The Women’s and Men’s top three at Fort William (photo by Adrian Stott)
Report by Adrian Stott
In another welcome return to what is increasing normality, the West Highland Way Race returned after a three-year absence at the weekend to stage the 36th edition of Scotland’s longest running ultra race.
A total of 196 runners set off from Milngavie with the aim of completing the long distance trail in the time limit of 35 hours and the race was to deliver second victories for Rowan Boswood (Carnethy) and Lynne Allen (Kirkintilloch Olympians).
Rob Payne (Caistor) was the early leader in the men’s race with Boswood. While Rowan maintained his good pace up Loch Lomondside, Payne experienced muscle issues and dropped back to allow Robbie Dunlop (Dundee Road Runners) and Billy Gibson (Dundee Hawks ) to progress to the top three.
Despite worsening and challenging conditions with strong headwinds over the exposed moorland sections, and strong driving rain at times, Boswood kept up a metronomic pace and reached Fort William in 15:09:49.
He was thus five minutes quicker than his 2019 victory and joins a small illustrious group of runners with multiple victories.
Dunlop and Gibson both running their first WHW races paced things well to come home in 16:09:56 and 16:39:09 respectively
The women’s race was a more exciting and closer affair. Saki Nakamura (Westerlands) led at the first checkpoint at Balmaha, closely followed by Scottish 100k international Allison McGill (Fife).
McGill then led all the way up Loch Lomondside to hold a four-minute lead over Nakamura at Beinglass the 40 mile point. Meanwhile Allen and Fifer Jacqui MacIntyre were still in touch, although ten to 15 minutes behind.
In the increasingly cold and wet conditions, McGill slowed allowing Nakamura to take the lead which she maintained up to the Glencoe checkpoint at 70 miles.
Over the very exposed Devils Staircase leg, Allen came through to take the lead and held a three minute lead at Kinlochleven. Nakamura and Allen left the last Checkpoint at Lundavra six miles from Fort William, within seconds of each other.
Allen, the 2017 winner and Scottish 100k international, proved the stronger on the last section to reach the finish in 18:46:26, a two-minute PB with Nakamura, in her first WHW race, coming home in second with 18:59:42.
Macintyre, also in her first WHW an a really strong second half to claim third in 19:22:52 while early leader McGill rallied on the last section to just dip under the 20 hour barrier in fourth with 19:58:42.
Like Boswood, Allen also joins a small group of ‘double winners’ but has a little way to go to match a remarkable run of seven victories from starts by Kate Jenkins between 1999 and 2011.
In total of the 196 starters 155 runners had their own battle with the course and the at times brutal conditions to finish in the time limit to claim their coveted West Highland Way Goblets.
Edinburgh’s Audrey Reddington showed huge resilience to be the last runner home in 33:37:24.
Special mention to Fiona Rennie, Carnegie Harriers, and Neil MacRitchie who set a new record of 16 race finishes.
Big thank you to all the competitors and their support teams as well as race director Ian Beattie and all the volunteers who made this marvellous event return in fine style.