Round of the Pentland Hills: conceiving, planning, doing

It was not a question of whether there should be a hill running round in the Pentland Hills – such an idea has been mulled over by a number of runners over the years. But what hills? Without obvious height classifications like ‘Munro’, Corbett’ or even ‘Donald’ in the Pentlands, you have to work harder…

They are still there

I went to the hills today. It was my ‘usual’: from my front door, two miles of pavement, park and alleyway, before reaching the barricaded car park at Swanston at the foot of the Pentlands. I looked up: the ‘T’ wood that climbs with the contours of the hillside, the crags and scree of Caerketton,…

Fine lines

The weather did not seem so bad. I suppose that is how this sort of story tends to begin – from a place of complacency. I had been cold for much of the morning, but as I scouted the lower slopes of Carnethy Hill, a little over an hour before the first racers would be…

The Art of Suffering

The back straight on the third lap of a mile track race. The fourth lap at Parliament Hill. The ninth kilometre of ten. The final miles of your first marathon. The seventh hour of a Bob Graham Round. The fifteenth hour of a Ramsay’s Round. These are the tipping point moments of running when relative…

‘I have a son out in the big wide world’

Last month I interviewed Finlay Wild for the Autumn edition of Fellrunner, the magazine of the Fell Runners Association. Although it has not been published, this is not meant to be a spoiler. The interview preceded the Ben Nevis Race. Finlay, on the day before his 35th birthday, was victorious. In fact, he has won…

Carnethy 5 post-mortem: I was there

In the climactic scene of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Kate soliloquises on the nature of submission to a greater will – in this case, her husband. But now I see our lances are but straws, Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare. The words came to me as I strained up that…

The absurdly wonderful Carnethy 5

Every year, for 48 years, an absurdly wonderful thing has happened in a ragged field of sheep off the A702 close to Edinburgh. Every year, a group of hill runners assemble, facing the two highest peaks of the Pentlands, Scald Law and Carnethy Hill. The pipes fall silent, runners are brought to their marks, and,…

This is not madness; we are the lucky ones

‘Mr Muir!’ It was a colleague at school, hence the formal ‘Mr’ as pupils loitered nearby. ‘I’ve been reading your book,’ she said ominously, and then, her tone rising: ‘You’re mad.’ Another colleague chipped in: ‘You know he’s mad.’ ‘Running down hills at night?’ the first went on, shaking her head. I stumbled into a…

The fall and rise of the hill runner

Some years ago I was running in the Caerketton Hill Race, an eyeballs-out, up-and-down charge starting and finishing at Hillend, the north-eastern terminus of the Pentland Hills. I was descending the steepest section of hillside – a pathless slope of ankle-deep vegetation, dripping wet from afternoon rain. A woman catapulted by, almost clipping my left…

My favourite race – or something like that

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 squealing, skipping two-year-old daughter. I am running down a hill while wincing from a dull, groaning pain in my right ankle. I am running down a hill in jeans…

365 days of hill running wisdom: April

Day 91: ‘Every time you go for a run, take a stone from the top of Scald Law and put it on Carnethy. We only need 3 metres off one and 3 metres added to the other if that, taking into account glacial rebound and remeasurement by the OS. We can do it!’ New identity…