Since Peter and Ben were going to do the Fling, and we already had a room booked at the salubrious Premier Inn in Milngavie, I thought I could take the opportunity to get out of town. I drove us all to Milngavie on Friday night. Peter got up at 4.45am to get ready for his 6am start. My plan was to get up a lot later when I felt like it. My body clock had other ideas though and I woke up in that emphatic way you do when you know you're not going back to sleep, just before 6.30am. As it turned out that was about right though. I did pretty much everything I wanted to do and with little time to spare.
When we supported Richard Dennis to do his WHW race a few years ago now, I had really liked the look of the bit of the Way that comes out onto the road up to the Ski Centre, just before Glen Etive. My plan was to drive there and run back towards Tyndrum for 6 miles and then 6 miles back. I also thought I might go for a quick dip in the river Etive so I wouldn't be sweaty for the rest of the day, and then drive back to Tyndrum to get photos of the people starting to finish the Fling, meet Peter and Ben and then drive them home.
It was 11.30ish by the time I got to the Ski Centre (I had to stop in Tyndrum for a second breakfast of coffee and cake to give me strength for the run.)
The air was cool and the sun was coming and going as big clouds floated over the landscape. I had fondly thought of this bit of path as being "flat" and was surprised to find myself on a long ascent, followed by an even longer descent. I had to revise how far I was going to go as I realised time was getting a bit tight. The running was superb though and I found myself really enjoying it. The scenery was spectacular (sorry, no camera). There were a handful of walkers making their way west and I got a friendly greeting from everyone I passed.
I found myself wondering why no-one had ever mentioned what a nice bit of track this was and then realised that most people I knew who had run there had about 70 miles in their legs already and probably didn't appreciate its finer qualities! Also, it was quite stony in places and decidedly hilly, so they probably suffered with this too. I love when you're up in the mountains (any mountains) and it's sunny but the air is cold and pure. It was like that yesterday. The cold air was almost like a cool drink of water - really refreshing. I finished my run (which I'd trimmed to 10 miles), in a great state of mind.
I didn't have time for any dips into the Etive (shame!) but instead raced Shearings coaches back along the road to Tyndrum and got myself out on the Highland Fling course.
The winners had already won by the time I got there, in times of just over 7 hours. The first runner that I saw that I recognised was Marco Consani as I walked from the end out onto the course. Not much further back was Richie Cunningham. Then a bunch of relay runners and full Flingers that I didn't really know. I find it hard to know what to say to runners when I'm spectating - the subject of how far it is to go is a sensitive one by the end of the Fling! Whether people are looking good or not is also arguable and subjective. I settled on "Well Done". Even that is contentious. If you've just run what for you is a turkey then you don't really want to hear "Well Done". But I couldn't say "What happened to you, you sack of shit!" either. There should be a guide book.
I found I was horribly over dressed. The ambient temperature was pretty cool when you were standing still, so I was wearing my running stuff + tights + a big fleece and a duvet jacket. There was quite a lot of shelter on the trail though, so I when I decided to jog a bit I found myself bathed in sweat in about 30 seconds. I realised there was no point in moving too quickly out onto the course as I would then have to get back again.
I walked in about 2 miles. The course was completely different from what I had in my memory from Finishing the Fling in 2010. It showed me just how minced your brain is by the time you've come all that way. The stares on the faces of the people who were passing me were something to see as well. A few people managed to crack a smile but mostly what I saw was pain and focus. When I finally came across Peter, a little further on (from my perspective) from the Strathfillan Wigwams, I only recognised him at the last minute. He was looking exceptionally "focused". A little behind him was a ridiculously fresh looking and ebullient Andy Johns. I stayed there for a little bit longer because there was a lovely view and then headed back, figuring I would catch people (I was particularly looking out for Ben) as they overtook me,
Fast forward back to the finish, getting Ben and Peter in the car was like herding kittens. They didn't have a brain cell to share between them. I definitely felt like their carer!
Peter ran a stormer dipping just under 9 hours. Ben took a little over 9hrs 30 mins which is a triumph on his very minimal training regime. I wouldn't like to spend much of my time hanging about spectating other peoples' races, but it was a beautiful day and it was fun.