Mega congratulations to ERN’s Ultra Hero, Phil Humphries, who completed the 53 miles of the Highland Fling Ultra in a stonking 10 hours 23 minutes taking nearly a whopping hour of his previous best time (2009). 77 out of 383 starters (321 finishers), Category position (MV40): 35.
Phil said: “Old Japanese proverb “Wise man climb Mount Fuji only once” – but I’m neither Japanese or wise, so this year I resumed my love-hate relationship with the bonny banks of Loch Lomond, and I entered the 53 mile Highland Fling ultra-marathon for a second time (previous time was my first ultra in 2009). This event is now the biggest ultra-marathon in the UK with over 400 solo entrants and 37 relay teams. It has also gained a lot of prestige by being the UKA Trail Championships, the Scottish Ultra Trail Championships, the official trial for Scotland’s Team at the Commonwealth Ultra Championships as well being part of the Scottish Ultra-Marathon series (SUMS) and the Runfurther UK Ultra-Marathon series. Golly! with the pressure of all this championship stuff and a PB to beat I felt the heat was on to run my best, and as it turned out on the day the heat really was on as it was a scorcher of a day – blue sky and sunshine the whole way and feeling unnaturally hot for the Highlands.
With so many runners the starting times were staggered. I set off at 7am with the MV40s one hour behind the Ladies & MV50/60s and one hour ahead of the Male Seniors. The relay runners got even more time in bed and started at 9am. The route follows the first half of the West Highland Way starting from Milngavie railway station and finishing at Tyndrum. According to my Garmin there was a total of 6182ft of ascent, and much of the route, especially early on, is very runnable, but there are a few unrunnable bits along Loch Lomond that concentrate the mind but do give you chance for a breather. The race went well for me despite having a hacking cough and a bunged up nose – all this fresh air is bound to be good for it I kept saying to myself whilst dispatching large quantities of phlegm! I was helped along the way with Elly cheering me on at Balmaha (20 miles), and then Elly and Fiona cheering me on near Crianlarich (49 miles) where they handed me an ice cool Calippo – magic ! Despite the heat and my head-cold I managed to shave nearly an hour off my PB from two years ago. Also (I didn’t realize this until after the event), but I helped Carnethy Hill Runners (my other club) to third place in the Scottish Ultra Team championship.
Up at the business end of things there was a close race between first and second males with both breaking the old course record, and a runaway winner for the ladies title. See http://www.highlandflingrace.org for the race directors “duel in the sun” race report and full details of all the results if you are interested.
The whole event was yet again a wonderful (if very challenging) experience, and supremely well organized and marshaled by a group of people who give up a lot of their time to make the event so successful.
Hopefully next year if Elly and I are organized in time we’ll enter a couple of ERN relay teams.
Note my legs are recovering well and starting to get restless again, which is good news because I have another ultra-marathon coming up very soon – the 55 mile Cateran Trail on Sat 21st May.