The Blog

Ding Ding! The Highland Fling

All of me! This John Legend song was playing at the end of The Highland Fling as I crossed the finish line and it seemed very apt. I applied “all of me” to every moment of this race.

 

Flinging Myself into Battle

The finishing times of this race do not truly reflect the closeness of the battle. I lined up on the start line with 500 other runners and among them was Chrissie Wellington (4 x World Ironman Champion). We said hello at the start but it was all nerves and fresh cold air. It was chilly so I decided to start in arm warmers edged over my hands although I knew the forecast predicted warmth and sunshine. What a privilege in Scotland!

I was pretty excited for this race as it was a pre-covid entry and I had waited two years for it. Frustratingly I got covid 3 weeks out from the start. All I could do was rest, maximise sleep, good food and be patient for the virus to work its way out. I managed two reasonable runs prior to race day and then rolled my ankle! It made me question whether all this was a sign not to race, but I chose to ignore it. I was committed.

Jon and I drove the 8hours up split over two days before arriving in Milngavie and a fantastic Airbnb run by a fellow runner Jamie Aarons.

A Fast Start – Too Fast?

The race started at 0600 Saturday 24th April. It was a fast start as you’d expect because it was a very smooth runnable trail. The only thing was I wasn’t entirely sure how long it was going to last for. We got 20 miles in and I was beginning to realise that it wasn’t sustainable for the whole 53. I didn’t look at my watch which was buried underneath my arm warmers. However, when I did I got a bit of a shock as it said 7.28 average pace over the past 20 miles.

I decided to regroup a bit and just check in with my body although ultimately I knew the reality- my legs were toast! It was going to be a case of slowing the least amount possible rather than trying to speed up. Chrissie kept pushing me as she commented it was a bit like cat and mouse.

Fuel Is Key

Constantly being chased was mentally challenging because I didn’t know if it was going to go on for the whole day however when I decided to regroup, I got my breath, and I had a good talk to myself and then pushed back on again. I ran into an aid station, filled up my prearranged gel and fuel selection and also caught Chrissie back up.

I introduced a new fuelling strategy for this race. This meant taking on 80 g of carbohydrates per hour which equated to a gel every half an hour and an energy drink. The day was quite warm and I was carrying two 600ml flasks which I consumed between aid stations. There were four aid stations. In total I consume 16 gels and about 4l of energy drink which now makes me feel quite ill but it did the job really well. The fuel I used was Tailwind, 32Gi RacePro and Maurten; and the gels I used were 32Gi coffee gels, Supernatural Fuel pouches, Maurten and Mountain Fuel jelly ‘gels’ – the mix bought from Komfuel.

Taking the Lead

In the first 20 miles I had to stop twice for the toilet but that was nothing to do with the fuel I was consuming. It was just one of those things. We then reached a technical section which lasted for about 6km after Inversnaid along the edge of Loch Lomond. On this path Chrissie suggested I go ahead of her because I was obviously quick on the technical ground and I thought this is my opportunity to push on- so I did. I never looked back and I kept pushing and pushing to the end of the race.

Chrissie was so in my head that I constantly imagined she was only 30secs behind me – I had no external feedback to tell me if this was true or not. I certainly didn’t feel comfortable, my legs felt heavy and tired, my breathing was laboured, however, I kept moving forward; I kept running.

Focus to the End

It would be nice to say that I enjoyed the beauty of the course, especially as the sun was shining. In all honesty, though, I kept on looking down. I didn’t want to roll my ankle again so I concentrated so hard and kept on pushing the pace that I didn’t look up. I was mainly running on my own after halfway so every time I went past someone it was nice to give them a bit of encouragement.

Running from the last fuel aid station was 12 miles and I counted down every mile. It was a very welcome distraction to see the last checkpoint with about 5 miles to go. It was run by Ruth Howie and she was extraordinarily enthusiastic with cheering cowbells – this certainly helped motivate me as I ran up the hill towards the finish. I had no idea where the end was because I had not run the course before. I was determined not to slow and take for granted the lead I had. It was a joy to hear the sound of the Scottish bagpipes as I began to enter the finishing straight which much to my surprise was carpeted, flagged and surrounded by smiling cheering people. What an incredible welcome!

1st lady, 8hrs 24mins, 9th overall. 53miles. 2300m

What a race! Thank you to John, the organiser, and the whole Scottish running community who get behind this event. The memories live on.

——————————————————————————————————–

Read about some of Jo’s other adventures here:
UTMB
Transrockies
Share this Article
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email
Jo Meek
Jo Meek
An early riser who likes to make the most of each and every day ❤️ Run ? Run

Was this post helpful?

Need inspiration?

Do you need motivation and wisdom from those ahead in the game? Subscribe here and receive inspiration in your inbox.