West Highland Way Challenge Race
Tough & Rugged
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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 2017 race is awarded 4 points (6 new) for UTMB series. 

THIS RACE IS OPEN TO RUNNERS AND STEADY WALKERS

Race date: Saturday  27th May 2017  - 
  82 ENTRIES  (entries still open)

COACH UPDATE: SEVERAL COMPETITORS HAVE INDICATED THEY ARE HEADING TO GLASGOW AIRPORT AFTER BEING DROPPED OFF AT MILNGAVIE TRAIN STATION. AS A RESULT WE HAVE ARRANGED FOR ONE OF THE COACHES TO CONTINUE ON FROM MILNGAVIE TRAIN STATION TO GLASGOW AIRPORT WITH THOSE WISHING TO HEAD TO THE AIRPORT. CAN ANY COMPETITOR WHO WISHES TO CONTINUE TO GLASGOW AIRPORT PLEASE CONTACT JIM ON 01786 841715, or E-MAIL HIM IF THEY WISH TO TAKE UP THE OPTION TO CONTINUE TO THE AIRPORT, THERE IS NO EXTRA COST AND IT IS ESTIMATED THE COACH WOULD BE AT THE AIRPORT FOR APPROXIMATLY 3:00 pm. ON THE SUNDAY.

95 miles in 35 hours along the beautiful and rugged West Highland Way.

SPLIT RACE RESULTS ARE AVAILABLE IN THE LINK AT BOTTOM OF 'RESULTS & ENTRIES' PAGE 

2016 Race Report  A FEEDBACK SECTION ON THE RACE IS NOW AVAILABLE ABOVE 

Note:  Comments for the Feedback Secion are welcome allong with photographs for the Image Gallery. Also a list of items left at Fort William is posted below.

There were 77 entries for the 2016 race, with 67 starting, of these 52 finished within the 35 hours. The average age of the first 3 runners was 43, the next 3 was 57, the oldest male competitor was 75 and the oldest female competitor was 71 and the youngest competitors were 24.  Demonstrating a diverse age spectrum of entrants taking part, covering 51 years.


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 'quite room' the race had let, to to have a couple of hours rest before the start. (this will also be the case in the 2017 race)

The race started on time at midnight and conditions were excellent being dry, cool 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 01min the last 1hr 58min (well within the cut-off of 2hr 45 min). In the first mile, one of the German entrants went over badly on his ankle and retired at Drumgoyne.

It was still dark and cool at Check Point 1 (C.P.)  Drymen (12.6 miles) where a further two retired. Glen McGowan had led the field into the Drymen C.P. at 01:47am. At this stage competitors were mainly taking on fluids and bananas. The next leg was a crossing over Conic Hill to WP2 at Balmaha (19.6 miles) during this leg to Balmaha, Glen was overtaken by Jacob Hayes, who came into Balmaha in 3hr 3min. Jacob had a rather lonely race after that, as he led all the way to Fort William, but he was supported by his wife and children at the C.P.s from Tyndrum to the finish, which no doubt gave him all the encouragement he needed. The rear runners got into Balmaha at 6:00am comfortably 1hr 15 min, before the cut-off for that location. At this stage Samuel Homo from France and Steven Edwards and Glen were vying for second place, with it eventually going to Steven by Rowardennan.  

Daylight was at 4:00am so most of the competitors could see the beauty of Loch Lomond, with the rear competitors seeng it from above, on Conic Hill. Also the dreaded 'midge' appeared this year along the length of Loch Lomond. By Rowardennan CP 2 (27.2 miles) the race had to errect a large Gazebo with fine meshed sides. The competitors after collecting their 1st Drop Bag went into the Gazebo and tea, coffee, juice and sandwiches and noodles etc. was passed in to them to curtail the competitors contact with the midges. The only good point of the 'midges' is it gave the competitors the incentive to leave the C.P. and head of to Inversnaid. 

The next stop was W.P.3 at Inversnaid (34.3 miles) with Jacob getting there at 5:00 am and the rear competitor in 11:09am, still 1hr 36 min within the cut off time. 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.

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. Although as a bonus many competitors saw the wild goats that live in this leg of the WHW and got some good photographs.  Most competitors moved through C.P. 3 quickly heading for Tyndum. Jacob time at CP 3 was 06:48hr and the rear competitor was 14:51hr still under the cut off tiime of 15:15hr. For the slower competitors the cut off times are critical. This can be seen in that if the same competitors had entered our fellow race, 'The WHW Race' then 15 of them would have been DISQUALIFIED at Beinglas, for being over 'The WHW Race's' 12:00hr cut-off time for Beinglas. 12 of the 15 that would have been disqualified went on to finished the race within the 35 hours, this being the final time allotted for both races over the WHW. Perhaps now on seeing the hard evidence, 'The WHW Race' will review their cut-off times, to more realistic times, reflecting a 35 hour race and in so doing aid thier slower entrants to finish. 


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 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). At the C.P. the hot dogs went down a treat again this year. One competitor was worried as he was a vegitarian, but there were 'veggie' sausages available as well. The German contingent were having a good relaxed time and appeared at the village hall with cans of 'lager and cider' from Brodies shop 200m down the road. It was hot and sunny by this time and it is good to see they were keeping up their fluid and calorie intake on route. The second drop bags are provided at Tyndrum, but unfortunately the first 6 missed their second drop bags due to traffic delays on the Loch Lomond road. This was compensated in that the Tyndrum C.P. has large amounts of varieties of food, fruit and drink so they were able to rely on these to make up for their missed drop bags.
The IN and OUT times of the competitors were taken at Tyndrum, the longest a competitor waited was 1 hr 33 min with the average being 20 to 40 minuutes. Jacob was through at 08:59hr and the last competitor left at 18:50hr, still 50 minutes ahead of the cut-off time for Tyndrum.

The next leg of 9 miles was to CP 5 at Inveroran Hotel (62miles). The hotel at Inveroran is a beautiful location for a CP with the wild deer comming to with 10 meters of the resting competitors.  Clearly the hotel feed them and one bold deer was half way in the kitchen of the adjacent house. By this stage for most competitors it was the heat of the afternoon and the Coca Cola was going down well especially as the next leg was 10 miles over desolate, picturesque Rannoch Moor to CP7 at the Kingshouse Hotel (72 miles). Seven miles of the leg is rough 4x4 vechicle track so tavel under foot is relatively good.
By this stage Peter McCullagh and Paul Richardson were taking up the rear with steady walking of 3mph and for them darkness fell halfway through this leg. That is why we issue the 'Emergency Rucksacks' containing their sleeping bag and bivi bag at Inveroran.

The CP6 at Kingshouse is 100m after the old bridge and is a lovely location looking on to Buachaille Etive Mor and the surronding 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 Coca Cola, due to the heat of the afternoon. Jacob went through at 12:30hrs while the last competitors Paul and Peter going through in the dark 12 hours later at 00:30am but still 2hr 10 min in front of the cut-off time.
As one of the front runners commented later, when travelling down the road at 01:30am and saw Peter and Paul's lights on the track approaching the Devil's Staircase and realised how tough it is for those at the rear, having to endure a second night of walking. Clearly these rear competitors 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.

The next rest was CP 7 at Kinlochleven ( 81 miles) although this did not apply to all, as Alexander from Belguim who had completed the race the previous year and decided to have a sleep at the side of the track up the mountain heading over to Kinlochleven. Other competitiors stopped and asked if he was okay and he said he was having a short nap. I may add from Inveoran (CP5 ) as competitors can be solo it is compulsory for all competitors to carry a 'sleeping bag' and 'emergency bivi bag'. Clearly Alexander was making the most of the kit he was carrying and he eventually appear totally refreshed at Kinlochleven feeling better for having his sleep.

Many competitors who arrived at Kinlochleven (where they got their third drop bag) took the opportunity to have a sleep in the building were the Check Point was. At one stage 9 were flat out on lilo's and in sleeping bags ( the lilo's were kindly blown up by manually by Hugh one of our Marshals). By 4:30 to 5:30am in daylight, we woke them, fed them, and sent them on thier way to Water Point 4 at Lundavra (88miles)  and then on to Finish at Fort William. Although one competitor rested up at Lundavra for a couple of hours before stuggling the last 7 miles with very bad shin splints to Fort William (he will be off his crutches in about 8 days)
SADLY AGAIN THIS YEAR NONE OF THE COMPETITORS TOOK THE OPPORTUNITY TO CLIMB BEN NEVIS AS A 'GRAND FINALLE', MAYBE IN 2017. 

At the Finish at Fort William Shinty Club (95.5 miles)  the competitors had a shower and were fed with lasangna's and pizza's. Most slept soundly on the bar lounge floor until 9:00am, then at 10:30am we had the Presentation and the coach left on time at 12:00 noon. 12 were under 24 hours and were presentented with a 'key ring' engraved with thier name and on the reverse side is the inscription 'THE WHW IN A DAY CLUB'.  The remainder's 'named' keyrings await them for another day. Boxed Skye crystal goblets with the WHW route engraved on it and the surrounding mountains were presented to the 52 finishers. 
 

WAS THE RACE A SUCCESS

From the 'MARSHALS' point they all enjoyed the week-end and offered to return next year as they enjoyed the camaraderie and banter that was this year's 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, 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 78% success rate. Their thanks was appreciated and passed on to the marshals.

From the 'RACE' perspective the camaraderie we aimed for was more than achieved. One of the best compliments was that it was like an 'old fashoned race.' 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. 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 2016 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 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 fast runners, the jog/walkers and just plain steady walkers.
 
'CUT-OFF TIMES'  Getting as many to the finish line within 35 hours was achieved by applying averge speed cut-off times. Especially as 15 of the WHW Challenge Race's finishers would have been 'disqualified' in the alternative WHW Race (which is also, over a 35 hours period). Had the WHW Challenge Race applied the same 'unfair section cut-off times' then only 39 would have finished instead of 52. To these 15 individuals this is important, especially as they have spent a lot of time, effort and money to complete covering the WHW in 35 hours.
Unfortunatly in 'section races' competitors are additionally put under unneeded stress to meet unfair cut off time and are pressured to run faster and over thier limit to ensure they achieve the race's cut-off times and this is shown in the many resulting withdrawals. Competing in a 95 miles is hard enough, without beiing subjected the added pressure of 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 27th May 2017 and finish in Fort William. The race is scheduled to be completed in 35 hours, although this time may be extended in adverse weather.
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.

The WHW Challenge Race was brought forward to May to avoid the dreaded 'midge' problem that occurs from June onwards and while still providing long daylight hours.

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.

FINISH CERTIFICATE
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, 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.

PRIZES
The race presents THREE trophies, for the FIRST, SECOND and THIRD finishers. ( No competitor sub-group trophies are awarded e.g. Men, Ladies, Vets, 50+, 60+, 70+, teams,  juniors, etc.). The main reason for this is everyone who completes gets the tropy of the boxed, Glencairn Crystal cut 'Skye' fluted wine glass. These 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.

 
 

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