West Highland Way Challenge Race 2021

Luss hills, west of Loch Lomond, during a recent training run.

Excited at the prospect that at 11am on Saturday 29th May I can hopefully once again run the West Highland Way. Organised by another group than I normally run with there are a number of differences to what I have been used to. This is partly due to Covid restrictions and will make it a different challenge. For starters, going in the opposite direction from usual, north to south, makes it almost like a different trail! Everything looks different. However distance is the same 153 km from Fort William, at the foot of UK’s highest mountain Ben Nevis, to Milngavie on the outskirts of Glasgow. About 4,800m ascent and descent. A little bit more climbing from north to south as Fort William is at sea level (a mere 40m more!). The day time start means just one night out on the trail instead of two. 

West Highland Way Route (north to south).

A significant difference is that no support crew are allowed meaning you carry more gear for safety. You rely on a network of drop bags with food and gear which you pick up at checkpoints. From Glencoe to Rowardennan you also have to carry a sleeping bag and survival bag for any eventuality during the night. During the later parts of the race it currently looks like there may be some provision for a single support runner to accompany. My tentative hope is to do the trail in around 30 hours meaning an arrival at Milngavie town hall late on Sunday 30th afternoon. Max allowed time is 35 hours (10pm). As with all other ultras I have done grateful as ever for Elisabeth being on call.

I have now completed my last big training run and plan is mainly to taper for next 3 weeks. Tapering is runners speak for basically taking it easy before a big race. Am under no illusions that it will be challenging but trusting that mind, body and spirit are in the right place on the day. It has been 21 months since I have done a similar 26 hour race in the Alps. I have got a bit older but no wiser. If you wish to know more about what’s involved see my previous post.

As I have done in the past I want to sponsor Starfish Asia who do such a great work in helping educate desperately poor children from the Christian community in Pakistan. Specifically I am raising funds to enable young people to study beyond Matriculation (aged 16). Scholarships range from £45-300 / year. This is a big challenge so to help them get further in education really opens up the job market and hence a chance to break the cycle of poverty that so many are stuck in. If you wish to sponsor online you can do so here.

Looking south down Loch Lomond.