Yesterday was the Highland Fling. 53 miles up the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Tyndrum. I finished in 12 hours 24 minutes. Not a great time, and my worst of all 6 Flings I have done, but I got there. Eventually.
It was a very hot day. I didn't start too fast and rached Drymen in 1.55, which felt sensible. As I made my way down Conic Hill with a few other 7am starters, we were passed by the first 3 runners from the 8am start. I had been running at that stage for 3 hours 10 minutes, so it only took the leaders 2 hours 10 mins to catch me. The 3 of them (Jez plus 2 others who I didn't recognise) came down the hill like it was a hill race. One minute we heard them approach from behind, and the next they were disappearing further and further away down the hill. It was incredible to see.
I descended at a much more sensible (girly) pace and made it into Balmaha at about 3 hours 20 mins. Quick stop, then off again up the loch. Quite a number of the 8am starters passed me at this bit, including Neal who passed not long before Rowardennan. It was starting to get really hot and I wasn't feeling very comfortable, but was pleased to reach the half way point in just over 5 hours. Some of the Harmeny relay runners had a chat with me there as I sorted out my drinks, but I wasn't at my most chatty. Apologies to you all for my grumpiness.
It was a long slog to Inversnaid, getting hotter and hotter, and then I had the usual slog scrambling over the rocks at the top half of Loch Lomond. I felt very emotional when I reached Dario's post - the first time I had seen it - but I was well behind schedule, and even more so as I came down the hill towards Beinglas Farm. As I got nearer the bottom I saw DQ who told me Sandra had fallen and had had to pull out. That was worrying, and more so as she wasn't there when I arrived at the checkpoint. Neil MacR told me that she had had a very heavy fall but seemed ok now; a few minutes later Sandra appeared, bandaged from head to toe, but in reasonably positive spirits considering the fall she had had. At that stage I had serious thoughts of pulling out too but decided to tough it out. Reluctantly I left the checkpoint and headed slowly up the hill towards Derrydarroch.
After a few minutes I met Gavin McK, who seemed to be struggling at that stage too. We ran (or more accurately walked) together for a while before he managed to get himself going again. I kept telling myself to keep moving forward and eventually got to Derrydarroch, then the underpass, then passed the cows, then reached Bogle Glen, and eventually I found myself crossing the A82 again with just over 3 miles to go. The last few miles were no easier than the previous 20, but I kept running when I could and walking when I couldn't. Eventually I reached the wood at Tyndrum and ran slowly to the end, crossing the line in 12.24.
I went right away for a shower, as I was starting to feel a bit cold. The facilities at By The Way were excellent - the shower was superb - and I though it was a much better finishing point, not least because it was about a quarter of a mile before the previous one!
Andy Cole offered us a lift back to Milngavie - thanks Andy, it was greatly appreciated - and we arrived back at the car just before 10. A quick coffee and something to eat at Macdonalds, then the drive back through to Edinburgh. I had to stop at one stage and stretch my legs as cramp was coming on, but we made it home without further mishap.
Sandra's feeling a bit sore today, but hopefully she hasn't done any long term damage and will be running again before too long. From my point of view I'm just glad I won't need to cover that bit of the WHW again for a while. It's a beautiful route, but I'm not sure I was able to fully appreciate it yesterday.
A huge thanks to everyone involved in the organisation of yesterday's event. There is so much work put in by so many people, and it is all appreciated. A special thanks however to the main organisers, Murdo, Ellen and Tim. And finally an apology to anyone who chose yesterday for a quiet walk on the WHW, and found themselves having to step continually to the side of the path to let around 400 runners past. Apart from one walker who greeted me with a 'Oh for God's sake, we're allowed to be on this route too you know', everyone was very pleasant and encouraging.