Formerly an overweight, exercise shy smoker who despised running, I stumbled across ultra marathon running, and specifically the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), whilst on holiday in Chamonix in the Summer of 2009. Inspired by the stunning scenery in and around Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, I set about finding out more about ultra marathons and was fortunate enough to find myself around for the birth of the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series (SUMS) in 2010.
I ran my first ultra marathon, the D33, in March 2010, and quickly followed this up with my first, and to date only, Did Not Finish (DNF) at the Highland Fling the following month. I finished off the year with another completion, this time at The Speyside Way Race, before completing 6 (D33, The Highland Fling, The Cateran Trail Ultra Marathon, The Clyde Stride, The Devil O’ The Highlands and The Speyside Way Race) and 7 (D33, The Highland Fling, The Cateran Trail Ultra Marathon, The Clyde Stride, The Devil O’ The Highlands, The Speyside Way Race, West Highland Way Race) ultra marathons in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
In 2013 I completed the D33 ultra marathon despite practically no training, a ‘strategy’ (not recommended!) brought about by the birth of my son Harris on 28th February 2013.
It quickly became apparent that the demands of a new born baby and my goal of being the best dad possible did not sit well alongside ultra marathon training and, thus, I ‘retired’ temporarily from the ultra marathon scene.
Following a break of almost 2 years, I again returned to the D33 and The Highland Fling in 2015, and added a new race to my list of completions in July 2015, the 71 mile Great Glen Ultra. Throughout the year, I doubted my ability to complete the events that I had signed up for, finding it difficult to successfully combine parenthood with the required ultra marathon training and, following a particularly tough time at the Great Glen Ultra, I vowed that my ultra marathon days were over.
However, in typical ultra marathon runner style, the pain in suffering was soon forgotten, and I set about lining up a particularly challenging 2016 race calendar.
2016 starts in mid March with a return to the D33, followed by The Highland Fling in April. June sees a return to the iconic, 95 mile West Highland Way Race, followed by The Devil O’ The Highlands in August. Finally, in September, I will line up at the Glenmore 24, a lap event held on some of my favourite Cairngorm trails in and around Loch Morlich for the first time, with the explicit goal of running 100+ miles.
Without wishing to sound clichéd, I look forward to the challenges presented at each and every event. However, this year, I am particularly looking forward to the West Highland Way Race, aiming for my second completion (only this time around without the apocalyptic weather, explosive diarrhoea and projectile vomiting of 2012!), and to the challenge of attempting to run 100 miles at the Glenmore 24.
2016 certainly promises to be an interesting year.
Thankfully, my hugely understanding wife, Leanne, actively encourages me to pursue my endeavours. Whilst not perhaps fully understanding exactly why I put myself through the pain and suffering that ultra running generally entails, Leanne does, however, understand the satisfaction that I get from completing an event. Adversity en route merely adds to the satisfaction.
Harris, about to turn 3 at the time of writing this, doesn’t yet perhaps grasp the distances involved. He does, however, like to ‘run like daddy’, and his crossing the finish line with me at the 2015 Highland Fling (image above) was one of the highlights of the year for me.
Since starting www.pixelscotland.com, I have contributed to www.therunningbug.co.uk (Blog posts & reviews), Ultra Tales (Race reports & Jez Bragg Interview) and Barefoot Running Magazine (Product reviews from Issue 8, Spring 2013 onwards).
Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), the race which inspired the madness of the past few years, remains as my ultimate goal, though the Transvulcania Ultra Marathon, on the island of La Palma, has now joined UTMB on my race bucket list.