A 10-day visit to the Scottish Highlands happened to coincide with the date of one my favourite hill races, Cioch Mhor. At least that’s what I told my wife. Organised by Highland Hill Runners, the 14km race starts at Tulloch Castle above Dingwall, before ascending to the trig pillar atop Cnoc a’Bhreacaich and then Cioch Mhor, a 482-metre pap dwarfed by Ben Wyvis, and – of course – back.
It was my third run at Cioch Mhor, having competed in the 2009 and 2010 editions. Then I was wearing the yellow and maroon of Inverness Harriers; these days it’s the red and black of Herne Hill Harriers, a most unusual sight on a Scottish mountainside. So unusual there’s only one of us. My chances of ever claiming a team prize are, therefore, very low.
Having only had three or four proper mountain running days in the hills, I was pleased to mix it with the north of Scotland goats, coming fourth and being the only non Highland or Inverness runner to rank in the top-10. There was mushy snow, heather-bashing and bog, a lot of barbed wire, a crossing of a swollen Abhainn Sgitheach – via a rope watched over by two marshalls such was the height of the river, the occasional nervous glance over a shoulder to check on the progress of the 50-plus veteran behind, and a final free-wheel to Tulloch Castle.
There are some photos of the start below, but there are far better ones of the actual race here.