Choosing a challenge is can be really hard, especially if there is a chance to break a record. I didn’t know what will be the outcome of going for the Great Glen Way Fastest Known Time. There is always a lot of ‘what if’ in the way.
I might have enough and give up, get injured, the weather will turn, maybe I should come back another day better prepared. These are all the thoughts that were in my head pre and during the run. A lot isn’t it? There is always another option. I might take it as it is and battle till the end being happy and enjoying the journey even if it hurts.. Well, that’s how it was this time. It hurt…
I was very nervous and I wasn’t sure if I am ready to go for the record. I entered and Accumulator January to prepare my body for the long distance. The rules were simple. You run the number of miles the day says. For example on the 1st you run 1 mile, on the 2nd you run 2 miles, on the 24th you run 24miles and it continues until you finish the month on the 31st running 31 miles. I finished with a week of marathon running ‘back to back’. January ended in total of 800km of running in preparation for the Great Glen Way supported FKT and more than 10 000m of elevation.
I still had some doubts about the whole thing. I wasn’t sure how much recovery I need after 800km. I had to be sure my body will be rested and strong, ready for the 118km in one go. To start I just picked a date and it was going to be the 2nd weekend of February on Saturday, the 12.02.2022. If I have a date penciled in it will happen right?
Time for some weather watching.
All January was pretty crazy on the West coast of Scotland with maybe 5 days of sun in total. It felt like it trust me. Sadly February didn’t look any better. We get a lot of rain and very strong winds on the coast. Plus side of this is that it is very character building and to make it harder try doing it at night! I work nightshifts in a fish farming company MOWI here in Mallaig. Most times I get to run is before work or straight after and there is no excuses.
The weather became my obsession a week before the weekend I was planning to go for the FKT. The weather was changing very fast. In the morning it looked good, in the afternoon it was just impossible. Finally I came to a decision to move the attempt by one day to Sunday the 13.02.2022. And that was it! 3 days before the attempt I knew this will be the day for it. Wind almost disappeared, the rain stopped, temperature dropped what started to look like perfect conditions. The Great Glen Way has around 2000m of total elevation and I would be exposed a lot in the higher grounds.
I ordered more gels and energy fuel sachets from Mountain Fuel Sports Nutrition. I knew I will be going for speed so I will have to minimise the time I stop for food. I had multiple pouches of Lemon & Lime Sport Jelly, Apple and Cinnamon Ultra Chia Gels, Orange Sport Jells, Sport Jelly + with Caffeine for an extra kicks and Xtreme Energy Fuel to dilute in my water for hydration and energy on the go.
I had 5 fuel support points in total. Drumnadrochit at 31km, Invermoriston at 53km, Fort Augustus at 65km, Laggan Locks at 82km and Gairlochy at 100km.
My brother-in-law had a box with pre made bags of food and instructions for each leg. The job was to swap the empty 500ml soft flask for a full one with Mountain Fuel Xtreme Energy Fuel plus the gels. The number of gels varied from the distance on each leg and how I felt. I was aiming to eat a gel every 30min, plus making sure I drink minimum of 500ml of water on each leg. If I needed more I would get it from a river. There is plenty streams and rivers going down those hills straight to the lochs even on a hot day.
I carried all my food and water as well as the gear. The only help I was getting was at checkpoints when I got water and gels. I like to have everything on me so I know where it is and to control my eating.
I started at 7am in Inverness near the castle where the Great Glen Way starts or finishes depending which way you choose to go. I was going North to South, taking out the hilly part first.
The 1st leg from Inverness to Drumnadrochit was a 31km section through the high grounds. From the start I was joined by a friend from Lochaber Athletic Club John who lives in Inverness and knows the route very well. My plans of doing a reccyy 2 weeks before had to be binned due to covid19 isolation. So in order to not waste time between houses and getting lost I decided that having a local would be the best idea! On another note I had maybe an unreal, too ambitious plan to do the 31km with 450m of elevation under 2h 45min and having John with me definitely would push me to work harder. We got to Fort Augustus in 2h 38min. Job Done!
The 2nd and 3rd leg was only me. I had to make my way from Fort Augustus to Invermoriston through the hills with close to 800m of elevation. Meet my brother-in-law Ryan. Refuel in max 3min and go again over the last hill to Fort Augustus where the flat canal path starts. My refuelling was very fast. Basically grab, swap and go. Oh and did I mention that I really didn’t want to get lost? On the way down to Fort Augustus I lost focus for 1min and I wondered pass the GGW marker and went the wrong way! Thankfully my Coros Apex Pro navigation picked up the mistake after 30m and I was right next to the junction I missed. I found the GGW Marker which was behind me and I continued down to Fort Augustus! Hurray the day is saved!
Here at the long flat canal stretch I had my first low. As soon as I put my foot on the canal road I couldn’t get up to speed. By this point I ran 65km with 1800m of elevation and I was really struggling to get my motivation in the right place. I am sure that cramping thighs wouldn’t help but I had to drink more liquids, take some salt in and keep moving. I talked and shouted at myself few times. I remembered then that this is what I was training for in January. The 800km I ran can’t go to waste! Come on, you can do it – I thought to myself. I got my headphones out from my Dynafit flask pouch. I quickly got the phone out and put a podcast on with some motivational speaking and music mixed in between. Oh man! That worked a treat!
I started feeling better. Properly hydrated and with fresher mind I just need to find the rhythm. It was good now!
I continued to Laggan Locks knowing somewhere along the way I will meet my friend Corrina on the bike and her husband Markus will be waiting for me at Laggan locks before we head out on the last bumpy run to Fort William along some forestry trails. This was the part I was really afraid of. 18km along the last loch called Loch Lochy. Here in Scotland we don’t use the term ‘LAKE’ but instead ‘LOCH’ which is pretty cool I think!
I had moments that my head was trying to convince me that it would be good if the path was blocked and I won’t be able to continue. It’s absolutely crazy what your mind is doing to your head when you’re extremely tired. I managed to get chase the ghosts away by counting steps in my head. 1, 2… 1, 2… 1, 2, 3, 4… and repeat, and repeat again. Just counting my steps tricked the brain. Anyone can do 2 or 4 steps! Anyone! It all adds up to tens, hundreds and thousands over time. I need to keep counting my steps while Markus is talking to me. I didn’t say much back, I was really focused on my steps at that point. But from time to time I snapped out of my hypno-counting and spoke back and had a short conversation, I really enjoyed listening to some of his stories.
As we ran through Clunes from one of the houses a family came out with cow bells. They were clapping and cheering me on! That was so uplifting! Thanks Corrina for dragging them out.
Arriving at Gairlochy with 18km to go I got shocked as I realised that a sub 12h trip can be completed. A smile appeared on my face! There was no time to waste. I calculated that I have to make around 5:10-5:30/km all the way to the finish stone in Fort William in order to get it under 12h. I was totally committed to the idea. I was being paced by Corrina again on her bike. Markus stopped at Gairlochy. I started counting again. 1, 2… 1, 2… 1, 2, 3, 4… I am getting some speed here! I was clocking 5:05, 5:10/km. The body started to ache really bad, but it doesn’t matter. I just ran 100km and I have to continue for the last 18km with an unrealistic pace in order to make it in time. Well why not! I’ll give it all I have to find out what I am made of.
After few kilometeres it got dark very fast. my headtorch had to come out again. I enjoyed Corrinas company as we continued along the canal talking about everyone, everything and gardening! Suddenly we heard a Tawny Owl to our left in the trees! It sounded so amazing and WILD! I felt wild at that particular moment as I was feeling absolutely knackered with less than 10km to go! Through the trees I spotted Fort William lights in the distance. I am almost home I thought. We got to Neptunes Staircase a series of locks on the Caledonian Canal between Caol and Corpach. I was getting annoyed a little as I knew all the shortcuts here but I couldn’t take them. I had to follow the GGW trail. We went through the shores of Caol village and before crossing river Lochy Markus showed up again! We ran through Soldiers bridge and I had to turn right and follow the GGW signs along the river. Markus and Corrina Continued on the nice tarmac road while I was running through mud to the finish!
Last bridge to cross river Nevis and through the roundabout to the finish! My wife Ashley and children Maiya and Freya were there, my Mum and sister, Ryan, Markus and Corrina escorted me to the stone. They were all shouting ‘Touch the STONE!’.
I touched the stone… It was done… I turned around and slipped down to the ground. I’ve done it…
It was worth it. I finished in 11h 53min 32s. I was shaking in disbelief, super happy, surrounded by family and friends who were my support team again! Super happy – I repeated to myself again. Proud! Because my children and wife witnessed it! Maybe one day the little ones will try something as crazy as this! Who knows! I hope they will! The feeling is amazing!
I really learned a lot about myself during this challenge. I will never underestimate my abilities. Seriously hard work pays off. Especially with my background of smoking and drinking! Who would have thought that I will be breaking world records one day in a sport. Me running? Don’t be crazy!
During the run I found it very easy to eat the gels and quickly knew when and which one I need. I like a variation of flavours and texture so I always have something different. For example the Lemon and Lime gelly has small bits of jelly inside for added texture which is absolutely brilliant! You won’t find anything else on the market like that! At least I don’t know about it. But this is my absolute favourite one! The Mountain Fuel Sports Nutrition is very easy on the stomach and gets digested very fast releasing a lot of energy. I felt that my body had everything it needed from start to finish. In total I consumed 18 gels and drank 3.5L of liquids of which half was with MFSN energy mix powder.
Another thing what is important and went well was having support especially when it is my family and friends. People that surround me every day and know me the best!
From point A to point B, C, D and E I knew there will be someone waiting with fresh water and gels ready to go. A person that will tell me to continue my adventure, to keep going and never give up.
I confirmed what I thought about myself, I am very stubborn and I do not stop until I’m finished even if it hurts.
Every year I am trying to be better and stronger than the year before. I research the Internet, look at maps and my local area. I follow people of similar interests and try to find things that we have in common so I can learn from them and try to be a better version of myself. I am hungry for improvement. Every day is very important. I try to tweak the little things day by day, and when little things come together they change into big achievements. They just need to be looked after.
8 years back I didn’t know I will have 2 world records. I was a simple runner that runs to lose weight and tries to stay off smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol.
Every step I take calls for perfection to stay on the right track and I absolutely enjoy the journey. Having my family right next to me is uplifting.
Being a Dynafit athlete gives a massive boost to my morale. Knowing that there is a huge team in the background designing top of the range equipment for their athletes motivates me to work harder than before. I am extremely lucky to be part of the Dynafit family! I am super thankful to be in the team!
Over the years I tried different equipment and I learned that trust is very important. I can without a doubt say that I have trust in Dynafit. The equipment that I use is top class!
I think the biggest strain, impact is put on the shoes. Shoes connect us with the ground. They keep us safe, they protect our feet and let us go very far. Shoes help us count our steps. 1, 2… 1, 2… 1, 2, 3, 4… and repeat, and repeat again. They get beaten up, frozen, wet, covered in mud, dust, shredded by sharp rocks. We put them to the test every day! I didn’t have a second thought when it came to choosing my shoes for the Great Glen Way. I needed comfort, protection and grip! The answer was Dynafit Ultra 100. These shoes are made for purpose! The Great Glen Way was a mix of terrains. The hill section was on forestry tracks, trails and grassy hillsides. Then it changed to hardened trail along the canal with occasional tarmac to run on and mud. The Ultra 100 are worth their name.
MADE FOR ULTRA. Plenty grip, lots of protection with the thick flexible sole and lots of comfort for the whole journey. My feet never felt better.
Oh and did I mention that I didn’t get a blister!?
Before the attempt I was very nervous, not about the gear, but about my body. Will it manage to keep up to break the record? I had 100% trust in the equipment as I tested it day by day during the most extreme Scottish days.
During the challenge I was very happy, I was in my element wearing comfortable, protective equipment and my body was feeling great. My confidence went up as well as my performance! Now when I sit in my living room thinking about it all I want to do it again wearing the same kit.
I wouldn’t change a thing.
It was all perfect and I can only get faster.
Shoes – Dynafit Ultra 100
Top – Dynafit Alpine long sleeve shirt
Bottoms – Dynafit Alpine 3/4 tight
Bag – Dynafit Ultra 15 + Dynafit flask belt
Jacket – Dynafit Alpine Gore-Tex
Salewa Ortlex Powertex 3L Overmitten Black
Dynafit alpine short socks
Spot Gen3 tracker
2x Higher State 500ml soft flask
Mountain Fuel: 6x Lemon & Lime Sport Jelly, 4x Apple and Cinnamon Ultra Chia Gels, 4x Orange Sport Jells, 4x Sport Jelly + with Caffeine for an extra kicks and Xtreme Energy Fuel