3 sleeps to go to the biggest race of the year, and I'm sitting here with my nose dripping onto my keyboard. And for the last couple of weeks my ribs have been getting sorer and sorer - not only when I'm lying in bed, but also when I'm swinging a golf club.
But in case you think I'm in a right panic, please be assured that I am not. I am completely convinced that it is a good thing to have a cold now, as it means it will be gone by Friday night. I'm actually feeling a lot better today than I was yesterday - yesterday the snot wasn't running out of my nose but I had a blocked head and sore throat. There's no doubt that snot is better out than in. I'm on the mend.
As for my ribs: well, they shouldn't be a problem as I don't plan on lying down during the WHW race, nor do I plan to swing a golf club. In any case I don't feel them (much) when I'm running. If they get sore it will only take the pain away from other, more traditional parts of my body, such as my feet or legs.
So I'm full of positive vibes today. As this might be my last blog post before the race, I thought I would take the chance to pass on some of my top tips to the many newbies taking part. Here they are, in no particular order (and based on my experience of 8 previous finishes and 2 failed attemps):
1. At Milngavie Station you will probably be shitt*ng yourself. That is a perfectly normal reaction and everyone will be feeling the same. Don't follow the example of the guy a few years ago who was shitt*ng himself so much that he went home. It was only discovered when the Mountain Rescue people were about to start looking for him after he failed to turn up at Balmaha. He's never been allowed back.
2. Don't give blood before the race. We aren't being asked to do so this year, but last year I gave blood and my arm came up in a lump the size of a football. "Don't worry, it will be fine", said allybea. She later told me (post race) that she had been lying through her teeth and was really worried about me. Just as well I didn't know that at the time.
3. In the early stages keep an eye on the path. Last year I fell after 2 miles or so. I didn't do any serious damage but it was bloody sore, and looked quite dramatic when I arrived at Drymen covered in blood (I had wiped it on my face, which made it look even worse). On a similar theme don't follow the runners in front if they are going the wrong way. Instead shout at them and tell them to come back. In 2001 30 of us ended up on some golf course in Milngavie, rather than staying on the proper path through Mugdock Woods. I believe that Mike Mason has also gone off course in previous races, as has past record holder Kate Jenkins.
4. Carry the right batteries for your headtorch. If the torch takes AA batteries, there isn't much point in carrying AAAs as spares, as I learned in 2003. Luckily I was fast enough that year I didn't need to use them. And make sure your torch works. A few weeks we went a night run with someone whose headtorch was as useless as a one legged man at an arse kicking competition. He shall remain nameless to save his embarrassment, but you would think a doctor from Comrie, ex president of Strathearn Harriers and member of my 2010 backup team would know better, eh Phil?
5. Try not to fall out with your backup team. Yes, at various points in time they might be acting like the most stupid people on the planet - for example, why on earth have they given you a tea when you said you wanted a coffee? - but they are giving up their entire weekend to help you achieve your dream. At least make an effort to be civil to them. Like I always am.
6. Bring a pair of sandals or loose fitting shoes for the prizegiving. To be honest I've never had any issue at all getting my shoes on the next day, and I've never brought a pair of sandals for the prizegiving. However Murdo the Magnificant has posted this tip on the forum for the last 5 years (at least), so it would be remiss of me not to include it.
7. Avoid hooking up with anyone who can talk non stop for the full 95 miles to Fort William. In other words if you happen to come across Jim Drummond, it may be an idea either to speed up or to go into the bushes and pretend you need the toilet. At first that might seem a bit rude; in the long term your ears will thank you for it.
8. Don't park your campervan on the lawn at the Kingshouse Hotel. Hard to believe, but it happened a couple of years ago. Even better, don't bring a campervan at all. They are too big for the narrow roads.
9. The prizegiving is a great event and well worth attending. It is a chance to catch up with all of the runners, most of whom you'll not have seen at any point during the race. As allybea said on the forum, it does take a bit of time to hand out all the goblets to all the finishers, so please be patient and stay for the whole show to recognise everyone's fantastic achievement.
10. Finally, at some point on the route, take a few seconds to pause, look around, and think of Dario. It will be strange this year without him, and it will be a difficult year for many of us who knew him well. I'm sure he'll be watching us. One of Dario's greatest achievements was generating a unique cameraderie amongst everyone involved in the race. Being a member of the 'WHW Family' remains a special thing to so many people and it is up to us all to build on this legacy in the years ahead.
Good luck to all running, supporting, helping, or involved in any other way. I look forward to seeing you at Fort William on Sunday.