When Sue first said she planned to run the Heart of Scotland 100 with a goal to raising funds for the Guides Centenary Sue's just giving page a hundred miles celebrating a hundred years did seem quite appropriate. Both Pauline and I volunteered our services for support, well, it was only fair, the amount of times that Ken and Sue have supported us.
We arrived in Dunkeld to an invasion from the south side of Hadrian’s Wall. No worries though, they were friendly marauders, easy going, relaxed and the majority of them have had generous servings of birthdays. This maybe the Heart of Scotland but it was a bit weird that ours were the only Scottish accents to be heard; even the pipe band was not immune from a pitch invasion.
This is a Long Distance Walkers Association organised event which put on a 100 miler every May bank holiday in a different location every year and this is the first time they’ve held it in Scotland, and what a brilliant, well organised event it was too, each checkpoint was manned by a different region laying on groaning tables of sandwiches, cakes, pots of custard, fresh fruit, dried fruit, urns of tea and coffee and I’ve never see so many chocolate digestives!
The first checkpoint we could get into was Kirkmichael, I wouldn’t call it a one horse town more of a wee pony place but the shop cum post office cum café cum centre of the universe for Kirkmichael did a lovely mug of hot chocolate and bit of carrot cake, this was very civilised for support. Gail, Steven and Helena arrived and chummed Sue for a few miles, Pauline kept her company from Blair Atholl to Calvine then Ken until Dalnacardoch were I would take on the night shift, the weather so far had been fairly perfect for running, not much wind, a bit overcast and cool, well, I felt cold just standing about. There had been a few wee bits of drizzly rain but it was now decidedly dreich as Pauline and I got organised for Sue’s arrival.
After a bit of foot repair we were both kitted out in full body waterproofs and head torches, we set off up the long pull up the tarmac road, just as the rain started stotting down. I said to Sue that as this was her challenge I wouldn’t be taking over any of the navigating, it’ll keep her alert and awake to stay in charge of the instructions besides I went a bit squiffy on the Deeside 33, an out and back on an old railway track! I’m only here for the scenery and the blether, hmm, all that we could see was in the circle of torch light but we blethered plenty.
After the tarmac road, a wee track, a dam, a tented checkpoint with loads of choccy digestives the terrain took in the proper meaning of challenging, thick ankle grabbing heather, big burns where there used to be wee burns, wee burns where there were none, bogs to pull your shoes off and slimy slippery mud just to make placing your feet loads more fun! At least we weren’t cold! There was a steep, steep long climb up the side of a deer fence which was quite handy for hauling yourself up with or just to hang onto when your feet slid out from under you. I felt it tough going and I’d only had a stroll up Pitlochry High Street and not over 50 miles in my legs! At the top we stopped for a wee breather, I said that that was harder than the Devil’s Staircase with 70 odd miles in the legs, Sue didn’t disagree.
We looked down the hill, there were lots of twinkling head torches below and a few that were a bit off course but they were heading in the right direction. After another climb we meandered a bit ourselves, not exactly off course but we gave ourselves a wee bit more than necessary. This side of the hill’s puddles and bogs were freezing, up until now they had just felt cold, Sue thought it must be ice melt working it’s way down. We could see Schiehallion in the slow dawn, Sue pointed out her route skirting up round the side of it. I felt a twinge of guilt; I was leaving her at Kinloch Rannoch for warm dry socks and a lie down.
Breakfast was served in the school at Kinloch Rannoch, I went into the hall with Sue, and I was asked if I’d like porridge and a full cooked breakfast, I declined since I was just support, all this was for the walkers and runners, but could I have a cup of tea please? He soon brought Sue a steaming bowl and said to me “You look like you can use a bowl of porridge are you sure you don’t want one?” “Ok, I will have one.” The next question was “Would you like honey and whisky on it?” Eh! I’ve never heard of that before, so I answered yes. It was lovely; I’ll definitely have that again but only on special occasions, I’ll stick to my usual honey and banana for normal.
Robin had arrived and was going with Sue over the next tough section. I headed into the ladies toilets to get changed. I took my hat off ruffled my hair, looked in the mirror and wondered if you can still get flokati rugs? I think I’ll put my hat back on. Back at the car I put the front seat right back, got all cosy under a couple of blankets with my hat pulled down over my eyes, bliss. Ken and Pauline had spent quite a cold uncomfortable night in the car, they had planned to pitch a tent for a few hours sleep but it was just too wet to bother.
Ken drove round to the next point where we’d see Sue, I don’t know where it was as I was still dozing but slowly came back to life. Robin handed over to Pauline who would see Sue into Aberfeldy but just after the Tay Forest checkpoint the cheering squad had arrived, Sue’s sister and her daughter. Also Helen, a Guider, had tied on to a tree a banner that she’d painted with the help of her Brownies.
Next in the support relay was Val, ready and waiting to run when Sue came into Aberfeldy, just a pot of custard in the scout hall and they were off to Loch Kennard, this checkpoint was about a mile walk in from the car park for the crew and the cheering squad, I was now bright eyed and bushy tailed… just some positive thinking here I was more bleary eyed and bushy haired but it was firmly kept under my hat. I got myself ready to run again where I’d go to Rumbling Bridge with Sue.
Sue was still looking great and still smiling after 92 miles; she just wasn’t sure what to eat any more but was happy-ish to take the tablet I offered. We caught up with Andy Cole for a wee while, he was the only WHW family we saw, we’d had a text from Karen and George via Lesley wishing Sue all the best, they pulled out after 50 miles saving themselves for the main event in June. This section was fairly straight forward, mainly following a wide forest track, at one point Sue had a feeling we’d missed a turn point and thought we may have to go back. Although Sue was in charge of route finding I was kinda paying attention to where we were too, and I didn’t think we’d gone wrong, so off I trotted, pushing on up the path to catch up with a runner ahead and check if I could see our turning, speaking to the guy, he confirmed that the bloke in front of him had recced the route and this was correct, relieved I pushed on back to Sue, who’d while I was away, checked the map and was happy to continue on.
I’d received a text from Ken saying that they’ve parked the car in Dunkeld and that he and Pauline were just walking into the Rumbling Bridge checkpoint. That’s lovely, a full escort from Team Sue to the finish. Then another thought dawned, that means I’ll have to run the last 3 miles instead of driving round to the finish and standing with my camera. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll manage, I’d only covered 24 miles with no sleep, a mere trifle! I don’t know why my legs were protesting a bit when I sprinted on ahead at points to get some photos. I laughed at Pauline in the woods standing in front of a bench, barring it from Sue and waving her onwards, not that Sue looked like she was stopping anyway, she has had a tremendous run, maintaining a steady pace, never loosing her sense of humour, or having a strop or tantrum, with a smile that lasted the whole way, covering twice as far as she has ever gone before. What an inspiration!
There has been a lot of discussion lately comparing running 50 miles to running 100 miles. In my opinion physically there’s not much difference but mentally they are poles apart. I now have a new weapon in my arsenal for this year’s WHW. Smile like Sue!