Sky of Blue, Sea of Green: Braids 2017

Braids 2017 certainly didn’t disappoint. The entire day, utterly spectacular. Faith in the running community didn’t once waver, as the determined hill lovers among us basked in the winter sunshine and left their all on the Braids Hills Golf Course. For a race that has been running annually for at least 15 years, both veterans and freshers assembled at King’s Buildings on that iconic November Saturday morning to get their hands on a number and equally as importantly, a ticket entitling them to dance the night away at the ceilidh. With less than 200 competing across both events in the first race in 2002, Saturday saw a considerable increase in the number of participants, with over 500 runners enjoying, embracing and exhausting themselves at the mercy of this picturesque golf course.

Buzzing – KB house filled with athletes fit to burst.

Raring to go – Warm ups completed, it was time to race.

All the spectators – keen to see who will come out on top.

Incline – putting fitness, tenacity and mental strength to the test.

Downhill – the final kilometre, an all-important sprint for the finish keeping the audience on their toes. Who is it flying through the trees?

Smiles – all round after crossing the line having given your all. Satisfied. What a run.

Posers

Like a coiled spring they kitted up, bundled themselves into as many thermal layers as possible and legged it up the road, across the field and onto the golf course. 13.30 saw the start of the 5km dash. Over 210 toed the line, ready to take on whatever the elements threw at them.

The ultimate varsity cross country race was underway and some of the performances took us by storm. First home for the Haries was fresher Ruaridh Mon-Williams in a time of 16.56, paving the way for the rest of the Haries to follow in quick succession. Alex Luetchford, started his double, double in a respectable time of 18 minutes dead. Sophie Collins gloriously rallied into the finish as the first female back for the Haries, proving that her recent training among captain’s duties is a spectacle to be commended. Darko Perović was hot on her heels as the next Harie to complete the challenging course. Owen Hayes and Ben Murphy gave it their all into the sprint finish, fighting for the glory. Ben notably completed the triple, triple – park run, then the Braids double: what a day.

Some team

Helen Jones and James LeFie finished within a matter of seconds; Haries left, right and centre not giving up until the race was done. Followed in by yet another battle to the finish from Hector Martin and Rona Tytler – fantastic effort all round. No stranger to the hills, Lucy Haines was the next, proving her admirable hill-running endurance. Callum Butterworth kept within the top 100 runners, narrowly chased by Kirstin Bamford who is noticeably making leaps and bounds this season – keep up the good work.

John McDowell, Gabrielle Kovacs-Iitman and Iona Evans made light work of the home straight, pushing hard and not giving up those all-important seconds! Eliza Cottington even gave a genuine grin at the top of the hill, fully encapsulating the Braids XC spirit. Sally Stewart and Emma Wilson battled through to the line… dip finish causing a stir among spectators. Ronan Dance did indeed dance his way round the iconic loop, and Alexandra Morgan also gave impressive effort to rally round in a time of 22.09. Special mention to Bronagh Wishart, who was next to cross the line: a true Harie at heart. The one and only Ciara Newell commendably took to the course, teaching those around her a thing or two about hills and speedy sprint finishes. Christine Irvine, also full of smiles managed to scatter her enthusiasm across the entire day, as always.

Arianne Holland embodying Haries passion came through to finish just ahead of Leda Olia who has recently been doing the Haries proud running a huge PB (1.42.12) at the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon: you go girl. Georgia Freeman-Mills’ eye-catching effort ensued in quick succession across the line. Adam McDevitt dipped into the top 200 and Megan Dale proved she was a good pick for the fantasy teams. Emily Payne and Elise Coward showed no mercy in their quest for the line, merely a second apart. Even more iconic was Rebekah Beattie and Carla Willars: the finishing marshals gave them the exact same time as they dipped in perfect unison for the line. Katie Cutforth was next through, demonstrating a fine run and getting well into the swing of cross country racing. Rachel Stewart, who has recently come back to Edinburgh from a stint of hill training in Norway, retuned to Braids with no problem. Linette Knudsen, after having done a recce of the course last week knew exactly what Braids entailed, she gracefully faced the technical descent, as practiced, to finish in a time of 27.07.

The sea of green continued flooding the course with Alice Drake, Sanni Shinagawa, Rachel Naismith and Mutsawashe Malunga racing with an abundance of passion. Braids spirit was on an all-time high, and that was only the beginning of the proceedings.

A couple of likely lads

Bravery in abundance, the battle begun. The Braids Battle (as memorable and iconic as Bannockburn), where the Scots came out on top. That sea of green flooding the finish line before the spectators barely had time to blink. Alex Chepelin ran a fine race, he started steady but proved that getting boxed in on the densely populated start line wasn’t a hinderance when you are an absolute hill machine. He wound it up over the course of the second lap placing an impressive 2nd in a time of 31.30. Hot on his tail was Euan Gillham in 4th, who despite dominating on the ascents, explained after the race that the other boys were “absolutely tearing it up on the downhill… it was amazing to see”. Next Harie was Ewan Davidson, making yet another standout appearance for the club this cross country season.

The 10km starting sprint

Alexander Chepelin chasing the silver medal

Jack Leitch, who despite struggling with an injury over the last few weeks, left a trail of tears in his wake, back to his usual standards again in a time of 32.55. Followed in by a mass of orienteers, navigating the course well without a map, we had first Harie fresher Eddie Narbett, fighting round and demonstrating an admirable sprint finish to see him place 12th. Ali Masson next proved that he is in fighting fit shape and a danger on the hills. He maintained faultless form throughout, dancing up the hills and through the mud: this is his playground. Gritting his teeth and pumping his arms, (my flatmate) Andrew Johnstone bounded into the finishing straight, giving it his all to not let the lad from Leeds out-kick his pacey finish. Good effort.

Sporting his cap backwards for added chic, Tim Morgan embraced his inner mountain goat, with a grin on his face the whole way round. Cameron Scott also proved he may be in contention as a quality steal when the Haries Fantasy transfer window opens – watch this space. Tam Wilson and Mikey Adams were swiftly into the home straight, both demonstrating fine examples of determination. Next in was Stephen Melhuish, also epitomising perfect form throughout two terrific laps. Alex Luetchford’s double, double had him finishing 79th – a club legend. Jack Luscombe had an impressive run, getting chased by Ben Murphy finishing his triple, triple until he had nothing left. Jennie Glass and Katie Hall, as predicted, sporting their true Haries colours in the form of hair braids (wow, check that) and ribbons. Not only showcasing the outstanding talent for longer distance hill races among the girls in the club, but their team enthusiasm served to lift the spirits of the entire team – THE most iconic duo. Robert Sircus looked cool, calm and collected coming into the home straight – a natural. Next saw Simon McLaren clash with HBT, showing who comes out on top. Tom Raine and Genevieve McMahon both had notable runs also.

Tim Morgan: 10/10 for fashion passion

Eilidh MacQuarrie is becoming quite the acrophile[1], reflecting the nature of this race with her iconic ear to ear grin as she danced her way into lap number 2. She even scared her law tutor off the start line – good on her. And above all, would it be a proper Scottish hill race without a man in a kilt? Kudos to you, pal.

 

Scotland appreciation

I won’t now be seen to steal Gregor’s job – this week’s social email is going to set fire to your inbox!


The Afterparty

After the race, showered and sorted, the university athletes took to welcoming Harie homes to begin the procedures for a night of painting the town green. The buzz could be heard across Marchmont and Bruntsfield as the masses headed for Potterrow – the undisputed home of big and memorable nights out. Fuelled by haggis, neeps and tatties, the ceilidh dancing utter chaos, everyone was having a great time. Ben Potrykus got heavily involved with some Leeds University drinking games and Will Rigg was certainly on fire with the ladies around the bar.

The ladies’ man himself

Thomas Otton, sporting his finest Harris tweed jacket gave some good chat as per, and an appearance from Haries legend Scott Stirling passed on some wise knowledge about the ‘inner-circle’ of the club. Hopefully see him return soon. The boat racing got underway and luckily, despite standing on the table, no one got a flash of something a far cry from desired in the form of a ‘true scot’ and wearing a kilt.

Cameron did the Haries A team proud: it’s the taking part that counts when it comes to boat racing, right? By this p(o)int, some runners hadn’t stopped drinking since crossing the finish line, helping make the atmosphere electric. From there, a trip to subway – the Cowgate’s finest dancing establishment.

Lawler controlling (*flashing) the boat racing crowds

A day in the life of a Harie, made of dreams. Until next year.

 

Lydia Blythe


[1] Someone who loves mountains or hills.