A time comes in every Scottish ultramarathoner's career that they have to turn to their loved one and ask the big question, "how do you feel about me running the West Highland Way Race next year?"
Today, two days after completing the 38 mile Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra, my wife and I went for a lunchtime walk to enjoy the sun. My quads are still a bit trashed so descending steps down to the river path to walk along the River Teith were uncomfortable, but probably entertaining to watch. As the walk progressed we covered various topics and then Julia asked about my race plans. I introduced the idea of trying some longer races next year and tentatively worked my way towards the big question.
I really didn't know whether she'd be supportive or not, given how much goes into training and support and the impact that this has not just on the runner, but the whole family. I asked the question and was rather taken aback by the reply and subsequent conversation. Julia had already accepted that one day I'd run the WHR race, even if I hadn't fully come to terms with it yet myself. If I was to do it I might as well get it over with!
Truth be told, the idea of running the whole West Highland Way is daunting, the biggest physical challenge of my life by a long way. I've now run the 53 mile Highland Fling last year and the 42 mile Devil O' Highlands this year so I now know the route, however familiarity in no way diminishes the scale of the challenge, both races are tough in their own right, add them together and you get a monster, especially when you mix in the potential weather that Scotland can throw at you.
So decision made, the process begins. First I need to enter the race, make a case that I am capable and worthy entrant, and then hope that I make it through the ballot. If I do make it as one of the 200 then I'll map out 6 months training for that single day, on the 24th of June, where I'll run from Milngavie, Glasgow to Fort William and cover 95 miles with 14,760ft of ascent.
I should probably clarify, starting at 1am at Milngavie would give me 23hrs to get to Fort William if I want to complete it in a single day. The race cut of is 35 hours, so potentially if the wheels fall off and I have to walk much of the final miles then it'd well into Sunday before I might finish.
What time might I expect? Looking at triple crown records one finds that the average ratio of WHW time to the Fling+Devil time is 1.278, so for my 10:46 Fling time, and 7:17 Devil time I'd achieve a time of 23:04 if I conformed to this average. What this really means is that statistically I'm half roughly half as likely to finish faster or slower than this time.
If I want to be more optimistic then If we look at just the Devil times, as this was my best and most recent race, then average would take me to 21:55 WHW time. This is all just fantasy football though, the only way to find out how long it'll take is get your shoes on and join the race.
Just in case your curious, the Jedburgh Ultra went really well. I finished 11th out of 100 finishers with a time of 6hrs 28min. Conditions provided sunny spells, very windy on top of the Eildons, some very sharp and heavy showers, and pretty muddy in places, but drier underfoot than last year. Many thanks to the organizers and marshals for putting on a great event.