Following a 12 year absence of Croft Ambrey sky blue from ‘The Ben race’ I set out on Friday morning for Fort William. As I stood at a checkout in Morrisons in Fort William on Friday night paying for my running essentials (namely alcohol and trifle!) the checkout operator enquired, “Are you running the wee Ben tomorrow?” I can only assume that I must look like a runner, I suppose it’s a start!
My accommodation for my stay was at Helen Karlsson’s (one time Croft member) house in the grounds of the Outward Bound Trust’s Loch Eil site. Following a healthy meal of pasta bake (think she was trying to turn me into a healthy eater!) followed by trifle and alcohol (my contribution), I was introduced to one of Helen’s colleagues, Laura who was also running ‘The Ben’ and gave me the benefit of some local knowledge.
- If in doubt follow a Lochaber AC runner. The next day I was to find that this theory was fine as long as you could keep up with these fearless mountain goats in white and blue running vests!
- On the descent “Just dig your heels in and ride the scree” Simple then ?!
The forecast for Saturday was not good, even the Lochaber AC mountain goats had their concerns and there were suggestions it may be just a half Ben this year.
The morning was quite favourable, dry but with a breeze, low cloud and SOME blue sky! As the day wore on the weather turned and although it was dry for the start of the race at 1pm from Fort William FC’s Claggan park the wind really started to pickup and the rain started to set in. By the time I reached the summit after 1hr 36mins (the winner, Finley Wild had crossed the line 5 miles away 6 minutes ago!!) the wind was strong enough give you a headache unless you’d got a hood up to protect yourself and the rain was not helping matters. My only thought was I want to get off this mountain as fast as possible! There were still a number of runners in just vests. Perhaps demonstrating the difference between us soft lowlander and the hardy upland types that excel and even appear to thrive in this sought of terrain.
During the descent I tried my best to follow Laura’s advice, but as she’d also mentioned a lot of the scree had been eroded over the years and so this in part is why the record for men and for women have both remained unbeaten since 1984.
Due to the rain and wind the descent was not an easy one. As many club members will know I’m not the best at staying on my feet while descending and this race was certainly no exception! This said I finished strongly, especially along the tarmac section at the end of the race, picking off several runners. This was in part due to the clock ticking ever closer to 2 hours 30 minutes, not that I’d set myself a goal, other than to survive in one piece but as the race progressed it appear this would be an achievable, but challenging goal. My lack of training for and taking part in these short events also meant that it was more than hour into the event until I really got into my stride, not that I’d have gone and done a second lap now I was warmed up!
After crossing the finish line I walked back up towards ‘The Ben’, where I found my fan club for the weekend had retired to the Ben Nevis inn. I felt this was a very sensible idea and so started my regime of refuelling and hydrating!
Following a relaxing afternoon we headed into Fort William for the prize giving ceremony. This was followed by a tour of some the drinking holes of Fort William by some of the members of Lochaber AC, to be continued/resumed soon. Purely of course for the altruistic good of inter club relations!
1st Finley Wild 1hr 29mins 56secs; 1st female 1hr 59mins 23secs
I finished 265th in 2hrs 29mins 33secs.
600 people entered the race, 457 completed the event (number of starters unknown), 450 within the required time limit of 3hrs and 15mins.