by Elspeth Luke
Run the Sights Glasgow
I recently completed the inaugural Glencoe Ultra marathon, finishing in 2nd place overall. Here are a few words about my experience running 45 miles through some wonderfully remote glens of Scotland.
This race was a spectacular mixture of ups and downs, trails and bogs as well as crags and river crossings. Unlike many of the current races in Scotland which follow established 'ways', meaning they're well trodden, easy to follow and in good condition, the Glencoe Ultra doesn't! Although it was always on paths, these paths are of a mixed quality, which in places added a fun navigational element to the race, despite the way marking signs.
We were lucky to have a beautiful and sunny day with very little wind which made the scenery all the more spectacular.
The race starts at the Glencoe Mountain Resort and begins by following the West Highland Way. It turns off after 4 miles to take in one of Scotland's most iconic munros; Buachaille Etive Mor. Having seen a lot of rain in the preceding days the rocky path was a little treacherous and towards the top, I slipped. There was an awful moment where I wondered if I was going to lose control entirely, but luckily I managed to straddle a rock and stop myself falling downwards over the rocks. I felt a bit sobered after that and was consequently very cautious on the descent.
The hill path eventually joins up with the Laraig Gartain and from here it's a fun trail down to the road that leads to Loch Etive. However, the Loch side is a totally different story. It's a classic example of how misleading OS maps can be. This path depicted with a single dashed line, like the Lariag Garten path, but the usability is very different. The Loch Etive path was not easy to follow and where it was visible it was very boggy, in places it looked more like a stream than a path. The river crossings didn't seem much wetter! However, it was great to be there; it's wonderfully remote and rugged and on such a beautiful day, I felt really lucky to be seeing the views. I was nonetheless delighted to see the land rover track after almost 10 miles of slipping and sliding and tripping!
Most of the rest of the route was straightforward, and I was so pleased with how strong I felt mentally and physically. I continued to enjoy the challenge, despite feeling tired. It was great to see Jamie Aarons along the way and she kept me company for a while before leaving me to run up a Munro!
There was a final sting in the tail to the route which slightly spoilt the journey for me. The last section of the ultra follows the West Highland Way from Victoria Bridge, almost back to the Mountain Resort where the race ends. Instead of sticking with the path the race then cut off up the hill towards the top of the chairlift. This was an awful plan as it was more swamp like than anything I'd seen on the route so far. It was completely un-runnable and very frustrating as it didn't offer any more views or interest to the race. Still, I suppose it was nice to experience a different bit of the hill side rather than the all too familiar West Highland Way!
It's always a treat to get out and see new bits of Scotland and find routes to connect more familiar areas; this was no exception and I'm so glad to have explored this area.
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