Running Up Goat Fell

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

A comment about running I promised to make and a comment about running I will make here.....well, sort of. If you can define a 'run' as a walk up Goat Fell on Arran, interspersed with periods of running, while wearing running shoes.

Interestingly that particular Corbett is known as both Goat Fell (the undergraduate's bible, Wikipedia terms it such) and Goatfell (the Ordnance Survey and National Trust both mark it as the latter). So I will disambiguate here as the former because Wikipedia and I are both so received a hammering when I was studying for my degree.

One word or two?

This confusion over identification is nothing new to me; I live in a place where the train station had 'Ashtead' on platform one and 'Ashstead' on platform two. The former is correct although my favourite local curry house chose the latter to decorate all their linen and crockery. But being dual named is where any similarity between my home town and the island of Arran ceases so I'll stop wittering on about Surrey and get back to Scotland.

So Mrs Mac and I were on Arran for a week's much needed holiday. We'd gone with the recommendation that you must 'do' Goat Fell, and as the island's skyline is dominated by the hill, 'doing' Goat Fell is something that is probably a consideration for any semi fit visitor. Like Ben Nevis, I suspect the hill is occasioned by both flip flop wearing chavs and loafer wearing businessmen, hence the visibility of the local mountain rescue team, but on the day we chose to go we mainly encountered over-dressed hill walkers with enough gear to summit the Eiger.

We chose to take the path up from Corrie because it looked the most direct route. Also I reckoned the flip flop and loafer clad brigade would be probably on the gentler path from Brodick Castle. Dressed in shorts, tee shirt and off road running shoes, our trip up was never gonna be a casual affair of smelling flowers and admiring views, although at that stage I hadn't informed Mrs Mac.

So we set off up the steep metalled road from the shoreline and before long were on a minor path surrounded by giant ferns. At this stage running would have been hazardous because we couldn't see our footing so we marched upward at a pretty swift lick. Soon the ferns gave way to rock which was being heated nicely by the midday sun. Up and up we went passing a couple of groups laden with bergens, waterproofs and other outdoor paraphernalia. I'm sure I heard the leaders of said groups sniff and criticise us for being under prepared for a day out on the hill, but in the small day sack I had enough gear to get us off the hill safely should the weather change. And in any case, the route up is pretty self explanatory, options for going wrong are few, and all routes eventually lead down.
Mrs Mac strides purposefully up the hill

At one point Mrs Mac pointed down to another, more obvious path and queried whether we were correct. 

'Tell me,' she said. 'When was the last time you looked at that map you insisted we needed?'

'I looked at it in the cottage,' I answered. 'It's all up here now,' I said as I tapped the side of my head, and stormed off up the hill with her in hot pursuit. Right now I'm tempted to make some comment about the male aptitude for navigation compared with the female ability to get lost going to the shops. But I'm reminded of the time in Dundee when Mrs Mac and I disagreed about the route back to the hotel; we decided to race one another on our insisted routes and I ended up down by the docks while she was in the hotel sipping wine.

Anyway, back to Goat Fell: when the going allowed I broke into a run and the feeling of joy and freedom I used to get from running began to return. You see, I came to long distance running from hill walking and as the years have passed and 'must do' races accumulated, any hill walking took a back seat. It never became something I got bored with, merely time and distance presented an unassailable barrier.

We joined the tourist path at the east ridge and immediately appreciated taking the route from Corrie. While there were no flip flops or loafers there were plenty of people who looked as if this was their single, annual period of physical exertion. While sitting on rocks smoking cigarettes, a couple sneered at Mrs Mac and I as we skipped past in our shorts.

As we neared the summit the sun was covered by dark clouds which would prevent a view from the top but we couldn't complain as the weather had been kind on the way up. The summit of Goat Fell is much like many other hill tops: spoilt by a triangulation pillar and one of those metal map things. 

Trig point atop Goat Fell....Goatfell...aahh, whatever...

We hung around and took the obligatory photographs and briefly the clouds parted to allow us a view of the excellent looking ridge line. Then we were off down the hill like Vanessa Feltz chasing an ice cream van. I've always had a bit of down hill ability that outweighs anything else I can do in running shoes so I indulged myself a bit and left Mrs Mac picking her way carefully across the rocks. The stickiness afforded by my Inov-8s out performed her skitty road shoes and I waited for her at the bottom of the hill before congratulating ourselves and jumping back in the motor to go off and do family type stuff.

Elsewhere in another blog post I mentioned Goat Fell reigniting a passion for running. Now, there was a definite possibility that might happen but the flame was well and truly doused a few days later on the last day of our holiday.

We woke up on that final day in our very expensive rented cottage.

'What time d'ya reckon we've got to check out?' Mrs Mac enquired.

'This place is so expensive I reckon they'll be pretty relaxed about when we leave,' I answered (naively).

It was 10:45 when the lady knocked on the door.

She was greeted by us in our underwear, a cottage mid tidy up, and two sofa covers drying by the fire.

' do understand that 10:00 was the check out time, right?' The woman asked. The clues were all there to answer her question so I'm hoping it was more of an informative statement, but it prompted us to rush around like blue arsed flies anyway.

The bags got corralled by the front door and I decided that the same bags, corralled outside the door, would send a visual message that the process of leaving was well under way.

It was after loading the fifth bag onto my shoulder, and as I bent down to pick up the sixth and final bag, that I felt the pain in my lower back bite.

I managed to get the bags outside but the damage was done. The 20 year old injury, caused by squatting and dead lifting ridiculously heavy weights, returns with a vengeance if I ever fail to respect it's presence, and attempting to carry a mixture of suitcases, rucksacks and holdalls, is a serious lack of respect.

Cue a week lying on my back considering the contrast of skipping over rocks coming off Goat Fell. All I can say is thank fuck it happened at the end of our holiday and not the start.


A man unaware he's looking forward to a week in bed