Devil O’ the Highlands

238 slightly crazy but eager runners were let loose from Tyndrum  at 6am on Saturday morning to cover the 42 miles to Fort William along the West Highland Way. Having thoroughly enjoyed my last attempt at the Lairig Ghru Race I though I would give this race a go and was lucky enough to be successful in the ballot earlier in the year. I wasn’t thinking about the early start, the midgies, the lovely west coast weather ( ha ha ) or the 42 miles of difficult terrain.

The first few miles are always fast as people are buzzing with adrenaline then soon realise that it could be a long day out there and settle into their pace. Everyone tries hard to keep their feet dry by jumping over puddles and moving from left to right trying to dodge them, what a waste of energy that is when you realise what is to come!!

The first checkpoint is Bridge of Orchy which is 7 miles into the race and comes up quicker than you expect. Your time chip gets scanned at the underpass then there is a water stop once you cross the road. A surprise bag check before you set off through the trees ensures that all runners have the compulsory minimal kit of a foil blanket and a fully charged mobile phone although most like to carry backpacks with water, gels and a jacket as well.

Onwards and upwards to Inveroran where the midgies made a special appearance along with the sun!!The next section from Victoria bridge over the Black Mount was a struggle for me, I found the hard packed stones difficult to run on and kept slipping. I caught up with Morgan Windram Geddes on this part who was having a difficult time with her Achilles and subsequently pulled out of the race. Once at the Glencoe ski centre I topped up my water and gels and had a bite of a Cliff bar but I think I should have been eating earlier as I now felt quite sluggish.

Over a very quiet A92 and onto Kings House the weather kept improving, pity the way I was feeling didn’t!! My quads were hurting already and I was lacking energy. I did manage to notice how great The Buachaille Etive Mor was looking in the early morning sun however. I had heard lots of horror stories about the next section, the Devils Staircase, but I didn’t find it too bad. I walked most of it but it’s only a 1 mile section and the scenery was great and a welcomed distraction. Support at the top was amazing and there was even a tuck shop to buy cans of juice if required!! It was the next bit onto Kinlochleven that was brutal, it seemed never ending and had some of the hardest paths to negotiate. My quads were screaming by the end of it and I was tired having to concentrate 100% on trying not to break my ankle!!

Scott and the dogs were waiting at Kinlochleven to cheers me on which was great and a good boost. This was another checkpoint and bag drop so I topped up again but this time with caffeine gels and Cliff Bloks hoping that my stomach could cope with all the hours and hours of gels.

A steep climb through trees led us onto the Lairigmor which was busy with walkers that were all very supportive and kind enough to move aside and let the crazy runners through. This section was probably the wettest underfoot and I quickly learnt to run straight through the streams and puddles ( I found out at the end that Compeed isn’t waterproof-yuck)!! I was being overtaken by runners here and realised I was moving far too slowly so after some caffeine cliff bloks and a word with myself I found another gear and gritted my teeth to Lundavra. Some runners had their support runners with them now but I was still going solo and struggling on ticking off the miles. Out onto the downhill forest section ( the fire road ) it was nice to feel like you were going faster but it was still a killer on the old quads, not long to grin and bear it…….. only ANOTHER climb up Cow Hill which seemed to go on forever, I felt I would never see the leisure centre and it was now over 42 miles!!

I made an attempt at a sprint to the finish across the grass, well it felt like a sprint to me!!. All finishers received a fantastic medal and t shirt and there was lots of food and drinks available for runners to refuel after their epic efforts.

Would I do it again?? Mmmmm I don’t think so. It’s a great race and really well organised and marshalled but I think the terrain and distance takes it toll on your body.

Lynn Henderson