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Highland Fling 53 Mile Ultra Marathon 2009

Conic Hill
Conic Hill

Congratulations to Phil Humphries for completing the Montane Highland Fling 53 mile Ultra Marathon in a fantastic time of 11:17:01. The route follows a section of the West Highland Way and is run on a variety of surfaces and is a very challenging event. Given the terrain, and that it’s his (and ERN’s) first Ultra, Phil’s time is even more impressive – well done!

Place (265) Time
Phil Humphries 116 11:17:01

Phil wrote:   ” After struggling through the Portabello Prom run on New Year’s day – a fast 4 miles with lot’s of  young un’s whizzing past I decided that short lung-busting runs on hard surfaces are not really my thing. This year would be a year of gentle runs in the country-side interspersed with the odd half/marathon here and there. With that in mind while surfing the web I stumbled upon the “Highland Fling” Ultra-marathon which sounded wonderful: lot’s of scenery, grass, trees, countryside smells, heather-clad hills, a big lake (sorry loch) and only a few small sections of (country) road. What’s more some very nice race organisers promised to transport your packed lunches (you are allowed at least four – bit like hobbits and breakfasts !) to convenient locations along the way so you can have a picnics and make a day of it – ideal for grumpy Male Vets ! So I entered along with about 304 other people (mainly grumpy male vets).  

So three months later I lined up at Milngavie at the un-godly hour of 7am after about 2 hours sleep the night before and a red-bull fuelled drive over from Edinburgh that I don’t remember. First couple of hours was easy going on good tracks, paths and a bits of country road. Managed to remember not to go to fast in the earlier stages. First major obstacle was the mighty Conic Hill which looks massive and conical (odd that !) from a distance, but was not so bad and only required walking on the upper sections. Coming down the other side int Balmaha was very steep muddy and slippy, but I managed not to come a cropper. Balmaha was at 20 miles (3 hrs 15 mins) and Elly was waiting to see me and we had a chat while I ate my first picnic of the day. Next section was along the big lake (sorry loch) to Rowardennan (27 miles) where another picnic awaited. This was a little tough not so much the terrain which was easy, but on account of that “wall” thing that you get after running for about 20 miles or so. But the trick is to just ignore it, admire the views and carry on running. Next picnic stop was Inversnaid (34 miles) with the “wall” mentally if not physically defeated. After that the run turned into hell – a never ending up and down, twisty turny, rocky, tree-rooted, muddy, slimy two-foot wide path. What’s more I got to the end of the loch, ran up and over a little hill and then the end of the loch re-appeared further in the distance – somehow the tectonic plates had moved further north under my feet without me noticing. And what’s more on this section my right knee started to really hurt on any downhill bits. Eventually I got to Ben Glas farm (40 miles) for another picnic, met Donald and Elaine who were doing the relay, had some chat and lots of encouragement then moved on. The terrain was much better now, just a normal rocky path up a seemingly never-ending incline, pass some very happy looking cows and lot’s of cow poo dodging, and then up to a hill overlooking Crianlarich. I could see Elly from a distance waiting for me sitting on a rock (this was pre-planned). After a water stop (I’d had enough of picnics by now) and encouragement from Elly  I set off for the last 7 miles. Next section was hell – a long section of downhill on which my knee gave me lots of jip, and then as it flattened out a rain/hail shower came from nowhere to remind us we were in the highlands. The rain cleared up and I just had 3 miles of moderate incline to negotiate up to the finish. Going up hill for me was much easy that down hill so I was happy in an odd kind of way even though going up hills was knackering. I even managed to keep on running and pass  4 or 5 slower runners on the last stretch, then put  a little spurt on to the finish line (53 miles). Straight after crossing the line, like all the other runners I had a medal put round my neck and I was handed a bottle of beer – perfect way to start the recovery process !  

I managed to complete the race in a time of 11:17:01 hrs (116 out of 242 finishers – 265 started), which I was very pleased with even though there were several hours of daylight between the winner (in-human time of 07:19;09) and me.  No major problems apart from an inflammed right-knee for the last 17 miles of the course.  Weather was fantastic: dry and sunny with little wind, but not too hot – apart from the rain/hail shower near the finish. I enjoyed it, but the terrain was tougher going than expected and I’ve learned a lot about ultra-marathon trail running that I will put to good use if I ever do another one. Race was incredibly friendly and thoroughly well organised and fantastic value. For a £12 entry fee (that’s about 23p per mile !) all runners received a bottle of cold beer at the finish, plus a medal and goody bag containing a bottle of posh fizzy wine & a travel mug.”

Some Photos:


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