Sidmouth running duo tackle the Glencoe Marathon

David Palmer of Sidmouth Running Club and his friend Ian Stewart of Honiton Running club like their off road running events, writes Helen Palmer.

Having taken part in several mountain marathon events that usually involve self navigation, a route that needed no compass was an attractive proposition. But Scotland! In October! And camping for Mrs P at the start! What were they thinking of.

The Glencoe Marathon covers a traditional 26.2-miles, but is all off-road with 1604 meters of ascent and has recently increased in its popularity. From a usual field of 250, this year there were 550 marathoners, 200 half marathoners and 100 people taking part in a 10k race.

The wonderful Indian summer unfortunately abruptly changed to rain on the Friday before and on race day looked forbidding. The start at Red Squirrel camp filled with runners and they were soon sent on their way by a young piper in waves of 100. Their route initially took them up Glencoe valley, following the route the McDonald’s took to escape the Campbell’s after the infamous Glencoe massacre. For spectators it was easy to follow their runners as they snaked uphill along a well defined but distinctly boggy path and to offer them encouragement in the blustery conditions. All the marathoners then turned off to make their way up the appropriately named Devil’s Staircase. This is a 500-meter climb over the eastern edge of the fearsome Aonach Eagach Ridge.

Spectators got their next chance to see the runners at Kinlochleven and this was where the half marathon started. The well stocked feed station and cheering support was appreciated by the runners. I

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an was going very well at this halfway point. David had a bit of cramp but was determined – fuelled by a snickers bar. The runners then made their way to Fort William along the route of the West Highland Way. The route was through remote mountainous terrain, with the ruins of black houses dotted about, the results of the Highland clearances. A final feed station included a range of local cheeses, no port but a lovely fruit punch according to David.

Runners were rewarded with views at every turn of the route and they finally wound their way downhill to the foot of Ben Nevis. The finish was a fun affair with music and a cheering crowd. The compere for the event made every finisher feel special, as indeed they were after their marathon effort. Ian came in at 4.32 with a fabulous run and was 44th. David took a more measured approach at 6.15 but was pleased to have completed such a challenge.

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