Well, that was a good couple of days. On Friday morning we left Balmaha just before 9am to run the 41 miles up the West Highland Way to Bridge of Orchy. Feeling that was not quite enough, we followed it up with the 35 miles from Bridge of Orchy to Fort William on the Saturday.
4 of us did the full 2 day session - Hugh, John, Phil and me. We were joined on Friday by Bobby, who came with us to Tyndrum, then on Saturday by John, Peter, Joe, Ellen, Mark and Aileen. My wife Alison and Phil's wife Liz joined us at Bridge of Orchy on Friday night, and provided exceptional backup services throughout Saturday's run. Friday turned into a bit of a race, with us reaching Bridge of Orchy in 8 hours 39 minutes. We decided to take things a bit more gently on Saturday, but the pace was still good. I put my foot down half way along the Lairig Mor, completely ignoring our previous agreement to stick together (that was my revenge for the toilet stop incident the previous day, which I have described further at 2 below) and reached Fort William in 7 hours 28 minutes. This may sound quite impressive, but in fairness I should point out I was more than half an hour behind the group in front, and about 4 hours behind John.
For most of the weekend the weather was awful. It was showery on Friday, but at least we had some reasonably long spells where the rain went off. That didn't happen on Saturday, when it poured for pretty much all of the day. Despite the weather it was a great weekend, made all the better by the fantastic company. I've jotted down some of the highlights and lowlights, in no particular order. Highlights are marked with an 'H', and lowlights with an 'L'.
1. Starting out from Balmaha in a monsoon. Fortunately it only lasted about 10 minutes, although by that time we were soaking (L).
2. Stopping for a quick toilet stop on the route from Rowardennan to Inversnaid, and finding myself almost a minute behind the other 4. Guys, thanks for waiting for me... I realised then that this wasn't a friendly training run but a full blown session, and that no quarter would be given. In fact, I'm sure John referred to it as a 'race' on more than one occasion - a freudian slip, no doubt... (L)
3. Getting a coffee at Beinglas Farm, my first coffee for almost 7 hours (H).
4. Covering the section over Crianlarich without getting cramp (H).
5. The hot shower at the Bridge of Orchy bunkhouse (H).
6. Buying a round of drinks for 6 of us at the Bridge of Orchy hotel, and being told that the total bill was £1.40 (4 pints of water, a coke and an orange juice) (H).
7. Trying to decide whether to have the full West Highland breakfast on Saturday morning. My heart said yes, my head no - I went with my head, and had porridge and toast instead. Mind you, the full breafast didn't do Hugh any harm - he shot off before Kingshouse and we didn't see him again until Fort William (L).
8. Saddest moment of the 2 days was the look on Alison and Liz's face as they stood waiting for us in the middle of the storm at Kingshouse. Ladies, you went far beyond the call of duty. In fact, it was so wet there was a man beside them rounding up animals two by two into a nearby ark... (L)
9. It was so miserable that Aileen packed it in at Kingshouse (L)
10. But the rest of us went on (H).
11. I made it to Fort William just before the Leisure Centre closed, and managing to get a hot shower (H). However, I feel I have to comment on Lochaber Leisure Centre's opening hours. Why does it close at 5pm on a Saturday? Does no-one in Fort William want to do leisure after then?
12. Finally, having a fish supper at Tyndrum (H+).
All in all a great couple of days. Can't wait for 23rd June, when we get to do it all again, plus a bit more, and all in one go!