Comrie Hills Relay 2015
The Simon Wake Comrie Hills Relay is an annual event run by Strathearn Harriers in the small town of Comrie, Perthshire. The race was set up in order to raise money for pancreatic cancer research, in memory of Strathean Harrier Simon Wake who died in 2008. The relay is made up of four legs, each with varying degrees of hill climb (from a lot, to a lot more) with an average length of about 11 km. A team must be made up of five people as teams are required to have a pair of runners in leg two.
2015 marked Stonehaven's inaugural attempt at tackling the relay after scraping together a last minute team and registering just a day before the registration closed. The Stonehaven Top Dogs team was made up of Chris Cowley, Ali Robertson, Jonathan Kennedy, Richard Bannister and Steven Watters, each of who took a leg that played to their particular strengths in the team.
The start of the race came as a surprise to most, not least those (myself included!!) standing on the start line mid-chat. "3-2-1 Go!" came unannounced shout from the PA system which nobody seemed to take notice of. Chris bolted off to an early lead out of the starting field and was leading the race for a solid 20 seconds before Andy Fallas of Carnethy eased round, followed by a few more runners. Chris finished the hilly trail Leg 1 in 7th position and handed over to Ali and Johnny to crack on with their effort.
Leg 2 is a little more complicated, shorter, but with more technical terrain. Careful route choice is required to traverse the ridge line, and sure-footedness is required to descend the 280 metres over just 0.9 km. Runners of this leg are required to run together, although it appeared to be far from social with no spare oxygen to discuss anything but the distance between them and the chasing team. Ali and Johnny handed over the "baton" (a thin strip of laminated paper with some boxes to be punched at orienteering control points around the course) to Richard, setting him off in 10th place.
Richard sprinted off into a relentless 600 m climb, quite possibly slowing down as the gradient steepened. Fortunately for Richard, this was the most remote part of the course, so there were no witnesses to confirm or deny this. Richard ran a great leg (including a nice sub 3:30 km on the way back down the hill), especially considering just last month he achieved a top 100 finish in the prestigious TDS race in Chamonix. Richard finished his leg strongly, taking the team back up to 10th place.
Bringing the race home for the Top Dogs was Steven, in his first foray into hill running relays. The final leg is similar to the first leg, in that it is run mostly on well-established trails, something which the 2015 Improvers Cup has certainly prepared Steven for! Steven clawed back another position on the final leg, bringing Stonehaven Top Dogs up to 9th place at the finish.
A great relay race, for a great cause! We will certainly be back again.