A little background first: this is billed as a 10 mile trail race with 80% of it off road and 20% on road. Got the maths right so, so far so good ! This is the first running of this particular race which takes place under the banner of Melrose Races (www.melroseroadraces.com), run by Chris Renton. This is the first event of their's that I've run and I must say, I was impressed. If you've read any of my previous race reports, you'll see that as an inexperienced off road runner I've concentrated on the "bigger" organisatons that host events.
That is no bad thing in itself, and running all the Lakeland trails events in 2013 was great grounding for me, but lets not beat about the bush, they tend to be expensive.
In February this year I ran my 13th marathon or ultra (all bar one being off road), two and a half years after running my first. I never had a huge desire to run a marathon but once I did (and realised that it wasnt "that" scary and I could do it|), I kept doing more. That's my nature.
However, like lots of things in my life I've lost interest a little because I've "done that" and, lets be honest, running these marathons up hills, through bogs and whatever else (who puts stiles towards the end of a mara route??) isnt easy. Just this evening, I've pulled out of one in 2 weeks time. Perhaps its time to drop down the distance as at 51 I'm feeling it. The slog of marathon training can be just that, a slog.
A twitter conversation several months ago led to this race. A very fast (mainly road) runner I know through twitter but have had the pleasure of meeting several times at the start and finish of races (lets just say our pace isnt similar !), suggested I run the Lasswade 10 miler. I'd run it in 2010 before I discovered my love for off road running. I said OK as long as you run the 3 Eildons. He agreed !
And so I entered this race. I felt good about supporting a new and local event (with profits going to the Brathay Trust I should add) but really wasnt looking forward to trying to run a 10 mile road race. Road races are fast. At least in the hills you get to walk, even if it is sometimes ridiculously steep! The road race was 4 weeks ago and I was delighted to run it 1 minute faster than 5 years previously. I really did enjoy the feeling of running fast (thats a relative term btw !).
The race. As the title suggests, there are 3 Eildons and we had to summit them all. After registering and having a race briefing, we had a 10 minute walk to the start. This served quite nicely as a gentle warm up. The weather was fine, the forecast earlier in the week of very strong winds did not materialise.
I'd say this wasnt an orthodox route, not unique I'm sure (Howgills marathon springs to mind), but it was a fantastic one. We ran about half a mile along a gently uphill tarmac road before turning onto the hill. It was muddy and my NB Minimus shoes coped OK but not as well as others I have but I knew what was coming later and these shoes performed really well later in the race. Now we were on the steep climb. It was single file, hands on knees climbing. I was following a lady and like all ladies in these events she had a very nice shape, but all I could think of was "please dont fart, I need all the oxygen I can get!" She didnt!
We reached the first summit around 1.3 miles in and I think my watch showed around 900 feet of climb. Trying to get the legs going for the descent, which was more gentle, was difficult and as soon as I did we were ascenting the 2nd Eildon. The path splits giving us 2 choices and folk split. I chose right but I've no idea if I chose "right". Up we go, hands on knees. This summit was just shy of 2 miles and showed around 1200 feet of climb.
We started to descend. I've done this before on my own and 99% of runners seemed to be taking the route I had in the past. Not the lady I seemed to be destined to run the whole race with.....she veered off left. I thought that she must have local knowledge. She didnt ! As this wasnt an exact route, we weren't doing anything wrong but as I found myself "skiing" down on a one foot wide bed of skree I felt sure this wasnt meant to be. We took approximately 10 places and the gps shows we cut about .25 of the mile off the race ! I'm sure we lost all of those places again, but not until the last 3 miles ! Result
The 3rd summit is far less severe and is about quarter distance. This is where the race changes hugely. The next 4 miles are largely downhill. Muddy fast trails through the woods change to muddy fast trails along a stream (we are now on St Cuthberts Way) and onto a tarmac mile down through Newtown St Boswells.
I was feeling quite strong, enjoying the change from it being hard work to ascend to it being hard work to run fast. I was aware that the lady was just behind me. I kept pushing, both hoping I could hold her off and that she's pass and tow me along. Then I thought that the sound of feet behind me was more than her. A quick glance confirmed this. I had a pack of 6 tucked in behind me. Basically all the runners we had passed whilst skree skiing !
I had run this route once before or a close approximation of it, so I thought I had fair idea where I was going. As I crossed the road in Newtown St Boswells and headed down some wee back lanes I began to wonder. There were mutterings behind that I couldnt hear. No one passed me so I assumed they were trusting me. I was right because as soon as I passed an arrow marking the route, they passed me one by one !
Once we reached the river Tweed the pace slowed considerably. The narrow riverside path was twisty, uneven and slippy. And then we start to ascend again. Hurrah ! A chance to walk ! I walked/ran in intervals up through the woods until we crossed the A68 and then I ran. I knew it was less than 2 miles until the finish.
The long slog up the track led to a half mile downhill tarmac finish. I quite wanted to finish alongside the aforementioned lady as we had spent the whole race within 100 yards of each other but I had the finish in sight and she wasnt there. She finished 2 or 3 minutes later. We had a big handshake and smile afterwards. We both knew we'd helped one and another. Its what running is about.
In summary: a lovely mix of proper "hands on knees" climbing, muddy trails, fast sections, a naughty mile 9, for charity race.
PS I loved it :-)