This was the second of Graham's Tynecastle Bronze runs - 30mile+ adventures that should pass a war memorial; one to be done each calendar month for the next 4 years in recognition of those who fought and those who lost their lives in the Great War, one hundred years ago. This one started from Graham's house in Earlston and he planned to take us to Kirk Yetholm along the Leader passing/including some of the trails of the Jedburgh Ultra.
Quickly off the road and onto riverside trails the ground proved tough going and although we pushed on at a hard pace I was surprised the Garmin was showing 9~14 minute miles. It felt much less sedate than that.
I nearly photoshopped off the NO banner but felt it was insignificant. In fact apart from a jokey reference now and then the day was delightfully Indyref free.
This runner, also in training for Jedburgh Ultra, had already done 18 miles so declined the invitation to join us.
Much of the early miles were on very attractive trails. A deer crossed the path just ahead of us here. Not much light for photos though and I've no idea why the camera chose ICM over the flash, perhaps it knows I like a bit of shoogle.
Kit: we knew it was going to be a long day out so wore backpacks (food, drink, extra clothing) except Graham who carried a smallish bumbag and declared we would have to look after him. We all wore Hokas except Graham who wore Salomon shoes.
Near Scott's View we had to detour through someone's back garden as there had been a landslip
September is a good month for fungi. I was explaining to Steve how there were many of us in our art student days were keen Mycologists and he said there were an equal number of enthusiasts in the army too.
First lunch stop at Maxton Kirk which contains a war memorial.
Around this point Roly was feeling the pace and opted not to do the whole run but to call by his folks place where we would later pick him up from. The Glenmore 24hr (106miles!) was obviously still in his legs. I felt bad for encouraging him along and then abandoning him but he was happier to let us carry on while he had more walking breaks.
Second lunch stop was underneath this rather fine bridge. Just as we were finishing sandwiches Roly caught us back up and ran with us to the road where he was getting a lift from his dad.
We had a wait here while the men hung new power cables across the river.
Further on a tractor came down the hill, filling the entire path. Graham led us into the woods at that exact point where he had stashed a couple of bottles of water. The day was full of incidents like this: turning a sharp corner and nearly running into a girl on horseback etc. Happily none of them ended badly.
Twenty miles into the run and Graham warns us there will be a BFT (basic fitness test). No more than 3 minutes to be taken to the top of the tarmac hill from the clearly marked start line - on your marks, GO.
Graeme D declared himself burst so declined to take part while Graham, Steve and I went at it like mentals all doing it well under the allotted time. Not only did it get us past this unattractive prospect in super-quick time, but it loosened off aching and stiffening legs and lungs, got the blood moving and I felt great for the next couple of miles
Cessford Castle. Graeme was the next to fall by the wayside, hoping to call out the (McCraw) cavalry to be picked up at Morebattle.
Leaving Steve, Graham and I to soldier on. The road was initially a relief but after a few miles, lost it's novelty. Plenty of undulations.
War Memorial Morebattle.
Graham had hidden more water bottles in the flower troughs at Morebattle - just as well as the shop shuts at 1pm. I had only carried about a litre of water and probably drank 3 or 4 times that. Great forward planning on Graham's part. It was a warm day and we were sweating loads.
After eating the last of the snacks, felt like a snooze.
Still a few miles to go and Graham seemed to have a unfailing instinct for where the next turn or crossing would come: "should be up here on the left somewhere" and sure enough it would be. We were following St Cuthbert's Way which was way marked although you had to be careful to pay attention and not miss a sign.
"I'll no lie te yease, boys; there's some rough hilly ground before the end."
It may have been harder going but the climb up to Wideopen Hill (the highest point on St Cuthbert's Way, 1207ft) wasn't the worst stretch at all, and the anticipation of the panoramic views were enough to keep us going.
Graham required a moment for refuelling. Some of the stiles were quite tall and steep and not particularly easy on cramping legs.
But the views and the prospect of long rolling downhills kept us going.
War Memorial between Town Yetholm and Kirk Yetholm
Yetholm Kirk, Kirk Yetholm
More forward planning - Graham had parked his car here (full of crisps, bakeries and very welcome goodies) and cycled home the night before.
The camera, when there is a great difference of contrast, takes several pictures and combines them, (bracketing) but if the subjects are moving then you get this shadowing, which I can't be bothered photoshopping out.
We saw many wonderful things - this garden a few doors along from Roly's folks was not one of them. The notice says "Congratulations Anne Yeomans for raising a fantastic £388." I think it may have been a bet. Each to their own. I believe they are known as the Yetholm Gnomes.
Collecting the 2 casualties.
As a final treat Graham drove us to Scott's View, a favourite haunt where Sir Walter pleasured himself I think. The white marquee on the left is near where the earlier photos were taken. An excellent finish to an excellent day's running. The hardest of Graham's longer runs for a while, and really very taxing, but rewarding as well. Compare it to the Tiree run the other weekend: today (33.65miles) was shorter but took over 2 hrs longer at nearly 7 hours. Ok we weren't racing and we did stop for food, but it was the roughness of the ground that trashed our legs relatively early on, and everyone was feeling the strain with 15 miles still to go. Of note: we picked up the pace and the last 2.5 miles were nearly the quickest all day. Downhill helps but also perhaps because of a half mile of hateful small flies we met on the road (after the last hill) that got in your eyes and mouth.
Big thanks to Graham for organising this great day out and well done Steve on his first Ultra distance!