Paps of Jura Fell Race 2013
10:30 on Saturday 25th June saw me nervously standing on the start line with 224 other runners. This was the 30th/40th Anniversary (see note below) of the Paps of Jura Fell Race (28k 2370m of ascent, with 7 summits, all very rocky and remote terrain!)
As the website states The Isle of Jura Fell Race is undoubtedly a ‘classic’ in every sense of the word – being a true test of mountain craft, athleticism and fell running technique. It is one of the toughest challenges in British hill racing – as shown by the course records:
Men Mark Rigby, 1994. 3:06:59 Ladies Angela Mudge, 2008. 3:40:33 MV40 Billy Bland, 1988. 3:09:36 LV40 Angela Mudge, 2012. 3:55:35 MV50 Stewart Whitlie, 2012. 3:42:02 LV50 Fiona Maxwell, 2011. 4:19:47 MV60 Kieran Carr, 2008. 4:12:57 LV60 Wendy Dodds, 2011. 4:59:14 Duirachs Mark Shaw, 2002. 3:53:24 Ileachs Donald MacPhee, 1993. 3:45:44
The journey to the start line, right outside the Jura Distillery at Craighouse, is a challenge in itself. Of all the islands in the west of Scotland, the Isle of Jura, although one of the most beautiful, remains one of the most mysterious and least known. Almost 30 miles long and 7 miles wide, Jura is the third largest of the islands of Argyll, yet is one of the most inaccessible in the British isles, requiring at least two ferry crossings: four if you come across Arran which we did. I was lucky enough to have a lift from a friend Phil Bellamy and his daughter Isla, who were there to support Phils brother Stuart. Some runners actually kayak across from the Mull of Kintyre. Only one road exists, following the southern and eastern shoreline. The rest of Jura is wild and rough, accessible only to stalwart walkers, sea kayakers and hill runners. To most visitors the appeal of Jura is threefold: scenery, history and wildlife. Sorry, fourfold, I forgot malt whisky!
The 7 summits are:-
Dubh Bheinn 530m
Glas Bheinn 562m
Bheinn a Chaolais 733m (1st Pap)
Bheinn an Or 785m (2nd Pap)
Bheinn Shiantaidh 757m (3rd Pap)
Corra Bheinn 573m
Each of these had checkpoints with a cut-off time and the pace to the first 3 checkpoints was double the pace to the latter ones. I can only assume this was to weed out any weaker/ having a bad day runners, as once onto the Paps, even dropping out is just as tiring an option, with a hugh chasm of rough ground to get back to Craighouse.
Conditions were perfect; clear skies, sunny, reasonably dry under foot with a cooling light breeze. One km on a good track soon spilled us all out into the first mega bog. Fortunately I had been given a blow by blow account, from Stuart Bellamy, (a veteran on his 6th race), the night before, of the key stumbling areas of the race. Keep right he said, otherwise you will be upto your waist like I was last year trying to overtake on the left. I got away with just a calf deep whisky coloured peat bog. Then it was follow the leaders steady pace on a reasonable trod to the first check point in 1 hr with 10mins to spare before cut-off. Felt much happier, and was 25mins ahead of the cut-off by checkpoint 3. A hugh psychological boost. Whats more the terrain between the first 3 tops was very runnable which was a hugh bonus. Felt much more confident now and relaxed. Time for some sustenance to celebrate on Anoach Bheinn, so I started nibbling a cheese wrap. Then suddenly a very steep descent requiring all fours, with deep heather, slippy mud, rock and screes. Stuffed the wrap in my mouth to free my hands and then started to choke and brought it all up!
Now onwards to the Paps. Dropped down to a very low col then a 650m steep ascent up a steep grass rake, then scree, then rocks onto the 1st Pap. Familiar territory now as Phil Gillard and I had done just the 3 Paps on the Scottish Islands Fell Race in 2010 (although that day the tops were in clag unlike the perfect conditions of today). Steadily onwards thinking of the race in bite size chucks. Up to the next top, down to the next col, up to the next top etc etc. A bit of cramp between Paps 2 and 3 called for a huge drink from the stream and and a handful of jelly babies; a great cure. Going to Pap 3, I was aware of a bit more chit chat from fellow runners. In particular Pennine runners who asked after Mario. One veteran of the race was slower going up but knew the exact lines down and was happy to share the info so he helped me find the very important trod at 450m around the 3rd Pap, that is required to avoid a precipice. Tired but elated I reached the 7th summit, then tucked in behind Pennine runners who increased the pace downhill beyond my natural pace. By now it was all about finishing a.s.a.p. so I gritted my teeth and kept going. Just had enough energy to hop over an adder sunbathing on the path metres before the road head at Three Arches Bridge. It was a relief finally to see Phil & Isla waiting at the bridge and a full bottle of cool lucozade was downed in one before the final 3 mile road race to the finish line. Every runner was piped in over the finish line an amazing feeling!.
Back just in time for race tea, sandwiches and cakes (all home made by the islanders); and the presentation, by Joss Naylor, in the atmospheric Cooperage of the distillery. Category winners got presented with 3 bottles of Jura malt whisky each by Joss Naylor plus lots of other worthwhile memorabilia from the distillery. 22 runners who broke 4 hours were presented with cut-glass whisky glasses.
1st Hector Haines HBT 3:18:29
2nd Andrew Fallas Carnethy 3:24:43
3rd Ian Holmes Bingley MV40 3:28:32
8th Stewart Whitlie Carnethy MV50 3:36:03
20th Jasmin Paris Carnethy 1st Lady 3:54:51 (See page 68 of Spring 2013 Fellrunner)
22nd Helen Bonsor Carnethy 2nd lady 3:59:12
23rd Rhys Findlay-Robinson Dark Peak 4:00:07 (See page 66 of Spring 2013 Fellrunner)
34th Stewart Bellamy Mercia MV40 4:11:25
63rd Heather Marshall 3rd lady Dark Peak 4:34:58
60th Robert Taylor Pennine MV60 4:32:21
99th Jenny Caddick Dark Peak FV40 4:54:48
156th Joan Wilson Carnethy FV50 5:32:29
207th Jackie Keasley Helsby FV50 6:23:14
213rd Roger Ashby Pennine MV70 6:51:30
Last runner 7:35:16,
8 did not finish
Note: 40th anniversary of the founding and 30th anniversary of the re-organisation of the race, as in its first few years it failed to be run due to lack of marshalls willing to climb the huge distances to the 7 summits!). History explained in FellRunner Spring 2013 mag page 70)
Photos available here