THE WEST HIGHLAND WAY 'CHALLENGE' RACE.
WITH, IF FIT ENOUGH, THE ADDITIONAL OPTION OF THE BEN NEVIS CLIMB, AS A 'GRAND FINALE' TO THE RACE.
The 2018 race will be applying for UTMB series, points.
THIS RACE IS OPEN TO RUNNERS AND STEADY WALKERS
Race date : Saturday 26th May 2018 - RACE LIMIT 150 (entries now open)
95 miles in 35 hours along the beautiful and rugged West Highland Way.
2017 SPLIT RACE RESULTS ARE AVAILABLE IN THE LINK AT BOTTOM OF 'RESULTS & ENTRIES' PAGE.
2017 Race Report
Note: Comments for the Feedback Secion are welcome along with photographs for the Image Gallery. Also a list of items left at Fort William is posted below.
There were 98 entries for the 2017 race, with 77 starting, of these 53 finished within the 35 hours. The average age of the 53 finishers was 47.
REGISTRATION went well with tea, coffee, juice and biscuits, being provided to give some extra sustanance before starting. As Registration opened at 18:00 hours, many early entrants to Registration who had travelled from the Continent and England took advantage of a secondary 'quiet room' the race had provided to have a couple of hours rest, before the start and to chill out. Others just sat outside and enjoyed the sunny, warm, pleasant evening. Four entrants from the previous year's race took the opportunity to have an early start with Sandra and Leslie going at 18:45hr and Peter and Paul at 21:52hr.
The race started on time at midnight and conditions were dry, warm, humid and dry underfoot. Extra signage had been put up to keep the competitors on the WHW route during the first legs. The race field had spread out by Water Point 1 (W.P.) at Drumgone (7.5 miles) with the lead runners going through at 01hr 02min the last 1hr 58min (well within the cut-off of 2hr 45 min). At that stage the competitors were mainly running in groups. During the leg to Drymen a few got misplaced from the race route, but soon found it again and continued on their way.
It was still dark, warm and humid (with midges) at Check Point 1 (C.P.) at Drymen (12.6 miles). With the leading 5 being within a minute of each other at 01:51hr at the CP At this stage competitors were mainly taking on fluids due to the warm and humid night. A group of 7 were bringing up the rear in 03:27hr.
The next leg entailed crossing over Conic Hill to WP2 at Balmaha (19.6 miles). During this leg to Balmaha, Malcolm McDonald and Leslie Cupis were leading the field and came into Balmaha at 03:10hr, with Peter Murray close behind at 03:13hr, for them the crossing was in the dark. Daisy and Alfie were bringing up the rear with a steady pace that got them to Balmaha at 06:45hr, still well within the race cut-off time. Daylight was at 4:00a.m. so most of the competitors could see the beauty of Loch Lomond, with the rear competitors seeing it from above, on Conic Hill. Again this year due to the mild Winter, the dreaded 'midge' appeared along the length of Loch Lomond.
In the leg from Balmaha to Rowardennan CP 2 (27.2 miles). Race positions settled down so by Rowardennan the leaders times were: Malcolm McDonald 04:40hr (who held the lead to the finish); Leslie Cupis 04:49hr ; Peter Murray 04:57hr. Malcolm was quite surprised to find he was leading the race, as during the night, it is difficult to keep track of who's ahead.
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park organisation, very kindly allowed the opening of their Rowardennan Information Centre, thus with the use of the toilets and a respite from the midges, this geature on their part was very much appreciated by the competitors and marshals. Rowardennan is where competitors collect their 1st Drop Bag along with tea, coffee, juice, coca-cola, sandwiches, noodles, cereals, etc. and a welcome seat to rest their legs which to most, the stop was welcomed.
The next stop was Water Point 3 at Inversnaid (34.3 miles) with Malcolm getting there at 06:05hr and Leslie 19 minutes later, at 06:24hr. By this stage the gap between leaders and the rear walkers was opening with the rear competitor coming into Inversnaid at just after mid-day at 12:07hr. This is a beautiful location to have a stop, as it is outside the Inversnaid Hotel and has some stunning views of Loch Lomond and the surrounding mountains. Davy who has covered this stop for several years, had Albert his brother for company this year, at this location they provide a variety of drinks and snacks to competitors. Due to the heat and humidity this year conditions were challenging and by this stage, it was taking its toll on competitors, who were tending to go more steady, to complete the course. This stop saw the first withdrawals from the race of Daisy and Alfie, at 12:07 still 40 minutes within the cut-off.
The next leg to CP3 at Beinglas Camp Site (41 miles) is rugged with clambering over rocks and tree roots and very stoney underfoot. It was not what a lot of competitors expected of Scotland premier trail and took its toll on many of them, especially Troels Larsen from Denmark who fell and gave his forehead a nasty bash. He was patched up at Benglas and continued on his way to the end. Also at Beinglas, Jean-Francois from Belguim took the opportunity to have a 30 minute 'power nap' as he had been travelling much of Thursday night, this short nap settled him and he came in 18th=. In the main most competitors moved through C.P. 3 quickly, heading for Tyndum.
Malcolm's time at CP 3 was 07:32hr and the rear competitor was 14:28hr still under the cut off time of 15:15hr. For the slower competitors the cut off times are critical, as some races over the WHW only allow a 12 hour cut-off to Beinglas so as to get rid of competitors out of their race, which is a sad reflection on ultra running.
After CP3 there is a long (1,000ft climb) trudge up Glen Falloch with the River Falloch tumbling down the glen in the opposite direction. It culminates with steep climb into the woods above Crainlarich and then down to the flat ground of Glen Dochart to C.P.4 at Tyndrum Village Hall (53 miles). It was on this stage that many of the rear competitors were hit with the heavy rain that had been forcast. It cleared the air some what, but soaked the competitors. At the C.P. the hot dogs went down a treat again this year. The second 'drop bag's' are provided at Tyndrum. Due to the hot and humid conditions that were taking their toll and the dry hard underfoot conditions, had by this stage made blisters a common problem. This is when competitors have to dig deep to keep going. Tyndrum hall is a welcome stop to patch up the feet and replenish the fluids. The tinned peaches also went down well. Malcom now had a commanding lead with a time of 09:59hr and Liam Johnston now in second place at 11:13hr. At the rear of the field, were novices to ultra races, James and the two David's who came in at 21:37hr. They were still going strong and continued on to Bridge of Orchy, at 60 miles, where they withdrew at 22:25hr. They did very well for their first ultra and I am sure they learned many lessons for next time and no doubt will be back.
The next leg of 9 miles was to CP 5 at Inveroran Hotel (62miles). The trail for 7 miles follows the old road, so it allows for good walking, or running. Then from Bridge of Orchy it is a short sharp climb and descent over the hill to Inveroran Hotel. Here the last 3 competitors pulled out just after midnight at 00:30hr. They had actually walked on for a further 3 miles after the CP and reconsidered their position and retired, after informing the marshals. In the end they covered 68 miles which is an achievment in itself and in the process they learned a lot. The hotel at Inveroran is a beautiful location for a CP with the wild deer coming down to the hotel. Most early competitors reached Inveroran in the heat of the afternoon and the Coca Cola was going down well especially as they needed rehydrated. All competitors for safety, carry an 'Infiormation Sheet' with all the marshals mobile numbers and the CP's and WP's have a copy of all the competitors mobile numbers to ensure communications where possible.
Inveroran is were the competitors pick up their 'safety rucksack' containing their 'sleeping bag' and 'emergency bag'. If they have been running with a bum bag to Inveroran, then they can leave it at Inveroran for transportation to Fort William.
The next leg was 10 miles over desolate, picturesque Rannoch Moor to CP6 at Kingshouse Hotel (72 miles). Seven miles of the leg is rough 4x4 vechicle track so tavel under foot is relatively good. At this stage you are away from the road and there are no buildings. One of the rear competitors was going through a bad patch one mile from 'Black Rock' cottage (2 miles from the Kingshouse C.P.) and quite rightly decided it was time to have a rest, before he possibly tripped and hurt himself, so he phoned the Kinghouse CP and informed the marshals that he was going into his sleeping bag and emergency bag to have a few hours kip. This was okay as we knew where he was and that he was okay. This also, shows why we ensure competitors carry the 'Safety Kit'. It's there if you have to stop and if not, it gives the reassurance to the competitor that they can stop at any time and be safe. For those not used to walking at night, it can be daunting to be walking by yourself, through a desolate isolated moor in darkness and for the uninishiated this is were the 'mind games' can start. Many prefer to stay in a group for company as the time passes quicker.
The CP6 at Kingshouse is 100m after the old bridge and is a lovely location looking on to Buachaille Etive Mor and the surrounding mountains, also the 'midges' of Loch Lomond were a thing of the past, due to the light breeze. With 23 miles to go most competitors pushed on, but at Kingshouse C.P. they took on a lot of Coca Cola and soup, due to the heat of the afternoon and loss of salt. Malcolm was still in the lead and went through Kingshouse at 14:03 while the last competitor went through at 24:37 still 2hr 2 min in front of the cut-off time. As the two lady marshals were still covering the Check Point for late arrivals, they very kindly gave their 2 beds at the Kingshouse 'Bunk House' to two of the competitors who withdrew at that location. The competitors much appreciated the gesture on their part, as a warm bed and shower is luxury after 24 hours on the move. Clearly the rear competitors still on the move from Kingshouse were getting their monies worth and enjoying the full ambience of the race, by enjoying walking in a clear, dry, cool night with the surrounding 3,000' mountains over-shadowing them. At the top of the Devil's Staircase the WHW peaks at nearly 2,000' above sea level and the village of Kinlochleven is below at sea level. It is a steep walk down to the village and can be very painful for certain injuries, to which some of the competitors can testify. Malcolm and the race leaders missed this, as they did this stage in daylight and were in their beds by this time (it an unfair world)
The next rest point, was CP 7 at Kinlochleven ( 81 miles). Malcolm was still in a commanding lead over Liam of 1 hr 14 min. Those still out on rthe course arrived at Kinlochleven (where they got their third drop bag). Many took the opportunity to have a sleep in the building were the Check Point is located. One lady, walked in an when offered tea, or coffee said, "I just want to lie down" and that sums the way they most feel at this stage of the event, when they have been on their feet for up to 28 hours continuous and 2 nights without sleep. After a 'power nap' by 4:30 to 6:00 am, in daylight, we woke them, fed them, and sent them on their way to Water Point 4 at Lundavra (88miles) and then on to Finish at Fort William. At 'Lundavra' Anna who came in 3rd equal, with her partner Richard, experienced a sight that will live with her for the rest of her days. Experiences like Anna's can only happen at small races like ours, I won't go into details, but will leave the memory to Anna.
At the Finish at Claggan Park home to Fort William Football Club (95.5 miles). Malcolm McDonald came in 'First' in 19:59:20hr, with Liam Johnston 'Second' in 21:22:55 and Anna Troup (first lady) and Richard Staite came in 'Third equal' in 21:49:42, having completed the whole race together. The finished competitors have a shower and are fed with chilli and other foods. Most found spaces and slept soundly until 9:00am, then by 10:45am we had the Presentation and the coach left on time, at 11:48. 11 were under 24 hours and those who were new members, were presentented with a 'key ring' engraved with thier name on one side and on the other side is the inscription 'THE WHW IN A DAY CLUB'. The remainder's 'named' keyrings await them for another day.
ALL THE FINISHERS ARE PRESENTED WITH A TROPHY of a boxed Skye crystal goblet with the WHW route engraved on the glass and the surrounding mountains.
SADLY NONE OF THE COMPETITORS TOOK THE OPPORTUNITY TO CLIMB BEN NEVIS, AS A 'GRAND FINALLE' RACE OPTION. (MAYBE IN 2018)
KIT LEFT (contact Jim Drummond, so can post the items on to you)
1. A royal blue and black expensive 'RAB' waterproof jacket, left in Fort William.
2. A BLACK RUCK-SACK containing a blue Mountain Warehouse hooded waterproof JACKET , insoles, brown leather belt, underpants, black trousers, top with 'TOG 24' on it, pair of socks, a pair of green zipped leggings for trousers, etc.
3. A Harveys Map. (CP/WP are marked with red squares, also their description and milage, is written on white 'stuck on' rectangle )
4. A 'legionnaire' type hat, with sun neck protector, beige in colour
5. A white towel with black and grey stipes, at both ends.
6. A pair of white socks with 'FALKE' on them, size 44-45.
7. A Blue tesco water bottle.
8. Black plastic whistle and black cord landyard.
9. Flip flops, in yellow plastic carry bag.
WAS THE RACE A SUCCESS
Again all the MARSHALS enjoyed the week-end and offered to return next year. The main point they enjoy the camaraderie and banter that ones gets from a small race and we thank all the competitors and their families and supporters for making this so worth while.
From the 'ENTRANTS' point we received thanks from everyone and e-mails, which was appreciated especially as to most of entrants it was a shock having never done the WHW, or even 95miles and they appreciated we were trying our best to get them to the end and this was done with a 69% success rate especially, as the weather made this year's race so challenging. Their thanks was appreciated and passed on to the marshals.
From the 'RACE' perspective the camaraderie we aimed for was more than achieved. This is not surprising as the committee are some of the most experienced ultra competitors in the UK and are in their 60's & 70's and this was their objective in setting up the race. Many of the earlier races over the WHW had only 30 taking part, thus everyone knew each other and it was like old friends meeting, sadly this spirit is lost when the race numbers get too large. The number of starters in the 2017 race helped; as Joe Falkner who used to organise 'The 3 Day Lakeland Challenge', which had great camaraderie said, 60 is a good number as you can then relate to the people instead of being part of a crowd, this atmosphere is lost when the numbers get to high, also in this years race it was a good mix of people from the Continent, England and Scotland and from experienced to inexperienced competitors. The race's aim is to cater for all types the fast runners, the jog/walkers and just plain steady walkers.
'CUT-OFF TIMES' Are important in getting as many to the finish line within 35 hours, and this is achieved by applying averge speed cut-off times. This take a lot of pressure of the competitor. Unfortunatly most races now are NOT 'Point to Point Races', but are 'Section Races,' where legs of the races have to be completed at varing speeds. In these 'section races' competitors are additionally put under unneeded stress to meet unfair cut-off times and are pressured to run faster and over thier limit to ensure they achieve the race's cut-off times for that leg and this is shown in the resulting withdrawals. Competing in a 95 miles is hard enough, without being subjected the added pressure of unneeded cut-off times. Clearly these races want to 'ditch' the slower competitors, as there is no other reason for the unneeded cut-off times.
From the Marshals we thank you all for taking part and we hope your injuries clear up quickly and we see you at next year's race along with your families.
Welcome to the West Highland Way 'CHALLENGE' Race.
The WHW Challenge Race is a 95 mile 'Point to Point Race'. The race will start at Milngavie at 1 second after midnight on Saturday 26th May 2018 and finish in Fort William. The race is scheduled to be completed in 35 hours, although this time may be extended in adverse weather conditions prevail.
Those finishing the WHW route in under 30 hours will be given the additional option to carry on with an ascent and descent of Ben Nevis, weather permitting and at the race organisers discretion, increasing the race distance to 105 miles and 19,175ft of ascent.
THE AIM'S OF THE WHW CHALLENGE RACE ARE:
1. To get as many of the competitors to the finish, or as far up the route, as possible.
2. To make the race, to the competitor, as friendly, simple and hassle free.
3. To provide value for money to the competitor.
1. TO GET AS MANY OF THE COMPETITORS TO THE FINISH.
To complete the 95 miles of the WHW in 35 hours requires only an average speed of 2.7 mph and the Check Point cut- off times are calculated on this speed.
Novices to ultra distance running may think this is an aim of all trail races. Sadly many endurance races deliberately apply unjust 'cut off' times in the early stages of their race to deliberately 'dump' slower runners out of the race, even though the competitor would have completed the race route in the allotted finish time. Even more deplorable is that this insidious practice is supported by Scotland's governing sports body, 'Scottish Athletics' who certify these races. These Race's and Scottish Athletics take the competitors money and then after much training, expenditure and preparation time, the competitor is then dumped out of the race. Such a rip-off brings ultra trail running and sport into disrepute.
An example of this is: In the WHW Challenge Race the cut off time to Rowardennan, is 10 hours, while other races over the same route and with the same overall similar race duration time allow only 7 hours, this being 3 hours less than that applied by the WHW Challenge Race which is based on average speed for the course.
A race which fails to apply the average speed to cut-off's is called a 'Section Race,' and is not a 'Point to Point Race,' as it requires different speeds to be covered over various sections to complete the race route. In a 'Section Race' if the competitor does not make the faster time for a particular section then they are disqualified and out of the race. Basiaally, 'Section Races' are a series off back to back mini races and should not be classed as an ultra.
Such race requirements are detrimental to competitors who overall, or in that section, run at a slower steady average pace, or is a steady walker, or competitors who have gone through a bad patch, or even got lost for a short time, etc. These competitors are still disqualified, even though they can still easily complete the race route in the allotted time, or 95 mile route in 35 hours.
In a 'Section Race' a high degree of withdrawals occur in the first half of the races due to the faster pace the competitors are required to run in the first half of the race. In 'Sectional Races' competitor withdrawals are mainly due to 'burn out' and 'stress' from the competitors striving to meet these unreasonable and unnecessary 'section' cut off times. These withdrawals can be seen when reviewing the 'results' tables for section races. One race even had the first 60 miles to be covered at an average 3.33 mph and the next 35 miles to be covered at an average speed of only 2.06 mph ( a 62% difference). Naturally that particular race had a high incidence of runners pulling out in the first part of the race and saved the organisers a great deal of money in completion trophies.
2. COMPETITOR FRIENDLY
The WHW Callenge Race supplies food and drinks to the competitors at 7 Check Points along the 95 mile route. In addition to the 7 Check Points the race also provides additional Water Points.
The competitors can also provide their own 'Drop-Bags' at 3 Check Points. These drop bags can be used by the competitor for additional personal food, drink, clothing, shoes, etc.
After use the competitors 'drop bags' will be transported DIRECTLY to the finish at Fort William.
The competitor's 'finish bag' is also transported from Milingavie to the finish at Fort William.
IN THE EVENT OF A COMPETITOR WITHDRAWING FROM THE RACE, THEN THEY WILL BE TRANSPORTED TO FORT WILLIAM BY RACE OFFICIALS.
A support car is not required for the WHW Race.
Most importantly the competitor does not require to 'find' and 'impose' on TWO PEOPLE, to act as support driver and support runner for the whole week-end. From June onwards competitors and support persons are plagued by midges. Also support runners and driver can end up getting no sleep for up to 40 hours. It is not a pleasant experience and few support staff wish to return to future races.
3. COST SAVINGS
1. The competitor saves in not having to provide fuel for a support car from Milngavie to Fort William and back.
2. Foreign competitors do not have the expense of requiring to hire a car
3. There is a considerable saving in money and logistics in not requiring to provide, food and drinks for the competitor and TWO additional support staff, during the race.
4. Meals and lodgings are not required for TWO SUPPORT people before and after the race.
5. Free showers, changing are provided at the Fort William at the end of the race.
6. Foreign competitors save on two flights that are not required for the support driver and support runner.
7. Scottish based competitors entering the WHW Challenge Race can save £500, while UK runners can save over £1,000 and foreign competitors can save several thousands.
THE WHW CHALLENGE RACE WELCOMES ALL COMPETITORS FROM NOVICES, STEADY WALKERS AND SEASONED ULTRA RUNNER
'Novices' have taken part in the WHW Challenge Race and completed it. This was achieved by not making over stringent entry requirements and by not making the cut-off times unachievable to steady walkers and walk/joggers, thus ensuring the maximum number of competitors finish the race.
Some of the UK's most 'seasoned ultra runners' have participated in the WHW Challenge Race, due to it simplicity and cost savings. These people compete frequently in races and just want to turn up by themselves, run the event with food and drink provided and go home. Others want the 4 (old) or 6 (new) points for the UTMB Series. Now also they have with the extra option to extend themselves by climbing Ben Nevis, which is good training if entering the UTMB.
The race also welcomes those who just want to see how far they can go in an event and if they decide to withdraw, then they have the reassurance be transported to the finish at Fort William, without any worries.
Some just wish to enjoy the scenery and the camaraderie provided by a small event. Plus also to learn about ultra running from the very experienced officials and competitors taking part in the race.
An additional concern to many competitors who in other races which require a back up crew, is the competitors feels the extra pressure that if they withdraw, or go slow, then they are letting their support team down as well. It is easier on the competitor when they have no back up team then they do not have the extra strain of letting the team down. In many instances having no support teams makes for a better race time, as the competitor come into a Check Point get their food and drink and go's. With support teams at CP's, there is a tendency to sit and converse with the support team.
ON COMPLETION OF THE WHW CHALLENGE RACE
COMMEMORATIVE COMPLETION CRYSTAL FLUTED WINE GOBLET
ALL COMPETITORS who complete the race will receive a boxed, Glencairn Crystal cut 'Skye' fluted wine goblet. The glass is engraved with the WHW route, including the main mountains which were passed along the route.
A 'Completion Certificate' will be awarded to the competitors who finish the race.
MEMBERSHIP OF 'THE WHW IN A DAY CLUB'
In addition competitors who complete the 'full' WHW Challenge Race ( 95 miles) on the Saturday. Those not already in the 'CLUB' will be presented with a personalised KEYRING, with their 'name inscribed' on it and on the reverse side printed 'THE WEST HIGHLAND WAY IN A DAY CLUB' confirming they are a member of this elite club.
The race presents THREE trophies, for the FIRST, SECOND and THIRD finishers. ( No competitor sub-group trophies are awarded in this race e.g. Men (only), Women (only) ; Vets (men) ; Vets (women) ; 50+men, 50+women ; 60+men ; 60+ women ; 70+men 70+ women ; teams ; juniors ; etc, etc.) The reason for not having sub-group trophies like in other races, is the Race Committee feel everyone who completes the ultra, WHW CHALLENGE RACE race, has completed a great achievment and deserve a trophy to remember the race by, so ALL FINISHERS get a trophy, of a boxed, Glencairn Crystal cut 'Skye' fluted wine glass. These race glasses are very expensive, especially with the engraving.
DISTANCE COMPLETION CERTIFICATE
Competitors withdrawing before the end of the Challenge Race will be awarded a 'Certificate' indicating the distance they covered and time taken.