Monday, 20 June 2011


I was away at the weekend supporting Ian on his West Highland Way race.

Suffice to say he managed the WHW at his first attempt and, despite an injury that troubled him greatly in the last parts of the race, got a time that many would be happy with.

What follows is not a blow by blow of the 2011 race (that will be found elsewhere). Neither is it a eulogy to bravery/fortitude/stupidity of the competitors (my views on ultra running are already know). No this is a sort of bit by bit “reportage” or “random thoughts”, if you will, of life from the supporters side of the fence.

The Start: The start itself is quite exciting. It certainly beats the previous two hours you will have spent hanging around Milngavie railway station car park. !). I was interested to see that the runners don’t wear numbers. Rather they have those little plastic “hospital ID tag” things – thus reinforcing my belief that anyone who attempts something like that is obviously a candidate for enforced institutionalisation.
No one else will think of this..
The start also allows the spectator/supporter the only opportunity during the entire race to view all the runners together. It also allows those of use with a sort of artistic flare to take a snap of the runners as they line up or emerge from the underpass at the start (because no one has ever thought of that before.
And that was just Anne's
Fuel: One of the most important tasks for a supporter is thinking about the food intake… Rolls, sandwiches, fruit, cakes, yogurt, drinks, energy bars.. too much to mention really. Oh, and your runner will probably want something as well. By the time you get to Tyndrum you will be sick of vacuum flask coffee and slightly warm rolls. Thank the lord then for the cafĂ© at Glencoe ski centre.

Personal Hygiene: Not something you may want to talk about, but important never the less. There’s that horrible moment when your tired befuddled brain talks to you and says, “You left the house on Friday evening. It’s now early Sunday morning…. And you haven’t washed or brushed your teeth since then” Ewech.. All the times you’ve ever watched adverts for “72 hour protection deodorants” and thought to yourself “what sort of manky git doesn’t wash their oxters for 72 hours”??!! Congratulations. Now you know … fact, you’re one of them.

Be considerate to others: The first meeting point at Dryman is basically on the road at the foot of someone’s garden. Do you think the people who own the house knew when they bought it that their neighbourhood would be invaded by hundreds of cars and supporters every year?

Time: You may think you have all the time in the world but get to the next check point. Better get there early then have a wee sleep than leave it to late….. Amused to see the car load of supporters who had miss timed their arrival at the ski centre and ended up racing past the runner in their car and executing a Sweeney style hand brake turn just in time to get the boot open and get the food out.

"Extras" not on offer.

Support your runner: Remember the WHW is a test of a runners mental strength as well as their physical fortitude. Encourage them all. I though being a “supporter” just meant standing at the side of the road shouting “pick it up – your dropping to 8-minute miles!” No. Your there to cater for their every need

Little buggers still got through.

Wildlife: Scotland is rich indeed in a vast array of beautiful and majestic creatures. You won’t see any. No. You will be too busy keeping the bloody midges away from any spare inch of flesh you foolishly leave exposed. But, as I always say you have to learn at least one thing every day. Saturdays new life tip came through unfortunate experience from George – Never spit while wearing a midge net!

Fashion: It has to be layered. It has to be functional and you have to live in it for about 30 odd hours. Looking around this years look seemed to be “Dougie Vipond meets Worzel Cummidge”. Most other people had that “fresh on” gortex, outdoorsy look of Mr Vipond…. I looked like Worzel.

Take a good map. Who the hell has ever heard of “Bogle Glen”?? Took me and Frank ages trekking up a horrible muddy, swampy trail to get there … only to find out later that there’s a lovely wee path at the other side of Crianlarich. It was there that one runner went through and told his support crew that he wanted a “FAB” ice lolly at the next check point! If it had been my runner I’d have given him a pound and told him to stop somewhere and get his own. Beware of Bogle Glen, it’s where the midges live!!

Another jumpin' Friday night in Milngavie

It will inspire you to try it: Eh… “no” it didn’t.

If you want actual photos of the race....HERE

1 comment:

Davie said...

You obviously missed the opportunity for bacon rolls and coffee at the Beechtree Inn at 10k!
As someone who has run, supported and now marshalled at the race it is interesting to read an non- ultra view of the madness. Made me smile.
You could have spent 10 hours with me at Bridge of Orchy. Not a single midge! Mind you the wind and rain meant I had 7 layers on!
But it takes a special breed to do the WHW in whatever capacity. welcome to the "Family"