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Pat had wisely booked us in for B&B on Friday and Saturday nights in a house that proved to be a short walk from the start of Slioch. We left Glasgow just after midday on Friday which allowed for a leisurely drive to Kinlochewe. Flora, our host, welcomed us with tea and delicious home-baking. We then headed round to the Whistle Stop Cafe for an excellent tea. After breakfast on Saturday we went to register and were relieved to hear that the race route had been amended because of the high winds. Back at the B&B, we had time to pack and unpack our rucksacks several times before walking round to the start and meeting up with the other Westies who’d made the trip. I think we were 8 in all but unlike Carnethy, we didn’t organise a group photo so, apologies if I miss anyone: Don, Brian, Manny and Pete, Paula, Elsie, Pat and me.
Being at the back we missed the briefing and so, suddenly we were off. The run along the track seemed to go on and on. I’d heard it was 4K and so had thought it might take me half-an-hour. I was pretty happy that my watch showed 29 minutes as I started up the hill. What can I say? It was wet. Water was pouring down the hill anywhere it could. The rocks were treacherously slippy in places and the mud …. Elsie was just at my back all the way along the path and passed me when I slowed down to take my rain jacket off when we started climbing. I passed her again on the way up to the 2nd checkpoint on Sgurr Dubh. As there was a cut-off time of 1 hour 45 minutes at this point, my tactic was to treat it as a race to there and then as a run from that point on. About halfway up the climb I was in cloud and determined not to look down and by the time I reached the top visibility was pretty poor. I made the mistake of trying to put my jacket and my by now soaking wet gloves back on while trying to keep the 2 people ahead of me in view. I reached a point where the ground seemed to drop away and there was no-one in sight. Remembering that I wanted to keep to the higher ground I followed it round and then caught sight of my compass. I should have been heading roughly north but seemed to be going east. Something wasn’t right. I headed back to the point at which I’d found myself alone and met up with a group that was heading northwards and seemed to know what they were doing. I recognised Elsie as part of this group and so, reassured, happily tagged along. Sure enough we soon reached the marshall at the lochan and after being told to be sure and return to him, started the climb up to the summit. At this point, it was also reassuring to be meeting the runners, among them Brian and Don, returning from the summit. It still seemed a long way to the cairn and then the true summit before we too were on our way back. I say we, but the entire group apart from Elsie and another woman seemed to have just disappeared in the mist at the summit and I never saw them again. My knees and ankles suffered terribly in the descent but Elsie was always just that wee bit ahead pulling me along and reassuring me that I was on course. Crossing the stream at the waterfall would have been impossible without the marshall’s help and then I was on the long, long path back to the bridge. I passed Elsie on this – she claimed to be taking it easy because of her ankle(s) but her ankles didn’t seem to be bothering her when she charged past me about 1K before the finish. By this point I was losing the will to run and when a glance behind showed no-one else in sight, I decided I could afford to walk for a bit and still finish in the same position. My watch showed 3h 55min when the finish was suddenly in sight. Pride and the desire to finish in under 4 hours forced me to run the last few hundred metres. I finished in around 3h 58mins. What a relief! If I’d been just over the 4 h, I might have felt obliged to try again to get under the 4h. While I was recovering at the finish, Pat appeared. She’d retired, turning back before reaching the 2nd checkpoint. That took some nerve. One of the reasons that I kept going up to the checkpoint was that I was terrified at the thought of trying to go down.
We headed back to our B&B and I thawed out with a bath and loads of tea and home-baking so missed hearing how everyone else got on. No doubt there will be other stories to tell.

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