The Glenrosa hill race is a long distance Scottish Hill Running Championship race set on Arran.

I met Ian on the boat going over.  He had brought his bike to as to have a quick gataway after the race to catch the 4:40 back to Ardrossan.  The likelihood was that it would take us around 4 hours to complete the course which is billed as 12 miles but probably closer to a ½ marathon when you take in twists and turns in a race that has very few paths and only one flagged section – and that’s simply to stop you plunging over cliffs in a lemming impression (quote race organiser).

There are three main climbs: Bienn a’ Chliabhain, Cir Mhor, Goatfell.  Sounds pretty straight forward.  Unfortunately, like a lot of hill races, the sting is in the tail.  The climb to Goatfell isn’t the simply drag up the tourist route, instead, it’s up North Goatfell and then across.  By the time that final climb comes along you’re exhausted, disorientated and dehydrated.  Not the best condition to having to negotiate grade 2 scrambles up rock faces as well as making sure you don’t take the wrong route in an area devoid of clear paths.

We started about 200 yards back from the usual start position but I think Paul simply wanted to make sure there was plenty of space for the field of 124 runners (only about 20 odd of us last year).  This meant extra distance so any failures on my part, I knew I could blame on that J.  Ian and I wished each other luck and off we went.  Iain Fraser and his wife were over on holiday and were there to cheer us on – really helps and makes a difference – thanks Iain.

The first couple of miles are over trail and I found the going tough.  That sort of ground I always like to have a clear view ahead.  Nothing worse than following someone’s footsteps too closely and clipping a tree root or rock.  I therefore did all I could to keep at least 10ft between me and the person ahead.  Ian was just behind at this point.

The climb to Bienn a’ Chliabhain is over pathless rough ground and there are two main routes.  I took what’s called the ‘alternate’ route.  It’s shorter but steeper (think Straiton, but much longer).  From the top the race is flagged.  A good idea because it would be really difficult to get 100 or so body bags up those cliffs.  However, the descent is probably the worst possible before it would become an abseiling job.  The steepness needs to be experienced to be believed.  I caught and passed Ian on the descent (which I was actually taking easy due to a dodgy ankle).  Ian had taken the different route to me and had arrived at the top first.  Once I had passed him I pushed on to Cir Mhor.

Cir Mhor is probably the easiest of the climbs – and that’s saying something!  It’s also the first of the checkpoints where slow runners are timed out.  I had loads of time and completed a rather unremarkable ascent and descent to take me onto the very difficult contouring stage to the Saddle.

This stage is difficult not because it’s steep (though there are parts you wouldn’t want to slip on), but because there’s no path and you’re contouring round Cir Mhor – ½ way down!  Take the wrong route here and you could be floundering around in waist height heather covering hidden gullies on a 1:4 hillside.

Amazingly enough, I took a near perfect route from the col to the saddle.  Final time check point and up North Goatfell.

North Goat fell is a brute of a climb.  It’s hard to get grip due to the steep gritty ground.  It’s completely un-uniform so it’s impossible to get into a rhythm.  Parts are very steep, parts have precipitous drops and parts require climbing skills.

Eventually you’re rewarded with the top of Goatfell and all downhill to the finish.  It’s a long, long descent that needs to be taken far more carefully than in the Goatfell Hill race where you’re nothing like as tired.  I had long since lost Ian and I finished in a time of 4 hours and 5 minutes.  1st time over the 4 hour mark.

As already said, Ian was on his bike so I didn’t hang around when I was told that there was a bus just leaving for the ferry.  I changed on the bus and got onto the boat.  Searching didn’t reveal Ian and I found out on Sunday that he’d missed the boat.

Winner was Andy Simonds followed by Brian Marshall and Prasad Prasad.