James Espie can do nothing other than sit back and wait to see if he has done enough to complete a hat-trick of victories in the Scottish hill runners championship race series.
The Deeside athlete has won the men’s title in each of the past two years the competition has been held – 2018 and 2019.
The pandemic wiped out last year’s programme, but a series of five championship races has been set out for 2021.
There are two long races, two medium and one short. Each athlete’s three best scores will count, but they must do at least one long and one medium race. Three of the five races have been held so far.
Espie’s victory in the Eildon Three Hills race at Melrose last weekend gave his points tally a major boost after finishing 12th at Dollar and fourth at Glenshee in the earlier rounds of the competition.
He said: “I’m at the top of the points table at the moment, but some of the other guys can overtake me if they do one or other of the remaining two races.
“I already have three races under my belt and can’t improve my score. The Two Breweries race is this weekend, but it’s in the long category and I doubt if I could do better than my performance at Glenshee, which was also a long race.
“I finished well down the field in the Dollar race as I was just coming back from a hip flexor injury, so I didn’t score too highly there.
“But I had a good solid run at Glenshee and I was very happy to win at Eildon.
“The only way I could improve is by doing the final medium distance race, the Cioch Mor on October 9, but I’m elsewhere that weekend.”
Espie’s victory at Eildon brought back memories of another success he enjoyed there three years ago.
He said: “I was living in Hawick at the time and decided to cycle the 17 miles to Melrose for the Eildon race. I won then had to cycle back with the trophy on my back.”
The Scotland international runner is satisfied with his form at the moment, but feels there’s more work to be done.
He said: “I’m not at the level I was at in 2019, but it’s heading in the right direction. But it’s certainly good to be back racing again.”
Espie will miss the Cioch Mor championship race next month because he has already committed to taking part in one of Britain’s iconic hill races – The Yorkshire Three Peaks.
The course traverses the Yorkshire Dales mountains of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough and is one of the oldest fell races in Britain.
First held in 1954, it covers 37.4k with 1608 metres of ascent and descent over the rugged and spectacular countryside in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, taking competitors to a height of 723 metres above sea level.
Espie said: “My entry was rolled over from last year as the race didn’t go ahead because of the pandemic. I’ve never done it before, but it’s one of those classic bucket-list races you need to do.
“There will be no pressure on me to do well, so I can just go and enjoy it.
“After that I’m in the Deeside Runners team taking part in the British fell runners relay championships at Tebay Fells in Cumbria.”
Hamish hopes to win Battle and regain Bennachie title
Hamish Battle hopes to get back on track by regaining his title in tomorrow’s Bennachie hill race.
The Metro Aberdeen runner was forced to drop out of last weekend’s Ring of Steall skyrace at Kinlochleven, but feels ready to return to action this weekend.
He said: “I had to stop at the Ring of Steall as my left quad wasn’t playing ball in the descent to Glen Nevis. It feels fine now so I’m planning on racing Bennachie.”
Battle has a fine record in the Garioch race. He won the men’s title in 2018 after finishing third in 2015 and second in both 2016 and 2017.
The race was last held in 2019 when Johnny Strachan won, but the Fraserburgh runner isn’t competing this weekend.
Veteran Chris Hill (Cosmic Hillbashers), who was runner-up behind Battle in 2018, is taking part once again. Another experienced campaigner, Hayden Lorimer (Hunters Bog Trotters), who finished second 20 years ago, is also in the starting line-up.
Oldmeldrum’s Great Britain ultra distance trail running international Meryl Cooper is favourite to win the women’s race, despite the 13k course being far shorter than her usual racing distances.
The reigning British 100k trail champion was third at Bennachie two years ago, but will be confident of improving on that result tomorrow.
Her opponents include Monica Padilla (Highland Hill Runners), Amy Muir (Stonehaven) and Aberdeen runners Eilidh Prise, Lucy Taylor and Sarah Milne.