I haven’t blogged for quite a while, as my life has taken me down a difficult path, and priorities have changed. I’m still trying to make my mind up about an ambitious project I had for this year to raise money for Excellent. In the meantime, a post…
I took part in the Stuc a’ Chroin 5000 Hill Race yesterday. According the the web site, it’s usually blessed with good weather: ha! The forecast for yesterday was 3 degrees and windy high up, with some rain thrown in. The race is long (22 km, a bit more than a half marathon) and gets you up to over 3000 ft, so it was going to be tough, verging on nasty.
The 200-odd runners waited in the light rain at the start, trying not to think of what it would be like higher up. As usual for races in foul weather, it was a relief to start, and we were soon grinding up through the forest. The race consists of the initial ascent through forest, then over some rather boggy hillside, a steep descent into a valley, an equally steep and much longer climb up the other side to the Corbett summit of Beinn Each, an undulating ridge, then a big climb up to the Munro of Stuc a’ Chroin. The route returns the same way, apart from cutting off the re-ascent of Beinn Each, descending diagonally into the valley instead.
I wasn’t feeling on top of my game. I stopped to chat with my friend Graham and his girlfriend, Kate, who were spectating, not that far into the race: I’ve not met Kate before, and I was glad of the excuse to stop. When I was off and running again, I realised that my Haglofs tights with the windproof fabric at the front are perhaps a bit restrictive for hard running: maybe they were partly to blame for my lack of vim.
I was getting onto the last climb up to stuc a’Chroin’s summit when I spotted a woman coming back down who didn’t look at all right. Her face was really pale and she looked ‘out of it’. I asked her if she was ok and she said something about this being a very long race and asked me where the nearest marshals were, but in a rather strange way that confirmed to me that she was in trouble. I took her hand and turned around, heading off back down to the last set of marshals, who I knew weren’t that near. She was having difficulty putting her feet in the right places and I soon had a firm grip on her arm. Another runner joined us and we walked her down to the marshals together.
At some point I got her name as Shona, although she was struggling to form words by then, so it took a couple of attempts. At that stage my thoughts were that we could get some assistance, then walk her off the hill, but once we’d stopped for a minute, it was obvious Shona wasn’t up to that and we got her into some spare clothing and a survival bag, with several space blankets for good measure. The other competitor was suffering from the cold himself by then and pushed on, but I still felt relatively comfortable and wanted to stick with Shona. I had a quiet chat with a marshal just to confirm a plan of action: mountain rescue.
Shona was still rather distressed and she actually asked for a cuddle! She was lying on a rather awkward, lumpy slope, and it took some effort for me to wriggle into the bag with her and try to cradle her as best I could. The marshals gave us tea and gradually perfected our little shelter until we were almost totally cocooned in a careful arrangement of space blankets around us and over our heads. Shona went from ‘difficult to get anything out’ of to quite chatty over the next hour or two; a sign the hypothermia had receded and she was just ‘normally’ cold.
When the mountain rescue turned up, they were going to carry Shona off the hill, but she was fairly confident she could walk off with us by then: a remarkable recovery. We walked down the steep slopes off the ridge, back to some mountain rescue Land Rovers. It was about five hours after the race start when we finally made it to the finish. An unusual race for me and a very unusual one for Shona!