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.
And here are links to race reports on the Inverness and Highland websites respectively.