What is it about the Carnethy 5?

The field lies open and exposed, looking up to Scald Law and Carnethy, the highest points of the brown and grey Pentland Hills. Above a saturated bog is a hummock of low grass, decorated by clumps of scruffy gorse. Runners cower in the vegetation, squatting on ground littered with sheep droppings, pinning numbers on vests,…

Why we go to the hills… and how to join us

Some years ago I was running in the Eastern Fells of the Lake District. As I descended a mountain called High Street, I passed a walker. He shook his head. ‘I don’t know how you do it,’ he shouted incredulously into the breeze. I smiled. Encumbered by boots and bag, I wondered the same: How…

A love letter to the hills from the hill runner

I am running down a hill. I am running down a hill in Scotland. I am running down a hill while holding the hand of my shrieking two-year-old daughter. I am running down a hill while wincing from a dull, groaning pain in an ankle. I am running down a hill in jeans and a jumper.

Box Hill fell race 2011

‘This is a proper fell race,’ a fellow runner declared in the minutes before the Box Hill fell race. ‘Proper’ fell race? In Surrey? On a 224-metre hill? How I scoffed. A scoff of a man who believed he was qualified to scoff, a veteran of Ben Nevis, Jura and Slioch – actual ‘proper’ hill races….

Ben Nevis Race 2010

Eroded and overcrowded it may be, but I’ve grown fond of Ben Nevis. It was the first Munro I climbed, as a brief walking interlude while cycling between John  O’ Groats and Lands End on a snowy May day in 2003. I climbed it with my girlfriend, now fiancée, two years later, with swirling mist obscuring any…

An electrifying day on the Malverns, literally

It is the last thing a runner needs, particularly at the end of a hard, long training session: to be electrocuted. I was coming off End Hill at the northern extent of the Malvern Hills when I stepped over a low fence. My T-shirt, which was hanging from my shorts, must have brushed the wire, for a split second later…

Training for the Ben Nevis race…

… in central London. Not easy, not easy at all. Still, I’m trying to do the best I can with what is at my disposal. The absence of hills of any great height or length – you would have thought there could be at least one Munro, even a rubbish one, in London – means I…

Cioch Mhor hill race

Contrary to popular belief, the winner of the Cioch Mhor race is not the fastest runner, but the man who has the least regard for his testicles. Today’s race crossed a succession of barbed wire fences. It’s nothing to worry about for the veterans. They have had children. I wouldn’t mind being a father one day. No…

Beinn Bhuidhe Mhor

Highland Cross bumf has arrived, asking some honest questions. Have you prepared to walk, jog or run across 20 miles of rough terrain? No. Are you prepared to then climb on your bike and ride for a further 30 miles, many of them up and down steep hills? Definitely not. I’m being a little dramatic….

Knockfarrel hill race

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…

Cioch Mhor

Cioch Mhor today, a 482m hill below Ben Wyvis. Starting from Tulloch Castle in Dingwall, we followed a track west, then up a dead-straight road to Drynie. Soon we were on Tulloch Hill, climbing steeply along farm tracks. Eventually the gradient eased, with the path snaking to the trig pillar atop 339m Cnoc a’ Bhreacaich. From…