With only 11 days to go until the 2015 West Highland Way Race, social media, and Facebook in particular, is buzzing with race chatter. Given my 2 year ultra sabbatical, inspired by the birth of my son Harris, I thought the West Highland Way Race might be that bit too ambitious for my comeback year, but it doesn’t stop the pangs of jealousy as I read about those who are about to embark upon their own West Highland Way Race experience.
Whether it is your first year or your 10th (or more even!), you are almost certainly guaranteed a weekend that you will remember for the rest of your days.
I ran the West Highland Way Race in 2012, the year of the ‘apocalyptic weather’, and things didn’t quite go to plan (understatement!).
Summing up my own experiences, I wrote the following, and it is as true today as it was the day I wrote it, not long after completing the event:
“Without a doubt, my completion of the 95 mile West Highland Way Race in 2012 ranks as my all-time running achievement to date. That weekend in June changed me and, to this day, I still think back to what I learned over the course of the weekend.
95 miles in under 35 hours with 14,760ft of ascent would have been enough of a challenge. However, I also had to contend with apocalyptic weather conditions, explosive diarrhoea and projectile vomiting. Overall, it amounted to a very challenging 31 hours, 1 minute and 50 seconds of running! Not the time I was aiming for but, under the circumstance, one that I am very happy with.
That weekend was a roller-coaster of highs and lows like I had never experienced before and it redefined just how low I could go and yet still carry on.
I had briefed my support team to expect to see me at my worst throughout the weekend. Little had I expected, however, that this was actually going to be the case!
What’s more, we had only just found out that my wife Leanne was pregnant with our first child days before the race. To this day, I still feel guilty for putting her through the stress of seeing me at my worst.
In a lot of respects, I had the easy part. All I had to do was keep moving forward. My support crew however, had to witness what happened to me through the course of the weekend and to try, where possible, to keep me fed and watered and moving towards Fort William – not an easy task given my reluctance to consume anything for fear that it would soon exit from one end of me or the other! To this day I cannot figure out exactly how I managed to keep moving.“
I’ve collated a number of posts relating to that event below.
- Build Up: The West Highland Way Race – The Final Countdown
- Build Up: 3 Sleeps Until #whwrace
- Race Report: Against All Odds – The Quest For A WHW Race Goblet
- The West Highland Way Race 2012 Gallery
My own race experience totally redefined what I can and will endure in a race, and demonstrated just how quickly the darkest of lows can turn into a high, from projectile vomiting at the 50 mile mark, feeling absolutely finished, devoid of energy and all but ready to throw in the towel, to running strongly again and knowing that I could make that finish line in Fort William, all within the space of 5 miles.
Hopefully your own race experience will be significantly easier than my own but, regardless, it will almost certainly be an experience that lives with you forever.
I am gearing up for my own challenge, the 70 miles approx. of the Great Glen Ultra, on 4th July 2015 and, true to form this year, my ‘training’ following my shock finish (& PB) at the Hoka Highland Fling has again been blighted by illness.
Regardless, I am still eagerly anticipating competing in the Great Glen Ultra and can’t wait to run along the banks of Loch Ness.
Maybe 2016 will see me return to the West Highland Way Race for another attempt, if I am fortunate enough to gain entry. Failing that, I am sure that I will return one year in the not too distant future. I can only hope that, on that occasion, I have an easier time of it!
All the very best to the 2015 West Highland Way Race runners, crew and race personnel. I hope that you all have a fantastic weekend.