The Ben Nevis Race 2014 & The Rest Of The Weekend’s Action

ByChristopher Holdsworth

The Ben Nevis Race 2014 & The Rest Of The Weekend’s Action

The Ben Nevis Race

“I usually dive for this scree as I try to conserve my legs for the run in! The constant breaking action, stepping down the very steep grass, took its toll and I literally ‘fell’ into the river at the bottom with my legs pretty well done for…”

The first weekend in September once again found me in Scotland for my annual run out in The Ben Nevis Race. This was to be my 27th ‘Ben Race’. The weather was initially very good on the journey northwards on Friday but it was raining when we stopped at Hamilton for a break. This year I travelled with Jon Sharples and Steve Bury. Jon and I had booked us in at our usual B & B with Charlie and Isobel. Charlie is a fanatically barmy Celtic fan and we have only ever seen him wearing a Celtic shirt! He greeted us in the famous hooped ‘home’ strip but by Sunday he was wearing the full green ‘away’ kit!



Courtesy of Ryan Wilkinson

On Friday night we had tea a mile up the race route at The Ben Nevis Inn, washed down with beer. We dropped the car off at the B & B and then met up with other runners, friends and supporters in The Grog and Gruel in Fort William, where we consumed a couple more pints! Everyone was making the usual excuses about their injuries and lack of training etc! Steve said he hadn’t done much training and Jon was coming back to running after two operations recently.


Courtesy of Dave Burnett – Spencer Riley

Saturday dawned a little brighter but by the start of the race it felt quite cool in the increasing drizzle! There was a turnout of 24 runners from our club on the start line. Jon set off with a Tee shirt under his vest and I was far too cautious as I set off in a Helly Hansen long sleeve shirt under my vest. Steve was much tougher as he set off in just a vest, (and shorts of course!) After the first mile, passing the Ben Nevis Inn, Jon and I were both regretting donning the extra layer as the conditions became quite benign. The drizzle eased and there was virtually no breeze as we ascended the curve up to the waterfall at half way. On the steep rocky section after the waterfall I passed Mark Nutter, who was out taking some photographs and I threw my Helly shirt at him. I was climbing quite well at this point and Jon, having started steadily, was using me as a marker but was also gradually catching me too.


Courtesy of Dave Burnett – Dave Motley Garry Wilkinson

As the faster runners descended I shouted encouragement to club team mates and I could see a real race developing for the V60 prize. Jack Holt was having another great run but Andy Robinson was working hard to keep him in his sights about 45 seconds behind. Jon immediately overtook me after the summit and started descending very well, as he usually does! Last year I climbed as well as this year but had a very poor descent. So I ran down the summit slopes fairly conservatively in order to ‘save my legs’. I was encouraged to find that I was in front of a number of team mates and other runners who I did not expect to have behind me! As we went ‘over the edge’ at about 3,300feet, into the rough scree I got going really well and I was taking every opportunity to cut corners and use the heavier scree in order to overtake people. Inevitably I had the usual slips, pirouettes and half tumbles but I was descending well and steadily passing runners. By this time Jon was out of sight!


Courtesy of Dave Burnett – Dave Motley & Garry Wilkinson

When we passed the to the left of the waterfall on to the famous ‘grassy bank’, it was very frustrating to find the way down limited by two continuous tapes set about 10 feet apart in order to prevent us from using the area of scree half way down the grass. I usually dive for this scree as I try to conserve my legs for the run in! The constant breaking action, stepping down the very steep grass, took its toll and I literally ‘fell’ into the river at the bottom with my legs pretty well done for!


Courtesy of Dave Burnett – Spencer Riley

The next mile descending the stepped path was very hard as my old legs had simply ‘Lost their Bungee!’ After the footbridges I failed to find my usual good way down the steep short cuts and came out on the lower path right next to the junction with the Youth Hostel path. I struggled to get going on the flatter running along the rocky path and realised that I had lost some of the places that I had gained on the descent, as I joined a line of runners descending in front and from my right. I tucked in behind a group of four guys and tried to keep up with them down the road but I just had to let them go with half a mile before the finish! The sun made an appearance as I ran round the field feeling heavy legged but also feeling pleased that I had completed the course 10 minutes faster than last year and with some good runners behind me! I had managed to hold it together quite well on the descent and felt quite satisfied with my performance.


Courtesy of Dave Burnett – Richard Briscoe

In the V60 race Jack Holt was 1st but he was only 10 places in front of Andy Robinson. Both lads had raced really well. First finisher from our club was Spencer Riley who had a superb run on his debut for 12th place! Well done Spencer! Dave Motley pipped Garry Wilkinson by just 2 positions with both of them easily under 2 hours! There were lots of good times achieved by club mates as seen below. I was 5th V60 which was pleasing but frustratingly, the 4th V60 was only 4 places in front me in that little group that I had ‘let run away from me’ coming down the road to the finish!


Courtesy of Ryan Wilkinson – Ryan Belshaw

Andy Firth, who had been around for the week before the race, had done his usual ‘recce runs’ and he had ‘sussed out’ a radically different new route for the descent. Richard Bellaries descended the same way. It was Andy’s 21st ‘Ben Race’ and it was indeed a brave thing to try as he needed to complete the race in order to be presented with the much coveted ”Connochie Plaque”. Both lads had good runs but it was difficult to weigh up if their route was faster than the traditional route down the tourist path. It was probably easier on the legs though!


Courtesy of Ryan Wilkinson – Andrew Firth

All three of the debutants from our club must come in for praise. So well done Spencer Riley, also well done to Ryan Wilkinson and Robin Nicholson. Robin was ecstatic in the field after the finish with a smile from ear to ear having enjoyed the race immensely!

As usual we met up in The Alexandra for a meal and some beer. Moving on later to the presentation where we gave Jack a rousing cheer as he received the trophy for 1st V60 once again. There were eight runners this year going for the Connochie Plaque for completing 21 ‘Ben Races’, including our own Andy Firth. All eight duly completed the event and we gave Andy a particularly loud cheer as he received his plaque along with the other guys. Really well done to Andy and to the other runners!


Courtesy of Ryan Wilkinson – Spencer Riley

The Connochie Plaque has now been awarded to 88 runners, 10 from our club, but all 88 of them have been male! So come on ladies, who is going to be the first to get on the list?

Most of use ‘retired’ to The Grog and Gruel in the centre of Fort William for a few more beers and chat. A great evening was had by all.

Another year and another ‘Ben Race’ completed………..hmmmmmmm………..Now, just three more races for me and I will have completed 30 races at the age of 65! …….and then?


The Ben Nevis Race 2014 – selected results:

!st       1;34;43   Finlay Wild  – Lochaber AC ( 5 wins in a row!)

12        1;46;03   Spencer Riley (Debut)

57       1;56;25    Dave Motley

58       1;56;36    Lindsey Brindle – Horwich RMI AC – 1st lady

59       1;57;02    Garry Wilkinson

82       2;00;59    Neil Hardiman

134     2;08;57    Jack Holt   1st V60

144     2;10;45    Andy Robinson

179     2;16;39    Ryan Wilkinson  (Debut)

209     2;19;40   Jon Sharples

247     2;25;13   Robert Mitchell

258     2;27;43  Richard Briscoe

260     2;27;58  Nicholas Roscoe

272     2;29;48  Richard Bellaries

284     2;32;02  Andy Firth  – Connochie Plaque for 21 Races!

325     2;37;08  Mark Taylor

333     2;38;56  Stephen Bury

350     2;41;31   David Nield

352     2;41;44  Andrew Dugdale

358     2;42;10  Robin Nicolson (Debut)

364     2;42;58  Barbara Savage

379     2;46;10  Gary Balmer

405     2;50;14  Peter Dugdale

406     2;50;16  Nichola Horsfall

431     2;56;21  Peter Thompson

485 finishers – 24 from Clayton-le-Moors Harriers


Courtesy of Dave Burnett – Richard Briscoe


Thanks to Bob Mitchell for this weeks brilliant report. Full results can be found here.


The Rest Of The Weekend’s Action

There have been plenty of big events taking place this weekend. If Ben Nevis was the big talking point of the ‘fell runners’ world, then The Great North Run was the talk of the town for ‘road runners’. Plenty of Harriers turned up to represent the club, all of them putting in great performances. Terry O’Leary, who has fast been moving up the ranks, put in a speedy display to come 266th overall, in 01:23:56. Next through for Clayton-le-Moors was Alan Hall, who finished in 01:43:52. the third and fourth Harriers through the finish were Edward Milne and Christopher O’Brien who finished in 01:55:30 and 01:55:52 respectively. We had one lady runner in Nicola Kay this year, and even though she only just recently joined us in the summer, she had a fantastic race finishing under the 3 hour mark in 02:49:03.

Anthony Gotts, who could be seen in his Clayton-le-Moors vest on national television, performed well in the wheelchair category race, finishing 9th in 00:54:36. Well done to all who represented the club in Newcastle!

In another road race, and yet another highly popular event, Richard Stevenson was the sole Harrier taking on The Salford 10k. Like, TerryRichard has also been showing massive improvements in his recent times, with his latest being a PB. He finished 39th out of over 2700 runners, and in 00:37:32. Well done Richard!

Lastly, although the results are not out, our ladies won the team prize at The Grisedale Horse Fell Race. Wendy Dodds was the first Harrier around the course, followed by Vicky Heys in 2nd, Angela in 3rd and Irene Roche in 4th. Although we haven’t got the results yet, I was told be Vicky that it was a ‘great event’ and that she ‘will do it again’. Great effort ladies!

About the author

Christopher Holdsworth