Troon Tortoises A view from the Hills

Over the last few weeks a number of Tortoises have made there running debuts on grass at the XC in Kilmarnock and also ran a couple of hill races, who better than our very own Ladies Club Champion Anne Noble to give us an insight into this type of event and run

Hill Running – one Tortoise’s view
I love hill running because it releases the child in me. Having spent much of my childhood enjoying the Scottish countryside, I relish that feeling of carefree pleasure that comes from having reached the top of a hill and then tearing back down the other side. Quite different from the steady effort made over a road race.
There is a good introduction to hill racing on the Scottish Hill Racing website which it would be wise to read if you are planning your first race: … 202012.pdf
Having started racing later in life I’ve only tried a few Ayrshire races and there are many Scottish races I have not run so I hope others will add their comments. Over the years these have included:
• Kaim in April fills me with both the anticipation of being in the hills for the first time that year and also the knowledge that there is a tough challenge ahead. The first few hundred metres are on the road in Fairlie and then it’s up, up, up! If you prefer to wear shorts rather than leggings then be prepared to have your legs scratched on the heather. The first time I attempted Kaim I fell over twice in the mud but it just made me laugh I was having such fun acting like a kid. As with ultras, the people are friendly and there are always a few competitors from other Ayrshire clubs. On a clear evening the view is incredible over the marina at Largs, over Cumbrae and across to Arran. If you are lucky enough to have good weather then the drive back south along the coast can be lovely too.
• In May this year I finally managed to get to Arran to attempt Goatfell. There is always a check with the local Mountain Rescue group before the race proceeds and there was some doubt about the conditions (I heard one runner say we were only getting our photo taken so that they would know who to search for later in the day) but we set off from the sports centre in Brodick to the sound of bagpipes and were lucky and there was a magnificent view from the top (yes, it is worth taking a minute to look). A long route but very rewarding and the tea and cake at the end is most welcome. A fabulous Saturday out.
• On a Sunday afternoon in June you can head south to Girvan to take part in the Lowland Games Saugh Hill race. This gives a completely different context with local dignitaries starting the race and a very public finish back in to Victoria Park.
• Mid week in July brings the Cairn Table race organised by East Ayrshire. Even July can bring bad weather and I did once drive over from Irvine only to find it had been cancelled. Be prepared to get wet and muddy! This is true of all the hills but the flat section at the beginning (and end) can be really boggy. I really like Cairn Table and this was my first hill.
• There’s a great atmosphere at Straiton on a Saturday afternoon in August when villagers hold their annual fete which includes the Craigengower Hill Race. You might be fooled into thinking that it is a comfortable run as you make your way through the pretty village but, once off the road, you soon realise that even the farmer’s field is on a hill and it becomes harder to breathe. After an interesting twist through the forest (by which point the children have returned) you will emerge at the stile from which only the fittest can run up the hill proper. Mere mortals like me are happy to walk to the top (again a great view) and then run, slide or slip all the way back down to the forest returning the same way to the field where the fete takes place. A short race but still very much a challenge. If you have young children it is a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon with lots of events. If you don’t, then you might want to indulge in home baking or an ice-cream.
• In September make your way to Glen Trool and tackle the Merrick. Having walked the route a few times I knew the summit could be windy but my first attempt at the hill race the route was shortened due to wind speeds of 70mph! We were very grateful to the marshalls who braved the wind and cold and, indeed, it is the first time I have seen prizes given to marshalls when some who had helped out for several years were thanked with a gift and a warm round of applause from the runners. Last year I returned to tackle the complete route and loved it.
Don’t forget that hill running has its own risks and some of the above require waterproofs, compass, map, etc. Although most of the races I have run are out and back the same way, it is not always easy to be sure of your route.
Scottish Hill Racing is also a good source of information:
As you will have realised, I tend to stick with the Ayrshire races so you may want to try further afield. Scottish Hill Runners have a list of the 2015 races which will give you an idea of what 2016 might look like. Go on, give it a try!



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  1. On November 06, 2015 bobby Miller says:

    Great article Anne…well scripted …

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