This was the first time Gillian, Stuart and myself had attempted this race and we were in for a treat as the weather was clear blue skies with a light breeze and the views were outstanding. I went along soon after 10.00 when registration opened and picked up my envelope with my number, wristband and card in it. I had camped at Glen Nevis campsite as did Chris and it was lovely to be able to walk to the start with him as our chatting calmed my nerves a lot. We arrived at the shinty pitch with plenty of time to spare and were treated to pipe band music as we waited. We soon found Gillian and Stuart and had time to chat and take some pictures before all the runners were marched around the pitch behind the pipers. Near the start we handed in our runners cards and lined up at the start line.
Then we were off towards the edge of the pitch and out on to the road that leads to the Nevis Inn. After a short section of road we began the climb towards Ben Nevis. The path becomes increasingly steep and more challenging the higher up you climb with sections where the stones are quite loose and some clambering was involved here and there. Billy, Daniel and Michael and my sister, Zoe had come along to cheer us on and it was great to see their smiling faces. Some of the other runners were giving encouragement to me as I climbed and this is one of the things I love about hill racing, there is such a feeling that we are all in it together. It was a hot day and I was looking forward to the cooler air as we gained more height. I still felt I was a long way from the top when the front runners started appearing running down the hill at a blistering pace. It wasn’t long before Stuart passed me looking strong and focussed. A bit higher up I met with Gillian on her way down and we exchanged some words of encouragement and I tried to tell myself it couldn’t be much further now. Once at the top the path flattens a little and I was able to catch my breath as I handed in my wristband and felt relieved to have got to the top within the time limit of 2 hours. Then I began the return journey. I did my best to run at this stage but I was starting to tire and I find this rocky terrain very challenging, about this point I passed Chris making his way to the summit and looking determined as ever and we exchanged a few words and ushered each other along. Streams of runners seemed to be flying past me and I just told myself to run my own race and try not to get too disheartened. There are some nice sections of loose scree on the downhill where I managed to pick up pace a bit and just tried to keep focussed and avoid the larger rocks. I spent most of the downhill with my eyes firmly focussed 2 feet in front of me with the odd glance up to make sure I was heading in the right direction.Once on the grassy section I slipped and slid my way down to the stream where I quickly splashed my facewith water then it was back on to the stone path. About halfway down I lost concentration and tripped over, walking briefly while the sting passed I chatted to another runner who had also taken a tumble, Im sure we weren’t the only ones.
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I had been warned that the last section on road would be tough and it definitely was, although I had been looking forward to it as I wouldn’t have to concentrate so hard on where to put my feet. Nearer to the pitch I could hear the sounds of runners names being called and I had the realisation that I was actually going to finish, and within the cutoff time. What a feeling! I really had questioned whether I had it in me to manage this race at all. It wasn’t long before Chris finished too and his wonderful support team furnished us with glasses of Champagne which was absolute heaven. I was so glad to have been able to celebrate Chris’ 25th Ben Nevis race with him and to do it in glorious sunshine just topped it off.
51 01:57:31 STUART SANDERSON
381 02:50:58 GILLIAN CAIRNS
422 03:02:07 SADIE KEMP
450 03:11:24 CHRIS DOWNIE