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The Last Duel Trail Race, Sunday 24 Sept 2023

First, the horrible history: the race celebrates (?) the last fatal duel to be fought in Scotland, in August 1826. A quarrel over a bank loan escalated into first insult, then assault (with an umbrella, in Kirkcaldy High Street) to the point where there was only one way in which a gentleman could retain his honour – by pistols at dawn, from 12 paces. A plaque marks the spot on the race route, nearer Cardenden than Kirkcaldy, where the duel took place and sadly banker George Morgan died there at the hands of linen merchant David Landale.

Not to trivialise it but the goody bags were well tasty (mini-Haribos, Tunnocks carmel Wafer, small Mars Bar, commemorative ceramic slate coaster and car sticker!)

The 5.8 mile race is organised by Kirkcaldy Wizards/Fife AC. It’s a bit more special than the usual Fife race, with the “Last Duel” logo seemingly plastered everywhere, masses of marshalls, an optional T-shirt, pipers and celebrity starters. The race itself well lived up to the quality of the organisation.

Sunday morning, Gordon and I joined another 23 Harriers (of 134 finishers) at the Corrie Centre in Cardenden and made our way to the start near the primary school. After a warmup, we were all introduced to champion athletes Ben Sandilands and Derek Rae, of whom Fife AC is rightly proud. After a wet start the morning was shaping up to be dry, mild and sunny. A piper saw us off and Gordon left me well behind as expected.

The race begins with a long incline to a farm to which you return eventually after a winding tour seemingly covering every inch of the undulating Cardenden Woods, over the A92 and past the Last Duel memorial (with piper) then plunging up and down either side of the deep glen of the Den Burn. Some tough climbs here with a couple of burn crossings – one by wooden beam (hint: next time, accept the offer of a marshal’s helping hand), the other straight through knee high muddy water. Finally up and out to return to the Woods. Same again and the farm near the finish kept popping into view but of course the route took the long way round to the eventual finish.

Perhaps you either love or hate this kind of route? I love it: single track over soft pine needles, weaving in and out of trees whilst dodging their roots. A lot of up and down, mud, burn crossings and XC shoes were the perfect choice. But like XC it was absolutely energy-sapping, also quite warm, so I walked the odd section!

With Carnegie runners taking 4th, 9th and 10th places (well done, Blair, Steven and Barry) and great runs by everyone, the club did itself proud with all finishers clapped in the usual way. Well done Kirkcaldy Wizards / Fife AC for putting on a great event.

Ok, it’s not quite the BlackRock 5, but it’s certainly another iconic local race for your calendar.

Verdict: “would recommend”.