Stories of snowy trails, stunning vistas and a haggis feast drew a record 10 Hares and Hounds to the Feel the Burns Hill Race in bonnie Selkirk. An eclectic mix of seasoned hill runners, race veterans and hill running newbies ensured we would pepper ourselves throughout the field. Amazingly, everyone arrived with all the required kit. Unbelievable!
The weather the week before looked promising to match the winter wonderland that has treated this race for the past two year. On the morning of the race however, a freakish heatwave transformed the course into a mix of black ice, flowing rivers, deep bogs, 2ft snow drifts with some good hard ground in-between. Wise words at the race briefing of “look where you’re going and you’ll be grand” … sound advice.
After some quick team photos – later poached by the local press – we gathered on the start line in a muddy field. Something that I can’t quite remember happened, a gun or a hooter or someone shouted go, and we started madly running across the muddy field. The first challenge is getting out the field across a particularly muddy section on a brutal camber, primed to wipe us out like skittles. The next mile is on a firm forest track with sneaky patches of black ice and snow to catch out the unaware. For a brief moment myself, Tom and Alastair held a three man lead but this was not to last. After crossing a cattle-grid a sharp right hander took us off the main path and onto the well flagged first climb. Partly on sheep track, partly on quad track and partly on no track this brutal climb is in the grey area between runnable and walkable. Glorious views across the Scottish borders treated us at the summit before a quick heather bashing downhill and drag back up took us to the iconic Three Brethren. From here the route undulates along gorgeous trails on a broad ridge to the turning point at around 6.5 miles. “The best downhill in the world” stretches from around mile 6 to 9 and this year was made even better by running in a stream surrounded by snow for a good mile stretch. After this comes a fierce reality check. The downhill ends abruptly in a freezing crotch deep burn crossing followed by: a long drag on a farm track; slippy steep woodland trail; shoe eating monster bog and finally the last horrendous hands and knees crawl up the last hill. From the summit – after you wipe the tears from your eyes – it’s a tremendous flying two miles to the finish. Unless your Alastair, then it’s a nice wee detour to look at a pond and Jacob Atkin robbing you of a tattie.
Tremendous post-race feast put on by the organisers (plus Mairi’s flapjacks/not-flapjacks) left us all suitably satisfied. Great run, great food and great craic and gold.
It was a great day out and everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves! Tremendous runs all round with some great performances that left local running legend Graeme Sutherland suitably impressed, although smug at pipping Duncan and Katherine at the finish! I managed to grab myself a win, CR and some prizes rich in poisonous gluten, which I have since eaten and suffered the consequences. Myself, Tom and Alastair also picked up the first team prize! Which was suitably consumed later that evening. Special mention to Audrey for heroically stopping and staying with an injured runner until help arrived, sacrificing her own run. Top medic!
- 1: Mark Sutherland: 1:33:30
- 4: Alastair Thurlbeck: 1:37:38
- 6: Tom Callan: 1:39:06
- 61: Mairi Gilmour: 2:05:42
- 102: Alice Everett: 2:16:26
- 137: Duncan Ng: 2:32:13
- 140: Katherine Mitchell: 2:33:27
- 149: Elie Waugh: 2:37:45
- 155: Juliet Hill 2:39:34
- 167: Audrey Ayres: 2:46:55
Words by Mark Sutherland