Saturday morning. The morning after arriving back from Tokyo. Tired and stiff, I wanted a run to eradicate the long flight from my legs.

I did not fancy any of my usual routes and I wanted to try something new. A quick search provided the perfect answer – the Traprain Law hill race. Only a few miles from Edinburgh, a 3pm start and entry on the day. I should even be able to make it back before the first World Cup match. After all, how difficult could one hill be? I am down for seven next weekend.

Registration was straightforward. No fuss here. No medal, tee short or random stuff to be scored, but at a bargain Ā£5 entry fee, no-one was complaining. The race forms part of East Linton gala day so the town was out in force with plenty of noise and atmosphere. Looking round the assembling group of runners, two things jumped out. Firstly, there was a high percentage of club runners in the mix. Secondly, there was a high percentage of kick-ass Salomon Speedcross and Inov-8 Mudclaw shoes on show. I was sporting new Brooks Cascadia trail shoes, and the soles seemed somewhat anaemic in comparison.

Start. I'm hiding at the back, as usual. (Photo: James Addie)

Start. I’m hiding at the back, as usual. (Photo: James Addie)

It was to be a day of firsts. I decided to try out a new iPhone chest-mount holder to capture some in-race pics. This does look a bit dorky, I have to say, and I self-consciously made my way to the back of the ~100 runners to try and avoid attention.

The pre-race briefing confirmed that the wet river crossing was in this year. Alright! Occasionally the river is too violent, but it was being kind today. So I could look forward to another first. Then, a 5-4-3-2-1 countdown and we were off.

Within five strides I knew that breaking golden rule #1 (never use anything in a race before “earning it” first) was a bad idea. The iPhone holder holder was way too loose and the whole contraption was bouncing around my chest like (I imagine) it must feel like for ladies who haven’t bra’d up properly. Anyway, the first half mile was spent trying to tighten the straps without stopping, while cursing my stupidity. Finally I managed to get the contraption to stop bouncing up and down, left and right. I glanced behind. I was fourth last. The final three would likely have been ahead of me but my adjustment contortions and general swearing probably caused them to be wary. In truth, though, the adjustment saga process was no excuse, the field was actually moving pretty sharpish.

Traprain over the riverWe hit the riverbank and then I realised why everyone had set off at rocket pace. The towpath was single file, with only a couple of passing opportunities. After a bit of this, I saw some of the advanced runners going up the river bank on the other side, and it was time for the river crossing.

I followed the tail-enders into the Tyne. The width of the crossing was about 10m and the river was soon flowing above my knee. Folks were moving gingerly and I decided this must be a passing opportunity, but when I slipped on a smooth rock and nearly took the whole gang out, I slowed down. Reaching the other side at exactly the same time as another runner it was a case of a very polite Scottish “you go first”, “no, *you* go first” and we were on our first uphill section of the day. Slow going. A hint of things to come.

At the top (Photo: Bob Marshall)

So *this* is why I have so many photos of the ground (Photo: Bob Marshall)

After making our way along some more single-file tracks through fields we arrived at the base of Traprain Law. It was fairly steep and some ropes had been placed along a fence to provide optional support. I joined the line of folks using the ropes. A marshall called out some “encouragement” in the form of “the earlier guys were running up this bit!” I couldn’t see how this was humanly possible. After some climbing the slope lessened somewhat, allowing me to walk freely and eventually break out into a run again towards the trig point. I wasn’t wearing a heart-rate monitor, but if I had, I am sure it would have been hitting record highs. Some Roman treasure was found here some time ago, but there was no time to search for remnants before starting the descent down the other side.

The climb had spread out the group somewhat and I decided to try and make up some ground on the way down. But it was not to be. My lack of experience and technique on this kind of terrain showed through and the gap between me and a guy in a red Carnethy running vest grew larger.

Now for the downhill

Now for the downhill

The track led through some muddy sections which had been churned up by those Mudclaws and Speedcrosses. My Cascadias held up well with no slipping or insecurity, in fact the only grip problem I had all day was on the slippy rocks at the river crossing. As we hit the bottom of the hill I found myself running blind and wondered if I could find my own way back, but after negotiating a turnstile we were back on a road and I could see a train of three or four runners up ahead.

Ahhh, terra firma! I started to make up some ground again as a short road section led to a trail path back towards the river. I passed the Carnethy runner as we reached the single file track back along the river bank. We emerged back into the town and some friendly marshalling guided us back to the Memorial Park and the race finish.

CascadiasIn summary, 6.08 miles of trail and hill running in just over an hour, with a bit of road thrown in there for fun. Good vocal support at various points along the route, usually when I was least expecting it and happiest to find it.

Now I can claim that I really have chalked up an off-road race (Devilla was more of a shuffle than a race) and notched one 195m hill, even if I did haul myself up it rather than run up it. I am left with one thought – how am I going to negotiate seven of them next weekend?

Official Result:

Time – 1:01:15
Position – 64 / 79

Elevation Profile: 195m Up

Elevation Profile: 195m Up

  1. Rachel says:

    Nice job. I take it the 7 refers to the Seven Hills Race/Challenge this weekend? If so, I might see you there! Though I opted for the challenge, not the race. A girl’s got beers to drink on a Saturday night!

    • mockjogger says:

      It does indeed refer to the Seven Hills Race! I’m down for the Challenge too. I’ve got a feeling it is going to be crazy. Beer is compulsory šŸ™‚ See you there.