After doing the Jura Fell race in June this was only my second race of the year, so much anticipated.
Saturday was a beautiful sunny day and we enjoyed a relaxed time walking a small section of the beautiful Great Glen Way near Neptune’s staircase. (Click on this link for details of all the Independent Hostels on the Great Glen Way). I entered the marathon partly to do another section of the West Highland Way, having done and enjoyed the first 53 miles last year when I did the Highland Fling from Milngavie to Tyndrum. (Click here for all the independent hostels on the West Highland Way). We were to run the last section, from the Devil’s staircase to Glen Nevis, via Kinlochleven. This time just 26.2 miles but apparently 1500 m of ascent.
In the late afternoon Patrick and I settled into the Glencoe Independent Hostel, run by Keith and Davina, where we enjoyed a cuppa. It’s an old building with plenty of different communal spaces and accommodation options which include caravans and cabins. We had a short but beautiful stroll to the well positioned Claggaig Inn for dinner with friends and their 7 year old triplets which was fun. We walked back to the hostel for a relaxing chat with young travellers from France and Switzerland in the cosy sitting room complete with a log fire for cooler weather. There’s a really impressive file with lots of information about local attractions including walks and wet weather activities that Davina and Keith (also a mountain tour guide) have painstakingly put together. There’s enough information to keep anyone busy for a couple of weeks! The spacious bunk room had great little individual charging points and reading lights which I’d admired and enjoyed before at Callander Hostel and which every hostel must surely be working towards with our increasing dependence on technology and its recharging needs. Slept brilliantly and never heard the youngsters creep in later that evening. It was our turn to creep out relatively early on Sunday morning……
After breakfast we walked to the start of the race at the Red Squirrel Campsite just 300m from the hostel. Coffee, chocolate and other delicacies awaited us for a second breakfast. I stocked up whilst we were entertained by a piper and lined up according to our ability. The triplets, Aowyn, Indira and Sylva enjoyed meeting legend fell runner Angela Mudge before cheering Mum Lizzie, Patrick and me off at the start. Soon we were off and running up the Pass of Glencoe, along a lovely path leading to checkpoint 1 and cheers and cuddles from our little support team. Next the boggy bit where I followed Lizzie who made a great track through the bog, and soon we were onto the well made WHW path and up the Devil’s staircase. Beautiful views down into Loch Leven and before too long we were descending into Kinlochleven and checkpoint 2. Here I had more cheers and cuddles from the girls who were enjoying a climb with their Dad, Philip, at the Ice Factor. Through Kinlochleven we had another ascent before a long steady runable section. A well positioned feed station at 17 miles was appreciated and I managed to latch onto the group in front by virtue of a short stop. On this section there were lots of puddles and streams which I enjoyed running through to cool my feet down. At 20 miles we had the last fed station complete with port and cheese (I declined, though Patrick had accepted earlier) and it was a steady undulating run through the forest before a steep couple of miles down to the finish. Lots of cheering and a welcome sit down before a bus took us back to Glencoe.
We cooked pizza and relaxed, enjoying a long chat with Catherine and her friends Becky, Kyle and Amanda, in the comfortable sitting room. They were over from the East coast and planning on a Munro collecting day with a local guide the next day. Catherine is on her second round despite having been seriously ill a couple of years ago, and of an age when many people have retired from work, and never even started climbing Munros. She was the driving force of the little group who travel frequently to bag their summits, in between working as carers for special needs adults. One of the things I enjoy most about staying in hostels is that you meet such a wide variety of people, and it really takes you out of your own cosy little social circle and gets you chatting with such diverse individuals. Everyone is generally so thoughtful about others too, and I noticed that Catherine and her group had put away everyone’s washing up the next morning before we’d got up.
We left on Monday morning having recharged our batteries after the marathon and a great couple of sleeps at the hostel, marvelling at the beautiful mountains in the area and inwardly marking the area and the hostel for a return visit next year when we’ll be living just a couple of hours away instead of 8! We’ve just sold our home in Hertfordshire and will be moving to Scotland for more adventures in the mountains and on the sea. Retirement offers many benefits. Whilst we still can we will be enjoying the mountains and visiting Scottish hostels in particular.
Meanwhile I’ll be spending a few months travelling overseas and testing some hostels in New Zealand before the “retirement” in Scotland starts properly!