Lairig Ghru race report

This is the official race report with added extra Deeside content, mostly ramblings but there is some factual content.

Lots of thanks, Liz (cramp reliever extraordinaire), Katie (TV team wrangler, factotum exemplar and laid (very) back official photograher) & Sam (THE most exuberant welcomer of runners I have ever seen), the best registration / finish team who also showed how wearing a marshal’s vest can be made more interesting (watch the show to find out!).

Jane and Dave for their Derry Lodge duties, all the competitors were very grateful for both aid stations and me for the peace of mind they gave me for that portion of the race.

Bob, Hazel & Joe for their sweeping exploits, they got everyone back in good time to watch the prizegiving and to catch the buses.

Rich, Jamie, Ian, Ben, Clare, Mark (+ enthusiastic small helper) for kit checks and general assistance & Dave for his help all day and the procuring of the spot prizes from OMM.

Lina & boys for both registration and as lead out team to Mar Lodge, I hope you get your bike back Cluan (I think it was you).

Roger & Kirsty for the photos and support at Luibeg, great images.

Mr Hirst for his sterling, some say Churchillian, send off for the runners.

As you can see it takes a lot of folks, who willingly give up their time, to maintain this race, I do appreciate the help tremendously, if I have missed anyone, I apologise, it was rather hectic on the day.

From turning up in Braemar at 0730 and forgetting that I had asked for the hall to be opened, triple counting the runners and still get a different number, having a bus crash into me a few miles from Coylumbridge.

Consoling an upset “winner” of the race, administering first aid to various runners with cuts, bruises and broken fingers, having to speak with someone’s partner to tell them they had been coptered to Raigmore and not to worry.

Having to drive a very, very talkative (she was a lovely quine though) Russian lady runner all the way back to Braemar and finally getting home at 2300.

Then waking up on Monday morning and remembering (after looking in the mirror) that I’d neglected the sunscreen, definitely a Scottish tan! What else would I do with a Summer Sunday, until next year….

Finally, I have spoken to Meg (Adventure Show producer) and she is willing to give us a copy of the show, sometime in the Autumn, before it is broadcast. Would anyone fancy a night out, something to eat and a few beers to watch this and maybe the copy Ben has of the previous filming of the event? Let me know and I will see what we can organise.

Lairig Ghru 2018 or Some Like it Hot!

The Lairig race this year started warm and only got hotter as the country sweltered in a Scottish heatwave, temperatures reached 25C in Aviemore and running through this iconic mountain pass was made even more difficult with a lack of a cooling breeze.

We were honoured this year to have The Adventure Show filming the race, we laid on the weather, the enthusiastic competitors and the ever so supportive marshals along with the expertise of the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue team, I am sure the AS team will do the race justice when it is broadcast later this year. Unfortunately Dougie Vipond had a prior engagement at the Royal Highland Show but he assured me he was upset to miss out on running the race!!

214 keen and tense runners toed the line in Braemar and were set on their way by Deeside Runners long standing past president and honourary club member, Dave Hirst who is recovering, very well, from a hip replacement operation he had about 5 weeks ago.

In the men’s race the early pace was set by Hamish Battle (Metro) and James Waldie (HBT) as they headed towards the Luibeg burn and the entrance to the Lairig itself, followed by Graham Bee (Inverness Harriers), Jason Kelly (Stonehaven Running Club), Mark Mosgrove (unatt) and George Foster of Keswick AC, indications from just beyond the high point suggested that James had taken the lead and that George was the main challenger with Hamish struggling with a touch of cramp (or maybe more than a touch if you had seen him at the end).

These placings persisted until the home stretch in Aviemore itself when James, who had what he described as “a winning lead”, neglected to cross under the railway via the tunnel thus letting George benefit from this navigational aberration and win in a highly respectable, given the weather, 3:18:36 with James appearing a minute and a half later having ran a wee bit further.

As the race insists upon the competitor carrying a map and compass and navigation is required, the person crossing the finish line first is the winner but I do have a little sympathy for James, I am sure he will come back stronger for the experience!

Hamish hobbled in a further three minutes later looking a little worse for wear but the spread laid on by Kj, Al and the staff at the Mountain Cafe soon had him back to his usual self.

A very honourable mention must go to Kieran Cooper, who at 18 years of age must have a bright future in hill running ahead of him, he finished fourth overall in a great time of 3:25:42, he even took money off Duncan from the Adventure Show, who conceived a slightly reckless bet that Kieran wouldn’t break 4 hours! (Kieran, Duncan paid up, I have your £3.50!).

Graham Bee rounded out the top 5 finishing strongly in 3:27:10.

The male vets race was, as always, keenly contested, Richard Cooper (Kieran’s father) was first, and tenth overall, in a little over 3:40, Peter Jones pipped Brian Bonnyman by 20 seconds for second place, both running 3:52 and change. These three were well clear of the next MV40.

The MV50 race was even closer, the inimitable Alan Smith delivered the win, clocking under 4 hours for what seems like the 40th time and winning in 3:57, Willie Rennie had a great race to finish second beating David Weir by about 30 seconds and finishing less than a minute over 4 hours. If success in politics requires stamina then the Lib Dems (other political parties are available) would seem to have a good leader in Willie.

The M60 category title was handily retained by Raymond Corbett, almost half an hour ahead of GTM, who was 5 minutes up on Joe Battle, who replicated his son’s third place, despite breaking a finger (he is well named).

There was a high quality and very diverse women’s field this year, with international orienteers, triathletes, ultra-runners, as well as the reigning Scottish hill running champion.

It was difficult to predict the winner but Tessa Strain (HBT) was keen to emulate husband Murray’s success last year and looked very determined on the start line. At Luibeg, Cat Morrison of Stirling Tri Club had a lead with Tessa not that far behind, and with this year’s Highland Fling winner and Scottish Ultra Trail Champion Rachel Normand (Carnethy) running well it looked like there would be no podium place for Scottish hill running international Steph Provan of the host club, Deeside Runners.

Tessa’s strength started to tell and all that hill training she has been doing in Cambridgeshire(!) must have helped tremendously as she powered to an excellent win and 9th place overall in a great time of 3:40:17, fantastic run, this goes to show how good Lucy Colquhoun’s record actually is. Never underestimate the hill runner, Stephanie stuck to her race plan (you probably will do it again!) and ran a commendable 3:54 to take 2nd place ahead of Cat and Rachel, the latter two also breaking four hours by a minute or two.

A battle scarred Sally Wallis rounded out the top 5 with an excellent time of 4:05, thus improving the Wallis household record for the race (sorry Dirk, you’ll have to do it again) by around a minute.

Tessa was extremely happy to have matched Murray but was more insistent on praising his time from last year, which to my mind was one of the best hill runs of 2017.

Double success for the Strain household as Murray finished 8th in the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Poland on the same day.

As Cat was on the podium for the overall, Charlotte Black from Shetland AAC was awarded the FV40 prize, she ran well to record a time of 4:31 and finish about 6 minutes ahead of Mary Lye from Carnethy, Ros Baxter from Insch Trail running club took the 3rd place, in well under 5 hours, recording 4:50:09.

Deeside were looking for another winner in the ranks and Sarah Dunn duly delivered, in emphatic fashion, running 4:51 and finishing more than 50 minutes ahead of her nearest rival, Mo MacInnes of Garioch Roadrunners, with Judy Leslie rounding out the podium for the FV50’s.

Of the rest of the Deeside Runners, Alan Sealy had a very impressive run to record 4:11:38 and 4th MV50, Martin Young ran well for a very creditable 62nd place in 4:38, Peter Henry recorded a 4:41, he didn’t seem to enjoy this one, looked less than enamoured with the race and strolled across the line, you will nail this race one year Peter!

Only being 27 or so miles meant that this was a warm up for Jim Savege who finished two places and one minute after Peter, not even the scorchio weather could release the hat from Nick Mardall’s head as he cruised round in a comfy 4:50. Frances Wright ran 5:25 and finished in the top half of the women’s field, a nice effort in the conditions.

Two retirals, Sara Henry, who was nursing an existing injury (a real one and not the imaginary ones you tell your rivals about at the start of a race), she started but the injury wouldn’t allow her to finish and Mr Pringle, he has been in good form and I was quietly confident that Stuart would finally crack 4 hours, alas twas not to be, he suffered from empty legs syndrome, a condition that we are all probably familiar with, I see you placing well in the MV40 next year when you go sub 4 Stuart….

Team prizes went to HBT, the heat got to me at this point (you will see the reason on the TV show) and I gave the beer to Stonehaven, sorry HBT!

Deeside clinched the ladies prize comprehensively from Carnethy and Insch respectively, with the triumvirate of S’s, Sally, Sarah and Steph all running well.

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, Braemar Village Hall for the use, Deeside Spring Water for, well, for the water, and Cairngorm Mountain Rescue for providing the hill support. Most of all I would like to thank all my club mates, and others from rival 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.

The race is run primarily to provide funds for CMRT, this year we had a situation which required a helicopter rescue, the runner involved suffered from heatstroke and was airlifted to Raigmore Hospital where he spent the night under observation and was thankfully released the following day and is fine now.

Special thanks to all the runners and marshals who assisted him, especially to Natalya Wallek of Insch Trail Running Club who gave up her race to ensure he was looked after until the chopper arrived, this is what typifies the spirit of hill running.

Looking forward to actually seeing the race for a change, if not running it again.

All the best,

Andy