Friday, 18 May 2018

Ally K's 10 Island Challenge

When Ally asked if I’d like to support him in another big running challenge, this time fundraising for Macmillan, I didn’t hesitate in saying yes. The date was set for Friday 4th May, and it saw Pauline and I leave Dunfermline after work Wednesday evening, spending the night with Donna in Inverness before heading to Portree to meet the rest of the support team at 12.00 noon Thursday, we loaded our stuff into the van and then travelled up to Uig for the ferry to Lochmaddy, it seemed a very long drive before we got another ferry to Barra and drive to Vatersay, Ally was going to be running back! A tough and long challenge with the logistics of having to catch ferries as well as having to cope with running 120 miles and whatever the weather threw at him as well.

Ally had a good team behind him, I was confident we’d do whatever was needed to get him back to Portree.

Douglas - the grown-up, responsible adult in charge, keeping us all safe with the ability to spot and prevent accidents or mishaps from happening.
Graham - Massage Therapist/Sports Nutritionist in charge of keeping Ally upright, breathing, fuelled and moving forward.
Hugh - Project Manager, in charge of media, photography, filming and all things geekery.
Iain - Driver of the pick-up, leading the way and helping Hugh with the filming being promoted to best boy, dolly grip or whatever you call the poor sod that holds up the big fluffy microphone until their arms ache.
Andy, Pauline and myself - the support runners, taking turns pacing Ally, in charge of nothing much but hopefully our banter would keep him going.

There were loads of folk in the Vatersay Hall to greet Ally when we arrived, he gave a wee talk about the run and presented medals to children for their achievements in recent races. We were generously given the use of the Hall for the night and after the meeting finished we were shown where the light switch was and told just to close the door on the way out when we left in the morning.  We scattered ourselves around finding a cosy wee corner to lay out camping mattresses and sleeping bags, I slept as well as could be expected the night before a big adventure, Hugh on the other hand hadn’t pick such a great spot to sleep, where he laid out his sleeping bag had a motion sensitive light switch so every time he turn over through the night the light came on!

6.30am Friday morning, we were off! It was dull, misty and a little drizzly but not cold, and we were to have a tail wind, not the worst weather for running, we decided that Andy, Pauline and myself would run the first section of around 13 miles from Vatersay to the ferry point at Ardmhor, Barra with Ally, it’s easy to set off too quickly at the start and heading off mob handed it would help keep the early pace nice and steady and lovely for a few of Barra’s runners to get up early and join us for the first section.
photo from Ally K's 10 Island Challenge

On the ferry the team took the chance for a coffee before arriving in Eriskay where we were met by more runners ready to join Ally.

The plan for Andy, Pauline and myself was to run in shifts of around two hours each, swapping over when Ally took a short break to refuel. The team settled into our specific tasks, Douglas driving the white van going on ahead with a “caution runners” fluorescent sign on the front and hazards flashing warning oncoming traffic and stopping every five or six miles to get a brew on or anything else the team needed with either myself or Pauline for company when not running, Iain driving the pick-up staying just ahead of Ally with Hugh hanging out the back, camera in hand. Graham driving the black van with all of Ally’s supplies following behind monitoring how he was moving, preparing Ally’s food and dealing with any of Ally’s problems or niggles with either Andy or Pauline sitting beside him when they weren’t running.

We settled into the routine as we steady made progress through the ten islands, Vatersay, Barra, Eriskay, South Uist, Benbecula, Grimsay, North Uist, Berneray, Harris and Skye. This was my first visit to the Western Isles and although I wasn’t in tourist mode and would have loved to see more, I still got to catch a glimpse of the wide open rugged beauty of the islands and beautiful beaches, even though the weather wasn’t the best, I loved the colour of the sea, a warm turquoise colour of old copper, quite different to the cold slate grey on a dreich day at home on the Fife coast.

As we worked our way up the islands it was lovely to see the community come out and support Ally, a highlight and a great boost for him, the children from Daliburgh Primary School left their classrooms to line the pavement and high five Ally and cheer him on as he went by. The Dark Island Hotel wouldn’t take any money from us when we stopped for a quick bite, cars would stop and donate money for the charity.

My next run with Ally of nearly twelve miles was from South Uist to Benbecula, we’d just shared a fish supper, it was lovely and tasty, I wondered if it would give me grief but it was fine, the pace was nice and steady, mixing up walking with running, Ally had been on the go for nearly ten hours now, he was still moving well but was starting to feel wee bits of tightness creeping in. Ian came over and introduced himself, he lives locally and he’d been following the tracker to find us and waited on the road for us to appear and came along for a few miles, it was great for Ally to get a new face to chat to.  

photo from Ally K's 10 Island Challenge 
I wasn’t quite sure of place names or where I was but Douglas kept me right driving over causeways, “That’s another island done!” we were soon counting them down and with recording my runs on Strava I’m glad I can go back and see the sections I covered with Ally and put into perspective the length of the challenge and the islands.
Vatersay and Barra
South Uist to Benbecula
Lochmaddy to Berneray
Uig to Portree
Early evening I was with Douglas in the van and we pulled into the carpark of a church, Donna had managed to get a lift from the ferry down to join us, when the rest of the team pulled in, Iain had a big tray of delicious hot macaroni cheese and box of sweets someone had given to them, the minister came out to talk to us and offered us the use of the facilities. It was so wonderful to have everyone we met so wholeheartedly support the challenge.

From late evening I suggested Andy, Pauline and I overlap our shifts so he had two of us with him from now on, hopefully the chat of two might help. Keeping going through the night when your body craves sleep is always the toughest part, in the dark, blowing a hoolie, rain coming and going and nothing to look at except the tail-lights of the pick-up and the circle of light from a head-torch. It was going to be a long night. (A tough shift for the drivers too!) I started my next run at 1.00am at Lochmaddy going to Berneray, after taking a break in the middle Ally seemed to lose momentum and struggled to get moving again, Andy and I kept pulling away, every time I looked over my shoulder Ally had dropped back a lot further than I’d expected. Donna came out the van and joined us, Ally had been using poles at times to help take the strain from his injured knee but now he was just holding them out in front and in my mind, they were of no use whatsoever.  Time for a bit of tough love, “Ally, you’re not moving efficiently, those poles aren’t helping, you’re just holding them, get rid of them for now, swing your arms, your legs will follow!” Donna took the poles and was laughing trying to coordinate her arms and legs with them. There wasn’t any real urgency to reach Berneray, the ferry to Leverburgh wasn’t until 7.15am but the sooner we got there the soon we could all have a wee rest and you can call me selfish if you like but after the break, even though I was wearing plenty layers and full body waterproofs, I was freezing cold, and I needed to pee, no way was I baring my bahooky at the side of the road with no shelter in this weather! I wasn’t for dawdling!

Roddy, Ally’s friend living in Berneray welcomed us into his home around 4.30am, Katie had a huge pot of homemade soup and oatcakes ready for us and big mugs of tea.  An accordion appeared and probably for the first and last time in my life would I sit in a kitchen at nearly 5.00am in the morning supping scotch broth while being entertained by a man who’s been on the hoof for nearly twenty-four hours!  
photo from ally K's 10 Island Challenge 
After our soup some of the guys went back to the vans to rest, I sat down in the living-room, the telly was quietly wittering away, I closed my eyes briefly and when I opened them I’d melted down the sofa like an old church candle. Was it time to go for the ferry already? Roddy and Katie waved away our thanks, “We were getting up for work anyway!” Their generosity was wonderful.

The ferry was busy, there was an athletics meeting and local clubs were competing, it was great to see so many kids would be participating and I smiled to see they wanted to be photographed with our local hero.

photos of North Uist AC and South Eriskay and Vatersay AC from Ally K's 10 Island Challenge 
Pauline was with Ally on the slog up to Tarbert, that was one long monster hill, Douglas had pulled in at the top, I decided I would jog down to meet them and ask what they needed. I could see that the hill had been hard work and tough going, Ally looked tired but, of course, I didn’t show concern. I just asked.  “You’re nearly at the top, are you wanting a coffee when you get there?” He was hurting and Pauline asked if he’d had any painkillers at all. He replied he hadn’t. Rightio, I legged it back to the van with an order for a coffee and a couple of paracetamol.

After they’d gone by Douglas and I went on into Tarbert and dropped a treadmill off at the Calmac office before getting the vehicles in the queue to board the final ferry. Andy got the job to carry it up the gangplank. There were two reasons for Ally to use the treadmill, it would raise awareness and funds for Macmillan and just keeping the legs moving helped prevent them seizing solid which at this late stage in the game is a possibility, I think he covered five miles just  keeping ticking over!

I got myself ready to run again, Andy and I were going all the way from Uig into Portree, Becki and Ryan had come up and were doing a relay with their son Orrin as the baton all the way in, Kay joined us for the run out of Uig.

Pipers were playing to greet Ally off the boat, there were hugs and handshakes waiting for him . Back on home soil, just the glory leg to do, the sun was shining, no more boats to catch, nothing could stop him now… woooof! He was off, flipping hell, I cannae keep up, this might be embarrassing, I had to work hard not to drop off the pace he was setting!  Once up the hill, he settled down and there was no point fighting the strong head wind we were facing, there was warmth in the sun and I had to take off two of the long sleeved tops I’d put on, I had prepared for a bit of a slog! Hugh had given me a hand-held camera to try and get some footage on the move, I’m just used to my own wee point, click and delete hundreds with a few odd lucky snaps, hopefully I managed to get something he could use.

Running into the wind was a hard battle, Ryan and I were pretty rubbish at being a windbreak, Andy was a bit better but Ally was still having to work against it. Lucky really that the strongest headwind we faced was on the final section. Pauline rejoined us and took charge of the pace, mixing walking with the running, working the efforts depending on the hills.

The clouds rolled in and with them rain, it was coming at us so hard I thought it might have had hail-stones in it too, it was stinging the side of my face. My rain jacket was in the van with Douglas and he’d gone on ahead, I was only wearing a light wind-proof, so it wasn’t long until I was soaked through and shivering. (I should’ve known better not to part with my rain jacket running with Ally on Skye but the sun had been shining when we left Uig!) There was a lot of support out on the road for Ally, Becki helped Ally on with his Macmillan vest as Portree came closer.

Despite the weather, Ally was moving well, he was ahead of schedule, Pauline was still a sergeant major with the pace but Ally was in great spirits and clear-minded, he knew how he wanted to finish and we went with his plan. Douglas was parked at the Cattle pens for the last stop, brilliant, I dived in the van and hauled off my sopping wet tops, grabbed a thick thermal and pulled it over my head, “Pauline help!” My hands were so cold and wet I couldn’t get them in the sleeves, she manhandled me into my dry top, I managed a fleece and my jacket myself, what a difference, within minutes I didn’t feel hypothermic. I jumped out the van, in my haste I nearly smashed my face on the wing mirror, lucky dodge around it and I was back in position as outrider. The vehicles had gone on into the Square, the plan was for Ally to finish on his own, Pauline was going to tail him from a distance just for peace of mind, so at the Co-op Andy and I pushed on and made our way into the Square I smiled when I saw the Police van sitting with blue lights ready to escort Ally into the finish, the Pipe Band were playing and the crowd were waiting.

Ally ran into the Square with his Lion Rampant flying above his head.  My hands stung from clapping, my throat sore from shouting and the lump of emotion and pride.  
photo from Ally K's 10 Island Challenge
I never doubted Ally would succeed.  Heading into this challenge he wasn’t in the best physical shape, under-trained nursing injury and the recent upheaval of moving the family home from Portree to Inverness was bound to curtail focus and training, minor details for someone who runs from the heart and soul in memory of loved ones. My inspiration.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Smokies 10

I’ve neglected my blog the past wee while but I fair enjoyed writing my race tale for the Fling so I thought I’ll try and write a bit more often. So here’s a wee blogette from this mornings Smokies 10.

I don’t run races for times just for the pleasure these days except for Smokies 10 and with this going to be my 25th running of it, I was aiming for a top five in my finishing times,  I first ran it in 1992, I’ve missed a couple of years, I was pregnant in 1995 and I missed it the year it was postponed with the foot and mouth outbreak.

So January and February, I worked hard at speed work, all was going to plan for the race at the beginning of March then it snowed! The race was cancelled and when a new date was announced I had a wee panic hoping it didn’t clash with anything else, a quick check, relief, it didn’t...but it was a fortnight after the Fling and a week after covering another 50 miles doing Ally K’s 10 Island Challenge support with a night with no sleep thrown in for good measure (I started writing an account of that last night so will get that posted soon) Oh well, no top five time then but I’ll see how I feel and run accordingly, this week I’ve felt really tired and my run on Thursday was as spritely as a sack o’ tatties on legs!

After yesterday’s weather being gorgeous I was hoping for more of the same but I knew the forecast, another soggy one then! Oh well, I suppose I’m used to it. Just before the start, there was a heavy shower and we stayed in the Leisure Centre until the last minute before heading out to the start.  Smokies 10 is a ladies only race and it’s lovely to run without the blokes, I had a wee giggle to myself at an overheard conversation as we were waiting to start. “I’m wearing a waterproof mascara today.” The reply “Me too, and a little eyeliner as well.” I just thought, I like to wear gloves, they’re the best for wiping the snotters and slavers off!

Luckily the rain eased and stopped just as we started, I kept a good steady, let’s see how this goes effort, mile markers were coming in, a bit of a novelty for me, most of my races don’t have them, I didn’t look at my watch, I’ve been running with my body for a lot longer than a Garmin, I was letting my perception of effort be my guide, I was working hard regardless of the pace, at least it wasn’t as windy as it has been in previous races heading up the hills and eventually on the way back my gloves came off and my sleeves pushed up, I was breathing deep and controlled, it’s quite different and not easier trying to run a short (for me) race at a quicker pace than my comfortable ultra shuffle but at least you don’t have to hang on for so long, I was pushing as hard as I could at the end and finished with 1.26.42 chip time and 3rd auld burd over 55, I was 8 minutes outside my Smokies PB set in 2013 but I’ll claim a top ten finish in my list, still really pleased with my performance, age and time irrelevant! Just glad I’m still here to give it welly!

Arbroath Footers, thank you all for another grand day out, a great medal, t-shirt and wine in the goody bag plus the usual quality post race buffet, see you all again next year, thank you!

P.S. Stopped at the fish shop at the harbour on the way home, Smokies for tea along with my wine, perfect!

Friday, 11 May 2018

Highland Fling 2018

A 2.30 am alarm, it must be Fling Day!

Lesley arrived and parked her car at mine, Gillian had picked up Pauline then Lesley and I, we set off at 3.45am, the beauty of cadging a lift with a race marshal is she was allowed to park at the station, Gillian’s tasks included taking the timing mats to Drymen, first-aider and working at the finish, she even managed to fit in a wee run too, thoroughly enjoying her long day before chauffeuring us home.

There were 11 Carnegie Harriers entered, I didn’t think we’d be able to get everyone for a team photo before the start but we managed this.

This was my 7th Fling and my 20th race of starting under the tunnel in Milngavie, the other 13 I’ve finished in Fort William, it will never be same old, same old, it will always be exciting and special, hugs and smiles all round. Pauline and I started in the party pen, the third wave of a staggered start set off 2 minutes apart. The weather looked perfect, a wee bit chilly to start but it was 6.00am, so it was bound to warm up.

Lovely to see the couple playing for us again and they have a new member in the band! Conic hill looked far away but lovely and clear, the views were going to be stunning from the top, along the path of a thousand gates past Glengoyne distillery a group of girls running together came past, one shouted “Coming through!” I stifled a guffaw and thought someone hasn’t read the race briefing!   

Jane was pointing us up to the kit check in the field at Drymen, a quick hug before getting out my phone and foil blanket for inspection. I was right about the view from Conic, we stopped for a few photos before gently heading down, I don’t bomb it, I like to save my legs for later.

A big hug with Big Davie and Donna at Balmaha before picking up my drop-bag, I don’t faff at checkpoints but I had to pause briefly at the Fling bin to polish off my milkshake and ditch the bottle, Gavin and Gordon were marshaling the road crossing, I laughed out loud at Gavin’s shout of encouragement, Pauline and I were still together, “Hey you pair o’ bawbags!”  Hugs all round, it’s a term of endearment! Robin was sitting in foldy chair, all comfy pointing the way up to Craigie Fort, he stood up for a hug, gotta love a Fling checkpoint!

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, I love the section up to Rowardennan through the woods, along the shore, the ups, downs, twists and turns.

Again no faffing with my drop-bag but pausing at the bin to ditch my empty milkshake bottle before heading up the high road. It’s a long plod up but soon narrows and becomes fun, Pauline and I were in the middle of a group of around half a dozen cruising along with Katy in front, at some of the trickier bits the lady behind Katy came to a complete halt, although an experience runner, living in Nottingham she doesn’t get this kind of terrain to train on, Katy took her hand and guided her down with the guy behind supporting too, behind me the bloke shouted “It’s ok, take your time.” I loved how no-one was stressing the pace and if anyone was chasing a time they were polite enough not to show impatience and wise enough to realise a wee breather in the middle of a race is no bad thing, they’d be able to push on stronger at the finish.   

At Inversnaid Pauline and I were in and out without breaking stride, I wasn’t pausing to knock back a milkshake here, I was taking with me a bottle of coke and a squeezy pouch of custard, I love the loch side, enjoying the concentration needed, forgetting how many miles you’ve covered already, stretching the legs out over big steps and hanging on to trees and boulders, giving your running legs a rest, I felt I could keep this up forever. Once you’ve reached the flat grassy bit that signals the end of the technical section, it's time to encourage your legs back into running, there’s now the gradual climb up to Doune Bothy and up to Dario’s post, I always smile at the thought of spending a moment with an old friend and it pulls me up the climbs.

Then nice and easy into Beinglas, it’s mostly downhill, care is still needed, for the unwary, tree roots could grab your toes and send you rolling down the side of the hill.
I don’t want to show favouritism to any Fling huggers but I’ve had more Fling finish hugs from Julie than anyone else and they are special, this year she was marshalling Beinglas and her hug here brought the emotion of how special finishing this race is, it didn't matter I still had another 13-ish miles to go.

Pauline and I were still together, there seemed to be less runners around us now as we kept a fine steady pace to Derrydarroch, under the crack yer heid tunnel and along Coo Poo Alley, it was a bit pooy but not the worst I’ve seen it. Lovely to see Katie, Graham and Gavin with their oasis decked out with flags before the rollercoaster. Through the big deer fence and up that wee beast of a climb, I could hear music, what a boost, for the first time ever I didn’t groan going up, thank you ladies!   

On the rollercoaster I was jealous of Libby’s lovely long legs, with nice easy loping strides, she seemed to me like a relaxed strolling greyhound compared to Pauline and I like Yorkshire Terriers, legs going nineteen to the dozen, after a bit of discussion we decided Libby has a lot more leg to hurt, ok, it evens out a bit then, my legs were hurting, I was glad there was less of them!

The weather had been pretty perfect, warm sunshine, a cool breeze and only an occasional spit of rain that never came to anything, I even pushed my long sleeves up past my elbows. Now just the flattish slog through Auchtertyre, Pauline has been resting on her laurels since doing her 100th ultra at Glen Ogle last year and hasn’t done much running, just the two club night and whatever we’ve done at the weekend but you cannae hide class, after Auchtertyre, she could smell the finish and started pushing it a bit, I was hanging on breathing pretty hard, eventually with around two miles to go I shouted “You can go on or slow down, I’m not finishing like a slavering idiot!” She huffed that there was no point going on now and slowed down, we hadn’t planned to run together, it just happened naturally.  

Finally, I could hear the piper, I let Pauline drag me in hanging onto her pace, left turn onto the red carpet, soak up the applause, high five all the hands held over the barrier, “Whoa!”, I must have shouted it out loud, Pauline turned round with a what now? look on her face, my squeezy Carnation Milk had fallen out one of my pockets, she paused while I turned, went back and picked it up. Right, back on track, milk the applause, high five everyone, but I’d picked up a bit of momentum catching up with Pauline...Will I?... Won’t I?...  Ha, ha, I went for it! I pipped Pauline over the line! I don’t think I’ll ever be allowed to get away with that again when we next run together.
photo - Stuart Macfarlane
photo - Stuart Macfarlane 
Medals, hugs, goody bags and hoots of laughter when folk  heard how we finished plus another Julie hug, she was now at the finish. Magic!

My bag was brought to me, beer was placed in my hand, I was shown where to get changed, once I was in warm clothes I was given a baked tattie, the Fling post race care is second to none. You can keep your big city marathons at this time of year, no other big race could match the magic of the first 53 miles of the West Highland Way with Johnny Fling and his magnificent team with their hard work, love, care and support throughout. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Can we do it all again next year.
My favourite photo from the day just says it all.
photo from Charles Brister 

Friday, 15 September 2017

Glenmore 24 - 2017

Pauline and I were well organised, the car was packed Thursday night so we could have a leisurely drive up on Friday arriving early afternoon with plenty time to get the club tent up, the wee tent for sleeping and chill out before the pre-race party. This year’s theme being the eighties, I didn’t need much effort for finding a costume, just a rummage in the wardrobe, a t-shirt I wore to a Thin Lizzy gig in 1980 and a jacket I bought from Graftons in 1982, but I’m afraid my hair-do was delivered by Amazon.

Photo from Old Dunfermline (The corner of the New Row and the High Street where the Kingsgate and M&S are now)

I first encountered 24 hour racing doing Pauline’s support at her first in 2003, and I’ve supported and run a few myself since, and I can safely say that no other race has such a fun filled, relaxing pre-race evening. My face hurt from laughing, mainly at a West Highland Way Race support crew confession, luckily not from my crew! A few folk thought I was drinking hot chocolate, excuse me, I’m a proper afleet, that was Belhaven Black in my tin mug!

With staying in Hayfield Pauline and I could have a lazy morning, we took down the wee tent, no sleeping for us during the race, except Pauline (the slacker) put the seat back in the car and had a nap during the wee hours, her race plan wasn’t a do or die mission especially with a whinging Achilles so as long as she clocked an ultra her master plan to make Glen Ogle 33 her 100th Ultra will be on track. Ken and Val, our expert support had arrived, Jonathan too, he was doing the 12 hour also we had adopted Patricia again, she ran a marvelous first 24 race last year and was aiming for the 100 miles this time.  

There was barely a cloud in the sky and the forecast wasn’t for changing, Bill gave a warning during the briefing that if it remains clear the temperature would drop significantly during the night, I selfishly smiled to myself, sounds like perfect conditions to me. On the forest trails you’re shaded from the sun and the trees hold their warmth through the night, it’s the support in base camp that will bake through the day and freeze through the night. Another thought that made me smile, if it stays clear  and if the stars shine as brightly as in 2011 it’s going to be a wonderful race.

12.00 noon we’re off with the 12 hour runners and the relay leading the charge. I took about five laps (20 miles) to settle into my groove which is about right for me in a big race, but I slipping straight into the routine of where I walk and where I run from the start, in 2011 I split the four mile loop up into four sections of roughly a mile each.
The lumpy bumpy mile - out of base camp down through a narrow stony path with high foliage brushing your shoulders, right turn onto a winding heather edged bouldery path, left into enclosed trees, round the muddy puddle and mind that wee stump just off centre of the path.

The long run - a wide flat runnable track where I’d check my posture, relax and run the whole way (well, I did in 2011 and 2012, since 2013 I’ve sneaked in the odd wee walk)

The uphill - yeah, that’s what it mostly did for around a mile, I just picked small not so steep sections to stick in a wee shuffle.

The downhill - taking it gently preserving my quads, with a wee bonus that the surface of it has improved over the last couple of years, it used to be very rutted, then up a short steep hill, down a few steps and back into Hayfield.

I’d placed a wee blue cool box at the top of the loop in the Hayfield to drop whatever half eaten custard pot or half drunk milkshake into after walking round from our tent near the start of the loop, I had a little something every lap and tried to say what I’d I’d like next time round, I don’t waste time standing and eating and with dropping it into the box it meant Ken or Val didn’t need to hoof it up to the end of the  field every lap to take it from me especially with looking after other runners, they could just bring it back to our tent ready for me to pick up again whenever it suited them. I think between myself, Pauline, Patricia and Jonathan we were spaced out nicely most of the time except once I came round Val shouted ,”Err, you weren’t meant to come round so soon after Pauline!” Ha ha, not sure if I had a quicker lap or if Pauline had slowed a bit on that one, we were together a few times but always ran our own pace.  Ken had my camera and took photos of the start and then a few laps in he took it up to the top of base camp to get a photo as I came up the wee hill, “Ah, that’s handy, I’ll take it round a lap!”  

During the afternoon I spent around half a lap with Ray, we were reminiscing about races and old runners no longer with us, Kenny Shaw was a legend from the Two Bridges to name just one. It was still fairly warm, (my long sleeves were still pushed up) so I was happy to go a wee bit easier than my own pace, during a race of this length I don’t like to break sweat in the first quarter, I was saving myself for when it cooled down, if you’re too hot you’re going too fast!  

At around tea time I requested my pasta next lap and I was looking forward to it all the way round.  Ken handed me my thermal mug… “Oh, what’s this?”
“Your pasta!” Ken replied, hmmm, yes, well, I suppose it was, but I was disappointed, it wasn’t the pasta I envisioned, the gently warmed tin of nice, soft, creamy macaroni cheese but the packet of Mugshot I had in the food bag for emergency rations which must have just had the hot water added.  Al dente! Snap ma wallies mair like! I spat out the offending brittle shards and drank the “soup”. But no Diva strop, it was my fault for not being specific, “Could I have the other pasta next lap please!” My bottom lip maybe stuck a little.

I was on “The Long Run” when the sun was sinking into the loch, shimmering down the water, a beam of golden light sparkling the length of the Loch Morlich, I was on my own so it was ok to sing out loud Runrig’s Hearts of Olden Glory, my memories of the sunset during my special 6 hour run in 2013 reminding me there was nowhere else I’d rather be, the privilege of health to be where I was and to revel in being around forty odd miles in and still feeling strong.

The sun had gone, I had the pool of light from my headtorch to follow, my iPod in one ear so I could still chat and the stars and the moon above,

photo from Andrew Paterson

I was singing away to my eight hour playlist then “Aw Naw!” my iPod died after only a couple of hours, I wouldn’t use it for any other race but some lively tunes through the night do help keep me sprightly but not to worry, I smiled remembering the only other time my iPod gave up the ghost, it was during the first night of a 48hr race on a 400 metre track! I’m sure I’ll cope!  Ken managed to give it a wee charge and I squeezed another couple of hours out of it.

I quite like the night time, I know some runners like to focus on counting, I’m not normally a counter during a race but at Glenmore I do, I don’t wear a Garmin, it’s not necessary, I know how far I’ve gone by how many laps I’ve done, clocking them on my trusty old Timex Ironman doing little sums in my head.  On completing my 17th lap this year adding it to all my G24 races and my 6 hour special it was also my 150th lap covering 600 miles! It seemed absurd to have covered so many miles on just a 4 mile loop but a testament of how gorgeous this course is and the people involved with the race and it certainly gave me a smile and a boost at around 3.30am.

During the wee hours there had been a bit of drama, Val was left doing support on her own, Ken had gone off to help, the wind had picked up and was swirling round the Hayfield like a tornado, nine gazebos were killed and a small tent broke free and birled down the field, it must’ve been terrifying for the 12 hour runner that was sleeping inside! Jonny managed to have a bit of a kip looking all cosied up wrapped in blankets sitting in a chair in the tent, well, maybe not sleeping as such with the howling wind and the way the tent was walloping about but at least he was resting!   

During a 24 hour race everyone usually has a bit of a dip at some point and after having such a happy, smiley 17th lap  I was due a wee crash and laps 18 and 19 were my two slowest laps.  It was between and dawn and I suppose only to be expected, I was struggling with dry heaves and nodding off on my feet but I knew when the sky lightened I’d pick up.

If you’re targeting the ton pacing the 100 miles at Glenmore is quite easy on paper, you don’t need heroics just a nice even plod, at the start you’re fresh so no need to push, do the first five laps within four hours roughly between 45/50 mins a lap then as long as you manage a lap an hour you’re guaranteed… but this is running for 24 hours there’s no such thing as guarantees no matter experience or if training has gone well, during the race there is perfect opportunity to fall over, puke or have a muscle go ping and that is more likely to be guaranteed. Until Ada gives you the horn you can’t take it for granted that it will happen!

Sure enough, I smiled when the sun tinged the loch the colour of a dusky rose, my pace picked up and I was back on track. During the night I had layered up but now as the sun was rising the layers were coming off, I was wary of placing my feet, last year I fell on my 24th lap, luckily no damage was done then but it was in the forefront of my mind that I was close to my goal but I could still ruin it by being a clumsy clops.  

The camaraderie at Glenmore is second to none, anyone going by me always say a few words of encouragement or acknowledgement, and if I’d had the energy I would’ve slapped every runner that past shouting “I’m ONLY doing the relay!”  Guys, that is no easy option, run hard for four miles then sit about waiting on your team mates doing the same then run like the clappers again for four miles and keep it up for 24 hours, I honestly think I would find that harder than keeping an even shuffle going for the duration.

With doing the wee sums in my head I was going to be ok for the 25 laps without having to knock my pan in and even have a wee cushion if I did do something dopey like catch my toe on fresh air and smash my face in!  I’ve never been fast but as long as I have no problems I’m consistant, my last three laps were all 56 minutes. Ada was ready with her horn! Wooohooo! A hug from Ally then I dibbed my dobber and recorded my 100 miles!

I timed it pretty perfectly, I had 23 minutes left for some fun on the wee lap, measured at 362 metres on grass with a wee bugger of a hill, actually it’s a massive bugger of hill in the last hour! So with hands on thighs I’d stomp up it, shout my number to Donald and Bill then let rip down the hill, at the club we’ve been working on  downhill technique as well as up, so I was well practiced on giving it mega welly, l pushed hard on down, kept the momentum going along the straight, pumping my arms round the bend, then hands on thighs for another stomp up the hill and repeat for as many times as I could in the final minutes, the beauty of a 24 hour race is you know exactly when you’re going to stop and can push to the very last second squeezing out every yard possible  no need for that mantra commonly used at races of a measured distance.  “Where the f*cks the finish?”

The support from everyone lining the perimeter of the lap is fantastic! Cowbells, cheering and your name being shouted out, you can’t do anything other than Gie it Laldy! (It’s the BaM rules!)  
photo from Glenmore 24

Everyone now running on the wee laps, some back in costume, and David Ross, you are a star! Maybe not eighties but I’d give you a prize for the most stylish finish in a 24 hour race!
photo from Matt Gemmell

Everyone was on the wee laps except Patricia, when I was heading out for my last lap she was just about to go up the wee hill to finish her 24th lap, time was tight but I didn’t doubt she would head out for another lap, she was determined and looked strong. The clock was ticking down, every time I was at the top of the hill I was watching for her coming in….  Yaaaaaaay! Ada had her horn ready, mission accomplished,100 miles done with five minute to spare!

What a boost to see her, I tried to catch her up to congratulate her but she was still motoring until the final second adding another half mile.  I managed to push 9 laps and finish with 102.04 miles, collapsing into the grass, my chest heaving and sweat stinging my eyes.  4th female 15th overall from 86 runners, 19 of us made it to the 100 miles.

Now the hard bit, how do I sum up how special this race is, I’m struggling so just going to cop out with a wee copy and paste from my 2015 report

In 2011 I finished my Glenmore 24 blog post with this.
Put the Glenmore 24 in your diaries, it is going to grow to be an event equal to the WHW.  Folk that know me know I won’t say that lightly.
Well, I didn’t have to be Brahan Seer to predict that! The work that goes into putting on the race is akin the big dod of iceberg under the water, race day is the tip and as long as BaM and all their helpers are willing to give up their time to pander to divas living their dreams I am grateful, I thank you all for letting me realise my goals. Hopefully for years to come I will still manage to run, I may have completed over 100 laps, I still have not had enough, magic happens at Glenmore.

Year after year my memories grow rich with the love and camaraderie that happens in such a beautiful setting, I have now completed 158 laps and I’m still greedy for more with a little luck I hope I can add a few more.  Magic happens at Glenmore.