On 16th September 200 runners assembled in Kinlochleven to race the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline. The field comprised some of the best mountain runners from around the world, including Killian Journet, fresh from winning his World Skyrunning title the day before.
The field also included two Wye Valley Runners, Dan Lewis and myself (Ward Linney) who had spent a good chunk of the summer running up and down the biggest hills we could find, to prepare for what would be 21 miles of mountainous terrain, including 9000 feet of ascent and sections of moderate rock climbing all thrown into the mix.
As we stood in the start pen, slightly awed by the company, the rain lashed down and the wind howled to properly introduce us to the Scottish Highland weather. A lone piper belted out Flower of Scotland to add to the already buzzing atmosphere, the starting hooter was sounded and we were off.
The first 6 miles were relatively straight forward as they followed the large West Highland Way path and they lead us to the most difficult section of the race. Curved Ridge, a grade 3 scramble or moderate rock climb, which took us from the base of Glen Coe to the high point of the day on the summit of Buachaille Etive Mor at 1022 meters.
We then had to battle our way through the 50-60 mph winds that were whipping over the summits for a couple of miles before dropping back down to the relative shelter of the valley.
We didn’t stay low for long though as after wading through the river there was another steep climb up the 2nd mountain of the day, the 925 meter peak of Buachaille Etive Beag. This time up slippery, muddy terrain rather than rock. Dan was well ahead of me by this point and Killian had already finished!!
The next valley crossing included a feed station so the final climb of the day was well fuelled by cheese sandwiches though no less painful on my now cramping legs. The Herefordshire winter cross country league prepared us well for the final descent as it included a couple of miles along a wet, muddy and very slippery ridge before getting back onto the West Highland Way path and a fast few miles back to the finish.
Dan was the first Wye Valley Runner home in 05:34:05 and I came in at 06:38:49. We were both happy with our races and glad to be a part of an amazing international event.
To show you what we were up against, Killian Journet won overall with a time of 03:37:15. Incredible!