Now this is going to hurt. I think you can say, with some certainty, that if you sent off from the little seaside town of Nairn with the intent to run, cycle and canoe 105 miles across Scotland to Glencoe, at some point it’s going to get sore. Let me set any illusions you may have that I actually completed this feat myself totally to rest. When I arrived at 06.00 am at the East Coast town I was there to marshal the event and not to take part. Since I ceased gainful employment I have entered the twilight zone of people who make a little money here and there without actually having to take part in a proper job. It’s not athletic ambition that brings me to this little seaside town, once a favourite holiday home of Charlie Chaplin, but avarice.
Just after dawn the stick men started to arrive. They are skinny but mainly cheerful as they are clocked in for the start of this gruelling tri-Athlon. We shepherd them into a taped off pen, like sheep about to be sheared. They are dressed in many weird and wonderful combinations of outdoor gear no doubt all of it meticulously prepared to give them maximum protection on the leg wearying miles that are about to come. Some have little cameras mounted on harnesses to the front of their chests. These, I decide, must be state of the art cameras designed for photographing bums for surely that is what most of these cameras will capture in the miles that are about to ensue, lots of photos of the backside of the bloke in front.
Mercifully the weather was benign once the sun rose above the old fisherman’s cottages that occupy the shoreline of Nairn it was quite warm. The flock of runners was released to gleefully head towards their appointment with suffering with all the enthusiasm of a Women’s Institute bus trip heading for a cake shop. I notice one runner sets off at a sprint and leaves most of these elite athletes in his wake. Unless he is some kind of superman he’s setting a pace that can only lead him to slump exhausted after a few miles. Perhaps he just wants to be able to go home to his mates and say, “No didn’t finish, although I was in the lead for a while.”
I next meet up with the heard at Fort Augusts, at the head of Loch Ness, where I am manning a sort of ferry station where the runners leap into little canoes and paddle 500 m across Loch Ness. This is the halfway point for those completing the course in one day, lesser mortals finish in two days. We encourage them with cries of, “Well done, halfway there!” I’m never too certain as to how effective such a statement actually is at motivating folk to gird their loins as the bible says. After all it lets the runners know they have completed half the course whilst, at the same time, telling them that, tired as they are, they still have a similar distance to go.
I’m not sure, either, about the ethics of turning Scotland’s countryside into a race track but, I suppose, it gives these folk hours of harmless enjoyment on the race not to mention the years of preparation they have to put in to get themselves fit enough to compete. It also saves us from having to race them, and the ladies of the women’s institute, to the cake shop. I wonder if, without the outlet of cross Scotland runs, the little chest cameras they carry would capture rows of cream cakes as the Marathon men turned their attentions to epic feats of pastry eating. I suppose we’ll never know.
If you feel the urge to go on long, knee jarring, bottom photographing expeditions checkout this website where they’ll tell you all about it. http://www.scotlandcoasttocoast.com/ for other similar fun days http://www.ratrace.com/events.aspx