So we did it. It seems like an eternity ago when we all agreed to Stuart’s plan of dribbling a football 300 miles from the Scottish mainland’s most Northerly point to our national stadium in time for kick off of the World Cup qualifiers, but from that point it’s been a pretty epic journey. We trained hard in preparation but we also made every effort to keep laughing and that was an ethos we were desperate to maintain throughout the run. Resounding advice on the long journey up was that in order to complete this challenge it was essential that we enjoy it….
Well, there were undoubtedly some tough times that included the frustration of the Dounreay rush hour on day 1 and the overwhelming feeling of dread during day 2 when team mates were picking up injuries and morale took a bit of a dent so early into the event.
There was also the long monotonous canal run on day 6 that seemed to last an eternity, and Mark’s unplanned visit to hospital on day 7. Day 8 threw up the worst weather of the trip where three of us battled the west highland way in a continual down pour and strong head winds, meaning that despite several gear changes and extended breaks in attempt to warm up; we were always wet and cold, and usually in the middle of nowhere with no option of shelter. In contrast Mark may have been dry and warm but had to endure the frustration of being part of the support when all he wanted was to run.
And then there was day 9, touted as one of the easy days but in reality the previous days had taken their toll and be it an ankle, a knee, a shin, or all three, we were all suffering and running through pain that in a normal environment would justify a visit to a medical professional and a week in front of the TV, an option that we didn’t really have.
Sure there were some pretty tough times but we soon realized these frustrations and pains were quickly replaced with a reason to keep going. Be it a nice old lady with a big yellow digger offering us an array of treats such as water, home bakes, eggs, a shower and a donation, or whether it was a quick coffee with a local madman, or a moral boosting meal in a bar full of crazy (and generous) but crazy, locals.
I suppose from random acts of kindness be it from strangers offering us a bed for the night or something to eat, or whether it was planned from people we knew such as family & friends making the effort to deliver us some home bakes, give us a warm bed, wash our kit, or even arrange some sports therapy, one of the main factors that we enjoyed most about the run was the support we received along the way.
I mean how often in life are you running roadside in the pouring rain when a car pulls over and offers you a bed in a church hall for the night? Or a couple you’ve never met greet you in a very wet car park and offer you a fantastic array of iced cakes and hot drinks? These acts of kindness not only gave us a massive boost on tough days but they’re something that will stay with us for a long time!
Then of course there was the scenery, the beaches and the remoteness of Caithness & Sutherland, an ice bath in river Forss with salmon jumping around us, the woodland trail above Loch Ness, and the numerous vantage points along the west highland way. I suppose even the long monotonous run down the Great Glen had the bonus of reaching the clear water of Loch Lochy with its surrounding mountains, Nevis views, and almost eerie fairy forest.
So yes, we enjoyed it. Even on day 9 when we were all pushing ourselves through pain barriers that we’d never experienced before and had to endure long lonely stages without any public support we took a lot of motivation from having Mark ignoring medical advice and back running with us, and as a team we made every effort to keep our morale high by laughing, and over our 10 day adventure we laughed a lot.
Overall we owe a lot of thanks to our two support drivers Ronnie Maloney and Stephen Milne for the taking time out to share the adventure with us and also to TACC for the support and encouragement that we received throughout the event and hope that the exposure we generated inspires others to get involved with this fantastic charity and further the amazing work that TACC are already doing!