In Scotland fell races are called hill races; and in a moment of madness two years ago I entered the Beinn Resipol Hill Race knowing that I’d be on holiday nearby on the day of the race (I was actually about 100-miles away).
However, the day before I was in Plockton and I’d never been there before and I was such a beautiful place – it’s not the Jewel in the Highlands for nothing – that I decided it was too lovely to leave so I missed the first edition of the race; although I did email an apology – how very English.
Two years on, and in another moment of madness, I decided to enter it again and also use it as an excuse to walk the final part of the Rob Roy Way afterwards.
Beinn Resipol Hill Race is 7.5 miles and 845 metres high (Ben Nevis is 1,345 metres) and is centred around Resipole Farm Holiday Park, which I thought was part of a small village, but it isn’t. Apart from a couple of houses there’s nowt there, although the nearest pub and shop are only about a 10 minute drive away at Salen.
Before the start a couple of people had commented on my Otley AC shirt; it seems that the club’s name travels far and wide!
This third edition of the race attracted 54 runners, similar to previous years. It begins with a 300-metre dash down the Tarmac campsite road, followed by a left turn into some woods and that’s when the mud started.
We’d been told at the race briefing that it had rained for a week and the water table was up. The mud wasn’t too bad for the first minute or so and then it was across a stream, and along a very narrow deep track filled with mud well over the ankle that climbed sharply up the side of the ravine of Allt Mhic Chiarain; and my right leg was starting to stiffen up.
Soon it was on to open moorland and acres of bogs. I had to stop to stretch my leg and at least 10 people went past me. Further up the hill and at a gate I had to have another stretch. Beyond this the landscape became rockier and ever steeper as the track lead up to the saddle. A lot of this was only runable in short bursts; it was a constant fight through the bogs, scrambling over rocks, gulping in air and coping with jelly legs.
I stopped for a gel and put my bumbag on the ground only for it to be splattered in mud as the leader flew past on his way down. The group that had gone past me earlier didn’t seem too far away and it felt like I was narrowing the gap, but as the saddle approached they pulled away. Maybe I could catch them on the descent?
From the saddle it was steeper still; with the final 100 metres or so on hands and knees, grabbing tussocks and bouldering over rocks and at the top a marshal gave me a Mars Bar. I stopped for a chat, my time was no longer important to me and at least I wasn’t last.
The path down to the saddle went behind the summit and at least it was easy to follow, although it was slippy in parts. From the saddle it was a case of retracing my steps, and the further down I got and the flatter it became the boggier it was; I went over on my ankle, I slipped sideways numerous times and my left knee starting hurting from the impact.
With about a mile to go I joined a very runable (hurrah) forest track which took me downhill and to the finish, where a hunting horn greeted me over the line (maybe something for Round Hill!). It had been a long time since I felt that good at finishing a race, and my reward of a banana and bottle of water didn’t last long as I sat and clapped the rest of the field in.
Thankfully there was a hosepipe laid on so I sprayed my legs and shoes then went for a shower. I stayed for the prize-giving; and found out that the first MV50 finished in 1:36:02!
Next year it’s going to be a Scottish hill race championship event – not bad for a race that’s only three years old.
A huge thank you to the organiser and especially the marshals particularly those on the saddle and the summit, even if they had driven the first three miles in an eight wheeled amphibious vehicle!
The winner was Sam Alexander in 1:16:25; he’s only finished twice outside the top 10 in his last 20 hill races; and I was 48th in 2:29:54. Full results.