It was during the first lockdown in May 2020 that boredom inspired many people to try something new; many of those people began to run, including myself.
Growing up in a competitive family perhaps drove me away from getting into running earlier due to the successful career of my dad, Dave, knowing I would never get anywhere near to his accomplishments.
However, the bug was caught, and similarly for a close friend to the point that we wanted to challenge ourselves. May 2021 we would attempt a four-day run along the recognised 96-mile walking trail (The West Highland Way) from Mulgavie, via Loch Lomond and finishing at the base of Ben Nevis in Fort William. Aiming to raise money for two charities extremely close to my heart: MS Trust and Cure Parkinsons.
The run itself contains over 10,000ft of elevation on some questionable terrain, some completely unrunnable, with a 200m stretch of tarmac at the end of each day to rejuvenate spirits for the evening, and allowing a faster finish to the village pub (it’s all about margins).
Unfortunately due to a late training knee injury, Dom was unable to complete the whole event on foot. However, he joined me the first three days where possible on a mountain bike, effectively becoming my entertainment and domestique, then concluding day four with a strong final marathon together.
Slapstick entertainment was never far away when we were descending on sketchier terrain on bike or foot with both of us taking laughable tumbles on the first day. When you’re running through incredible highland landscapes fatigue never really seems to kick in, including Conic Hill, Loch Lomond, Devils Staircase and Rannoch Moor, gruelling grinds were always rewarded with breathtaking views, absolute fuel from the brain. However, by mile 90 the range of emotion to anything was narrowed to either great love or complete hatred.
Perhaps in the later stages of the run I started to take for granted the surroundings and the route as focus turned to finishing the course and taking off my trainers (which I’ll get to). Obviously I recommend running the West Highland Way in four days, an incredible experience that’s definitely left me with a feeling of “what’s bigger and better?” and I can’t wait to get back training again.
Yet completing the trail at any length of time should be on the bucket list of any keen hiker/runner. I honestly doubt you’ll find many better routes in the UK, just make sure you pack a durable waterproof or your lucky socks.
It wouldn’t be a running blog without talking about the trainers, and luckily I have a word limit as I could write a newspaper about the pair of shoes I now hope will always be available in my rotation.
Hoka One One Speedgoat 4. With 96 miles of ever changing terrain, frustratingly fluctuating elevation, and lots and lots of rain, my feet were in for a tough few days. However I sit here with a couple of ugly toes being my only memorabilia of the run.
Having slight overpronation I was slightly concerned with ankle stability on some of the descents, however the Speedgoats were incredibly strong to the foot, preventing ankles rolling or feet slipping forward into the toe box.
The upper was incredibly durable with the terrain and still looks new! When more favourable surfaces emerged the rocker bottom provided the responsiveness necessary to attack the next grind, mile 27 felt the same as mile one. It’s taken me almost a week to think of a negative about the shoe, and that’s potentially the heat control. Heat can be contained around the foot when warm weather does emerge. But you’d have to be incredibly optimistic for this to prevent you buying the Speedgoats if you’re trail running in Scotland or the UK.
We were blown away by the support we received for our challenge, with the initial hope of raising around £1000, we’re currently at £6,300 with donations still floating in, which is crazy. We decided to run for the two wonderful charities (The MS Trust and Cure Parkinson's Trust) as my mother is currently battling Multiple Sclerosis and my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's last year.
My parents are complete idols to myself and my siblings and every day I see the frustrations they face and I hope that the money we have raised can help support and reduce the impact the conditions have on everyday life for those affected, whilst assisting early diagnosis and treatment.