Not all goals are races

I have probably been guilty of mainly reporting on races, and the occasional fine day out. One of the main reasons I write this blog is to capture my memories so I can come back and relive them, it’s a bonus if other people like to read the blog and get something useful or entertaining from it. I really do want to come back and relive all my races, good or bad, and all the things I’ve learnt from them but not every goal I set myself this year has been about race (at least not in the short term).

Last year I went for a fantastic social run during my marathon training, it was a wonderful day spent with lovely people and dogs. It cemented my desire to be part of the Scottish ultra running community and also began my love affair with running on the West Highland Way (not an uncommon affliction amongst ultrarunners in Scotland and beyond).

My first run on WHW, taken at Mario's post  - also known as the Angels' Playground.

My first run on WHW, taken at Mario’s post – also known as the Angels’ Playground.

This year I got a relay team entry into the Highland Fling and the natural thing seemed to be to train with the relay team by running each section of the route, so that’s exactly what I did, sometimes more than once and occasionally in the opposite direction from the race route – might as well go over Conic Hill in both directions! The training was a huge part of the Fling experience, I thoroughly enjoyed it and came to love the WHW more with every run – even the bad ones.

My biggest training run for Kintyre Way Ultra also took place on the WHW. It was the Easter weekend, hot and sunny, and I headed out with my good running buddy Katherine to run Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse and back. I have to say that was one of my favourite runs of the year – a great day out with the best of company.

I think it was on this run chatting to Katherine that we worked out I now only had the short section from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy and the final, biggie from Kingshouse to Fort William to run and I’d have run all of the WHW. It was still early in the year and I thought that maybe I could do the whole of the Way before the end of the year – hey presto, a new personal goal and not a race (for that you need to do it in one go, max 35 hours).

My Easter run with Katherine.Epic scenery, fab company. Thanks to K for the photo.

My Easter run with Katherine.Epic scenery, fab company. Thanks to K for the photo.

Filling in the wee section between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy happened in the course of support running with Amanda at the West Highland Way. I travelled from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy with her that day and if you’ve read the post on that you’ll know it was a pretty emotional and inspiring experience. And yes, I do hope to do the whole race one day, which will be a whole other story no doubt.

This left Kingshouse to the end in Fort William still to do. Something in the region of 24 miles and 4,000ish feet of climbing – up and over the Devil’s staircase and down into Kinglochleven which is near enough sea level before you have to climb right back out again before heading into the wilderness of Lairig Mor. I had a pretty busy year and quite frankly 52 weekends is just a bit measly; I began to wonder how I would fit this in. I ended up settling on a date of 29th November and keeping my fingers crossed that the snow gates would be open and the running conditions friendly.

Once the date came around, only a handful of folk were going to be able to join me on the day but I’d have gone, weather permitting, on my own if I had to but I can say I was very happy to have the company of Ian, Mike and Brigit on the day. We’ve had an incredibly mild autumn which continued right to the end of November so we headed out about 8.30am and we got back before the rain really came on – couldn’t have asked for better to be honest! I can’t pretend it was easy, I hadn’t run more than half marathon distance since Glenmore and actually had been concentrating on doing some shorter speedwork – having done a fairly intensive hill rep session of the Wednesday was probably not one of my better ideas! I absolutely have my running companions to thank for completing this in just shy of six and a half hours, I’d have been a lot longer on my own.

A selfie (welfie?) at the top of the Devil's staircase.

A selfie (welfie?) at the top of the Devil’s staircase.

So, on 29th November 2014 about 3pm I ticked off another personal goal – I ran (OK, slightly subjective as there is always some walking) all of the West Highland Way this year. It’s a very varied route, miles of wilderness are interspersed with pockets of ‘civilisation’ and it’s truly tough going for mere mortals like me! I’m in awe of those people that have completed the race whether once or ten times, whether they were fast or slow. The thought of linking all those sections together is pretty darn daunting and probably the only way to do it (training aside) is to break it down into those sections and concentrate on the one you’re currently running.

The WHW race is a huge undertaking for someone like me, but one I definitely want to conquer but for now I’m immensely happy with hitting my goal for this year.

Did it :)

Did it πŸ™‚

I was back out on the Way again within the week – another social run at the opposite end was just too much for me to resist but I limited myself to fewer miles this time πŸ™‚

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