Glentress Trail Half Marathon (Andrew)

Last year, about a week after the Glentress Half Marathon, the Beast from the East arrived and covered Scotland in snow. There were some signs of the Beast when we ran Glentress: some small snow banks at the side of trails, in the shadows of sheltered hollows and in the patches of ice where the snow had melted and the run off and frozen over across the paths.

This year, Glentress was completely different. It was 15 degrees and my first mistake was to wear a running jacket (though it’s obligatory to carry one). I was boiling. Yet, despite that, I kept mine own even when others had discarded there’s – and their t-shirt. Around mile seven a topless man ran passed. ‘Taps aff’ in February, that’s how warm it was. But, since he was still carrying a rucksack I can only imagine it was ‘nips aff’ too as no t-shirt meant no protection from rubbing and chafing across your chest. Ouch!

He wasn’t the only one wanting people to focus on their chest. A number of runners wore t-shirts with ‘Vegan Runner’ written across it. To change an old joke, how do you know if a runner is a vegan? Just wait and they’ll show you on their chest!

For my next race, I’m going to get a t-shirt which says ‘Sausage Runner’ but, to change the same joke again. How you know if a runner loves a sausage? Just wait and look at their stomach!

I tried to be a vegetarian once. It lasted four years. Until, one day, someone told me that pepperoni was a meat and not a pepper and I realised that I’d been a vegetarian for maybe one or two weeks at a time at most. D’oh!

The Glentress Trail half marathon also doesn’t love up to it’s billing. Just as I wasn’t a vegetarian, so the Glentress Trail is not a half marathon despite it being called a half marathon. It’s just over 12.5 miles long. But, if you include vertical distance then it makes up the numbers easily because this is a long, long climb.

The first 100 metres are downhill (which is a horrible kick up on the return to the finish line) then it’s a constant climb for nearly nine miles before an undulating descent for 2 miles and a sheer arm twirling-just-let-go and run final mile.

The race is varied. With sections on the wide fire roads, others on trails sneaking through the forest, bars of light slanting from the low lying early Spring sun like lunar finish lines across the path, to mossy moorland with fantastic views across the tweed valley.

It’s a cracking race, though you do need to prepare to run nine miles uphill – and for all weather conditions, even, some times, if you’re lucky, sunshine and a warm breeze.

Glentress Trail 21K (Andrew)

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“Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance” is referred to by the British Army as the ‘seven P’s’.

Let me add another P. Prior Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

You might say ‘prior’ is implied by ‘proper’ but, after the Glentress Trail Half Marathon, I want to emphasise how important it is to plan things in advance.

Not that I’m very good at that. I change route and distance mid-run depending on how I feel and whether I ran down a particular street before or “Oh, what’s that over there?”. Which makes runs more interesting but it doesn’t help me prepare for races where running a route is part of the whole challenge.

Perhaps I should take up orienteering but, the only time I met an orienteer, he patiently (and in depth) explained why and how he adjusted the stitching of his shoes to craft a pair of trainers that were better suited to run on an incline. No sport should require a detailed knowledge of cross stitching. Orienteering is just fast rambling with embroidery.

I thought I’d prepared for Glentress. I’d checked the weather – a perfect dry, if cold, day after a week of dry cold days guaranteeing a mud free run – and I’d checked the pre-race information for recommended kit and brought it all with me in case there was an inspection.

I even checked Iain’s Strava profile for the race from November. And, from that, I worked out that it would be six miles of climbing and six miles of descending. The profile almost looked like a pyramid.

So, mile 1, with ankles stiff and complaining as they failed to warm up while running up hill, I started to count the miles in my head as my Garmin beeped them off.

Mile 1 done. Okay, only five miles of climbing to go.

Mile 2. Some flats. Free speed. Only four miles to go.

By mile 10, when I was thinking, “What another false summit?!?”, Iain finally admitted something he’d suspected from mile 2. It was a different route!

Instead of six miles up and six miles down it was over 10 miles up (with some flats) and then a legs flailing, almost falling two mile descent back to the start.

Of course, if I was a soldier, the seven P’s would have told me to read the website course and not rely on Iain’s previous route. If I’d checked the website I’d have spotted it was a different course.

That’s why I add the eighth P. There’ no point figuring out where you went wrong halfway up a hill on mile 10 –  checking is essential!

The race itself is tough – did I mention the 10 miles of climbing? – but an excellent and varied route through the mountain bike trails of Glentress. There’s also a 10k and a marathon option (twice round) if you fancy a different challenge.