West Highland Way Challenge Race
Tough & Rugged
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Race Report

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.


KIT LEFT   (contact Jim Drummond, so we 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. 



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 race is hard enough, without being subjected the added pressure of needless cut-off times. Clearly these section 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.
HomeAbout the raceSafety and RulesEntry FormResults and EntriesAdvice and LogisticsHistoryRace ReportContact us & Race Volunteers