In the week leading up to the West Highland Way Race I found myself wondering what on earth I was thinking when I signed up for it. It had all seemed like such a good idea last October but I was now feeling vastly underprepared.

I had been fortunate to enjoy excellent weather on my previous training runs on the route but now the weather was looking anything but. Nevertheless it was surprisingly warm at 1am in Milngavie which prompted some people to wear only shorts and a vest and to carry no spare clothing. This seemed a little rash but the only obligatory kit was a space blanket and a mobile phone.

Needless to say the fair weather held for about an hour before the heavens opened. My ideas of descending off Conic Hill to sunrise over Loch Lomond were thwarted. However I did have the pleasure of overtaking 15 people tenderly picking their way down the hill including one in an emergency poncho. My fellow competitors were clearly not hill runners!

What followed was the worst part of the race, the infernal midges along the banks of Loch Lomond. They were enough to make one consider withdrawal! Other than this the next 12 hours or so passed in something of a blur of unrelenting rain. I had 2 particularly difficult stretches where I was battling to stay awake, on one occasion nearly falling into a ditch and on another walking towards an imaginary gate that I was hallucinating.

Thankfully by the time I reached Glencoe ski centre I was just over 4h behind the leader which meant that I was allowed a support runner. Richard a fellow doctor, accompanied me on a fairly wild crossing of Devil’s Staircase before fairer weather greeted us in Kinlochleven. There I picked up Simon, another work colleague, raring to go for the last 14miles to Fort William.

I finally limped into Fort William in 25th place with a time of 22h27m, well within my sub 24h target. Despite the weather a staggering new course record of 15h39m was set by Terry Conway on his first West Highland Way Race. However 53 of the 172 starters had failed to finish.

If the race tempts you entry usually opens on 1 Oct for next year’s race which is on 22 Jun. You will need to have evidence of having completed another off road ultra (65km or more) in the last 3 years in order to be in the running for a place. And if you think you’re too old for it the oldest finisher was 63 with a time of 26h23m. Oh and despite the weather it was still a great day out in the West Highlands.

Tony Dickinson

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