Tag: Scotland

The Ben. A race like no other.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to run up Britain’s highest mountain? To ascend effortlessly into the clouds then glide back down, soaring on a wave of support and euphoria? If so, stop reading this and go listen to Finlay Wild’s podcast. He won it again this year, for the 12th time in a row.

For us mere mortals, however, the Ben Nevis race is one of the classic fell races of the year (or hill races, as they’re called north of the border). Simple in its conception, merciless in its execution, the race is a (roughly) 2-hour slog: go up 4,400ft. to the top, go back down 4,400ft. the same way. Easy, right?

I’d not really considered doing the race before and had heard it was hard to get a place, but I’ve Will Hall to thank for both. Back in March this year he rang me urgently, demanding to know which category A races I’d done. I was skiing so didn’t answer the phone. Fortunately, our race captain Johnny did, and provided the info on my behalf (thanks Johnny, you do look after me). Next time I checked my phone, a rather surprising email was waiting, informing me that “your entry to the Ben Nevis race pre-selection has been received.” A few weeks later I got the email I’d been simultaneously awaiting and dreading – “your entry to the Ben Nevis race 2023 is confirmed”. It’s been on the calendar since, written simply as two ominous words. 

“The Ben.”

Naturally, I promptly forgot all about it, lost in the business of house buying, holidays and general work and life grind. It was only when trying to sort a completion date, and flicking over to September, that I saw the two words again. I messaged my brother for training tips. “Just get as much climb in as you can” was his advice, so I went out and did some reps of the Meanwood ridge for good measure. Needless to say, with race day approaching, I was feeling a little unprepared. Two days before the race though, just getting there looked unlikely. A positive COVID test from Will’s girlfriend and upcoming train strikes had combined to thwart my travel arrangements. But on Friday morning, the day before the race, there was good news: a negative test from Maddie, and some unlikely few trains running from York to Edinburgh. I drove over (no trains were running from Leeds to York), winced as I paid for weekend parking, and got on the train up North. The Ben was back on.

Will and I left Edinburgh Saturday morning in his van, making good time up the A82, through stunning Glencoe, and I felt that familiar crackle of pure excitement that arriving in the Highlands gives me. We arrived in Fort William at around 11:30, a full 2 and a half hours before the start, the earliest I’ve ever been! Fortunately, I was with Yorkshire’s chattiest man and around the registration area, we stopped every two minutes to chat with someone else that Will knew (runners from clubs, friends from school, a man he’d met earlier in a toilet in Tyndrum). Meanwhile, I spied a familiar face and svelte frame pinning a number to a yellow and green vest. Yes rather sneakily my brother Tom ‑- now living in Scotland and managing the Ratagan youth hostel but still running for Keswick AC — had also entered. Mum and Dad had even promised to come and watch too, although neither Tom nor I would be the first Day to run it: Uncle Richard had run a blistering 1:44 back in ‘87, and followed it up by running the races in 88, 89 & 90 (it seems he’d stopped after Tom was born).

Wait, isn’t Will a Bogtrotter now? oh aye, there he is in the wrong vest.

Registration included a generous haul, comprising a t-shirt, programme, small bottle of whisky and a voucher for a free post-run massage. It also contained a wristband – to be handed in at the top of the Ben – and a red card, to allow access into the starters’ paddock. It all seemed a little convoluted, but I can only assume some previous skullduggery had necessitated it.

At 2pm sharp, we were marched around the football pitch by the local pipers, then with the bang of the starter’s gun we were off, out on the [98th] Ben Nevis Hill Race. We left the football field and turned on to the road, which was having the desired effect of thinning us out before the climb began in earnest. Up ahead Finlay Wild was already well ahead and heading further out of sight. I glimpsed the yellow and green of Tom up in the lead pack and settled into my own race. It was hot. I began rueing the measly 300ml of water I had taken in my bumbag. A group of lads sitting on the grass beside the road had it right, cheering on with beers and cider. It was – as they say up here – “Taps aff” weather.

Off the road, we turned up onto the steps to begin contouring around the side of Meall an t-Suidhe. At seemingly random points, various runners dove into the braken, up trods and shortcuts to cut off the zig-zags. Crossing a small wooden bridge, we joined the main path from the youth hostel and began the long series of flagstone steps. Somehow, I managed to fall going up these, my Mudclaws slipping on the smooth rock, to a wry comment of “Steady on, save all that for the way back” from a watching spectator. The course has been changed this year, so that runners are not allowed to cut across adjacent to the Red Burn, and instead must continue on a long out and back up the path to the Lochan, then staying on until crossing the burn again. Only then can runners start hacking straight up. I did as told and followed the path, dipped my cap in the burn as I crossed it to cool my hot head, then turned upwards onto the scree.

Pic by Lorne McFarlane (and paid for)

Off the path, I picked my way straight up, with Tom Stapelton of Wharfedale, and an Ilkley Harriers runner beside me, a Yorkshire-based trio among the mass of white and blue local Lochaber runners. “Go on North Leeds!” I heard to my right. “Oh, hello Zoe!” I replied, seeing former black and blue Zoe Barber up above, out in support of her Glasgow-based club Shettleston Harriers. Her boyfriend was up above, battling out for an impressive 3rd, but she was kind enough to remark to me “you’re looking strong!”. I actually felt it too and began pressing on a bit, sticking to the larger rocks where grip was better, rather than the scree path, hopping from rock to rock.

The climb seemed to go on forever, but eventually, the gradient eased, which I knew meant we had about 150m more climb to go – just an Otley Chevin then (I spend a lot of my running calculating things in units of Otley Chevins, or OCs. Some handy conversions: Simon’s Seat: 3 OCs, Scafell Pike: 6 OCs, Ben Nevis: 9 OCs). We were back on the tourist route now and into the clouds, sharing the path with the ordinary walkers, who wore rain macs, over-trousers and weary expressions, the novelty of being overtaken by a sweaty, grizzled runner in vest and short shorts having clearly already worn off. A few were wearing matching t-shirts to commemorate the finishes of personal challenges and possibly felt slightly outshone by the gazelle-like progress of (some of) the runners. Some tourists stepped aside, others didn’t. I just carried on, trying to be polite and managing a “thanks” when I had the spare air.

It was around here, approaching the top, that I started to feel the first pricks of cramp in my leg. Fearing the worst, I gulped my second and final gel. At the summit, I handed in my wristband, grabbed some jelly babies that were on offer, took a deep breath, and prepared for the descent.

Pic by Lorne McFarlane (and paid for)

It’s a cliché about the Ben that the summit is only the half-way point, but one that I still refuse to learn. Quite soon into the descent, I was feeling the effects of my earlier efforts whilst “looking strong”. Actually, the word that flashed through my head begins with f and rhymes with stuck, but I had little choice but to carry on. Unfortunately though, you can’t blag a 4,400 ft. descent and despite my rigorous Meanwood ridge hill reps I just didn’t have the legs.

Down the initial steady part I was OK, if a little slow, and even on the steep, gnarly scree slopes that followed I didn’t have time to think about my legs for fear of stacking it. However once we turned onto the flagstones of the tourist path by the burn, I knew the remainder of the race would be all about survival.

I tried to accelerate into a run, but immediately felt a spasm of cramp in my calf. Counter-balancing this, my groin then cramped. I couldn’t run anymore, instead resorting to a sort of controlled hobble, gently trying to edge faster while keeping the cramp at bay. After the lochan, on the steeper stone steps, I nudged on too far, cramping hard on my right calf, and nearly falling off the side of the steps in the process. I collapsed and had to be given a humiliating cramp-and-calf stretch on the side of the hill by a nearby marshal. I sipped some water he gave me, then hobbled the rest of the race, variously overtaken by faster finishers. Hitting the road again at the end was no respite – in fact worse – and unfortunately here I saw Zoe again, who gave a sympathetic laugh, and also my parents, who clapped spiritedly. The long lap of the football field seemed to go on forever. At the end, I tried to “sprint” past a runner I’d been reeling in, cramped again, was re-overtaken by him, and all but crawled over the line. It was pretty ignominious. 

I lay on the ground cramping for a good 10 minutes. Then eventually, after a river swim and a free sports massage, recovered enough to head back to Will’s van. We convened later in Fort William with his HBT mates and the Shettleston Harriers at the Black Isle Brewery for pizza and beers. Then decamped to the Nevis Centre to watch the awards ceremony (and have another beer). Things get a little hazy after that. We headed back to town to a pub, where a series of random connections occurred. The masseuse who’d sorted my calves was out on the town, so too was Zoe’s boyfriend Daniel, who’d come third. I’m good friends with two of her exes, so that was a slightly odd moment when asked how I knew Zoe. Another chap was cycling over to Skye to meet a mutual friend of Will’s, another turned out to be Alex Sharp’s best man. The strangest connection of them all though was being recognised at the urinals and asked “did you cycle to Vladivostok?” by a guy called Max who’d driven there in a Nissan Micra. We’d eaten at the same cafe in Vladivostok and got to know the owner. His reg plate is on the cafe wall, my cycling jersey is beside it. Small world.

About to start the Double-Day press conference (plus some Wharfie)

Somehow, later I found myself in Roobarb, Fort William’s best (and only?) nightclub. Finlay Wild was there. So too were the Howgill Harriers boys, drinking beer out of the second place cup, with the shield for first team being passed from waist to waist like a boxer’s belt. I just wore my finisher’s medal. In the stumble along the high street I’d lost Will. Later I saw a message from him on my phone:

“What’s the craic?”

“Good for a shit club, where are you?”

“I had an amazing poo in Spoons then came to the van”

Sometimes it’s the little things in life.

A few hours later I joined him and collapsed into his van. The next morning we recovered with a Spoons breakfast, with the rain pouring down outside. My brother joined us for a coffee there too, having come back to pick up his car. He looked worse than me. At least I have one thing I’m better than him at. We parted ways soon after with a hug, then drove back down to Edinburgh, stopping to dip heavy legs in the cool waters of Loch Earn.

I left Will to go to a music festival his girlfriend’s brother was playing at and boarded the train home. Out of the highlands, the sun shone and I trundled down the east coast mainline on the train, admiring the blue waters around Bamburgh castle. I alternately napped, then watched the BBC footage of the Proms which I’d sung in the bank holiday Monday before (Rose – what a shameless plug, you can take that out if you want. Ed: nope). Even better, my car was still there in York, without a parking ticket. It had been a whirlwind 48 hour trip up and down the country and up and down Britain’s highest mountain. The Ben: what a race. Sign me up for next year’s.

Josh Day – 97th – 2:15:03

Will Hall – 105th – 2:16:46

(Tom Day – 27th – 1:56:01)

(Finlay Wild – 1st – 1:something stupid)

–Josh Day


Broughton Heights, Scottish Borders

What a spectacular weekend at the fell relays. Firstly a huge thanks to our team captains Emma Lane and Ollie Roberts for getting the teams together and dealing with all the red tape. A special thanks to Emma whose team, due to the volume of entries, wasn’t able to run, yet she gave up her time to support those who could. Other thanks to those who came to support: Dan, Sarah, Emma, Emma and Dom who gave encouragement, took photos and generally helped keep up morale.

Many of us arrived on Friday evening and stayed in tents, pods and vans just outside Peebles. I camped. A hot water bottle made possible a snug and cosy night. We woke to pouring rain which sounded pretty bad in the tent but it soon stopped, giving way to sunshine and glorious views of the surrounding hills. After a healthy breakfast and last minute kit checking and faffing, we arrived at the race field to find our shiny new shelters (thanks to Emma and Liz for sorting those!).

pic by Mike Ayres

Most of the teams were already there looking pretty happy and relaxed. Well, most team members were there. Dom’s group — who set off ages before us hadn’t arrived — and they had Ellis, the Women’s Open Leg 1 runner with them.

A bit of a panic when we got news that there had been a Sat Nav error that had sent them in the opposite direction. Someone was in trouble! They weren’t sure they’d make the start so Sarah was asked to step in and be ready to run if needed but Ellis arrived just in the nick of time. The race’s navigation leg 3 with maps, compass and real people proved much more reliable than Google Maps; some justification for the FRA’s insistence on banning GPS at races.

The race HQ was in a stunning location. It was in a valley surrounded by the hills we were about to climb which were grassy and smooth, displaying beautiful autumnal shades of green, russet, and brown.

Fell running is a low key, inclusive sport. Where else could you “compete” with elite athletes in the same event? I was on leg 4 which involves a lot of waiting but it means you can watch most of the event. However, Dark Peak, the winning team were in and off to the bar before I set off on my leg.

Dark Peak on a peak. Pic by Dom Nurse

The main event started promptly at 11 and my mass start (which I was very likely going to be part of) on leg 4 would set off at 15.25. Lots of time to relax, do a bit of browsing at Pete Bland’s and try not to be too nervous (not easy for me). I wasn’t particularly fit. I’d not done much training due to a few set-backs. I’m much improved now but training has been thin on the ground.

Less of the excuses (Ed — surely “reasons”?) and back to the race. First to finish in our team was Ann Brydon on leg 1. Ann had a great run and finished 5th in our V60 category.

Ann in her favourite place: on a hill. Pic by Dom Nurse

Next up were Sheelagh Ratcliff and Hilary Lane. All leg 2 runners reported a very tough route with huge climbs over about 7 miles. Sheelagh and Hilary were exhausted but delighted when they came in: great run you two. Martyn Price and Mike Ayres were on the nav leg. They were still out when my leg started but they reported no serious errors, had a good run and finished 7th. Nervous but resigned to my fate I set off up that bugger of a hill. The weather was fine but windy as we set off. Earlier we’d watched the elites and very few were running up that hill. What chance had I? It was clear that I would be doing a lot of walking!

It was a fully flagged route with a lovely grassy descent before the climb up to Hammer which was tough and seemed to go on forever. I thought I may be able to relax after that climb but then the weather came in. It was freezing! Sleet and a strong headwind. Perhaps I should join a gym or stick to park runs if I didn’t want these conditions. I gave myself a talking to, head down and spirits up as surely this is what fell running is all about.

Hilary by Sheelagh

It felt great when I could see the marquee in the race field and hear the cheers from the club as I came down that final descent to the finish. Thanks all for that and in the rain too. It means a lot.

Our team was 8th out of 9. However, the V60 rules are different from other mixed teams who have to have a team of 3 men and 3 women. The V60 teams can have any combination including all men. Out of 9 teams in our category, four were all men; the rest had mostly one or two women and the rest men. Ours had four women and two men. So by my reckoning, had there been a level playing field, we may have won!? Thanks Team V60. It was a great day out.

— Caroline Clarke (Leg 4, Team V60)

Results here.

Pics by Dom Nurse, Mike Ayres, Hilary Lane and Josh Day.

Carnethy 5

“It’s iconic.”


“It just is.”

“But it’s only six miles long.”

“Aye. It’s still iconic.”

I didn’t believe it. I’d heard of the Carnethy 5, but I still couldn’t understand why it had such a reputation when it was short and when even the elevation per mile wasn’t that intimidating. But my partner Neil is from East Lothian, so we could combine the race – in MidLothian — with a family visit. Otherwise there were factors definitely against me agreeing to do it. It cost £17! That’s a road race price. And it would mean a nine-hour round trip to run a six mile race, something I would normally consider ludicrous. Then there was the small matter of Storm Dennis.

But I always like to visit Scotland, and I had run once before on the Pentland Hills, where the Carnethy 5 is based (it is named for Carnethy running club, which is in turn named for Carnethy, one of the Pentland hills). The race commemorates a 1302 battle that involved William Wallace. From Carnethy’s website:

In February 1302, a messenger arrived at Neidpath Tower to ask Sir Simon Fraser to meet someone at Biggar. Sir Simon Fraser rode hard, for the person he was to meet was none other than Scotland’s hero — Sir William Wallace. The Wallace’s plan was for himself to be seen gathering together an army up north, while Sir Simon waited with the main army in the south. Sure enough the plan worked, for when the English heard that The Wallace was getting ready to attack from the north, they left their winter quarters in Edinburgh heading south — Sir Simon waited.

Randolf the English General was unprepared for a fight. His army was separated into three groups of 10,000 each, some miles apart. At Dryden they suddenly found themselves confronted by 8,500 Scots. Colmyn, Saintclair and Fraser, loyal friends of Wallace soon carried the day, and rushed on to Rosewell to meet the 2nd army. The weary Scots were again triumphant, but tired, and when yet another 10,000 men approached they were ready to flee. But Sir Simon was a crafty gent, he had been warned about the 3rd army, and had sent a few ot his men to carry two tree trunks up a neighbouring hill. Then Sir Simon shouted to his men… Well, part of the old ballad says it better:

“Look ower, look ower, on yonder hill,”
Quo’ Sir Simon lood and clear,
They blich’t and saw the lift gao ill,
Then saw a cross appear.
“Tis gude St. Andrew” cried ae man,
Then doon they gaed to pray,
“Gae to,” they heard the gude Sir Simon,
“Gae to,” we’ll win the day.”

The inspired Scots rushed into battle!

This would be the 50th running of the race, so I knew that if they could go ahead, they would. But fell races and hill races were being cancelled, and we checked the forecast regularly in the week before, and it never got any better. Depending on which metereologists I checked (I’m fond of the Norwegians YR.no weather forecast), the winds were going to be between 40 and 75 miles an hour, and that stayed true until the Friday, when we set off. It didn’t matter that Storm Dennis was going to wreak more havoc in England than Scotland: we were going. I was sure the race would be called off. I know it had been run the year before even though runners had been told at the start that marshals and Mountain Rescue would be lying down because they wouldn’t be able to stand, the wind was so strong. Even so, I was sure that no race organizer would allow marshals to stand out for a few hours in 70mph winds.

Carnethy said they would make a decision at 11am on the Saturday. If we didn’t hear owt, the race would go ahead. The race starts at 2pm, and part of the reason for the cost is that runners get bussed to the start from race HQ at Beeslack High School in Penicuik. We had to set off at 11am to get to the school in good time, and the only clue as to Carnethy’s decision was a retweet from someone wishing everyone doing Carnethy 5 good luck. Even so, I didn’t believe it was on until we got to Penicuik and the car park was full and there were many lean people wandering about in waterproofs and lycra tights. I had been advised to bring “EVERYTHING” and so I had: although I run in shorts even in snow – my legs rarely get cold – I had brought long tights and plenty of layers. The race organizers required everyone to carry full body cover, and a long-sleeved top. In practice, most people in the hall seemed to be wearing all their kit at once, including me.

I was more nervous than usual. I’d had a race stress dream the night before (the one where you can’t find your kit or shoes or something), and I’d convinced myself that everyone in Scotland was a fabulous hill runner, and that they were all Jasmin Paris (who runs for Carnethy) and Finlay Wild (who always wins the Ben Nevis race), and that I would be the lumbering Englishwoman – actually half Welsh but that’s irrelevant – at the back. Tim, a Holcombe Harrier who Neil had met a few years ago at Trapain Law race, but whose wife is from up here, reassured me. The race field is no different to what you are used to, he said. All sorts. You won’t be last.

Dom was also running the race, as he was combining it with a visit to Edinburgh. It’s not often that we remember to get team photos but here is one:

See? I’m wearing EVERYTHING. Dom kept his jacket on throughout too.

I think I made five toilet visits, only four of which were necessary, and eventually, we made our way out to wait for a bus to be driven ten minutes to the start. The kit check was carried out in the bus queue, and consisted of, “have you got a map? Gloves? Hat? OK then.”

The bus took us to a field underneath Carnethy Hill, where a few marquees were managing to stay upright. The winds weren’t too bad down here, and my nerves were slightly soothed by the piper standing on a mound nearby, piping us up five snow-capped hills.

The hills are beautiful. Robert Louis Stevenson called them his “hills of home..” We’d got one of the last buses so didn’t have long to wait for the start. I managed to warm up, but still decided to keep my jacket on. I was kitted out excessively according to my usual standards: long tights, which I’ve only ever worn for Rombald’s in snow and cold, and a waterproof jacket.

There were announcements but most were carried away by the wind. I expect they were the usual: don’t do anything stupid and if you fall over find a marshal and report back to the marquees. And then we were off. Neil, who has run Carnethy before, had given me some tips: there was a long stretch of very boggy and wet ground before we began to rise up to climb Scald Law. Stay to the left, he said. It will still be boggy but better. Also, head for the tiny hi-viz dot standing by some green bushes, which is a marshal. I squinted, saw a tiny hi-viz dot, just about, and agreed to do that. There was a gunshot, or cannon, or something, and we set off. Steady away, Rose, you will need your strength for the wind. Even so I was anxious: don’t be last, don’t be last.

So silly.

I ran as best I could, though the ground was not ground but swamp, and there was a beck crossing. So even this first half mile was hard going, as your legs are working twice as hard to accommodate the water. I felt neither good nor bad, I just kept going. Carnethy 5 has a purity to its planning: you go up and then you come down, five times.

In Carnethy’s description: “The race is over rough open hillside, through thick heather and boggy/rocky sections of ground, with minimal paths. The race involves 2,500′ of very steep ascent and descent, some of which you will struggle to run. It’s fair to say this race will feel a lot harder than a flat road race, but it is not beyond anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. As a very rough guide, the race organiser completes this race in somewhere between his road 10k and half marathon times.”

I climbed to Scald Law, I loved the descent, I climbed again to South Black Hill, I loved the descent, East Kip, I loved the descent, and then there was West Kip.

I can’t remember which hill I was climbing, but at one point I nearly fell backwards. A kind arm stopped me and righted me, and that was the nature of this race: there was kindness and people looking out for each other. The solidarity of fighting extreme elements. Neil had a similar experience except a man grabbed his buttocks to keep him upright. My assistance was more decorous, and I was grateful for it.

West Kip though was something else. This was the fourth hill, and by now I had begun to tire of the wind, but the wind knew this and decided to re-stoke its engines. I had my hood up as it was also hailing – of course – so I kept bumping into people as I could neither hear nor see them coming. We all trudged up as best we could. Towards the top, I was on my hands and knees and standing upright seemed actually dangerous. Here is a photograph that Peter MacDonald, one of the marshals on the top of West Kip, took, though how he managed to stay standing and use a camera is an enigma.

Image by Peter MacDonald

I had my phone with me, and I turned round a couple of times to look, and there were runners behind me, a trail of colour over the brown bracken and white snow of the hills, and it was beautiful but not enough for me to consider taking off my gloves, getting out my phone, unwrapping it from its weather-proof sandwich bag, wiping my fingers dry enough that the phone would recognise them, taking a picture and doing it all in the reverse. Too much effort. No photos.

I was so thankful to the marshals on top of these hills. The wind was so strong, it was an assault. I usually object to people using the word “brutal” about races, as most are not, not really. But this section, this struggle to stay upright while your pack is being blown off you and while you could fall off the hill: this section was brutal. I have run Tour of Pendle in a blizzard, and it was hard. I have run in hail so biting it gave me pockmarks. But I don’t think I’ve ever had to fight the weather as much as on this race. It got to the point on West Kip where it was so extreme that I had to laugh at it. What else can you do? You can’t reverse. You have to get off the hill. You may as well glory in the extremity of it and keep running.

We turned on the summit to descend and suddenly the wind was even more dangerous, because the descent was tricky and the wind was now behind: it didn’t get us on the top so now it wanted to push us down a steep slope. I persevered, and my legs began to enjoy the descent, steep at first then levelling out. Not flat though: I knew this because I was overtaking people and I only ever do that on descents. The final part as we descended towards the Howe, actually a house overlooking Loganlea reservoir, was a grassy muddy bank. I slipped, and then suddenly slid at great speed, so fast I didn’t know how to stop, until a bush helped me out, luckily just before the beck. It was great fun and I was laughing out loud, and quietly thankful that no rocks had punctured my backside on the way. The power of that slide! A fellow runner congratulated me on it and I agreed that yes, it was some of my finest work.

Onwards to the reservoir, then to the cut-off, which I had forgotten about. Nor had I checked my watch. The cut-off was 1 hour 15, and I think I got there in about an hour but as I didn’t even realise it was a cut-off, that didn’t matter. About 20 runners didn’t make it. (I mean, they weren’t quick enough, not that they expired.)

Up again now, for the final climb to Carnethy Hill. I was alongside a man in shorts who said he rather regretted not wearing long trousers, as his legs were blue. I got myself up the hill and then there was the joy of the final descent. Tim had warned me before about this part, that there was gorse that bit and rocks that tripped, and that the two together were rather testing. But much of the gorse and heather had been burned and tamed. There were a few sections of scree-sliding, and then a hell-for-leather how-do-I-stop careering, which was fun. For a while I couldn’t figure out why I could hear the powerful jet engines of an airliner, until I realised it was the wind in my hood.

Then the long slog back over the swamp and through the beck to the finish. A photographer at the beck got some excellent pictures, though not of me (I stayed upright).

Image by Paul Dobson

And there were the feather flags of the finish, and Neil standing waiting for me. I had a cup of hot liquid which may have been tea or coffee and it didn’t matter at all which, and a biscuit. Then Neil said, shall we run back instead of waiting for buses? And I must have been on such a high from the final descent that I agreed without question. A marshal gave us directions for the three miles back to the school, which ended up being mostly farm tracks and woodland, so it was pleasant.

Just as we approached Beeslack High School, the rain began and then it intensified, and we arrived back to a downpour. There were changing rooms and showers but with 500 entrants, including a healthy proportion of women, there was no room, so I had a wet-wipe shower in the middle of the sports hall, with the help of a judiciously placed towel. Then I headed to the kitchen for food, which was a lentil dal or a spicier vegetable curry, and it was delicious. In fact, the £17 was good value, as we had also been given a bottle of Carnethy 5 beer, a 50th anniversary mug and a beer mat.

I realised afterwards that I’d been sitting next to a woman who had run the whole race although she was 80 or thereabouts. I wish I’d known because I would have genuflected at her feet. In the main hall, Jasmin Paris and her husband were hanging out, and I got starstruck, by Jasmin as well as by her daughter Rowan, who became as famous as her mum after the Spine Race. I let them be though. Nobody wants to be bothered by genuflecting strangers, do they?

We didn’t stay for prizegiving, although I did want to see the female and male winner each get a broadsword. Me, I got my beer and beer mat and mug, and I was happy to have those as well as significant satisfaction at having run a race in actually brutal conditions, and doing alright. Do I think they were right to run the race? Yes.

I came 404th out of 503 runners, with a time of 1:38, and I’m pleased with that. Dom came 199th, in 1:20. I think I’ll be back.

— Rose George

Featured image by Peter MacDonald