Bread and Butter Pudding.

Lochaber’s got Talent! Martin Mertens striking the pose that got him lead in the Sugar Plum Fairy- 2016

Cruim Leacainn Hill Race, Nr Fort William

Lothian Running Club Festive Frolics, Beecraigs, Linlithgow, West Lothian – {Up and down Cockleroy.}

Boxing Day , 2017

I really like bread and butter pudding; some of you might have spotted the evidence!

With the right custard, it’s brilliant. A bit chewy if there is a good crust on the bread, maybe some of it just a wee touch charred and the warmed taste bombs of raisins bring flavour and texture to contrast with the granular sugar. It is made to use up leftover dried out, maybe even a wee bit mouldy crusts, and that’s what boxing day races feel like. A few left over tracks and hills that you probably wouldn’t use for a race at another time of year.

If you want a hill that is just a leftover mouldy bread crust then it would be difficult to find a better candidate than Cruim Leacainn . “A mubbe it is! Mubbe it isnae!” marginal Marilyn, it’s kinda made up of the geological leftovers of the Great Glen Fault and humans haven’t given it any special love and care either. It hosts some ugly masts and is covered in plantations of fir. It is near some impressive competitors and it’s not where you would normally stop.

If Simon Cowel starts “Britain’s got Hills” then Cruim Leacainn is probably going to be Susan Boyle but with laryngitis.

But the masts are also a clue; you’ll probably get a good view of where people live. Oh a social aspect! Some familiar Landscape. That might be nice. That might create memories for a youngster.

Cockleroy – the central climb of the Beecraigs event- is wee. It is small but perfectly formed. But it is small. It’s also not somewhere you would travel to. Unless you were interested in the Devonian volcanics that made the hill out of old hot slobber from the bowels of the earth that was allowed to cool and set on the surface before another differently composed set of hot slobbers was pushed into it.  [basaltic lava flows, later intrusions formed tougher dolerite]. Those harder bits resist the scubbing down by frost and weathering so as the land is worn away the hill is born, like the way the a well rubbed old wooden bannister has mountains and valleys if you look closely. It was home to four pre-historic houses and a wall around them. It has Wallace’s Bed. And not far away there is a geological wall, and then when you are done the race, scrounge a lift down to Linlithgow, nip into the Four Mary’s and the job, as they say is good ‘un.

I’ll bet it’ll be the same for the Lochaber clan’s event too. I can’t imagine the entire lot are off home after their wee race to have warm sweet tea and an early night.

And here is the serious point. Wee hill races or runs, up not very famous places can be real eye openers. The whole area around Cruim Leacainn is quite beautiful, very quiet and it avoids all the “gimme the money” tourism a few miles south. I’ve cycled round the road there on a late spring evening and it’s just fine and dandy. It’s the same with Cockleroy and ten thousand other little sites around Scotland. That’s where lots of the locals and lots of the wildlife and the flowers are.

Ronald McHillrunner.

Maybe our sport has gone all “McDonalds”. Go large with this! And a meal with that? “Maybe a large ascent with that sir?” “How would madam like a bone crunching bald rock descent? I hear they are all the rage.” And so, some races have swollen like testosterone fuelled body builders. Fascinating to look at in a rather “Well I never!” kind of way.

Wee hill races give more fun, they are less inhibiting, very much more welcoming and allow the very demographic who need some training to join in. And frequently you’ll find that demographic is family based and brings warmth, husbands, wives, partners, friends and children as well as puddings.  Both races are also part of the landscape. You can say “I ran from the road to the top and back”. “We went round the loch and up the hill.”

I suspect that it’s not a coincidence that both races are run by clubs with a delightfully strong ethic of “welcome and include everyone”, So whether you fancy Turkey curry, Bread and Butter Pudding or the inevitable Mince Pies get yer rear end out the door if you can. Oh! and YOU could maybe take a friend or two.  Just as someone’s pouring the whisky no one needs the night before say “Tell ya what …”

You might be as surprised and delighted as the world was when Susan Boyle belted out her number! Or you might find that hidden ballet talent.

A Merry Christmas to my wife and both my other readers!


Cruim Leacainn 11:00 AM.

Festive Frolics, Beecraigs 11:00 AM.





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