Project Big Ben

So, I took up this hill running lark about a 18 months ago, moving from the dark side (road running) after a bit of persuasion and whilst looking for a new challenge to see me through the fabulous forties and onwards….

I do a few races, learn a few things – mostly this is really hard – whilst in my mind I have my ultimate goal, The Ben Nevis Race. Enter 2013 and get a place, shock and awe set in and the realisation I’d better get some training done. Westies friends reassure me I’ll be fine, I veer between believing them and thinking, not a chance…… Project Big Ben was born thanks to training with my dear friend Casey Morgan (an ultra-running mountain goat) when I could, with Westies when I could and keep it going when I am in London every week for work – not many hills around the Ben down there though.

So the big day comes. I’ve done all I can and set a target of under 3 hours.

Much excitement. Good drive up. Pouring rain. Arrive and sun comes out. Thank you. Westies gather. Excitement mounts; you can actually feel the nervous energy. It’s suddenly hot?! Panic sets in. Bag pipes skirl. I know the bottom half of the hill having done the Half Ben race. Double it……Call to start. Here we go. I’ll give it all I’ve got. And they’re off.

Road race at a nice pace I can do. Anticipating the path; but I’ve trained hard, the first half I’ll be ok and I was; although there were so many people it was tough to get past anyone and find my own pace. Just keep working and relax, there’s a long way to go. Half way seems to take ages to come this time but I’m ok as we take to the water then the scree.

I know this is where it gets serious. I’m not at the front so much of the scree has already moved on the hill, I try to follow on the ‘path’ I’m ok for a wee while; then start to lose it, this is so, so tough, no rhythm at all, changing terrain, scree, boulders, loose earth, people in the way and my legs turn to jelly. My brain is shouting, go legs go and my legs have become deaf, they do their own wobbly thing, from behind I must look drunk. My brain is then shouting at me – what do you think you are doing? Why am I on a mountainside, which is very steep (don’t look around) with the earth moving beneath my feet? What is the point? I actually contemplate just sitting down and waiting for one of those nice mountain rescue chaps to come and get me. I can’t do this, and I’m so slow I feel like I’m going backwards. I’m done. Wobbly steps. Not going any further. Wobbly steps. One foot in front. Wobbly steps. I’ve come this far. Wobbly steps. There are plenty of people behind me I can’t stop now, just keep moving even if its slowly. Wobbly steps. Eat jelly beans. Drink more.

I’m going to get to the top of this ****** mountain if it’s the last thing I do (and it feels like it might well be.) Terrain changes, steepness gone, can’t be far now just keep moving. Boulder hell.  Captain John passes me with words / gasps or encouragement. It really helps to see a friend. Legs totally ache. No rhythm.

Paula shouts my name!! Thank you – but sorry I’m rubbish at this. But I am going to make it. It feels like miles to the turn point and I feel delirious when I hand over the precious necklace.

It’s all downhill from here I can definitely do this now and in under 3 hours. Get moving body. Slow response but a gentle run happens. Boulder hell. Legs shot. Then the steep slope and scree, how the **** do you run down this? Do my best to pick a line and go. Painfully slow. Lots of people pass me. Very annoyed I can’t get faster. Promise to push where I can. Get moving, going fine. The grassy bank. OMG. I slither and slide, can’t stay upright. Bum slide most of it. Too slow.

On the path now I can push on. And do, start to take back a few places. Walkers and runners everywhere it takes every ounce of concentration and a few polite excuse me’s (wanted to be less polite.) Pass Jamie Provan – wow he’s done great, he raced and is back up here, that’s amazing. His cheers and a jelly baby help me on. A big pack of walkers. Take my eyes of the path for a split second. Hit the ground hard. Body surfing on the rocks and path. Ouch. Walkers gasp. I splutter, winded and really belted my knees. Take a moment. Jamie arrives, helps me up force feeds me jelly babies and water. Precious minutes lost….aargh. I get going but I have Tourette’s. I am really annoyed at myself. The places I had won back have passed me again. Not happy. I am going to get some back. It rains very hard. Great. Race to the finish is on. Get a rhythm at last running ok. Pass a few people. Hit the road. Jamie runs alongside saying all the right things. I try to pass a few. One Lochaber lady ahead I want to pass. Can’t go any faster she is 50 mtrs ahead. Don’t manage it as she enters the field and I follow. Done all I can. Energy gone. Keep it moving. I’ve done it. Well done Hen from the lady that gives me my medal. 3 hours 3 mins.


Thanks Jamie, you are a pal. Find Husband, he takes some photos. I look wasted and they are the worst pics I’ve ever seen of me. Who cares. I feel weird. Overcome really. I have a good wee blub to myself. Relief and exhaustion.

Recover composure.

Let’s find the Westies. All had great runs. Need a drink. Tea and cake. Then we stay for a pint. Midgies arrive. We all head off. Mallaig langoustines and a bottle of Chablis are my reward. Don’t make the pub after eats. Bed with broken legs. Wake up in the night dreaming I’ve run the Ben Nevis Hill Race.

Back to sleep, it’s only a dream. Try to get out of bed – it was real. Ouch.


I love running. I’m really glad I did it. And yes I might just give it a go again next year……


Thank you Westies. I am in awe that you all take this and many other hill races in your stride.

The Ben race is everything I ever imagined – a very special race and very special people who brave it.

Well done everyone – especially the other first timers!


14  M Gorman 1.46

49  G Stewart 1.57

53  L Arnott 1.58

69  A Gilkison 2.00

88  C Upson 2.04

171  G Kelly 2.16

221  J Donnelly 2.24

243  D Atkin 2.27

274  M Macleod 2.34

336  R Evans 2.42

380  J Hamer 2.52

387  G Douglas 2.53

424  G Gillespie 3.03

453  B Paul 3.15



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