> 2012 race reports
01/09/12 Morrone Hill Race- from Neil Gammack

Braemar Royal Highland Gathering

Morrone Hill Race

2.9 miles / 1000 ft ascent

1 September 2012

Come over the hills to the world-famous Braemar Gathering’, they say.  And I did.

This was no random act of fell-running hedonism, but the fruition of a promise made to my Mum 30 odd years ago (at one of our many visits from Aberdeen to the Games) that one day I too would run the Morrone Hill Race.

So it was a life-time ambition, a sort of mission, that last Saturday was fulfilled.

If you’re one of these fell runners that ends up on the ‘podium’ its well worth a visit as the male first prize is £300 (female £150) – not a bad hourly rate for less than 30 minutes work! Unfortunately even the £40 prize for sixth was a distant dream for me – I was running for sentimental reasons only.  Having said that there is a bit of pressure – if you are not back within 45 minutes, the gate is closed and you are not allowed back into the arena, and as this is the best bit you can’t be a laggard.

There were 83 starters: mainly men but a good few ladies and I would say a distinctly younger age group than your average fell run. 

The race starts with a lap of the running track.  If you’ve never been to the Braemar Gathering the arena is quite impressive and the Games are well attended (5000+) – it would seem mainly by foreign tourists.  The track is boxed in by a long covered stand on the North side, a larger double-open stand to the East and the rest by a curve of benched seating area with a grass bank to the rear.  You receive a fantastic reception as you run round  - helped by an enthusiastic compere and the ever-present skirl of the bagpipes. 

After leaving the arena the path leads upwards past some hospitality tents, through a car-park , across open-woodland before hitting the hill proper.  The ascent looked runnable but I struggled terribly and found the whole zig-zag ascent up the path exhausting. In retrospect, this was probably a direct result of the fast pace set in the arena owing to everyone’s over-exuberance!

At the five-cairns (the highest point of the climb) you receive a wrist band to prove you have been there (don’t forget the money on offer) and then descend….rapidly.  Although the path is the preferred way up, it was certainly not on the way down, as most runners descended directly towards the show ground via the heather clad slopes. 

I was able to overtake a good few runners on these slopes as they were clearly more used to roads.  In fact, on one section I almost ran over one runner who had to bottom-slide over a small rocky outcrop that I just bounded over!
I did lose some ground when we returned to the open-woodland as I ended up rejoining the path, which took me on a bit of a detour compared to the others who had gone through some woodland and climbed over a deer fence.  Maybe next time…

The return to the arena was brilliant.  Everyone was cheering and clapping - It was just like the Olympics…honest.

I haven’t the faintest idea who won, I took 39 minutes (slower than I was expecting) but I know some runners didn’t get back in time before the gate was shut.

My only disappointments were that the Queen arrived after the hill race and so didn’t get a chance to see me, and that Pippa Middleton hadn’t entered the race!

All in all it was a great day out, and the dry intermittent sunshine was a blessing.

I hope you were watching Mum!

Neil Gammack (NFR)

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