Chronic Hill

It’s very difficult to do anything in our house without being observed by a Beagle or two. This morning we rose early, and though our pups appeared to be still be in comas, I became aware that the watchful eye of Little Brother was tracking my every movement as I prepared for a run.


Not much escapes Mr. Biggles’ attention, even when he’s upside down

If he was really paying attention, he might have noticed that although I assembled all of my running gear, I didn’t pack up the pups’ running harnesses. Sadly this was no oversight; we were headed for the annual Conic Hill race  which is strictly a human-only event.

Even before we’d parked up there was a very noisy woofing incident with a Great Dane (it’s OK to woof at really big dogs when you’re protected by the car) and this raised concerns that Beanie and Biggles might not be particularly well behaved spectators. For that reason, Susan took them for a walk well away from the starting area until the race was under way, so I and all the other runners got to hear the starter’s orders without any Beagle backing music. I’d done one hill race prior to this – Callander Crags – so I had a rough idea of what to expect; a slower start than a regular road or cross-country race, then extended periods of walking when the going becomes so steep that only the elite athletes can keep a running motion going, and finally a rapid descent where courage, sure-footedness and smart route-choosing play almost as big a role in your finishing position as fitness. I found this course far tougher than Callander Crags however. Unlike the Crags it didn’t follow the tourist route up the hill,  and the ascent was much steeper! At times all four limbs were required as we went up short sections of near-vertical rock with precious few foot and hand-holds. To make it even worse, the route isn’t a straight up-and-down affair – it takes you over a series of humps. This is bad psychologically because as the ascent starts to bite and you see those ahead of you change from a walk to a jog, you naturally assume you’re near the top. In reality you’ve merely reached one of several plateaux and the summit is still some way off. It’s kind of like one of those supermarket deals: pay for one hill, get two extra ones free.

When I finally did hit the top and staggered round the little cairn to start the descent I figured the hardest part was over, but again, the course had a trick or two up its sleeve. Just as I started to pick up speed on a runnable (though still somewhat dangerous) rocky path, the course suddenly took a diversion to the side down what I can only describe as a mudslide, then into a boggy field and over a wobbly fence that was just the right height to pose a serious threat to one’s “joy department”.  After that there were trees to go over & under, and a final slippery descent through peaty woodland. As I emerged from the woods I could tell the finish was close because of the crowds, but it wasn’t immediately apparent quite where the finish line was, and I was grateful for timely direction from one of the race marshals. I subsequently discovered there was a reason why the finish line hadn’t been terribly well-marked, and that reason involved a certain small, waggy Beagle.

You see the line had apparently been marked out using flour, and while Susan chatted to the other spectators, some munching occurred. Yes that’s right – Beanie ate the finish line! And that wasn’t the only act of Beagle sabotage today. While I sat in the passenger seat inspecting the many cuts and grazes on my legs, Susan prepared to drive us back home. Just as she was reversing out of the parking space, one the lenses fell out of her glasses. The lens in question had some curious indentations on it, almost like teeth…


Taken in the car park at by the start of the race, with Conic Hill in the background. You’d be amazed how long it took to get them both to sit on that rock and pose for the camera. Or if you’re a fellow Beagle owner, may be you wouldn’t!