Not long now to the main event, the highlight of the year; the excitement heading into the unknown, the unpredictability that is the West Highland Way Race. No matter my previous experience or how well training has gone, the weather is the only thing that can scupper my goal of swinging the doors off their hinges at the Leisure Centre. I’m not afraid of a bit of weather, I’ve got seven rain jackets to choose from, an Inov8, a Goretex, three Montane, an Aldi’s tenner special and another that I can’t remember what it is! I commend my friends when they have used common sense and aborted runs and races in the face of life threatening conditions, I doubt I’ll ever be that sensible; I’ve been lucky that all the miserable conditions I’ve encountered haven’t done me in, I completed the Marcothon in 2010 outside in over a foot of snow, (treadmills are unnatural), my 5 mile route was taking an hour and a half but I never gave in, once my hat was blown off the top of West Kip in the Pentlands, except it was firmly attached to my head at the time but I regained my feet. During Hurricane Bawbag I recorded a sub six minute mile and also a fifteen minute mile, (we did modify our run that day from Conic Hill to a route with no trees round Preston Island on the Fife coast, and that six minute mile was scary, I thought I was going to smash my face in, my legs struggled to keep up with my body!) Rain? Pah, it’s only water; as long as you’re warm you’re fine. But the Scottish Highland weather is not to taken lightly, the race has been stopped for safety a few times before, the last time in 2005, if Sean decides to stop the race, I will respect his decision and I hope I can handle my devastation with a bit of stoicism.
In one of the early podcasts Lee was giving very good advice and I totally agreed with her every word until she said “It is only a race!” I took a sharp intake of disagreement, of course she is right, there is nothing worth an early grave but if it wasn’t for the WHW race I doubt I would be who I am today or had found the strength to face what life has thrown my way.
Running 95 miles in the most scenic part of the country is a luxury only the fit and healthy have the privilege to choose to experience.
My training has gone well this year, I predict a finish! Ok I’ll narrow it down a bit, somewhere between 26.14.47 (a PB by one second) and 34.59.59 (just inside the time limit) but hopefully sub 30 hours.
There are only two things that will get you into Fort William, well I suppose three really, your body, that’s the thing most folk spend ages training and getting into shape but that is the least important part of the trilogy, and it can take a lot of abuse, niggling injuries, blisters, dodgy guts, concrete quads, broken bones (Mark Hamilton) these things only slow you down but do not stop you. Your body just holds what will get you beyond Kingshouse. No matter if your training has gone well and covered mega miles or you’ve hurpled along on a handful. No matter if your rain jacket is a high price, high tech, state of the art, hundred pounder, or a plastic poncho from the pound shop. No matter if your shoes are the expensive, new, all the rage ones or thirty quid in the sale. Two things and two things only will get you to Fort William… HEART and SOUL! Your body will suffer some collateral damage and only to be expected but as long as your heart can roar like a lion and your soul sings you will get your goblet.
Here’s a song that the last verse never fails to bring my emotion to the surface, I’ve ran naked before and by that I mean stripped to the core, heart and soul carrying my bag of bones, and I’ll do it again as long as my body draws breath.
Hold my soul, let it carry me!