Glenmore 24 just didn’t happen to be my 100th Ultra, it took around a year in the planning, last year it was my 92nd ultra and after Glen Ogle33 I squeezed in a couple extra at the end of 2022 with the Dava Way and the Shale Trail, which I thoroughly enjoyed, to make it a possibility. So in January with all roads leading to Milngavie I did the Falkirk 7 hour, the John Muir Way 50km and the Moray Coastal Trail 50 miler in my build up to the West Highland Way Race. After another successful run I slid seamlessly from recovery to taper with one lovely long run of around 26 miles with Sue from the Glencoe Ski Centre to Fort William a month beforehand. How lovely it was to run Lairig Mhor without eighty odd miles in the legs! I felt that my year has gone well so far and I made it no secret that I was aiming for 100 miles in my 100th Ultra, I put no pressure on myself though. It would just be brilliant if it happened, but as long as I managed 7 laps, 28 miles, it was mission accomplished.
This year Sue was making her debut at 24 hours, Pauline was doing the 12 hour and in support we had our trusty crew of Ken, Gillian, Val and Allan.
|photo from Donna Wallace
For the first time since 2012 I wasn’t sleeping in the Hayfield on Friday night. We had a holiday home in Aviemore from Friday to Tuesday. It did feel like I was cheating a bit sleeping in a proper bed the night before but I’m sure I could handle the guilt! We did go along for some of the Where’s Wally/Lois shenanigans.
|photo from Sylvia McGoldrick
On Saturday morning we got our stuff set up in our shelter and went over our final instructions with Ken, Val and Gillian, Allan took the opportunity to head up to Inverness for the Pars and Caley Thistle game. At 11.30am Bill did the race briefing and just as he was finishing, he called Lorna and myself forward to say that we were both running our 100th ultra and gave me a wee award for having completed 1000 Glenmore miles.
|photo from Colin Knox
Lorna and I were together for over a lap and it was lovely to reminisce over the races we have done,Lorna said that she had totalled all her ultra race miles, I hadn’t thought to do that but I will now. It was a gorgeously warm and sunny day, maybe a wee bit warm for some but I like it that way, I’m usually such a cauld tattie, and in a race of this length I always feel that if you’re too hot you’re going too fast! It was a pleasure being back on route in the magic of Glenmore and adding to the 252 laps I’ve done over the previous years, it never stops being special. Also the only race where it’s not surprising to see a Gorilla or a Penguin on a bike! Shame I didn’t have my camera with me on those laps!
One lap I felt I was on my own for all of it and wondered Where was everybody? Next lap I found them and had loads of wee blethers, it’s lovely on a lapped course where everyone’s different pace can bring you together at times.
I had a plan written for what I’d pick up to eat each lap, timing pasta or soup around tea time, supper time, and generally choosing between custard, rice pudding, milkshakes the rest of the time, sometimes it was quite difficult to say a lap in advance of what I fancied next lap but when Val asked me what I’d like next time I said “A mug of tea and a couple of custard creams.” She looked a bit perplexed, asking if they were in my food bag. “No!” was my wistful reply, I didn’t have any, but that’s just what I would like! Oh well, never mind, just custard it is then!
I did have one Diva strop, we were using a wee red box placed at the top of the Hayfield just before you head out onto the big lap for dropping food stuff taken round base camp so our support didn’t have to hoof up to the top to take it from us each time, they could pick them up at their convenience. I have rules for 24 hour races, I do not sit down and I do not stop to eat. but with my dodgy guts I wasn’t eating very much each lap but made sure I was having at least half a pot of rice pudding, custard etc. and putting it in the box to be picked up again and hopefully finish it the next lap. Early in the evening I insisted that our support make a “No Rubbish!” sign and put it on our drop box, since some manky basturt was using it for their rubbish. Seeing a lump of orange peel that someone has slobbered on next to my mug set the red lights flashing on my boak-o-meter which was on a high setting as it was! Bleurgh!
|photo from Donna Wallace
Pauliine finished at midnight covering 50 miles in the 12 hours on naff all training (ya cannae hide class). She and Allan headed back to the house for the luxury of a good night’s sleep in a proper bed.
I was wanting to take some paracetamol so I thought I better try and get something a bit more substantial in for them to land on, I was standing in front of our shelter having a fight between swallowing some rice pudding and heaving, Val gave me strict instruction not to throw up on the table or even in front of it! Gillian quipped “You’re not really enjoying that, are you?”
“Naw!” I swallowed my effervescent paracetamol and caffeine with one eye shut, a screwed up face and shudder of my shoulders! A bit of a pallaver but it will get me round another lap.
Run when I could, walk the uphills and lumpy terrain, sing along to my tunes, and just keep moving forward. How much longer is it going to be dark? I was having a real struggle keeping awake, my head would nod! Right, eyes open, march on, I’m awake, then my head would jerk up, I’d nodded off again! Lois saved me, catching me up, we stayed together chatting the sleep away until we could switch off our head-torches. Dawn at last, yay, you always perk up with the sunrise.
With just less than four hours to go I looked at how many big laps I could fit in, I didn’t fancy a whole hour on the wee laps also I didn’t want to be panicking a push to squeeze in an extra big lap, if I could up my effort a wee bit I’d be fine for three big laps and around half an hour on the wee laps, that sounds like a stress free plan and would give me 23 big laps of 92 miles. Just 3 more laps until the finish, I could start counting down, managing to bring my lap split down by almost 10 minutes a lap.
|photo from Donna Wallace
Another big boost, Allan and Pauline were back, bringing bacon rolls for the team and a packet of custard creams for me! Yaay! You cannae beat dunking custard creams in a mug of tea to put a smile on your face, I’ll be having them in my adventure supplies from now on!
Final big lap, I say cheerio to all my favourite bits, a wee bit sad that I won’t see them again until next year but also really glad that I’ll get to stop soon, I’m back in the Hayfield with around 35 minutes left. I think of one more wee target, if I can get 3 miles that will give me West Highland Way distance. Pauline shouts to me “12 laps will give you a West Highland Way!” Ha, ha, great minds and all that! I threw my race vest under the table at our shelter, I won’t be needing anything now except my determination. Work up the hill and the best way down is to let gravity take me and fly, picking the straightest line without crashing into anyone going down at a sensible pace. Ada shouted “Go on Fiona, show them how it’s done!” I keep the momentum I’ve gathered for as long as possible, working my elbows, round the bottom of the field, breathing like an old donkey, back up the hill and flying down again! I lose count of the laps but Pauline keeps me right! One more, one more, one more. I didn’t hear the horn climbing the hill but I saw Donald waving his arms to signal the finish and I pushed my tent peg with my number into the ground and stood still. I decide not to lie down, it would be too hard to get back up, Val walked over to meet me and we made our way back to our stuff, I sat down for the first time in 24 hours and didn't quite know what to do with myself, a mug of tea and more custard creams was trying to help, but not before I let out the biggest burp all the way from my boots, at that precise moment Martin Butcher leaned over my shoulder to give me a hug!! I was mortified! My apologies Martin!
|315 Ultras between us
I was well chuffed and really pleased for Sue in her debut covering 95.45 miles also having a bit of a battle with her belly.
Finally my stomach felt settled, but not until later on Sunday night after I’d had a shower, a wee sleep before we went out for our meal and a big bowl of Cullen Skink and a couple of pints of Dark Ness did the job!
Thank you Bill, every marshal, every supporter and all the runners for making it another wonderful year of running round in circles. I have now completed a grand total of 1125.45 miles with 275 laps and 24.46 miles on the wee laps.
Here’s how it all adds up
2011 108 miles, there were no wee laps for the first year
2012 109.01 miles, 1st Female
2013 25.45 miles, a 6 hour special just for me post mouth cancer treatment
2014 89.56 miles
2015 107.35 miles
2016 103.26 miles
2017 102.04 miles
2018 102.61 miles
2019 103.36 miles
2021 98.02 miles
2022 82.75 miles, 5 days post covid infection
2023 95.05 miles
Next year's target has kind of set itself, I’ll be aiming for 101.75 miles. This will round up my big laps to 300 and give me marathon distance on the wee ones! Sounds like a great plan to me!
I’ve just added up all my ultra race miles and I’ve covered 5643 miles. I've been a serial offender at races I enjoy. 17 West Highland Way Races, 8 Highland Flings, and between them both I’ve covered over 2000 miles on the beautiful Way.
11 of the 14 24 hour races I’ve done have been at Glenmore, I’ve had the honour of representing Scotland twice at 24 hours and brought home a team Bronze Medal at the Commonwealth Championships Mountain and Ultra in 2009 with fellow Carnegie Harriers, Pauline and Lynne.
|Scotland 24 hour team with Don Ritchie photo from Alan Young
|photo from Alan Young
I've covered 347.12 miles round The Inches at Perth during 2 24 hour races, a 100km and 2 50km races.
9 Glen Ogle 33
6 Two Bridges, 7 Glenrothes 50km, sadly both of them are no longer around.
Not counting the Fling or the 100km I’ve done another 3 races of around 50 miles/12 hours and a 48 hours on a 400 metre track and another 32 races of around 50km.
I have absolutely no inclination of retiring, I might have a bus pass but I am not old! You only get old when you stop running!