At 1 am on Saturday 24 June, four Dunoon Hill Runners lined up at the start of the prestigious West Highland Way Race. Over a course distance of 95 miles, competitors would spend up to a day and 2 nights running between Milngavie and Fort William, a formidable prospect for even the most experienced of ultra runners.
Always a highlight in the club calendar, a full crew of supporters was in attendance, either providing assistance at checkpoints or pacing runners from Auchtertyre onwards, as permitted by race rules.
Fresh off of his Kintyre Way Ultra race win, Michael Tweedley set a fast pace from the outset, which saw him holding a place in the top 5 leaders for some time. Club hopes were dashed, however, when Michael succumbed to injury and withdrew from the race after over 60 miles of solid running. Remaining on the course were Lisa Marshall, Ricky Reid and David Wilson. This was Lisa’s first time attempting the full course, having run over half of it in the Highland Fling race earlier in the year. It was unfinished business for Ricky, having had to withdraw mid-race in 2016, and David was returning with an eye on improving his completion time from the previous year.
With memories of the sun-baked, midge-infested 2016 race, very different conditions faced competitors and supporters alike this year as bad weather closed in during the later hours of Saturday. Full waterproof attire and a tough mental attitude were needed to cover the final sections in the eary hours of Sunday morning.
David was the first club runner to complete the distance, in a time of 25 hours and 45 minutes, successfully achieving his goal by taking over two and a half hours off of his previous year’s time. Proving that persistence pays off, Ricky was not far behind at 26 hours and 17 minutes. It was an emotional finish for Lisa as she reached the course end in 30 hours and 19 minutes, a tremendous effort of stamina despite a niggling injury. All finishers were presented with the much coveted West Highland Way Race goblet in recognition of their achievement.
Despite some disappointment at this race for Michael, it was some consolation for the club to find extensive coverage of his winning performance in the Kintyre Way Ultra race on the BBC’s “Adventure Show”, aired on 27 June. With the Dunoon Hill Runners vest on prominent display, it provided excellent publicity for the club and for the area.