At the foot of Ben Nevis the traditional bag piper led a four hundred strong parade of athletes to the start line. A grand total of seventeen Rossendale Harriers (which must be the highest number ever?) took their place and waited for the starter’s gun. Even the shy Scottish sun turned up to be part of, what was going to be, a great afternoon of true mountain racing.
Rossendale’s leading light Sam Tosh kept good company with an early group of front-runners. Including Ricky Lightfoot, Martin Mikkleson-Barron, Robb Jebb, and Finlay Wild. The group slowly started to stretch out as Wild topped the mountain first. With the others only seconds behind, the race would be, as they say it always is, won on the decent. And it was. Wild bound past me as I continued the long upwards struggle. The others soon followed, but the way in which Wild descends sets him apart. It seems so aggressive as he takes huge leaping bounds, but he manages to combine this, with what looks like, perfect balance and control. I fought a lazy urge to stand back and admire the spectacle but reminded myself that I had my own race to worry about.
The first five to the top stayed that way until the finish. Sam Tosh taking a hard-earned 3rd place in a real, top quality field. Ashley Holt was the next Harrier in 38th place with a cracking run at his first Ben. It was also the first time he’d worn his brand new Walshes. He looked in absolute agony at the finish, as everyone is, but this seemed out of character. Ashley is from Bacup. With a bloodied hand (presumably from a secondary wound) he peeled back his socks to reveal the biggest reservoir like blisters on the heel of any foot, in all time. Ever. He popped them both with his teeth and people started throwing life belts. It was a strange scene, yet no one let on.