Bryson’s the hilltop hero

A PICTURE-PERFECT Christmas scene greeted Gala Harriers who skidded up to the Heatheryett for the start of the club’s annual Ladhope Handicap cross-country race on Saturday.

In days of yore, the route was a spirit-breaking four times round an undulating field, but over the past two years, a new and even more challenging but less repetitive course has been designed to test the most hardened of athletes.

The new route, up into the plantation area above the golf course, was this year knee deep in snow at some points and offered an even tougher challenge, especially for those starting first who had to lay the trail in virgin snow.

A total of 22 Harriers sped off at various intervals dictated by their handicapped time and it’s a rare occurrence when the last off finishes first and the first off finishes last.

However, in-form Mark Bryson reeled in everyone who started ahead of him to come home King of the Ladhope in 31 minutes 15 seconds. Colin McCall must have been spurred on by the thought of the Harriers’ Christmas Dinner which he’d organised that night and won the tussle of the tight cluster of athletes who followed Mark in, finishing in second place in 33.04, with Paul Daly pushing him all the way in 36.18.

For the women, Gillian Duncan achieved pole position in a well-run 38.48, while Shepherd (42.45) won the battle of the Fionas, beating Dalgliesh (40.49), both girls running exceptionally well through difficult conditions.

Young Rowan Marr (7th in 35.15) showed a clean pair of heels to take the scalps of some very much more experienced runners, while all participants came home safely after negotiating the slippery and often treacherous terrain – some with an extra diversion for additional scenic interest. Hot soup was awaiting all the brave competitors who included Steve Martin (34.51), Dave Nightingale (36.23), Martin Clarke (37.54), Iain Arnott (35.26), Graham Manzak (35.57), Scott Forsyth (39.12), Mark Arres (40.14), Tommy Knox (40.47), Felix Otton (36.53), Murray Marr (40.46), Matthew Purves (48.54), Kevin Stevenson (47.12), Eileen Nicol (49.03), Ally McGilvary (53.53), and Anne Purves (1.01.20).

Gala Harriers would like to thank the race organiser, marshalls and timekeepers who got very cold in the course of their duties.

The next outing for the Harriers and Lauderdale Limpers is the over-the-hill New Year Run on January 2, 2012, from Lauder Leisure Centre to Melrose. All members from either club welcome, with shorter routes available if desired.