Kat: This year was my second Dumyat Hill Race, although about my eighth trot up the hill since the clocks changed and gave us lighter evenings. I’m ridiculously lucky to have Dumyat as essentially the back garden to my office, and as it’s on my way home I quite often head up there after work. The top of Dumyat is probably my favourite place in the whole world – incredible views, often quite crazy weather, and an amazing feeling of accomplishment having dragged yourself up there on your own two feet. I’d happily head up there every day.
Crikey though, racing it’s a different kettle of fish. I started training with my local running club at the beginning of the year, and Dumyat was only my second experience of a race where the Wee County Harriers have been out in force. It’s the friendliest and most welcoming club imaginable, but it’s definitely a different experience racing as a member of a club. There’s none of the pre-race hanging around on your own, lots more chat about routes and strategy and times, and a distinct internal monologue of ‘I’m wearing a club top, it’s going to look really crap if I’m last’.
The race had totally sold out, with 400 runners (and a queue for on-the-day entries which disappeared within seconds) and slightly fancier chip timing than last year. We crowded into the starting pen, waved at a drone which was filming us from overhead, waited impatiently through the totally unintelligible race briefing, then were off. There’s a pretty short but steep hill that stops anyone getting too excited from the start line, a bit of a queue to get through a very narrow gap in a wall, then half a mile or so of flat trails, before crossing a river and getting into the race proper. After that, it’s pretty relentlessly uphill for the next half hour or so, which I tackled with a mixture of a) walk-run intervals and b) staggering upwards with my hands on my knees, staring at the ground and trying not to be sick on my shoes.
The club vest proved a massive advantage once we got onto the more open ground for the second half of the climb – loads of the club had turned out to support and many more people shouted ‘C’mon the Wee County’ as I passed, encouraging me to lope back into a reluctant jog – at least until I was round the next corner. It was an incredible sunny evening, and I tried to grab a couple of seconds to admire the view on the way up, especially the sight of hundreds of runners snaking out above me to the summit cairn. There was a rowdy crowd of marshals and runners gathered at the top, cheering and whooping as I rounded the cairn, then it was off for the return leg – a real mix of trails, slippery gravel, bog to sink into, boulders to scramble around and fences to jump over whilst trying to maintain some sort of momentum. I passed at least 3 runners who were nursing sprained ankles as they made their way slowly back to sea level, which helped keep my mind focussed on watching where I was putting my feet. Half way down I heard some banter from a marshal about ‘a good race between the Wee County runners’, and glancing behind me saw Sue - another runner from my club - catching up fast behind me. We met up for a quick photo from another club member who was out with his camera, then it was RACE ON for the finish.
The last 15 minutes were an exhausting mental seesaw of ‘I want to give up right now’ fighting for brain space with ‘there’s no way I’m going to let her overtake me’. We hurtled down the last section of ridiculously steep woodland path, then onto the final stretch, which always seems flat on the way out but is very distinctively uphill on the way back. That last 5 minutes felt like it went on forever, but eventually we slogged our way over the top and picked up pace for the finishing (mercifully downhill) straight. I could feel Sue right behind me with every step, and we both mustered up a final surge of energy for a brilliant sprint finish back onto campus. Then it was hugs all round, photos, and lots of cheering for the runners still heading across the line. I was delighted to take 7 minutes off my time from last year, putting a sub 1-hour finish just about within reach for next year.
Meanwhile, however, I’ll very much enjoy reclaiming Dumyat for my steady evening jogs, with plenty of time for photos, admiring the views and thanking my lucky stars that such a beautiful part of the world is literally right on my doorstep. I can’t wait to get back up Dumyat, but racing it once a year is more than enough for me. C’mon the Wee County!
Thanks Kathryn! Readers with long memories may remember Kathryn from my Dumyat Hill Race 2015 Race Report or even my Mighty Deerstalker 2012 Race Report. Blimey we've been doing this for a while, eh?