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Dollar Hill Race 2004 - Story of the First Vet

Martin Southwick - Scunthorpe AC

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I first "discovered" the hills a few years ago, over 20 years ago actually, whilst holidaying in Cumbria with parents. As the Lakes were only a few hours away from my home in Lincolnshire, it was only a matter of time before I found out what The Wainwrights were, and with my own transport (motorbike or hitchhiking), set about covering all 214 of them. I was using my fitness from road running and football to get round Cumbria, but "only" as a walker at this point.

It took me 10 years, and one divorce to get round the lakes, and like most people who border on being obsessive, I needed another challenge to keep me occupied. I turned North, to the Munro�s.

I had competed in road races with some degree of success locally, back in Northern England, but still never thought about actually "Hill" bagging using my running shoes. That was until I was way past the 100 mark with my Munro�s, last year in fact, and I was invited to friends in Perth. Both Col and Joan were Munro-ists and runners, and kept telling about the "delights" of not only hill running but hill racing.

I ran a few hills/Munro�s with Col and Joan and got hooked. I�ve actually got to the point now where I actually don�t want to put my walking gear on, only don my "waffles". It�s quicker, lighter travelling and combines my love of the hills with the love of running. However, I got caught out once or twice. When heading North of the border, we always try to find a race, either on the road or in the hills. I entered a couple of hill races last year and found it all really so difficult. This included Glas Tulaichean uphill race, which after 20 years of racing, I can truthfully say is the hardest thing Ive ever done . . .I nearly died on my backside . . (Thanks Joan. A�hem !!) I also got embroiled in a cross country race too, and got swallowed up.

Back home, I would expect to finish in the top few percent of the field in a xc. This time, I�m not sure I was even half way down the field !! Hard people, these Scots.

For the first time ever, in 2004, I decided to take my full 2 � week holiday in Scotland. This was partly because I had always gone abroad for my summer trip, and wanted a change, but mainly to try and get past the � way mark with Munro�s. I managed 34 more, covered over 140 miles and 12,000 metres of ascent, in the first 15 days. Pleased, very !

I hurt in the first few days (no hills round here to train on) and had the occasional "rest" day, but it actually got where any muscle soreness wore off and I didn�t actually feel tired. I�m sure I could have kept running every day. No way I could have done that sort of mileage on the roads.

I was then told about the Dollar hill race.

I was a little apprehensive, as I had found my previous excursions onto the Scottish race scene far more difficult than that on the East coast of England. Also, whilst I felt strong from the previous weeks exertions, I would normally rest for 4 or 5 days before a race back home.

We were told/warned about the possibility of "Buzzard attack" before the race. We were also told that the best form of defence was to put our bum bags on our heads, should the need arise. ("Buzzards"/ "Attack". . .what was this ? A jaunt into the countryside or a Ray Mears survival lesson)

We also learnt, it seemed at the very last minute, that we had to take upper body cover with us. As my Goretex cagoule had given up the ghost in the last fortnight, I knew it wouldn�t keep out the horrendous downpours we had witnessed this morning, should we get caught in another. Still, rules were rules, and I had to make a panicky dash to the car to fetch our waterproofs.

The first few hundred yards or so of the race seemed pretty flat, fast and furious, but were ok as I was kinda use to that in road races. The most pleasing thing was that, because of the lack of rucksack on my back, I felt like I was about 8st, instead of my normal 10st. Up through the wooded area, I don�t know what position I was, probably top 8 or something. I seemed to be getting held back just a little but was very aware that if I set off now and tried to pass a few people, I may pay the price later, especially on the descent, where its obviously an "art form". As we exited the woods, I thought "bugger it - do or die". I set off, caught and past the 2 lads in front of me. I still didnt know whereabouts in the field I was (quite literally as it turned out !!!) Main problem here wasn�t from those buzzards, but swarms of what I presumed were blue bottle flies, 1000�s of the bastids, swarming in and around our face, ears, neck and hair. Believe me reader, it aint good fun trying to keep ones mouth shut, and gulping litres of air through two tiny nostrils !!!

As far as I was aware, the leaders were now very distant. I did manage to catch one other guy (Stuart Simpson), although I think it was an attempt to get above the "fly line", and not gain another place.

Shortly after passing my own quarry, the heavens opened up.

Fellow runners will understand the frustration of trying to keep your footing, at pace, whilst trying to undo the knot in the arms of your cagoule that has been wrapped round you waist in such a way that cold fingers have no effect whatsoever.

I eventually got myself untangled, Houdini style, but almost got caught too, as the lads who I had passed previously snook up on me. I just managed to hold them off, but then kept getting glimpses of a guy in red, a long way in front in front of us. By now, the rain was sending pea size drops down. I did actually think of giving up my cagoule up to nature once or twice. It was letting rain in that bad, I was in danger of drowning. I was hurting now and just starting to think that Id bitten off more than I could chew when the lad in red appeared over the horizon, on his way down. Hard to believe, but It was possible I was now 2nd. Sure enough, nobody else descended twixt me and "Redman" (Brian Marshall) so I just had to hold form on the descent. This was slightly concerning as I didn�t really know how good I was coming downhill, and would I not see all the markers and get lost !!! Things were made worse by "that" cagoule flapping about in the wind. Not only did I think it hindered my speed descending, I was actually in danger of getting blown back up the hill !!!!

Instead of just letting it flow, perhaps I was a bit tentative. I took a few tumbles and near misses, and went off course once but got called back, thankfully, by a marshall.

Into the wooded area, I was pretty sure I had held onto 2nd place, but had to rely on memory through the parkland area and keep a sharp eye out for the entrance into the cricket pavilion. The last few hundred metres were on gritted teeth and adrenaline as I started to wander across the road slightly due to fatigue and jellified leg muscles. Another few hundred metres and I sensed Stuart would have caught me, but

I held on to 2nd spot, just, and 1st vets prize.

I have now done 2 Scottish hill races. The first one was one of the hardest things I have ever done, the second gave more delight and satisfaction than most of the other races I have ever done, possibly because of the previous "practice fortnight".

Lord knows how the next one will go though. I am now back training on the flatlands of North Lincolnshire. The only hill training I get is running up railway embankments after falling down them drunk !!!!!!!!!

Copyright Alex King (Ochil Hill Runners) V4.2.3 (Apr 2017)