Hadn’t expected to be heading down the road this weekend, but Ian Beattie’s midweek proposal for a Friday night run from Milngavie to Balmaha was just what I needed three weeks before the West Highland Way Race (did the same with John Kynaston, Joe Sheridan and others at the same stage in 2007) so I arranged to stay Friday and Saturday nights with my parents in Cardross, pencilled in a hill run for the return journey on Sunday and set off after school on Friday.
Can’t remember exactly who turned up for this run in 2007, but the 2010 team comprised Ian, Phil Tipping, Stan Bland, Richie Cunningham and me, with us meeting at Balmaha at 10:00pm for Stan to drive us to Milngavie and me lined up to take Stan back for his car after the run. But here I made a big mistake, leaving my van keys in Stan’s car for safety (what was I thinking of?) and coming to with a loud expletive two miles into the run! At which point a quick discussion (to go back for them or not?) produced the consensus that it was probably better just to carry on and get Ian and Richie to toss a coin for the dubious honour of returning Stan and me to Milngavie later with the thrilling task of bringing me back to Balmaha for the van still negotiable. And that did indeed seem like the most sensible plan at the time, although things naturally took on a different perspective later to leave me thinking I shouldn’t have been so quick to decline Richie’s alternative offer to accompany me back to Milngavie by foot for a ‘fartlek session’ to catch the others up…
But who wants to hear about my brain farts anyway? (Yeah, everybody, I know!) So let’s get back to the real story and tell you that it was a grand night for running (being pleasantly cool and not terribly dark), although I’ll be checking all the signs and markers from Milngavie to Mugdock carefully on 19 June with this starting section of the WHW maybe being the easiest to lose and not all of us programmed to make Ian’s almost convulsive autopilot lurches (born of knowing the course back to front) onto the right path at every junction. And there’s not a great deal more to say here about the run to Balmaha except that I was hoping for a bit of a burn up Conic Hill, took Phil’s invitation for Richie and me to press on through Garadhban Forest literally, found myself oddly committed when it quickly became apparent that Richie hadn’t gone with me, tore up Conic (running all the way for no better or worse reasons than because I could and felt like it) at between 5 and 6 mph and arrived at Balmaha with plenty of time to feel stupid about not being able to get into my van. Some 25 minutes later, just as I was thinking it was time to send out a search party (aka running back to meet the others), Richie arrived with the news that Phil was sharing Ian’s torchlight over Conic, then the less illuminated (?) arrived about 15 minutes later again. At which point Richie offered to take us back to Milngavie, Stan went out of his way to return me to Balmaha and I just wished I’d taken Richie up on the key-fetching fartlek session I’d rejected through fear of being casually burned off!
Saturday was a quiet day for me as far as running’s concerned, with a 4.3 mile road run round the Red Road at Cardross enough to keep me happy after our 19.3 miles overnight. But I did still want that proper hill run today to complete my last ‘full’ week of training for the big race, and had settled on the Sgiath Chuil/Meall Glas group above Glen Dochart as being both a suitable length/character for that and the nearest Munros or Tops I’d never done. And it proved to be just what I was looking for, with these hills (like so many described in various guides as ‘tedious’, ‘undistinguished’ or ‘uninteresting’) being great to run on and the Corbett of Beinn nan Imirean getting thrown in for good measure to make up a 12.5 mile round with c.5,000 ft of ascent completed in almost exactly 3 hours, which I’d say is pretty good going for that. Might also say I was impressed by the helpful signs marking the paths onto and up the hills at Auchessan Farm, and suggest that the striking outcrop of quartz rocks and boulders on the way up Beinn nan Imirean is clearly there for a purpose (never seen better for a game of ‘snow, sheep or quartz?’). After which I must just sign off (in common with several of the other ‘West Highland Way’ blogs) by declaring that it’s ‘taper time’ and speculate that only the right taper, no debilitating bugs, some decent running conditions on the day and a few other imponderables (touch wood… only?) now stand between me and the result of which I dream! ;-)