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The 2014 West Highland Way race

21/06/2014

Jacob Tangey and Marian McPhail, joined the field of 193 starters taking part in this year's race along the 95 mile length of the West Highland Way...

A first time WHW runner with a rookie crew - what could possibly go wrong?.. not very much as it turned out!

Jacob had trained well and managed to stay pretty much injury free since his big preparatory run, the 53 mile Highland Fling in April, and kit, fluids and food were well set out, along with a schedule for each checkpoint. In his support crew with partner Zoe Kemp, Seb Pflanz found it decidedly strange, and rather daunting, to be on the other side of a long ultra, having run several but never having done the road support for one before.

Marian, supported by Sandy Shankland, Les Hill and Margaret Gray ran the race before in 2004 and at the 1am start line in Milngavie she was very nervous about the sheer enormity of the challenge but was determined to do her best.

As the dawn broke over Loch Lomond both runners eased themselves into the race with Jacob reaching Balmaha at 4am and Marian just over an hour later and on the long stretch up the eastern side of the loch Jacob nearly caught out his crew by being 20 minutes ahead of schedule .  

A firm instruction not to run too fast was completely ignored, and Zoe and Seb continued to hone their Formula 1 style pitstop technique, keeping stoppage times to an absolute minimum and as a result Jacob overtook several runners at checkpoints.  By this time he was in 16th place and neck and neck with the leading woman (and eventual female winner) Fiona Ross.

By the Glencoe Ski Centre Jacob had further increased his pace, and at the bottom of the Devil's staircase, Zoe and Seb gave up on trying to hold him back.

By Kinlochleven Jacob was even further up on his schedule, having set the third fastest pace of any runner in the field and a finish around 18 hours looked feasible.

After another very fast servicing Jacob was in 12th place, 14 minutes behind the three runners ahead of him, who were running together. Meeting him with 7 miles to go, Seb and Zoe knew something pretty special was unfolding, and despite being interrupted by a phone call on his gallop down from Nevis Forest Jacob finished in a fantastic 17 hrs 45 min, in 12th place.  Of special note are his later splits - when other runners were beginning to slow down Jacob progressively picked up speed, posting the third fastest time between Glencoe and Kinlochleven, and fourth fastest between Kinlochleven and Fort William.

Jacob's performance was set against the strongest ever male field in this race where 2013 winner Paul Giblin utterly demolished his own record taking 47 minutes off his time and finishing in 14 hrs 20 min.  

Marian grew in confidence as the race went on, helped by the ideal conditions of an overcast sky and temperatures that were not too warm. This may have aided the runners but it was optimum conditions for the midgies which were out in force.

By the top of Loch Lomond Marian was in 130th position in under 10 hours and used her experience and pace judgement to help her through the middle section of the race. In the second half Marian made up over 20 positions as she gritted her teeth in the face of such a daunting challenge to finish in just over 27 hours. At the award ceremony for the race at Fort William, not only did Marian win the prize as the first female over 60 years old in the race but learned that she was the oldest woman ever to complete the 95 mile challenge in the three decades of the race.

 

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