Immediately I felt there was an improvement and I decided to give the Fling a crack and try and finish. I knew if I was unable to complete the Fling I could forget the WHW Race 2 months away.
The miles to Conic passed without incident with Tommy and I both feeling good. Crossing the little bridge we arrived at the foot of Conic and started the slow ascent. About half way up I noticed Tommy was lagging behind slightly. When you’ve trained together with someone as long as Tommy and I have trained you instantly sense when something isn’t quite right. I shouted back asking if he was ok. He told me his hip was quite painful but said he hoped it would pass as he’d taken a couple of paracetamol tablets. As I continued the climb I kept glancing behind me and noticed the gap was getting longer. I shouted back and Tommy said it was getting worse and he was feeling quite sickly and told me he was starting to worry whether he could continue but told me to press on ahead.
Despite not being a favourite section of mine I noticed at the Fling it hadn’t felt as bad and this time was no exception. You just have to accept running is virtually non existent and tramp on as best as possible. After climbing the hill I said hello to Dario and ran the final few miles into the checkpoint. As I ran in I was greeted with cheers and lovely applause by onlookers which never fails to raise the spirits. As I ran through the checkpoint there was no sign of the support team. I stood about for a few minutes before heading back up to eventually see them. Apparently despite me phoning I’d arrived slightly earlier than expected.
Once up onto Rannoch Moor we stuck to the run and walk strategy, essentially running all down hills and most flats while walking the ascent. At this point I kept asking anyone nearby if they thought we would make the cut off and every time I was re-assured we would. Fortunately the gale force wind was on our back for much of this which made a huge difference and made for a fairly pain free section. As we spotted the flags to the ski centre down to the right we knew the checkpoint wasn’t far off. Before long we had arrived and we jogged up the hill to clock in and meet the crew.
Not wanting to hang about any longer than we had to we bid our final farewell and headed once again back out into the cold night. Mentally I always get a huge boost because I know the next checkpoint is the end and it’s effectively impossible to give up now because of that.
After what seemed like a far longer climb than I’d previously remembered we were up on to the Lairig Mor and at last heading to Fort William. By this point the sun was beginning to rise which always helps lift spirits. At this point I was getting quite concerned about how cold I was. Steve told me it wasn’t actually that cold and it was probably more down to my body shutting down due to having spent the last 30+ hours running. I knew the best way to get a heat was to run faster and get to the leisure centre. After reaching Jeff and his team for a welcome drink of Irn Bru we continued on running where possible. By this point we both realised it was easier to simply run through the streams and rivers than trying to avoid them. If I’m honest the cool water was quite comforting on the hot feet. Again after what felt like an age we eventually hit Lundavra and were greeted by a number of welcome marshalls. As we veered right up the hill I asked how far and was told 6 miles to go. This last section has completely changed due to some serious tree felling and many of the markers I remember have vanished. At this point we were both starting to get a bit of a lift as we knew the running was soon to be over. I muttered to Steve that in some ways I wished I was going to finish last so I had the honour of being given my goblet by the winner. I then said I could imagine the winner leaving over and whispering into my ear asking “Had I actually made any effort given how woeful my time was!”. This reduced us both to stitches of laughter which helped numb the considerable pain my feet were in.
I remember from 2014 climbing the final hill leading to the fire road and sitting on a pile of logs waiting for the others to catch up. I said to Steve I wondered if they would still be there. Steve said given they had effectively cleared tens of square acres of forestry it was highly unlikely a small pile of logs would remain 3 years on once again reducing us into fits of laughter. As we hit the hill we quickly climbed it and as we spotted the fire road we saw the aforementioned pile of logs from 3 year previously. “In your face Steve!!” I shouted.
Finally onto the fire road we knew we had just 3-4 miles left and did the run / walk thing as best we could. Nearing Braveheart carpark we spotted a couple of runners and I told Steve I wanted to try and run them down. As we neared I realised it was once again Andy and Mike and another support runner. We stopped and chatted and congratulated one another of what we were minutes from achieving. We bid our farewells and pushed on passing Tommy and Roy who had parked up in the car park. Reaching the bottom we turned to run the final mile and a half to the end. As we neared Fort Willliam a young girl runner shouted well done and said she was looking forward to seeing me collect my goblet. With 50 yards left I picked up my feet and made my best sprint to the end. I as crossed the line I was embraced by all the guys. I’d done it. Determined to not cry like a girl this time as Tommy gave me a hug he whispered he was so proud of what I’d done. Time wise it was about 5 mins slower than my first one and 2 and a half hours slower than my PB in 2014 but considering what was acknowledged at the prize giving as being probably the worse ever weather in the event’s history the time wasn’t too shabby. The fact 50 of the 210 starters had to retire tells it’s own story.
I’ll be back for another crack, not next year, maybe not evern the year after that but when the WHW race gets under your skin, it’s there for life.
Thanks to my awesome team, I simply couldn’t have managed it without all your love and support. Thanks also to Iain Beattie and the whole WHW race team, you really do put on quite an event.