Wk3 – 15.4M WHW Rowardennan to Balmaha and back

I was really looking forward to running on the West Highland Way again on Saturday morning. I’d planned to run from Rowardennan to Balmaha, where I’d hopefully meet a group of runners who were running from Balmaha to Inversnaid and back. I’d run back to Rowardennan from Balmaha with them.

I’d planned to leave Glasgow around 7am, get to Rowardennan around 8am. Then run and hopefully get to Balmaha for around 10am when everyone was leaving. I’d arranged that I might meet John Kynaston and his wife Katrina (they were staying at the Beach Tree Inn with a lot of others).

It all seemed to go plan. Although I wasn’t too pleased when I was driving west along the M8 towards the Erskine Bridge and it was really windy, pouring with rain and about 5’C.

I’ve been off carbs for 2 weeks but that morning, because I was running for so long, I allowed myself to have porridge. I also took two pro plus before I left home. I don’t really take in much caffeine day to say, so when I do (gels or pro plus) I really feel it. Driving down the M8 I felt a really odd rush, the carbs (??) and caffeine rushing through my system. It felt great. 😉

I got to Rowardennan just after 8am. It was just getting light and it was a balmy 4’C. It was pouring with rain and the wind was coming off the Loch (towards me it seemed). I had worm shorts, and my long socks, but I decided I’d put an extra layer of below the knee length shorts on under my purple tempo shorts. On my top half, I had a long sleeved compression top, long sleeved top and short sleeved top on.

But when I opened the car door and got rained on I decided I’d need to wear my wind proof jacket too. It’s not waterproof I don’t think, but it’s shower proof and did the job.


Once I was ready, I sat for a bit and seriously considered pulling out of the run. The weather was horrendous, but I had a feeling that once I was out in it I’d be fine. Plus most of the route was through forrest trails where I’d probably be protected from the wind. And I was for the most part.

I text John to say that I was leaving and that if he didn’t see me it was because I’d turned back. I’d have been wimping out, but I decided it would be better safe than sorry. I decided I’d start running and if it got too tough is turn back to the car.

But it was only 7.7 miles to Balmaha. It would take me just over an hour of road running, but I needed to get my head away from the roads and remember u was in the trails. Its easier said than done.

On the roads you can tell roughly how long a mile will take and you can usually tell roughly how long a long will take. On the trails it all depends on the terrain, whether you need to stop, or slow down to go through gates, or climb up (or fly down) steep hills. I have no idea (and to be honest amn’t really concerned) about how long a mile on trails takes.

I ran the first mile and immediately I needed a pee. I stopped and did it, glad that I wasn’t in the group (of strangers) yet. 😉 The up hills were hard, but they’re something I need to get used to. I slowed my pace and walked at points. I flew down the down hills, trying to make sure my footing was steady and I wasn’t going too fast to lose control.

As I was running the sun was rising over Loch Lomond. I was running towards the sunrise and it was beautiful. Once over the first hill I got warm and after about 3 miles in I took my jacket off and stuffed it in my bag.

I took a drink from my water pack and after about 50 minutes I took my first gel. After about an hour I started to pass other runners who had presumably come from Balmaha. Just 2 or 3 people at a time. My mouth price on my water pack was starting to give way like it had before. I was still able to get water from it but I wasn’t able to do it in the easy usual way (bite and suck). It was a bit of a hassle, and I’ll need to buy a new mouth piece now.

By the time I ran up the hill before Balmaha I had lost all track of time. I knew how long I’d been running for, but didn’t know what time it was. As I climbed the hill, the wind came again. And at the top of the hill it was really windy. I was rewarded by seeing a lovely rainbow over the Loch.

I ran down the hill and recognised it was the bit coming in to Balmaha. I’d made it. I ran a short distance along the road and looked at the time. 10am. I’d made it just in time. 🙂

Photo courtesy of John Kynaston

Just then as if out of no where, I was greeted by a huge army of runners dressed in bright colours heading my way. There were about 50 of them! I saw a few faces I recognised (from West Highland Way blogs), but was looking out for John. One of the runners shouted I was going the wrong way. Funny man. 😉

I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of runners in the pack. I didn’t realise there were so many people as crazy (or crazier than??) me who liked doing this sort of stuff (in this kind of weather too) on a Saturday morning.

John was running towards the back of the pack and I caught his attention. He was a welcome sight. I’d met him once before (when I did a recce route with katrina in 2011) but didn’t actually run with him then.

So it was nice to catch up this time. He’s such an experienced trail / ultra runner and seems able to talk about any subject. We chatted about the Fling, the West Highland Way, and about swimming teaching. (We’re both part time swimming coaches). He introduced me to a few other people: the race director of the WHW race: Ian Beattie, and Sandra who I ran with for some time. We got some good chat in and it was nice to meet others.

Just before we met Sandra, I’d caught my shorts and hand on a sharp spikey bush… cut my finger and put a few holes in my shorts.  😦 My finger was bleeding and everything! :-O  Lucky for me it wasn’t too bad.

As usual, the chat helped me think less about the actual running and helped the return leg seem to go by faster. I was also learning to make (more of) an effort to walk up the hills, and run the rest. It was good to be taking the lead from the experienced ultra runners.

I was in my road shoes and had started off trying to avoid the mud, but in the end just ended up running through it. There’s no other way really. So wet and dirty feet I got. Gaitors or not, my feet and legs got dirty and wet.

On one of the downhills, without realising, I ran on from Sanrda and after a while caught back up with John who was running with two others. I introduced myself to one guy, Norry and we chatted a bit, then I realised that my end point, Rowardennan was close. 🙂

I had thought about running on, but I felt that although it maybe wasn’t as far as I’d wanted to run at this stage in my training, it was a good solid 3 hour trail run in bad weather. (I thought 4 hours would have been good for me, but that was before I knew what the weather was going to be).

I’m running long again on the West Highland Way again in about 4 weeks time (18th February), so maybe I’ll try running for 2.5-3 hours out and the same back. Maybe from Tyndrum, south then back?

It was pretty horrible even when I got back to the car

I got back to the car, dried off a bit, had a chocolate milkshake, some lucozade and some water, before stretching a bit, then leaving for home. I ate an apple en route, then as I was tiring a little I opened this little beauty.

Now remember, no chocolate (that’s right no mars bars or chocolate bars) for almost two weeks! Then I ate this little gem. Thorntons dark chocolate with coffee. BOOM! Lol. 80g of pretty potent stuff!

I checked my garmin when I went home and I’d run 15.4 miles in just under 3 hours. Garmin training effect: 5.0. I didn’t need proof to show I’d worked hard, but there it was. 🙂

I felt a bit dehydrated later on Saturday – result of not drinking enough from my knackered water pack probably.  The next day I feel ok though. I had a nap on Saturday and a good sleep overnight.

Run: 15.4M, 2:48:04, Pace: 10:55, Calories: 1,667
Ave HR: 159 (84%) , Max HR: 175 (92%), Garmin Training Effect: 5.0

Oh and I saw this belter of a rainbow on the way home… 🙂  Hello Granny x
This entry was posted in Run, West Highland Way. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Wk3 – 15.4M WHW Rowardennan to Balmaha and back

  1. robert cormack says:

    Looked like a great run, you’re spoiled for choice their though.

  2. el wendigo says:

    I like those shacky little videos! :D!

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