I had hoped to run the Slioch Horseshoe on June 10th but I had already driven a lang whang the weekend before – and had to be at Grangemouth for just after 4.00 p.m. So with a 12.00 kick off, I decided to run at Durisdeer instead. It’s just over 4000 feet of climb and just over 9 miles in distance (for those who are still in Europe – Bonjour tout le monde - 1240m et 14.7km)
It’s a kind of in-the-middle-of-nowhere place on the map but has ancient origins and a really interesting old church dating from before 1394 – with Roman camps before then.
It’s in the church where registration takes place. The weather on the way though is miserable – but still around 12 degrees – so comfortably foul.
Around the start line, spirits are high and I catch up with Andy C. He tells me he has run the race in 1 hour 45 minutes in the past. I am impressed – I am confident we won’t be sharing a post-race cup of potato soup!
With the under clemency of the weather, most are in their wet suits – gore-texed up and ready to roll. Some are in vests. An ADAC runner gives us the non-nonsense pre-race chat – explaining the severity of getting lost on the hills ahead.
There is a restrained charge to the first burn crossing and Andy C is up in the lead group. On the climb up to Black Hill (531m) groups split as some contour and others take a direct route over the summit. I contour with another 8 or 10 runners. Around 200m, visibility really starts to deteriorate. The mist is some of the thickest I have been in. It is a long, soggy climb to the summit and by this time the wind is howling around the trig point and marshals are struggling to stay upright. One is wrestling with a survival tent – the wind had them in a Half Nelson when I passed!
On the top, twin tracks run in all directions merging, diverging and generally making choices difficult to make. With visibility down to 5-10 meters it is a challenging situation.
I have been very fortunate and spotted a ‘Solway’ vest on the way up through the clag – not too distant from here….
‘You run this one before’? I ask. ‘ Aye’ it’s ma local run’, came the answer. And so a stalker I became.
The descent from Pettylung (463m) to the road is rough and steep but I am down in one piece and heading for the loop around Steygail (573m). This looked runnable on the map but features some major contouring, climb and – in my case – many burn crossings.
On the route up to the road past Upper Dalveen, I manage to overtake 3 or 4 runners and am soon on the steep climb/traverse up Well Hill. This is tough in the whiteness. I am still stalking my local guide. It is hard to keep in touch at times but the alternative is quite scary. I have no clue where I am.
There is a Trahenna-like clamber up to the top of Well Hill (606m) and eventually we are at the top. I then mistake this for the last hill and decide that it is time for the downhill charge.
I take off following a never ending fence line – checking now and then that I can still see the blur of my guide behind me. Around this point we catch up with five runners who are all consulting maps and trying to figure the route down in the whistling haze. We pass them and are soon on the ‘actual’ last climb. Over this and I can remember the route back down Black Hill to the church.
I charge off in pursuit of a Westie but get my foot caught in a fence and miss the opportunity to catch him.
It’s a good run down through the mist over the burn and eventually to the church.
Andy C is back and changed by the time I get there. Dry clothes, soup, tea, numerous cakes and a bag of salty crisps and I am off to Grangemouth.
Andy went round in 2:07 – about 25 minutes down on his best. He did admit to getting lost 4 times! It turns out he ran an extra mile and climbed an extra 800 feet. Andy came in in 8th place - Around his best time – he would have been 3rd.
I managed round in 2.26 and 17th place. 36 ran – the limit is 40.
The race was won by Graham Gristwood – International orienteering champ. The conditions would present no problems, as these guys are taught to read a compass in one hand, dismantle an AK47 in the other, while reciting the Korean alphabet backwards.
Perhaps training for the summer!