The Beef Tub Race – Saturday 13th September.

You would have had to travel far from Moffat last Saturday to find a finer group of athletes.  Stout of heart and strong of leg, 23 of the best Scotland could provide (well, on that day anyway) met at Corehead Farm for the annual Devil’s Beeftub race.

Race HQ was expertly managed by Willie Gibson under a tent like contraption, and for the exchange of 2 coins of the realm, which are probably worthless now, a number was issued and details entered on the race HQ database (a laptop).

A 15 minute trek led through the fields to the start area, while the mist and drizzle intensified.  Low clouds swirled round the upper slopes, and if this place is not haunted then it should be.  A very eerie place to be.

Race supremo Gibson explained the course to the race virgins. Up there and down over there, and the bit in between is obvious.  No doubt once upon a time they used to sacrifice virgins in these parts, but that is just so 20th Century.  Now they just go hill running.

And so to the start.  It was decided this year to go for a Le Mans style start this year, with all competitors holding on to the fence, not electrified I hasten to add.  One thought crosses my mind – it looks a lot steeper than last year.

The starter’s gun – well he just shouts ‘go’ – starts the race, and optimum or even maximum speed is just about reached by the end of the 20 yards of level ground.  The 60 or 70 degree slope rapidly arrests forward speed.  Upward speed exceeds forward speed.  There is serious risk of having your fingers trodden on by the runner in front as you hang onto rushes growing on the hillside to help pull yourself up the slope.  After about 5 minutes the gradient starts to ease, and the road appears.  About 400 yards of horizontal distance has been covered.

A long stretch leads across treacherous bog and mighty tussocks.  At least it is flattish.  Prassad Prassad can be seen in the distance with a good lead over course record holder Brian Marshall in second place.  Will it be enough, as Brian is a fine descender. Soon a feint track leads round the rim of the Beeftub with a climb up to the small cairn on Great Hill.  How this hill came to be named ‘Great’ is something of a mystery.  Because it is not great in any sense of the word, and has several immediate neighbours that possess significantly more greatness.

At the summit another marshal vaguely points the way.  And here in lies another problem.  For the first third of the descent you cannot see the target at the bottom as the hill is concave.  By the time you see the bottom, if you are not on the right line, then you end up among bracken & rocks and a whole heap of trouble.  Either way the slope continues to get steeper, and more slippery.  The bottom third almost inevitably includes a high speed bum slide. Terminal velocity could well be reached on this bit.  Missing the rocky bits and thistles is a skill well worth developing.

A quick dash across the flattish grass, over the burn and to the line.

Brian Marshall had a lucky win.  Prassad had reached Great Hill before the other marshal, and not knowing the line to take, took the wrong one.  He did say that he thought he would probably have been caught on the descent anyway, as he is not too good on the downhill running.

A fine day out and an excellent race.  The race organisation and results service puts many a high profile race to shame.  One to put in the diary for next year I suggest.

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