Fifteen Westies assembled in Fort William on a hot September day to race up the Biggest Ben of Them All.
I’ve spent the last few months attempting some Ben-specific training, plotting increasingly convoluted and repetitive routes in the Ochils in an attempt to cover lots of climb over not much distance. In the end I probably managed about half of what I’d planned, preferring instead to spend time with my super-cute daughter. I wasn’t feeling that fit as race day approached, and the new route (about a mile longer) put a sub-2h finish well out of reach (narrator: it was already out of reach), so I was resigned to just having a nice day out..
This is a big race, with an entry limit of 600. As we were piped round the field into the starting pen, it had the feel of a small Highland Games. I started quite far back, which was probably sensible – I took the road section quite easy, and felt good for most of the climb, making up a good few places.
As we nearerd the top of the Red Burn, Finlay Wild passed us on his way back down, inspiring me to put a bit more effort in. My cramping right calf had other ideas though. There were some Ravens circling overhead, no doubt looking for some eye-balls to peck out. Mustn’t stop!
Finally we reached the summit, which was claggy, rough under foot, and busy with runners and tourists in both directions. Lots of near-misses, and a head-on collision in front of me – but I escaped unscathed.
I was quite apprehensive about the pathless section of the descent, having had a bit of a ‘mare at the end of a long day running the Lochaber Traverse last year. I ended up really enjoying it – lost a few places, but hey-ho. I made up some places back on the main path, but eventually started to flag – the pounding is unrelenting (I’ve never had blood blisters on the soles of my feet until now). Lots of encouragement from passers by though. Mustn’t stop!
Finally we reached the road section, which is mostly downhill on the way back – though my pace was slower than for the crowded, uphill start.
After a lap of the field it was over. I’d finished a few seconds under 2:20, shaving 10 mins off my most optimisic expectation. I collapsed in a sweaty, crampy, but very happy mess.
10/10 would recommend
Results here: https://protay.co.uk/bennevis2023/
Big thanks to Niall for the lift, Es and Harry for additional car company, JQ, JD and Helen for support on the hill, and Jamie and Sharon for the chip timing.