This bear should not be allowed out on her own

I have written in the past that I prefer to be a solo runner; however, I am on occasion open to persuasion. When I was asked if I would speak at a recent West Highland Way Race training weekend I decided that I would embrace the experience and participate more fully and so arranged to stay with everyone at the By The Way hostel and run with them on the Saturday.  As I could not get up to Tyndrum for the planned start time I proposed to run out and join them on their return leg. This suited me well as I only wanted to do roundabout 20 miles rather than the planned 38.

Slightly later than anticipated I set off from Glasgow. I went straight onto auto-pilot and started to head for the Clyde Tunnel instead of the M8 – oops. Luckily I realised before I had committed to the tunnel and was able to hang a left just past Ibrox and get myself back on route: phew, near miss.

Barrelling along the M8 I suddenly realised I was heading for Greenock having sailed past the slip road for the Erskine Bridge. Oh, my God! What is wrong with me: pay attention!  I will be the first to admit that at the moment my head is all over the place due to work related stress and broken sleep, and clearly my mental acuity is somewhat impaired. Anyway, I managed to come off the motorway and do an about turn before reaching Greenock which was something. Thankfully the rest of the trip was uneventful, and let’s face it you can’t really deviate or go wrong once you are on the Loch Lomond side road.

Slow traffic on the route meant that it was just on 11am when I arrived in Tyndrum. There had been a fair bit of chat about which direction people wanted to run in. The original plan was to run south to Inversnaid and back, but quite a few people wanted to go north over to Glencoe and back. I procrastinated as I got ready, and whilst I was inclined to go north, I opted to go south for what was probably the harder run.

Time to get a good solid long run in and to try to get rid of the cotton wool in my head: I jacked up the music and set out. For some inexplicable reason at Auchtertyre, after stopping to chat with George, I had a mental blip and deviated onto the wrong track: what? Then rather than retrace my steps I thought it was wonderfully good idea to simply crash up through the boggy fields to the right track. What a dough ball.

After that, things got onto a steadier track and I got into my groove clicking off the miles at a decent pace. Then the inevitable happened. On one of the roller coaster inclines I caught my toe and went flying and banged the same side as I had in the Fling. I picked myself up, dusted myself off, took a deep breath and continued on my grateful that there were no walkers around to see my embarrassment or hear my swearing.

Eventually, about a mile short of Beinglas I stopped. My body was telling me that this was probably the point to turn and head back. I thought that it was odd that I was not meeting people on their way back, especially the faster ones. Should I go on to Beinglas and hang about there for them? I pondered the possibilities for another few minutes and decided to turn and start back.

It was an uneventful return with no trips, stumbles or falls. I took some photos and stopped to chat with some walkers. So, rather ironically, I had gone to a training weekend and done a solo run. When I got back to Tyndrum I checked into the hostel and when I went into the bunkhouse there was quite a group gathered, including Lois who I was sharing a room with.

Whilst I settled in to a cup of tea and some of Lois’s amazingly good double chocolate birthday cake I asked how everyone’s run had gone.

Me: So, did you head north then?

Yes, 35 miles Glencoe and back.

Me: Yes, I thought about going North too, but decided to go south. Pause. Didn’t meet anyone though, so decided to turn just short of Beinglas.

Oh, we all went North.

Me: What, everyone?

Yes.

Me: Just as well I turned when I did then.

There was then a bit of chuckling and banter about me running on and on in the hope of meeting someone, and at what point it would have dawned on me that there was no-one to meet.

We sat about and chatted about running, our training, our thoughts about how our race might go, our crews. We then had a lovely informal evening with a great meal, some fun with a WHW Quiz, (in which the 'Pop your cherry' team of WHW Race virgins which I was a member of came 2nd); a talk about rock taping by Daniel Gerber and finally my talk about my Antarctic and Arctic experiences, which thankfully seemed to go down well. This was followed by a bit more chat and beer before we retired.

Sunday shaped up to be a free form day, with people running varying distances or no distance. I left early to get back home as I had quite a bit to do, and my mighty leap from 8.5 miles to 21 miles was quite enough. I left happy: having seen old friends and made a few new ones; feeling part of the family.

Is this solo runner a convert? Possibly. Having not actually run with a group, I daresay I would still have to overcome my nervousness about running with a group and worrying about slowing people up or being dragged along too quickly and blowing up.

If I am being honest, on this occasion the solo run was probably what I needed: to be able to go out hammer out some hard miles, with only the music running through my head. What was great though was coming back and joining the group. To be able to relax and spend time afterwards with like minded people, and to be able to talk about the running, training and the race and indulge in a bit of banter. Is it Ok to step over your support runner and keep going if they fall? What if your support runner gets more attention than you? How bad would that be? Is it ok to cry at the presentations?

I could indulge in this happy banter guilt free knowing that my poor long suffering, non-running husband was very grateful for a weekend with no running chatter.

On my return home in time for a late breakfast with Alasdair I regaled him with my series of wrong turns and mishaps, after the laughter stopped, his comment:

I can’t leave you alone for a second without you getting into mishaps. This bear really should not be allowed out on her own. I can’t let you go anywhere.