We got there early, and between the five of us made extensive use of the non-flushing Portaloos. It was already pretty warm and I fretted a little over how much water to carry. In the end I packed about 200ml, just to tide me over. Despite the huge turnout (300+ I reckon), registration and kit checks were very efficiently managed. Strict rules were enforced, as one might expect from a race associated with BSARU, and they confirmed that I had to carry my bulky, heavy (not to mention fugly) full body cover.
I prattled anxiously at Euan Boyd and Bill Gauld as the start-line jostling began. Having strained my left quad during a high octane ping pong match the night before, I was happy to loiter at the back and so was Euan (but then he would be, because he is fast and probably enjoys the extra challenge of nipping past people). The actual start was so low-key this time that I didn't actually hear it, but just noticed the herd shuffling forwards. Within seconds we were ascending Staerough Hill which seemed like a very good excuse to knock the running on the head for a bit.
I'd expected the terrain to be similar to sections of the Morebattle Monster which I ran last year: gentle grassy undulations. It didn't seem quite as forgiving as that. The hills were a bit punchier and the ground was a bit rougher. It might be that what seems gentle at 20 mile race pace is lost in translation at 8ish mile race pace. I fell in with a couple of Todmorden runners and we oscillated along Sunnyside Hill (it was very sunny!) and Wildgoose Hill (no wild geese to be seen). By Latchly Hill I was feeling pretty hot and tired. It occurred to me that suncream and maybe a parasol might have been more worth lugging around than my full body cover.
Nearing the summit, I looked for the trail of runners snaking ahead of me, but couldn't see any. Maybe we'd been given a reprieve?? Perhaps the next hill had been cancelled?? Perhaps I'd just miscounted the hills so far and was ahead of myself?? Hopes were dashed at I crested the summit, and saw a plunging descent and teeny weeny figures climbing The Curr. Mr and Mrs Todmorden overtook me as I wibbled down to the sheepfold, and JBF zoomed past me at the boggy base of the hill.
The Curr is not the most lovable of hills. It's steep and a bit foliagey in places and goes on and on and on. Knowing that this was likely to be the toughest bit, I just wanted to get it over with, so dug in and puffed and grumbled my way up, overtaking a few folk on the way. I treated myself to a few swigs of water, relieving my uncomfortably arid mouth. The first section of descent was disappointingly chopped up and squishy, which was unkind on the tired legs. However, Stear Rig was just lovely: a gorgeous, gently descending, smooth-turfed ridge. Catching up with JBF, he told me "It's just a fast run back now." Fast...hmmm. I tried to cock an eyebrow, but all energy was diverted leg-wards.
|Meanwhile on t'other side of the valley...|
|Multipurpose stone: waymarker, gypsy queen altar and chillaxing point.|
As the sun shone and a gentle breeze cooled me, I ran with gay abandon, taking in the miles and miles of Borders beauty, until Oh NO! Serious quad pain. I think I must have just lengthened my stride a bit too enthusiastically, so tried to curtail left-handed stride length. It occurred to me that this asymmetry might result in me running in ever decreasing circles. I was really quite worried about it though as the muscle continued to stiffen over the course of about a mile. Walking back to the finish was a bleak prospect.
"Luckily" I'd forgotten about a final ascent up White Law. My heart sank a bit at the prospect of this final inoccuous hill, but it seemed that a change from back and forward motion to uppy-downy stepping limbered up my unhappy muscle. Trundling off White Law, I decided to risk picking up a bit of pace, particularly as this was where I anticipated family spectating. I had to stride past my wains in a glorious fashion. No sign of them on the hillside. Perhaps they were at the finish line. They weren't. It transpired over post-race chat that they had waved and cheered the fast people, then GOT BORED WAITING FOR THEIR OWN MOTHER and gone to look at the stones. FGS.
Family relations were reconciled over Cadbury's popcorn chocolate (a strange yet beguiling creation) and paddling in Halter Burn. We spent so long footling around that we missed the prize-giving, and headed back to Edinburgh singing Honky Tonk Women, to the palpable disapproval of the children. Revenge is a dish best served loudly.
|Euan and Lindsay|
|"We weren't there to cheer you because...[insert excuse here]"|
|Astonishingly, this didn't end as you might expect.|