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Great Glen Ultra 2018

5th of July 2015 I made my first ever steps on the Great Glen Way, which stretches from Fort William to Inverness and is roughly 71 miles long. At this time it was a massive jump up in miles for me, but I wanted to attempt the Great Glen Ultra. The longest race previously was 38 miles. I had a pretty good day, finishing in 12 hours 40 odd and managing to pick up 2nd place that day. This was beyond my wildest dreams at this time, and I knew on finishing that one day I'd return to run it better prepared. As you may or may not know, I ran a few ultras in 2016 which culminated in the Glenmore 24 hour, managing 130ish miles. Then I had a year off completely in 2017 due to the birth of my mad baby and getting hitched. I missed the long runs more than I thought and I was itching to get back to it.


At the start of the year I still didn't have concrete plans as the races I do are very much dictated by my weekends off at work, but I knew the Great Glen had to make a come back. I love the BAM races that I've done and this is an amazing route. Controversial maybe, but I think this is a much better route than the West Highland Way. Flat and fast the first 30 miles and then three decent steep climbs before arriving in Inverness. If you look back to my Blackpool marathon blog, you'll see that training didn't go to plan at all due to illness. After this I managed a good 5 week stretch and was pretty happy with some new ideas that I was fitting in, and really feeling the benefit of these. However, Blackpoolitis struck again, and in what was to be my peak week I was struck down again. I had somehow managed to find myself with sepsis, which I am blaming entirely on being bitten by some Argyll insect while at work. Again this resulted in a zero mile running week. And again I could barely sit up without being forced to a lie back down again within a few minutes. I was given 2 weeks of a massive dose of antibiotics, and against doctors orders I started to train ever so slowly after a week. I felt pretty shit while doing so but not as shit as the cabin fever that I am ever so prone to. This took me up to the taper fortnight which is horrendous at the best of times. But...happy that I was actually running and able to get outside was great, and I was now happy that I would make the start line. Adding to the taper woes was the reality that I had again missed every proper long training run (see a pattern here) and that sucked more confidence from me and done more damage than that stupid Argyll midge had done.

So I was now turning up on race day not having ran more than 30 miles for a massive 22 months. It seemed like a massive jump up in miles yet again on this route. So again the task seemed daunting. I'd have been happy with one long run to settle the legs but it just wasn't to be. It's just the way life goes sometimes so I just had to suck it up buttercup. At least this time I would have a good bit of experience in my quiver which I could use to shoot down some problems I would no doubt encounter on the way.

Race eve

Different to 2015, we drove straight to Inverness and set up camp in the Bught campsite which is right beside the finish. Tent set up was hassle free. I then unsuccessfully chased sleep for an hour or so while the sun beat down on the tent. I then got things organised for my drop bags with the help of daughter number 1. Tailwind and bananas were going to be the order of the day along with the odd wee treat of nakd bars and oat bars. I'm all about the bananas when I run, despite hating them outwith running life. I can thank Mrs Shaw for this after force feeding me these during some race. They do the trick but they are rank. So everything organised and we headed off for the bus back to the start. Sleep eluded me on the journey back, so I'd just have to deal with being tired and ready for bed before the off. Not to worry. I opted to wear race shorts and vest with some Inov-8 Race Ultra Sleeves which I had unbelievably managed to find that fit my 8 year old size arms. Ultimate Direction Race Vest  to carry my gear, and finished off with Injinji toe socks and Mizuno Fresh Foam Zante to make sure my feet were comfy and blister free throughout. There was a wee hang around at registration which allowed me time to do my warm up routine and contemplate the long run ahead of me.

Photo by Jimmy Hyland Visuals

 Race start

I had a fairly clear plan of what pace I was going to run for the 1st 30 miles. After this I was just going to hang on if I could. Due to the lack of long runs I was unsure what would happen here so it appeared as good a plan as any to run the 30 at a pace I knew I could stick and then see how I felt. At 0100 hours off we went and my Garmin told me I was at 7:20 per mile pace. I was keeping an eye on my heart rate which was ideal about 140 bpm ish.  So far so good. I found myself at the front along with Rodger Sangster and Chris Harris. The pace suited me so we settled in and it was good to have some company for the first bit, albeit there was little talking. After about 7 miles you've to cross the canal. There was a swing bridge about this point, but no arrow and I was fairly confident the turn was a little further away. A look behind showed some headtorches on this bridge (everyone is always eager to make a turn) but rest assured a little further up the road Bill was on course to direct us over the correct turn. There was then a wee bit of trail and I slowed up and let Rodger and Chris move on ahead. Gavin Taylor then came past about this point and he was out of sight pretty quickly. It's always good to witness people moving so quickly. By this time the other runners were out of site too, and I enjoyed the quiet as I passed along the water. There was no breath of wind at all and even though it was dark the views were great. I passed checkpoint one where I picked up my banana and oats and I think I was passed by a runner at this time. I turned my head torch off at this point. It was still dark but the moonlight was enough and I really enjoy running in the dark trails with no light if it's safe to do so.