When I first heard there was the possibility of a 24 hour race in Scotland I thought that's good I won't have to go far to do Pauline's support, then my thinking changed to well, if I'm ever going to do a 24 hour it might as well be the one close to home. When I told Pauline what I was considering she grudging allowed me one day off. So after coming through the West Highland Way with no injuries I decided yes, I'll give it a bash, no pressure, a learning experience, could I do better support if I knew the race from the inside? I set myself an ambitious goal of 100 miles but whatever distance I'll get at least it'll be a "short" race, a novelty to stop at 24 hours, my best WHW is over 26 hours but that is a different kind of race altogether, a wonderful adventure over rough terrain with over 14 thousand feet of climbing and stunning scenery for inspiration, this is 24 hours of as many laps of approximately a mile and half as you can do where inspiration can only come from within and from those around you.
Luckily our WHW support was available for the weekend, Ken picked up Pauline, Sue wouldn't be long in coming up and Val took me and all my gear. We arrived early and got the cars unloaded and the tent up; I was still faffing with stuff and then thought "Hang on! I should be in runner mode not support mode", Pauline was sitting, wrapped in a blanket keeping warm with chip already attached to her shoe. I joined her in a seat taking the weight off my feet and getting my shoe lace sorted with the chip, race number on the front of my vest and my name on my back and I was ready.
10.00am precisely we were off; I ran the first lap with Pauline then let her go so I could settle into my own pace. At 12.00 noon the 100km race started, and they zoomed round at quite a nifty pace. I went through the marathon in 4hrs 15mins, I thought that was a bit quick but I felt fine, my race plan was just to keep it comfy for as long as possible then just keep it going, it was ok to go slow as long as I just kept moving forward. When Pauline lapped me we'd shout at each other. COME ON! This was answered with ALRIGHT! It comes from the lyrics of Clash of the Ash, a good "fighting" song about Shinty by Runrig and we were roaring at each other as though we were stood on the sidelines of a game.
This was the first race I've ever ran where music was playing and an announcer was shouting your name and encouragement every lap, he said I was looking happy, I shouted back "Yeah! I'm a fun runner and proud" He then called me wonder-woman which stuck for the rest of the race. I was having fun, on one lap when I came round Mambo No 5 was playing, I gave a wee shimmy of a dance with my arms above my head as I went through race control, it actually felt good on my hips, freeing them off and keeping them loose so after that when I'd go through the gap in the wall and was out of sight of folk behind me I'd roll my hips from side to side more akin to someone touting for business down at the docks. Anything that helps keep the legs loose is worth doing, the biggest moan from the WHW family was "It's too flat" but as the day wore on I was quite happy it was flat. Once when going past the lap counters, someone shouted "Pauline" I didn't bother, I'm quite used to being mistaken for Pauline but after a lap or so I wondered if it was Pauline's lap counter that shouted, it began to prey on my mind, I love her dearly but not enough to give her one of my laps, after a wee check all was well, it was just the paranoia of a lap induced runner.
Time and I plodded on, the 100km race was unfolding into a close fought battle, at 8.00pm the 12 hour relay started with teams of 6 runners and they whizzed by at a ridiculous pace but not one went past me without offering encouragement throughout the night. I shouted at Gail when she went by working hard on her last lap hanging on to her lead and winning her debut at 100km in just over 9 hours. Time and I still plodded on, Lesley, Jim and Christine have arrived to help and I was well looked after with food and drink offered every lap. I couldn't see my watch in the dark and I shouted at Val "Where am I?"
"Perth!" was her sharp answer.
"Oops, sorry, I mean can you please tell what lap I'm on?"
Lynne was having a good strong run, lapping me loads but I went past her walking with Jayne, I lengthened my stride for a bit of push to warn her support she was having a bad patch, and after some TLC of the Simon variety she was back battling again. A few more laps and I was informed Pauline was having a bit of a flag and needed a kick up the bum. When she next lapped me it was time for her motivational talking to, it was more of a shouting to and not for young ears or those of a nervous disposition, after bellowing from the top of my lungs I realised we were beside the tents, oh, oh! I hope no one was having a wee sleep. Well, not any more they're not!
I watched the moon go down as time and I still plodded on, there is no amount of pain or tiredness that will ever dampen my spirit, to run will always be a pleasure and a privilege and I'm so lucky that I can do it, there are many who can't, a shooting star confirmed my luck. I now had my MP3 player blaring in my head with loads of inspirational lively music, my favourite being Runrig live at Loch Ness, I had Clash of the Ash on repeat for quite a while also Queen's Don't Stop Me Now was repeated for a bit too. I was singing along and I didn't care who was listening, I may have sounded as if I was in pain, but that's just my singing, I was still having fun.
I did have one "Pauline moment", when I went though race control I asked Val "Is it this lap I get 100 miles or the next one?" Val answered she'd tell me next lap. "NO! Tell me now 'cause if it's this one I don't want to go past the marker and not know!" She shot off and was back within a minute to say it was the next lap. "Thanks, that's what I thought, but wanted to make sure!" The next lap round there was Adrian to clock my 100 miles, I had reached my goal with just over three and half hours still to go. My next target was Pauline's debut 24 hour distance of 104 miles; even if I was reduced to a walk I should still manage that. Time and I still plodded on, the sun was rising and the mist lay on the grass, 104 miles came in and I targeted 110 miles. The blister on my right pinkie toe exploded and the pain radiated under my foot, I took a wee walk it didn't ease so I told myself "Just keep running then!" Pauline lapped me again but I saw her coming, I eased off slightly as I went through the gap in the wall so I could "surprise" her as she came past. "COME ON!" I shouted, she answered "Alright" I shouted again, "NOT LOUD ENOUGH, COME ON!" Her reply this time was a bit livelier "ALRIGHT!" That's better! Ken and Sue must be doing an excellent support job. She told me "If you're close to the qualifying distance, go for it". At that time it was still too big a target, I'll stick to 110 miles, time and I still managed to plod on. One memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life was when William Sichel lapped me again with around two hours to go he said "I've been trying to catch you for miles." Whoa, he must be struggling was my first thought then it dawned on me I am running well.
8.00am the relay race finished and the Carnegie team won with a phenomenal distance of 113 miles in 12 hours.
With just under an hour and a half to go Adrian told me. "Four laps will do it." Roughly six more miles and I'll make qualifying distance to run for Scotland! Can I do it? It will be close but I've got to try, I took long deep breathes down to my blisters. I told myself "Get that oxygen in, it kills pain and fuels muscles." I pushed the pace as hard as I could go. The thought of being within spitting distance of qualifying spurred me on. Going through race control, the encouragement was so loud did they all know what I was attempting? Or was every runner cheered on like this? I hope so! Time and I no longer plodded on, we were both galloping and I intended to win. The last lap, 185 km I have made it! I looked at my watch. Bugger! There is still 15 minutes to go, I wanted to stop but I have to keep going, ok, I'll get out of sight and then walk, I have surpassed all my expectations. Val was with me carrying my marker to poke in the ground when the hooter goes. I smiled to myself and thought it wasn't needed, the distance I get to can be measured from my body I was planning to lie down and not move for a while. At last, 24 hours, 116 miles, I can stop. I didn't lie down because I doubted I'd get back up so just managed a slow shuffle of a walk back to the tent, the ultra fest turned into a hug fest of congratulations, these brave folk, I wouldn't want to hug me after all that time running!
I was stunned by what I'd done but even better, Pauline had broken her own record covering 130 miles, I wasn't surprised, I knew how hard she's trained for this. But the icing and sparklers on the cake, she also set new records for 100 miles and 200km. Lynne although having a bit of a battle for the last few hours covered an amazing 125 miles, what a brilliant bench mark for a first go!
A very successful 24 hours for Team Carnegie starting with Gail's 100km win, followed by the relay win, then First, Second and Third for Pauline, Lynne and myself. And just to say thank you doesn't go far enough in conveying the gratitude felt for the support because without the troops in the trenches the foot soldiers would not have made their achievements.
Team Carnegie covered 547 miles. That is enough to drive from Aviemore to London and have 16 miles left over to see the sights.
Ultra running knows no boundaries.
It is now a week after the race and it is slowly sinking in, I was too shell shocked at the time, but it is now catching up with me with little attacks of emotion of what I have done and what I get to do next year. The next time I run a 24 hour race it will be in a Scottish vest and I'll be flying the Saltire at the finish. I have a year to prepare, I will rise to the challenge and Scotland will get my best.
This story started long ago
With heroes forged and legends told
And for every fighting highland man
Stand by your brother, die for the clan
But when the whistle blows and the battle's done
These shinty boys shine like the sun
We don't play for fame, we don't play for cash
We just play for the glory
And the clash of the ash