Sunday, 9 June 2013

Traprain Law Hill Race 8/06/13

Great to see our marvellous Summer weather continuing for this Carnethy organised bunfight. Mary had kindly volunteered to drive us there although she wasn't tempted to take part. Willie J was also in spectating role so the 2 of them walked up the riverside trails and took photos as we passed. Good to see a few Porties on the start line: Graham H, Andrew M, Richard H, Jim H (and myself). I was supposed to be warming up before the race but kept stopping to chat to all the folk I recognised, which seemed to be most of the race. I had to sprint up and down the field at the last minute to get limbered up.

Preston Lodge High School pipe band. I am not the biggest fan of this sort of music but it was pretty obvious these youngsters were top quality and very well rehearsed, suggesting a very talented bandleader at the helm.

More of a riverside trail race than a hill race, this event gives me an advantage over the hill runners due to the tarmac and trails, and an advantage over the road runners with the rougher ground for the majority of the course. It felt liberating not to have any agenda other than enjoy the run. There was nobody I was really setting myself against and since Stewart Whitlie was on the start line there wasn't any danger of being first over 50. That and the sunshine left no room for anything other than a flat out enjoyable romp over a brilliant course amongst pals – what could be better?

Bill Gauld. At 80 years young, the man we all hope to emulate.

The first half mile is through East Linton, under the bridge and sharp left onto the riverside trails. Willie and Mary were taking photos here. Yes that is me running next to Al Hart (first mv40). I do seem unable to pace myself for the start of any race. Since the trail narrows to single file up to the river crossing it's not a bad tactic to get in line sharpish and see if you can hold onto the place. About 8½ minutes into the thing and the hazard tape leads us through nettle infested grass then, before the stings have time to register, into the cooling water! Shin deep, and slippy rocks where I stumbled across, unable to see the bottom as the previous runners stirred up the dirt.
The river crossing

Out the other side and a pretty harsh steep bank for a bit. The start of the lead in to the climb. A tarmac hill before dirt trails across a rising field and another road crossing before the hill proper. After a 90' turn we approach the steep rocky climb next to the quarry. Nobody ahead is using the rope. I figure any relief from the leg work is beneficial so hand-over-hand up the ropes quickly tiring my arms. There are maybe 3 lengths of rope and I use them as much as possible. The angle eases off but there is still much climbing over rocky ground till we get to the top. We start running again and up ahead I see Bob Marshal running to reposition himself and camera to take shots with the Bass Rock and coast in the background. Later I joke that I am smiling in his photo due to spending the entire race in a state of near ecstacy. And yet that is not that far from the truth. Especially with the climb over, you know that the rest is on descending trails and road to the riverside paths with only a small section of undulating tarmac at the end.

There are rocky dangers lurking in the descent off Traprain Law and one year I saw Olly S badly twist an ankle here. The Dunbar vest ahead has got a good lead for which I am grateful as overtaking on this singletrack would prove difficult. However I catch him on the lower ground and as he moves to the left I overtake gasping “coming through on your right.” Over the stile and onto a longish stretch of road where there is time to see how the three or 4 ahead are managing. I reckon I might catch the distant non-club top who has increased his lead greatly over the length of the Law. It is significant that I am looking to the front to see who I can catch, and not even considering the runners behind. (Nobody came past me in the second half.) Young Ali R, 2 or 3 behind, was gaining ground on the hilly bits (as no doubt were all the proper hill runners,) but confidence is growing now we are past the crux.

Jill - first lady.

Willie J taking photos.

We are marshalled right, down farmer's tracks that turn at perpendicular corners, skirting fields as we make our way back towards the river. I am concerned to keep the guys ahead in sight as I slowed to a near halt along this way a few years back, uncertain about an unmarked turn before the bridge. I don't even see it this year and the bridge appears without any problems. David F (HBT) is coming down the grassy path towards me having mistaken the tape marking the sharp right, and gone straight on. I can see how that happened despite the yards of tape marking the turn back onto the riverside path.

I wasn't the only one having fun.

I am now catching the non-club vest but let David resume his race between us as I know he is in better shape than myself. I try to keep pace but he quickly overtakes the runner ahead and forges on, no doubt anxious to try and regain his previous place. I forgot to ask how far he went before that awful realisation sunk in. Non-club vest (Andrew) is now just ahead and no doubt not enjoying having an old man wheezing close by his shoulder. I know the stepped bit is approaching and decide to wait till after that to try to get past. Andrew gets most of the way up the steps and moves to the side to let me past but I am unable to do this without risking a cardiac event, and wave him on. I get my breath in the next section and then just before the last bridge I cruise past cutting across the grassy stretch before the steepish hill and right turn onto the main road.

Dr Neil

I recall only feelings of weariness from previous years here, staggering through the village asking bewildered strangers which way the race goes. However this year I am feeling bouyant and turn up the volume, confident of the way. Maybe the sunshine makes the difference. Ahead a distant Carnethy vest confirms the course as do a few marshals at the crucial junctions. I even make a bold attempt to catch the red vest ahead and reduce the margin to 10 seconds, finishing with a respectable dash to the line. There are fewer runners here than I thought and I later find I have just scraped into the top ten. Better still, Stewart W has won outright leaving the first mv50 prize to fall to me! I am delighted.

Mary and Willie were last spotted at the river crossing a mile or more from the end, so I don't expect them back in a hurry. They are further delayed by a young lad in his second race who overcooked the first half and was suffering heat exhaustion and collapsed just along the river from them. Various runners stopped to assist, including (Dr.) Neil Jones so by the time Mary got to the scene, there was little to be done other than wait for the medic to assist the guy back to the finish.

There goes the pledge.

Meanwhile I was at the finish chatting away to the Dunbar folk just as Anne Hay bought a round of ice creams from the travelling Luca's vans. RESULT! Big thanks Anne, who also won her age group. Great to see everyone out at the festival – the weather being so much kinder than the last time I ran this race in torrential rain with the festival suffering a complete wash out. A brilliant day out – many thanks to the organisers, the marshals and route setters, and to Willie, Mary, Bob and Lesley coming out, cheering and taking photos. It really does not get any better than this.

Bob's photos here
Mary's blog and more photos here
Results here
Stuart's blog here


  1. Great race report Peter, a lot different to your beach running blogs!, As a non runner i read the pain involved, similar to when i once raced MTBs.
    My big bro Scot Mathieson won the Traprain race one year, around mid 1980s? sure someone who reads on here will know the year!

  2. Now here's a funny thing Peter and Bruce! My wife was googling for photos of me on t'internet when your blogpost photo turned up. Why, thought I? Then I found Bruce's comment. Yes indeed, I did win the the Traprain Law race on June 12th(?) 1987. It was a week after my Marine Biology final exams and all I had done for about 3 months was study and train, including a LOT of track work at Meadowbank under the coaching of Malcolm Brown who let me train with his Edinburgh Uni track guys. My time was 41.28 which was, I think, the slowest time on the trophy at that point. Maybe still is. I beat Joe Forte ( for the first time - a notable scalp!) for 20 seconds, particularly as he fell iheadlong in the River Tyne at the crossing while trying to catch me! That win scored me a sports scholarship from East Lothian Council that got me free access to Meadowbank and to all the East Lothian sports facilities, which was brilliant! Ah, the glory days!

  3. Nice one Scot! You could always follow your bro's example and (re)start running again!