My Introduction to Scottish Hill Running
I started running around the streets of Glasgow a couple of years ago in an effort to get a bit fitter. I like to apply for races every few months to give me something to aim at and make sure that I don't tail off in the training. This has largely been road races and I have done numerous 10K races, the Great North Run on Tyneside, Edinburgh's 13km "Kilomathon", last year's Glasgow Great Scottish Run half marathon and most recently The Great Edinburgh Run around a handsome 10 mile course.
I've always enjoyed a day spent out on a Scottish hillside and thought I wasn't too bad at the kinda hurpling down part of any walk up a Munro. After someone bought me Richard Askwith's excellent book on Fell running ("Feet In The Clouds") I fancied a break from the monotony of going around the same Glasgow streets, with a wee run up a hill or two. I bought Susie Allison's "Scottish Trail Running" book to get some ideas for off-road routes and soon learned that, particularly in wet weather, a pair of more knobbly-soled "trail shoes" was a good investment.
So this had taken me around Mugdock Park, up parts of the West Highland Way, to Bar Hill Roman fort near Croy, along the North Esk River in Edzell and up and down hills in the Trossachs. I thought I was ready now to apply for a couple of hill races and found some on the Scottish Hill Racing website. The run up and down Ben Ledi appealed to me as it was a mountain not too far from me in Glasgow (a Corbett just 120ft shy of being a Munro) which I'd never been up before. The 10km race route looked fine as a distance I knew I could easily manage.
|Above the clouds on Conic Hill|
One problem is that working full time and with three young kids I can't really drive off to the countryside too often to get much practice on decent sized hills. I managed a couple of trips to jog up and down Conic Hill on Loch Lomondside, on the West Highland Way path. The next best thing was trying to do loops round the hill on Gardner Street near my house a couple of times a week. The problem with this, which I later discovered, is that dragging yourself to the top and then giving your legs a wee rest on the descent is not really the same as the 30-40 minute continuous uphill slog of going up a mountain.
|Gardner Street, Partick. |
Glasgow hill running
I always carry enough glucose tablets to get me through a race. I know that after 1 hour of running I need to take about 40g of glucose tablets or sweets. Last year in the Glasgow half marathon their 30 minute delay at the start blew all my running/ insulin timings out and I needed much more than this, giving my final race time a serious kicking that day. So I had to carry my glucometer and sufficient Mars bars and sweets for all eventualities. Once I knew that I needed a wee rucksack I chucked in a map and cagoule in case the weather changed at the top.
|Car park for Ben Ledi race|
|Start line with Ben Ledi summit in the distance|
Then the path turned right onto the open hillside and kept going gradually uphill from here to the summit. On this narrower path it was impossible to pass anyone and we all shuffled along at the same tempo. Soon we were all almost at a fast walk/ clamber. Although initially I was managing to break back into a jog on the flatter bits it was soon obvious that a forced march was more the order of the day. Although I was passing hillwalkers regularly I could see that the other runners were beginning to leave me behind.
|Other runners becoming dots on the path ahead of me|
|Looking back down the path towards Loch Venechar|
|View from Ben Ledi summit to Loch Lubnaig|
|Start the descent. Glorious views and flags showing the way|
|Descending into Stank Glen|
|Profile and route from Runkeeper.com|
It would be remiss of me not to mention the nearby excellent Mhor 84 Motel at Kingshouse, Balquhidder where I had a lovely lunch after I finished.
I have the Glasgow Men's 10K in a week's time (lovely and flat), so after that I'll plan the next one. I would train differently though. If I cannot get onto more hills in training I'd try to have a weekly session on the stairmaster thing in the gym to get my quads a bit more used to it.
However no tick bites, no sprained ankles, lovely weather, gorgeous scenery.