Today was the Comrie Hills relay, a race organised by my club, Strathearn Harriers. Each team requires 5 runners to run the 4 legs - leg 2, the roughest section, has to be run by 2 runners who are required to stay together. Like most hill races the course is not marked and runners are expected either to recce the route beforehand or to use their navigational skills. There are 11 checkpoints in total, all of which the teams are required to pass through and register.
As you may have guessed from the title of this blog, we won. On paper we were by no means the strongest side, but a number of the good teams (including Central, Carnethy and Highland Hillrunners) went seriously off course on Leg 1. This meant we had a lead of almost 20 minutes over these teams at the end of the first stage. Colin, our first leg runner, came in to the first changeover point in the lead, with Fife 2nd and 3rd, then Phil and Simon ran a stormer on Leg 2 and extended our lead to 1 minute and 40 seconds. Fife had a couple of really good runners on leg 3, and by the time I took over from Digby on leg 4 I was in 3rd position, about 5 minutes behind the leader and 3 minutes behind the runner in 2nd place. As well as trying to catch the people in front, I was a bit concerned about some of the faster runners who were coming from behind, such as this year's WHW winner Adrian Davies. Whatever happened I knew I would have to run a good leg if we were to stay in the medal hunt.
I started off at a good pace but felt it hard going up the hills, particularly heading up to the monument. At that stage the route doubles back down the same path and I saw the 2nd Fife runner, who I reckoned was still 3 minutes in front of me. The runner behind was nowhere to be seen. I continued to work away for the rest of the route, made sure I didn't miss any checkpoints, and crossed the line in a time of 51.30 for the leg (total team time 3.43.00), which I assumed had given us 3rd place. I was very surprised when someone told me that we were actually first - it turned out the 2 Fife runners had taken a wrong turning. So we retained our title: 2 Comrie Hills relays and 2 Strathearn Harriers victories. The Strathean team also won the prize for the first mixed team.
It was an excellent event, with a really good barbeque afterwards. Many thanks to everyone involved in the organisation. Hopefully the teams who went off course will come back next year, better prepared - the result certainly highlights the importance of knowing the proper route in hill events such as this.
I'm sure there will be full results and a race report on the Strathearn website in due course: