January 6, 2015 George Foster

Fellrunning: A Punter’s Guide No. 3 – Devil’s Burdens Relay

Ohhhh fuck.....here....they....come!!


It’s 2015, shit’s been happening already and if you’re not careful you’re gonna miss it! Here in north Britain there’s been coming on 5 fell races and it’s only day four of the month! How does that maths work out?! One for the scientists over at NASA to get their heads round. All I know is ‘snooze you loose’ so I’m gonna be hard pressed to keep your eyes focussed on the ESSENTIAL material sprouting forth from my likes-to-think-he-knows-it-all mouth. In the soothing tones of Michael Winner ‘don’t worry dear’, I’m on it.

Shall we kick the year off with a classic Scottish race – the Devil’s Burdens Relay? By all accounts a fairly cheeky opener featuring strong teams with the cream, and the slightly more milky, of the crop of Scottish hill running clubs taking part.

Devil’s Burden Relay BL 21m 5,415ft climb

This year will see a slightly different course to previous ones……nah, means nothing to me either. It’s dead easy to find where the course goes though, generally speaking, just look for the only hills in the WHOLE OF FIFE and you can’t go wrong. There’s definitely something for everyone in the four legs that the relay makes up. Legs 1 and 3 sound the nicest, although they are usually reserved for the captain ‘picking’ the team, as they feature predominantly trail running on forest tracks with the odd scent of a hill somewhere in the mix. From the results I’ve managed to uncover during extensive online research, there have been 14 previous runnings of this race – it’s mantle as a ‘classic’ is looking assured – with the current record held by Shettleston in the men’s outings and by Carnethy in the women’s (who’ve got a pretty firm monopoly on the bugger!)

Alas it’s easy for me to give it Harry von Motormouth about this race principally because I’m yet to do it but I’ve always thought, contrary to popular wisdom as found on tea towels and mugs, that if it looks and sounds easy then it certainly is. This race looks and sounds easy and so it certainly will be. Signed, sealed, delivered. I’m yours.

I can’t wait to get my ass handed to me in just 3 short weeks time!

So with some ambiguity borne from ignorance, I present to you the likely candidates for the record, currently standing at 2hrs 20mins 16secs (they all count) from 2014, for your betting pleasure…….

The Doncaster Rovers First XI

Shettleston Harriers 2/1 on

Ohhhh fuck.....here....they....come!!

Ohhhh fuck…..here….they….come!!


First of the big-hitters and current record holders. They’re big, hairy Glaswegian racers so will smash their way through the four legs cos they’re “hard as bastards” but will probably get an altitude nosebleed doing so as there’s not much in the way of a hill in that city.

For – *inhale* they’ve got Tom Owens, Jethro Lennox, Oleg Chepelin, Tewodle Mengisteab (hope I spelt that right!!), Peter Mackie, Casey Morgan, Kenny Richmond…….I blacked out there but you get the picture I hope, basically there’s a lot of them and although that’s pretty much just words on a screen, I know for a fact that at least five of them are faster than me; they are from Glasgow quid pro quo (fancy made up Latin to give my words an air of decorum) they eat Irn-Bru, which is iron-rich due to being made almost entirely from girders, ergo it has, according to www.newsmax.com, five significant health benefits, the number 5 is one short of 6, the maximum number in a Devil’s Burdens Relay team etcetera that’s 83.3% (if NASA are to be believed) of the team having ‘significant health benefits’ anno domini they’ll win.

Against – girders are bad for both your teeth and your breath; Glasgow, as mentioned, has no major lumps in it and so altitude sickness WILL be a major factor; the weather is generally better on the East so there’s a very good chance they’ll get sleepy with all the heat from the sun……..I’m clutching at straws here!

Carnethy HRC 3/1

Board meeting

Board meeting.

The ones everyone knows from races but doesn’t actually know where the funk ‘Carnethy’ is. Well they’re from around Edinburgh. Their favourite colour is red, with a splash of yellow, and they’re run as a full-on company. What that means is they’re all but definitely floating on the stock market and so can tap into their many ‘prop-up’ businesses to fund training laboratories and invest in international talent scouts in order to dominate Scottish hill racing.

For – there’s hundreds of them and so, like the Freemasons or Chinese, one-in-six of us are one, are you with five other mates right now? look around you….is one of them Chinese or a Freemason? no? that means YOU are!; they blatantly have tons of dollar so can afford advanced training technologies like anti-gravity trainers and bionic legs (yeah a bit like Batman); they’ve got a Highland warrior printed on the back of their vests…and you ain’t gonna fuck with him; their women win EVERYTHING.

Against – I’ve always thought that the secret to a successful company is marketing and frankly their website spiel is wank; there’s so many of them surely one of them will get lost, it’s basic laws of probability; I doubt many will venture from their posh Edinburgh skyscrapers – there’s deadlines to meet and the generic Boss is an asshole.

Hunters Bog Trotters 3/1

Their brown shirts are actually made from shit....hence both the colour and the reason they're always way out on their own.

Their brown shirts are actually made from shit….hence both the colour and the reason they’re always way out on their own.

The ‘other’ strong Edinburgh club. If Carnethy are elusive (by English knowledge standards) then I’ll bet my left bollock you’ve never heard of HBT. Basically where the Edinburgh university students go when they get kicked out/finish their degrees and have to ‘make it in the real world’ as many a patronising 40-year old will preach on at you when you graduate.

For – wear brown cos they couldn’t give a shit; got some likely lads in their ranks par example a former British Fell Running Champion, current East District XC Champion, national class orienteers; they’re like the Lost Boys from Never-never-land who have never grown up, as such they haven’t forgotten what you forget as soon as you sign that first contract for full-time work, the first thing you’re taught about fast sprinting in primary school…yup….BLADE HANDS, therein lies the secret.

Against – probably got better things to do.

Fife AC 6/1

Good job the sun's not shining.....

Good job the sun’s not shining…..

Local club and it’s their gig. Expect some full-on gang warfare and graffiti tagging to be going on in the next couple of weeks as ‘offcomers’ attempt to muscle in on their ‘patch’. It ain’t gonna be pretty.

For – it’s their land and farmers have rights; Fife, the ‘kingdom of Scotland’, guards its borders very carefully i.e. that wasn’t the REAL Devil’s Burdens route you were out recceing, let’s just leave it at that shall we; they have age and experience on their side….and age….did I mention age?; they’ve won it before and, like the World Cup for the English football team, surely they’ll win it again!?

Against – unless they bring in some young’uns they’re not going to be winning anything cos they’re getting a bit long in the tooth (that’ll rattle some feathers); this isn’t England and actually, farmers don’t have rights.

Dundee Hawkhill Harriers 6/1

The sixth member of the relay is holding the camera....don't worry, they can count.

The sixth member of the relay is holding the camera….don’t worry, they can count.

Now then, now then. The underdogs with a whack of bite. Unlike the above, the older lads are some of the best in the club and the younger ones don’t want to get left behind so give it a good go all the same. Dundonians aka ‘wind-talkers’.

For – as the name suggests they’re from Dundee, which means they’re akin to the Navajo ‘wind-talkers’ from that film with Nick Cage, no-one but them knows what the fuck they’re going on about….just you try and get the skinny on their race tactics; have club colours that look like the flags used to pass messages on a yacht – basically their communications set-up is like the bastard enigma machine!; if I was you I’d put all my belongings on them winning…..call it a hunch; what club was that guy who won Masters 3000m Gold the other week??

Against – not a particularly heavy hitter in the hill running department; can’t put a price on experience – that underdog I was on about? more like a fresh out the tin puppy as far as that goes; White Tops (the only hill in spitting distance of Dundee) is not quite the same as the Lomonds of Fife!

So there you have it. There’s more clubs out there of course there are. There’s some mega ones I probably haven’t mentioned but tough titties. If I thought you’d have a chance I’d have stuck you in.



NB: I read this back and, whilst I’m not gonna change any of it, I feel like I’ve been unduly unfair to Fife on the whole ‘age’ thing. Fifers, if you see me at a race please remember that the picture at the top of this blog isn’t actually me, I’m a 4ft ginger girl with glasses and braces so don’t beat me up ok?

Comments (2)

  1. Manny G

    From the club who has had 6/7 teams of 6 in The BURDENS for every single year…up yer arse!
    Lots of love

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