Last weekend we made the short trip down to Selkirk to run the early-season “Feel The Burns” hill race. At 13 miles in length, with nearly 3000 feet of climbing, the route is certainly shorter and steeper than we’re used to. It’s hosted by volunteer group Selkirk Fund Runners, raising money for the Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue (who also provide safety cover during the event) and as Iain grew up in Selkirk, it’s basically a “home” race – not one to miss! Iain had run the race once before in 2017 so had a target of beating his previous time of 2:13:30. Julie was hoping for a finish under 2 hours and 30 minutes.
One advantage of such a ‘short’ race over typical ultras is the relaxed start time of 12 noon. We didn’t even have to get up early in order to register around 10, drop the kids off with Iain’s parents, and head back to get ready for the start. As a former ‘local’, Iain bumped into several people he knew, including his cousin Douglas MacQueen who was one of the 50+ Carnethy runners taking part, out of a total of 255 entrants. It was a lovely clear and sunny winter’s day after a pretty dry week, so excellent conditions for running.
From the start in a sloping, grassy field near the Corbie Linn car park, the route ascends steadily on a stony track through woods before briefly levelling out at the ‘Top Pond’ – strangely named as it’s nowhere near the top! Leaving the path, the route cuts up through heatherly slopes to the top of Peat Law, nearly 1000 feet above the start already after less than 2 miles. A brief downhill through more heather before another short climb leads to the Three Brethren. A good rolling track then leads gradually downhill for a couple of miles before a 500 foot climb to the top of Brown Knowe, the highest point on the route. This section follows the Southern Upland Way, and we had run over it in the opposite direction in November as part of the Tweed Valley Ultra (long overdue blog post coming soon – honest!).
From the summit of Brown Knowe, there is a fantastic three miles of downhill – great views down towards the Yarrow Valley if you have time to look up as the path is narrow and steep in places. Before you know it you’ve reached the water station at mile 9, just above Yarrowford. Some twisty paths through the outskirts of the village follow before you reach the dreaded sting in the tail – the 600 foot in half a mile, off-track climb up Foulshiels Hill! From here it’s downhill all the way, past Tibbie Tamson‘s grave and across the burn to rejoin the outbound route just below the Top Pond for the last mile or so to the finish!
Both of us ended up having a great race – after struggling a bit on the first big climb, Iain found his racing legs and spent most of the race neck-and-neck with his cousin, before finally dropping him on the Foulshiels climb. With a few miles to go, he realised that a sub-2 hour finish was within reach and put in a fast finish to sneak in with a time of 1:59:31. Julie ran a strong race throughout and cruised to a fantastic time of 2:25:15 for her first ever hill race.
In keeping with the Burns theme, there was a range of hot food and drinks available at the finish including the renowned Haggis pie! We totally recommend you give this race a try next year if you’re looking for a challenge early in the year – but be quick as entries filled up within a few hours and we ended up only getting in after a nervous few weeks on the waiting list. Alternatively, later in the year the Heartburn Run and the Philiphaugh Hill Race offer similar but shorter alternatives.
Both of us have now recovered well in only a few days, which is ideal as we’re now entering a taper period ready for the Lady Anne’s Way 100 miler next weekend 😃