The Devil O Highlands Ultra

The Devil o Highlands Footrace is a 42 mile Ultramarathon that takes place on the northern part of the West Highland Way from Tyndrum to Fort William. It is scenic and has over 7,000ft of ascent.

This was the first time I’ve ever run this part of the West Highland Way, the furthest north I had been on the route was to Tyndrum whilst running the Highland Fling. I have to be honest and say that when I left Edinburgh on Friday to head to Fort William I was feeling a little apprehensive about the race.

I felt that my preparations for this event had gone well, I had taken part in the Edinburgh Marathon in May and also completed a new event called Run100 an event that saw a small group of runners run from Inverness to the Skye Bridge. The terrain on Run100 was similar to the Devil O Highlands and I find that repeatedly running on tired legs is always good preparation for an ultra. I followed up Run100 by completing two long runs in the Pentland Hills following the Pentland Skyline route which over the course of 16 miles has over 6,000ft of ascent.

After checking into our hotel we headed out for dinner and then to bed for an early night, the bus that had been organised to take runners to the start line was due to leave at 4am so I didn’t want to risk missing it.

We arrived at Tyndrum and the Green Welly was already alive with excitement and the familiar buzz of runners just keen to get started. This is the part I dislike the most, waiting to start the race.

The Start

The Start

As soon as the race began I felt a sense of relief and normally I wouldn’t listen to any music whilst running but for an unknown reason I decided that today I would listen to my music for the duration of the run.

The first 6 miles were very runable, pleasant underfoot and the majority of this was flat. The first 6 miles to Bridge of Orchy would take just 51 minutes, I arrived at the 6 mile checkpoint feeling great and excited for the rest of the course.

I made it to Glencoe (mile 18) and I was feeling very hot, I had started with my OMM jacket on but after less than a mile I had to remove it, my top was drenched partly because of sweat but also because the Scottish weather was very damp and the air was wet with mist. I was delighted to see some familiar faces at the Glencoe checkpoint, Debbie Consani, Paul Giblin and Sharon Law. It was brilliant having some of the countries top ultra runners looking after us and their checkpoint was like a well oiled machine. Debbie stuffed by pack with my drop bag items and handed me a can of coke and simply said ‘you look like you need a can of coke’ (thanks Debbie!) I asked Sharon how far it was to the devils staircase and she said around 4 miles and that this was the best part of the course coming up but she also said that it was ‘a bit cheeky’…

I made a decision not to stop until I reached the bottom of the devils staircase then I would walk up it and take on some food/liquids. I had wanted to climb the devils staircase for years and finally I was getting my chance, the gift if reaching the top…a 6 mile downhill into Kinlochleven.

At the top of the Devils Staircase

At the top of the Devils Staircase

 

Upon reaching the top of the staircase I was met by two people dressed as devils, I couldn’t work out if I was hallucinating but I decided to give them a wave and a hug as I was excited for the 6 miles down into Kinlochleven (KLL), finally some downhill!

There’s a well known phrase, be careful what you wish for and it definitely applies here, as I began my descent into KLL it became apparent that the path was not the soft, pine cone laden, muddy trail that I had hoped for but instead it was a path filled with wet, slippy rocks. I’m sure most of them had the potential to be ankle breakers and I felt like I kicked every single stone on the way down, it’s still unclear whether two of my toenails are going to survive the week after taking a beating on this section.

The third checkpoint where runners could get their drop bags was at KLL (mile 28) I had been happy to reach this checkpoint in 4hr 40mins which was 20 minutes faster that I had estimated. Unfortunately Ferelith hadn’t managed to get to the checkpoint in time to see me pass through, when she arrive I had already been and gone 10 minutes before. Up until this point I was feeling very well, I walked for roughly half a mile whilst I ate the contents of the drop bag before arriving at the bottom of a hill. Now, this is where it wen’t a bit pear shaped for me, having never run the route and being honest never having done any research on it I hadn’t factored in a big muckle hill at this point, turns out this was the biggest ascent of the day at 1,000ft in height and it completely took it out of my legs.

I lost over 14 places on this climb and it’s really given me food for thought on what areas of my running i need to improve and work on, uphill is definitely a must but not just running, simply hillwalking regularly would help me with this part of the ultra racing so that’s what I intend to do for my future races.

I found the section from KLL to Lundavra really tough, probably the hardest part for me, to give you some perspective it took me almost 3hr 30mins to run the last 14 miles, with the undulating route I simply couldn’t get into a rhythm.

After 42.5 miles and 8hrs 08mins of running I made it to Fort William and the finish line, I was aiming for 7hr 30m but as it was my first time I chose to give myself a break at the end and vow to be back next year faster and wiser and possibly wearing a triple crown. That will depend on whether I am lucky enough to get into the West Highland Way Race.

Finished!

Finished!

Thank you to all who supporter and organised and to Ferelith for coming to support me.

Congratulations to Donnie and Caroline who took first places male and female.

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Day 6: Are we nearly there yet?

Originally posted on Maggie's Run 100:

Are we nearly there yet? I feel so free and alive! Where is that bloody bridge???!!! Just some of the things we uttered on today’s final run.

After 5 days on the road we found ourselves on the home straight of our run across Scotland, well…as much as an 18 mile run can be considered a home straight!

The day started with an early rise followed by a short drive to the start point in Morvich. The opening 5 miles were along a road which thankfully had a small, narrow pavement. After the opening miles we took a sharp right and started making our way up a steep climb towards a lookout point. The hill would take our breath away but not as much as we were promised the views would that we would meet at the top. Sadly the weather had other ideas and we were met by mist…

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Day 4: Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

Originally posted on Maggie's Run 100:

This morning, we all woke up feeling a little on the achy side! After a much needed breakfast, we set out on our daily run this time leaving straight from our hotel where we finished yesterday.

A field full of cows was our first point of interest – one wandered over to us intrigued at what we were doing but soon lost interest when she realised we clearly didn’t have any food!

We then climbed a steady hill which, when you have run c. 50 miles in previous days, you could definitely feel in the legs! We powered on through and soon we were high up with incredible views of the valley below.

Carrying on through Scotland’s beautiful native woodland, we followed the path round which led us to amazing views of Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin which we were to follow for the rest of the run. The loch is…

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Day Two: Crash, Bang, Wallop!

Mark Cooper:

Follow our 100 mile running adventure across Scotland! http://Www.justgiving.com/teamrun100

Originally posted on Maggie's Run 100:

After a hearty breakfast, the team were ready to depart the hotel at 9am. Daunted about the day ahead, there was a mixture of nerves and excitement on the bus as we headed back to where we finished the day before, Maggie’s Highlands. On arrival, we were papped by various photographers and fed quality streets by our fabulous host Andrew… Fraser was delighted to discover the last strawberry one!

Eventually we set off towards the Inverness Caledonian Thistle stadium and three miles later we were there. This was our chance to see the sea so we could truly do “coast to coast” and again have various photos taken.

We then set off in the direction of Skye and towards what can only be described as a pretty massive hill! One thing that became clear was how much hill training Joanna had been doing… she literally can sprint up them un-phased…

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24hr Treadmill Run Report

Mark Cooper:

Looking back on this – no idea how I managed this!

Originally posted on www.runwithmark.com:

It is now Wednesday 3rd August, I finished my 24hr treadmill run on Friday 29th July at 6pm.

I have mixed emotions about the event, as usual with ultra runs I found it to be….

Very hard, not that hard, mentally taxing, amazing, frustrating and inspiring – all at the same time.

Unless you have run ultras before it is hard to explain what goes through your head during a run of this distance.

I arrived at the Corinthinan Club on Wednesday morning for a photo call with Miss Scotland, we had a laugh with the treadmill and some jelly (Wobbly Williams being the charity) but at the back of my mind I knew what was about to happen, I knew the range of emotions I was about to go through and I felt ready.

My DNF at the West Highland Way race had really rocked my confidence, it had never happened…

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Interview with Natural Hero

Mark Cooper

Name: Mark Cooper

Hometown: Edinburgh

Sports: Running, cycling, rowing, anything outdoors really.

Achievements:

To me, my biggest achievement has to be completing my first ever 10k race back in 2007, I had just given up a 20 a day smoking habit and this really proved to me that I could achieve things with the right attitude. Despite this I am probably best known for other things. Such as, running 129.2 miles in 24 hours on a treadmill in July 2011 and running 50 marathons in 56 days from Amsterdam to Barcelona.

Cycling Lands End to John O Groats in 2009 – 11 days 1,000 miles. Setting a course record for running Hadrian’s Wall – July 2010 100 miles in 16 hours 59 minutes.

I also took part in a team event this year called the Trip to Remember where we cycled from Dublin to Arklow, rowed the Irish sea, which took 19 hours and then hiked 20 miles to the top of Snowdon all within 33 hours, non-stop.

Tips for the top:

If you want to run then you have to really learn to love it, it has to become part of your life. Otherwise it will be a real struggle and you will probably end up giving in. Remember to keep sight of why you started and enjoy if for what it is – being outdoors and going to new places. It is really important not too concerned with what other people are doing in a race, just remain focussed on your own training. Also take time to run without your watch, without a goal, just run for the love of it (not that easy in the beginning when you feel like your hearts is going to burst).

Where it hurts:

Shin splints and knees strains are pretty common for the runner, knee injuries and metatarsal tares and feet problems. The key is to build up your training slowly, don’t push yourself too fast. If I had a really serious injury I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t run. Really thinking about your posture and getting the right footwear can help to prevent the majority of injuries. I never followed any of the rules to running when I started, I went from running 30 miles a week to over 100 the week after, silly looking back but I survived and fortunately I have never had an injury that has stopped me from training.

Greatest thing about the great outdoors:

There are two main things that I love about running. The first is meeting new people at races and the opportunities to talk with people that I wouldn’t meet any other way. The second is that you miss so much if you’re in a car or even on a bike. When you’re running you get to see things differently, from a different angle. You can go into the woods or down a track and then your back to basics. It’s me, my running shoes and the trail – nothing else.

Who are your sporting heroes:

Sporting hero, I would have to say Kelly Holmes, she is a tough and amazing woman. Watching her win double gold was a moment I still remember and for a young person like I was then to see that is very inspiring. Mo Farah is also up there, watching him win double gold in London was incredible. Again we can only hope that people like Mo can inspire a young generation to get active and perhaps create the future Olympians but more than that just get the youth more into sport in general.

Outside of sport it would have to be my Dad – A lot of questions were asked of him when my Mother passed away and he answered every single one of them perfectly, raising me and my Brother to be polite, caring and ambitious.

How I use Natural Heroes:

I have used the ginger rub for recovery after an run on the West Highland Way and found it to be soothing with a nice warming sensation. Would recommend it over products like deep heat as these only irritate the skin to produce heat.

Website: http://www.runwithmark.com
Twitter: @runwithmark

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So you want to run to work?

Finding the time to exercise when you have a busy lifestyle can be challenging, one of the best ways to do this is to run to work. For two years I never took a bus to or from work, while at first this seems impossible after a couple of weeks and once you’ve created your routine, you will wonder why you ever took the bus.

My distance from work was 3.7 miles, so not terribly far. I used to run to work and then on the run home I’d add in extra miles to make my daily distance a minimum of 7.4 miles.

The best news is, if you live in a traffic congested city like Edinburgh, beating the bus home is a regular occurrence and actually a good challenge to aim for. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing that bus pull out and then seeing it pull in once you get home and have your feet up.

—It’s not difficult to do this but you do have to be organised—

The only thing that could possibly stop your dream of running to work would be if there are no shower facilities at your office/shop. Unless you want to walk around smelling like a yeti (and I did on occasions when the shower was broken) then you should always have a wash when arriving at work! Without fail!

You’ll also need to make sure you have the right amount of working clothes in the office so that you don’t get caught short, then there’s the dreaded realisation that you don’t have enough underpants and have to either go commando or wear those post run pants (also not good from experience)

There is a great website which is all about commuting to work on foot, click HERE to see some of it’s useful tips and advice on breakfast/kit and weight loss from running to work.

Here is my list of what you’ll need to think about before you start running to work…

1. Shower facilities at work or in a nearby gym – You definitely need these unless you work alone because if you don’t you might find yourself alone very quickly.

2. Get your kit organised at the start of the week, I used to take the bus to work on a Monday and take all my work clothes for the week in with me and then I only had to run to work and get dressed when I arrived. On a Friday at 5pm, i’d take it all back home again. This sounds like an almighty chore but once you get into a routine you’ll be packing your things in less than 10 minutes.

3. Kit you’ll need

Proper running shoes (obviously)

Running backpack or bum back for your phone/keys/wallet. Try and carry as little as possible unless you are used to running with weight on your back. I run with an OMM Ultra 15 bag and a Nathan waist pouch with water bottle holder.

Leggings and shorts for cold/hot seasons weather.

Running top that wicks sweat away from your body .

Running socks – I recommend Injinji toe socks.

Waterproof Jacket – I wear a Montane lightweight jacket that’s great in all weathers/seasons.

And for your recovery I’d recommend the amazing Natural Hero, hot ginger rub just DO NOT touch your eyes afterwards! It’s burns.

Here are some links to other interesting articles on running to work…GET OUT THERE!

Run to work

Running to work

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