Chapelgill Hill Race, a wee beast of a race which some may know better as Chapelgill Never Again.
This year though it was also the first leg in the Scottish Hill Running championship and the temptation to enter proved too strong. As race day approached with the mini Beast from the East set to blow in it began to seem even less of a good idea than normal , so it was with a great deal of trepidation and several layers of thermals that I set off for Saturday’s race with John and Kenny, to be joined on the start line by fellow Harriers Pauline and Frank. Arriving at the start things didn’t look too bad, the odd flurry of snow was interspersed with some bright sunshine making things look quite pleasant as long as you didn’t do anything rash, like open the car door. No snow lying yet and fortunately we would be on the southern side of the hill where the wind and sun had cleared most of the snow from the original Beast. An added bit of luxury too for a hill race in such a remote location, the organiser’s have supplied a couple of portaloos, although they didn’t get much more use after one was blown over with the contents splattered about the inside.
A short recce to pick a line from the start and a final decision on what to wear and we were ready to go. Off and running and five yards later that’s the flat bit out of the way, better start climbing, only 3/4 of a mile with 400m ascent and we’ll be on the way back. As soon as we get a bit of height we’re getting the full force of the wind, it may be Baltic but a least it’s blowing in over our shoulders on the climb, although sometimes trying to knock us off our feet. Kenny starts to open a gap as the gradient steepens again and soon John edges in front and remains tantalisingly out of reach for the rest of the race. Another snow flurry comes in as we approach the fence line and then the leaders appear hurtling themselves downhill. Fortunately, the snow clears before we must turn back into it and the sun pops out again, lifting my head for a moment to look around it’s quite a majestic sight. Round the cairn and a thankyou to the marshals, they’ve definitely drawn the short straw today, at least we’ll be out of it soon. Not my best descent and I lost a few places before getting my act together right at the end to claw most of them back. Expectations hadn’t been too high though so at the finish line it’s mission accomplished, I’ve survived!
So first counter down in the SHR champs, John got off to a flyer with victory in the M60’s and Pauline a close second in the F60’s. Only 130 finished with quite a few non-runners out of about 200 entries, seems the V50’s were out in force though and both Kenny and myself missed out on the top ten despite solid runs. Looks like we can relax and enjoy the rest of the series where conditions can only get better, touch wood.
Chapelgill Never Again, well until next time!