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The West Highland Way Race

20/06/2015

The most difficult challenge on the Scottish running calendar, the 95 mile West Highland Way race, took place over the weekend of 20th/21st June. Starting from Milngavie near Glasgow to Fort William, the event attracted a bumper international field of 187 and amongst them was one of the most experienced members of Dumfries Running Club, Marian McPhail, who had been training for nearly a year for this race...

Safety of competitors is at a premium in such a challenge and Marian had the high quality back up team of Les Hill, Sue Jeffrey, Margaret Gray and Dawn McDonald to feed, support, offer encouragement and go for a weekend without sleep all to ensure that Marian made it to the finish line in one piece. Competitors are even weighed at the start and once on route to ensure they are not putting themselves through too much stress and it is not unknown for some competitors to be withdrawn on medical grounds by the organisers.  

This was to be Marian’s third West Highland way and she was joined on the start line by Alli Wilson of Dalbeattie on her first attempt at such a lengthy race, supported by Sebastian Pflanz. As well as this, as Dumfries Running Club has become recognised for its ultra-racing experience, both Susan Gallagher and Ian Anderson were on the course as back up crew for other competitors.

After a steady run from the 1am start to the first check point at Balmaha in just over 4 hours Marian used her experience to start steadily, conserve energy and build for the challenges ahead. Reaching the north of Loch Lomond by 11.15am Marian steadily overtook runners to reach the halfway check point at Auchtertyre Farm just after 1.30pm. Sue and Margaret met Marian at this point to run with her and help her over the difficult second part of the race. Along with Dawn who joined them at Bridge of Orchy Marian showed her legendary pace judgement by grinding out the miles and gradually overtaking competitors as she went.

Climbing over the Devils staircase towards Kinlochleven in the gathering gloom Marian continued to power on in the dark and pushed on, supported by her team of helpers and reached the finishing line at Fort William just over 5am to finish in 28hours and 1 minute in 102nd place in a time that gained her the first over 60’s woman prize for the second year in a row. This means that Marian has completed this iconic challenge three times and has a finisher’s goblet for each of her grandchildren!

On her debut run, Alli Wilson ran carefully and absorbed the advice from Seb Planz and others in her back up team to finish in 24hours 14 in a race where everyone who completed the challenge had every reason to feel very proud of themselves.

Stephen Mohan.

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