HARRIERS CLIMB THE SUMMIT OF BEN

There’s nothing more exciting than Ben Nevis Race day it’s not a day that creeps up on you it’s a day that’s on your mind from when the ballot opens in January.The first challenge is getting accepted by BNRA by satisfying the entry criteria of 3 long ‘A’ category SHR races in the last 2 years.Only attached hillrunner’s entries are accepted and even then there’s no guarantee with only 600 lucky runners offered the honour of a race day starting number.

This years start line saw 6 Carnegie Harriers eager to test themselves on the 4406 feet climb up to Britain’s highest peak.I always feel uneasy before the start my mind flicking back to seeing injured runners on the rocky descent in previous years as there’s always a bit of spilled claret on The Ben.The skirl of the bagpipes starts as Lochaber Pipe Band lead the runners around Claggan Park to the starting pen where I handover a coloured number card to the race starter before a short countdown before the 1 o’clock start.Bang we are set off and the weather is beautiful the best day of the week I was informed by the locals.A lap of the football field followed by a uphill tarmac mile until you pass the Nevis Inn and the start of the race proper.The path now loose gravel and storm drains interspersed by huge boulders snaking all the way to the Red Burn halfway up the ascent and the first cut off point which is a generous 60 mins but that’s not a given on days were the weather offers an extra challenge.Once over the burn having a quick scoop of water as I go ignoring the risk of cryptosporidium.

It’s goodbye to the tourist path at this point and hello to a relentless climb over scree and boulders for what seems like an eternity scanning for Finlay Wild hoorin’ doon the mountain to give some hope the summit must be close(it’s not)as he’s typically finished before I reach the top!Staying positive and thinking I started at a sensible pace this time and benefiting from improved grip from my new shoes I confidently push on to handover my runners wristband to the summit marshal’s and second cut off point of 2 hours before tackling the technical descent with some energy still in my legs to help with control and not the non-compliance I usually experience.Still a lot of work to do on the way back down off the mountain to keep going forward whilst staying upright cutting through the switchback’s of the tourist path trying to avoid all the other guests using the path some of them on the mountain and other’s somewhere else with their faces buried in their phones???.Mentally ticking off the tricky bits I arrive at the start of the tarmac road section leading back to Claggan Park and a feeling of safety as nothing now could surely stop me taking my lap of honour and giving the spectating kids high 5’s like i’d just done something very special…Well in my mind I just had.

Carnegie Harriers Peter Simpson had an outstanding first Ben Nevis race securing the M60 prize.Michelle Best also completed her first Ben.

Derek Cassells,Steven King,Andrew Sim,David Greig and myself all returning for more of the same.