The Deer Runner

The Deer Runner

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Cateran hill race and Ultra

I took the Friday off work, more because of the hill race that evening rather than prepare for the ultra.
I arrived at the Spittal in plenty time expecting to help the race organisers but all was done including marquee set up. 
This meant a relaxing afternoon chatting to early arrivals.

The forecast heavy rain started and I began to regret entering the hill race.  I didn't expect such rubbish weather and only brought one pair of running shoes.  It was cold and snow could be seen at the peak of the hill we were due to run, however, this was all training for the 6666.

Needs must though, I certainly wasn't going to back out now.  Once in running gear and at the start, the sun broke through the clouds making perfect conditions for the 5 mile race.

The instructions from George were simple,  follow the markers and I'll see you back here.  At 1900 we were off (after pushing a car out of the muddy field).  It's a rude start, a sprint along the road and straight onto the Cateran downhill finish, only we were going uphill.  With no warm up my breathing was all over the place, running as much as possible then walking when it became too much.  We passed Mike and Flora who were at the point of return when coming back off the hill.  As it happens, Mike didn't see many runners return on the proper route as quite a few of us missed the markers on the hill.

The top of the hill is Lairig Gate then turn left and follow the crest of the hill.  At this point runners were spead out, the runner in front of me was too far ahead to see and follow.  There was a layer of snow and the mist moved in.  I thought Lairig Gate was the peak but no, there was more climb ahead.  I followed the footprints which whittled down to one set, not only that but there were no markers, I had missed the turning point.  I stopped to chat to the runner behind, we decided to follow the one set of footprints down, they finally disappeared.  Before long we could see the Cateran camp site way over to the left.  From here it was every person for themselves as we headed back as the crow flies.

I managed to get back on the Cateran trail before crossing the finish line half a mile over the 5.  This hill race turned out to be good fun, a one off as a thank you from the organisers to the marshals who have helped out at the Cateran over the years.

I wasn't sure how to do the Cateran, my PB was 11 hours 45 minutes but I didn't want to go after this.  I wanted quality over speed in training for my main event in June.  I decided to run as I felt, keep it comfortable and more importantly finish injury free.
After a cold night the day was bright and clear, perfect for running one of Scotlands best long distance trails.

I ran with various runners, quite a few doing their first ultra distance.  Don't take things too seriously, a reminder from marshals at various checkpoints in fancy dress and costumes.  I was feeling exhausted and a bit low on approach to Blairgowrie before being escorted accross the road by a chicken, this sort of thing that brightened my day.

On exiting this checkpoint I bumped into a familiar runner, Minty.  Perfect, good company which made the miles go by.  We stuck together then was joined by Mike.  Once again it was a perfect race, beautiful scenery, lovely weather and great company.

For the past 9 years I have been part of the Cateran Ultra in one way or another.  Seven finishes, one DNF at the first double and one marshalling when injured 2017.  George and Karen were organising the Cateran for the last time before handing the race over, I must admit to being a bit emotoinal on approaching the finish line.  A finish routine would be good so all three runners decided to have an argument as to who crosses the line first before joining hands and crossing together.

Twelve hours 37 minutes, I'll take that as part of my build up to 6666.

Now I need to say thanks to George, Karen and the marshals for organising the superb Cateran Ultra.
Thanks to Karen and George whom I first met in 2010 and encouraged me to enter the Cateran, the catalyst for me continuing to run ultras over the years.  Enjoy your rest and I'll see you at future running events.

Monday, 6 May 2019

28 seconds.

The Fling was my first event of the year and I was feeling quite good.  So good that I found myself in the 10 to 12 hour starting pen for the race.  I knew just over 12 hours was my PB, that was back in 2013, what I perceive to be my best year of running.  Could I dip under 12 hours six years later?  It would be a huge boost to moral with the 6666 fast approaching.

So off I went at a much quicker pace than normal, hoping to make time on the flat run to Drymen before hitting Conic.  I ran between 9 1/2 and 10 minute miles, the rain forecast held off before inevitably arriving and soaking the field.

After Drymen, I continued to run uphill to the forest before walking some of the steeper slopes. 
Once at Conic a runner was following closely behind, time to test the hill training I thought.  I felt strong climbing and passed about a dozen runners before descending to Balmaha. 

A good start to the race but all was not well.  A pain in my right heel had me limping out of the checkpoint and I wondered if it was going to be an early finish.  Forefoot striking was painful so I was forced to flat foot strike to make progress.  I decided to nurse the foot to Rowardennan and assess the situation from there.

Although in pain, I decided to hold off on the paracetamol, I wanted to make sure pain didn't spread to my achilles tendon which would disrupt future events.  I needed to reduce my pace which was just as well, I felt tired after starting so quick. 

At Rowardennan I decided to continue on, the pain remained in my heel so if I could just get to the finish like this it would be a good result.  On the uphill out of Rowardennan I hooked up with another runner.  Dave felt the same as me, started the race too quick and ran out of energy.  The cold and wet conditions were not helping but someone to chat to made the miles go by.

The technical section was wet and muddy, this slowed us down even more but we soon made it to Inversnaid where I swallowed a couple of pain killers to see me through.

The conditions were miserable but the view from Darios post was as spectacular as ever.  Once fed and watered at Bienglas I looked at my watch.  Ten past three, 2 hours 50 minutes to get under 12 hours.  It was going to be tight Dave and I agreed but we were not going to get stressed, we would just take it as it comes.

The Falls of Falloch were spectacular, in full spate with the wet conditions.  A smooth new path at Cow Poo Alley sped us along to the roller coaster section before the last four miles to the finish.

It became obvious we weren't going to make it under 12 hours but it wouldn't be much over.  I had it in my mind my PB was around 12 hours 2 minutes (I should have checked before the race).  In fact, back in 2013 my PB was 12 hours 4 minutes and 37 seconds.

We were piped in to the famous Highland Fling red carpet finish.  The brilliant team here took care of each and every runner, making sure all was fine and fetching hot drinks.

My chip time for the 2019 Fling?  12 hours 5 minutes and 5 seconds.
I'll take it though, it means my fitness is back to what it was and gives me confidence for the big one in June.

Thanks to John Duncan and his team for yet another superb event, one not to be missed on the ultra calendar.


Sunday, 14 April 2019


I missed the D133, a virus threw a spanner in the works during the week leading up to the race.  A bitter disappointment considering the training I put in over the winter.  Well done to all who took on this event in such challenging conditions.

Missing my first race made me determined to look for a main goal for 2019.  As posted before, I was undecided between east to west or the Grand Raid 6666.  I can now report the Grand Raid won, hopefully I'll toe the line at 0600 on the 08th June.

Antoine Guillon is the race director for this 72 mile ultra, with 21,000 feet of ascent and 32 hours to complete, needless to say I'm feeling a wee bit apprehensive.  With the southern French heat, this could make things very interesting for my first event outside Scotland.

Watching Youtube videos brought it home to just how relentless this race is.  I'm aquainted with some of the route but not all.  The start and finish is in the Orb valley, a place called Roquebrun.  The route is circular passing through beautiful countryside and over the Caroux range of mountains.

So, challenges for me?
Ascent and descent - I've done more hill training in the past couple of weeks than I have ever done, indeed, I am updating this blog at Bennachie before doing another 15 mile circuit and 5,000 ft of acsent.  Videos show participants using running poles but I've never used or own a pair.  Is it too late to practice with such aids?  I'll have to decide soon if I'm to use them or not.

Heat- South France June, the temperature could hit 30 degrees, how on earth can I train for that kind of heat in the North East of Scotland considering I sweat excessively at anything above zero.

Navigation - I have the route downloaded on my Fenix 3.  I don't know how well marked the course will be, I found out about this event a few years ago by finding an old marker tape out on the trails.  Luckily I think the night section will be on trails I am familiar with.

So that's it for now, I'll update the blog on my progress as the event gets nearer.

PS.  As far as I can tell, I think I'm the only participant from the UK to enter.

Monday, 15 October 2018


I’m not sure if blogs are as popular as they once were and with the hits on my introverted un-promoted musings already low, I was in two minds whether to resurrect this or not. Anyway, I am on holiday and with some time to spare, I’ll give some updates on my ultra running escapades albeit with one reader missing.

As I write this I’m sitting indoors, the windblown rain is cascading down the window. Usually I’d be out on the trails with the sun beating down, soaking up the southern French scenery. We’re here during Autumn for the second year in a row. We’ve been lucky with the weather so far but with two days to go, wind and rain has moved in. My favourite trail run, a 13 mile round trip to Naudech was postponed due to mist, it’s now cancelled due to the storm, I won’t be at one of my favourite running places looking down on the valley this year. In case you are wondering, my blog picture was taken at Naudech during 2011.

So where have I been, where am I at and where am I going?

Last year I had a new running partner, I began training with Lynne, we entered a couple of events together. 60 miles at Glenmore 24 and the Tunnel Trail Run at Peebles where we ran together, Lynne upping her mileage, me strengthening my ankle.

As my ankle recovered I went back to ultra events, Jedburgh and Glenogle to finish off the year.

I’ve not completed many long distance runs. It’s easy to look back and forget the dedication and training to complete two West Highland Way’s and one Cateran 110. There were DNF’s as well but the same amount of work went onto them as well as the successful finishes.

Lynne, Skye and various other friends and family supported me over these long distance attempts of course but there was one person who knew me better than the rest. She knew her “Loon” inside out, was there alert, diligent and ready at every checkpoint at every long distance race including the demanding Cateran 110, and I don’t mean demanding for the runner but demanding for the crew.

My mum took to ultra crewing like a duck to water, catering and welfare was a speciality, even dished out the boot of a car. She was a hard working woman, was married to a self employed husband and selflessly brought up five boys.

Heather was good hearted and enjoyed crewing my ultras, having a sixth sense and knowing what was required, from a change of socks to a couple of pain killers. The West Highland Way 2016 was the last event my mum crewed, a disappointing DNF at Glencoe where she knew her loon had had enough and was going to pull out.

And now to December, a dark period of time and one of the reasons I’ve left my blog for so long.

My mother lived life to the full despite the cancer diagnosis. She had successive operations and always bounced back, her cheery and upbeat outlook in life seeing her through.

An admission to hospital where an operation was required, business as usual we thought, we were used to Heather taking things in her stride, thinking she would be out and back on her feet in no time.

It wasn’t to be, on 31st December we lost the most kind hearted, generous, good natured, fun loving and caring person in the world.

2018, a year to recover from shock. I entered my usual familiar ultras, the D33, Fling, Cateran, Great Glen and G24. I didn’t run any of the races particularly well but was just happy to be fit enough to complete them, no matter what the time. I also crewed Wilson on his second successful completion of the West Highland Way.

Dramathon, Jedburgh and Glen Ogle on consecutive weekends will finish 2018 and leave a few months of winter training before a new season.

Decisions, decisions. The 2019 D33 has the option of D99, a farewell gesture from the race organisers, is the longest ultra race in Scotland. Then there’s the Stupid double, a 133 mile run to be completed within 31 hours. I’m holding back before entering this, I’ll decide towards the end of the year which race to enter depending on how my training is going.

Once again, I’m not entering the WHW. I have my eye on a race right here in southern France. The Occitane 6666 is a mountainous 72 mile ultra with 7,000 meters of climb. Held in June, I’m apprehensive due to the terrain and heat, both of which I’ve experienced while running in these parts. Participating in this one will be a logistical challenge due to limited holidays, flights etc.

What about my ultimate ambition? East to West Scotland remains on my wish list but don’t know if I’ll ever be fit enough. Family holidays take precedence over this so I hope it doesn’t become a pipe dream.

It’s time to bring this post to a close. I started this Blog back in 2011, partly to chart my first West Highland Way race and partly to allow my friends and family to follow my training and running adventures. My folks would diligently follow my posts, remarking on how well (or bad) things were going, the scenery and sometimes the posts involving family.

This post was always hanging over me, reminding me to pay tribute to my mother, just as I had to my father in 2015. So here it is, posted in my blog forever, I love you mum.

The Deer Runner.

Friday, 4 August 2017

West Highland Way Race 2017 (support)

I've known Wilson for a while, not drinking buddies as such, or running buddies for that matter, we never quite managed to meet up and run despite living comparatively close to each other.  Our paths crossed at the SUMS awards last November while waiting to be served at the bar.  Wilson said he had applied to run the WHW race, his name was in for the ballot.  I said I'm available to support and something just clicked, we shook hands on what would become an incredible weekend in June.

Out but not out

The WHW ultra is so popular it uses a ballot for entry.  More and more people are putting their names forward during the month of November.  While popularity and the rise in participation of ultra events is a good thing, the more hopefuls in the draw, the less likely your name is coming out.  Early December is a nerve wracking time, if you're serious about giving the race a good go your training has already begun, despite the possibility of not gaining a place.  Yes, you've guessed it, Wilson Dornan was not confirmed as a starter for the race, a disappointment that is difficult to hide in these days of social media.  All was not lost though, Wilson did get on the waiting list, he would get in if runners failed to confirm and pay for their place.

Good news bad news

Wilson kept me updated, he was quite far down the waiting list, eventually the iphone alerted me to the message "I'm in".  Excellent news, I knew what I would be doing in June and could imagine myself supporting Wilson then getting to run some of the West Highland Way.  Regular readers (about 10) of this blog knows what happened in January so no need to go into detail on this post. Eventually I had to advise Wilson I can't run but will still support the whole route, I felt I had let him down and was worried he would struggle to find a runner.

Ultra Fame

It didn't take long, another message from Wilson advised he had a couple of runners, not just any runners but Sarah Louise Grigor and her partner Chris.  I knew we were in for a tough weekend but hearing Wilson had arranged the back-up and expertise of Sarah and Chris meant his chances of completing the ultra increased significantly.  Things were looking good for team Dornan.


I was unable to train with Wilson but was glad to see Alan Cormack accompany him on hill runs as reported on social media.  I was at the Cateran where Wilson crossed the line in just over 14 hours so the miles were being done and he seemed on target in getting ready for the race.  The hurdles to overcome and take part in the race would come from elsewhere.


Nothing is guaranteed, life throws in some ups and downs for us all.  Wilson was no different, during the months leading up to the race I began to doubt if he would make the start line.  Both parents ended up in hospital at one stage, I knew the race was approaching and if still on he would need a meeting with his support.  I didn't want to be the one to suggest a meeting, I wasn't sure if all was well or if he would be running.

Game on

Wilson messaged, all was well so I suggested a meeting, we needed to get a plan together.  I met with Wilson and his partner Hazel.  With no motor homes allowed till after Bridge of Orchy, my camper van would be Dornan HQ until Glencoe.  Hazel, Sarah and Chris would be at Glencoe, ready to support till Fort William.  I passed on some hints and tips to Wilson and asked for a detailed plan which duly arrived a few days later.


I didn't have spare days to take off work, we planned to drive to Milngavie on the Friday evening.  Wilson took the day off however and used it to rest before taking on the WHW race.  I picked Wilson up along with his son Jak who would assist during the weekend.  We stopped in by the hospital on our way, Wilson needed to visit his mother before making our way south.  We were up against time but managed to stop for some food to make sure the fueling got off to a good start.  The evening was fine, I knew sunshine, showers and high winds were forecast, little did we know how bad it would get.

Registration and selfies

I'm writing about Wilson as if you know him and if you're in the Scottish ultra scene you probably do. He is the type of guy who posts on FB and gets hundreds of likes and lots of comments.  He knows a lot of people, registration consisted of Wilson saying hello to just about everyone he bumped into and getting some great selfies including one with last years winner James Stewart.  Jak must have felt like the paparazzi following Wilson and taking pictures with his phone.  It wasn't long before it was time for race briefing which included the famous line "there will be weather".  This got a small cheer from the crowd who probably didn't realise just how much weather was coming their way.  Jak and I bade farewell to Wilson and made our way to the High Street.

The European Cup

Jak was tasked with taking a video of the runners coming through.  He'd been playing a lot of football on his phone, at one minute to one I advised him to get ready.  I've only got 1 % of my battery left he said, but all was okay, his team were in the European Cup semi final.  I used my phone to capture the runners coming through and heading off towards apocalypse.

What? No midges?

Where's your midge net? I asked.  I haven't got one Jak said.  Pffft, wait till we get to Balmaha I said, you won't believe what it's like, I've got a spare net.  We set off with me following the sat nav.  There was no hurry, the Oak Tree did not open it's doors till 0200.  We found a space in camper van city and had a roll and coffee, I do like sitting in the Oak Tree with fellow support teams in the early hours of the morning.  We got some rest, I set my alarm in plenty of time for Wilson arriving at Balmaha.       The alarm chimed, wearily I got up and put on the midge net expecting the onslaught.  Tentatively I opened the camper door and looked around.  Not one net was being worn by support crews, the high winds kept the biters away.  The first checkpoint is always a bit of a worry, Conic Hill is in the way and your runner needs to exit it safely.  Wilson arrived at 0520, I was glad to see him, 40 minutes before cut off.  I was perfectly happy with that.  I followed the race plan, fed Wilson what was advised on the sheet and said farewell, until Bienglas Farm anyway.  He was in good spirits and looked in great shape.  Wilson had a drop bag for Rowardennan which meant quite a long stretch before he would meet his crew again.

A phone call

After a rest at Balmaha Jak and I made our way to Bienglas Farm.  That was when the weather started to close in, the wind started to rise, we could only just glimpse the other side of the loch as we made our way north.  Race organisers request support crews arrive at Bienglas Farm roughly at the time their runner comes through.  We arrived slightly early, enough time for some breakfast and a seat in the bar.  Jak answered a call, I was not sure who it was so didn't take any notice then the phone was handed to me where I saw "Dad" on the display.  My heart sank, was he injured?  Has he taken a tumble?  He's went through a rough patch, didn't feel great between Balmaha and Rowardennan.     He picked up a bit but he was not sure of the mileage to Bienglas Farm, he was getting different distances from runners and was sounding down.  I asked if he was at Inversnaid yet, no was the answer, he was about 33 miles in.  I advised him to keep going, don't worry or listen to other runners, just keep going and get to Bienglas Farm where his crew would see to him, there's plenty of time.  

A close shave

1300 is the cut off at Bienglas Farm, not a minute more.  Jak and I stood waiting at the checkpoint, watching and cheering runners through.  The checkpoint emptied to just a few support teams.  I had left the phone call saying there's plenty of time, I was now eating my words.  1230 passed, now I was getting worried, I strained to see back down the trail, looking for the familiar orange jacket.  At 1240 I was seriously worried, I wanted to run down the track, meet him and escort him back before 1300.   I couldn't remember the race rules and how far support could meet their runner outside the checkpoint.  Was it 200 yards?  Half a mile?  In desperation I asked one of the marshals who wasn't too sure.  Two minutes later, sure enough orange appeared on the track much to his support crews relief.

No time to hang around

Considering the phone call Wilson was in good enough shape.  He needed all his time though so we gave him a quick 5 minute turn around and gave him some stats - 10 miles with just over 3 hours to cut off, keep it steady, see you at Auchtertyre.

The weather gets worse

Auchtertyre is an exposed field, the rain meant support vehicles needed pushed out of the mud.  I manage to park away from the mud right next to the checkpoint shelter.  The wind was strong, the direction it was gusting meant runners were travelling straight into the gale.  Sporadic showers came and went.  Crew sheltered in the lee of vehicles to service their runners, it was cold.  Jak watched a film while I sat and watched runners check-in, weigh-in, see their support and leave.  It was so bad outside I prepared the van for an indoor service, Wilson may need a change of gear.

Another close shave

It was getting to be a familiar feeling, sitting in the camper van willing Wilson into the checkpoint, this time a 1600 close off.  I had binoculars and found myself looking through them down the open field hoping to see the bright colour once more.  There were plenty of yellows and blues, mostly walking into the wind but I had to wait before Wilson appeared, he was running at this stage, something very few were doing because of the strong wind.

No time to hang around

Again he was in pretty good spirits and shape, he was dry so didn't need to change, his jacket was fine for the conditions so we fed him and gave him another relatively quick turn around.  We gave more stats - 10 miles to Bridge of Orchy and 3 1/2 hours to cut off.

A surprise for Wilson

With nothing better to do, Jak and I decided to meet Wilson at the crossroads in Tyndrum.  There was good news, Hazel and Sarah managed to find a parking space on the outskirts of Bridge of Orchy, (unfortunately Chris couldn't make it), reinforcements were in the area.  We parked at the Tourist info and walked to the road crossing. Rather than stand and wait, we ran / walked back along the way to meet our runner.  At the large gate we met up where Wilson was suffering with a tight hamstring.  We gave Wilson the good news that his support were at Bridge of Orchy which gave him a lift.  I left them to make their way to the crossroads while I ran back to the van for freeze spray.  Treatment was administered at the crossing before Wilson departed for Bridge of Orchy.  Jak and I drove up the hill, parallel to the West Highland Way, tooting the van horn at every runner we could see, including Wilson.

The Deer Runner versus Rannoch Moor 

It's a beautiful landscape, a vast wilderness, but we have history.

Back to 2012 and my first WHW race, another wet one.  I arrived at Glencoe - cold, wet and broken after enduring 12 hours of rain and hallucinating on the Moor.  It took my support a lot of work to rejuvenate and get me going again.  That race was a draw - 1 each.

I returned to the race in 2013 and had a ball, cruised all the way over the Moor and into Glencoe feeling great, the score was now 2 - 1 in favour of the Deer Runner.

2016, not so good, I took a beating over the Moor, after suffering with high temperatures all day, the setting sun and the Moor destroyed me, I withdrew at Glencoe exhausted and bordering on hypothermia.  The Deer Runner 2 Rannoch Moor 2.

So, the score was 2 each, all square but I was concerned.  I knew how desolate Rannoch could feel and I knew this was the stage which Wilson had not done a recce on.  This part
 of the race can play with your mind, it can undermine you and make you want to withdraw.  Not only that but Wilson was going to be heading onto the Moor in what was probably the worst conditions the race has known, I couldn't let Rannoch Moor win, no way did I want Wilson to feel the way I did and withdraw from the race.  I considered leaving my van at Bridge of Orchy and accompanying Wilson over Rannoch Moor but with my ankle I would be a liability to the runner and the race

Plans over coffee

After meeting Hazel and Sarah, team Dornan were at full strength, Wilsons dream of completing the WHW race took a step closer.  I discussed my Rannoch Moor concerns with the crew over coffee in the hotel.  Sarah decided she would be ready to run from Bridge of Orchy if required, Wilson would have to make the decision on whether he wanted company over RM when he arrived at the checkpoint, it was his race after all.  The rain was pouring down when we made our way to the checkpoint gazebo.  Hazel went to meet and escort Wilson in, I heated a portion of Hazels famous Mac n Cheese on the stove.  It wasn't long before Wilson arrived, no cutoff concerns this time. Wilson was fed the warm dish then asked if he would like Sarah to accompany him over Rannoch Moor.  I breathed a sigh of relief when Wilson said he would love Sarah to accompany him over RM.
It was quite a long stop and it was needed.  Sarah got ready to go, Wilson changed into gear more suited for adverse conditions including a more suitable jacket and waterproof trousers.  At seven o'clock Wilson and Sarah left Bridge of Orchy and headed into what would become known to Team Dornan as Storm Bastard Rannoch.

Mac n Cheese at the Ritz

We were at Glencoe, it was feeding time for the rest of the crew.  I named Hazel's motor home the Ritz. It was freezing outside, some after race reports said 2 degrees and it felt like it.  Hazel, Jak and I sat in central heated luxury and ate M & C with garlic bread.  I returned to my van for some rest, listening to the howling gale and heavy rain outside wondering if the weather was going to give the runners a break.  It was getting dark, just after 2200 I decided to get out the van and wait for their arrival.  I couldn't wait, I started back along the trail willing to meet them at every turn.  I passed David Searil who was struggling and determined to walk the rest of the race.  Not long after I was relieved to meet our runners, in good spirits despite the stormy conditions and head on wind.  For obvious reasons this was another long stop, we needed to make sure Wilson was changed into fresh clothes, fed, warmed and given first aid to aches and pains.

Night lights

Wilson was very stiff and sore when he left the checkpoint, something I can relate to.  Hazel and Jak departed for Kinlochleven to get some kip, I decided to stop at Altnafae.  I wanted to give some support before they tackled the devils staircase.  I wasn't expecting problems but would be available if any arose.  I found a space in the layby but couldn't settle.  Vehicles passed with their lights dazzling my mirrors.  I decided to get out into the strong wind and rain, it was way too early, I wasn't sure when they would come through but didn't want to miss them.  I stood with my brolly and a torch, peering up the trail.  Some runners had very bright torches, I knew Sarah had a powerful torch, I convinced myself every bright torch coming my way was Sarahs.  The wind tried to relieve me of my brolly, David Searil came through and I wished him well, other runners and support came and went. Finally they arrived, all was well, I could hear Sarah encouraging Wilson every step of the way.

Lost but not lost

I drew into a space at Kinlochleven community centre car park, set my alarm for 0400 and settled down for some kip.  The rain was relentless, beating on the camper van roof, the runners were getting no respite.   My alarm went off and I was looking forward to a coffee in the community centre.  I exited the van into the rain and made my way to the entrance.  Hazel was standing in the street, looking worried and on the phone, my heart sank.  I was dreading bad news, Hazel approached, advised they were lost then handed the phone over.  It was a rude awakening, with blurry eyes I looked at my watch, 0415.   Sarah was on the other end, they hadn't reached the water pipes and thought they took a wrong turn.  Before this a runner was ahead, Sarah and Wilson tried to warn them they were on the wrong track.  I needed to think, it was four years since I was last approaching Kinlochleven and now getting lost threatened our race, the clock was ticking towards the 0500 close off.  I advised them I was not aware of a wrong turn, it just goes downhill towards Kinlochleven, I'm running up to meet you.  In a panic I set off as fast as my ankle would allow, our race couldn't possibly end here, it would be a massive disappointment.  Through the streets I ran, onto the trail and up to the large water pipes which were so elusive to our runners.  My heart was in my mouth, conscious of the time, looking ahead and willing them to be there.  Much to my relief they appeared following the pipes downhill.  They were never off trail, the pipes were farther than expected, a new forest road across the valley added to the illusion of being lost, the WHW dream was back on.


Wilson weighed in, a coffee was made in the community centre but it was easier to do the pit stop in the Ritz.  Our runner got fed, hydrated and a fresh pair of socks.  He was suffering with a sore leg so took paracetamol.  Hazel asked if I was going to Lundavra to which I answered no, I didn't want it to be an option for Wilson to pull out of the race.  Wilson exited the motor home with Sarah, ready to take on the final leg.  The final runner, they walked up the street as signs were being removed. Wilsons gloves were found in the motor home, I ran and caught up to hand them over.  Wilson looked in pain and was limping slightly, I was concerned, I was going to Lundavra.
Bad dreams

Hazel and Jak got some rest at Kinlochleven, just in case they were needed by Wilson, I would drive to Lundavra.  I've never driven to Lundavra before, I left  after getting directions from Graeme (first roundabout in Fort William, turn right, keep going till the road runs out), and what a steep twisty road it was for an old camper van.  I didn't dare take the van off road, opting to park on a grass bank just below the Lundavra checkpoint.  After a quick visit and chat to the marshals (who have been there since around Saturday lunch time), I returned to the van for some sleep.  I had to set the alarm, after some thought I settled for 0830 figuring they would come through around 0900.  My sleep was unsettled where I dreamt every scenario going, what if he comes through at 1000, two hours to do six miles.  If he comes through at 1100?  What next?  Keep going?

I woke at 0825, 5 minutes before the alarm went off.  I began to get ready to go the the checkpoint. There was a knock on the window.  It was Melanie who shouted "Wilson is here"!  I asked Melanie to tell Wilson to keep going but he wanted to see his support.  I jumped out of the van and scrambled up the hill. Wilson was standing with his hands in the air.  I'VE BEASTED IT! he shouted, IV'E PASSED TWO RUNNERS ON LAIRIG MOR!  That's when I knew it was job done, six miles from Fort William on a rain soaked moor nothing was going to get in the way.  Sarah advised me to catch up as they pushed on, I ran onto the WHW and put my arms around them both announcing I could greet.

Fort William

Back down the twisty road to Fort William, I headed for the car park looking for the Ritz forgetting they were camped up at Kinlochleven.  In a moment of panic, I phoned Hazel who just happened to be a few miles from Fort William.  The Ritz was parked at the leisure centre before making our way to Brave Heart car park.  We walked up the Way to meet our runners, take pictures and escort them back to Brave Heart.    

34 hours 24 minutes and 09 seconds after leaving Milngavie, Wilson Dornan realised his ambition to complete the West Highland Way Ultra and crossed the finish line to applause from all in attendance.


To the race organisers, marshals, sweepers and volunteers for yet another epic race.

To Jak for your help and company in support of Wilson.

To Hazel for bolstering support of Wilson and Sarah and looking after team Dornan.

To Sarah for taking care of Wilson through awful weather for a longer than anticipated distance.

To Wilson Dornan for allowing me to share his epic journey.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017


I have a new routine.  I put on running kit and head out for a test run.  Ankle pain shows up right at the start, struggle through whatever mileage I decided to do (anything from 2 to 5 miles), leave it for another week and repeat.  It's the same every week, I have no expectations, medial pain makes it's appearance as soon as I strike off to run.

My right leg has thrown the toys out of the pram.  It's the weak leg and I've asked it to step up to the mark and get me running again.  Fat chance, it now complains along with my back muscles.  I have no running form and as for core strength? that fled the sinking ship long ago.

The 3 miles home from my work has become a chore, I've finished the D33 in better shape than my commute, stumbling through the door broken, wheezy and sore.  11:40 minute miles was my average pace during a recent 5 miler and that was as fast as I could run.

I've turned alternative and wear a magnet inside my sock.  I take glucosamine tablets to speed up the healing.  I don't think I have been rehabilitating the ankle enough, a few exercises now and again has not been sufficient.  I use an elastic band and wobble board every now and then and have started exercises to strengthen the tibialis posterior tendon after consultation with doctor Google.

On the plus side I have marshaled, both at the Highland Fling and Cateran.  Missing my favorite ultra was painful but Karen and George allowed me to join the team last minute where I had a great weekend helping out.

Future events - needless to say, my East to West challenge is out the window, for this year anyway. Looks like I'll have to withdraw from the Hardmoors 60 in September which is disappointing.  Not getting back to running means there's no way I have time to get fit enough for the 60.  Both Lynne and myself are signed up for the Glenmore 24 and if I'm still the same? sod it, I'll walk it instead.

The Glen Ogle 33 opened at the weekend,  I entered it to give myself a target and inspiration to get training again.  I would also like to get back to the Cateran and run the 55 miles solo which may well be mid winter, here's hoping.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The long denial

A three mile hill run confirmed I wasn't ready, it was a test run before my physio.  I went to the appointment, it seems the soft tissue has heeled but there's pain on the inside of the ankle when I run. This is on the opposite side of the ligament damage, the conclusion being this is bruising to the bone inside the joint.  It's going to take time to heal so we tried taping the ankle to see if this would alleviate the pain and allow a slow return.

Every day walking is fine, but when I run it's the impact and pushing off that's the problem forcing my body to compensate.  The ankle was taped and I attempted a run but aborted after 50 yards, the pain was still there.  My physiotherapist advised another two weeks cross training before attempting another run, did I heed the advice?  Nope.

Sunday saw Lynne and I head for Bennachie, it was time to get Lynne fit for the G24 in December.     Lynne would run while I walked but once again I couldn't contain myself.  It was such a beautiful day we ended up hiking and running for 5 miles, this was considerably uncomfortable on the ankle.

Wednesday saw a work colleague, Lynne and I head for the Braes o Gight, another denial run and uncomfortable eight miles with no lesson learnt.  I kept thinking the next run will be the one with no pain and a return to normal.

And so to this past weekend, a recce of the G24 route in the Cairngorms and another eight miles, it's all I could muster as the ankle swelled up.

The Fling is less than three weeks away, I still have not pulled out but it's inevitable.  I also need to heed the advice from my physio, lets see what this week brings.

Week ending 02nd April - Sun 05.  Weekly total 5 miles.
Wed 08, Sun 08.  Weekly total 16 miles.