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Yetholm Hill Race – Sunday 2 June 2019

The gathering of the clans for this gem of a race at Halterburn in the Borders is an annual tradition that regulars ink into their diaries as soon as they can. A real gathering of regulars it most certainly is, the field being about 50, all well kent faces. It is all EoD, so no frantic rush to get on the computer, just turn up and go and all for a fiver. It should be more as all proceeds go to the local Mountain Rescue Team who turn out for the day.

Our Alan McA, riding under the Norham RC banner for the day, stands guard with his magic marker to inspect your gear and check that you really have got the right map for the course. You know who you are!!

The drive down is nearly two hours, but pleasant enough and with the event being on first Sunday in June, coincides with the Classic Motor Vehicle event at Thirlestane Castle by Lauder, so many magical vehicles to admire. Some even whizz past you.

Six regulars from CH congregated – yep, a seventh of the field this year, five YHR regulars and one newbie in the form of Michelle Best who has really taken to the hill running side of things. She wins prizes. The weather was forecast for rain and wind, but this wee bit of country seems to attract its own micro-climate and the steady breeze on the tops attempted to keep one cool in the warm and high humidity. This race is like that and the need to ensure hydration even for such a comparatively short time is paramount. The winners regularly take about 70mins for the 7.6 miles, but the not so swift can be out for a great deal more.

The race starts immediately up a short steep climb to the inevitable flag on the skyline and then runs the watershed round the Halterburn Valley to the highest point – Curr Hill, the second half returning on tracks along the Pennine Way. Keep to the left and you remain in Scotland! This race might become a puzzle if Independence ever comes over the skyline. A Scottish backstop – nahhgg.

The ‘out’ half is undulating with three sharp climbs, the first on very thin grass and the other two seemingly through peaty reed beds (what are those plants?) There is no real path through these and so those lucky enough to be setting the pace get to make the trail. Those behind find rather neat footsteps which is helpful

There are lots of friendly and encouraging marshals at all the key points and for the careful, lots of minor route choices round or over the many knolls that frequent the skyline route and whether the direct down and up is quicker then the longer round the contours line is best. Ah, decisions, decisions.

With the small field, the procession of runners becomes spread out quite a bit – it’s surprising how far a single minute can be in the hills, so full awareness of the intended route is paramount. At the end, a compulsory finish through the burn is required which is fun for the runners and the watchers.

All had a great day out with successes and personal victories all round – at least a great day out with the fantastic views from almost coast to coast from the tops.

Peter Simpson led the way for the club to 12th overall and 1st M60 on the day, but chased hard by John Tullie, a borders farmer, all the way, with just over a minute separating them at the end. In between these two was Kev with his normal staunch performance, though sadly no bottle of beer for him. Michelle had a great race in new terrain and took the bottle for 2nd Female – F40 even, only beaten by Kate Jenkins (without dog). Jonathon arrived next, this race being decidedly shorter than his usual run outs, so perhaps he hadn’t warmed up properly. However, it was a significant PB for his second YHR outing. The remaining two, helping to guide the route marshals back home, Phil and Bill arrived back after most others had received their prizes and were back home having their tea. However, this race carries the great attraction of prizes for the LAST three, so both came home with a bottle and a large slice of cake. There’s method in the madness. Phil is really struggling with his worn out ankle these days – 36 mins slower than last year, whilst for Bill, this was his first hill outing for some considerable time. The first hill for him was deleted from the memory banks immediately, but his enjoyment of the rest of the route will remain – ummm – until next year?? 2nd and 3rd M70s, so perhaps the prizes were well deserved.

Great Club spirit on the day as always with all waiting to see all the club in to cross the line. Head torches may be required next year.

For all the rest of you – GET THIS DATE IN THE DIARY FOR NEXT YEAR – Sunday 7th June – probably.

Your Roving and All-Seeing Reporter