I don’t think I’ve ever been more de-trained for a race in my life. I ran more miles in the 8 days I spent completing the Virtual West Highland Way than I did in the preceding 8 weeks. When races started getting cancelled in March due to lockdown, some races went the virtual route. I didn’t really see the point of that: the best thing about racing is having other people running with you to push you on. Without that they just seemed like solo time trials. Instead, I just mainly lost motivation for running, though thankfully I did do some cycling to keep in some kind of shape.
The Virtual West Highland Way struck me as different to other virtual races though. Acting as support crew/ torture specialist on last year’s race was a highly memorable experience, but seeing what the runners went through convinced me I could never do the race myself. However, the virtual race seemed achievable, with 9.5 days in which to complete the 95 miles. No concerns about hallucinating from sleep deprivation. Several Footers were talking about signing up (18 signed up Solo, with several more entering the Team event). I also knew other runners from Brechin and Montrose who were registering for the event too. Eventually I pulled the trigger and signed up a week before the start.
To begin with, I was mainly just concerned with completing the 95 miles. The general advice is not to increase your mileage by more than 10% per week. I was concerned there might be an injury risk if I did anything other than take it easy. Signing up to do a 95 mile run was clearly the wisest thing to do. I had done some calculations though, and thought it might take up to 19 hours to complete. I’m a full-time student just now and I did have some important deadlines. I wasn’t sure I could commit that kind of time to it. I’d asked in our BRR chat group what kind of times David and Ann-Marie were hoping for. David – whose training has been going really well during lockdown despite him continuing to work full-time – said he would be happy with anything under 11 hours and 30 minutes. Wow! I put that into an online calculator and found that would be an average pace of 7:16 per mile. So basically he was planning to go out and run at my 10-mile PR pace (something I’m not remotely capable of just now) for 10 days in a row. Ann-Marie didn’t say what she was aiming for, but she’s also been in excellent form lately. I was mostly just hoping to survive or, at the very least, take some faster runners down with me.
I (mis) calculated that even if I did 10-minute miles on average – 6 miles an hour – it would take me 15 hours. I did this calculation by multiplying 6 by 10 to work out the time to do 60 miles, then adding half as much again. Of course, this would be the time to run 90 miles. I remembered that 96 is greater than 90, then stupidly thought “It’s only 95 miles, so I don’t need to add an extra hour.” When June from the Footers asked, I told her it would take me about 15 hours. I didn’t realise my mistake until two thirds of the way into the first leg.