A Personal View By Wallace Shackleton



Held on Saturday 23rd. June 2001

This would be the third time we would participate in the St. Andrews cycle run, organised in aid of the leprosy charity, LEPRA. The LEPRA run has grown in stature becoming Scotland's answer to the London to Brighton run, but without the infamous Ditching Beacon hill. This year we would be using the run as training for our forthcoming Spanish pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella and doing some good in the process raising funds for charity.

The day started badly when we managed to lock one of our bikes onto the cycle carrier and then forgot to bring the key with us. Short of using brute force and ignorance we saved the day by dismantling the rack and slipping the bike and lock off the carrier. Perhaps a lesson here for anyone leaving a bike locked to a cycle carrier.

I was also not immune from mistakes; meticulous and careful packing the night before had ensured that my all important cycle computer was where I had left it, in the house! All I had to rely on was my heart rate monitor, which is not reliable for the total travelling time, I also forgot the handlebar mounting “doughnut” for the HRM, at least I could not forget my wrist!

There did not seem to be many cyclists at the start, Tom, Graham and myself rode farther down East Market Street than last year before joining the throng, later more and more riders would pack the street behind us. Some no doubt taking the opportunity of riding the route in sunny weather for a change, most I suspect wanting to get to the front and save themselves a long run over the cobbles!

One thing that concerned me was the city itself, it was preparing for a siege, crowd barriers were everywhere, and this was obviously not for us. On the way through the New Town I jokingly said it was a demonstration march for the Gay Anarchist Cyclists against Racist Gardeners group, it turned out that I was not far from the mark! It would seem that the Gay Rights marchers had chosen the same day as us to choke the city with people.

The run started at 9 AM in the usual way the “LEPRA flag waver” waved the flag and we were off, a bit later than the advertised 8:30 AM start. Having experienced the struggle to get onto Princess Street last year it was no surprise to get caught at the ridiculously short “green” time for the traffic lights outside Waverly Station. Could have done with a police presence here as 750 cyclists packed the road in front of the station. The lights did do some good by regulating the stream of cyclists onto Princess Street.

The first mile or so is the most hazardous; all the cyclists are packed close together and unless one is a seasoned racer with nerves of steel, then one can not be fully sure that some one will not do something stupid and involve you in a Beijing style pileup.

To prove me wrong, the run out through the New Town and the suburbs was completely uneventful. The usual sequence of events prevailed — the roadies hammer past you, each competing against the other to see who can finish in the quickest time, then there are the experienced cyclists having done this before and capable of “putting in the miles”, steadily making their way through the stream, passing the slower and apparently less experienced riders, who you will never see again, do they finish? Who knows, I hope that they do. Even the new factor into the Edinburgh Traffic Equation, the lights at the Barnton was a nonevent. It is great to take over a city like that, just bicycles and camaraderie, like a critical mass that is intent on going somewhere. These are the things that make this run memorable.
Out over the Crammond Bridge and into the countryside, we pass a gent riding an Ordinary, or “Penny Farthing” complete with a period costume; I wonder if he completed the run … up the hill onto the slip road off the A90, I am always glad to know that this busy road is behind me.
Turning off the Kirkliston road, I use a bit of tactics, by powering past my friends at the junction, then hammering up the short hill before Dalmeny. A despicable thing to do as my riding partners are not good climbers (neither am I) but it feels great to be alive today, though looking at my heart rate it may not be for long!

Meet an old Audax friend in the way into Dalmeny, swap stories, catch up with the news, seems that we are both suffering from the effects of the Foot & Mouth cancellations, the second half of the year holds a lot of promise for endurance cycling.

Through South Queensferry and over the Forth Road Bridge, again we did not stop with the masses on the grass, preferring to keep on going. Down the slip road and into Rosyth, the new road surface is just fine. Over in the dock yard the Ark Royal towers above the buildings. Out onto the main road, no sign of any badly behaved motorists this year, a Police points woman stops the traffic so we can safely turn onto Wagon Road without stopping thanks. Through Crossford, now the hardest part of the route begins, it is uphill from here to the top at the Cleish Hills, having done this run before we know what is ahead of us and how to “attack” the climbs, though some riders it seems were searching for their white flags. On and on, another steep hill up to a T-junction, the Traffic Wardens here are controlling the traffic; never had to stop, it is not often one says thanks to a Traffic Warden – much appreciated. Up past Craigluscar coup and a brief respite on the flat road before the final climbs past the M90 Industrial Estate, and Blairadam Forest. The last section is always the worst, the gradient increases sharply after turning the corner, out of the saddle and over the crest of the hill. The ice cream van was there as usual but I keep on going, too close to Kinross to stop.

I went ahead, leaving my friends on the way up through Blairadam Forest, my house is a short way off the route so I could be reunited with my much missed cycle computer and HRM doughnut and not loosing time at the lunch stop... sort of having ones cake and eating it. Out of the house and up the road to Kinross for our lunch appointment.

At the eleventh hour, St. James church in Kinross, arranged a feeding station. So to publicise our feeding station we pinned “Eat at Jimmies” notices to our backs, it was a good conversation piece on the road to Kinross. We definitely got the better of the deal, compared to the usual feeding station in Kinross Town Hall. Nothing could compare with sitting out on the grass in the sunshine while eating good food, I know because the cooks are friends of mine, the freshly baked blueberry muffins were superb thanks Loren! Performed an emergency “spokeectomy” in the church garden, to a MTB (he made it to St. Andrews with the wheel in one piece) and we were off on the second half of the run.

More home ground, out on the Kinnesswood road, up the short sneaky climb at Balgedie Toll and off the main road towards Leven Glen nursing home, onto the Dryside Road and it's four miles down hill to Strathmiglo. The head wind prevented any real speed, a bit galling as I hit 30 mph with my MTB a few days earlier, through ‘miglo and onto the Falkland Road – by mutual consent the three of us have all come to hate this road. Perhaps it is the transition from the tranquility of the Dryside Road to the “lets get there at any cost” attitude of the Falkland Road.

We decided to miss the feeding station at the Falkland hostel and carry on to Freuchie for a Mars Bar or two, big mistake! Again we stopped for too long, Cadgers Brae was ahead and it was taking no prisoners today. Having went up this hill a few days before, I knew what was ahead, but that did not stop me from feeling envious of a chap pushing his bike up the hill, my pride overruled jealousy and I rode all the way to the top without stopping.

Cadgers Brae was a new addition to the route, the organisers must have done a risk assessment and decided that it would be safer to have riders cut directly across the Cupar Road rather than riding for a short distance along the Cupar Road before turning right and going up Kettle Brae. A wise decision, though I much prefer the easier climb up Kettle Brae.

Back on the route at Burnturk, and up another hill, for the great descent past the quarry to the infamous “must stop” crossroads, it would be nice to have someone to shout us through here. Another hill and it is down to Chance Inn and its wee short sneaky climb, with that over it was down hill to Ceres picking up some speed on the way.

The far off finish becomes closer and we start to relax, seeing the “St. Andrews 6 miles” signpost at Pitscottie lifts our spirits even further, one more climb and it is downhill all the way to the finish.

There can be no better end to this run than the long and gradual descent past Strathkinness, into St. Andrews, passing the university campus, into the old town, then towards the R&A Club House, and left to the band stand headquarters that marks the finishing point – you never fail to get the feeling that you have accomplished something.

A great run, managed for the first time in three years to stay dry and our spirits were high for the five and a quarter hours it took us to travel the 68 miles.

We are looking forward to next year, see you on the road!