The Great Glen Ultra 2015

(Thanks to Fiona Rennie for the 4 excellent checkpoint photos)

Towards the end of 2014 I made the decision to end my parenthood inspired 2 year ultramarathon hiatus, signing up for The D33, The Hoka Highland Fling, and The Great Glen Ultra.

I fully appreciated that training was likely to be ‘impaired’ by the demands of parenthood, and certainly when compared to the kind of hours that I used to log in training pre-Harris.

However, it’s safe to say that I didn’t expect 2015 to be blighted quite so much by illness, as I stumbled from one ailment to another, including cellulitis and chickenpox to name but a couple.

The numerous ailments, together with on-going back pain resulting from a bad fall, impacted considerably on training and, looking back, I’m still surprised that I managed to complete even one of my chosen events, never mind all three of them!

In terms of long runs this year, I’ve managed a couple of 18 mile runs prior to the D33, the D33 itself, where I was beset with bad leg cramps in both legs at the 18 mile mark, and the Hoka Highland Fling, where I somehow managed not only to complete the race but also to bag a PB, albeit only by a few minutes.

Other than this, ‘training’ has consisted of a few 12-13 mile runs, and a number of 3-5 mile runs squeezed in over a lunchtime, supplemented with cross training, cycling and swimming.

One thing’s for certain – I’ve certainly kicked my habit of logging junk miles, running the same routes at the same pace time and time again!

Anyway, down to business, the events of this weekend just past and the 4th July Great Glen Ultra 2015.

Goals

Based on the above, I had 3 goals.

Don’t Die!

OK, so ‘slightly’ melodramatic, but I seriously felt that out of my depth. Sure I completed the 95 mile West Highland Way Race in apocalyptic weather conditions back in 2012, but that was the culmination of 3 years of solid ultra running and training and couldn’t have been further removed from my build up to the GGU.

Less melodramatically, the aim was not to do myself any long term damage and, having already managed my first post GGU run, an admittedly short (but speedy) 3 miles on the treadmill, I appear to have succeeded on that front.

I can’t actually recall running quite so quickly after any of my previous events, let alone one of this distance.

Finish

I have one DNF to my name, my first ever Fling back in 2010. That DNF bugs me to this day, though I appreciate now that my training at the time lacked the specificity to see me safely to the finish line. The temperature on the day and my body weight at the time also didn’t exactly help matters.

Since then, I have had an unswerving goal to finish at all costs!

And yet, this weekend just past, I found myself seriously considering a DNF from around miles 10 through to 30.

From the few GGU blogs that I’ve read so far, most people appear to have had the same train of thought at some point or another throughout the race! At least I was not alone in that respect.

By the time the bus left Inverness destined for Fort William, my stomach was already tying itself in knots and, come race time, my stomach hadn’t seen any food in over 5 hours. Hardly ideal, and a ‘bit’ of a failure in terms of my planning. I couldn’t wait to get to that first checkpoint 10 miles into the race.

Repeated visits to the gents prior to the start of the race didn’t get the desired results and I was fearful of a repeat of my 2012 West Highland Way Race experience.

That, on top of the existing nerves and concerns, did my confidence no favours at all and it was only when I started to approach the 1/2 way mark that I finally managed to banish some of the negativity from my thoughts.

Finish In 18 Hours (Ideally)

Why 18 hours? It was a time that fitted in with my sons sleep routine, albeit one that would see him start his evening sleep in the car travelling home rather than in bed. Throughout the day, the thought of some family time was THE thing that kept me going.

The Outcome

As it was, I finally crossed the line in a time of 16:02:49, in 36th place out of 73 entrants, 7 of whom did not start (DNS).

I will admit to being slightly gutted to have lost out on a sub 16 hour time but, upon arriving in Inverness of all places, I found myself uncertain of the route and wasted 10-15 mins approx. using Google to try to verify that I wasn’t about to embark upon some unnecessary mileage.

I really, really didn’t want to run any further than was absolutely necessary at this point and the thought of having to retrace my steps in the event of heading off on in the wrong direction filled me with dread.

Unfortunately, either Google Maps or my phone reception (or both) didn’t want to assist on the day! Thankfully I did end up on the correct path. For some reason I was convinced that Bught Park was far closer to that final hill that dropped us down into Inverness than it actually was.

The Route

“The Great Glen Way is a long distance path in Scotland. It follows the Great Glen, running from Fort William in the west to Inverness in the east, covering 79 miles. It was opened in 2002 and is one of Scotland’s four Long Distance Routes.” (Wikipedia – The Great Glen Way)

The Great Glen Ultra route, starting from Neptune’s Staircase in Corpach, comes in around 73 miles approx., with checkpoints at approximate distances as shown:

  • Checkpoint 1, Clunes (10miles)
  • Checkpoint 2, Laggan (20miles)
  • Checkpoint 3, Fort Augustus (30miles)
  • Checkpoint 4, Invermoriston (40miles) Water Station 1: (45miles)
  • Checkpoint 5 : Drummidrochit (50miles)
  • Checkpoint 6: Loch Laide (60miles)
  • Finish – Inverness Stadium @ Bught Park

I have to stress that these are approximate distances. Ideally I would be able to say exactly how far along the route each of these checkpoints was but an ‘issue’ on the day with my Suunto Ambit3 Sport prevents me from doing so. More to follow on this shortly!

Starting at 1am, I was fairly oblivious to the first section alongside the canal. There wasn’t much to see other than a stream of headtorches, bobbing along the route, with the runners all fairly closely packed at this point.

I can’t recall exactly where, but a later canal path section really did knock the stuffing out of me. It was just so compacted, and so very, very long and straight. As a result, progress felt very slow along this section.

Thankfully, there was also a considerable amount of time spent in various forests along the route, which was far more to my liking.

The route was very undulating, if indeed, this is even an adequate description as, at times, we found ourselves climbing high above the mist that hovered over the loch beneath us. Just when you thought you couldn’t climb any higher, another switchback appeared to signal otherwise, and it was these same switchbacks, ensuring that ascents weren’t too direct and too steep, that likely caused the aforementioned problems with my Suunto.

The Lows

I have to admit to struggling for long periods of the Great Glen Ultra. For some reason I just found it so hard to get my head in the game, and I often found myself wallowing in negativity, just looking for an excuse to drop from the race.

Midges

The dreaded midges and various other insects were definitely out to annoy. Bad enough for those of us running the event. Absolutely dreadful for the marshals who had to remain at their checkpoints.

The Rain

The forecast had been for heavy rain with the possibility of thunder and lightning. Thankfully we didn’t see any of the latter, but the rain was often and torrential.

With temperatures that would have ‘cooked’ me had I donned a waterproof, I opted just to get wet, and it was only in the latter stages of the race when the cold finally started to get to me, that I opted for some protection from the elements.

The one redeeming element of the rain was that it at least brought some respite from the dreaded midges!

Given the choice, I would most definitely take rain over midges any day!

Thoughts Of A DNF

I perhaps assumed that I was destined to fail on the day. It’s the only possible explanation I have as to why I spent quite so long considering dropping from the race.

Thankfully, as I clocked up the mileage, and especially upon reaching the 1/2 way point, my thoughts turned to a more positive assessment of the day.

The runners and marshals that I chatted to along the way, whether they knew it or not, lifted my spirits sufficiently to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

The Highs

That Sunrise!

The photos just don’t do it justice. The sunrise started as nothing more than a thin orange line sitting on top of the loch but culminated in a fiery red sky that lit up the clouds. If ever there was an excuse for a 3 am run, this is it!

Those Marshals!

Each and every single one of the marshals couldn’t have gone out of their way more to assist, whether it be retrieving and opening drop bags, assisting with litter, filling water bottles and so forth. What’s more, they did it in some atrocious weather conditions, all whilst being eaten alive by those b&%$£&^^ midges! Thank you all :o)

Camaraderie & Friendship

I spent a lot of time running with fellow runners, some of whom I knew from previous events, and some of whom I was meeting for the first time. Thanks to everyone for the company. You all helped me make it as far as Inverness.

One thing that is evident from the photographs taken throughout the event is that despite the weather/midges/pain/sleep deprivation/everything the majority of runners were still smiling.

Going by Fiona Rennie’s pictures, which I was totally unaware were being taken, I was having a whale of a time. I was delighted to see these, and I have to admit that the smile on my face leaves me questioning whether it was really as bad as I remember it.

That Mistake – The Suunto ‘Issue’

They say not to do anything new on race day. I should have listened. However, concerned with just how long I was going to be out running, I took it upon myself to create an ultra specific Suunto Ambit3 Sport mode, with a focus on maximum battery conservation.

The last thing I wanted was, as happened in the West Highland Way Race back in 2012, an incomplete GPS track of my route or, even worse, to be left clueless with regard to how far along the route I was.

Ironically, my battery preservation efforts backfired spectacularly, and the final mileage recorded by my watch was approx. 66.5 miles, considerable less than the 73 mile route.

The lost mileage, stemming from a reduced GPS tracking level, was no doubt amplified by the numerous switchbacks along the route.

It was soul destroying to realise that my watch couldn’t be relied upon for mileage, especially when the checkpoints weren’t exactly located 10 miles apart.

Ironically, as I finish writing this report, some 5 days after the event, my watch has still to be charged and has a battery life of 38%!

Checkpoint Times

Checkpoint Time of arrival Leg splits
CP1 01:47:56 n/a
CP2 03:35:20 01:47:24
CP3 06:02:00 02:26:40
CP4 07:37:52 01:35:52
CP5 11:16:00 03:38:08
CP6 13:14:17 01:58:17
FINISH 16:02:49 02:48:32

What’s Next?

The big question at this point is what’s next for me?

I swore during and after the GGU that this was my last ultra, at least until I was able to train properly.

That statement sits in contrast to my earlier stated intent to try and run the Highland Fling, West Highland Way Race or Great Glen Ultra, and Devil O’ The Highlands in 2016, assuming that I was fortunate enough to gain entry to each event.

In true ultramarathon runner style, the pain has already subsided and I am once again giving thought to putting myself through the pain and torture of events.

Indeed, the fact that I spent last night considering how best to tighten up on time spent at checkpoints is surely testament to the fact that I am already considering future events. I’m investigating Tailwind Nutrition to see if this offers an alternative to fuelling that works for me. As much as I do love the real food approach, it does result in longer spent at Checkpoints than is ideal.

Whilst I am not quite so certain that I will now be taking another ultra hiatus, I am 100% certain that I am not about to try and bluff my way through another year of ultras.

I’ve already lost 3 stone in weight in the build up to my 2015 events and the difference in my running has been evident. I don’t think that I would have completed any of the three events had I attempted to do so on such limited training and at my previous weight.

I’ve set myself a goal of making further ultra participation dependent upon continued weight loss of at least another 1/2 stone, but ideally a stone.

In terms of training, I will likely never return to the pre-Harris mileage that I ran in my first 3 years of ultramarathon involvement. However, I most definitely do need to put a more structured training regime in place, complete with more long runs. Of course, successful training will also be dependent upon continued good health, which was the main issue this year.

So that’s all for this year as far as ultramarathons are concerned. There was some thought about signing up for The Speyside Way Race but I’ve managed to double-book that weekend with a few days away in the Cairngorms, which has taken the do I/don’t I issue out of my hands.

This weekend, we are again bound for the Cairngorms, with a joint celebration of our 5th wedding anniversary and Leanne’s dads early retirement. Thankfully, it would appear that I am going to be fit enough after the exertions of last weekend to make the most of it.

West Highland Way Race 2016?

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.

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.

Return Of The Mac – D33 2015

Update, 16th March 2015, 17:00: felt a little poorly at work today but put this down to my D33 efforts over the weekend. However, turns out that I actually have chickenpox, with rapidly spreading spots. Will admit that I didn’t see that one coming! Having never had chickenpox before, I’m not relishing the prospect of the next week. Hopefully won’t impact too much on my Fling training.

Back in March 2013, I toiled around the D33 ultramarathon, finally completing in a PW time of 06:18:33. The event, just a couple of weeks after the birth of my son Harris, was to be my last ultra until this weekend just past, the 14th March, when I once again toed the line for the D33.

Having taken a 2 year hiatus following the birth of my son, I finally felt prepared to once again tackle ultra distances. Or, at least, that was the thinking behind my application back at the start of 2015. The reality, of course, was somewhat different.

The short version of events is that, just like in 2013, I made it to the finish line and, in doing so, completed my 18th ultramarathon out of 19 starts. Again just like 2013, It was anything but pretty!

Looking at the available splits information for my participation in D33 events to date, the one thing that is evident is that I ‘may’ have gone out too hard and fast on the day.

Perhaps this is why, come mile 18, I found myself rooted to the spot, absolutely unable to move, thanks to debilitating cramps that were shooting through every inch of both legs.

Or then again, maybe it was more to do with the absolute lack of training, the recent issues with cellulitis that had curtailed all running in the run up to the event, or the fact that I chose to hydrate entirely with nothing more than 100% water, with no electrolytes or salt tablets at all, a habit that I had become accustomed to over the considerably shorted runs that I had completed whilst on my ‘ultra vacation’.

To say that things hadn’t quite gone to plan would be an understatement.

When I last ran the race, back in 2013, my training had been adversely affected by preparations for the arrival of my son Harris and my longest training run had been just 11 miles. However, despite the short distances back then, there was considerably more volume of training and I still had the muscle memory from 3 years worth of ultra events that I believe helped me get through on the day.

This time around, illness and parenthood limited the training time available to me and my situation was further exasperated by the events of the past month.

I should add at this point, that it’s not all doom and gloom. A good few people commented on my considerably reduced frame on Saturday, thanks in no small part to the loss of over 3 stones in weight over the past 6 months approx.

However, this in itself added yet more uncertainty into the mix and I really did feel as if I was starting afresh. Come Saturday morning I was extremely nervous and pretty much kept myself to myself, save for a few short catch up conversations, as I awaited the start of the race.

Initially, as the weight started to drop off, I came to ‘expect’ PBs, almost forgetting that they needed to be earned. An 18 mile run from Ellon to Mintlaw at the start of the year, along the Formartine & Buchan Way, soon put paid to these naive thoughts. Less than 3 miles in I found myself toiling badly and I will admit to considering making the call for a pick up at one of the many hop on/off points along the line. Retrospectively, I was glad that I did complete the run, though at no point did it feel like anything more than an absolute slog.

It soon became apparent that weight loss alone wasn’t going to be enough to ensure PB times and that, further, any muscle memory in the legs was well and truly gone.

The only option was to ramp up the long runs, mixing these up with 2-3 speedier sessions through the week. With this in mind, approximately 1 month before this years D33, I set out to do a back to back weekend, pushing hard on the Saturday.

I was delighted to smash my 1/2 marathon PB by a considerable number of minutes in the course of the 15 mile run that day and I followed this up with a 13 mile run the following day, pushing only marginally less hard.

Come Monday, my legs were in bad shape and I spent the week swimming in place of my planned cross training and running sessions. What I thought was just a bad case of DOMS hung about considerably longer than I would expect.

With the D33 looming ever closer, I took the decision to ‘test’ the legs, setting out for an out and back 15 mile off-road run. Daft perhaps but I am sure, given the circumstances, something that most runners would have done themselves.

The run out was manageable, just. The return however, was anything but comfortable and the notion of running ‘form’ soon went out the window as I ran/walk/limped home.

Waking in pain at 1 am, unable to return to sleep thanks to the throbbing in my left leg, I knew then that there was something seriously wrong.

Sunday revolved around a hospital visit where I was diagnosed with cellulitis, provided with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and painkillers. I was advised to keep the feet up and do nothing.

Over the course of the week, my left leg lost its warm red glow and returned to a size more comparable to my right leg. However, despite completing all medication, there was still considerably more pain that I would have expected at this stage. Unfortunately, flexion was the root cause of much of the pain which didn’t bode particularly well for running.

Seeking further medical advice, I was advised that the continued pain was likely a side effect of the cellulitis and that continued rest was the only approach. Thankfully, the doctor was very understanding when I broached the subject of the D33.

I was advised that there was little constructive training that could be done at this point anyway, and that, if I really had to run it, I should just stay off the leg as much as possible until the day and then attempt to complete, using any pain experienced as a barometer of if/when I should pull out.

Armed with this advice I at least had some hope, which was good enough for me. (I’ve got to love my medical practice. They really do tolerate my insanity really well!)

I waited until the Wednesday before the D33 and, with pain levels almost back to normal, I hit the treadmill for a fast paced 5 mile test.

The pain was bearable, my race was on. (Retrospectively, I shouldn’t have pushed quite so hard as I spent the Friday worrying about the DOMS that my test run had brought about!)

As I headed into the D33 early on the Saturday morning I was a bag of nerves. The limitations of my training were playing on my mind, as was that torturous 18 mile run along the Formartine & Buchan Way, my longest training run to date. Surely it wouldn’t/couldn’t be THAT bad!

My leg was still an unknown quantity. How would it cope with any distance? Would the cellulitis return? (at the time of writing, thankfully not!).

Finally, I had taken the decision to replace my trusty Altra Lone Peak 1.5 trail shoes with the new Lone Peak 2.0 which, it turns out, has quite a different feel to it. I just hadn’t had the opportunity to test the shoes out. Thankfully they were the real success story of the day as my feet were in immaculate condition come the finish. The slightly increased stack height of the 2.0 quite possibly best suited the hard conditions underfoot of the D33.

The race itself was going well for the first 13 miles. Really well. Too well in fact. I knew I was going too fast, considerably faster than previous efforts, and yet I didn’t back off.

Stupid? Maybe, but who’s to say that the events of mile 18 wouldn’t have happened regardless of how hard I pushed. I can, at least, take some consolation from the fantastic run that I had to start. I didn’t even stop at the first check point, confirming my number to one of the marshals and continuing on my way.

By miles 14 and 15 I was starting to lag, and I was glad of a can of Coke at the 1/2 way point, my one guilty ‘ultra pleasure’. There’s nothing quite like the thought of a can of Coke to lift my spirits and keep me heading on to the next checkpoint.

I’ve already documented the events at mile 18. I was absolutely rooted to the spot, unable to move, afraid to move, for fear of the pain that even the slightest sway was met with.

The ultra community really came through for me at this point, with many people enquiring as to my well-being and/or if there was anything that they could do. I owe my race to the assistance of one guy who was supporting his wife who was kind enough to help me stretch out both legs. This was enough to get me back moving, albeit very, very gingerly, for fear of inducing yet another cramping spasm.

I also owe thanks to Nicola Stuart for sharing some rock salt with me, and to the final checkpoint for more salt, all of which I am sure helped me nurse my cramping legs to the finish line.

Given all of the issues going in to the event, who would have thought that my performance would ultimately be dictated by cramp!

What I can say for certain is that I made it, and was delighted to be rewarded with a 05:59:41 time, sneaking in just below the 6 hour mark. Further, of the 5 times that I have run the event, it’s actually my 3rd fastest time!

As with so many ultra events, I had a chance to catch up with old friends, and to make new friends along the way, surely one of the best aspects of ultras.

Hopefully my return to the Hoka Highland Fling will fare better!

Huge thanks to the RDs and Marshals without who, the D33 wouldn’t exist.

Ding! Ding! I’m In The Fling!

After a long day ripping up 2 overgrown rockeries in the garden, lumping oversized rocks around, digging up plants determined to annexe their neighbours, and generally attempting to return our garden to the (kind of) pristine shape that it used to enjoy pre Harris, I was all but set for a very early bed tonight.

And then I remembered it was Fling night. No, not some night of sordid sexual depravity, nor a night of Scottish dancing, but, instead, the opening of entry to The Hoka Highland Fling, the 53 mile ultramarathon that is Scotland’s, if not also the UK’s, biggest Ultramarathon.

With a capped entry of 1000 solo runners, I was hopeful of getting a place but, regardless, decided to err on the side of caution and sign up as soon as entry opened, at 9PM this evening.

With a couple of crashes along the way, it was obvious that the web servers were taking a bit of a pounding but, thankfully, I  secured the desired place, ending my 2 year ‘sabbatical’ from ultramarathons.

What I didn’t expect was to see over 600 of those 1000 available spaces sell out in the first 40 minutes of the race being opened. I won’t be surprised if the race is sold out by the time I waken tomorrow morning at this rate!

So, a commitment to run 53 miles on 25th April 2015, along the lower ‘1/2’ of the West Highland Way, on the 10th edition of the Highland Fling, along with some 999 other solo runners and some 50 approx relay teams of 4 runners. I had best get training!

Not The West Highland Way Race

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.

Scottish Ultra Marathon Series 2013 Champions

Congratulations to all of the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series 2013 champions:

M/F Surname First name cat Position Total
M Paul Giblin M Overall 1 1488.022
M Donnie Campbell M Overall 2 1487.489
M John McLaughlin MV Overall 3 1468.667
M Gerry Craig MV 1 1363.249
M Nick Rennie MV 2 1348.596
M Roland McCraw MV 3 1309.159
M Mark Ashby MSV 1 1231.061
M Bill Watson MSV 2 1180.406
M Donald Sandeman MSV 3 1165.454
M Alan Robertson M60 1 1072.199
F Rosie Bell FV Overall 1 1451.589
F Caroline McKay F Overall 2 1424.736
F Kathy Henly FV Overall 3 1411.686
F Joanna Rae FV 1 1364.225
F Melanie Sinclair FV 2 1316.251
F Sandra McDougall FV 3 1269.14
F Carole Fortune FSV 1 1283.374
F Margaret Bryant FSV 2 965.5896
F Morna Fleming F60 1 1106.316

Full results can be found at the SUMS website:

West Highland Way Race 2013 Results

149 of the 181 starters of the 2013 West Highland Way Race made it to the finish line in Fort William, with times ranging from a new course record of 15:07:29 by Paul Giblin, through to Peter Ritchie’s 34:06:31.

1st Paul Giblin M 15:07:29
2nd Marco Consani M 16:03:48
3rd Richie Cunningham MV40 16:27:30
4th Marc Casey M 16:56:50
5th Matthew Moroz M 16:59:26
6th Mike Raffan M 18:18:22
7th Dave Troman MV40 18:30:59
8th Rick Clark MV40 18:58:27
9th Mark Leggett MV40 19:12:25
10th Benjamin Kemp M 19:16:56
11th Rosie Bell FV40 19:27:04
12th Lorna McMillan F 19:46:00
13th David McLure M 19:55:48
14th Neil Rutherford MV40 20:37:54
15th Fraser Hirst MV40 20:39:44
16th Derek Cassells M 20:43:07
17th Stevie Gildea MV40 20:50:01
18th Steven Morrison M 20:52:24
19th Graeme Gatherer M 21:00:56
20th Gerry Craig MV40 21:03:14
21st Garry Scott M 21:10:49
22nd Gregor Heron MV40 21:13:21
23rd John Moffat MV50 21:26:13
24th John Kynaston MV50 21:26:57
25th David Gow M 21:33:00
26th Phil Humphries MV40 21:39:09
27th Paul Tranter MV40 21:41:02
28th Bob Steel MV40 21:51:47
29th Tim Fox MV40 21:53:28
30th Terry Addison MV50 21:56:09
31st Debbie Brupbacher FV40 21:56:34
32nd Peter de Krijger MV50 22:01:48
33rd Steven Yule M 22:02:49
34th Robbie Campbell M 22:03:50
35th Karl Zeiner M 22:05:49
36th Steve Doidge-Harrison MV40 22:10:34
37th Derek Morley MV40 22:14:48
38th Steven Brown MV40 22:16:59
39th Donald Sandeman MV50 22:18:48
40th Garry Burton M 22:19:48
41st Andy Cole MV60 22:23:13
42nd Helen Lees FV40 22:25:30
43rd Graeme McClymont MV40 22:28:56
44th David Tweddell MV40 22:39:49
45th Joanna Rae FV40 22:42:34
46th Dirk Verbiest MV50 22:50:20
47th Andrew Hannah MV40 22:51:27
48th Tony Thistlethwaite MV60 22:51:54
49th Kirsty Sarah Williams F 23:04:28
50th Chris Webb M 23:05:05
51st Sandra McDougall FV40 23:11:21
52nd Gary Rutherford M 23:12:52
53rd Peter Macdonald M 23:13:21
54th David McLaren M 23:13:28
55th Brendan O’Hagan MV50 23:24:33
56th Keith Ainslie MV40 23:30:25
57th Ian Rae MV40 23:34:42
58th Andrew Mitchell M 23:36:16
59th James McKenzie MV50 23:36:43
60th Anthony Urquhart MV40 23:39:40
61st Stephen Forde M 23:40:23
62nd Bob Allison MV50 23:40:51
63rd James Ward M 23:44:04
64th Andrew Kay MV50 23:44:55
65th Keith Hughes MV40 23:49:45
66th Ross Lawrie M 23:52:11
67th Stephen Cotterill MV50 23:54:01
68th Graeme Reid MV40 23:56:55
69th Richard Bowman M 23:57:02
70th Craig Hamilton MV40 24:20:21
71st Jonathan Fallows MV40 24:24:45
72nd Craig Mackay M 24:34:21
73rd Stewart Ward MV40 24:57:11
74th Mick Tarry MV50 25:02:08
75th Ton Van Os MV40 25:02:23
76th Gavin Durston MV40 25:02:40
77th Richard Webster MV40 25:04:16
78th Fiona Malcolm FV40 25:08:17
79th Andrew Macdonald MV40 25:08:22
80th Alistair Stewart M 25:23:33
81st Carol Martin FV40 25:24:48
82nd Danny Mills MV50 25:41:41
83rd Alan Robertson MV60 25:52:35
84th David Simpson MV40 26:04:14
85th Angus Gillespie MV50 26:11:12
86th Gareth Bryan-Jones MV60 26:15:13
87th Cal Mitchell MV50 26:20:31
88th George Chalmers MV40 26:24:50
89th Stephen Brown MV40 26:40:59
90th Patrick Lynch MV50 26:48:07
91st Garry Mackay M 26:51:37
92nd Charles Gordon MV40 26:53:00
93rd Simon Burbury M 27:06:55
94th Norrie Swan MV40 27:13:01
95th Michael Przewloka MV40 27:15:24
96th Caroline Moles F 27:15:59
97th Stuart Macfarlane MV60 27:16:54
98th Alan Crawford MV40 27:22:32
99th Stephen McAnespie M 27:23:09
100th Paul Campbell MV40 27:25:02
101st Ian Minty MV40 27:26:20
102nd John Munro MV40 27:34:05
103rd Glenn Gemmell MV50 27:42:59
104th Karen Robertson FV40 27:45:40
105th Derek Hill MV40 27:45:42
106th Andrew McHendry MV50 27:54:01
107th Andreas Ruhnke MV40 27:54:16
108th Nicola May FV40 28:04:47
109th Elspeth Luke F 28:13:50
110th Brian Garry MV40 28:33:23
111th Harry McAlinden MV50 28:33:40
112th Fraser McCoull M 28:49:55
113th Ivan Bertram MV50 28:50:11
114th Susan Donnelly FV50 28:57:07
115th Jack Paton MV40 28:57:39
116th Blair Laird M 29:17:22
117th Alyson MacPherson FV50 29:24:01
118th Stewart Mackay MV40 29:48:50
119th Nicola Rhind F 29:48:55
120th Paul Hatwell MV50 29:49:10
121st Craig Lloyd M 30:18:25
122nd Neil MacRitchie M 30:30:06
123rd Victoria O’Reilly FV40 30:33:14
124th Robert Kinnaird MV40 30:33:17
125th Andrew Stephenson MV40 30:37:23
126th Ada Stewart FV40 30:38:03
127th Allan Grant MV50 30:38:55
128th Thomas Robb MV40 31:03:23
129th Mark Keddie MV40 31:15:13
130th Rab Lee M 31:22:04
131st Amin Amiri M 31:27:47
132nd Phil Owen MV40 31:34:35
133rd Graeme Hewitson MV40 31:34:54
134th John Vernon MV60 31:41:56
135th Alan Stewart M 31:42:33
136th Thomas Boother M 32:20:19
137th Christine Fyffe FV50 32:34:29
138th Grahame Wardlaw MV50 32:34:32
139th Fred Hamond MV60 32:36:51
140th Scott Talling MV40 32:37:01
141st Lorna Masterton FV40 32:37:40
142nd David Etchells MV40 32:37:45
143rd Sarah Robertson FV40 33:17:58
144th Neil Foote M 33:30:29
145th Andy O’Grady MV50 33:45:50
146th Ian Gibson MV50 33:58:30
147th Martin Hooper MV40 34:03:14
148th Shelley Spencer FV40 34:04:22
149th Peter Ritchie MV50 34:06:31

West Highland Way Race Course Record Broken

Paul Giblin took a chunk out of Terry Conyway’s 2012 WHW Race time to set a new course record, arriving in Fort William in a phenomenal time of 15:07:29. Marco Consani and Richie Cunningham followed in second and third in times of 16:03:48 and 16:27:30 respectively.

First lady home was Rosie Bell in a time of 19:27:04, followed by Lorna McMillan in a time of 19:46:00.

At this point, only 21 runners have finished, with most runners still out on the course. Thinking back to my own experiences from last year, I was still a long way from finishing, which I eventually did around 8am Sunday morning.

Full results are available online this year, thanks to Sportident chip timing, which has made following the race much easier:

West Highland Way Race 2013

It’s West Highland Way Race weekend once again. Unfortunately, I will not be competing this year, having decided to pull out of the race following the birth of my son Harris. However, I will be tuning in online to see how everyone is doing in their quest for the goblet, and it will hopefully not be too long before I am back to try and get my second WHW Race goblet. All the very best to everyone running, supporting and marshalling this weekend. I hope that the weather is kinder to you all than it was this time last year and I look forward to hearing all of the stories from the weekend. Just remember, the tougher it is, the better the story you have to tell!

In the meantime, enjoy the following WHW Race videos:

My Heart’s in the Highlands

The West Highland Way Race 2009 (The Adventure Show)

WHW Closing Distance (2005)