How was your weekend running?

As the clocks went back this weekend, the wintry temperatures moved in but there was still lots of great racing around the UK…

Top of the races on the South Coast it seems, was the Beachy Head Marathon and 10km, which starts in Eastbourne. We had lots of runners from the community taking part in one or other of the distances. If you’ve not heard of this race, look it up for next year (Oct 26, 2019) because it is a stunning route (particularly the longer marathon route) which takes in the beauty of the South Downs National Park in the Autumn.

Picture: Jo Prior

Renowned for spectacular scenery, steep ascents, punishing descents and a fantastic friendly atmosphere (even a music band and a tabletop  of currant buns and sugary tea at some of the refreshment stops), this is a fantastic bucket-list event. Or you can use it as training for an ultra.

In, fact, we were  on a 50 mile bike ride the following day with the third placed women’s marathon finisher, Bethan Male, who got to the podium with a time of 3 hrs, 21 minutes and was using the event as training for an ultra race in about a month’s time which involves a double – almost-ascent of Pen Y Fan!

As the clocks go back, this was the weekend that saw the launch into the night trail races, with Maverick Silva Dark Series in  West Sussex (try their Surrey one on 10th November if you’re in the South). But  our favourite of the weekend was definitely an event that one of our Scottish GRTW contingent ran this weekend, the Illuminator Night Trail Race, a 15  mile route with four big ‘ole climbs, lit by your head torch only. Well done all those who ran it, it looks beautiful and tough.

Which brings us to another race that we  missed mentioning last weekend when we missed our regular debrief, The Dramathon, which offers a marathon, a half or a 10km, with the full route tracking the Speyside Way from Glenfaricas Distillery to Glenfiddich and ending, of course with a dram.

Scotland, we salute you! Definitely winning hands down on the variety of the races offered, both in terms of challenging terrain and exploring!

 

 

How was your weekend running?

As we officially hit Autumn, the running season is hotting up with road and trail races taking place all over the UK this last weekend. Not least the Maverick Inov-8 X series Snowdonia 2018,  the first of our UK wide GRTW Get Together Events

From 3,145 feet on the shortest route to 4,055 feet on the middle route and up to 6,277 feet, the Maverick inov-8 X series Snowdonia race offers three distances, 17km, 23km or 43km but all three require a different approach than any usual road – or even trail – race because this is the mountains. And they take no prisoners!

We had 20 runners taking part, across all distances and everyone set off together up the Llanberis path  towards the summit of Snowdon with most runners adopting a fast hiking method before the tarmac even ran out.

My approach was to run everything I could, and if it became so steep that running became ineffective, to hike as quickly as I could. It wasn’t long after the tarmac section that I joined everyone else in walking. Lots of runners had set off with collapsible poles and, having not done any mountain races before, it was interesting to note the way runners used them, swinging them forward and using the swing of the pole to almost glide forward up the hill. (If you want some tips on techniques for running up or down technical terrain, listen to our YouTube interview with the women of this year’s marathon winner, in a time of five hours and 1 minute, Julia Davis by clicking here).

We could not have had better weather as we climbed up and up, the sound of everyone’s heavy breath joined by the huff and puff of the Snowdon train, a plume of smoke trailing behind it, as it chugged up with the many passengers who must have been surprised to find the trails full of up to 500 numbered runners.

As we climbed, the weather got colder and windier, so it was time to stop and put on a jacket, buff and gloves, which was at just about the point that the 17km route turns to descend again (not quite making the summit, which disappointed some of our runners) while the middle route continued up to the top and then it was a thrillingly, hairy descent (near the top, the marathon route also veers off to follow a separate route) to the refreshment table at the bottom.

After a big ascent and then trying to jump from rock to rock, my thighs were like jelly, and I certainly did not look like the couple who had climbed next to me and then disappeared down the trail, literally dancing amongst the jagged rocks, seemingly oblivious to the tiny narrow spaces where you had to place your foot.

By the time I hit the refreshment table, I was very glad of the coke, salted crackers, potatoes and cola bottles that were on offer, all which went in, in one handful. A short road section on the level was soon followed by another ascent along a zig zag path and then finally, a runnable trail path back to the race finish.

This was the first of our UK wide Get Together races, where we invite runners from around the UK to join us at an event, which we choose based on it offering a challenge but in an inspiring location – we provide the training plan, you train and meet us there. So well done Kate Dolphin from Malvern who joined us there and took on the mighty marathon and her sister, Lily Price.

 

 

Elsewhere in the UK, there was also lots of other events going on including the Windsor Half Marathon , a two lap, undulating race that takes place with Windsor Castle as a backdrop. Well done to Jenny Hall, who ran.

There was also Barnes Green Half Marathon, a road half marathon, renowned for fast times and for attracting lots of club runners. It’s definitely one for the calendar if you’re looking for a good one to train for next September. Although if you’re looking for the perfect Autumnal run for next year…one of our runners took on the Forest of Dean Half Marathon.  She reported that it was full of trees ablaze with the colours of the season.

So, well done to all of you who ran this weekend. If you’re interested in our Get Together races in 2019, sign up to our newsletter (visit the main page of our website) as we are just finalising the events and will attempt to organise discounts with the event organisers. 

Did you PB this weekend, run somewhere amazing that other women would love to hear about? Comment below and share your news.

 

 

 

 

How was your weekend running?

August Bank Holidays, it appears, are very quiet on the race front although there was the South Coast Challenge, an ultra marathon of 100km from Eastbourne to Arundel over one or two days, as well as the some oddball village races involving a 5k race from one pub to the next…

Just when we thought the gorgeous holiday running photographs had petered out, up they pop again as everyone makes a last minute escape to warmer and drier climes than the weather that confronted most of us in the UK this weekend. Luckily for those taking part in the South Coast Challenge, a supported 100km ultra that can be done over one or two days, Saturday was beautiful.

We had one of our runners who undertook this event, a courageous attempt considering she’s only done two marathons before this, one of which was this year. An insane amount of climbing, this is a tough event with the knowledge that you have to run through the night if you’re doing the one day event. Did any of you take part? We are not quite sure about the part of the route where runners had to come all the way off the South Downs Way and down to the seafront in Brighton on a busy Bank Holiday, only to have to ascend again right the way back up to the South Downs Way. Did you run it? We’d love to hear what you thought.

Meanwhile, on Bank Holiday today, myself and the amazing GRTW Brighton head coach, Tara Shanahan (you’ll understand why I say this in minute) undertook the rather brilliantly named, King’s Head Canter. A 5km race over undulating village roads, it starts outside the Six Bells in the village of Chiddingly and ends at the King’s Head pub in East Hoathly, where you can exchange your race number for a pint at the pub.

This village race was started 21 years ago and attracts all kinds of runners, from young juniors to those in their seventies who run-walk it right the way through to club athletes. And we must congratulate Tara, who was running for her athletics club who took the 1st lady position in a time of 18 minutes and 24 seconds. And before you think, ‘Yeah, well she’s probably been running all her life and was always good at running.’

Not so. Tara is testament to the fact that you can start at any age, and keep improving no matter what your age. Which mean at 48, Tara is beating many runners half her age. (Psst! She’s also a very good coach and mentor).

Where did you run this weekend? We’d  love to hear about any funny Bank Holiday Monday runs similar to the King’s Head Canter. Comment below. 

Event Review: Race to the King

Whether you chose 23.4, 30.2 miles, or run the whole she-bang, Race to the Stones has quickly established itself as a fantastic race event in the summer trail calendar. And for GRTW runner, Florence Theberge, who came first female for the Day one race, the perfect training race for her first ultra the South Coast Challenge in August 

The morning of the race was gorgeous, with the temperature already warm at 5am, lovely as a start but promising hot conditions for later for the many runners, joggers and walkers taking part in the RTTK 2018. As I was allocated wave B start at 8.15am, I arrived at Arundel train station at 7.15am to waiting for the event shuttle (£10) to the race start.  I arrived there to find many other runners waiting for the shuttle too and we all exchanged stories, some had signed up for both days, some to run it continuously, others to break for the evening and some, like me just doing day one.

Most were from UK, although there were a few runners from as far afield as Poland, who looked very experienced judging by the running kit. And the age range was really diverse, including two ladies in their sixties or seventies who told me they walked the race every year.

Soon we were on our way to the  race start at Gaston Farm (BN18 0RS), arriving just a few minutes before the first wave went off at 8am. The atmosphere was great with the usual warm ups, long toilet queues and the excitement of the runners, support crew and event organisers all in the middle of a farmer’s field just north of the beautiful city of Arundel.

Ten minutes later, my wave was started by a man dressed as a King, carrying a fuming torch,who ran in front of the runners before quickly stepping aside for risk of being trampled over by a hoard of eager runners/walkers.

The start was quite narrow for about a mile, making it difficult to overtake walkers/slower joggers & runners, so I’d recommend anyone else doing this next year to start nearer the front. But soon the path widened and wound through a mixed of shaded, wooded areas and South Down chalky trails, including some steep hills! I love  hills but these were even quite an ascent for me but it gave everyone the opportunity to have a  power walk and refuel. And the reward of the climb was stunning views and picture-perfect landscapes which made me regret having buried my phone at the bottom of my running bag.

Over the 23.4 miles there were 2 feed stations (8 and 16 miles approx.), which were both well provisioned with fruits, sweets, squash, flat cola, and water, while the second stop included for the 1st and the 2nd had savoury snacks and sandwiches – and both hand hand santizers, a new one on me!

I ran most of the race on my own but chatted to a few runners who gave me advice on how to manage cramp during ultras – the Monty Python Walk.  Apparently, if you feel your calves starting to cramp, practice that walk and you’ll be fine. It didn’t quite work for me but that might be due to being already too tired to be able to reverse the process. Thankfully, I was close to the finish for day one where were were cheered in and ushered towards hot food and salad bar.

At the finish, there were also small tents for those who were staying overnight or for the runners who needed a break before pushing on. They were quite close together, so if you are a light sleeper, I’d bring ear plugs. The best thing though were showers, yoga mats for stretching as well as a massage tent provided by Birmingham physio students.

I loved the race but the downside of finishing in such a remote area was the complete lack of mobile phone reception (3 mobile) , and being nine miles from the nearest train station. I didn’t want to wait six hours for the next shuttle at 7.30pm, and so I had to walk another mile to Compton village for a bus (every two hours to Havant).

 

What I learned from the race:

  • A change of scenery is great for fighting the ‘tiredness’ of the training
  • Never, ever neglect 2 things: sleep and strength training, especially your upper body; your body gets tired and you really need your upper body to switch on and help support your body
  • Practice, practice, practice: I used this event as a training run for my A race – my first ultra – and it was a great occasion to test running gear, refuelling on the go, pacing in race conditions.

 

The Good

  • Great organisation from start to finish with clearly marked route and well stocked pit stops (even ice cream!); love the hand sanitizers at every pit stop.
  • Finish area (day 1) greatly set-up; my favourite was the bean bags areas with free newspapers and a giant TV screen to watch the World Cup 2018 football
  • Very good atmosphere, friendly staff and great post-run massage from Birmingham physio students.

The Bad

  • Narrow start meant a very slow jog over almost 1 mile before getting into one’s own pace.

The Ugly

  • No phone reception at the finish area.

Flo is being mentored and coached by GRTW ultra running coach, Sarah Sawyer. For details on our virtual coaching packages please click here

 

Event details:

https://www.racetotheking.com/

Next year date: 22-23 June 2019

Day 1 2018 entry fee £57

Shuttle from Arundel station to race start: £10

YouTube video of full length (not official video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnaaC9A8RRo

 

 

 

Event Review: Vitality London 10km

Nowadays, marathons and ultra races get all the glory but a 10km race is just as challenging – and can be just as fun as the recent Vitality London 10km proved…

Imagine running through the closed streets of London, past steel bands and cheering supporters, past the Houses of Parliament and right along the Mall before ending right in front of Buckingham Palace. Sound familiar? Yes, the Vitality London 10km takes in all the very best parts of the London Marathon route but without the months and months of training or the agony of having to run 26.2 miles. What’s not to like?

The Vitality 10km takes place over the May Bank Holiday and is part of a weekend of activities, with kids’ races and the Vitality Westminster Mile taking place the day before. The 10km race is actually doubles as the British 10km Championships, which means that as I lined up, I found myself about 100 metres from the elite pen (where one of our GRTW coaches, Tara was – lucky her!) where Mo Farah was getting set to race.

 

This is a BIG event with over 8,000 taking part but it is brilliantly organised with six different pens and a clever filtering system that sees you having to file through some barriers before you actually hit the start line, helping to avoid a mass pile up when the klaxon – and Jessica Ennis Hill – started us off.

A 10km race when running hard is, well, hard. But having the kind of support that you’d usually only ever get at a marathon helps you to pick up your feet and keep pushing, past the two water stations, through the shower to cool everyone down on the run and finally, heading straight for Buckingham Palace and the finish line.

If you’re starting near the back of the pens, it’s a long wait to the start line as I saw people on their first kilometre as I was finishing but it’s such a great atmosphere and a rare opportunity to race through the streets of London in the summer when it’s not freezing cold (except for this year’s London Marathon of course which broke all the records!), I don’t think many people minded.

Mo Farah won this one in 29 minutes and 44 seconds, but just as impressive in our eyes was one of the Girls Run the World coaches’ , Tara Shannahan, who PBed with a time of 37.44 minutes – she’s getting faster with age!

After the race, you can hang around in the park where they even have a yoga space where you can unwind and chill out from the run. I nearly didn’t go to this event but I’m so glad I did; whether you run it seriously in a bid to PB or to just enjoy it for the London scenery, this is a destination race (even if you’re a Londoner) that’s worth doing.

 

For details of next year’s Vitality London 10km visit https://www.vitalitylondon10000.co.uk

 

The Good

Great location, brilliantly organised – with added yoga too!

The Bad

Long wait to start if you’re not in the front pen, but that’s standard with London races

The Ugly

Nothing truly bad to say about this event. It’s fab.

If you are training for a 10km and want to get a PB, check out virtual training mentoring which provides customised training, direct to our training app so it’s right at your fingertips. 

Race Review: The Maverick Inov-8 Original Kent 

Fancy taking part in a beautiful trail race in inspiring surroundings? Sarah Crosier gives us her lowdown on Maverick Kent, one of a series of trail run events held in spectacular locations around the UK…and the race refuel stops aren’t bad either…

 

Ever fancied running a trail run with your pet dog? Sarah Crosier In September last year, I adopted a Border Terrier puppy called Alfie. The kids thought he was coming to live with us for their entertainment, but I’d secretly been doing some extensive research on dogs with stamina to keep me company on trail runs. And so this September, I entered our first race together, the Maverick inov-8 Original Kent.

The race is set in a beautiful location in Groomsbridge, Tunbridge Wells, a moated manor house dating back to 1662 and home to the Bennet Family in Joe Wright’s film adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”. It was a damp Saturday in September and I hadn’t realised how wet the ground was until we arrived in the grassy, and muddy car park. We probably should have read the race instructions and worn trail shoes but after lots of friendly chatter with the other runners, we forgot our soggy feet and set off on the 14k race. This was a middle distance route, with a shorter 7km and a longer 21km to choose from.

There was a complete mixture of runners, some with their dogs, some attempting a personal best and others, like myself, just happy to take part. We started close to the back as Alfie was barking with excitement from being around all the other dogs. Because of the dogs, it meant that the race was a little slow to get started because we had to queue to climb over a few stiles but we kept ourselves amused by chatting to the people around us. Today was more about having fun and enjoying the views.

After the first 1k, the runners spread out and we could enjoy the beautiful Garden of England scenery, including pine forests, open heathland and Harrison’s Rock. The terrain was varied with an uneven woodland floor, some rolling hills and a few fallen trees to jump over. The whole route was well marshalled and signposted.

At about the 5k mark, we found a water and feeding station, where there were slices of banana, watermelon, orange segments, cola bottle sweets and cola drinks plus a water bowl for Alfie – amazing! After our impromptu picnic and natter with the marshals, we headed off again.

Some of the pathways were quite narrow and as we weren’t worried about time, we stepped aside to let the faster runners (who were running 21k) overtake us. But when we met another woman running on her own and struggling at the 6k mark, we gave her a honey energy gel and some encouragement. The route was very muddy in places and it wasn’t always easy to run without slipping/falling over (definitely should have worn trail shoes!) To make things a little harder, Alfie started to tire and refused to walk through the final muddy pathway so I had to carry him for a few metres! Thankfully, when we reached the final field  he was happy to sprint to the finish. A few minutes later, we cheered when the woman, we had met earlier, crossed the line.

Both Alfie and I received a medal each, which also doubled up as a beer bottle opener. And the goodie bag included some  Maverick homebrewed ale and a Tribe bar. Ice tea and coffee was also available. It was a fantastic, well marshalled race in beautiful surroundings with the best race refuel stations I’ve ever encountered.

Event in Brief

The Good

  • Incredible scenery
  • Water and a fab food station. Plus a nice coffee/cake stall at the start/finish
  • Inclusivity and atmosphere
  • Ale and beer opener/medal

The Bad

  • The bottleneck at the start of the race
  • The mud – don’t expect to get a PB

 

Race Bag Haul: Haul or Hoard

You don’t get given a race t-shirt, although I’m not bothered as I have a drawer full, which I never wear but some people may be disappointed. But the rest of the race items were great quality.

For more information

Maverick offer a big series if races around the UK and Girls Run the World are partnering with them to offer exclusive discounts to Girls Run the World runners. We will be announcing our Girls Run the World Race Get Together in the new few weeks. Prices start at £20 while children are free if under 16.  To find out more visit Maverick Races.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have a race review you’d like to share?

Nowadays, there are thousands of races from fun 5km to fiercely fast ones, and from glorious, awe-inspiring trail running races in the UK to nail-biting, challenging for life changing trail races in Iceland or India. Whatever the case, WE want to hear about them.

If you have participated in – or about to participate in a race and think it is one that could help to inspire other women to start training in order to take part themselves, please write to rachael@girlsruntheworld.co.uk, outlining the event and including the website link. This could be one that you’ve already done or one that you have lined up.

We are hoping that in sharing our event reviews as female runners, we’ll build up a fantastic inspiration database for other women, not too mention including the details that us women like to know.

If you’ve already had your race event suggestion approved, download our guide to writing it here.

We look forward to hearing about all your amazing, life affirming race experiences from the UK, Europe and worldwide!

Event Review: Endure24 and five of the best relay running races

Fancy doing a team relay? Here’s  our review of the recent  Endure 24  relay race, along with a look at some of the other unusual relay races on offer around the UK, including a running cake-athon!

Tents, tick. Rugs to lie on, tick. Sugary sweets, tick. Coffee, tick. Drugs*, tick. This may seem like the list of someone about to go to a music festival. But running relay races are now taking the place of festivals for some former ravers turned runners, plus a whole new generation of runners who are as interested in the experience of running and community as they are pace or placing.

Endure24 is even coined the Glastonbury of Runners and involves running as many (almost) five mile loops through the countryside in Wasing Park, just outside of Reading as possible. The first lap of the day at noon on Saturday started in hot, windy conditions making the leafy, woody run a welcome respite. But make no mistake, the route is not an easy one with a hill greeting you as soon as you go through the first gantry. What goes up, must come down so you are rewarded with some downhills before more uphills and a wiggle through wooded, single track.

This event attracts all kinds of runners, from expert ultra distance runners to solo runners who walk the laps, and from big teams of ten, comprised of running clubs out for a social with some running included, to professional sponsored teams aiming to beat the course record. One thing that unites everyone is a love of running and the desire to support each other.

The atmosphere created by everyone at the event is fantastic, from the marshals who line the route, to the runners and walkers themselves who cheer the fast runners and lend a helping hand to anyone who looks like they need their spirits – or their legs – bolstered.

Finding the motivation to run the same lap, over and over again though is difficult, unless you’re competing for number of laps or to experience the special kind of transcendental meditative state that some runners report. Which is why the best part of this event is really when darkness falls. It not only becomes more magical –  helped by women dressed up as fairies in the woods and music from the VDub bar making it seem like you’ve stumbled upon a rave , but because it makes the route appear different.

If you want to enjoy a running event with a team – not to mention warm, clean showers, then Endure24 is a great one to try. There’s none of the transport issues involved that you experience with relays that have a linear route, and there is water and race nutrition available.  Shame the beer tent doesn’t stay until Sunday though, just at the moment when you can drink, it’s gone!

(*And by the way, we’re talking Ibruprofen).

What our runners said:

Cara

High point:  ‘The camaraderie and running around at 5am when the birds were all waking up and the light was just changing, it was magical.’

Low point:  ‘Losing a member of our team to illness, which meant having to run more laps!’

 

Helen

High Point: ‘Crossing the finish line with my team mates on the last lap.’

Low Point: ‘Going on a tired and lonely hunt for the showers at 2.30am after a very wet and dark lap.’

Anna

High point:  ‘Running as fast as I could over the painted tree roots at midnight, lit up by fairy lights and the glow from my head torch.’

Low point:  ‘My first lap, hot, hilly and hard – and worrying about pace, letting my team down,  and how many more laps I’d have to do!’
Caroline
High points: ‘Camping with like-minded women, the readily available and reasonably priced massages, and great showers.’
Low points : ‘Only unhealthy food available (Ed: we agree!),  only one water point on the route and the loop got a bit tedious – why not open up a second lap later in the day?’

Five of the most unique relay races

 

Cake-a-thon

Run as many of the 4.37 mile laps as possible in eight hours and be rewarded at the end of each lap with some homemade cake! Organisers estimate that each lap burns 500 calories. And it comes with a fantastic race medal!

For more details http://www.saxon-shore.com/cakeathon/

 

 

 

Cotswold 24 hour Race

Another 24 hour individual or team relay race held in the beautiful Bathurst Estate, just outside the town of Cirencester in the heart of the Cotswolds. An off-road 9km mixed course The race is run over an off-road 9km mixed course including forest trails and open tarmac paths. And what attracts our attention – healthy food stalls. Here’s hoping as Endure24 definitely was a let down on this score.

For more details: http://www.100milerun.com/cotswold-24-hour-race/

Ragnar Relay

This event comes fresh from the US where it is so popular, many runners travel around the US to take part in as many of the relays that are put on around the country. You can understand why as this event offers the opportunity of ‘travel’ and to explore as you run. This one overs approximately 170 miles and will see runners start at Maidstone and finish in Brighton (it’s been put on by the organisers of the Brighton marathon).  An event like this requires a very organised team captain – plus the finances to cover the cost of hiring two vans if entering a team of ten, on top of the £1000 entry fee. It sounds great fun though.

For more details visit: https://www.runragnar.uk/

The Green Belt Relay Race

Explore 220 miles of the Green Belt around London on this 22-stage running relay race which starts in Hampton Court, 8.30am on Saturday and ends in Ham at 6pm on Sunday. It’s been running since 1995, put on by local running club, The Stragglers. So don’t expect bangs, whistles and overflowing goodie bags. This is about the purity of running and exploring. 11 runners per team, one stage per day for every runner. Unlike some other relay races though, this is open to all levels with prizes for both the fastest team to finish and the slower. With a barbecue at the end, this sounds like a challenging, but friendly way to spend a May weekend. Just make sure you recce your leg first.

For more details visit: http://www.greenbeltrelay.org.uk/

Cotswold Way Relay Race

Now in it’s 25th year, this event is operated as 10 back to back races, starting each stage with a mass start at the expected arrival time of the 1st runner from the previous stage, as opposed to other relays where the next runner on your team starts only when their other team mate has completed their leg.

Running from Chipping Campden in the early morning, through to the arrival at Bath Abbey in the early evening, you follow the way-marked route of the Cotswold Way over 90% off-road, taking in hills, woodlands, fields and tracks, all offering spectacular views of the countryside around…if you have time to look up! Each leg varies in length and ascent with no marshals, making the route finding just as much part of the race as the running itself.

For more details visit http://www.cotswoldwayrelay.co.uk/

 

Welsh Castles Relay Race

If you’re going to run a relay race, then it’s important to do it in spectacular surroundings we think. That’s why this Welsh version appeals, offering two day,  20 stage event covering 211 miles, mostly on road, but with hills and mountains to overcome as you travel from Caernarfon to Cardiff, with an overnight stay in Newtown.  And it’s in June, so hopefully, not the weather typically associated with Wales! There are six mountain stages,  with three team mountain stage prizes so this is a race that suits – or requires some hill training. Get your entry in early, only 66 teams accepted and it is always over subscribed.

For more details visit http://www.lescroupiersrunningclub.org.uk/welsh-castles-relay-2016/

 

 

 

 

Event Review: The Weakest Link, Brighton

Although some people might be put off by the name of this event, it is one of the most inclusive and fun running events in Brighton. Great for building team morale and suitable for all levels of runners from total beginners to the super speedy. Here one of our runners, Sarah Crosier gives us her lowdown on the event

What is it: A relay race comprising of four team members. Each member takes it in turn to run 2.5km and then the entire team must run a final 2.5km together, ensuring that the whole team finishes together.

The Route: it is only 2.5km but with some short hills – don’t let that put you off though. It’s great fun and everyone is running different speeds so you never get left feeling like your the slowest runner.

The Weakest Link in June 2015, was the first event that I ever took part in with Girls Run the World. More a “team event” than a “race”, there were a few super speedy runners from athletic clubs ‘in it to win it,’ but my aim was ‘in it to finish it”. On entering, I’d done a few sessions of the GRTW hill training, Run for the Hills course but didn’t know anyone and was really new to running but GRTW organised all the teams and I found myself as part of a team a few other runners.

Before the day, we agreed that Karen would run the fourth lap as she was our strongest runner. It meant that she would have to run her 2.5km and then carry on running with the team without a break to finish. I’m always nervous on race days, and so I asked to go 2nd to get it out of the way. It also meant that I’d have someone to follow so I wouldn’t go the wrong way like one of our runners ended up doing!

There was a fantastic atmosphere with about 20 GRTW and runners from all the local running clubs – while there was racing it was also great for meeting people as there was lots of standing around cheering others while waiting for your chance to run. Plus, the distance is achievable and it was so informal and relaxed. Some people were even walking up the hills – not me, of course!

Our team was close to being last (or maybe we were?) but it really didn’t matter. We ran the final lap together and received a massive cheer from everyone as we crossed the finish line. I can’t wait to take part again this year. It’s great fun.

Race Review: Fort William Marathon

Kilts, killer single track and whiskey chasers mark this inaugural Scottish marathon in the highlands as one to try out

Kilts, midgie spray booths and downhill mountain bikers in full body armour. It’s not what you’d expect to see on a marathon start line, but it’s the scene that greeted me as I registered on the morning of the inaugural Fort William marathon.

With just 293 runners (the race is capped at 1000 due to restrictions on the route, so apply early for next year’s event on 31st July 2016 ) this was a small race. Yet the nationalities of runners milling around at the start beneath the Ben Nevis cable car was like a meeting of the UN; Bulgarian, American, Ukrainian, Australian, South African and of course Scottish. Not that the locals were wearing kilts, just the runners from Boston, US of A.


Registration was quick and easy in the cafe, perfect if there had been a rainy start although fortunately, the morning had dawned warm if a bit cloudy. And being at the chairlift meant that there were plenty of toilets and no need for portable toilets (although for once, there was a queue for the men’s toilets and not the women’s – hurrah!)

Other than a midgie spraying tent, there was little entertainment resulting in a subdued start to the race five minutes behind schedule. But what it lacked fanfare, the event made up for in terms of the beauty of it’s scenery.
The first six miles were stunning, along undulating fire roads, with Ben Nevis etched against the skyline, the last remaining patches of snow winking icily from the summit, while summer wildflowers nodded their heads below as I ran through the dark pine trees of Leanachan Forest.

Chatting to others as I ran, there was an American living in London who’d decided to run his first marathon in August and found a race to fit the date. ‘It means my family and I get the chance to visit Scotland too,’ he said.
Alongside him, a Bulgarian runner who’d lived in Edinburgh for the past ten years, was trialling a method of running for 8 minutes, walking for two. It seemed to work until mile 9 when I didn’t seem him again after playing tag with him for the first third of the race.

With a well sign posted route and cheerful marshals, I never had to worry I’d miss a turn while chatting. Just as well, as otherwise I may have thought I’d taken a wrong turn as we ran down a boggy, overgrown single track section.

After following a disused railway track through a flower strewn valley, the route veered towards the Commando Memorial, dedicated to men who fought in the Second World War for the British Commando Forces at mile 11, before hitting a quiet country road with a welcome downhill.

Over the Tolkien sounding Bridge of Mucomir, and past a few clapboard houses which would not have looked out of place in a Coloradan meadow, we hit the Caledonian Canal for the next seven miles.

A historic waterway which opened in 1822, allowing vessels to enter from the Atlantic Ocean in the North and exit into the North Sea at Inverness, the 60 mile canal which cuts through the Great Glen is now a major tourist attraction, where you can sail it’s length or cycle and walk along its towpath.

With the mountains reflected in its still waters, it was so quiet, it added to that marathon feeling of time slowing down as I eked out the miles. There was nothing to break the dreamy monotony except the wake of barges and boats that rippled the watery reflections, along with the occasional walker or cyclist who cheered their support.


I don’t like noisy marathons (to the point that London Marathon overwhelms me) but I couldn’t help wishing there was a bit more fanfare to keep me going along this stretch. Instead, I had to content myself with chatting to the runners I passed.

Finally, we left the canal, followed a main road before turning back into the forest back to the finish, a punishing final few miles, ascending by about 300 foot along rock strewn paths that saw many runners slow to a walk.

I’d started at the front and knew there were three women ahead of me, but had decided before I set off that I was going to run for fun rather than a place. So I was dismayed rather than happy to spy the third placed woman up ahead through the trees. Having seen her, I knew that couldn’t NOT try for third place. I also knew that it was going to hurt. I was right.

I passed her at the mile 24 mark and felt immediately stressed at the thought she now had the advantage of sticking close and sprinting past at the final hurdle.

Just a little bit of MTB single track to go
Just a little bit of MTB single track to go
As I ran under the high wires just near the Ben Nevis car park, I could hear the loud speakers hailing the finish. Expecting a left turn through the car park, I was horrified to discover the final 500 metres went up and a long a piece of single track MTB trail (thanks to the man on the corner who told me exactly how far was left of this track).

To sprint over that finish line to take third place in 3 hours 39 minutes was a relief. I didn’t care that the race ended short at 25.8miles, which may have been because the route was short or that I had just taken the inside of every bend.
A beautiful race in parts, this event is in it’s infancy and with a few tweaks to create more atmosphere at the start and finish, this can only add to what looks set to be a popular Scottish marathon which attracts running tourists from around the world.

Race footwear: Brooks Pure Cadence road shoes. It was dry and so there was no need to trail shoes. But even if it had been wet, most of the trails are rock strewn or it is tarmac road so road shoes are, in my opinion, the better choice.

Race Goody Bag: Haul It or Hoard It?

Loved the chunky medal with a runner etched against the mountains to make it look like we’d actually run up the mountain. Plus a Tunnock caramel wafer and an airline trolley-sized bottle of Ben Nevis whiskey gets my thumbs up. It also includes some jelly beans and a banana.

The only duff note? A technical race t-shirt in a man’s medium. Far too large.

Verdict: Hoard

The Good

Stunning scenery for a beautiful explore and run marathon

Seven well placed water stops, so there is no need to carry water

Friendly race where you can meet runners from all over the world

The Bad

Little atmosphere at the start or finish. A few bands, or even a Scottish bag pipe player, would have lent the event an incredibly atmospheric start

The canal slog. Both good and bad. Beautiful, meditative and flat, so great for increasing your pace. But if you’re hoping it’s all off-road trails, twists and turns, be prepared for a bit of monotony.

The Ugly

Pre-race pasta party. I usually NEVER go to these because I expect the food to be poor. This confirmed it. £20 for a plate of pasta (although it costs £12 to go up the Ben Nevis chairlift which is included in the ticket price), with the a celidh at the summit which was as flaccid and an unexciting as the pasta.

(This was a review of the inaugural race in 2015).