The Highland Fling Race is the biggest annual ultramarathon gathering in Scotland. On Saturday 28th of April, a strong field of 1000 ultra-runners will take the start of the 53 miles race in Milngavie. Following Scotland's oldest long-distance footpath, the West Highland Way, the race will take them through the beautiful scenery of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.
Among them, three members of the Run4It team, who are gearing up to take part in this 13th edition. The culprits: Will (Retail & Customer Service Manager), Chiara (Maybury Store Manager) and Ryan (Inverness Store Manager), who have all completed the race once before in the past few years and are back again to enjoy the stunning scenery, camaraderie, and some friendly competition between friends, right Ryan?! Let’s see who can outrun who!
We asked them a few questions to understand more about their training, preparation, goals and race day plan.
What is your favourite section of The Higland Fling ultramarathon route?
Chiara: My favourite section is now… the loch side! I hated it the first time I ran it, but I have learnt to love it. It’s a section where I can have fun, and prove to myself I can be patient and strong.
Will: My favourite section of the route is from Drymen to Balmaha. The first section to Drymen for me is easing into the race and settling into a rhythm but after Drymen I really like the run-ability of this section. And going up and over Conic Hill is great to know you have checked of a chunk of the climbing. The descent is fun into Balmaha as well and then get to pick up your first goodie bag!
Ryan: I should probably say Craigie Fort (the little hill after Balamaha) as my wife and I got married there in 2012. However, my favourite section is the bit before and after Inversnaid. I run with a hill running club and enjoy running on uneven ground so find that I can usually make up time on this stretch.
What will be your shoe of choice on race day?
Chiara: On race day I will be running in the Hoka Speedgoat 3, as I can trust them to perform in both dry and wet weather conditions. They are very cushioned so they will help me when my legs get tired, and they feel great on the downhill sections.
Will: This year I’ll be running in the Hoka Torrent. I have been using this shoe since January after falling out of love with the Speedgoat. For me the Torrent is ideal as its light and more flexible than a lot of other Hoka shoes. I get a lot more awareness in foot placement in the Torrent compared to the Speedgoat and this will be ideal on the Lochside section. Plenty of cushioning to last the 53 miles and a little more room in the toe box too. I plan to wear the Torrents for the West Highland Way Race on Saturday 22nd June as well.
Ryan: Unless there is prolonged rain in the lead up to the race, I’ll be using my normal road shoe the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19.
What time are you aiming for?
Chiara: I will be chuffed if I can beat my time from last year, 11h15mins, so under 11 hours.
Will: The main goal is to run sub 8 hours this year. If I have a dream race then I think I can run 7:45 but I’ll need to see how the race pans out. A lot can happen in 53 miles!
Ryan: I currently have a PB of 8:39 from 2014 but I feel that my recent form has been a bit better than that. But anything can happen on the day.
Tell us about your favourite training run leading up to the race.
Chiara: It was the Highland Fling training camp organised by the race directors a few weeks ago. We ran from Balamaha to Tyndrum in the snow and sleet. It was really cold but also great fun.
Will: I have recently moved to Edinburgh and my favourite sessions have been the Saturday reps session I do on Arthur’s Seat. Over the last 4 weeks I have been progressing this from 2reps (400m) to 5reps (1000m) to build leg strength. I like doing this on Saturday as the looks/comments you get from the tourists are priceless!
Ryan: As I stay in Inverness it’s a bit more feasible to train on the Great Glen Way, thankfully the more hillier sections are closer to town. A few weeks ago I ran the 50K from Invermorristion into town in a PB time. The weather was nice, not very windy (a welcome change after a persistently windy Autumn and Winter) and everything just fell into place.
What’s your favourite food/snack for an ultra?
Will: I’ve always struggled with nutrition for long distance events but I have been getting on well with Tailwind for a while now and will supplement this with High5 gels and Chia Charge mini flapjacks. It will act as a good test for West Highland Way Race in which I will need to factor in a lot more ‘real’ food.
Ryan: It depends how far into the race I am. I’ll start off using a Torq gel every 30 minutes for the first half of the race with Active Root to get a few more calories in. In the latter stages of the race I’ll move on to more liquids such as flat coke or Red Bull trying to keep the gels going down for as long as I can.
What will you change this year compare to your first attempt?
Chiara: I now know how to take each section for what it is. I will try not to go out too fast at the beginning, towards Conic Hill and down to Balmaha. I know that it’s ok to slow down at the loch side but then I will be rewarded with the beautiful section in Crianlarich forest!
Will: My biggest correction since running the race in 2017 is going to be my fuelling strategy. My long run fuelling has gone well in the preparation so I will stick to this plan. I’m also going to avoid pre-planned split times. In 2017 I was trying to hit times and found falling behind these splits was mentally challenging. I have recently read Alex Hutchinson’s book, Endure (highly recommended!) and has shown how running to how you feel and the circumstances around you can produce the best results.
Ryan: This will be my 6th running of the Fling and have times ranging from 11.55 to my current PB. Despite feeling a bit fitter this year, I am still very conscious of the negative effects of starting too quick. I’ll be making sure that I run within myself for the first few hours meaning that I’ll be able to still push on in the last 15-16 miles of the race when the wheels are falling off other runners.
Describe what would be the perfect race for you.
Chiara: One in which I don’t get caught up in comparing myself to others and other people’s times and race only for myself and against myself, whilst enjoying and savouring a great day out surrounded by gorgeous scenery.
Will: My perfect race would involve nailing my nutrition strategy which would give real confidence going into the West Highland Way Race, run somewhere in the region of 7:45 and hopefully that would be enough for a top 10 performance. I have recently joined Carnethy HRC so a team medal would be nice for my debut.
Ryan: Last year, when out on a training run with Will, he had a bit of a fall, unfortunately breaking his ankle. Since then my now 4 year old son (Orrin) believes that I “pushed his Will down the mountain”. When I told him recently that Will and I were going to be racing soon and asked him who he would like to win, without hesitation he said Will. Therefore as long as I beat Will, I’ll be a happy man, plus I’ll have one up on the Boss. I’m sure that Orrin won’t be too unhappy with that result, fingers crossed.
What's your advice for people running an ultra for the first time?
Chiara: Forget about other runners, forget about time and pace and just enjoy being out on the trails!
Will: My advice would be to embrace the hurt. Everyone will get tired, everyone will slow down, everyone’s legs will hurt; if you embrace this and stay focused on your goal then you will achieve it. Trust in your training and the result is the one you have earned.
Ryan: If you’re feeling like you’re running at the correct pace in the first few miles of the race, slow down a little bit more. It may well hurt your pride a little when you see people you would expect to run faster than pull away from you but as long as you’ve done the training, you’ll pull them back and more in the latter sections.
GOOD LUCK Chiara, Will and Ryan!
Follow and track these troopers on race day here:
Chiara: Race bib no 248
Will: Race bib no 752
Ryan: Race bib no 538