Saturday 12th May 2013 was not a good day for Inveraray Jail’s Warder. His main job is to secure the jail and make sure that the prisoner’s don’t escape. But at 11am on the dot, 47 prisoners including eight juveniles, broke free and ran for the hills. The crowds clapped and cheered as the pack sprinted up the road and out of sight. Of course, they weren’t real prisoners. These plucky runners were taking part in the 2013 Inveraray Jail Break, a challenging four-mile hill run that’s just for fun.
It was the biggest turnout – of both runners and spectators – that the race has ever seen. For Fee Corner, local runner and race organiser, it was a heartening sight. ‘It was just great to see so many people out enjoying the run and creating such a fantastic atmosphere in Inveraray,’ she says. ‘What’s more, it’s wonderful to see this historic hill race alive and thriving.’
The run up Dun na Cuaiche goes back many years. It had been a feature of the Inveraray Highland Games, but sometime in the 1980s it fizzled out. Fee and the running club reinstated the race in 2009 as part of the Inveraray Bluebell Festival and it’s become a regular fixture on the running calendar, growing year on year. This year, for the first time, there was a two-mile children’s race. In addition, seven members of D Company 7Scots took part in the race, recreating the historic Second World War training exercise that saw the 8th battalion of what was then the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders run up the hill for the coveted Dun na Cuaiche quaich.
Fee reckons the success of the Inveraray Jail Break is down to a number of things. ‘The route itself is short but the hill makes it challenging, which appeals to a lot of people. On top of that people love the friendly nature of the event. But it’s the “jail break factor” that really makes us stand out. It’s a bit different and everyone enjoys it,’ she says.
The race begins at Inveraray Jail, where the runners all line up waiting for the Warder to signal the mass break-out by ringing the alarm bell. The bell was used in the olden days to warn of a real jail break. Then the runners are off, heading up to the landmark of Dun na Cuaiche and back to finish at Inveraray Castle where the jail’s Matron – in full character and costume – is on hand to present the prizes.
Inveraray Jail also sponsors the winning prize of inscribed champagne glasses and a bottle of champagne – which always goes down well. Fee’s grateful for other local support too. ‘We couldn’t do it without the volunteer marshals, first aiders, timekeepers and registration officials. They’re magnificent in every way,’ she says. This year Argyll Brass, the local brass band, played at the finishing line. Next year she’d like to get a piper to play at the top of the hill.
If you fancy taking part in the 2014 Inveraray Jail Break, you’ve got plenty of time to train. Fee says that do need to be relatively fit to take part. The hill is quite steep, afterall, and the Warder will be hot on your heels.
Read the Inveraray jail Break 2013 race report.