In 2010 he won but was 55 seconds outside Iain Donnan’s course record of 32 minutes 52 seconds. In 2011 he won again and came closer, finishing just 14 seconds off Donnan’s 2007 time. Yesterday evening, however, Murray Strain of Hunters Bog Trotters finally nailed it, making the round trip of 7.8km (just under five miles) from the campus of Stirling University to the 418-metre summit of Dumyat in 32 minutes 23 seconds.
Conditions were good: dry overhead, firm underfoot and with a steadily strengthening easterly breeze to provide a slight shove on the return leg. The field was impressive – 362 finishers as compared with 331 last year and 289 the year before.
Second was Hector Haines of Edinburgh University in 33:42, while Sarah McCormack (38:39) of Moorfoot Runners was the leading woman (and 19th overall) – almost a minute clear of Catriona Buchanan of Ochil Hill Runners but almost two minutes outside Angela Mudge’s 2007 record.
Here are a few snapshots from what continues to be one of the most popular of Scotland’s evening hill races…
He might not look like a man on the way to setting a record, but he is: Murray Strain about three minutes short of the summit and glancing over his shoulder to see who’s on his tail. Answer: no one, as the second-place runner is already minute or so further back.
Five minutes later and Strain is about to hurdle a wire fence on the return stretch. He cleared the fence no problem but stumbled a few strides later, landing full length in the bog with a loud grunt. Not that it slowed him very much – another ten minutes or so and the course record was his. Gary Fraser (39:11) of Ochil Hill Runners is coming the other way, heading for the summit.
Junior Scottish international Louise Hill-Stirling (43:27) of Strathclyde University and Ayr Seaforth (blue vest) about to cross the fence alongside unattached runner Mark Laird (42:36).
Phil Forte (48:56) of Dundee Hawkhill breaks free from the bottleneck.
Wily veteran Eddie Dealtry (55:32), in the purple vest of Ochil Hill Runners, negotiates a tricky section in descent. He was running in a dilapidated pair of shoes, having left his best ones in the house.
Gaun yersel, big man. Persevering towards the back of the field, Max McFarlane (69:55) of Kilbarchan.
“New course record! Ya beauty!” Strain writes. “Set off hard but controlled, relaxed on the road and steep climb through the woods but even the rest of the climb was still a bit of a struggle. I knew I needed to hit the summit in 20-flat to have a chance of the record (20:24 last year) so as I got near I was counting down the minutes of suffering and willing the cairn to get nearer. As it was I got there in 19:40 so I knew I had a great chance.
“The descent off Dumyat has to be one of my favourites: steep enough to be fast while remaining controlled; rocky enough to be exciting without being dangerous. Had to take some non-optimal lines to avoid ascending runners but tried to keep things smooth to minimise the time loss. By the bottom of the hill I was confident I had it and just needed to eke out a fast last km.
“Job done, 44s faster than last year, 30s inside Donnan’s old record. Bring on the summer.”
And next day: “Legs not feeling as bad as anticipated but stuck to plan A of a good faff to loosen things off. 5 min jog to the gym, 20 min spin and 10 min stretch, focusing on gluts, hams and ITB [iliotibial band]. Should manage some tempo work this evening.
“Gluts really tightened up through the day so just went for a cruise rather than anything speedier. Down to the Cameron Toll area (Cameron Crescent, House Road, March, Place, Terrace, Toll Gardens, Toll Lade, Toll Roundabout and Toll Shopping Centre) even went right through the shops at the end. Tired legs on the climb back up to town.”