I think I was about 18 years old when I first heard about the west highland way race. I'd just finished running a marathon when I heard that people ran the full West highland way. I don't think at the time I could process the thought of this. I swore to myself that I'd run it one day.
Fast forward 13 years...
June 18th 2016. 5 minutes to 1 am. Race briefing done and I'm standing on the start line at Milngavie train station. The start line which I'd imagined myself on for the previous 13 years. I go through my training in my mind. 1500 miles for the year. 100,000 feet elevation gain. I'm ready. I am surrounded by familiar faces, some I've never met, some I recognise from social media, all illuminated by the glow of the head torches on every runner. It's time to go. Another run through of my race plan goes through my head, this time interupted by the sound of the horn and the cheers from the waiting crowd. The race begins and I take the first step of many.
The first few mies pass quickly. I settle into an early rhythmn of just over 8 minutes per mile average. I'm joined by a few others and natter away to each other. I manage to get out on my own soon and enjoy the company of only my headtorch, continuingly chasing the bouncing glow along the easy flat miles. The miles pass uneventfully and before I know it I've reached drymen. I've ran the next section many times. I have fun remembering the miles in the harsh weather that I have put in on this sectionto prepare for today. My mind drifts and I find myself at the bottom of the conic. I run the hill at an easy pace, exactly on plan. I turn at the top to look around. Seeing the worm of headtorches dancing behind me on the trail up the hill is an amazing sight. When I look forward again I am greeted with the almost full moon illuminating the glass like water of Loch Lomond. I think at this point it is worth doing the race for these two views alone.
Its is starting brighten and I no longer need my head torch. Which is handy, on the decent from conic hill my battery runs out. It should have lasted hours longer. Hopefully not a sign of things giving up before they should be. I reach Balmaha car park within 3 seconds of my target time. Im met by my lone supporter Theresa who fills up my water bottles and sends me on my way quickly. She shouts to me that the battery on my go pro had already ran out, yet another sign that things weren't lasting as long as they should! I shout back that we forgot to pack beer for after the race. Priorities!
Balmaha - 2 hours 45 minutes
Within a mile of leaving Balmaha I force down an energy bar and immediately bring it back up. Not really ideal but I sometimes struggle with the solid food and I was managing enough tailwind for the early part of the race so I wasn't too bothered. The remaining miles to Rowerdennan passed uneventfully. I don't remember passin anyone or being passed at all, however I may be wrong. I ran into Rowerdennan to see Davie Gow just in front, and immediately thought I must be going too fast. I arrived just a few minutes in front of my target time.
Rowerdennan - 4 hour 5 mins
Another attempt at an energy bar is met by the same result at the first. I don't hang about long as I am being attacked by a horde of midges. I grab a banana and force this down as I trundle along the lochside. I ease along and spot Davie Gow in front. I take the lead from him - he is far more experienced than me so I walk the sections he is walking and run again when he does. The race is following the low route this year which I love. The rugged section passes underfoot and Im having a great time, my legs feel fresh. Davie stopped for a comfort break and i stretched not far in front of him. I run through Inveruglas stopping briefly to drink an irn bru. The army of midge is stronger here than at the last stop. I soldier on, aware Im being followed closely but I'm not bohered by position, certainly not at this stage anyway. A few miles up the road the the lead lady tears past me. There is no way I could keep her pace she is setting scrambling over the rocks. Time passes and I know Im closing in on seeing Theresa and my dad which gives me an immense boost. The dreaded midge attacks continue until Im almost at Beinglas. I spot a familiar vest in front and catch up. I see its Hal Koerner! We exchange pleasantries as I pass. He is struggling with a knee injury. I doubt he has understood anything I said. Before I know it I am climbing the style and Ive arrived at Beinglas. My dad and Theresa set about me, feeding me and filling my bottles. Id love to hang about but the midges are too harsh. I make a joke about overtaking famous Hal and run on.
Beinglas farm - 6 hours 59 mins
This next section is a bit of a baw breaker. I get my head down and trudge on. Truth be told I don't remember much of this section. Im met by a walker near Crainlarich who fills my water bottles. Im beginning to fade and Im doing garmin maths to see if I'll make the next check point in time. The sun is rising further, and it seems with each further rise, my legs respond with lost energy. Im now struggling to take on the tailwind and I know I need to eat.