One mile at a time. One mile at a time. One mile at a time.
This becomes the litany, lyric, mantra that you repeat over and over again to push through the pain and get to the finish. The West Highland Way Race is quite the journey. When the fatigue, aches, pains and sleep deprivation start to take control of your body, that's when the real race starts. Scrap all the training, preparation and goals: a new race, a 'get to the end' race takes hold. That's the exciting part – when a race offers a real opportunity to test the strength of your character, your ability to respond to adversity and the unexpected, and to find strength and motivation to continue when the urge to stop running (and start walking) seems stronger than anything.
The West Highland Way Race is highly prized, desired, and coveted within the Scottish ultra running scene. Completing it places you firmly within the fold of this big family! There is a special bond between all the runners who have conquered the iconic point to point 96-mile ultra distance race from Milngavie to Fort William. Something that only the volunteers, crews and runners can relate to. The team spirit and camaraderie shines through at the prize giving on the Sunday afternoon, when all finishers, crews and volunteers gather together to celebrate this massive achievement as one. Every finisher is called one by one to get the famous Goblet. It is truly a special race.
Representing from Run4It
2019 was the 35th edition of the race and four members of the Run4It team rose to the challenge:
- Chiara our Run4It Maybury Shop Manager
- Thomas our Run4It Bridge of Allan Shop Sales Assistant
- Romain our Run4It Dundee Shop Assistant Manager
- Will our Retail & Customer Service Manager
Unfortunately, only three of them made it to Fort William as Thomas had to pull out at Rowardennan (44km in).
They all started the race with different goals and different experiences, but the magic of the West Highland Way happened and for all of them, became a 'get to the finish' race. They all agree that it is the experience of a lifetime: crossing the finish line left them with an incredible sense of achievement, regardless of the time and the highs and lows they experienced along the way.
Will's race experience ~
It was my first West Highland Way race and it was harder than expected, a LOT harder. It started well and I was saving the faster running for later in the race but this sadly didn’t materialise. My IT band flared up after 60km and I was ready to throw in the towel. My superb crew talked me round and convinced me to take it a checkpoint at a time and there was still some running (and a lot of hobbling) left in my legs. Absolutely amazed I managed to finish: it shows how far you can go if you want it enough. I had to quickly re-establish targets and it just became a "get to the end" race.
This isn't what I had planned but delighted to claim my first goblet. A truly special race and a brilliant team around me. I managed to finish in 13th in a time of 18:44:44. Massive thanks to all the support on the course. The marshals were superb and I owe it all to my crew who went above and beyond.
Chiara's race experience ~
I still can't believe what I've just achieved. I feel happy but also very tired! When I crossed the finish line, Ali from my support crew asked me how I felt on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being “fresh as a daisy” and 10 being “absolutely annihilated”) and my answer was 6. My perception was definitely morphed from the lack of sleep!
I had an amazing time and feel lucky to have had good weather the whole way round. Running 96 miles across the west of Scotland allows you to see some incredible scenery and that in itself was enough to motivate me to keep chipping away to get through the miles.
I will return to the West Highland Way for the third time this year in August, for the last race of the 'Triple Crown': the Devil O' The Highlands Footrace (42 miles from Tyndrum to Fort William). But first, here's to some rest and recovery!
Romain's race experience ~
Magnificent! It was my first West Highland Way race too and it was a succession of ups and downs, but all I can say is... that it was incredible. You can undermine yourself by focusing too much on one thing – in this case time. I could focus on my finish time and be disappointed because I ran much slower than what I'm capable of. However, it's healthier to take a more holistic view – reflect on how far I've come, be proud of what I’ve achieved and grateful for the experience.
My legs felt good from the start and I managed to keep a steady, easy pace. I was on track to the minute with my plan during the first 50km. But then I experienced stomach problems which gave me a hard time until the 82nd kilometer. Meeting my crew there gave me a boost, I changed my shoes to more cushioned ones and ate some sweet potatoes. I suddenly felt much better and was able to run at a good pace for the next 16km. More lows and highs, and I finally reached the point where my stomach wouldn't let me run properly. Finishing the last 24km was hard and very slow, but I crossed the finish line in a bit more than 23 hours. I was rewarded with a stunning sunset over Lairig Mor hills a few kilometers before the finish: it was the only moment I was happy to be this slow!
Being able to say that I did the West Highland Way in less than 24 hours when most people do it in 5-7 days is pretty cool! I owe it to the awesome crew who supported me the whole way: no better way to strengthen a friendship!