> 2009 race reports
06/11/09 Tinto Hill Race - from John Telfer

4.4 miles 1,500 feet

This race, although modest in distance and height ascended, is exceedingly popular marking as it does the last “hurrah” of the Scottish hill running season before the relative paucity of races over the winter months. Coupled with its easy accessibility from Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Borders it is not surprising that it usually attracts a field of over 200. However, with a sunny dry day in prospect the organiser’s (and the caterers) expectations were far exceeded when 296 turned out.

This figure is all the more remarkable given that you have to register in a village hall and then drive three miles to the base of Tinto Hill where parking is at a premium. The latecomers are usually faced with a walk to the start nearly almost as long as the ascent itself whilst the super fit (you know who you are) abandon their cars at registration and cycle or run to the start (and back again afterwards), sad but true.

Will Horsley, Billy Fraser and myself flew the flag for NFR. After the race I spoke to one of the timekeepers who remarked how dedicated we were to have come all this way for such a short race. I didn’t have the heart to mention one team member was on his way to visit family in Edinburgh whilst the other two lived in Hawick and Haddington, why spoil the impression of hardened and dedicated runners?

We would have had a team of four but as Casper was nursing a sore paw and would have probably come off second best in the stampede he was reduced to the role as team mascot whilst Billy’s son was running for Teviotdale.

Tinto is as straight an up and down race as they come and is probably best described as a shorter version of the Cheviot race. After a relatively flat start the incline ratchets up into three distinct ascents with some gentle slopes in between. Given its overall distance of 4.4 miles there is no point in holding back and the best tactic is give it “laldy” as they say in these parts from the off.

This seemed to serve me quite well as I settled into mid division and only as we hit the second steep ascent did the pain in my lungs and stomach give the merest of indications that my intake of liquid refreshment the night before may not have proved to be the best preparation for the matter in hand.

However, as I was spluttering hand on knees into the mist on the final approach up some rather loose stone the business end of the race began to fly past my ears as the real runners set about the descent….. and what a sight. Close on the heels of Prasad Prasad (second at Carnethy this year) and Al Anthony was Will who was absolutely flying in third place. With mutual encouragement bawled out at each other and a promise on my part to rugby tackle the next person I saw following Will we continued on our separate ways.

Will had been in the top half dozen all the way up (note benefit of regular training and competing in local trail and X-country races) and had moved into third place just before Tinto’s summit. Although threatened on the way down he made it back to the finish without losing his place in return time of around 10.5 minutes.

Around six minutes later and having seen Billy flash by a few minutes earlier I wheezed my way around the summit cairn in around 130th position (note lack of benefit of very little training but significant intake of beer). My first act was to lose all control on the slippery grass and soft ground which nearly resulted in multiple collisions with runners still coming up the hill but nevertheless gained me around three places as  a result of this uncontrolled fit of running.

With the wind behind the exhilaration of it all made me forget (temporarily) of how painful this all was as I managed to make up a few more places never daring to take my eyes off the ground in front of me. The last mile or so became a battle royale between myself, an Ochils and a Bellahouston runner. About six hundred yards from the finish I put in my supreme sprint to carry me past both of them. Contemptuous of such an act they both returned the complement within the next hundred yards before disappearing over the horizon, figuratively speaking. Still Will and Casper were there to cheer me into the finish whereupon I crumpled into a withered heap of phlegm and heavy breathing, a clear sign that I had obviously not drunk enough beer the night before or was it the lack of a cooked breakfast?.

Still honours of the day went to Will in 3rd place, Billy took 72nd (beaten by his son running for Teviotdale (get him signed up for NFR!!) and I brought up the tail in 121st ,having earned a pb by 2 seconds.

It was then a case of hot footing it back to Symington village hall for tea and medals. Whilst the former was dispensed to everyone the latter fell only to those whose performance merited it, which in Will’s case was some high octane Belgian beer and a couple of local brews. He graciously gave me one of his booty in gratitude for my pre-race in depth tactical insight of the best route to follow which went something like “ keep on the main path all the way to the top and then just follow it down again”. This, I regard as invaluable advice when you don’t have the benefit of 120 people in front of you to follow!!!

Results and photos here, http://www.shr.uk.com/Home.aspx

John Telfer

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