Archive for December, 2007

Girvan half marathon – Alex Drain.

Now that was tough!

I’ve run Girvan many times but that one takes the biscuit. I think that RAW and Straiton caught up with me at around mile 10 and told me what a naughty boy I’d been. Legs in treacle would have been nice but solidifying concrete was a bit much.

And it all started so well….

My first mile was 6:35. A bit quick but I was feeling good. Bobby took until just before mile 4 to pass me, so that was good too. The drop into Dailly was wonderful and I passed a couple of runners who clearly couldn’t go down hills – HA! Even the uphill was ok. It’s a long drag from Dailly to the next big downhill and on the way I did my good Samaritan bit by giving up my emergency supply of jelly babies to Angus of Girvan who was struggling and in a lot of pain.

Then the next flight down hill – oh I love Girvan. The nearest thing to bird flight without mechanical help! Soared past 3 guys! Flew over the tarmac with my low flying startling some grazing bovines. Oh joy, Oh bliss..… Oh bugger me – here’s the uphill. Not so much flying now – good grief, an extinct Dodo has just overtaken me!

5 miles to go – a dawdle. 4 miles to go – a cinch. 3 miles to go – oh dear, are those legs still part of this torso? 2 miles to go – did I arrive with those legs or did they come after? Last mile – Is this what it’s like to be dead?

The finish – oh the joy! ….. Well, that wasn’t too bad, was it!

Merrick hill race – Alex Drain

Even the name sounds ominous – THE MERRICK!

In the Merrick range of hills are other tags that make you wonder just what went on here. Scab Craigs; Black Gully; Murder Hole and the Fang of the Merrick to name but a few. The race itself isn’t a simple case of up and down. It starts with a lung bursting, strength sapping ascent of the very steep Fell of Eschoncan only to be followed by the ascent of Bennan Hill. A short downhill respite leads onto the slopes of Benyellary before the main event of the day, THE MERRICK!

Clothed in a blanket of mist as it was today, the plateau of the Merrick is a cold forbidding place but on a clear day the Solway, Ailsa Craig and Ben Lomond can be seen from one side whilst from the other rises the Rhinns of Kells along with the rest of the Galloway hills.

This year’s race which was part of the Scottish Hill Running Championships attracted 84 entrants and included some of the top names in the sport. Local runners were thin on the ground and I think there was only one runner from each of the Ayrshire clubs. Conditions were fairly good in so much that only the top of the mountain was hidden by the mist. However, underfoot was soft in the extreme and it was clear that today, the climb of over 1,000 metres would be difficult at best.

From the start I trailed towards the back of the field and tried, as usual, to keep my feet dry for as long as possible. Two seconds later, with sodden feet the first ascent began. It could never be described as pretty! Slips, falls, cuts and bruises seemed to be the order of the day as we slogged our way to the eventual top. It was a bit disconcerting for me to think that when I arrived in visibility that was down to only a few yards, the likes of Brian Marshall would be near finishing. Ah well, better get on with it.

Coming out of the mist opened up some fantastic views and the only time I nearly got lost. As I started my descent of the Rig of the Gloon I took a wrong turn. Luckily I had been spotted by a runner about 50 yards behind who shouted a warning. For anyone who doesn’t know the Merrick, it has a nice convenient tourist path all the way up. However, straying from the tourist path can be fraught with danger as there are many cliffs and steep gullies, just like the one I had been heading for!

Once back on the correct route my usual quick descent took on a new dimension as I slipped and slid a full 100 feet down the side of the hill. As I plummeted out of control I realised that the slope petered out and I’d probably come to no harm – amazingly it became quite exhilarating!

Following the Rig of the Gloon the next obstacle was the crossing of the Buchan Burn at one of the fords. Sod the ford, I’m already soaked through and I’m bloody thirsty! Out of the burn and into the next big climb, the aptly named Wall of the Rig of Loch Enoch then a bit of ridge running to the top of Buchan Hill. The descent down Black Gairy was tough, very tough. It was also very steep, very soft and very wet.

At the bottom of the Black Gairy sits the fence I leapt prior to the taking of the world’s worst photo (thanks Kenny!). Unfortunately, the final sting in the tail is a steep uphill on tarmac to the finish at Bruce’s Stone. A quick sprint and I’m there – oh bugger it – I’ll just walk!

All in all, it was a good day that I thoroughly enjoyed. Coming in towards the tail of the field was disappointing but in the words of Colin Brash of Girvan, “This makes Ben Nevis seem easy!”

Tinto hill race – Alex Drain


Think – torrential rain….. gale force winds….. appallingly poor visibility.

… no, that was on the way home!!

Considering we’re near to the middle of November, the conditions were pretty good, albeit a tad blustery at times.

Charlie and I were the only Tortoises who made the trip and we positioned ourselves towards the rear of the field of 240 runners. Whilst such a position indicates our humility, it also indicates our stupidity… it took about 15 seconds to cross the start line and the first few hundred yards were at a snail’s pace (hmmm, maybe suitable for a tortoise).

For those of you who don’t know Tinto, it’s situated about 2 miles west of the village of Symington, not THE Symington we all know and love, but the Symington on the way to Biggar (South Lanarkshire). The race has always been very popular due to it being short, sharp and coming at the end of the season. Everyone feels good because they know there’s a month and a half of relative inaction before the 2008 season starts with the challenging Greenmantle Dash!

The journey to the top of Tinto was for me, pretty easy. However, my legs weren’t of the same mind and at the top, Charlie was a long way ahead. My pace at the best of time is always well behind Charlie so I wasn’t too bothered.

Whilst my uphill trek could and should have been a bit quicker, the downhill was much better. It’s a fantastic feeling, passing other runners at pace. Who cares about passing folk uphill when you’re only doing two miles an hour. The downhill sections in hill races provide ample opportunity to pass at over fifteen!!! I did as I always like to do, I counted as I passed and had improved my position by 13 at the finish. I caught up with Charlie with about 500 yards to go and had time to knock off another two before the line.

The bad news was time. Just over 47 minutes is not a good time for Tinto and I was a tad disappointed. However, Charlie liked his first hill race and if he just learned to descend a bit quicker, he’d be miles ahead of me (maybe I shouldn’t encourage him too much). Och well, the main thing is that it was a thoroughly enjoyable outing with a good bowl of soup at the end. All for £3 – can’t complain.