Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Pain fades, but achievement lasts for ever

It's Wednesday night, and my legs are starting to feel a bit better again. I was at various stages of pain at different points throughout the race, but the worst was coming down the steep hill into Kinlochleven, which was about 76 miles in to the race. That was agony, and my quads suffered with every step.

I, like everyone else, put my body through a hell of a lot. I struggled to eat anything without feeling sick, so ate little more than rice pudding and jelly babies, supplemented by Lucozade Sport gels. I ate 8 rice puddings in total, I believe. If I never see another one it won't be too long.

And then there were the hallucinations in the last section. I can only assume these happened because I was so tired. It was fascinating, wondering who or what I would see next. I saw my friend Brent, who I was convinced was sitting on a rock at the side of the route. I saw numerous dogs, all friendly. I saw various other animals. It certainly helped pass the time.

But time is a great healer. By next week, I can almost guarantee, I will have forgotten all the pain and will only remember the positive aspects of the race. I will have convinced myself that I enjoyed it. I will have started to think about next year, and be wondering how I can reduce my time. I will be questioning why I didn't run down the hill to Kinlochleven a bit faster, completely ignoring the fact that my legs felt as though they were unable to move another step. I'll even be thinking about running an autumn marathon.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Race

Well, it's over for another year. I finished the West Highland Way Race (95 miles from Milngavie to Fort William) in 22 hours and 14 minutes. I was 14th from 103 starters and about 70 finishers.

In case anyone is wondering, 95 miles is a hell of a long way. I had some really bad patches, particularly around the half way point near Crianlarich and towards the end coming down the hill into Kinlochleven. I had some fantastic hallucinations over the the last 15 miles, which was a new experience for me.

I'll provide more information soon, but need to go to bed.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Just a few more hours

The Race starts in less than 5 hours. I think I feel good. I slept until late morning today, then just took it very easy for the rest of the day. I went back to my bed at half past 6 for an hour or so but didn't sleep - just lay and rested.

I plan to leave here about 10.30 and drive to Milngavie station. George and John, my backup team for the first half, are leaving Troon around the same time. Alison will take over from John tomorrow morning, at the top of Loch Lomond.

Good luck to all the runners.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Closing Distance

I've just watched Closing Distance, the film of the 2005 West Highland Way Race, which has finally been released. I thought it was very good indeed but then I'm probably biased, as I am in it. It was fascinating to watch everyone else. Hard to believe but one of the runners actually eats a roll and sausage at Rowardennan! I don't think I'll be trying that this year - I'll stick to chicken and rice soup, rice pudding, nutrigrain bars, jelly babies, flat coke and lucozade sport, along with litres and litres of water. Hopefully that will see me through.

The forecast for Saturday is a bit mixed, with a high of 15 degrees. At least we shouldn't have the same problems as last year, when it was really hot and humid all day.

The Race will start in 25 and a half hours. I am going to my bed soon, and plan to stay there for as long as possible tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I'm back!

Regular readers of my blog (hark me! regular readers indeed..) will have noticed the lack of a blog yesterday. Did I not have anything interesting to say, I hear you ask. Have I stopped running? Am I all right?

Unfortunately my lack of blog was simply a result of not having enough time. A busy day at work meant that I didn't get home until reasonably late. I then had to eat (pretty important a few days before a 95 mile race), and had to take the dogs for a walk. I was too busy to watch any of the football, and even had to put in my apologies for the athletic club committee meeting. It is not good missing committee meetings, as there is always the risk that the remainder of the committee will decide to do something which I do not agree with. As (according to my wife, The Domestic Female) I am a control freak, this is not a satisfactory outcome, but one which was unavoidable yesterday. Fortunately I managed to fit in a gentle 5 mile run at lunchtime, and I await the minutes of the committee meeting with great interest. I suppose any stupid decisions can always be reversed at a future meeting.

But I digress. I am an accountant and, like many accountants, I like figures. I keep a detailed record of every race I have ever run. You may or may not be interested to know that Saturday's WHW Race will be my 399th race of all time. So far I have done 13 ultras, 41 marathons, 69 half marathons, 73 10ks, and 202 races of varying other distances. My best marathon time is 2 hours 56 minutes (Inverclyde, 1998), my best half marathon time is 1 hour 17 minutes (Ayr, September 1996) and my best 10k time is 36.09 (Irvine, August 1996). Those who are members of Central AC will think I have made these times up, as I have never come close to running as quickly as this since joining the club around 3 years ago.

I also have to admit, sad as it sounds, that I have kept a record of every run I have done since I started running in 1990: training runs, races, the lot. This means I am able to declare that I have now run more than 28,000 miles. As I have been doing about 2,000 miles annually for the last few years, I would hope to reach the 30,000 figure around this time next year.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


I'm starting to feel a bit nervous about The Race. In particular, I'm concerned that I've tapered down too much - in the week just finished I ran a grand total of 15 miles (3 days of 5 miles each). That seems really low, but on the positive side it has all been planned. I was a bit sore after the Edinburgh marathon relay last Sunday, so decided to run only every second day. I did what I set out to do, and ran on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

I think I'll do an easy run on Monday and an easy run on Tuesday. My physiotherapist, Trevor, is seeing me on Wednesday night, just to loosen off my legs. After that I should be just about ready, although might do a gentle jog for a couple of miles on Thursday, depending on how I feel.

Another concern I have is that it looks like I'm going to have a really busy week, both at work and during the evening. I have a running club committee meeting on Monday night, then a 10k planning meeting on Tuesday night. I don't want to get to Thursday night and find I'm absolutely shattered. Unfortunately there is a good chance of that. I need to make sure I have everything for the race packed and ready by Thursday night, because I want to spend Friday doing as little as possible.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


This morning I decided to take the dogs for a walk at Beecraigs Country Park, just outside Linlithgow. It took me longer to get there than I expected, because a lot of the roads in Linlithgow were closed as a result of the Linlithgow and Linlithgow Bridge Children's Gala Day. I should point out that I had never heard of the Linlithgow and Linlithgow Bridge Children's Gala Day, but looked it up on the internet when I got home and it seems to be a very famous and historical event. A lot of people had decorated their houses, and there was a real carnival atmosphere about the place. It seemed like the whole town was going along to watch it.

Eventually I made it to Beecraigs, and it was well worth the wait. It's a brilliant park. I've been a few times before, either to walk or to run, and I'll certainly be going back. At first we headed out towards Cockleroy, which is a 278m hill that overlooks Linlithgow, but didn't go up to the top as dogs were not allowed off their leads on the last section. After that we followed the 'red trail'. This took us through some forests, past a loch where a lot of peole were fishing, past a barbeque area, past a children's playground, past an area for field archery, past another area for target archery and finally past a caravan and camping site. The visitor centre even had a bowl of water for thirsty dogs. I was hugely impressed. We walked for about an hour and a half, covering around 5 miles, and the dogs loved it. So did I.

I came home and went out a 5 mile run, covering a loop through Callendar Park, along the Union Canal and then home. I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as my walk, but it had to be done.

I wonder where I'll be this time next Saturday? I'll have been running for 16 hours, so should be around Kingshouse. And I wonder how the walkers are getting on today in the Caledonian Challenge? They have a reasonable day - warm but not too hot, and quite overcast. Probably just about ideal conditions.

Friday, June 16, 2006

One week to go

It's Friday evening and, as is often the case on a Friday evening, I'm sitting here enjoying a glass of wine at the end of a long hard week. I won't be drinking wine this time next Friday. It will only be 5 hours until the start of The Race. If past experience is anything to go by, I'll be pacing about nervously, wondering if I had enough sleep, whether I have eaten enough food, and whether I have packed the right kit.

Why do we put ourselves through it? It's a difficult thing to explain to people who don't run. In a funny sort of way I actually enjoy the feeling of panic that sets in a few hours before a race like the WHW. I would miss it hugely if I wasn't taking part. I also believe, without getting too analytical about it, that it helps you cope with the ups and downs we all face in our every day lives.

Last night I was sick. I suspect it was because of something I ate. At 8pm I felt fine. From 9pm till about 11pm I spent most of the time over a toilet. The pain in my stomach started to go away about midnight. This morning I felt ok again, if a little washed out. My only thought? Thank goodness it happened this week, not next week.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


I work in the centre of Edinburgh, and try to run at lunchtime whenever I get the chance. Even though I'm from the west of Scotland, I'm still able to admit that Edinburgh is a pretty good city. It has a famous castle (a bit overrated, in my opinion), some good museums and galleries, a lot of nice restaurants, and some lovely scenery. From a running point of view there are some really enjoyable runs - around the Meadows (a big grassy park area very close to the city centre), along the canal, or round Arthur's Seat (a extinct volcano near the Scottish parliament).

I was out running today at lunchtime. For about 9 months of the year running in Edinburgh at lunchtime is one of life's great pleasures, regardless of the weather. Unfortunately that all changes when the tourists arrive, and today it looks as though the tourist invasion has begun.

Now, let me put on record my appreciation of the importance of tourism. It brings millions of pounds into the Scottish economy, and I'm proud of the fact that the Scots are amongst the most hospitable people anywhere in the world. What I don't like is tourists who get in my way when I'm running. And unfortunately the majority of tourists do.

It gets even worse during the 3 weeks of the Edinburgh festival in August. For these 3 weeks it is impossible to book a hotel room within 30 miles of Edinburgh itself. The city is full of tourists. Absolutely heaving. It is impossible to get a decent run. The city centre becomes a 'no go' area for runners or indeed for anyone who wishes to walk at something in excess of a mile every three hours. To make matters worse, if you are fortunate enough to avoid the tourists, you will certainly not get past the fire-eaters, unicyclists and other street entertainers.

Having said all that my run today was pretty good. 5 steady miles, sweated buckets in the heat, but pretty good all the same.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Rest day

No running today. It's a rest day. I plan to run only every second day from now until The Race.

I don't really like days I am not running. It's much better going out every day. That way, you expect your legs to feel tired all the time so aren't surprised. If you don't run and your legs are still sore then you start to panic.

Talking of panic, I was on the WHW website earlier on. There, things are getting increasingly fraught. The chat has turned to stinky goats, which are often seen on the route, normally after Inversnaid. I don't really mind them and am not even convinced they are stinky at all, at least not as stinky as the cows you meet after Derrydarroch. I strongly suspect the stinkiest things on the WHW are the runners, closely followed by walkers who have decided to camp.

Did I mention my film, or should I say my first film? You'll hear more about it over the next week, I hope. It's a documentary of the 2005 race and is due to be released early next week, only 52 weeks after the event actually took place. I look many years younger in the film than I do now. I have clearly had a very hard year.

I see the Edinburgh marathon relay results are now on the website. We put in a team in from work called the Veterans, having been challenged by some of the younger members of the firm. Our average age of our 5 person team was 37.8 and theirs was a mere 25.8, but we still beat them by 7 minutes and 56 seconds. I'm not impressed by their fitness, and have challenged them to sort it out for next year. They were a few seconds under 3 hours 30, a time I would be disappointed with had I run the full marathon on my own. Don't they teach PE in schools nowadays?

I'm about to watch Germany v Poland in the World Cup. The commentators are driving me mad, particularly the BBC team. I thought England did ok against Paraguay - it was the first game, it was hot, Paraguay hardly had a shot at goal, and England won. However according to the 'expert analysts' it was a disaster of the highest order, Sven's tactics were all wrong, and the world cup dream is now over. Come on guys, get a sense of perspective! I'm not particularly bothered whether England win this competition or not (unlike the domestic female, who hopes they get absolutely horsed), but I don't think a 1-0 victory over Paraguay is the worst start ever to a world cup campaign.

At last! I feel good again!

I'm a runner. I run marathons and ultra races, which are longer than marathons. So far I've run 41 marathons and 13 ultras. Each year I run the West Highland Way race, which is 95 miles from Milngavie (just north of Glasgow in central Scotland) to Fort William in the Scottish highlands, all off-road. I've done it 5 times so far. This year's race is coming up soon, on 24th June.

Had an easy lunchtime run today and, after what felt like months of feeling tired, sluggish and generally crap, actually enjoyed it! Maybe this tapering nonsense is beginning to work. Only 11 days to go till The Big One. Some of the others are beginning to panic. The WHW website is full of comments about poos, nappies and stiff legs. It's good to see it isn't just me - we're all suffering together, particularly our families and workmates who have to put up with some serious mood swings as we head towards The Day. I sympathise with Paula Radcliffe. She must have felt 10 times worse before Athens, and on top of that she had the press all over her. Then when she had one of the few poor runs of her career, she was slaughtered. Poor girl. I'd like to see some of the more critical journalists run a marathon in 2 hours 15 minutes.