A Marathon on the West Highland Way

The full route I ran.

I had been in training for running for several weeks, and it was about time I did a proper adventure run. James and I had gone to Scotland for a short break, a perfect setting.

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t quite as perfect. It had already been raining for over a day with no signs of stopping when I wanted to head out. Undeterred, I gathered my kit in the morning and put on my rain jacket. As I started at the campsite, I anticipated to get wet feet eventually. Little did I know. I had run no 50 metres when a car drove through a puddle on the road and completely drenched my feet.

After that, I very soon took a left turn and hit a small forest trail leading upwards into the woods, before I hit a bigger track. For about 5-6km, all I did was zig-zagging upwards. This was a tough start and I have to admit that I walked several times.

After several km of ascent, the views were amazing.

Once I had reached the highest point of this track, I branched off again onto a small path. It was winding through the highlands, with lots of short ascents and descents and river crossings. After the endless ascent before, this was a nice change for my legs and I was rolling. After running along a hill side for a little while, I got a beautiful view of a loch in the highlands. WIth the rain getting less and less, I actually took a few moments to take in the view before moving on.

Soon after, the small path ended and the West Highland Way continued on an old military road. From now on, running became increasingly difficult. The track had been patched up with lots of loose rocks and stones, bearing a risk of twisting an ankle. From the rain, lots of huge puddles and streams had formed. In the beginning, I tried to tiptoe around and through those puddles, but both my feet were soaked eventually. Along the way, I now started to meet more and more backpackers walking to Fort William.

The old military road was covered in puddles and my feet were soon soaked.

Focussing hard on the path, I did not take the views in as much as I had hoped, but I still saw some spectacular views of Scottish Munros, beautiful highland valleys, waterfalls and lochs. Soon after I had passed the ruins of some old cottages, I decided to turn around.

The rain started to set in again heavier than before, the wind was now blowing straight into my face on an exposed track and I started getting quite cold. I put on my thin gloves, but they were soaked and just as old in no time. Nevertheless, the views were amazing. I really struggled to make it through the difficult terrain and was so glad when the military road came to an end and I hit the small and more protected trail again.

Passing waterfalls like this made all the wet and cold worth it. Side note: The path actually led through the waterfall.

Getting out of the wind, I felt strong again and picked up the pace a little, swiftly moving up and down the hills. Or at least it felt like that. However, the hardest part was yet to come, as it turned out. Zig-zagging down the 5 or 6km along the forest track was much harder than expected. With my legs already tired and aching, it wasn’t the easy descent I had hoped for. I was painfully slow.

Reaching flat ground again was a relief. Finally, I made it back to the campsite, and actually managed to complete the distance of a full marathon. I certainly wasn’t fast, but I made it. I have to admit, that makes me kinda proud.

When I finally stopped running, my legs ached so much and I was wet and cold. The hot shower and dry clothes followed by a celebratory beer were just the treat I needed, before finishing off the day with a pub dinner. Although I may have felt miserable at times, this day was so much fun and I can’t wait to go on many more running adventures!

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