Thursday, 27 June 2013


Three years of thinking about it and 7 months of serious training build up and finally it loomed, race day was upon us and the weather forecast was being scrutinized every five minutes. No illnesses at all for months and suddenly in the build up week a stomach bug hits but thankfully come Friday it was almost clear and I got to the start line in as good a condition as I could be in a trip into the unknown. As 53 miles has been the furthest race I have done so far this was going to be a further 42 on top of that, and not in the most hospitable territory either. I was to be assisted by fellow Victoria Park runners Speedo, Mark and Duncan. Duncan finished the race a few years ago but has very little memory of the latter parts due to the state he got in to with hallucinating and sleeping.

Before the start and all smiles.

I registered early and went back to my dads for a cuppa and got him to drop me off about midnight to meet up with my backup crew for a brief final chat and off we went bang on 1.00am. A really bizarre feeling running through woods with a headtorch on when you really should be tucked up in bed snoozing away. Not having run before with a headtorch was not a problem and the first few miles was at a gentle pace chatting away and enjoying the pleasant evening. The rain started just after Carbeth so I stuck on my waterproof jacket which confused the crew at the Beechtree as they didn't recognize me. Grabbed a bottle of water and a gel at Drymen on the ways through and asked for a pork pie and banana to be waiting at Balmaha at the first checkpoint. Legs were feeling fine and in my mind my speed was comfortable but the descent from Conic Hill soon sorted them out and the first signs of effort were noticed. My split time here of 3:07 was bang on schedule. I put in a request here for soup and bread at Rowardennan as my body was now telling me it was breakfast time.

Balmaha checkpoint : Leg 3hr 7min 14secs

I really do not enjoy the section between Balmaha to Rowardennan but as it was at a slower pace and today it seemed to go along nicely and I swapped position with a few runners as we went along. There was a mention on the WHW facebook page regarding running on the correct path and not on the road so I made sure I was careful not to go off route on this section although I did notice a bit of road running. Arriving at Rowardennan I was glad to get that section out of the way and the crew had my soup ready and waiting for me after I had checked in/out. One wee complaint though I had forgot to mention I do not have an asbestos throat and luke warm would suffice, took us two checkpoints and a little moan to sort that one out. Needless to say I just shut up and added some cold water myself rather than mention it again, christ the wife doesn't even make me tea or coffee yet here are these guys giving up a weekend to follow me through midgie infested trails and I am complaining the soup is too warm.

Rowardennan Checkpoint : Leg 1hr 29min 59secs  Overall 4hr 37min 13secs

Midgie hell.
Left the lads here for the dreaded section along the lochside and warned them I may be a while although so would they as they had the long drive back to Balloch and up the other side to Beinglas Farm next to the Drovers Inn. A short running section and then a bit of a walk from here as it is a bit of a climb and then I ran most of the way to Inversnaid where I had a dropbag with a muller rice and a bottle of coke. These were both rattled down quickly as even standing inside the protective tent provided by the wonderful Trossachs Rescue Team we were being bitten all over. Next section is all rocks and tree roots and where I lose time due to being vertically challenged and not having long enough legs to skip over the rocks. It is always a joy to finish that bit and get to the top of the hill where Darios post is and glance back and enjoy the view although just briefly as it is a race after all. Short trail section down into Beinglas and checked in again and had another cup of soup and then annoyed Speedo again by requesting a bottle of coke which he had to run to the van and collect. My parting words were "f**k these midgies I am off"

Beinglas Checkpoint : Leg 3hr 9min 38secs  Overall 7hrs 46mins 51secs

Easiest section of the day next up to Auchtertyre where unfortunately I met up with Robert whom I had trained a bit with and expected to finish in a great time but he had hurt his foot and was being helped/comforted by his support just before Bogle Glen. We had a brief chat and he offered me his watch as did one of his crew on seeing mine was dead. I decided no watch was going to make any difference to how I would finish today so politely declined the offers and carried on up the path to the rollercoaster forest. I took it easy on the downhills here as I knew I still had a lot of damage to do to my quads later. As I crossed the A82 and heade for the checkpoint the heavens opened and soaked me through so decision made and a change of gear would be needed. I checked in here and was weighed for the first time and although I had lost weight they were happy with it. The boys ushered me to the van threw some gear at me, told me to change and poured me a coffee. I didn't know if they were telling porkies but they said the last few runners had hobbled through and I looked the freshest they had seen for a while, I now realise they were talking s***e. At this point I compared how I was feeling to how I felt about here in the Fling and was concerned as I sure was tired although it is hard to judge as in the Fling you are going to finish about 1.5 miles later.

Auchtertyre Checkpoint : Leg 2hr 3min 35secs  Overall 9hrs 50mins 26secs

On reflection and reading split times the next two sections are as bad as they felt although from Auchtertyre through Tyndrum I was still upbeat and enjoying myself. After you pass the Green Welly Shop and climb up the hill I noticed Tyndrum Cemetery and couldn't stop myself laughing as I noticed there was only one headstone in it, either no one lives there or it is the healthiest place in the world!!! I had a short pause here and said a wee prayer for my mum who passed away last September and I just had a moment thinking to myself about all the worrying she did when all her siblings were out running marathons or shorter hoping we all finished unscathed. Well today, as I had told her on my visit to the cemetery during the week this one was for her. I cruised along nicely downhill after the A82 underpass but started to struggle a bit on the uphill before Bridge of Orchy but pulled it together and jogged down to the checkpoint for some refreshment. I forgot to check in here but Tim kindly came across and took my tab and done it for me and brought it back as I had a coffee and a bite to eat. I left here knowing the next section was the one I really had to get done and out the road as I knew I could crawl from Glencoe no problem.

Bridge of Orchy Checkpoint : Leg 2hr 5min 30secs  Overall 11hrs 55mins 56secs

Up and over the hill here after collecting a jelly baby from Murdo and onwards to Rannoch Moor. Rosie Bell passed me here and we had a bit of a chat as we swapped position after stopped for food with her crew. I noticed here that she was walking faster than me on the uphill and that concerned as I just could not speed up at all. Rosie pulled away quite a bit here and went on to win the female race. I struggled to get going at all and really felt like jacking it in for a few mile but convinced myself to get to Glencoe have some food and it would all be ok. As I came in to the checkpoint Speedo was obviously concerned and sat me down in the back of the van told me to relax, have a coffee and he then handed me a packet of jaffa cakes. As I started to feel better he insisted I have some more soup and a pork pie which I duly scoffed. Next problem was I was now comfy on the seat and getting back out the van was the hard bit. Duncan had changed into running gear after checking if someone could accompany me. They said it was tight but they would allow it, rules are if you are within 4 hours of the leader you are on your own.

Glencoe Checkpoint : Leg 2hrs 35mins 52secs  Overall 14hrs 31mins 48secs

The healing power of a Jaffa cake.

We walked down the slope from Glencoe as my food was only halfway down and as I tried to run it was nearly half way up again. Crossed the road and ran past Kingshouse Hotel and on towards The Devils Staircase. I started to perk up here and we ran along chatting away and the miles started to feel easier. The climb up the staircase was as good as it can be with 75 miles in your legs and we stopped to admire the view and the height we had ascended. My legs actually started to ease off on this section and the only problem was the really steep descent into Kinlochleven where I had to walk some of the downhill although I think it was in my mind and I was saving a bit for the downhill into Fort William. I was passed by three runners on the descent here and as I arrived at the medical centre/checkpoint a bit annoyed with myself to lose places on a downhill section. Mark met us and guided us into the checkpoint where I was weighed and checked in by Julie who was as usual delightfully happy and cheerful. We only had a few words and then Julie shouted to Mark "tell us when he is leaving" to which I replied instantly "I'm leaving". I could see guys lying down and others eating food but I just told the guys "give me a bottle of coke, a can of red bull and a packet of peanuts I am off". There was only a half marathon to go and I was wanting to get it over with so no time to hang about.

Spot the runner.

Kinlochleven Checkpoint : Leg 3hr 4mins 5secs  Overall  17hrs 35mins 53secs

 Mark was ready to go and he walked along with me as I eat my salted peanuts. He is running the Devils in August so was keen to see the terrain and I warned him about the climb but even he was amazed at how long it goes on for. Once we got to the top Mark asked if I was in any state to run, well he was in for a shock as there was very little where we didn't run here and it will be interesting to see his garmin details. We had a short stop for a glass of Tizer (he only had sugar free irn-bru) with Jeff from the mountain rescue team and on we went to Lundavra and the final meeting point with Speedo and Duncan. Just before the sheep pens I stood on a rock which sent a pain right through my left leg. I must apologise now for the words I screamed but thankfully it was rather quiet up there on Saturday night. I stopped at the next stream and soaked my foot and the pain eased off thankfully. We arrived at Lundavra to theme from Rocky blasting away and it felt great to be nearing civilization again. A quick can of red bull, ditch the waterproofs and off we went. I kept glimpsing behind to see if anyone was about to steal a place from me but Mark reassured me he had not seen anyone for a while. I reached the fire road and Mark asked if I was walking or running it. I was a bit unsure but started off running and strangely kept it going all the way to the finish. I think I ran it faster than I had done in the Devils last August and did not stop until I took my timing card off and jumped on the scales. What a great feeling and a wee tear in my eyes, job done.

The Goblet.

Finish Fort William : Leg 3hrs 27mins 21 secs  Overall 21hrs 3mins 14secs   20th position

Well now to the thank you bit.

 My support crew were amazing and I hope I was polite all the time, I am sure they will soon tell me. I have already offered my support back should they wish to enter next year but awaiting a response!!!

Ian and Adrian and everyone else from the registration to the finish, what a wonderful experience it is and you should all be proud of the production. The Scottish tourist board and wee Eck could maybe use it as an advert for independence.

Linda and Andrew, sorry for being missing for quite a few weekends recently but you can have me back now (for a wee while).