Just back from 'up north' and I'm pleased to report that I've improved on last years 23rd place.
Hot and humid at the start, 78 of us ran up the Main Street in Melrose then right, up Dingleton Mains where the course goes off road, through a short wood and up around 30 wooden steps before coming out across a field.
The real hard work begins as you hit the first of 2 hills which are short and steep, covered in blaeberry and heather and patches of red Felsite scree. This year all but one of the runners in front went right. I went straight up with only a lad from the host club Gala Harriers in front choosing this route, though plenty followed.
Halfway up gasping like a beached goldfish and working my Salomons hard, I heard a gentle voice on my shoulder ask 'can I get past please' and, as I pulled to the side for a nanosecond, it was Georgia Nesbitt (Gala) who whisked past and was gone (more on her later).
A few others passed by including an Ochil as we reached the first summit and I came down the dip between the two peaks with Steve Cairns (HBT), so I'm guessing there must have been some fun and games on the route selection front. Saying that, both of us then took an unnecessary dog leg which cost us a few seconds but made little difference really. He cleared off sharpish in front.
The second peak was a little easier and upon reaching the top I hung onto the back of another Gala runner before clambering down the steep drop and back the way we came. Kenny Stuart holds the record for this 4.5 mile race (25 minutes) and it looks pretty safe.
I lost one place halfway back, but then gained one as Rachel Fagan (Gala) who passed me on the way up the second hill returned via another path and I guess it was a little slower as she ended up behind me.
By the time you hit the high street and are faced with a lap of the Melrose Rugby pitch there's very little left in the tank and my technique looked like a car crash. I was pleased to see the finish line in 10th place at 35 minutes.
Mike McGovern (Moorfoot:33:50) won the race from Keith Murray (Teviot) by 2 seconds with Carnethy's Faulkner 3rd. Fourth was Georgia whose up-hilling looked effortless and she swept the prize board big style at the presentation. But by then I had my face in a cake and was surrounded by spent polystyrene tea cups. Heaven.
Next year is the 50th anniversary of this race and I quite fancy another crack at the record. Only 10 minutes to shave off this baby!