This year’s Jura Fell Race on the 24 May saw new records set all round. Hector Haines (Hunters Bog Trotters) who won the men’s race for the second year running lopped 29 seconds off the 20 year old record, almost 12 minutes ahead of the second runner. Jasmin Paris (Carnethy) was winner of the women’s race and 25th overall, improved on her previous best to finish in 3:52:52, some 12 minutes outside the women’s record.
Ian Stinson and Andy Buck are thought to be the first Striders to enter the race. There were 213 finishers. The full results are on the Jura Fell Race website.
Andy Buck’s race report
This is not a race for the faint hearted. Just 28 km (17.5 miles) long, four of which are the eminently runnable final descent leading to final five on road, the race crosses seven summits with 2370 metres (7800 feet) ascent. It’s not just the going up that’s hard, though, it’s three steep, scree and boulder strewn descents that we found really tough, and which put paid to any hopes of a half decent time.
Jura is a stunning island just 100 km (62 miles) as the crow flies from Glasgow. Home to just 200 people, a world famous distillery and the remote farmhouse in which George Orwell wrote 1984, just getting there is an adventure. We left Sheffield with our bikes on the 09:21 train to Glasgow two days before race day. A connecting train and ferry later, we were in Brodick on Arran. 25 km of rainswept cycling (and a 250 metre climb) later and we could warm up in Lochranza’s beautiful youth hostel. We found Wendy Dodds, Clayton le Moors’ V60 fell runner extraordinaire, in the kitchen, along with Eddie Dealtry from Ochill Harriers (who two days later would point out the best route up the race’s final hill).
Friday dawned with blue skies, and the ferry and an eight km (150 metre ascent) cycle took us to Kennacraig on Kintyre, where we met Dave Parry and Caroline, whose son Tom, fresh from walking in Torridon and complete with Brompton folding cycle, huge rucksack and mountain boots, was to join us on Jura. The fell racing clans were gathering – dozens of runners with bikes and kit, and a good few with children, all set for the ferry to Islay, the short ferry to Jura and the 15 km (150 metre ascent) cycle to Craighouse. We camped by the sea, 100 metres from pub, distillery, registration and the start.
Race day dawned equally well – perfectly in fact. This being a pretty serious event, the kit checks and so on are thorough. Sportident has not reached Jura, so each runner has 10 numbered plastic tags to hand in at all checkpoints – the first of which admits runners to the starting pen. 10.30 on the dot and we are away. The first part of the race is no more than a warm up, about nine km over mostly pretty good ground (once some early human consuming bogs have been safely navigated), vague paths and three summits – Dubh Bheinn, Glas Bheinn and Aonach Bheinn – and about 820m ascent before dropping steeply to Glenn Astaile, where is to be found the only reliable water source.
The next section crosses the three Paps of Jura. Three rounded cones separated by deep bealachs, they are steep and unforgiving. From Glenn Astaile we climbed 580 metres to the first Pap, Bheinn a’Chaolais, from which summit we descended 370 metres of scree path to the bealach. The second ascent to Bheinn an Oir, just 415 metres this time, was straightforwardly steep at first, then broke out up a boulder field to reach a fine airy ridge. The 345 metre descent was the easiest of the three, and we found a much needed spring. The 300 metre ascent to the final Pap, Bheinn Schiantaidh, was the shortest and easiest.
There we met Edward, stalwart of many Juras and now a marshall to whom we had chatted on the ferry. He and many others has regaled us with stories of the 400 metre descent from Schiantaidh. No amount of staring at the hill from the campsite had left us any the wiser. Edward pointed us in the right direction and off we went. Go too far to the left and you’ll go over precipitous cliffs. Go too far right and you’ll lose valuable time. Be tempted left too soon after running down scree runnels and you’ll hit a horrible boulder field. Helped no doubt by the clear weather we didn’t do too badly (but not nearly as well as 68 year old Dave Lockwood from Dark Peak who hurtled ahead of us) and pretty soon found a good trod that traverses under the hill to the Lochanan Tana.
So, the Paps completed we began to think of home. You’d have thought we would have done enough for a day, but no, a final 230 metre ascent beckoned. Eddie from the hostel pointed the way up steep heather to the final summit, Corra Bheinn, where we were cheered and clapped by the marshals. From there we ran (yes, ran!) the 4km or so to the Three Arch Bridge and hence the final 5km of road to finish together. We weren’t last – indeed we picked up a few places on the road (all those five milers coming into their own) – we were just nearly last. Tom was waiting on the finishing line where he’d been enjoying the sunshine for an hour and a half, having finished in 4:50:13.
Fish and chips, beer (limeade for Andy) and a fitful night’s sleep, and we were up at 6am to begin the journey home. The hills seemed longer and steeper as we cycled and ferried to Glasgow and a night in the youth hostel. And so a final train journey and we arrived home at 1.30pm on Monday.
The middle section of this race which covers just six km, but with 1295 metres of ascent (that’s just 50 metres less than Ben Nevis) and 1015 metres descent must be among the very toughest and most technical bits of fell running in Britain – we certainly have done nothing harder. The setting is magnificent with stunning views across sparkling blue seas. The company was great and the sense of community second to none – mostly of people who return year after year. This is a brilliant race, hugely recommended. Thank you to everyone who makes it happen. Who’s up for a Striders’ trip next year?