There was months of planning. For some, there was years of thinking about it (and less planning), and for one, there was a no show due to injury (sorry Curly - they missed you. ) The day finally came. Having chosen the peaceful, but potentially cold, and likely dark month of February, they just had to take what they got.
Mr B’dass was the first supporter, who picked them up and headed out of town at 6 am in Fort William to start the 3 day run over the West Highland Way at around 9am in Milngavie, outside Glasgow.
They were pretty gallus from the look of it. There was a planned 7/8 hr day of light jogging ahead. These are strong women and used to the wildest Lochaber weather and as hardened hill runners with many many Ben Nevis Races under their belts - one of them a past Scottish Hill Running champ with 21 Bens in the bag.
Hang on a minute - are they having a quick smoke????????
Not for a moment did they think that 3 days to cover the often rough terrain of 96 miles to Fort William was going to be easy. But hey - they had this.
Unfortunately the one who had the map got a wee bit confused by the John Muir Trust Way which crossed the WHW about 6 miles down the track and, before they knew it, they were heading east instead of north for 2 miles before they realised their mistake. This added 4 miles to their route. An upset tummy, a fight with Conic Hill (honestly? It’s a wee bit smaller than Ben Nevis!!) and the oft complained about tough ground past Rowardennan took it’s toll as darkness crept in. I phoned them at 7pm thinking they’d have had their tea and be all tucked up in bed with some kind of tonic but knew by the forced cheerful, breathless voice that the running was still going on. It was pitch dark and there was 3 miles still to go. The landlady at the B&B had called at 6.10pm to tell them they’d missed their 6pm check in time. She wasn’t pleased. Hard to imagine that every walker on the Way makes their scheduled arrival time.
So after a much longer, tougher day than expected, they all fell into the welcoming arms of Climbing Kev, who had charmed the grumpy landlady (he’s well known for his charm), made them a delicious meal, and doled out copious amounts of praise and support. He also had all their supplies of food and dry clothes. And wine.
She who stretches the furthest, gets the biggest bed.
The next stage was from Inversnaid on Loch Lomondside, to Glencoe ski centre. Climbing Kev was to rendezvous with me at the cafe in Tyndrum to pass over their gear, where I would then wait for them, over the trials of coffee, cake and the Sunday Papers. I am selfless.
First, there was a fond farewell to the hero of the previous night ( she IS fiendishly strong - it’s her super power. Not everyone realises it. But I think Kev does…..)
Beware of she who doles out the fond hug!!!!!!
It was a cheery trio that arrived later than expected in the rain outside the cafe in Tyndrum. They ate loads and then had to head out into the rain in clothing that was still damp. Having realised that the Glencoe cafe would have stopped serving before their now later time of an estimated 8pm, I was dispatched to find something easy but tasty to cook on the stove in my van. I scoured the wee Spar shop and came up with suitable fare. But first I was to meet them where the Way crossed the A82 at Bridge of Orchy. It takes about 10 minutes in the van, and 1 hour 40 minutes of running time. I had the kettle on the boil at the ready.
Big Mamma Mo.
Despite the brave faces, one member of the group was feeling a bit vulnerable. It was after 5pm, and there was a tough 11 miles to go to Glencoe and most of it uphill and in the dark.
Luckily there was help on the way in the unique Faroese form of Nordic Amazonian - Nicky. she just asked if there was anything she could bring to Glencoe and I said yes - running shoes and head torch. Could she nip down the track to welcome them in and a wee bit extra support if needed. Obviously I had the nutritious meal to concoct or I’d go myself.
Nicky had never been down that track before and didn’t even know where it started. I was happy to show her and made lot’s of encouraging noises as she headed off onto the dark moor, alone. I mean, there was a moon and everything and I could point out the moonlit cloud closest to where she needed to aim for. Nothing to worry here - apart from Stags and the ghosts of Glencoe tragedies. Unfortunately, there were also Ptarmigan on the track which waited until she was almost upon them, flying up in panic right in her face, and challenging her heart rate and resolve.
Back at the camp, extra support came all the way from Achnacarry, a tiny settlement tucked away beyond Fort William - just to give them a hug and say well done. Emma and Jonathon did what was probably a 3 hour round trip to show their admiration.
Nicky found the girls not too far away and jogged in with them, just as the rain came on. The vulnerability had faded with the moonlight and a comfortable pace.
Hot showers, macaroni and tinned chicken in white sauce (best meal they’ve ever had, to be sure) and chocolate easter eggs supplied by Nicky, some wine and Pepsi Max - sorted. The Hobbit pods at Glencoe Ski resort were excellent as were the rest of the facilities. I slept in my van, with the leftover chicken pasta pots under the van due to unpleasant smells unwelcome in my boudoir. A storm blew up and I heard the pans sliding down the car park. With the newly opened Kingshouse Hotel down the road and directly in the line of the wind, I could just imagine pots breaking windows and guests showered by stinky tinned chicken. I had to get my boots on and chase the pots down the carpark and re-install them in the van. I really should have spent more time clearing up after dinner.
The runners were stoical in the morning. The wind was still blowing and the rain was incessant. But this was home. This is what they are used to.
“Come with us Big Mamma Mo!! Come with us” You’ll love it.”
“No, no - I need to wash the pots!” I cried, bravely
It simply did not matter what the weather was throwing at them, nor the promise of The Devil’s Staircase ahead - they were on home ground.
Not sure where this is, but it’s a nice photo.
I saw them head up the Staircase and then drove to Kinlochleven where I had to put myself through another coffee stop and finish yesterdays Sunday papers. The rain was of the double speed windscreen wiper variety.
Didnae bother them one bit. The closer they got to home, the better their spirits.
After being embroiled in my newspaper and reading opinions on the issue of returning ISIS brides - I couldn’t help wondering……………
This ones husband and daughter called in to share a cuppa and support. Richard has run the WHW over 2 days and understood much of what his wife was going through.
From Kinochleven, there was about 8 miles of stony track to Blarmachfoldach where the girls had to leave the Way as it was closed for maintenance, shortening their run and leaving them only about 5 miles to run a seriously undulating road back to town. They romped along this stage in cold, unrelenting rain, on schedule - and flew down the road, to burst into town on a high, looking as if they had just begun. In fact, possibly better than they felt at the beginning.
My heroes. xxx