Happy New Year

It is always interesting trying to drag yourself out of bed first thing in the morning on New Year’s day. We were in Newtonmoor, having been at the traditional parade of flaming torches and fireworks display the night before.

We ventured into the next-door camper-van a little later than intended and found the occupants still asleep. Lisa had been feeling unwell for a couple of days but now Euan seemed to have picked up the lurgy too, it looked as though Gina and I would be on our own.

We had some tea and breakfast, and then some more tea, and then looked at the clock. Lisa had assured us that it would only take about 40mins to get to Fort William but we were already pushing it. The remains of the tea were poured into a flask and we hurriedly departed.

Lisa had reckoned without the speed and power of an aging Transit camper van and her 40 minute estimate was way off the mark. Over an hour after leaving we arrived at Aonach Mor, dumped the van and ran into the cafe to sign on, only just in time.

Final instructions before the start

The race itself was supposed to be from the car park at the bottom to the top of the ski lift, a distance of only about 3 miles but with around 2,000ft of climbing, just what you need New Year’s morning. Standing at the bottom and looking up the mountainside the top was invisible in the clouds. Of more concern was the huge amount of wind. This was even noticeable at the base of the hill and they hadn’t even tried to get the gondolas going.

It was therefore decided to amend the race slightly. We would race up the first two thirds of the climb, but then in a break from tradition we would have to race downhill again, back to where we started.

 Me near the front. I wasn't there very long.

Despite the hour of the day and the amount of whiskey which must have been consumed the night before the record 129 runners set off at quite a pace and disappeared off up the hill, me trying to keep up as best I could.

The lower section was mainly in the forest, and I recognised quite a lot of it from the various bike races I have competed in there over the years. The trees sheltered us from a lot of the wind but it really hit us as we emerged from the woods onto the top section of course. We battled upwards into the gale, now able to see the turn. Two marshals were standing, or at least attempting to remain upright, buffeted by the wind, where the trail crossed underneath the gondola.

I could see the leaders heading down as I climbed up the final section, they weren’t too far ahead but I always tend to do better on the uphill sections so I was expecting to lose more ground on the way back down. It never ceases to amaze me just how quickly the top guys can descend, if you have never been to a proper fell-race it really is worth going to see, it’s proper ‘brain out and go for it’ stuff.

Anyway, I went round the marshals, still standing, and launched myself over the top, trying to be clever and take the straight line down through the heather I had seen the leaders take. This would have worked were I as good at descending as they are but I’m not so it didn’t.

Back on the proper trail things levelled out a little and we picked up speed as we headed down the mountain. All the corners, rocks, roots and drops were huge fun to run, almost as much fun as on a bike.
There was a little bridge across the river followed by some very slippery boulders. Very slippery.

I hit them hard on my bottom and right elbow, paused for a moment as I waited for that winded feeling to subside and then picked myself up as the nearby marshal was coming over to check that I was alright. I set off down the hill again having now lost sight of the runners in front.

Me, about 6 feet before I fell.

I soon spotted someone else, his bright yellow top just visible through the trees, I plunged down through the forest after him, trying to keep up as best I could. I knew where I was at this point, I know my way around here pretty well, well enough to realise that this was not the way we had come up. Did the descent go down the same route as the ascent? The guy in front seemed to know where he was going, right up until the point the main track tried to turn right, away from the finish line, and he shouted to me to ask where to go.

Knowing where you are and knowing where the race is supposed to go are not necessarily the same thing, but I lead him left into the forest and down. We emerged very close to the proper route near the end and I just got him in a sprint finish, which was nice. He was followed across the line by the person who had been right behind me at the summit, so I don’t think our little deviation had had much of an effect on the result.

As I was standing at the finish waiting for Gina to cross the line we saw people coming from much further over than we had been so at least we weren’t the only ones.

Much needed tea and soup were provided for us all in the cafe and then it was time to set off on the long drive south.

The local guys and girls pretty much cleaned up in the trophy department, but the best finish was probably for 2nd and 3rd in the women’s race, just two seconds in it.

I finished 38th in the men’s race but was beaten by a couple of girls...


1. Nick Sedgewick       Lochaber AC

2.Tom Smith                 Lochaber AC

3. Peter Henry             Deeside Runners

4. James Espie             Deeside Runners

5. Steve Macdonald    Lochaber AC


38. Andrew Howett     Fife AC


1. Diane Baum             Lochaber AC

2. Sarah MacKenzie    Lochaber AC

3. Christina Rankin      Kilbarchan

4. Edie Hemstock        Lochaber AC

5. Mare Meldrum       Lochaber AC

And finally a huge thank-you to John Oneill for the pictures. 
Actually, looking at where the photograph of me on the bridge was taken from I wonder if it was he who picked me up? Difficult to recognise anyone with coats drawn up against the rain. If so, thanks again John!

No comments:

Post a Comment