Monday, 7 July 2014

West Highland Way Race 2014 : Race Report: Part 4

This is fourth and final part of my West Highland Way Report that cover post race, award cereomony and post race reflections.  To read previous parts click on Part 1 : Pre Race, Part 2 : First half, Part 3 :
econd half.


I was well looked after at the Leisure Center, soon after arriving I had a seat, tea and toast.

Finally I get to sit down and spend time with my family.
We eventually collected everything, and headed outside to the cars.  Very quickly I found my body temperature dropping thanks to my sweat top and the cool night air.  Shivering I quickly changed into a warm top and jumped into the car.  This caught me by surprise as up to that point I had felt few ill effects from the days running.

Farewell to my crew, heading back to the hostel to stay the night with my family.
Back at the hostel I struggled up the stairs, finally got to the bathroom and had a shower.  Alas my body decided to reject my final meal of toast which wasn't pretty but I eventually got myself to bed and I was asleep in an instant (or possibly unconscious...)

Prize Giving

The prize giving was a glorious affair.  A standing ovation for Paul Gilblin, as to be expected from such a superlative race win and new course record of 14:20.  When it came to my turn I shuffled down the steps and across to the front - the first hobbler in the Ceremony so far, below is footage that Julia caught on her phone.  

Later in the ceremony the runners that I had shared the trail and a some very civilized miles with - Paul Brown, Peter Duggan, Nonnie Hefron, Helen Legget, Ross Lawrie and Jonny Rowan all collected their goblets.  All had finished but had quite different fortunes as the race progressed from Paul who nailed a great time of 21:46 in his first WHWR to Ross and Jonny who struggled with stomach issues in the second half.  The two runners I saw fall also collected their Goblets.   Running 95 miles can be a cruel beast for those unlucky to get the wrong side of it, but 157 of us overcame fatigue and injury and proved there is something truly remarkable about being human.

When it came to announcing Fiona Rennie's 10th Goblet a tear welled up and like a dozen of so others I rose to my feet right way, and almost immediately the rest of the crowd followed - a completely spontaneous and well deserved roll call of affection and respect.  Fiona has been through so much and inspired so many including me.  For me this was the most touching moment of the ceremony.

Post Race Reflections

I couldn't then, and even now can't quite believe it, the race went far smoother and I finished far stronger than I ever expected - you can plan things on paper but it means for nothing out on the trail, it's doing it that counts.  It seems extraordinary that anyone can run 95 miles, let alone me and to be able to do it without needing to dig down into any deep mental or physical reserves. There was no battle to finish - I just ran, walked, eat, drank and enjoyed every mile as it clicked by.

My platinum goal of 20hrs was a perfect race target and to get so close shows just how well all the key ingredients went - my pacing, food, race strategy all worked very well on the day.  

Things that went wrong : Falling was likely down to lack of concentration on footing while wearing larger shoes than I had trained in.  Tightness in my calves on walking ascents likely due to lack of walking up long steep hills during training.  The blisters likely to do mixing new shoes with toe socks that were a little too large so they slipped a little.  The final calf injury was likely just lack of structural resilience for the task in hand - perhaps I skipped a bit too much on the really long runs (I only ran longer than 18 miles twice in the 6 months training.)  

All these weaknesses I can work on.  Looking at my splits and removing the effects of the medical stops and injury it looks like a time of around 19:40 was possible if I had the absolute perfect day.  This would also have seen a negative split of around 2%.  Doing a negative split isn't just a hypothetical projection - Johnny Duncan ran a blinder of a second half as well, but didn't fail after Kinlochleven like I did, and finished in a storming 19:35 with a 2.4% negative split.  However, this was eclipsed by Brain MacFarlane who ran the second half 3.5% faster recording a time of 23:24.  Prior to this race I doubted the likelihood of running a even/negative split during a long ultra race, but thanks to these guys we have an indication for the West Highland Way Race that it's perfectly possible.

The average first half/second half split this year was a 11.2% positive split, whilst last year it was a 13.4% positive split so as a community it seems we are getting better at judging pace.

My own first half/second split came in at 4.2% positive split which is a little off the 3.1% positive split that Rosie Bell achieved last year.  It was ahead of the the Macro Cosani 7% positive split, which brings me back to the discrepancy of the projected finishing time that my two crews were telling me. My first half crew were using my even splits that I had put in the crew notes as a guide to the earliest I was likely to come through, but the crew notes were not passed on to the second half crew.  The second half crew had been looking at Marco Cosani style projection splits that I had given out in the crew meeting the week before.   On race day I was tracking the even splits very closely until my calf blew up, but as I didn't have the splits to hand or memorised I didn't know this, all I knew is what my second half crew were saying didn't quite tally with how I felt the race was progressing.  This is another area I can improve next time I run such a long race - just use even splits and don't complicate life with lots of different splits that attempt to cover various possible outcomes.

Another aspect to the race was my family and friends that were watching the race unfold online.  As the day progressed they could all see me steadily moving up through the field, which was really encouraging for them.  However, my Mum reported being concerned about whether something had happened when people that I had overtaken on the way to Kinlochleven started finishing but no info was forthcoming on what had happened to me.  Of course something had happened... but nothing too bad thankfully.  It's touching to hear of all this concern, but less good to think others were worrying.  I guess Mum's are always going to worry though when you do daft stuff like run 95 miles!


First I have to thank the race committee and marshals. What a truly special event you have created - all those hours in prep and on race day(s) are very much appreciated.  For each runner and crew you gave an opportunity to experience something very unique and special.

Second, my two crews: Andrew and Toby, and Steve and Rob you made my great day possible, going above and beyond normal bounds of friendship.  After the race they have all been really inspired about the experience and are now talking about doing more ultras themselves.  I couldn't ask for better support and outcome.  Thank you guys!

Finally to my wife Julia for her support throughout training and on to our kids for support on race day. Also thanks to Julia for editing this report, making my usually poor attempt the written more readable. Just one week after the race Julia asked what I wanted for my up coming 45th birthday and I was stuck, then she proposed buying entry to the 2015 West Highland Way Race as a present.  Oh yes, that will do very nicely!


  1. I've loved reading all sections of your report, what a brilliant write-up of a fantastic run! Well done! x

  2. I waited until I could read all your report in one go. Really well done! Did you ever discover what caused the calf pain without which you would have gone even better and certainly got under 20 hours?

    1. Thanks Andy.

      I haven't seen an physio about my calf injury so I haven't had it diagnosed. The days after the race my upper/outside right calf ballooned like a little bicep grafted onto my leg. After ten days the inflammation had all gone, but was still a bit painful when attempting running.

      The injury has kept settling and did a little bit of running on it last week and found that on any ascents or descents it was painful so ended up keeping the mileage really low - 9 miles over three runs last week. I did a 4 mile run at 10 min/mile pace yesterday on the flat and was able to get 3 miles before any discomfort. I am resting today as I really don't want to risk anything.

      Exactly what the injury is is hard to say without seeing professional. My right knee had a bit of tendonitis before the race and this was evident during the race but not too bad. Since the race the tendonitiis style discomfort has spread from the front of my knee around to the outside above the injured calf site. I get the sense that this tendonitis discomfort is what is left and the muscle injury is mostly settled.

      I haven't entered any races yet so don't have anything specific to train for yet, this takes the pressure of getting back into proper training. My plan is to just keep the mileage and pace low, and avoid hills when heading out for runs this week and see how things progress.

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