Perhaps I’m being unnecessarily hard on myself, but the more I run the worse I seem to get. Take today’s effort: the Knockfarrel hill race, a 5.5-mile run up to the Pictish hillfort and Cnoc Mor overlooking Strathpeffer.
I ran last year’s race with precious little hill training in my legs and naive to the demands of such terrain. Yet I finished more than two minutes faster than today’s race. It’s not like I’ve been twiddling my thumbs in the intervening period.
Anyway, enough moaning. The race itself: The unique selling point of Knockfarrel is its two brutal, calf-bursting climbs, one up the flank of Knockfarrel to the hillfort, and the second through gorse to the summit of Cnoc Mor, the highest point of the race.
In between is the undulating Cat’s Back, where if your legs are still not wobbling uncontrollably from the first climb, your mind is already fixated on the next one.
Then there is the descent, which is one of the most straightforward of any hill race, apart from one feature – a tortuously steep and slippery section through woods. I tiptoed down, chastising myself for being a wimp. Some people can descend with reckless abandon – ‘disengage your brain’, hill runners say – while others are either scared or just sensible.
I’m somewhere in the middle, but it’s really hampering my progress. This is no road race. Hesitate for a moment and the man in front is gone and there’s no catching him. Forres Harriers’ Paul Rogan was the man no-one could catch today, leading home a field of 58.
Results are here on the Highland Hillrunners website.