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A weekend of running near Glasgow

Written by Fiona April 30 2012

I know about the statistics: Some 50,000 people walk the West Highland Way every year. And during frequent runs along the long-distance route, from the Milngavie end, I usually encounter a few walkers, runners and cyclists. But on Sunday, during a run with Animal Magic, we saw at least 100 people. (NB: Animal Magic is a vet, animal pathologist and would be doctor of tick investigations in Scotland. She is also a magic runner And a good friend.)

Many people had backpacks and looked to be setting out for a long-distance walk on the WHW. Others were walking dogs. Some were running – and a few of the runners were extremely fit looking older ladies. There were several groups of young teenagers from the Scouts, returning from a weekend away on the long-distance walkway, which reaches Fort William some 96 miles to the north. There were women-only groups, men-only running groups, families with younger children, as well as myself and Animal Magic.

Although it is always lovely to get a running route all to yourself, it was also uplifting to see so many people out enjoying the sunshine. While the rest of Britain seem to face cold and rain, Scotland actually had a god deal of sunshine and some occasionally warm moments!

A weekend of running

If you’ve been following my blog recently, you’ll know that I have been focusing on off-road running. It is hard work and at times I have wanted to give up entirely, but this weekend felt like a small breakthrough. While the G-Force was off climbing with a pal on Saturday, I decided to run a route on the Campsie Fells, north of Glasgow.

A couple of weekends before, the G-Force and I had vaguely discovered a route from Milton of Campsie to the top of the fells, along the tops, down to Campsie Glen and then back along the old railway line footpath to Milton of Campsie. I say “vaguely” because the route up had proved frustrating and long-winded. However, from the top of the fells, we reckoned we could see a a more straightforward route from the road – and this was what I bravely set off to find on my own on Saturday.

Not known for my navigation prowess (and more likely to be know for getting lost) I was a little nervous about finding my way. But thanks to intuition  – and a great chat with a van driver who happened to be coming out of the track that I planned to ascend – I found my way easily and without a wrong turn. The upward stretch is tough, however.

Once at the base of the Campsies, I found myself on a very steep, zigzagging trail. I aimed to run the whole route but with stops to catch my breath every so often. On the way up the stops happened a lot more than every so often, but I didn’t walk. Every time I stopped and looked back behind me I was taken aback by the fabulous views and clear skies.

Once on the top at the first cairn, Cort-Ma Law, I looked across to see a higher cairn in the distance (I believe this could be Lecket Hill) and proceeded to run to this, too. The Campsies were sodden after a sprinkling of snow the night before and I spent a lot of time running and wading through mushy grass and mud.

At the second cairn I looked over to Meikle Bin at the eastern end of the Campsies and close to Kilsyth. (One day soon I will start at the Meikle Bin and run the entire length of the Campsies to Dumgoyne at the far north-west). I then turned back and retraced my steps to the first cairn before diverting west and running along the top of the fells. It was very wet underfoot and the fells are more than a little undulating but I found myself smiling to myself. “FionaOutdoors actually navigates the Campsies herself!”

On Saturday, there were fewer people walking than the previous outing but as I came closer to Crow Road (and the car park where many people start their walk from) and then down towards Clachan of Campsie, the number of people vastly increased.

But my run couldn’t finish here as I needed to get back to my car parked just before Milton of Campsie. Luckily there is an old railway footpath running alongside the busy A891 and I somehow found the energy to run another three miles on the flat.Hill running is exhausting and after a busy week of work (both days and evenings) plus a few training runs and commuter cycles over the previous seven days I was amazed that I found the reserves to keep going. A couple of bars of chocolate definitely helped!

This is the sort-of route that I ran, except I started from Glorat House and not Lennoxtown. The route is around 12kms and has a total ascent of almost 1,000m.

Sunday recovery run

I agreed before the Campsies run to go for run with Animal Magic on the Sunday. Since Animal Magic was off to cycle 70 miles in the Kinross Sportive, I was hoping she’d call on Saturday evening to say she was too tired to run. Instead, she announced she’d like to do one of our favourite long runs along the WHW and through Mugdock Park. Fortunately, we both had tired legs and we kept the running to a steady but fairly easy-going pace. Animal Magic and I have a similar pace, and we like a bit of a chat, so the running with her is perfect.

(Normally the G-Force would be invited but he’d gone off with Super-Duper Junior, another hill running friend, to run two Munros in Perthshire. He said he’ll take me there when I have more time on my hands!)

Animal Magic and I ran around 7 or 8 miles, and although tired by the end we felt pretty smug! (If I hadn’t agreed to run with Animal Magic I know I would have lazed around in bed all morning and managed precisely zero exercise!)

Other people run much further – and faster

Route of the Cort-Ma Law hill run race

Route of the Cort-Ma Law hill run race

When I compare my running to others, especially those taking part in the 53-mile Highland Fling on Saturday, I realise I am a total wimp. One day I might find the strength of mind and body to run such an amazing event. The Highland Fling is the precursor to the 95-mile West Highland Race in June. These girls and guys are utterly incredible and I can only dream of completing such tough long0-distance events.

Apparently there is also a Cort-Ma Law hill race. I love this, from the description of this race: “The highlight of this race is the section of man-eating emerald green bog between Cort-ma Law and Lecket Hill.” I was almost eaten up by this bog on Saturday! The awesome lady hill runner Angela Mudge holds the record for the race. Maybe one day I’ll pluck up the courage to run the race!

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