Historians on the Run: The Hairy Haggis Team Relay

Blog post written by PhD student Richard Meyer Forsting

The early start – 10 AM on a Sunday – meant an even earlier start to the day, as we met up and left town at 7 AM that morning. We felt cautious about our prospects and agreed to set our targeted pace at a not-too ambitious four hours. Despite the weather forecast promising glorious sunshine, the day began in typical Scottish fashion: overcast, cold and rather grey. It turned out that these conditions were near ideal for long-distance running and the sun even made an appearance after the first stage of the race.


Photo attrib. Moyan Brenn, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

The first leg – run by me– started on Regent’s Road in the beautiful surroundings of Carlton Hill. More importantly I selfishly put myself forward to run this stage because it began downhill and was sheltered from what could be some ugly crosswinds on the coast. Always the over-confident runner, I began by going full pace on the downhill, only to realise the uphill bits were harder than perhaps anticipated. The beautiful views and great support along the road was inspiring and at the 8.3 mile mark I handed over to Maria Christina, who was eagerly waiting in the first relay changeover point.

By now the race had left the city and followed the coast passing through Musselburgh and heading toward Port Seton. While the second leg was shorter at 5.5 miles, it included some tricky uphill sections. During her run Maria Christina managed to make friends with some fellow runners, who happened to come from her small hometown in Northern Italy. Driven on by her ambition to do well in her first competitive run, Maria Christina ran a personal best and swiftly completed the handover to Will.

We were now past the half-way mark and Will took on the dreaded 8 mile out-and-in leg, which took him into East Lothian and along Scotland’s picturesque golf coast. Will started off at a good pace and sped up further when he realised he still had the legs past the turn that led back into Port Seton and toward the third changeover. Additional motivation was provided by the support along the road, with one memorable poster reading, “If Trump can run, so can you!” – the most compelling argument for completing a marathon I have come across so far.


Photo attrib. Kellas Campbell, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

It fell to Jo to complete the final sting of the relay, the so-called Glory Leg, which led past the famous Musselburgh Links, the oldest golf course in the world, and toward the finish in Pinkie Park. By this point the sun had come out and hundreds of spectators had congregated in the park to greet the finishers. Undeterred by rising temperatures, the burden of being the last one to run and encountering some more competitive and aggressive runners on her way to the finish, Jo ended strongly to come in with the clock showing just under the four hours we had aimed for.


After spending some time relaxing and stretching in the afternoon sun, we decided we had earned ourselves a pub lunch and a pint in the City Centre. We exchanged stories, the odd experiences one makes while running and agreed that it had been a fantastic day out. That same evening we found out that our official time had been even better than we expected: we completed the course in a very respectable 3h 46m 47s – more than 10 minutes below our initial target. Whatever the finishing time, the experience of running together with departmental colleagues, sharing the famous 26.219 miles and taking part in the event, was immensely rewarding and will hopefully inspire others to make a St Andrews History Team a yearly tradition.

About standrewshistory
With over forty fulltime members of staff researching and teaching on European, American and Asian history from the dawn of the Middle Ages to the present day, the School of History at the University of St Andrews has one of the finest faculty and diverse teaching programmes of any School of History in the English speaking world. The School boasts expertise in Mediaeval and Modern History, from Scotland to Byzantium and the Americas to South Asia. Thematic interests include religious history, urban history, transnationalism, historiography and nationalism. The School of History prides itself on small group teaching, allowing for in-depth study and supervision tailored to secure the best from each student. Cutting edge research combined with teaching excellence offer a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment for the study of History.

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