When Bella hill veteran David Stakes and I set off from Glasgow there was no sign of the forecasted high winds and rain, but then my fave weather app (weather pro HD) had confidently predicted that it wouldn’t appear till EXACTLY 12noon, after the race was over. Great! What could go wrong?
Compared to triathlon, pre-race was refreshingly simple: sign the sheet, pay a fiver, read the warning, get your number (pin onto shorts) that’s it. With a jacket and old ski hat in my bumbag, I was all set. After a warm up around Menstrie and quick course recce, we lined up with around 90 hill runners for 11am. A brief briefing, then ‘Ready? Go!’ And we were off.
The route kicks up steeply during the first mile, and as we crested the first ridge we got a breathtaking view across the forth valley. We also got a view of the serious-looking rain clouds scudding towards us. By now I was roughly mid-pack, and with the wind at our backs I was feeling good. A quick and hilarious descent through waist-deep bracken led to two burn crossings (I don’t know why I had bothered to try to keep my feet dry) before the climb up to the summit of Dumyat. By this stage the wind and rain were really getting going, and most people were reaching for their jackets (how could my app have got it a whole hour wrong?!) I’d now picked up a few more places, and got my head down for the slog/crawl/heave up the hill in increasingly wild weather.
My concentration was broken by the sound of thunder which turned out not to be the weather but the leaders coming down the hill towards us at full pelt. I still can’t get my head round how fast some people descend. I felt a sudden stab of panic that they were so far ahead, which spurred me on to the top. Rounding the cairn with a cheery word from surely the hardiest marshal in Scotland (‘you’re 40th!’), I headed back down into the teeth of the gale. By this stage my woolly ski hat was sodden and had stretched to the size of a baggy jumper. Hurtling downhill, one hand holding it on, eyes half shut against the battering rain, it was only a matter of time before the inevitable, spectacular crash. Hard-won places on the way up were immediately lost. Darn! Back through the burns, followed by an ankle-testing traverse along a muddy sheep trod (cue several more comedic prat falls) and we were back in sight of the village and the sprint to the line.
I finished in 64 mins/41st, while the legendary David Strakes (who ran most of it in his Bella vest!) grabbed a PB of 69mins/64th with fellow Bella Ronnie McGavock in 71mins/67th. Tea and biscuits thawed out the joints before the trip home in a very steamed-up car. Brilliant fun. First home on the day was a dead heat between Graham Gristwood from Mercia Fell Runners and Andrew Normand from Carnethy in a frankly unbelievable 48:46.
Thanks to the organisers and to the amazing marshals. A Classic!