With the rise of ultra-running and new races popping up all over, it’s often too easy to pick a race just to appear at the pointy end of the results. I appreciate you’re only as good as who turns up on the day, but I’ve been known to refer to them as “Mickey Mouse races”. And I've done a few ;-)
This year’s Hoka Highland Fling certainly wasn’t one for pot hunters. As host to the UK Trials and Scottish Athletics National Ultra Trail Championships, the depth of talent within the 700+ runners was by far the best the UK has ever seen.
I’ve always been a part of the race - mostly crewing - since 2008. And ran it in 2010 and 2011 finishing 3rd and 2nd lady. The latter being a bit of car crash, as I was (not so) fresh from running a 100k road race four weeks early. My previous best was 9:39 and as I’d like to think I’ve improved as a runner in the last five years, I always vowed I’d go back and run a time I’d be satisfied with. Like, for now, I’m happy with my results from WHW race and Devil o’ the Highlands. So, I needed to address the balance for all three races on the West Highland Way.
So, that’s how I found myself standing shoulder to shoulder with some of the UK’s finest ultra-distance runners at 6am on a chilly Saturday morning in Milngavie.
The field was – as our stateside friends would say - stacked. In the ladies race, I was up against the likes of: USA’s Devon Yanko; GB trail runners Sally Fawcett, Lizzie Wraith and Bonnie Van Wilgenburg; Sophie Grant and new-kids-on-the-block, Beth Pascall and Sophie Mullins.
I don’t have the raw speed – and probably the self-belief - to compete well at 50 miles. I think I’m more competitive over longer distances, when my stubbornness and pacing ability comes into its own. Although I had taken confidence from a second place finish and 10th overall at the Montane Lakeland 50 last summer - in a time that would have taken GB silver at the championships the year before.
I had my eye on a Scottish Championship medal. As did Sophie Mullins, who had just won the Scottish 100k Championship. Caroline McKay and Nicola Adams-Henry, who finished 2nd and 3rd respectively at last year’s race, both running sub nine hours. And Helen Leigh, Morgan Windram-Geddes and Lorna McMillan.
Milngavie to Drymen (total 12 miles) 1hr 43 (104th overall 25th lady)
As suspected the race went off fast. Very fast. The 12 miles to the checkpoint at Drymen was always going to be a race within a race. It’s not my style to get caught up in the excitement, I just wanted to stick to my own plan.
|Arriving in Drymen. Pic: Muriel Downie
Familiar faces passed me early on asking if I was injured or using the race as a training run. Neither was true. Basically I wanted to run within myself for the first 20 miles and then see what happened. Although I had a race plan, that plan didn’t involve anyone else or a race position. I knew I would probably see those familiar again later in the race.
Marco and Cairn were on crew duty for the day. I arrived bang on schedule at 1:43. Joking with Marco about being exact to the minute, I exchanged a bottle and kindly threw my rubbish at him and moved on. No information was passed, as I wanted to remain blissfully unaware of the race ahead or my position until at least Beinglas (41 miles). My only competition was myself.
Drymen to Rowardennan (total 27 miles) 4hr 08 (53rd overall and 15th lady)