Runaway, January 1988

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‘Runaway’ was the quarterly magazine of the Spiridon Club of Great Britain – a group of distance runners who included many races on mainland Europe in their schedule.   There were many marathon and ultra races covered but it was mainly hill running that was targeted by it.

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The Scottish Hill Runner

Scottish hill runners are a breed apart.   The dedicated hill runners, who run hills races 100% of the time, or even those who run road races for 10% of the time leaving the other 90% of racing time to the sunlit uplands, are not really like the rest of us.   One of their number, when asked to run in a road relay, said to me, “I know I’m fast.   I don’t need to prove it to anybody. ”   Their sense of humour is often quite different too, and they always seemed to me to be fonder of a pint than most other runners.   Given that after stewarding two of the Arrochar Alps races, a friend and myself once went over basically the same trail for a three day walk, and after seeing another friend who was a very good hill runner hurtling diretissima down one of the said Alps, I have nothing but respect for the breed.     Mel Edwards gave me copies of  ‘The Scottish Hill Runner’ magazine a while ago and the contents have been perused and information filtered down in many cases to other articles.    Since there seems to be an interest in actual running memorabilia I decided to put the covers of these magazine which cover 1988 and 1989 up on the site.   They are below, and then I will put the content of the first one on a linked page.   If the interest is there, I will put up the contents of the others.   The first one is for January 1988.

SHR Jan 88

Link to the content

SHR June 88

Link to the content SHR Oct 88

Link to Content

SHR Feb 89

SHR May 89

SHR Aug 89

SHR Dec 89

There is a definite improvement in the finished product in terms of presentation, content and layout of themagazine but the attitudes and values expressed don’t change from one edition to the next!



When I lived in Killearn, Dumgoyne was part of a favourite walk and the race was always a good event to watch!   The hill is only 1402 feet high but the position on the edge of the Campsies makes it look a bit higher.   The following account of the race is by Manny Gorman.

Dumgoyne Hill Race – Record up & down 22minutes & 8 seconds, Jack Maitland, 1988

I have a list of six of what I would class as the quintessential “classic” current Scottish hill races; if the Dumgoyne race was still running, it would be seven, sitting very near the top of the pile.

If you like your running fast, technical and brutal, then this was the one.

The slevering, colourful melee up and down this famous prominent 1,400ft volcanic plug at the south end of the Campsie Hills was held in trust by the best small-to-medium sized running club in the west-end of Glasgow, the mighty Westerlands CCC; but sadly only lasted ten years before the landowner withdrew permission. However, in that short time the race carved out a notch in the hard history of Scottish hill running, never to be forgotten and to be remembered by those who ran it with reverence, and a cold sweat trickling down the back of the neck.

A shotgun start at the bottom of the narrow farm track would send off an apprehensive pack immediately into a stupid-fast uphill lunge, and within 200m muscles and lungs would be suffering from painful oxygen debt. The track winds its way up through a beautiful broadleaf wood before the runners would burst into the open field and cross the Water Board track which serves the Loch Katrine pipeline. The pack would have already splintered well apart as the hopefuls and the chancers separated into reality.

As a variation on a theme, the tenth and final running of the race was given distinction as a British counter in the Fell Runners Championship, and with such a huge field of runners there was necessity to add an additional small loop in order to allow the pack to split up more substantially before getting onto the hill proper. This entailed the break-out from the woods first being directed back down the grassy field to the bottom, before turning to regain all the precious lost height!

The destination was the same. The runners would find themselves climbing, leaping or falling over the twin fences at the slippy wee burn crossing, then turning to face a virtual cliff of grass and rock. With lungs already burning, any further hope of a running ascent could be abandoned by all but the best of the elite as the gradient steepened. Head down, hands pushing hard on knees or thighs, trying desperately to find sustainable rhythm, each step forward and up more painful than the last. Reaching the bottom of the rocky scree a yell from above to warn of a dislodged rock bouncing downhill, and perhaps sussing out your peers, wondering if any uphill overtaking would be advantageous or simply make you blow-up completely? Conveniently you convince yourself that you will get them on the descent instead!

Now above the scree and near the top of the steepest grass, in a notch between the crags, the first leading runners come literally flying down towards you with almost total abandon for their personal safety. Arms flailing for balance, rocks kicking up, grunting, slevers flying in all directions, eyes wide but supremely focussed downwards. But not for you, not yet; still the infinite climb goes on before a series of small ledges gives hope of the end. You try to run again but only manage go at the same speed as the guy in front who’s still walking. A shout from above – the top!!

The view from the summit of this wee hill is brilliant – the Blane Valley, Loch Lomond, the Munros to the north, and of course Glasgow laid out to the south. But there absolutely no hope of seeing it in the race as you simply stare for your next foothold or at the runner in front, looking for any weakness. Turn at the summit marshal, the pain eases, ahhh, different muscles, beautiful relief….for about 5 seconds. Suddenly the reversed route requires your complete attention. Speed is quickly up to maximum on the grassy summit ridge, trying to trim the corners and bends off the path ascent route, dodging ascending runners with their heads still down.  The grassy notch above the scree at high speed is not for the faint hearted. The up-hillers are hogging the path so you are forced out onto the tussocky stuff whilst maybe fighting off some cheeky bugger trying to pass you. Crossing the traverse path you find your quads are smoking, and knees crumbling but you’re trying desperately not to hold back with the stepped erosion luring you in and forcing you into an unnatural rhythm.

The scree arrives. With a tricky entry point it’s only a short fast run for the brave, but fast could gain you a place, or lose you several if you fall on your arse and shred it to raw bleeding beef. You take the gamble and leap into the loose stones only a single step behind the guy in front, and pass him at high speed knowing the horrendously rocky exist is approaching too fast! You re-adjust and hear the guy behind cursing his inferior descending skills and sends a shower of stones rattling painfully around your ankles! You leap out of the rocks and stride off again on the grass, but now nearly back at the twin fences you start to think about holding your place and perhaps reeling in another victim? Avoiding any high speed slithers in the final boggy grass, the fences and burn are crossed and everything you have left, which isn’t much, is thrown into blasting back across the field and plunging back into the dense woods. Here local knowledge applies. To know the corner-cuts through the trees is to know you will gain places over anyone new to the race. Reckless descending with branches whipping your faces and eyes peering for a million deadly tree roots you survive, unsure if you have gained anything, certainly not composure. The final section of track is meant to be fast, but you’re hurting all over and yet you know what is still come – the sting.

At the final corner a marshal suddenly points you off the track and headlong towards a fence…instant decision – stop and climb or hope you have momentum enough to hurdle it??! There’s heavy breathing close behind, hurdle it – aaaargh! Woosh, amazingly you’re safely over and into a wall of trees and bushes when suddenly you plummet downwards, feet gripping nothing on an impossibly steep banking, far too fast to be safe, “MIND THE WALL!” a voice cries…Christ! A three foot drop instantly exits you from the bushes and into the grounds of heaven, the Glengoyne Distillery!!  A loud crashing noise from the jungle behind warns you, don’t stop, a fifty yard sprint along the footpath to the line and then you can collapse in a heap of pain, snot and slevers on the grassy verge, and it’s all over!

With bodies fast piling up at the finish line like a scene from Armageddon, a wonderful hallucinogenic aroma wafts across your salt encrusted dripping face. You recover enough to stand again and instinctively follow the smell to the barbeque stand where free burgers and 12 year old Glengoyne malt whisky are handed to you, although you need to wait for your adrenaline to calm down before you can safely consume it. Runners are still gasping across the line and you are now on your third dram. The noise of races being relived, the sun beating down, the stream supplying the distillery gurgling past, the smells, the craic.

Although the hill is still well used by runners for short training trots, or perhaps going further afield to Earls Seat or Slackdhu, nothing can ever come close to the unique experience that was the Dumgoyne Hill Race.

Dumgoyne Stone

Carnethy Five Hills

Carnethy Michael

The popular Carnethy Five Hills race has its origins in 1971 when it was won by Jim Alder who had the previous year been silver medallist in the Commonwealth Games marathon and Ian McCafferty who had been second in the Games 5000m, with the resut a tie.    It is currently described in the Scottish Hill Racing website ( )

“Although a relatively short race, the route can be exposed to full winter conditions. 
Breaking the hour is the target for stronger runners in the field.

The route divides into 2 sections:

Start to the Howe
The startline is something to behold. 500 runners like extras from Braveheart lined up for battle, fittingly at the site of The Battle of Roslin. The race starts with a chaotic charge across flat marshland for the gateway to the hill. Then steep climbing up Scald Law in a heather trod where passing is awkward. Once at the summit of Scald Law you are exposed to any freezing cold northerly winds for the ridge run to South Black and the Kips. From the top of West Kip drop rapidly to pick up the trail and fast running down to the Howe.

The Howe to the Finish
Once down at the Howe the climb back up looks a little daunting. Gradual climbing leads into a sheltered gully which steepens until it spits you out onto the ridge where you can see there is fair bit more climbing to reach the summit of Carnethy. Once around the huge summit cairn drop sharply onto a spur, then steeply down rough heather with buckling legs, through the gate, then gather all remaining strength for the dash back across the marsh to the finishing mound.”

Carnethy Hill Race, 1985..
Carnethy Hill Race, 1985..

How short is ‘relatively short?   Well, they say it is 9.1 km, and Gifford Kerr’s excellent guide of 1988 says it is 6 miles.   So, say 6-ish.   The climb is listed as 750m on the SHR website and 2500 feet in Kerr.   The current best times for men and women are both quite long standing: the men’s was run by Gavin Bland in 1999 and is 46:56 with Angela Mdge holding the women’s record of 54:20 set in 2002.

Chris Upson’s diagram of the trail is below


Despite the two ‘big track names’ at the front in the inaugural race it has resisted the attentions of road and cross-country champions and become a genuine specialists race.   many such as Alistair Blamire (winner in 1975) and Colin Youngson have run it, few have returned and even fewer have picked up an individual award.

There were only 75 finishers, all Senior Men, in that first year; last year, 2013, there were 530 finishers including Juniors and Seniors of both genders and all ages down to veteran categories for men over 70 and women over 60.    The race is now famous for its mass start.

In 1987 the race organisers produced their first professional programme and were inspired by the reaction to it to provide some background information in the superb 1988 programme.  This ran to 28 pages plus a stiff card cover and I will reproduce some of the content here.

The original idea for a hill race in the Pentlands came from Jimmy Jardine (at that time in 1970 a member of the Octavians AC)  .   He was then travelling all over the country competing in both hill and fell events and it was always in his thoughts that there ought to be some form of hill race close to where he resided in Penicuik.   In September 1970 he wrote to Angus Tait, then the area youth and community service officer, requesting his assistance with regard to contacts, etc.   Angus Tait responded by contacting the local Penicuik and District Community Association whop agreed to take on a hill race as part of their programme of yearly events.   It was also agreed that, to add a bit of interest to the event, it should be as Jimmy Jardine originally wished, run to commemorate the Battle of Rosllin which was fought out in this area in 1302-1303. 

After meetings between Jimmy Jardine, Angus Tait and representatives from Penicuik and District Community Association it was decided to organise the first event for 27th February 1971.   The two joint conveners being William B Scott and Geoff Brooks, with Jimmy Jardine as Technical Adviser.   The 1971 event attracted competitors from the English fells as well as Scottish runners who already competed at other events this side of the border.   As you see from our list of previous winners, Jim Alder and Ian McCafferty were joint winners of the inaugural race and the field included many well known fell and hill runners, notably Dave Cannon, Jeff Norman, Trevor Proctor, N Carrington, Jim Smith, Peter Duffy, DG Weir, Bobby Shields, Martin Craven, MP Nicholson, Robin Morris, Willie Russsell, Mike Davies, Bill Gauld, Brian Covell, Jimmy Jardine, Brian Findlayson and many others.”

  That covers the origins of the race and the programme continued with the history of the race until that date.

“The 1971 race took in only Carnethy Hill, with the start being within the local public park.   A distance of ten miles, competitors ran through a housing estate and a farm before reaching the high road and the approaches to the hills.   After the problems of 1980, when the police asked us to stop the race owing to the very severe fog covering the road in the vicinity of the lay-by, it was decided to alter the course for the 1981 event, making it shorter but covering five hills in the Pentland range.   This has proved to be a very popular change as entries have risen steadily each year since then, and we now believe that we have the correct format for the race. ”  

  There follows a fairly detailed story of the Battle of Roslin as told by Jimmy Jardine as well as the list of entries from John Blair Fish as number one to Robert Winters at 502.   There is of course a map of the trail but the list of trophies on offer is lengthy – no fewer than 28 – along with notes of other awards on offer.   It’s a quite remarkable document.

Most race websites only give race results over the past five or six years, if you are lucky they go back to 2000; some races give the list of winners since the race’s inception but the Carnethy Five Hill website gives full results for every year since 1971.

A good race, justly popular, well organised – what more could anyone want?   Maybe the weather – Steve Fallon’s Classic Hill Races book says “A tough and popular race early in the hill running calendar.  Exposure to harsh weather conditions , steep climbs and sharp descents are a true test of whether the runner’s winter training has paid off.”   Well, it is run in February and we are living in Scotland.   Harsh though the weather conditions may be, who’s to say the weather will be any better at ANY other time of the year?

The Arrochar Alps

2620751934_0fa80d903e_zThe scary plunge down to the Dam

I have twice been an official at the Arrochar Alps hill race – stationed each time with my friend Scott Govan just below Ben Narnain where the runners – or some of them – headed for the tramway.   A lot of them avoided it by picking their own way down the fairly steep grassy slope, a lot by flying down the hill steering by the seat of their pants (sometimes literally for short stretches).   It was exhilarating just to watch them and know that I could never, ever have done that.  A couple of years later Scott and I went back and did it as a two day hill walk.   We left the car at about Ardlui and walked up over the small hills to the top of Ben Vorlich and then followed the route to the finish.   Thoroughly enjoyed it.   But it took us two days when the leader was saying it could be done in under 3 hours.

* * * * *

Gifford Kerr’s excellent ‘Guide to the Hill Races of Scotland’ had this to say about the race.

Arrochar Alps


Category:     A     L

Climb:   7900 feet                                    Distance:   13 Miles

Start:   GR 298053   STRONAFYNE FARM, ARROCHAR,   and   FINISH


1.   GR   295123   BEN VORLICH   (M)   941m   Tr

2.   GR   289111   SLOY DAM

3.   GR   278098   BEN VANE   (M)   916 m

4.   GR   255085   BEN IME   (M)     1011  Tr

5.   GR   272067   BEN NARNAIN   (M)   926   Tr

Terrain:   Generally rough going.   Care to be taken on descent of  Ben Vorlich and Ben Narnain due to steepness of ground and outcrops of rock.   Last Mile flagged.

Notes:   Navigational Skills essential.

* * * * *

It is described on the Scottish Hill Racing website as follows:

“This race was created in 1987 by Andy Dytch and Bobby Shields. In 1988 it was used as a Scottish Championship race – where Alan Farningham (who had already won the championship) climbed The Cobbler at the end by mistake, instead of Beinn Narnain. In 1989 it was used as a British Championship race in very bad weather. The terrain is steep, wild and rough with complex navigation in places.

The race was run in 1990, 1991 and finally 1992 – won by Colin Valentine on a shortened course due to bad weather – before being abandoned for 15 years.”    The description comes from ‘Race You To The Top’ by Suse Coon, published in 1989.

Bobby Shields himself wrote the report on the 1987 race which appeared in The Scottish Hill Runner of January 1988.   It read –

Before giving a report on the race, can I just say a big thank you to everyone who supported the event and an especially big THANK YOU to all the ‘backroom boys’ (and girls) as without their help the race could not have taken place.   I think it is safe to say that despite being a tough course, everyone participating enjoyed the event.  

There were 97 official starts, plus two very late entries!!   Namely Peter Brooks, Lochaber AC, and Tim Jordan, Carnethy, who started 10 and 15 minutes respectively behind the main field.   However, as can be seen from the results, they made up ground to finish well.   I should point out that the mysterious Kim shown on the results sheet is not some femme fatale but Tim Jordan – I think the computer blew a fuse when it heard Tim had started so far behind the others!

Out of the 99 starters, we had 86 finishers, and I suspect that the main reason for those 13 ‘drop outs’ was that they had heard my father-in-law, who piped them off, was going to pipe them home.   However this did not deter Billy Bland, who finished so quickly that Angus did not have time to tune up!   (Maybe there was method in Billy’s madness.)   I suppose I could issue all runners with ear plugs next year!   Billy’s time of 3 hours 7 minutes 39 seconds was not only the inaugural course record but also the vet’s record and, wait for it, he reckons that it could be done in less than 3 hours but that’s only if people allow him to look at their maps!!

The first ‘true Scot’ home was Denis Bell of HELP in 3:31:39 – just goes to show what peanut butter sandwiches can do for you.   Well done, Denis.   But the first Scottish club home was Westerlands, represented by Mark Rigby, who finished in 3:21:16.

Lochaber AC were first team in 12th, 13th and 34th positions.   The respective times of John McRae, Ronnie Campbell and David O’Neil were 3:45:25,  3:46:25 and 4:08:33.   This is the official result, and in spite of the fact that some unknown club called Carnethy (who are obviously new to the game and don’t get many prizes) insisted that they were due the team prize because their runners finished in 9th, 22nd and 23rd.   With great difficulty they prised what was left of the team prize from the Lochaber boys (needless to say it was liquid)   However once there was an opportunity to peruse the computer print-out, it was found that the runner whom they said had finished in 9th position was in fact running for some club called ‘unattached’.   This person (I won’t mention names, just give initials) JBF has been running hill races for years so should know how to complete the entry form correctly.   It is the responsibility of the runner to ensure he/she complete the entry form correctly and not for the organisers to remember who runs for whom.   I can only suggest that the SHRA organises a course on ‘How to Complete Entries’.   The excuse of this nameless person (JBF) was that he was rushed and as he was registered as number 27, and we had 20 pre-entries, he must have been the first to enter.   So come on, Carnethy, you are not that desperate for prizes are you!?!   If you took the team trophies as well as the liquid I think the least you can do is give the trophies back to Lochaber.  

There were only four ladies competing this year but I hope we see more next year and the first lady home was Christine Menhennet of Bellahouston in 4:09:26.   Well done, Christine. 

Looking at the results, it was interesting to see that over 25% of the entrants were from South of the Border and I have been pondering whether this was due to the challenge of surviving the Arrochar Midges or of bagging 4 Munroes.  

Overall  the race appeared a success.  However, as with all things there is always room for improvement, and whilst I have noted areas where improvements could be made, I would be glad of any feedback from the runners themselves.  

Looking forward to seeing you all again next year at Arrochar and at a medium race which I am Christine Menhennet  Bellahouston     4:09:26.


After 1992 it was abandoned until Westerlands CCC gave it the kiss of life in 2007.

Now it also has its own website at and is 22 km in distance with 2400m of ascent.   There are a few check points on the route but between them, the runners are left to their own devices.   Where does it go?


The race headquarters are in the Arrochar Community Hall and the race begins a short way up the road at the start of the track leading to Succoth Farm.    The trail goes up Glen Loin to  the bridge over Inveruglas Water where the runners head up a hydro road in the direction of Sloy Dam.   A small cairn is where runners can choose to go up the track to Ben Vorlich or go straight on to the Dam where they turn right and go up diretissima to the top and Ben Vorlich’s summit cairn before turning and heading back down to the Dam.  Across the Dam and then followe the road for a bit until it doubles back  then start off up more steep grassy slopes to the summit of Ben Vane.  Down Ben Vane and get to the tops of Ben Ime and Ben Narnain before heading down to the finish on unmarked tracks.   Over the top of Ben Narnain and then head for the tramway down the hill – that’s in theory but when we were there, runners took the route they fancied most down to the bottom where the way to the finish was marked with tape.

The down hill bit at the end was kind of scary – hardly anyone was running – the people at the front were leaping and bounding as fast as they could go covering huge chunks of ground with each mammoth stride.   I remember sitting at the foot of the scree at the top of Dumgoyne one year and a couple of old codgers came up well down the field, chatting away.  But when they came down what a change!    They were flying, almost literally it seemed to me: here were to genuine athletes doing what they did best and had done probably for decades – lots of runners were skirting the scree but they were revelling in it.   Wonderful to see – all the more so since I could not conceive of myself executing such a descent any more than I could play the violin to concert hall standard.   That was how many of the Arrochar Alps runners went down and I could only look and wonder.   Further down the field I could identify with those edging down crablike trying not to fall or slip a bit but they thing is that they slipped and slid much, much more than the leaders did.

Chris Upson tells me that the current men’s and women’s course records were set in 2012 when the race was a British Championships counter (see ) .

Jasmin Paris sliced off more than 16 minutes from her 2011 time, when she was the first lady to dip under 4 hours with 3:58.    In 2012, Ben Bardsley (also of Borrowdale Fell Runners) lowered Billy Bland’s record by 20 seconds over a fractionally longer course.

Stuc a Chroin

Hills Stuc book

Many years before moving to Lochearnhead in 1996, I came up to walk on the hills – a friend and I walked from Brig o’Turk up over Ben Ledi, to Strathyre, over Ben Sheann to Balquihidder and then over to Loch Katrine before returning to the start.  My wife and I and various friends walked the Glen Ogle Trail quite often too.   It’s an area we like very much.   So when the Stuc a Chroin race started in 1988, we would come up, if there was no track league match that required our presence, to spectate.   We would walk up to the point where the trail drops down into Glen Ample, sit with our picnics and watch the runners come over the top and , leaving rucksacks and backpacks of all sorts, head down into the glen.   An excellent viewpoint.   Or we would walk into Glen Ample from the carpark south of Strathyre and have our picnic watching the runners come down one side and head up the other.   Or we’d just wander up and down the track encouraging the runners.   It’s a wonderful course, albeit one that I would never have  attempted to run.   I have walked to the top starting from the car park at Bracklynn Falls in Callander,  via Braeleny Farm

The race itself is described on the website (www/stucachroin5000, ) as follows:

The race starts and finishes at the outskirts of the village of Strathyre beside the A84 at the South entrance to the village. (grid ref. 561167) The route follows a track uphill behind the start area & joins the forest road after about 500 yards in a South direction. After about 2 miles the edge of the forest is reached (grid ref 577145). Turn left in a N.E. direction – rough ground – no path – follow edge of forest to (grid ref 583160) cross Meal Mor (550m) to point (grid ref 585160) overlooking Glen Ample. Down the hill to cross the hill-walkers’ path through Glen Ample (350m) grid ref 591160).

The climb up a steep heather slope to the top of Beinn Each (grid ref 603158) is a bit more testing until you reach the summit at 811 metres. From Beinn Each the route follows a hill walkers path along an undulating ridge to Bealach nan Caber (grid ref 603165) (Cross-over Point) then follows the same path for a scramble to Stuc a’ Chroin (972m)(grid ref 617175) via Bealach Glas (grid ref 606171).

The Return: An ascent to Bealach nan Cabar (Cross-over Point), down long grass slopes to cross Glen Ample path (grid ref 591158) then follow the forest track to the welcoming crowds to return to Strathyre.

It is often included in the British Fell Running Championship and is classed as a long race.   It is very hard beginning as it does with the short, steep climb up from the start at Strathyre to the forestry road which takes you up almost to the drop into the glen.   The wee bit over tussocky grass before you can see over the edge is also pretty steep before the different challenge altogether of the drop down.    As a walker I used to hate the rocky scramble up to the to and hated the coming back down even more.

A well supported race, there are usually a lot of English athletes taking part because of the nature of the event – and possibly as a recce for the following years.   The campsite south of the village is usually jam packed as are the local B&B’s and hotels – this year (2014) will be more difficult because two of the hotels, the Munro and the Ben Sheann, are closed which means two restaurants and bars fewer as well.   Two sets of toilets fewer too!   It is also well supported by the locals who turn out to welcome the athletes home at the end.

It’s a great day, a wonderful event and deservedly popular with all connected with it.   This is maybe more remarkable because it is one of very few hill races throughout the British Isles which is not organised by a running club or combination of clubs.   Organised entirely by local volunteers it is a model for all other races.