Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Is the triple crown real?


In a single word. No. Ok, that sounds a bit harsh but I don’t want folk coming into the West Highland Way Race, especially for the first time feeling that it is a lesser achievement unless they go on to complete all three races on the route in a calendar year. It might just be me but I feel the West Highland Way Race deserves a bit more respect than to lump it with other races just for an extra hurrah.

Is this lot any the less sparkly because I’ve never followed them up by dragging my tired carcass over the latter half of the route six weeks later?

For the triple crown be recognised officially, I think the challenge should cross from one year to the next, completing all races within ten months, starting with the Devil O’ the Highland in August, followed by the Highland Fling in April and finishing with the final jewel in the crown, the West Highland Way in June sounds a more fitting and sensible way to do it.  There could even be a separate wee presentation after the main prize-giving to those that have completed it, although I don’t think that would be fair to WHW race organisers to do it, they have been on duty long before the 1.00am start and are still on duty long after the 35 hour time limit. So unless someone else would be willing to take it on it wouldn’t be feasible.

I mean no disrespect to the Highland Fling or the Devil O’ the Highlands they are both fantastic races in their own right and should not be used just to make up the numbers. There are many runners who see these races as the pinnacle of their running career.  Although I have never run the Devil O’ the Highlands I have never missed it either, in the role of support I am an ever present, in the early years I crewed for lots of friends, this is one of my favourite photos, supporting Robin in 2014, these days you’ll find Pauline and I up the top of Devil’s staircase supporting everyone.  


These races weren’t around when I first ran the West Highland Way race I remember what it took out of me that first time, I had a good idea what was ahead, I had done Pauline’s support three times and covered the whole route in training, but the longest race I had done was the 35 mile Two Bridges Road Race, it was a huge step for me, there is no substitute for experience, also I’ve never claimed to be a great athlete, just a determined plodder.

Nowadays runners with more natural ability and having served their apprenticeship learning their craft might manage without damaging themselves, with the vast amount of races around, you can build up gradually, the Great Glen Ultra and Glenmore 24 are perfect for practicing running without sleep, with both of them you only lose one night's sleep, (even if you manage to run 100 miles in a 24 hour race don’t let that lull you into a hope of a sub 24 hour WHW, they are different beasts) so folk are standing under the tunnel in Milngavie with a lot more experience than I ever had, although regardless of the amount of times I’ve done it doesn’t get any easier and every year has different challenges, I still feel I need more than six weeks recovery before taking on another ultra.

It is just that over the years, I’ve seen many get to the end of the Devil O’ the Highlands claiming a triple crown totally spent, injured and scunnered to the extent that they have had to take an exceptionally long time away from running to recover then build up slowly again, sadly, I know one person that never ran again.  


Alright, I’m guilty of sounding like your Mum saying it’s cold out put your coat on, I have your best interests at heart and if you want to do a personal challenge of all three races on the West Highland Way in a calendar year go for it, but take a few years building up, be careful and kind to yourself and take the recovery you need so you don’t spend the following year plagued with illness and injury and never lose your love of running.

4 comments:

Helen said...

I think you're more like Mother Willow than Mum (note I left out the old! ) you're a very experienced and very wise lady and runner xx

John Cassidy said...

Great advice Fiona. I completed the West Highland Way Race last year for the first time, and totally underestimated the time recovery would take, even after Sean told me otherwise!
The West Highland Way is one to be savoured, and I still do 👍

Amanda Hamilton said...

I really like that idea of recognising it over the progress across the two years. I did the TC the first year of my WHW and my slowest Devil ever which was a struggle and I was exhausted and wouldn’t do that again! X

g.o.s. said...

As a 2015 Triple Crowner (‘Crowned’?), I agree wholeheartedly with every single word. With one addition...
...in 2015, completing the Triple Crown required running 190 miles. Now, on top of that, it requires getting lucky in three ballots rather than one...
...oh: and I don’t think the WHWR is held in anything less than the mighty regard it deserves for being at the heart of that crown. That risk is greater for the two shorter events. Which are equally magnificent...
...and, as someone who’ll run owt from parkruns to 36-hr events, nobody should ever draw a direct correlation between distance and difficulty anyway. Or Usain Bolt wouldn’t be a runner. Whereas he was quite good.