2018 Race Director's Report
The 2018 Cape Wrath Ultra® drew 177 highly motivated runners to gather on the start line in Fort William, Scotland. These were the participants for the 2nd edition of a race that has truly captured the hearts of, and inspired, the international running community. They all had one thing in common; the dream of running to Cape Wrath.
This year the biennial race attracted runners from 26 different countries with an average age of 45 (on the start line, the youngest was 26, and the oldest 66). The field comprised of approximately 30% female and 70% male participants.
The class of 2018 - participants and event team join in for one last group photo at Sango Sands, Durness ©Credit: Jimmy Hyland/JHPvisuals.co.uk
Despite two years of planning, I recall being very nervous before the 2016 inaugural event as to whether our logistical plan would work… or not! Nothing beats a live test and the first event was a huge success. Having proven the logistics in 2016, this year I was less nervous but because the event had effectively doubled in size there were still a tremendous number of uncertainties to mull over. I knew the 8 days ahead of me, the Event Team and participants would be exhausting for all and marked with profound highs and lows as the realities of racing 400km through the remote and harsh terrain of the Scottish Highlands would highlight.
Shane Ohly reflecting on the 2018 event ©Tom Hecht
It would be remiss of me not to mention the weather. Photographer Ian Corless quipped after the 2016 event that, “It was another day of wall-to-wall sunshine and many are saying, me included, that we may never come back to Scotland as the weather could never be this good again!” Well, I’ve managed to continue our amazing run of stunning weather for both the Cape Wrath Ultra® and the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race®. This year, the two initial days were ‘Scottish’ but after that, high pressure settled over Scotland and a sustained period of perfect summer conditions stayed with us through to the end of the event. There was hardly a midge to be seen either! On a more serious note, we are due some poor weather on one of these expedition races and it is likely to decimate the current flattering finish statistics… you have been warned!
I would like to praise the grit and determination of the participants. The seemingly effortless running, and overnight recovery, of the leading runners – both male and female - is an inspiration and mystery in equal measure. And to everyone else, almost regardless of position, every step is a challenge that requires tenacity the like of which is understood by very few people. Well done to you all. Congratulations. You truly earned that coveted finisher's medal.
A team effort for many to help them on their way to the finish line ©Credit: Jimmy Hyland/JHPvisuals.co.uk
The Event Team - Thank You
The Event Team are the glue of the event. Almost all of them are volunteers who have given up their annual leave to help. Almost the entire Event Team are also runners and many aspire to take part in the 2020 Cape Wrath Ultra®; this is of great benefit to me and the participants as they intuitively get it – they understand the enormity of the challenge and how the support of the Event Team makes such a difference to the runners. Some of the Event Team took part in 2016 and wanted to 'repay' the help and support they received that year by volunteering themselves. As the Race Director I of course owe each one of them a very special and sincere thank you for their extraordinary commitment to the event, their amazingly positive approach, their beaming smiles, their special dance routines, the personal touches and their sheer grafting that combined to make the event another great success. Thank you.
The glue of the event (and there are more on duty out of shot behind the scenes even here!) ©Credit: Jimmy Hyland/JHPvisuals.co.uk
An event with the complexity of the Cape Wrath Ultra® requires an amazing array of skills ‘to make it happen’ and the Event Team delivered in spades this year. From the medics, engineers, mountain leaders, mountain rescue team members, artists, plumbers, administrators, IT experts, armed forces personnel, chefs, police officers, teachers, photographers, scientists, students and much more; they all combined into a unique and special team; Team Awesome in fact!
What was really noticeable for me was the number of participants who said that they had received special or individual treatment, especially from the catering team. This really highlights the extraordinary effort the Event Team went to, to ensure that the runners were welcomed and supported throughout the race.
Event Team member Tim Cox - part of a massive team of volunteers couriering up to 20kg 79L Ortlieb drybags on behalf of the participants ©Credit: Jimmy Hyland/JHPvisuals.co.uk
As the Race Director I am in the very fortunate position of receiving the majority of participants' "thank you"s. However, I know that every word of thanks should really be going to the each member of the Event Team and I’d like the Team to know what a tremendous success the event has been, and that they are largely responsible for this.
The 2018 Cape Wrath Ultra® Event Team is listed below. Many of these people were actually in multiple teams. Someone in the Transport Team might have also been in the Camp Team for example, and this really sums up the ethos of the event team; never walk past a job!
- Ali Edwards
- Mikk Murray
- Sandra Williams
- Tammy Ruvino
- Tim Glasby
Fresh salad and eggs? ©Credit: Jimmy Hyland/JHPvisuals.co.uk | Freshly baked croissants! Credit: www.fionaoutdoors.co.uk
- Alex Chesters
- Barbara Garrett
- Darren Graham
- Duncan Anderson
- Dwane Dixon
- Edward Chapman
- Geoff Osbaldestin
- Gregory Mickelborough
- Heather Rumble
- Julia Sayburn
- Kristian Dela Cour
- Lisa Watson
- Louise Greenwood
- Luke Elliott
- Mark Spitzer
- Mike Hogan
- Nick Stafford
- Owen McNamee
- Phil Sturgeon
- Philip Wilkinson
- Sarah Roscoe
- Stephan Tietz
- Stephen Smithies
- Tim Cox
Day 8: Slightly delayed team-building exercises for the event team ©Tom Hecht
- Charlotte Hattersley
- Claire Ellis
- John Irvine
- Laura Watson
- Morag Bowie
- Paul Weaving
Nearly all the 2018 medical team + some first response! ©Credit: Jimmy Hyland/JHPvisuals.co.uk
First Response Teams
- Abbi Forsyth
- Alli Holland
- Joe Faulkner
- Stuart Smith
Senior Event Team
- Gary Tompsett
- Graham Gristwood
- Helen Samson
- Shane Ohly
- Sue Dowker
- Tom Hecht
- Dave Taylor
- Sharon Taylor (not related!)
Race Admin Support
- Emma Dent
- Janie Oates
- Matt Gemmell
- Thomas Snow
- Andy Brooks
- Colin Harding
- Ian Cowie
- Lawrie Jones
- Matt Snow
- Shan Jones
Roadside CP Team leader Andy Brooks Credit: www.fionaoutdoors.co.uk
- Ellie Green
- Fiona Russell
- Jimmy Hyland
- Matt Green
- Steve Ashworth
Ellie and Jimmy from the media team crossing the Kyle of Durness on day 8. Credit: www.fionaoutdoors.co.uk
Course Wrangling Team
- Carwyn Phillips
- Richard Beard
- Ian Race
- Nico Gross
- Tom Withers
It is difficult to single out people for special thanks when everyone has work so hard to make the event successful, but a few of the Event Team deserve a special mention. Our two Team Leaders, Dave Taylor and Sharon Taylor took a considerable load off the entire Senior Event Team and we are all very grateful for their help. Sue Dowker and Helen Samson, two of my permanent staff, do a sterling job behind the scenes organising the administration that is essential for the event to succeed. These are the tasks like creating work rotas, organising Ultra Mail™, paying landowners, organising the participants who need transport each day… the list of tasks is huge. Graham Gristwood, the Deputy Race Director, for sharing the management of the overall event with me, especially for his methodical, careful and logical approach to a variety of challenges and difficult decisions faced each day. Finally, Gary Tompsett who has done an incredible ‘hearts and minds’’ operation with literally hundreds of stakeholders along the route; the quality of the route and the warm welcome we received is testament to his expertise.
Results and % Finishers
Incredibly, we had exactly the same finish rate in 2018 as we did in 2016: 62%.
- 2018: 177 Starters / 110 Finishers / 62% Success Rate
- 2016: 95 Starters / 59 finishers / 62% Success Rate
Whilst there were 110 runners who completed the full 2018 course, 27 participants also continued with the event to the finish as non-competitive runners completing partial days or missing a day altogether after picking up injuries, being timed out or accumulating ‘three strikes’. In total, 40 (separate) runners retired and left the event.
Please visit the 2018 results page for the full results by gender and position including all non-competitive runners.
Safety Management and Logistics
As I explained at the pre-event briefing I consider that the role of the Race Director, supported by the Senior Event Team, is to primarily manage safety and then ensure fluid logistics. On rare occasions these priorities are not compatible with a participant’s race and this is especially the case with participants being timed out at Checkpoints.
When we plan a complex event like the Cape Wrath Ultra® we make many calculations and decisions about timings, cut-offs, and participants' speed; these are based on the 2016 Cape Wrath Ultra® data. Obviously, we can’t tailor all these for each individual participant and potential scenario but take a collective approach to enable us to deliver the best possible experience for the greatest number of participants. Unfortunately, very occasionally, this will mean that when a participant teeters on the edge of the event logistics and safety management planning, I have no choice but to take decisive action to protect the viability of the ongoing event plans.
Another important element of the Race Director’s role is to ensure fairness across the board and this means applying the pre-written and published rules of the event uniformly regardless of whether you are a front-runner, or back-marker. Very occasionally, ensuring fairness will mean that I annoy a participant (issuing strikes or disqualifying for example). I believe that being a good Race Director means stepping back from the moment, taking an overview and ensuring that the structure and parity of the event is maintained. That structure is created from many aspects of the event set-up; the rules, our policies, the recommended start times, mandatory equipment etc. all of which combine to give the event its identity and integrity. The specific event rules and universal rules have been established across our two major expeditionary stage-races, and rarely offer scope for leniency. Without this multifaceted structure, there would be no coherent event. Certainly, I cannot just change the rules adhoc. To reiterate, the event rules are essential for a number of reasons including:
- They ensure fairness between the participants
- They ensure a minimum standard of clothing
- They are sometimes essential as part of our negotiations with landowners and authorities
Behind the scenes ©Credit: Jimmy Hyland/JHPvisuals.co.uk
Compliance with Event Rules
The main rule violations in 2018 were deliberate corner cutting, missing items of mandatory kit and accidental route variance. Overall there were only a small number of violations of event rules and reflecting on our, ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy introduced after the 2016 Cape Wrath Ultra®, I feel that it was effective with relatively fewer rule violations in 2018 than in 2016. The rule violations that did take place had no impact on the leading positions, and little impact on the overall positions.
Managing violations of the rules is never easy and it is by far the least enjoyable aspect of being a Race Director. I am extremely grateful for the large number of participants who took the time to reassure me that they highly value my firm adherence to the event rules, and expressly pointed out that the outstanding international reputation that the event has secured is built on the coherent structure, strong values and universal enforcement of the rules (as well as the quality of course and welfare provision of course!).
IT, Timing & Communications
My colleague Tom Hecht – our Marketing Manager – is my only full-time employee and is a man of many talents. During the first few days, behind the scenes, the event was struggling with a number of unforeseen technical problems. These had many knock-on ramifications such as our ability to communicate with the remote event team, to generate results, to see the tracking interface and more. We had to fall back to plan B on a number of occasions to ensure our safety management system was maintained (more below). As the most IT-literate person on the Event Team, Tom dealt with all these added challenges AND still managed the publication of daily videos, blogs and photos in conjunction with the media team. Superb effort Tom – thank you.
Scanning in, scanning out, and scanning through - race timing + safety check ©Tom Hecht
These thank yous are listed far below, at the foot of the report. This year, there are a few tales to single out with some brief narrative. We rescued some participants from the course this year, and from the most remote locations imaginable. We had rehearsed such missions and had a plan for these eventualities, but they certainly held our attention on the evenings of Day 2 and Day 3! Knoydart required a sea-based rescue operation, and we achieved this with the expert assistance of the Western Isles Cruises - skipper Jane Eddie’s good humour and resilience – and the resourceful staff; Rob and Danny of Camusrory Estate. On this same evening, we were attending to some late exhausted participants into Kinlochhourn, and a medical concern that required an ambulance evacuation from camp. Then, the following evening, after two more YB Tracker button alerts, we ventured into the most remote Highland bothy; Maol-Bhuidhe, and were joined by the Police, Kintail Mountain Rescue, an event Land Rover and the head stalker's Argocat (which threw a cog and broke-down at the most remote point – and for all we know is still there!) The rescue team walked out with the injured, joined in the dark by the entertaining stalker Thomas Watson, and all were safely in bed by 4am. The judgement and skills of the rescue leads in these operations requires extended applause! Thank you to Stuart Smith and Alli Holland, Joe Faulkner and Abbi Forsyth, and Charlotte Hattersley and her Medical Team at the overnight camp.
Egress issues ©Steve Ashworth
Ongoing Health For Participants
Whether you completed the full course or not we would highly recommend an extended period of recovery now. There is little formal research into the impact of the accumulated stress of the event on the participants' bodies, but we know from anecdotal experience most participants take many months to fully recover. All too often we have seen participants after our expedition-length races return to running too early, and they have occasionally ended up with long term chronic fatigue and injury problems. Now is the time to be kind to yourself; eat plenty, sleep lots and lay off any training for at least 4 weeks.
We would also like to reiterate the danger of Lyme Disease from tick bites. Whilst this is unlikely, if you develop a ‘bulls-eye’ rash around a tick bite, or experience flu-like symptoms in the next 30 days, we would advise a trip to the doctors. Ensure that you explain that you have very likely been bitten by a tick. There is more information on the Lyme Disease Action website.
As expected ‘Ultra Mail™’ proved extremely popular with 2,319 messages of support sent to the participants (and Event Team) during the event. We love this component of the event and delivering Ultra Mail™ is one of the prized event team jobs because of the obvious joy it brings to the participants (check out the end of the Day 2 video).
Ultra Mail™ print run - see the full day 2 video
All the participants' and event team's movements over the 8 days are public and available for everyone to view in two ways:
- You can use your (non-mobile/tablet) laptop or desktop computer and head to the GPS tracking page where you'll find a replay icon at the top which launches the replay scrubber - you can also choose to view just a few names (instead of the entire field) by using the favourites function.
- If you prefer to get all technical and want to get your hands on the raw GPX file output of each participant's GPS track, you can download in one batch (zip file) to your computer for full interrogation! Apologies, we cannot offer any technical support in the use of these.
Daily Highlight Videos
Please visit our dedicated daily highlight videos summary page to catch up on proceedings from each of the 8 days of the event. Bring your own popcorn and be sure to share them to inspire your friends.
2018 Highlight Reel
Thanks to the participants, event team, supporters, landowners, and local stakeholders alike - what a journey! Captivated your imagination? Entries for the next event (May 2020) open May 2019...Posted by Cape Wrath Ultra on Thursday, 31 May 2018
Another round of popcorn may be required... please check out the 2018 Photo Galleries now.
The Cape Wrath Trail in all its Scottish Highland splendour ©Credit: Jimmy Hyland/JHPvisuals.co.uk
Please use these images you find on our website in your write-ups and blogs with due credit to the photographer. If you would like any of them in super high-res (maybe you want to print something on canvas or similar) then you are able to purchase as follows:
Participant Blogs and Articles
If you are writing a blog or a feature for a magazine about the event, please share it with us on social media or by email. We will continue to add blogs to this list:
- 'My Cape Wrath Ultra Story' - Glenn Tait
- '18 things I learned while reporting on the Cape Wrath Ultra 2018' - Fiona Outdoors
- 'A glass half full kind of race' - Kirsty Reade
Feedback is very important to us. Whatever you have to say, positive or negative, we are keen to hear your thoughts. Whilst we don’t promise to incorporate every piece of feedback received, we do promise to read and consider it carefully. Participant feedback is so important for us in refining and improving the event from one edition to the next. Certainly, the honest feedback we have received with regards to our sister event, the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race® has been instrumental in polishing the details and the event is better for it. So, please don’t be shy and send any comments you have using our contact form or email us directly.
2020 Date & Entries
The next edition of the Cape Wrath Ultra® is likely to be held on the same ‘last week’ of May dates in 2020. These are provisionally Sunday 24th to Sunday 31st May. Please note that there will be a registration and travel day at either end of these dates, so participants will need to plan to be in Scotland Saturday 23rd through to Tuesday 1st June 2020. Entries will open in May 2019 and the dates and entry fee will be confirmed long before this date.
We know it has been an emotional journey and we hope the memories of your Scottish expedition race stay with you forever. Rest up and prepare for your next adventure - for inspiration please check out our other events.
A runner passes by the incredible Falls of Glomach on day 3 ©Credit: Jimmy Hyland/JHPvisuals.co.uk
We will endeavour to list here all the landowners, stakeholders and service providers. There are over 50, and we will be writing to them to thank them and enquire upon any feedback. It might have felt remote out there, but you can bet that they were watching, and curious about your endeavours. Many have already been in touch to ask if you actually reached Cape Wrath! However, in chronological order, here are most of the more evident stakeholders to mention – maybe you can send some more business their way: Though perhaps avoid late May 2020! Please tell them that they were mentioned in our post-event report.
- Danny & Chris: the Nevis Centre where nothing was too much trouble.
- Mike and Yvonne Crook: the Good Highland Food Company for their quality food.
- Tina Cuthbertson: the Snowgoose Mountain Centre where most fo the Event Team stayed.
- Dougie Robertson and his ferries: He runs the regular Camasnagaul Ferry and he especially brought in his ‘Landing Craft’ the Renfrew Rose, all the way through the Caledonian Canal from Inverness.
- Davy Elder. The resplendent ‘Munro Piper' at Camusnagaul. You'll next see Davy at Salomon Skyline Scotland™ this September!
- Treslaig Hall: Tea and Biscuits and a charming gathering before the start. Many thanks to Geraldine and friends.
- Heilan Loos. Keith and Neil work hard, quietly and efficiently following the event from start to finish.
- North of Scotland Marquees. Not easy to work with some of those locations, but they managed it!
- Alistair Gibson of Glenfinnan Estate. He enjoyed our stay, though we have asked if he can get the steam trains to run on the Sunday evening for 2020!
- Western Isles Cruises of Mallaig. Gave our safety team safe access to remote Knoydart and helped our extraction of participants.
- Kinlochhourn Tearoom and B&B (and old cottage). Delightful location and facility at a very remote road end. Talk to Tony Hinde and perhaps plan a revisit there? Thank you to the Gordon family.
- Lair Croft, Achnashellach. The Cudby family are just starting to get their campsite off the ground here - perfect for walkers on the Cape Wrath Trail.
- Kinlochewe had a clutch of people that helped us, partly as we were clearly visible within the village: The Village Hall was enabled by Fionna Brown and Andy James, the Games Pitch by Malcolm MacDonald and the Trustees, Liz Broom of the Whistle Stop Café, and at nearby Cromasaig, Tom and Liz Forrest have been long-time fans of the event concept, from the beginning, in 2014.
- The Kinlochewe Hotel responded well to our hearty occupation later that evening!
- Clachan Farm at Inverbroom. The farmer Scott and his family really enjoyed seeing us there and were always wanting to help. Along with his wife Marie, they also run a B&B. http://www.clachanfarmhouse.co.uk/
- The Oykel Bridge Hotel. A sanctuary for many, and always responds to needy adventurers – as well as their usual salmon-fishing clientele.
- Inchnadamph. The Estate keeper Craig Ross – a very helpful man. For this field he asked that our hire fee go towards the maintenance of the old small church, administered by Helen Morrison and Dave McBain of the Historic Assynt group.
- We also greatly thanks Chris Rix for the hire of the nearby Hostel Field Centre.
- Kinlochbervie Village Hall, School and Pitch. Sandra Kaczmarek was great here and is trying to keep this Village Hall from shutting down due to lack of maintenance funding. The football pitch also, needs funding to fix the drainage. Our hire contributions will help. Many thanks to everyone at the adjacent school, especially Heather MacNeil, and Iain Munro of the Pitch Committee, George Fulton and shepherd Cathel Morrison.
- Lighthouse Finish at Cape Wrath. John Ure and his daughter live here and operate the Ozone Café and accommodation. We are indebted to him in many ways. Point your friends!
- James Mather and the Cape Wrath Buses. They are running a sterling service on the edge of Europe here! James has a garage where there are always one or two buses having their suspension and bearings replaced!
- The Ferryman – Malcolm Morrison. Malcolm is the sole licensee of this ferry route across the Kyle of Durness at Keoldale, appointed by the Highland Council. He put on his bigger boat for the day.
- The Far North Bus. Nick Hird provided the slick movements of buses between Keoldale and Sango Bay campsite, and later between the campsite and the Community Hall.
- Sango Sands Oasis. James Keith operates the campsite and the pub, and was always very welcoming and helpful. We were made to feel very much at home there, even with our mass occupation of part of the site.
- Durness Community Hall and Durness in general. A terrific welcome from this village, and many thanks to Lucy and Martin Mackay for the arrangements at the Hall, especially for the interior furnishings – perfect for our ceremony!
- James Mather, after a long day of driving to and from the Cape, then became a piper for the medal procession!
- Shiel Buses and Bremners of Aviemore. Provided the coaches back to Fort William, and in fact a standby service should there have been a gale on the first Sunday, rendering the initial ferry crossing too hazardous.
- Bothies. You might have taken a peek at the bothies on our route. Most are maintained by the donation funded MBA, whilst others are private Estate bothies, but still open for anyone’s use. Please consider becoming a member.
- Highland Council (Consultation and Refuse Bins)
- Scottish Natural Heritage (who own Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve)
- National Trust for Scotland (who own Kintail and the Falls of Glomach)
- John Muir Trust (who own Sandwood Bay)
- Ross McLean and David Mosgrove of Conaglen Estate
- Mr Ling of Callop Farm
- Fraser MacKay (and Sir Patrick Grant) of Glendessary Estate
- Keeper Rob Cooper
- Ghillie Danny Edwards (and Sir Rupert Soames) of Camusrory Estate
- Amie Dow of the Knoydart Foundation
- Barisdale Estate
- Kintail Lodge Hotel
- Andrew Slaughter of Inverinate and Killilan Estate for enabling vehicle access
- Thomas and father Tom Watson of Attadale Estate for enabling vehicle access and joining our rescue
- Norman Kelman of Heights of Kinlochewe Estate
- Alasdair MacDonald of Dundonnel Estate
- Shane Colvin and keeper Ali MacKenzie of Strathmulzie Estate
- Bruce Blackley, the keeper of Benmore Estate
- George Vesty of Inchnadamph Estate
- David Allison of Reay and Achfary / Grosvenor Estate (Duke of Westminster) also for enabling vehicle access and offering boat evac
- Richard Osborne of Rhiconich River/Estate
- Rhiconich Hotel
- M.O.D. Cape Wrath Range
- Tony Jackson of the Cape Wrath Challenge
- ... and lastly thanks to anyone that encouraged our participants on their way!
Sunset over Loch Assynt from Inchnadamph on Day 6 ©Tom Hecht