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 

1 comment:

Amanda Hamilton said...

What a fabulously bouncy fun write up of what sounds like a grand day out! X