Highland Ultra 2021 | Stage One Race Blog

Stage One had everything from perfect blue skies to storm force winds and rain.

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We apologise for keeping you all waiting for news but wifi and phone signal are seriously rare commodities in the remote area we’ve taken our runners to. This is the nature of the type of races we like to create.

On the eve of the race, we had the runners braced for rough weather. All the mountain forecasts were indicating that our runners were going to be glad of every warm and waterproof layer on our extensive kit list. As they huddled in their tents on the eve of the race the wind and rain lashed at them from across the loch.

Runners and race team were very pleasantly surprised then when we awoke to absolute calm. No wind, no rain and plenty of blue sky overhead. The tops of the highest peaks were all dusted with snow but conditions were otherwise perfect for the start of stage one and remained so for much of the day.

The race began at 8:15 and the runners set off for Camp Two at Kinloch Hourn in high spirits. They started the day with a pretty flat 25km loop starting and ending in Inverie which took them around the edge of Loch Nevis and the Sound of Sleat with views of the Isle of Skye in the distance. The fastest runners flew through this section and were back at the first checkpoint in Inverie in under 2.5hrs.

From here the course takes a turn into the hills and the long slow ascent up the biggest climb of the day passed Loch an Dubh Lochain, over Mam Barrisdale and on to CP2 at Barisdale itself. The views through this part of the course were stunning. At Mam Barisdale the runners were surrounded by rocky, snow scattered peaks on al sides with stags standing at a distance to see what all the commotion was.

After Barisdale the runners took off along the side of Loch Hourn itself. As a Lochside stretch, the runners could be forgiven for assuming it would be the gentlest section of the course. They were wrong about that though. The trail from this point is a narrow single track dotted with occasional short, sharp climbs. The lower points are ankle-deep bog or streams and the rest is rock-strewn and craggy. There is no hope of covering the ground quickly without risking a fall and all of the runners found this long, 10km leg-sapping section frustrating to contend with despite the incredible views back down the Loch.

The first three runners over the line were John Shield in 5:35, closely followed by Alex Green and Sam Collins in 5:41, exceptionally fast in these conditions. The first women to reach Camp Two were Sheila Sanei in 7:27, Flora Beverly close behind in 7:27, and Charlotte Logie in 8:24.

As the light began to fade in the late afternoon the real Highland weather arrived. The runners from the middle of the pack back endured a windswept and very wet few hours as they shuffled by headtorch through the bogs. They were all very relieved on arrival at camp.

The howling wind and rain didn’t dampen the spirits as our speakers held court in our communal tent. The runners were treated to inspirational talks from the legendary and always marvelous Mimi Anderson, inspiring coach, ultra-runner and explorer Hazel Robertson, and Conservation Biologist Helen Senn.

The runners slept huddled in their tents again against the battering wind and once more woke up to perfect calm and blue skies. All fingers are crossed that things will remain this way for the majority of the day but the weather in this part of the world is always full of surprises.

A few runners didn’t take to the trail this morning and are waiting back at camp. They’ll have a much easier day exploring this beautiful and rugged area and see if they are well enough to run the return leg to Inverie tomorrow.

We’ll keep you updated as and when we can but signal is hard to come by around these parts.

BTU Team

Race #First NameLast NameStart TimeFinish TimeStage Five
5JulenCalzada Urdaibai09:5011:251:35

About the Author

Will Roberts

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