A Gentle Introduction to the Cape Wrath Ultra
The first day of the Cape Wrath Ultra allowed everyone a relatively easy start and an early finish as they settled into the event and found their feet in the Scottish Highland conditions. Race Director Shane Ohly said, “It was a bit like a prologue really, only harder!”
Climbing out of Cona Glen and then descending into Glenfinnan the participants found the trail very wet and boggy but it was still a fairly swift descent for most as they slipped and ran down in the heavy afternoon rain showers. There were breaks when the sun came out and the views opened up so those who wanted could stop and take pictures. The day's main river crossing was not difficult – in fact the only difficulty was a gate some participants just could not work out how to open!
It was an easy route to follow but even so there were a few wrong turns and at least one runner lost the track near the finish and crossed the deep Callop River which flows into Loch Shiel at Glenfinnan. One of the lead runners, Peter Fairhurst also went wrong coming out onto the main A830 a couple of kilometres short of the finish. He was running down it when spotted by Race Planner Gary Tompsett and sent back to find the right route, losing a couple of places and finishing 5th on the day.
Quickest were Marcus Scotney and Thomas Adams in 2 hours 46 minutes, a swift time for 37km, though Scotney said, “I didn’t want to get out of heart-rate zone 2 today.” Pavel Paloncy was the only other runner under 3 hours, and the quickest lady runner was Ita Emanuela Marzotto of Italy in 29th place overall.
Most of the participants said they’d set a comfortable pace and many plan to take the earliest start time of 07.00 tomorrow, which is a much tougher day. While queuing in the catering tent waiting for a bowl of cous-cous and chilli I chatted to the oldest participant, Gene Dykes (68) of the USA. “I think I saw this race when it was first announced as an idea,” he said. “And here I am now running through bogs and hoping the midges don’t come out.
“I’m really competitive in my age group's races but there are none here and I don’t mind so much getting beaten by younger guys so I’m not really competitive. I stopped to take a lot of pictures today ... but then you find the runner you were with is 100m ahead down the trail.! I’ve no idea how much longer it will be tomorrow, 10, 12 hours, who knows. I just want to keep going.
“I’ve been to Scotland before, but only for golf. Running is a lot less frustrating!”
A spectacular setting for the first campsite at Glenfinnan - photo ©Rob Howard
Fortunately the afternoon showers passed and it was a sunny evening to enjoy the first camp. Everyone is assigned a tent, mainly 8 to a tent, so it was a chance to get to know tent mates, study the maps a bit more and rest up.
The participants will face a longer day tomorrow at 57km with 1800m of climbing and it across much rougher country. Ohly commented, “Those who took a long time today and found it hard will find it much, mcuh harder tomorrow in Knoydart – there is no comparison really. The race properly starts tomorrow.”