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Lairig Ghru Hill Race
Sunday 28th June 2015
charlie

Never fancied a marathon. And having a pelvic thingy I thought the pleasures of The Beast were definitely not for me. But there was this hill race: the Lairig Ghru race is a 43k length 640 meter rise 'classic' through the great drove road that splits the Cairngorms from Braemar to Aviemore. If I was ever going to try that distance... Early this month I got a surprise late entry. I took a deep breath and some soundings (thanks chums), and thought I could perhaps participate if not exactly run it. So not so much tackling The Beast, as tip-toeing past its lair in the Forbidding Pass, maybe catching a whiff of sulphur, and definitely without bothering the Mountain Rescue Service (who support the race and for whom it is run). And I have'nt even mentioned my chesty cough.

Excuses duly filed, I was off from the police station in Braemar after a night of continual rain which stopped just before the whistle. Roads, then hilltrack to Derry lodge, where there is a cut off point of 90 mins. Then wading the Luibeg burn and elevating gradually into the Pass proper. The impulse to admire this magnificent vista is tempered by the constant risk of 'faceplanting' on technically tricky terrain. Next the final rise up through boulder fields, definite hot breath of sulphur on the legs here, to the Pools of Dee, reflecting the heavens from the apex of the pass like two eyes (thanks, Robert Macfarlane!). The descent towards Aviemore past the lovely supporting Mountain rescue folk is still quite tricky (but almost as lovely), so a resumption of pace is not really on till you near the beautiful ancient pine forest of Rothiemurcus. By which point I was so ancient myself that 'pace' was a distant memory. Graeme Kennedy had warned me about this final flog, but even forearmed it felt long and straight and long and...eventually Coylumbridge appears and a final road stretch to Aviemore, where the Mountain cafe is an oasis of friendly runners, soup, scones, and cake. 77th of 157 finishers, 4.51.15, delight very gradually seeping through the exhaustion.
Reflections:
1.Don't try this at home without training kids, for all my mental prep, the speed with which a feeling of 'hill-competent excitement' transitioned very close to 'incompetent leg-wobbling slog' was still a chastening surprise.
2. My sister in law started very slow and finished first in age and 2nd lady; so that is how its done.(But I think her and the Beast have a Robert Johnson-style deal gone down, actually).
3. What a wonderful club we have that can counsel & support a novice like me through an experience like that, thanks chums, you know who you are.
4. This is a really great race.

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