On December 31st whilst wishing me a happy new year I received a txt from my good friend Andy Sommerville saying he had a little challenge to put to me…
February 25th 2013
5:45am my alarm was swiftly silenced. I had no idea where I was and why my alarm was going off…And then I remembered exactly where I was and exactly what I was getting up so early for. Most mornings I wake up and think ‘I can’t be bothered to run to work today’ but after 5 or 10 minutes I’m wide awake and ready to go, this morning was exactly the same.
On a cold and dark Monday morning I woke on the Island of Arran on the west coast of Scotland ready to run around 35 miles from the south to the north of the Island, including a summit of the highest point of the Island Goat Fell (874 m). Andy appeared a few minutes later buzzing with excitement as he had been since we first caught sight of the Island the previous day. We threw cups of tea and coffee down our necks and even though still full from the previous days carb loading managed to stuff yet more calories into our body and headed to the start line.
It was a cold morning around 0c and it took a mile or so for me to loosen and warm up. After about 2 miles I was really struggling, I think this was a combination of the amount of food still in my stomach and maybe the thought of what lay ahead. We never spoke much for the first few miles just got these early miles done and done quickly. We knew this would be the quickest part of the day and gave us a good chance to knock off some early miles from the 35 that lay ahead. If I’m honest these were some of the worst miles I have run and I really started to doubt I could actually keep going at one stage, but there was no way after only 3 miles I was going to stop. But a few minutes later the chat started and as always the banter gave me a bit of a boost. I had also warmed up and the food started to settle as had I into my stride so now we were off and running (sorry)
We managed without much fuss to complete a somewhat hilly 10 miles and we both felt good. By now we had come off the hills and onto the flat coastal roads heading north towards Goat Fell and the start of what we had mapped out as the second main section of the run.
Arriving at the start of the trail up Goat Fell we had run about 18 miles or so and both confirmed to each other we were in good shape and feeling good. We ran as far as we could until it got to steep for it to be worth running knowing how far we had to go, so we used this section as a chance to got plenty food on and top up our water in a fast flowing and freezing stream. By now running was out the window as the miles previous to the assent had caught up and the incline increased. We slowly made our way up the now snowy and slippery section towards to summit adding extra layers for the impending wind chill that was to come. We arrived at the summit as the clouds cleared and were treated to some spectacular views. A few quick snaps and we made our way down to shelter from the icy wind and take on more food for the next section down.
By the time we had got to the bottom of Goat Fell we had managed to get running again and we both felt good. The next section was a few miles along the coast to the final 10-13 miles around the north-east coast that would swing round to Lochranza Castle and the end of our adventure. What we didn’t know and what we now know is that this section even though mapped out a walking section didn’t really have a path for the majority of it. In the place of a path was a trail reminiscent of something you will find on the West Highland Way, mainly filled with boggy ground and large boulders. With no clear path we scrambled our way along, up, under and over these boulders and the language started to become very colorful and amusing.
By now we had been in the shade for some time and on the go for around 7 hours. We had been running where possibly a few hundred meters here and there but had mainly been walking and climbing over rocks. This had caused our muscles to cool down and start to seize up making running very sore and in Andy’s case almost impossible at stages, on top of that it seemed a constant battle to not throw up due to what I think was a combination of probably dehydration and tiredness.
Slowly but surely and after 4 corners we were convinced were the corners that would take us towards Lochranza castle we came to a left turn at the end of a muddy flat section that revealed the castle ruins and the end of our adventure. It was a lovely sunny evening and after over 8 hours on the move we finally celebrated our achievement with a macho embrace and went for a cheese and ham toastie.