Monday, 1 July 2013

Groupies on tour

The last time I just watched the race was in 1997, it was Pauline's first time and Mum, Tim, Erin, (a teeny toddler at the time,  she's just had her High School Prom and looked stunning - proud Mum moment) and I went up to Fort William to see her finish.  I supported Pauline in 1998, she then had 1999 and 2000 off, since then I have supported Pauline three times and ran nine times. I didn't want to commit to supporting or marshaling this year in case I wasn't up to it but there was no way I could miss it even though it didn't feel right not having a proper role for the race. Adrian did make me feel a bit better saying it was ok to have a year off.  So the plan was for Val and Gillian, (they have both supported us over many years) Pauline and myself to go to Milngavie for the start and follow the race up to Fort William.

When I was told I was to have chemo and radiotherapy I knew I wouldn't be running this year, it took a good few weeks to get my head round that fact and even longer until I could face withdrawing.  Ian had said he wouldn't issue number two but I had a plan. Dave Waterman has given me immense support through my surgery and treatment topping it off with a fighting mantra to get me through. Hands Up, Chin Down.  I asked Dave if he would wear my number for me and it made my day when he said yes. Wearing number two has a few traditions, since 2007 I have always changed into the same blue fleece and Saltire Buff scarf for going up the Devil's Staircase, that might be pushing tradition a bit far so I let Dave wear his own clothes but there is another tradition that had to be observed.  I gave Dave my racing hip flask (it's just a wee dinky one) filled with Glengoyne to share with Dario.

On the Friday morning while everyone else put the final ticks in their long lists of preparation I was at the clinic, I have lost a little weight, but they were impressed that I managed the half marathon and I'm doing remarkably well even though  I'm a bit impatient that my mouth is still very sore and I'm only managing to eat soft food but I was told that most patients don't eat at all until around seven weeks after the radiotherapy has finished, I was only three weeks and the radiotherapy is still working on me and I'm burning around 400 extra  calories a day because of it, that will by why I've lost weight then!

We got to Milngavie for the back of midnight since Gillian had ran the Black Rock race earlier in the evening  and needed a wee bit of time to get ready, I was able to give my best wishes to a few but not everyone I was looking for.  I felt ok being there knowing the there was no way I could have run,  but emotion did get me at the end of Ian's briefing when he read out the words of encouragement I'd written on the race facebook page.  Right, get a grip woman!  

Val was assisting with the start, Pauline, Gillian and I wandered up the High Street and stood on a bench ready to cheer everyone on in their adventure.

Then Milngavie resembled the old classic Le Mans race start, support rushed to their vehicles and zoomed off into the night.  We set off at a more leisurely pace after handing over Ken and Sue's gazebo to Neal and Caroline, they were using it at Lundavra.  We got to the Beech Tree in plenty time to see folks coming through, it was hard to recognise everyone with their glaring head torches until they were up close, and looking down the path in the dark and rain, the stream of torches looked like a motorway during rush hour on a winter's evening. 

We went on to Balmaha and had a couple of hours dozing in the car before opening our eyes and realising we'd missed the leaders going through.  It was quite an eye-opener just observing the support crews with varying degrees of efficiency, from Formula One style to a guy doing a lot of faffing, putting stuff in his backpack, changing his mind, taking it out, picking something else putting his backpack on then taking it off and changing his mind again with his support just looking on! Then there was the jaw dropping incompetent.  One poor soul was hopping from one bare foot to the other changing his socks and shoes standing on the cold wet tarmac as his three supporters just stood, arms folded and watched him, I hope they managed to do more for him as the race progressed!  Or am I just a Diva?  This is how I do a shoe change.
Rowardennan 2012
We went on to Tyndrum, leaving Rowardennan, Beinglas and Auchtertyre for the real support and went into The Real Food Cafe for breakfast, Pauline, Val and Gillian tucked into delicious rolls filled with Stornoway Black Pudding and bacon, the Cafe were kind enough to provide hot water for my pot of instant porridge "Yummy!" I said sarcastically, and make a note to come back when my mouth wasn't so painful.  

We walked down the road and along past the By The Way to watch the runners, Paul cruised past with the quiet stealth of a Ninja! I didn't even have time to get my camera out my pocket!  Murdo was there and offered us a jelly baby each before he left to plant his Saltire on his hill with a huge supply of jelly babies.  We walked down the track and waited... and waited... it was around 37 minutes before Marco and Richie went past.

We strolled on to stand at Brodie's store for quite a long time, it was great to see the majority of runners coming through in great spirits, I felt frustrated for those having to wait to cross the busy road but I'm in awe of Lorna just putting her hand up, stopping the traffic  and crossing with no delay. 

We were watching the time, there were loads of runners I wanted to see through but if we were calling in on the Lord and Lady of the Bridge aka Tim and Muriel and their lovely assistant, Jane at Bridge of Orchy and then get up to Fort William in time for the finish we'd better move up the road, I'm sorry I missed you, blame Paul Giblin, it's his fault! I was spoiled by Tim, he had promised me ice-cream but with the weather being cold and wet I didn't fancy it so I got to sit in the campervan with a mug of coffee and a heater blasting my legs.  I wasn't freezing but I've been feeling the cold lately, not sure if it's down to my inactivity, my treatment or my tiredness but I always need loads of layers.

We stopped briefly in Glencoe, Rabbit the Bruce, an experienced and well seasoned supporter pointed out the route and scenery to Rampers, a newbie, then we were off into Fort William. 
Look over there Rampers, that's where the runners go.

We didn't have long to wait until Paul arrived knocking a huge lump off the record finishing in 15 hours and 7 minutes.  The emotion of his achievement was contagious and a privilege to witness. WOW! was the inadequate word on everyone's lips.  

Remembering when Jez Bragg smashed the record Dario put on the race website  a "Where were you when Jez finished?"  graph showing where us mortals were on the route.   Thinking about where I would be in 15 hours, even in my PB year I still would've been trundling along somewhere between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy when Paul finished!  WOW!

It was good to watch the fast guys finish and see that they are human after all when they stopped, a fair few were a bit staggery, and needed a seat or a wee lie down on the comfy concrete.  
By the time I usually see them they've had their tea, gone to the pub, gone to bed, had a lie in, had their breakfast and look well rested and the only evidence that  they've ran is they still do the keeky breeks walk!  

We stayed at the finish for quite a while, Aunty Val brought me a chair and kept making me sit down but every time somebody finished I'd jump up and cheer them in. We left the Leisure Centre and went for something to eat with Ken and Sue, they had been supporting Richie for the second half, I managed some chicken broth after mashing the lumps into submission with a fork.  After eating we went back to the finish.  What a pleasure it was to witness the tears of joy, relief it's over and the realisation of an achievement  that has been the focus for months and years, these emotions probably took a bit of time to sink in but they were plain to see.  

Just before 10.00pm Val said it was time for us to head off to our hotel and it would be nice to make last orders, we were staying about 10 miles outside of Fort William, it didn't take long to get there, check in, dump our bags and go into the bar, every head turned, the young lad playing the banjo in the corner stopped!  (Just kidding about the banjo player, but  it was check out the tourists!) We got our drinks and took them into the residents lounge with the tartan carpet, big deep leather chairs and the ambience of a light-bulb with yellow and orange bits of floaty fabric flickering around it in the fireplace!  But it was inside, warm, dry and comfy, we didn't sit for too long, we were tired and headed for bed.  I felt guilty pulling the cosy duvet over my head with thoughts that most of the family were still out there and hauling in a second night, I wished them well before falling asleep. 

In the morning, Val checked her clever phone to see who finished through the night and who was still running,  Dave had gone through Kinlochleven so we got ourselves back along to the finish where we spoke to Darrel.  Dave had pulled out after climbing out of Kinlochleven,  and then had to turn back, I was devastated for him,  he had major problems which is his race tale to tell if he wants to, but he pushed on further than he should have.  Mr Waterman, you did me proud.

The prize giving was another traditional affair, not enough seats!  This family's getting bigger every year and no less special, it's just harder to get round everyone! Every finisher received their goblet to heartfelt congratulations, the family circle was complete with Paul, the first finisher presenting Peter, the last finisher with his Goblet. 
Photo stolen from Davie Hall
There was a special presentation to Tony, John and Alyson for completing ten races, next year there are four of us that WILL* reach this achievement.  
Photo stolen from Davie Hall
It doesn't matter that I didn't do it this year, this race has taught me a lot over the years,  especially how to cope when things get tough and don't go the way you'd like.  Life is a bit like running the West Highland Way, it's not just about how well you do when all goes according to plan but more importantly how well you adapt and get on with it when the challenge is the toughest you've ever had to deal with.  Head up and do your best, whether you reach your goal or not, as long as you've given your all, never be disappointed.

* I originally used the word may, but I stand corrected, Keith Hughes you're right, no doubt, we WILL do it!  


Santababy said...

Life is a bit like running the West Highland Way, that's a great quote, and so true. Thanks for hug at start, was difficult not to choke up when Ian started reading your quote x

Subversive Runner said...

Thank you for the opportunity to wear your number, Fi. See you