Saturday, 9 November 2013

Four Harriers at the Glen Ogle 33

The Glen Ogle 33 has rapidly established itself in the Scottish ultra calendar in the three years of its existence, with entries filling up rapidly in the months before the race. Although it’s not quite the advertised 33 miles, it’s a challenge in terms of ascent, with a stern test at the start, a long pull up Glen Ogle, and then a steep section coming back from Killin to the head of Glen Ogle.

Kerry ran the race in 2011 and 2012, and was keen to give it another go this year. On the back of their marathon efforts, Julia and Susan were looking for an even bigger challenge, and Nic just seemed up for a big long run. Kirsty was running as well, on top of a huge programme of half marathons, and marathons, all leading up to her first ultra. We did originally have three more entrants, but Liz decided it wasn’t really her thing after all, Phil M decided his calf might not manage the whole thing and Phil T struggled to regain his mojo after the Chester marathon in October.

The race started in Strathyre in decent conditions for the start of November, cold but dry, and with a terrific atmosphere of camaraderie among the participants and their supporters, and no small sense of trepidation. The first two miles are a hard pull out of Strathyre on forest tracks, which at least has the benefit of preventing runners going out too hard at the start of the race. From the Kingshouse Hotel, the race route joins the cycle track to start the long pull up into Glen Ogle. We drove up to the car park at the burger van at the head of the glen and met up with the massed ranks of the Sweeneys, Saunders and Taylors ready with well-stocked bags of provisions.

Colin and Fiona L were on their bikes down the track, keeping Julia and Susan company as they made the long pull up from the Kingshouse. As we walked down the cycle track towards the viaduct, all the runners seemed to be in good spirits and enjoying themselves, about a quarter of the way into the race. As we expected, Kerry was first on the scene, and we jogged with her for a few hundred metres to the checkpoint. Nic came along next, followed by Kirsty, and then Julia and Susan running together with Colin and Fiona taking it easy on their bikes. Just before we left Glen Ogle to head down into Killin, we were a bit taken aback to see the lead runner Robert Turner cresting the rise down into the car park to start his descent back down Glen Ogle, having done the eight mile Killin loop while some of the runners were still making their way up the glen. Needless to say, he got a big round of applause.

From the head of Glen Ogle we drove down to Killin and walked up into the forest tracks. Unfortunately we were too late for the speedy Kerry, but we had a wee trot with Nic and then with Julia and Susan as they made their way from the nice gentle descent onto the hill back up to the head of the glen. Lots of people started walking as soon as they hit the hill, but our runners, with lots of hill miles in the legs, kept themselves going on the slopes.

So then it was back to the top of the glen, and the weather started turning, with cold rain sweeping on from the west and a nasty biting wind. At first I didn’t believe the distant figure in the pinky-purple top coming down the hill was Kerry because she was going too fast and looked like a thoroughbred hill-runner, but sure enough, there she was, happy to be out of the trees and onto the return journey. For the next six miles or so, she had Levi to keep her the company, back down to the Kingshouse. Nic came next, and was accompanied by Wendy down to the Kingshouse. The Saunders-Greenlees support crew  was out in force for Susan and Julia and after suitable refuelling, Daniel ran with Susan and Julia down to Lochearnhead.

From the top of the glen we headed down to the King’s House, and by now, the weather was getting really grim. Kerry arrived with Levi at the checkpoint, both looking like cold drowned rats. At this point, she’d worked out she was on target to beat the five-hour mark, so wasn’t in the mood to hang about chatting with Jeff and Sav. Dave Graham was planning to run with her over the last few miles but was delayed a bit, so had a bit of a sprint to catch up with her as she zoomed out of the checkpoint. Dave ran with Kerry for a bit and then went back to pick up Nic to chum her along for a while. Once we’d seen Kirsty, Susan and Julia come through, we headed to Strathyre for the finish. Meantime, Colin and Fiona stayed to join Susan and Julia for their final miles. (At this point, the details of who was running with who started to get a bit confused, so apologies to anyone I’ve missed out.)

We didn’t have long to wait before Kerry came in on the stroke of one o’clock, with a finishing time of 4.54 – 20 minutes better than last year (although it should be noted that she did do a bit more training this year). Not bad for someone who’d been throwing up two days earlier on a warm-up run with Nic, and who had only eaten one gel, a Quality Street and a wee sandwich all the way round. Nic came in next, in a very creditable 5.23, at the lower end of her target finishing range. Kirsty was next, finishing in 5.42, and Julia and Susan also finished comfortably inside their target time, completing their first ultra marathon in 5.45, coming in well ahead of many more experienced ultra runners. 


It’s quite easy to say what happened on the day. It’s harder to say just what a terrific effort was made by all the runners. I’m in awe of all of them, not just for the physical and mental fortitude they displayed, but for the enthusiasm, the enjoyment and for the strength of the friendships which helped them all with their achievements. I really did feel I’d witnessed something very special.


Kaz said...

Awww, lovely write up, Tony. The girlies did great. I know what hard work goes into training for that and for the newbies, the nerves involved in wondering if you can do it. Totally knew you all could!

Nic said...

Thanks Tony, makes me remember how much I did actually enjoy it.