THE HIGHLAND FLING TRAIL RACE IS . . .
A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME – if you’re like me, you go feet first into projects which seem a great idea at the time. Of course you know that you have taken on a bit of a beast but you’re in denial as to the fact that the beast is in fact a bit of a scary monster. Meanwhile, you are busy telling folk that you’d better do it now because you’ve paid an entry fee. The Highland Fling is most definitely one of these ideas. Then again, I was determined that I was not going to look back when I’m 70 and say I wish I’d done that – the Fling was not going to that graveyard which is full of great but unfulfilled ideas ?
TRAINING HUNGRY – to paraphrase a well renowned hill runner and coach from Penicuik, if you are going to run a long way, you’ve got to run a long way. There can be no substitute for starting well in advance, getting in some serious miles and getting used to many hours of time on feet (tof). I started in earnest in late November 2012 and aimed for at least one extended run each month with increasing challenge. December saw 26 miles on the road, January 30 miles, February 17 miles over the Pentlands and March the D33 / Alloa Half back-to-back. To be totally honest, I think I only did about 60-70% of what I thought I realistically thought I should be doing ?
ANTI SOCIAL – and as the Fling is so mile hungry, it is also time hungry (especially at the speed I go at). And of course this is time that you don’t spend with your family and friends. This is a very serious aspect and requires some delicate negotiation ?
DAUNTING – as I got closer to the big day, I became just a little apprehensive – would all this bravado and training come crashing down as I ran out steam and didn’t make to the cut-off point? Anything well beyond what I have done before, I call the ‘Forbidden Zone’ and the Fling definitely comes into this category. What kept me going was mostly encouragement from my Fling mentors (Debbie and Mike) and just a small amount of self-belief ?
A LONG WAY IN 3-D – 2 marathons in one day is quite a long way. Throw in 5,500 feet of climbing (including two climbs of over 1,000 feet) and some very technical sections and it’s starting to grow arms and legs ?
TECHNICAL – while probably over 80% of the trail is either over very good or reasonable surfaces with manageable gradients, there are significant sections (mainly alongside Loch Lomond) where the surface is dominated by ankle busting rocks and / or tree roots. Parts of these sections also have some very steep parts with big steps and need for a very hands-on approach to stay upright ?
SUPPORT NEEDY – personally, I am so glad for my super amazing support gadgie (the one and only, Big John). John drove me to the hotel the night before, up to the start to register, got up at 5 to get me to the start on the day, met me at the second and fourth drop bags points (helping out with refueling & offering encouragement) and most importantly of all, was at the finish to welcome me, take photos, pour beer down my throat, get me fed and drive me home. I would strongly advise on a support crew who are up for a very long day ?
HUNGRY – everyone has their own feeding plan, here is mine. Between getting up at 4 to leaving Tyndrum for home 18 hours later, I guzzled porridge with honey and banana washed down with a bucket of black coffee, 2 bags of Hula Hoops, 12 gels, 11 cereal bars, 5 mini Mars Bars, 12 Dextrasols, a bottle of beer, one venison burger and a chip buttie. Not all at one sitting though ?
BEAUTIFUL – we all know Scotland has the best scenery in the world and the West Highland Way is very much a part of this. Two very memorable points for me were reaching the top of Conic Hill and looking down along Loch Lomond and some of the bits alongside the loch with beaches, trees and green, green grass. All this in glorious sunshine, what more could you ask for? ?
LUCKY – everyone involved in the Fling in any way was so, so lucky with the weather. No rain, a fresh light breeze, major sunshine for more than half the day and temperatures staying in single figures – perfect conditions for running ?
WELL ORGANISED – congratulations to the team who organised the Fling. They have a good website, make good use of Facebook, were very communicative without being overwhelming and were never found wanting. Hats off to all of them, not least for their very cheering welcome at the end ?
VERY REWARDING – I am so very proud at having done this – the run, the scenery, the camaraderie, the finish line were all way more than worth it. I even managed not to be last home and proudly wore my Harrier jacket at the line. Those who know me will tell you I ramble on about the best running being the running you enjoy and to enjoy yourself, you have to know yourself. I’m certainly getting closer to this and because I more or less got it right on the day, have not completely flattened myself in the process. Non, je ne regrette rien, j’ai couru et je suis devenu ?
FOOTNOTE – There is just one small problem, it’s all very addictive and I am seriously thinking about next year already ?