This year was the 43rd edition of the Lairig race, the entries opened in mid-March, all 250 spots sold out in about 20 minutes, this was partly down to the Adventure Show effect and judging by the race numbers in other races, partly the popularity of hill running, long may it continue.
As always there was a high quality field in the men’s race, established hill runners, quality road runners and even an Australian ultra-running champion.
For the 237 runners who set off from Braemar with high hopes of reaching Aviemore, the conditions for the race were close to ideal bar the early headwind which became a helping wind later in the race with a welcome rain shower or two and a temperature conducive for running.
The men’s race went off at a healthy pace and it soon became apparent that Jonny Crickmore (HBT) was the man to catch, he took control fairly early on and never relinquished the lead, his winning time was an excellent 3:02:41 which was the second fastest time ever. He looked remarkably fresh at the end and was very low key about his achievement.
Behind Jonny there was a pack of 3 very different runners, Chris Richardson (Metro), Jason Kelly (Metro) and Brendan Davies (Team Inov-8). Chris had achieved a sub 2:30 marathon this year and was newish to the world of hill running. Jason has been improving quickly over the last couple of years and was keen to do well and to beat Hamish Battle’s time from last year. There was also Brendan Davies (Team Invo-8), there is not really enough space in the report to do justice to Brendan’s racing CV but I will just say he is the reigning Australian Male Ultra Runner of the Year and was a worthy late edition to the race as an add on to his Scottish holiday.
The pack of three remained tight until the quicker running through Rothiemurchus forest where Chris, who expected to be strong here, dropped off the pace to eventually finish 4th in a highly respectable debutant time of 3:17:18. Brendan and Jason pushed each other along the Coylumbridge road and through Aviemore high street where Brendan put in a final burst to take 2nd in 3:14:38, Jason following him in 15 seconds later, thereby taking 3rd and also beating Mr Battle’s time from last year.
Brendan not only finished 2nd but took the V40 record into the bargain, this record had stood for more than 25 years and was held by our much missed club mate Ben Preece who passed away earlier this year, I think Ben would have approved of Brendan’s racing style!
The V40 race was a tight affair with less than 2 minutes covering the top 3 (excluding Brendan), Iain Carroll (Giffnock North AC) running a great time of 3:39:33, just over 30 seconds later Scott Fraser (Lomonds) crossed the line with race veteran Brian Bonnyman following about a minute later.
The V50 race had two outstanding protagonists in Donald Kerridge (Deeside) and Kenneth Davidson (Moorfoots), with the evergreen Donald prevailing in 3:52:37, Kenneth also handily broke the four hour barrier, Graham Kirby (Fife AC) rounded out the top 3 with a 4:16:50 clocking.
The V60’s were, as always, super competitive, Richard Toller (Dundee RR) held on for a good win in 5:16:15, Robert Atherton and Kerry Gordon were seen to be racing neck and neck, weaving through the bemused afternoon shoppers and tourists, Robert just pipped Kerry as they recorded the same time, 6 minutes down on Robert.
The ladies race was between two athletes, Kerry Prise (Metro) and Katie White (Garscube Harriers). What the front end lacked in quantity was certainly made up for in quality. Kerry’s sister Siobhan had won the West Highland Way race the previous weekend so familial pride was up for grabs. Katie has a top quality marathon time to her name and has represented England in mountain running.
The two ladies battled throughout the race with Kerry coming in first, looking surprisingly fresh (there is a theme here for winners), her time of 3:42:28 was one of the top 5 times recorded by women in the race, Katie came striding through to record 3:45:11 which is likely to be the fastest any woman has run the race and not won.
Lisa Johnstone rounded out the top 3 in a shade over 4:30.
Insch Trail Running Club have in recent years taken to the race in increasing numbers and it was heartening to see two of their ladies, Ros Baxter and Jacoline Dey occupying 1st and 2nd places respectively on the FV40 podium, Ros’s time of 4:31:26 was exactly 12 minutes quicker than Jacoline’s, Ros finished 4th overall. Frances Britain from Forres Harriers completed the leading trio in a time well under the five hours.
Susan Brown (Deeside) has been improving consistently and would have been even more pleased if I had got the FV50 results correct and awarded her 1st place instead of 2nd on the day, apologies Susan! Karen Young had a good run to finish 2nd with Donna Pass a creditable 3rd in 5:46.
The FV60 race had two competitors, Ann White (Garscube Harriers) and Patricia Whitelaw (2 Dash). Ann lead home in impressive style, even more so when you understand that she fell a couple of times around the half way mark, was bloodied and bruised but finished strongly.
I paraphrase, but she told me what else could she do but carry on. Her time of 5:19:48 would have won the FV50 race but more extraordinarily was a new FV60 record by almost exactly 30 minutes. A successful day out for the White family with daughter Katie taking 2nd overall. Patricia clocked a very good time as well, just a shade over 6 hours.
An honourable mention must go to Brian Howie (Carnethy), he completed the race in 3:40 in 1993 and was finishing again this year at 68 years of age.
Due to a computer malfunction the results were done the old fashioned way and there was not time to accurately calculate the team results.
Insch Trailing Running Club (Ros Baxter, Jacoline Dey & Rachel Little) took the ladies prize handsomely from Carnethy and Garioch Road Runners.
The Male team award went to the host club Deeside (Donald Kerridge, Jamie Ross & Peter McFadzean) who pipped Carnethy and Metro by a couple of points. Jamie well deservingly cracking the four hour barrier and Peter just 28 seconds shy.
The next Deeside counter, Dirk Wallis almost succeeded in wrestling back the family record for the race but this still stays with his wife Sally, next year Dirk! NIck Mardall rounded out the male Deeside contingent in a sub 4:40 time, safe to say the hat was in place. Lois McCulloch made the short journey from Queensland for the race and completed it in under six hours which is pretty impressive considering she had wee Murdo not that long ago.
As always, this event cannot take place without the hard work and support of numerous people, thanks to Mar Lodge and Rothiemurchus for providing the access to the estates willingly, to the Mountain Cafe for the fabulous spread, Bremners of Aviemore for getting everyone back home, Braemar/Cairngorm Mountain Sports for the number sponsorship and use of their car park, Braemar Village Hall for the use, the Braemar Gathering committee for the use of the car park/toilets, and Cairngorm Mountain Rescue for providing the hill support.
Most of all I would like to thank all my club mates, others from local clubs and anyone else I have forgotten to thank, who willingly gave their time to assist in organising the event, without the volunteers these events cannot take place. I am sure all the competitors would agree.
All the best,