Highland Fling Ultra Marathon

I’m still in a state of shock that I completed the 53 miles of the Highland Fling race because I nearly didn’t make it to the start line. 

Unlike my training for my first attempt in 2015, I hadn’t followed the programme religiously and three weeks working in Kenya in March meant I had missed some really crucial long runs and my attempts to make up for it on my return were pretty soul destroying. But, taking comfort from the encouraging words of my physio, Margaret and Caroline amongst others, I convinced myself it was possible.

So, I arrived at the start line at 5:30am and joined the throng of colourfully dressed ultra-runners who had gathered at Milngavie Railway Station and by the back of 6am we set off to the sound of the bagpipes on our crazy, long journey to Tyndrum.

The crowd was initially very tightly packed which made movement very slow and tricky because you couldn’t see where you were putting your feet but by the time we got out towards the Carbeth Huts we had strung out. I caught up with a lovely lady calle Lois who I had met in the race in 2015 and we chatted for a bit. I was looking forward to getting to Drymen because my work mate Kayleigh was going to be there to cheer me on. We had a brief chat and I introduced her to the mighty men of the Maryhill Harriers, who were assembled waiting for Kieran to come stomping through. Then it was off again.

I enjoyed the journey up Conic Hill, just looking out over Loch Lomond, taking in the whole experience. It wasn’t long before Andy came speeding past me
giving some encouraging words as he passed. I think he was the fourth relay runner to pass me, and as I could see him storming up the hill, I had high
hopes the guys would have a podium finish.

Next stop, Balmaha and the chance to tear open my drop bag and munch on some goodies inside. I think I managed a packet of crisps, half a filled roll
and a few slurps of coke before I set off again. And now my most hated section to Rowardennan. So undulating and so demoralising. I was having a terrible mental battle and was seriously considering chucking it by the time I got to Rowardennan, doing about 25 miles would surely be enough. But, once I had got some more food in me and changed my top I felt fresher and ready to go again.

Once I had got the never ending climb up the landrover track through the forest out of the way and started dropping down to the loch I felt a bit better again. I was with a little pack now and we seemed to take turns leap frogging each, although not literally (!), jogging a bit, walking a bit, jogging a bit etc before we reached Inversnaid and the chance to eat, again and stock up with yet another Mars bar.

I seemed to take on some super human strength from Inversnaid, keeping a regular pace, meaning a few runners had to step out of the way and let me pass. There seemed to be an endless stream of German walkers with massive rucksacks doing the West Highland Way here who just looked confused! When I came out into the open area where the path snakes through some beautiful carpet like grass, climbing up through some trees, dropping down to the little bothy I had left my little group behind and was on my own for quite a long time. I caught up with “man with poles who shouldn’t have had them.” I think the organisers must have confiscated said poles as they were nowhere to be seen.

Memorable moments here were chatting to a man wearing crazy running sandals who said they were great but his feet told a different story! He didn’t seem very impressed when I told him the last 12 miles were tough. Such a welcome sight to see the buildings of Beinn Glas through the trees and drop down to more goodies. Sat down on a chair for the first time to munch on some more crisps and got chatting to a guy whose finger nails were painted with different colured nail varnish – I had to bite my tongue to stop myself asking why!

I was dreading this last section – it was starting to rain, I was feeling a bit cold and my thighs were now really beginining to hurt. My mum and Aunty were
waiting at Crianlarich, so, that kept me motivated. Cow pat alley really wasn’t that bad but I had forgotten how rough and rocky the track is here. And finally there was my mum – was so glad to see her, I told her “I had almost had enough,” and then set off again up through the woods after a quick slurp of water.

I had also forgotten how bloody undulating the track through the forest is despite having run this course three times before. But, there were more runners to chat to as I went. My Garmin had given up the ghost at about mile 33 so it was hard to work out how I was doing and if I could finish anywhere near 2015’s time. Got chatting to a bloke who helped me out with the maths, he said “you need to do 10 minute miles from here until the end and you will do it in 12 hrs 30 mins.” I took off! However, it wasn’t easy to keep running when the pain becomes excruciating, so it was more run/walk, run/walk, run/walk.

Finally, Tyndrum was in sight and I managed to keep moving faster than a shuffle towards the sound of the skirl of the bagpipes. I could hear the cow bells, people were cheering and as I turned the corner there was the glorious red carpet, the colourful flags, my mum waving and it was just a few yards until the whole journey was over. I was relieved and amazed I had done it. I vowed I wouldn’t do it again, but, you never know…

1st male – Rob Sinclair – 6:41:13 – ITRC
1st female – Nicola Adams-Hendry – Garscube Harriers – 8:16:04

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