 2 hours and 5 minutes whilst Angela Mudge of Carnethy took the honours for the ladies in 2h 29m.

Pre-race showers gave way to a predominantly bright sunny afternoon as all the clans of fell racing from both north and south of the border came forward to do battle. 

The first two miles are a relatively innocuous trundle along a forest road with just a gradual ascent, belying none of the horrors that lay in wait ahead. When the road ends runners are plunged into the darkness of the forest (but with no fairy lights or music à la Simonside to scare away the demons) and then it up a mushy firebreak that transports you back to Kielder forest in an instant.

Above the treeline and out onto the hillside and a run along another sloping boggy track next to a deer fence. After about fifteen minutes of falling down and standing up and falling down again there is the first vertical descent into Glen Ample. However, the hideousness of the descent is quite unparalleled to the next ascent up to Beinn Each. The only meaningful way of getting up was by clinging onto the heather and using the rusting fence posts for traction. For what seemed like an eternity the feet of the person in front were just about level with my head. Yes, it was that steep.

After what seems like another eternity (impossible I know but it gives the dramatic effect) the summit of Beinn Each is reached. There is then just the little matter of a three mile ridge run up and down and across mud and rock before the summit of Stuc a' Chroin is reached. One and a half hours in and still thirty minutes away from my own appointment with the summit cairn, the race leaders appear barely forty minutes from completing the race. For mere mortals such as myself there is the thick edge of two hours still to go. And so it continues, each returning runner passing by making me feel more inadequate and probably making them feel a good deal happier.

Just over five minutes from the summit, Billy passes me on his way down. With mutual encouragement ringing in our ears we are just ships passing in the night. The view from the summit, snatched in the moment it takes the lady at the summit checkpoint to attack my race number with a marker pen and simultaneously dish out chocolate, is quite breathtaking with mountains and lochs in every direction.

The way home is pretty much the same although we are spared the truly awful ascent in reverse. However, although more gentle, it is followed by mushy peat, at a mere incline of 1 in 2 as opposed to virtual vertical on the way up. Then it is a case of counting steps to complete the ascent out of Glen Ample (473 steps – I counted every one without looking up as the only way of getting through it) and the first sense of the end wafts through your nostrils. One of the endless water bearers' decree that there is no more ascent lifts the spirits if not the weary legs. Thereafter, with the deer fence and peat bog path negotiated and the run through the dark and spooky wood completed, it is fast running back down to the finish.

One of the saving graces throughout this race was the presence of people in the most incongruous of places filled to the gunnels with water bottles. How they got them there I have no idea but my gracious thanks and those of many others go to them.   

Along the way I heard someone mention that this was a race for masochists on a route designed by sadists. Put another way this was not just any fell race it was an M&S fell race !! 

Results and more photos : Scottish Hill Runners

John Telfer

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