Circumstances often conspire to provide unexpected outcomes.  I was in Edinburgh with Lesley on Friday and Saturday, Sarah was home but going back to university on Sunday afternoon and I was late for the Criffel Hill Race.

The journey down saw my wee Panda passing Beemers, Mercs and other over hyped panzer wagons.  I reached New Abbey just in time for the pre-race briefing (which I promptly ignored to give myself a few extra minutes getting ready).  The last time I was late for a race it became a total disaster as I sprinted to catch folk up and just about killed myself into the bargain.  So, not this time.  This time I would enjoy myself.  This time I’d take it easy.  This time I’d go totally against my instincts.

From the start I allowed myself to drop down the field which was composed of around 30 of the usual suspects.  Whilst there are always new folk coming along to see what the fuss is about hill running, there’s also the old hands; Ian from Girvan, Tom from Seaforth and of course, Ian from Irvine.  By the time we’d reached the hill proper, we’d pretty much sorted ourselves out.

The hardest climb is the first up to the cairn at Knockendoch.  A tough slog through some incredibly difficult terrain with mud ‘traps’ that are thigh deep and a slope that is walking only.  The walking part allows for views over the Solway and down to Loch Kindar.  As I took in the view I noticed that Loch Kindar had two islands, one large and one tiny.  I wondered what this could be and discovered when I got home that this was one of Scotland’s crannogs.  As Schwartenthingummyjigger said, “I’ll be back.”

The view was lost on the way up to Criffel as we climbed into the mist.  This was itself a welcome occurrence.  It was cooling and refreshing unlike last year when the hill was covered in snow and ice.

There’s another cairn at the top and once round, it’s all downhill.  As usual, I picked up a few places on the way down.  I even caught a guy from Carnethy but couldn’t put enough of a gap on him and he passed and ran away from me on the final road section.

I finished in 1:20:24 which was about 3 minutes faster than last year.

And the unexpected outcome?  Well, there have been many races where I’ve PB’ed and many races where I’ve given absolutely everything I could have but at this race I got to the end and thought, “I haven’t enjoyed a race quite so much for a long, long time.”  I felt quite emotional – I really must be getting old!