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Robbie's is ready for the West Highland Way race

by Robert Britton
Friday 20th June 2014

Run247 columnist Robert Britton, member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad, Team Inov-8 and Team Centurion, prepared for the West Highland Way race with a three day reccie - June 21, 2014

It seems the idea that Scotland is a miserable, rainy, midge-infested wilderness is a little over played by those friendly Highlanders and they're just trying to keep us out of one of the most beautiful regions on this planet. A metaphorical Hadrian's Wall to keep as much of the world out as possible.

Having spent a few days recceing the West Highland Way from Balmaha to Fort William in preparation for the 95 mile West Highland Way (westhighlandwayrace.org)on 21st June I'm not sure who is more excited about race day, myself having the chance to race on some wonderul trails or my Ma on the prospect of supporting a race in her homeland through the hills she spent the first few years of her life in?

Robbie Britton - WHW2014

Robbie familiarises himself with the dangers of the West Highland Way

75 miles over three days is a little more than I would usually go for just three weeks out from the start of e race at 1:00am in Milgavie (pronounced Mull-guy as I was repeatedly reminded by Sharon Law, our chauffeur and guide for the recce). As with any long distance training effort I had to weigh up the pros and cons of such a jolly before race day and the benefits of seeing the course and being confident in route finding on race day, plus a nice chance to catch up with Majell Backhausen and Paul Navesey, out-weighed the cumulated fatigue and risk damage that three big days could cause.

Everything would be done to reduce chances of injuries and tiredness overflowing from the recce with rest days before and after, good food before, throughout and after each day and a relatively sedate pace, something Paul and I sometime struggle with and which caused a slight love-hate relationship for the trail for Maj, fresh off an off-shore stint in the North Sea. A big Australian is a great way to keep two excited midgets in check and 'twas some nice eye candy for Sharon every time she met us along the way...

The West Highland Way itself is a nice mix of runnable single track, hard packed trail and fire road, loch side rock hopping and sparse moorland, that really suits a long distance running race. Every uphill seemed to reward you with a juicy bit of downhill fun and just enough rocks on the trail to keep your mind active throughout, to avoid losing any more teeth. Maj took one tumble but shook off the potentially life threatening injuries with typical Ozzie style and just carried on.

One of the real dangers on race day is fighting the urge to run off, up some of the fantastic hills along the way, and ideas about a WHW Munro bagging trip are already bouncing around the mind. Could be a fun one for the Winter if anyone fancies it?

Using TomTom heart rate technology it was interesting to see which sections really took the effort and how alarmed a city boy gets when cows are across the path, but this will provide some interesting data for race planning as you want to make race day as easy as possible!

After a couple of relaxing days on Skye, also somewhere with fine weather and breathtaking scenery, it was back down to the Big Smoke, via the Lake District, which poured with rain, for some final race prep in the week beforehand including a visit to Mr. Magic Hands, Simon Lamb for some massage and beard advice and a chance to wash out the kitbag which now contains 95% dirty and wet clothes.

The taper has well and truly begun now and the aim is to be fresh and raring to go on race day, inspired by the South Downs Way 100 run of Mr. Mark Perkins, who trounced my course record with a fine 14:03.

One of the joys of picking races outside of your comfort zone, such as TransVulcania and Zegama-Aizkurri, is the return to the norm and playing to your strengths once again. Anyone's confidence can take a knock after two unsatisfactory performances, but the chance to right it all again in Scotland is a beautiful thing, where it will probably pour with rain and howl with wind, now that I have questioned the natural defence of Scotland. At least the midgies are a good reason to keep running.


About The Author

Robert Britton

Robbie is a 100 mile runner who is a member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad and Team Centurion and likes to run ridiculous distances as quickly as possible.

To provide enough food to feed a monster running habit, Robbie coaches other ultra marathon runners through www.robbiebritton.co.uk and is also a member of the coaching team at Centurion Running. He likes to dabble with a bit of writing so that others can learn from his mistakes and enjoy the sport as much as he does.

Robbie is also a is a Profeet ambassador.


"Pain is inevitable, suffering is just part of the fun"


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