My first ultra race of the year has come and gone; the John Muir Way Ultra on the east coast of Scotland. Me and my friend Marina had a fantastic day running through mixed terrain of trail, sandy beaches, and fields, on what turned out to be a beautiful day.
Checkpoints are always a welcome relief to stop for a minute and refuel, catch up with family and friends, then restart the journey; all the time getting closer to the finish line and completing the 31 miles. I used this race as a long training run for the next ultra, The Highland Fling, which was exactly a month ahead. It was a great race to share with Marina and we enjoyed the experience together and keeping each other going.
Before the race, I was very fortunate to be given some new kit to test from Ronhill and Montane. On the day I wore my new Ronhill Optimum Tights and had packed my new Montane Minimus Stretch Ultra Jacket. It never came out as we had sunshine all day, but it has been used plenty on my training runs in beautiful Argyll, which tends to get a fair amount of rain! The Montane jacket is lightweight, weighing 6oz, waterproof and breathable and has an adjustable low-profile hood. I have tried many jackets over the years but have to say it is the firm favorite now and is packed for all my runs. It is very soft and packs well in my race vest or belt. My Ronhill kit has also been a very welcome addition to my collection; their Infinity crop tights are super comfy and great colour with theInfinity marathon tee being worn on many of my hill adventures. You really can never have too much running kit!
My second ultra was the Highland Fling on the 27th April, 53 miles starting from Milngavie and finishing at Tyndrum near Glencoe. I knew the route but had never run the race before. We were up at 1 am to get ready and collect fellow runners and friends Kevin and David; my husband David was our very kind driver and took us to registration for 4:30 am, another club friend Jean was also running and we managed to meet her at the start line. The start of the race is amazing with 800 runners; such a great atmosphere. By 6 am we were off, quite daunting thinking of the overall mileage so I tend to break the route into sections and get to the next one. I am such a sociable person and love meeting fellow runners; most of the race I ran solo, but chatting to whoever was by my side. I met a lovely girl Lotty and we shared some great miles before being separated on the lochside where the conditions were extremely technical and, with the weather worsening, it made running very difficult. To say there was weather was an understatement; as the day progressed so did the rain, and every runner was suffering in some way.
However, I had a lovely surprise when I reached 20 miles in and heard my name being shouted; I turned around to see fellow George Fisher ambassador Dave Troman standing in the pouring rain, but ready to help me with my drop bag. Dave was there supporting two of the runners he coaches but had waited to catch me. This gave me a massive boost and after some rice pudding, cold coffee and a lovely chat I was off. It is amazing how seeing a friend or family member lists spirits as you set off again.
I carried on but the rain did not relent, and my spare kit in my race vest got soaked as the zip broke. Such a simple thing, but this had an impact as I had to stop to tie it all together. At 41 miles I had a low moment at Beinglas checkpoint; everyone was cold and wet. Although I felt a little sorry for myself, I only had 12 miles left so knew there was nothing for it but to carry on; I gave myself a talking-to and left the checkpoint quickly. It becomes a battle of willpower, but each step you get closer and closer to the finish line. The Highland Fling has the most amazing finish, you turn a corner to hear a piper and you run up a red carpet. At a mile to go, I was starting to get emotional and had called David to say I would be in soon, by my side was another man who was like my guardian angel keeping me going to get to the finish line. He helped me so much and we chatted until I heard the piper and took the final corner. Over the years I have supported friends and cried as I have watched them achieve their dream and run up that red carpet. Today it was my turn.
All of a sudden you are completely blown away by emotion and I could feel tears coming, I was also so happy that my legs and sheer willpower got me to the finish. I saw my family and friends all cheering as I ran in; an amazing moment. My finishing time was 13:29:40 hours; I am not the speediest but I am stubborn; these races are my goals, I like to challenge myself and see how I can cope. I am still reflecting on what was one of my hardest races; you learn and meet the most amazing people who then become friends and part of the journey.