Sunday, 11 July 2010


Back from a very enjoyable, though tiring weekend.
We were off to join Haddington and East Lothian Pacemakers to run the West Highland Way, as a relay race (the "we" in question being 8 of us from Dunbar).
Four of us (Anne, Ian, Frank and me) travelled to Haddington to meet up with some of the HELP guys and share their mini bus transport.
Despite the early start by the time we had met Frank, Paddy, Ray (and Harvey) then collected George, Eddy and Henry the atmosphere in the bus was quite lively and full of anticipation for the run ahead.
The route had been split into 12 "stages" of various lengths and various degree of difficulty.
I had volunteered for three legs - and the first of my legs? Well it was also the first of the race. So, I found myself on the starting blocks, just outside Milgavine train station at 4:00 alongside Eddy for a short leg that went to Carbeth.
Now. I've never set foot on the West Highland Way, let alone race it or run it even. All I know of it comes from what I've heard or read about other's efforts to run either the whole thing or, more sensibly in my opinion, half of it at a time.
At the word "go" we shot off into the gloomy night and started picking our way through what appeared to be a mixture of public park and woodland walkway. It was, as you might expect at the time, dead quiet and the one person we did pass was an angler heading off for a spot of fishing.
The leg was supposed to be five miles, but my Garmin only registered just over four. This, combined with me and Eddie's speed and a slight navigational misunderstanding on the part of the mini bus meant that we arrived at the handover spot just as the bus arrived. A quick and frantic handover and Anne and Paddy were off and we got time for a little breather and back onto the bus to travel to the start of leg 3.
As luck would have it I had elected to do leg three as well, and so had Eddy. So we were to find ourselves racing against each other again, but this time over the longer, hillier, rougher leg from Drymen to Balmaha.
As it turned out, we both did the same leg, but I set off a bit after Eddy and never actually saw him on the route.
When this leg started it was through nice soft forest trails and I was starting to think that the relay wasn't going to be too bad at all. Then at about five and a half miles somebody put a bloody big hill in the way. Conic Hill.
I had originally thought we went round it, but "no" we had to go up a path that looked more like a dried up, rocky, stream. Very difficult footing - as was the run down the other side towards the car park at Balmaha where the next handover took place.
After leg three I had most of the the rest of the day off to just sit about the bus, natter, look at the impressive and ever changing landscapes, cheer on other runners and eat until the last leg of the day...

At Inveranan we met up with Ian, Jane, Theresa and Brian who had traveled up together. No point in leaving at 2 in the morning if your not running till the back of ten.
Luckily they were there early, as while we were all standing about in a  car park talking word came in that Ian R had completed his 14 mile leg from Rowerdennan to Inveranan about thirty minutes ahead of schedule.
And so it went on during the day, with one runner handing over the metaphorical batton to the next, while the rest of us piled into the mini bus to get to the next handover.
Due to a couple of wrong turnings and what not Dunbar were well behind HELP and all thoughts of victory were out the window.. the pressure was well and truly off.

Next thing I knew it was my turn again. A 14 mile "jog" from Kinlochleven to Fort William. Oh lordy, lordy... How anyone can run 80 miles and then face this section is beyond me. Honestly.
An awful climb that goes on for about a mile up towards an old military road that looks like a line of roughly hewn boulders placed along a lunar landscape that in turn just goes on and on and on...
Until you come to a forest section that as well as going on and on also seems to do a hell of a lot of up and down and up and down.
I was running this section against Findlay and thought, by the time we got to the forest, that I was a bit in front. I might have been, but I had misjudged the terrain, the pace, the climbing and underestimated how much my two earlier session had taken out of me.
By the time I was on the last couple of miles I had been passed and felt like a man running backwards. It didn't help that I saw a marker that I thought was a marker for the WHW, but turned out to be one for a different walk that went up to the Ben Nevis centre, or some such. I quickly had doubts and a quick question to a couple out walking if they had seen any runners pass them, confirmed that I was on the wrong route and I had to retrace my steps till I got back on track.
The sight of everyone waiting at the sign for the end of the way was welcome indeed and ended a tiring, but enjoyable day's running. I was absolutely knackered and almost immediately fell asleep when I got back onto the bus.

Later on we were all booked into a bunk house just outside Fort William where a very enjoyable meal was had. And, for those who like such pursuits, that "alcohol" stuff was also on offer. It is beyond me, by the way, how quickly a conversation can turn. You can be talking about running one minute and then, inexplicably, discussing if the body of a small dog is best suited for being used to make a pair of hairy slippers or best suited to being turned into a lamp shade (hope Harvey never hears of this)!!

The guys from HELP were also very magnanimous in their victory - we were well and truly "gubbed".

This morning however, the conversation at breakfast was more civilised (and strangely subdued).
All in all, I think I ran about 27 miles yesterday over three legs. How people can do 95 I cannot comprehend.
Very sore legs today so I just took them out for a gentle 4 mile recovery run at a ludicrously slow pace this afternoon.
I shall try to have an easy week.
A tired dog...


1 comment:

Ray said...

whoppee Harvey is famous.