Monday 18 April 2016

Clachnaben and Jura

The Scottish Hill Running (SHR) Championships got under way this weekend. The SHR Championships is a series of 6 hill races - 2 categorised as "short", 2 as "medium" and 2 as "long." To complete the Championships runners must finish 4 races, including one from each distance category. The first race of this year's Championships was a "medium" race, called the Clachnaben Hill Race, run from a just outside the small village of Strachan in Deeside. 8.5 miles, climbing a total of 2100 feet over 2 hills, Mount Shade and Clachhaben - both rounded, heather clad, and not very steep: Clachnaben made interesting by a distinctive granite Tor, which is visible form the city of Aberdeen, 20 miles away.

Clachnaben, with Mount Shade in the foreground
This race is the epitome of the low key but fiercly competitive Scottish Hill running scene.We arrived by bus (courtesy of Westerlands club) just over an hour before the start. The extremely overweight bus driver seemed totally baffled by the experience of driving from Glasgow for 3.5 hours to the middle of nowhere to allow a bunch of skinny runners the opportunity run up and down a medium-sized hill. To get to the start from the bus involved a half mile walk from the main road along a forest track. When we arrived at the start there were just a handful of race organisers and a small tent there and that was all. Over the next 60 minutes things gradually hotted up and just after middday we were counted down from 3 to start.

The pace was fast from the start, with the main contenders myself, Jethro Lennox, Ali McLeod (all Shettleston), and Sam Hesling (Highland Hill Runners) pushing on through the boggy forestry trails in the first couple of miles. The first mile of running is quite entertaining, runners have to leap over fellen trees and through streams.

400m into the race

After a mile and a half the course ramps steeply upwards through a firebreak in the forest then out onto the heathery slopes of Mount Shade. As I pushed on up this climb and I was soon aware that only Jethro was holding onto me. I reached to summit of Moutn Shade a few seconds ahead of Jethro but he soon joined me on the descent. As we were ending Moutn Shade descent and reaching the point where the path starts to countour West towards Clachnaben we were joined by a third runner, Al Anthony, who had had a strorming descent off Mount Shade. Knowing that the hard but runnable climb up Clachnaben would suit me I sat in with Jethro and Al until the path went upards again and then I pushed on. By the summit of Clachanaben I had a 30 second lead which I then managed to hold to the finish. Al finished second and Jethro third. Full results here. It was great to be aprt of the winning men's team, Shettleston Harriers.

Shettleston winning men's team

The next race in the SHR Championship is the Isle of Jura Fell Race. Despite having visited the Isle of Jura 8 times previously as part of the Scottish Islands Peaks Race (SIPR) I had never been round the Jura Fell Race route until last weekend when we took a family weekend trip to Jura and I ran the course as a recce on the Sunday morning. Having left home at 7am on Saturday morning we found ourselves on this magical, peaceful island before 11am. It is quite an experience to be transported somewhere so remote so quickly. We had fantastic weather all weekend and I was reminded why I find this island so special. Finding good route off the tricky screes is essential for success in the race so I'm glad to have had a chance to look at it. I'm really looking forward to going back out to Jura twice more in May (once for the SIPR and then again for the Isle of Jura Fell Race).

The Paps

The beach

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