Back at the beginning of March, a post in in The West Highland Way Race Facebook group by Gavin Durston alerted West Highland Way Race Family members to the emergence of another event, The West Highland Way Challenge, to be held on the same day as the original event.
The 240+ comments that followed made for interesting reading.
I’m not going to go into too much detail with regard to what happened at the 2013 West Highland Way Race other than to say that a highly respected member of The West Highland Way Race, with a remarkable number of race finishes to his name, was pulled from the race when he failed to meet a stipulated check-point cut-off.
Whatever your thoughts on these check point cut-off points, they are imposed for the safety of the runners, are intended to prevent runners from continuing when it becomes apparent that they will most likely not complete the full 95 mile distance in the time available, and, perhaps most pertinently in this particular case, are clearly stipulated in The West Highland Way Race rules where it clearly states that any runner failing to meet a cut-off will be pulled from the race.
The runner in question proceeded to finish the race on his own, within the permitted 35 hour time limit, but with no official time allocated, given that he had officially been pulled from the race.
An independent enquiry held in the wake of the event upheld the decision to pull the runner from the race.
The runner in question has, for 2014, set up The West Highland Way Challenge, to be held on the exact same day as the original West Highland Way Race, starting and finishing an hour earlier.
There are a number of concerns arising from this, from the impact on the original event and the potential for congestion should this alternative event prove popular, through to the safety considerations that are enshrined in the rules of the original West Highland Way Race. Most notably, the West Highland Way Challenge states that there are ‘no irregular and unfair cut-offs’ and that no support is required.
To quote from The West Highland Way Challenge web site:
“Other WHW races are ‘staged races’ where the runner/walker is timed out due to baseless ‘cut-off’ times, when the competitor could easily complete the WHW course in well under 35 hours. These unrealistic cut-off times place a great deal of stress on the competitor and result in a high incidence of withdrawals, or competitors being ‘timed-out’ early on in the race.”
It’s plain to see from the language used above, and throughout the site, that the Race Director of the Challenge obviously has issues with what happened at the 2013 West Highland Way Race.
Only time will tell whether the new event is a success and, further, whether it impacts in any way on the well established West Highland Way Race, held for the 1st time back in 1985 with only two competitors.
Hopefully anyone wishing to run The West Highland Way will not mistake the new event for the more established West Highland Way Race.
Hopefully it will not become the race of choice for those who fail to make the start list of the West Highland Way Race.
Finally, hopefully the event, if it does indeed go ahead, passes without any safety issues and without impact on the established West Highland Way Race.