Simpson slips and slides to victory at Bennachie
Deeside Runner wins at a canter despite inclement weather
Wet, windy, slippery, boggy. Just some of the terms Banchory’s Robbie Simpson used to describe conditions at the Bennachie hill race, yet none of it deterred the Great Britain mountain running international from scoring an emphatic, although undoubtedly uncomfortable, victory in a field of 159 hardy competitors.
Simpson was competing in the event for the first time but showed no hesitancy in making his mark on proceedings by taking an early lead which was gradually extended as he overcame 8.2 miles of challenging terrain.
The Deeside Runners club member powered his way over 1,500ft of climbing as the course followed a route taking in the tops of Bennachie, including Oxen Craig, Craigshannoch and Mither Tap, before descending to the finish along the Maiden’s Causeway.
It took him 55min 21sec, 90sec short of the record set by fellow Great Britain international Chris Smith (Thames Valley Harriers) in more benign conditions eight years ago.
Simpson was satisfied with the result given he had also done an hour of running before setting off.
He said: “The conditions were really tough but I’m happy to win although the time wasn’t too quick. I began to get away from the others in the opening half mile but on the first real uphill section I was sliding all over the place because it was so wet underfoot. I just couldn’t get going.
“There was also a strong headwind but on the tops it became more of a cross wind. Some sections were heathery, so I had to be careful where I put my feet, and other sections were peaty and waterlogged.
“Parts of the course were, however, very fast, so it certainly had a bit of everything and I sort of enjoyed it. It’s a good event.
“I knew the record wasn’t on because of the conditions but I was just happy to be out racing again.
“It ended up being quite a good day’s running for me as I did 30min before leaving Banchory in the morning, then I did another 30min before the race and finished off with a 15min cool down afterwards.”
Metro Aberdeen’s Hamish Battle maintained his fine record of consistency in this race by taking second position in 58.08. It’s the third year in a row the Robert Gordon University student has earned a podium position, having also been runner-up 12 months ago after taking third spot in 2015.
Aberdeen-based Norwegian runner Swiad Worms was third in 1.00.03 while the 2016 winner, James Espie (Deeside Runners), who is still short of full fitness following an ankle injury, took fourth spot in 1.00.49.
Espie had warmed up for the race by finishing second behind David Atkinson in the Elgin parkrun 5km the previous day.
Battle led Metro Aberdeen to the men’s team title when he was supported by Illuminator race champion Sam Milton, who was fifth in 1.00.49, and Jim Tole, who won the over-40s prize when finishing sixth overall in 1.02.21.
Tole also clinched the Aberdeenshire hill race series title, having won the Cairn William race at Monymusk and finished second at Morven last month. Deeside’s Donald Kerridge was first in the over-50 age group when finishing 13th in 1.09.21.
Youngster Isla Kelly made a name for herself by taking first position ahead