Sunday, 15 October 2017

Pentland Skyline - 8th October 2017

The Pentland Skyline race is a tough 27km race in the beautiful Pentland hills just outside Edinburgh. It starts at the Hillend ski centre and follows a clockwise loop, taking in all the summits, and amassing 1890m ascent before finally returning to the start point.

 We often walked in the Pentlands when we lived near Edinburgh many years ago, but that was before I discovered the joys of fell running. The race has, however, been on my radar since Silke started studying at Heriot-Watt university three years ago. With both Silke and Emeline now studying in Edinburgh the time seemed right for a weekend combining a visit to the girls with a good run in the hills.

The start
The weather on the day was clear and visibility perfect so no problems anticipated with navigation. Waiting at the start there was a chilly breeze so I decided that long sleeves were the order of the day. Then came the race briefing and a reminder of the 2:15 cut-off at the Drove road drinks station at roughly half way. Soon we were off, and on our way up the first hills – Caerketton and Allermuir. To start with it was mostly single file on narrow paths before broadening out onto good grassy tracks. The sun came out and the sky cleared, giving stunning views of the whole range, although it looked a long way over all those hills!

We came over Castlelaw hill, and skirted the firing range. The red flags were flying and the crack of gunfire could be heard, so clearly, they were busy playing soldiers. It was getting very warm by this time and very pleased to reached the first drinks station and have some water. From here it was back up on to the ridge and then good running over Turnhouse Hill, Carnethy Hill, Scald Law, South Black Hill, East Kip and West Kip before reaching the next drinks station at Drove Road in just under 2 hours.

The race description warns of much tougher terrain on the second half and sure enough from the top of Hare Hill, the route is marked here at request of the landowner and descends through tussocky heather rather than taking the faster, eroded path. Then a short steep descent through slippery wet grass and bracken where most runners (myself included) ended on their bum at least once. The race continued with some rough, boggy terrain over Black Hill and a steep climb up Bell’s Hill. From Bell’s Hill it was then Harbour Hill and Capelaw Hill before reaching Allermuir Hill again and then retracing the initial part of the route back to the start.

I was starting to tire towards the end, and I was looking forward to reaching the finish. As we got closer I became aware of a runner gaining on me so I did what I could to increase my pace. Finally, there was sprint for the line where I was finally caught. It turned out there had been two runners battling with each other, so it seemed I had been incidental to their private contest.
I crossed after 3 hours 51 minutes, and was pleased to see Silke and Emeline cheering me in. Having finished I suddenly felt extremely nauseous. Whether it was the sprint for the line, or accepting too many jelly babies from spectators on the way round, or a combination of the two, I will never know but I certainly hope I don’t make a habit of it. Nevertheless, a good day out – a good hard run, in perfect weather. I finished 138th of 226 finishers, 17th of 38 in my category. 
Relief at the finish
Feeling sick!

 Photo credits: Carnethy H.R.C, Scottish Hill Racing, TripAdvisor & Silke

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