MdS challenge 2017

A challenge of the self


August 2016

It’s not all about the race

Hey folks, hope you are all well.

Yup, shock horror, I now have a DNF against my name. However, it’s not as simple as that.

So… How did this happen?

As you may have read in a previous post, I was running the Ochil 2000 race this weekend. It’s billed as an 18 mile point to point race from Glen Sherrup Car Park, Glen Devon to Stirling University. However, with changes to the forestry commission fence lines, the race director and team have had to change the route. The new route will now add a few more tops and a few more miles and now makes the race nearer 22.5miles. A bit of a jump.

I knew from the start that the race was going to be a hard one. What with some of the times from the previous years winners and the fact the race covers the mileage and has over 6,000ft of elevation, it’s not hard to see that it’s a hard race.

We three, David, Andy & myself (sadly Alistair had to pull out) arrived at Stirling University and registered. Even this simple process was difficult.

At no point did the website say that full waterproofs were required. Only a few mandatory items were listed, whistle, map and compass. So, it was a shock when David called us on our way to tell us to make sure we had waterproofs with us for registration.

Andy had one full set in his house so we turned around and collected them but one set cannot be used by two people. Solution? Andy register first with his set, then hand the set to me, then I register after with the same set. Mmmmm, trouble yes for I’m sure that this was done for insurance reasons but… What could we do? However, we weren’t the only ones to be caught out by this. A group of four Spanish runners turned up and found this out too. Andy’s waterproofs to the rescue again!

Anyways, we all registered (David had race Number 1, and I had Number 2) and waited for the bus so we could be transported to the start line. Buses arrive and we all set off. There weren’t as many registered as first thought and only approx 74/75 runners traipsed onto the buses.

Arriving approx a half hour early, we all settled our nerves. Looked over ‘the competition’ and you could tell that there was barely 7lbs of fat in total for the rest of the pack. Looked like there was some serious competition. Anyways, I was never going to win it but I was thinking I’d give it a good go and see what happened.

David had a similar plan for the race and Andy was ‘just going to finish’. This would be Andy’s longest race to date and what with not having trained too much, it was always going to be ambitious. Especially with the added mileage and the two control point cut offs along the way.

It didn’t take much for me to decide that I was going to make sure Andy would get to the finish. I wanted him to do as much as he could and hopefully make it all the way to the end. David was going to continue and do what he set out to do, see how far up the rankings he would come. This decision had also calmed Andy’s nerves too.

And then, the time had come to walk over to the start line. No race briefing, just the sound of the horn and we were off.

I had already decided on the pace needed to get to the first CP with time to spare which would leave a good time to get to the most important CP2 cut off. I set off at the pace needed and it didn’t take too long before I was a little ahead of Andy so I had to slow down, after all, this was now all about him. Andy caught up and we ran together on the steady incline towards the woods and through the gate, or so we thought. On reaching the top of the incline, the course was marked for us to go right, right up a hill and through a small conifer plantation. This was the first of what would be, many hills.

 On reaching the top of this incline, we crossed the stile and into open countryside and up another steady gradient and on toward the first of the electronic dibbers. We were all issued an electronic dibber to record our route. First time for me using these and found them to be very handy indeed and could see the use of them instantly.
It had taken longer than expected to get to this point and the rising temperature wasn’t helping things at all. The temperature would see most people struggle towards the latter part of the race as many had little water with them and this race doesn’t have any water stops. After all, it’s meant to only be 18 miles 😉

So on Andy & I tramped. Across a relatively flatfish section. I took the chance to see how many folks were behind us, not many at all, maybe only a handful even at this early stage. No matter, we plodded on. Number 80 caught us up before we got to the decent off the hill before climbing up to CP1 (King Seat), one of the steepest parts of the route. We managed to chat with No. 80 for a bit and it was light relief. She wanted to know a little more about the route for Andy & I had both reccied it in different parts previously. 

On dropping down the valley before the up to CP1, No. 80 was clearly determined and of she went. We wouldn’t really see her again. That would also mean there couldn’t be too many behind us at all now. In fact, by the time we got to CP1, dibbed in and away again just within the time limit, we could could see someone else closing in on us. It would turn out to be Gordon McNeil, the sweeper.

It was with that revelation that motivated us to run a lot more than I think Andy was keen to, as the heat was clearly having an affect. As well as the constant up and down. The descents can be tackled two ways; carefully or head long into oblivion running, we had chosen the former. Onwards to top of The Law, not before dropping down again before the rise. 

Gordon was getting ever closer but thankfully I thought we could cut off a corner and save some time as the next CP was a good distance away with another down & up before it would appear. I looked at my watch and I knew this one would be tight. So tight in fact, that Gordon would walk with Andy up the last rise. It came to pass then, we may actually get timed out at this last check point. Gordon was superb, he allowed us to dib in and continue as far as we wanted to. He would even go as far to suggest that he could show us the best line across the peat hags and on to the next big hill (Blairdenon). 

I cannot thank Gordon enough for the suggestion as it assisted with Andy’s morale and it was good to hear about him. It would turn out that Gordon was an ultra runner and had completed the Triple Crown this year. A mean feat indeed. Bascially, running the WHW twice but over three races during the year. I don’t thy cap.

So it came to pass, Gordon would chat with us, show us the way and get Andy to run/jog as much as he was able.

With the rising temperature it was clear thatAndy was struggling and I could tell what the eventual outcome of this race would be. However, I kept Andy as motivated as I could and we tramped onwards to the next top.

On reaching Blairdenon, or shortly thereafter, Andy had made up his mind, he just couldn’t complete the next 10k. This was the best decision for him and there was no regret at all on reaching that decision. He had done what he could and was happy that he had, at that point, run the furthest he had run. He was as proud as his Garmin would be of his achievement. PB’s everywhere.

We headed to the next top, as a three with Gordon allowing us to dib it once again and he would also, kindly, walk with us to the next dib point before continuing on to sweep the rest of the racers. Thank you Gordon.

We got to the 2nd last dib point and knew it was the best decision for the new route was looming ahead of us, the rise up the last hill, Dumyat. 

The new route would see all runners drop off the hills, run into Menstrie and back up Dumyat from a low point. At only 418m high, it’s not a big hill but once you’ve given your all, another rise of 418m is enough for people to bin it, right there. It was when Andy and I reached the bottom of the hill that we found out that there were a lot of people looking at what was to come with despondency. in fact it was the last person making sure we got off the hill would tell us, the faces on some of the runners were broken and you could tell they were struggling physically and mentally.

I’m glad it wasn’t just us. We found out that it got so hard that one person going up Dumyat was sick twice due to the effort and probably heat, coupled with dehydration.

Both Andy & I had kept our watches going to clock the overall mileage, until we reached Andy’s house. Bang on 30k later I stopped my watch. We had covered that distance in a tad over 5Hrs but this more about numbers, more about metrics, this was making sure a friend was ok on his first hill, and longest race.

Well done Andy, you did great.

For me, am I disappointed about getting a DNF? Nope, nope and nope. For me this was never about racing. Well, initially it was but it changed very quickly and became one of friendship and time on feet. So, sometimes, it’s not all about the race.

Hope your training is going well folks.

Keep, keeping on.


Nailed it

A little run after work in glorious sunshine. Went out to do approx 14k, 13.8k complete, door to door.

I was keen on working hard, keeping the pace up and trying to get each k under 5mins. So, how did I get on? Continue reading “Nailed it”

New routes to be found…

Hey all, hope you are all well.

As with many things, the more you do of the same, the more you require stimulus to keep it fresh. Or, it just may be me?

So, I decided to hunt for a few new routes. There are other reasons for this too but mainly, it’s good to find a new piece of trail, a new vista and new found sensations. Continue reading “New routes to be found…”


After the weekend I’ll be able to tell you what the differences are but for now, have a gander at these bad boys…

and, new & ‘old’ together…

A Devil told me to do it

Hi folks, my review and experience of running and completing the Devil o’ the Highlands Footrace follows.

I sit here and write this, trying to remember just how it came about that I’d be running the race. I still cannot recall when I entered the race or why I clicked the submit button for entry. I think it was after seeing it on SUMS (Scottish ultra Marathon Series) website and then researching information about it. It seems to be one of THE races to do in Scotland. So… why not? Continue reading “A Devil told me to do it”

Devilish happenings

Dudes & Dudettes, I hope you are all well.

This weekend has been EPIC. I got to take part in the classic Devil o’ the Highlands Footrace, a 42 miler from Tyndrum to Fort William with over 7,200ft elevation. More on that later.

My week prior to the Devil: Continue reading “Devilish happenings”


A small post to say a MASSIVE thank you to a person (who would like to remain anonymous) for their donation towards my quest.

I wouldn’t like to divulge the amount but it has made a HUGE difference and will allow me to look into the purchase of extra bits and bobs that will make a difference.

So… to that person, you know who you are…


And as if by magic, this falls in line with what this quest is all about.

The power of the one, CAN make a change!

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