FEMALE FIRST: ULTRA RUN TRAVERSE OF THE OUTER HEBRIDES - 14-18 OCTOBER 2019
It’s time! I am really excited to share with you all the first project that I am running under the Ultra Awesome banner and it’s a banger! I’ve joined up with my besties ar Rat Race to bring you something amazing.
This October, I am taking 8 awesome women “oop north” to attempt to run 185 miles across the Outer Hebrides over 5 days as part of the first ever all female Rat Race Test Pilot team.
The fun scientists over at Rat Race have come up with a pretty epic journey that they want us to test. It will see us running 37 miles a day for 5 days across some of the most brutal and beautiful islands on earth, heading from the bottom to the top of this rugged island archipelago off the West Coast of Scotland. We’re going to be carrying our own kit and bedding down in bunkhouses along the way.
I am super mega excited to be heading up what I think is a dream team of pretty normal women and seeing them come through the other side as bonafide trail-blazing heroes. The recce will go on to join Panama, Namibia and Mongolia as one of the highlights in the Rat Race Bucket List events calendar.
Our team is comprised of 9 unique women (including myself), all from different walks of life and running backgrounds. It is the first time that an all-female test pilot team have gone out to test such a demanding route, and we are aiming to inspire and encourage more women to take up endurance running, adventuring and to just say yes to mental and amazing stuff. Instead of just talking about it, we’re actually doing it.
We will start on the 14th October and run from Barra to the Butt of Lewis via South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist, Harris and Lewis, finishing 5 days later on the 18th October. No, I’ve never heard of those places either… Every type of terrain is covered from mountains and beaches to farm tracks and peat bogs. There’ added pressure with water crossings and tight timeframes with regards to ferries and getting between the islands. The recce will be organised by Rat Race and led by experienced adventure planner Gary Tompsett, with support from a skeleton crew including mountain leader and all round wonder woman Kate Worthington. I’m still doing the maths on if this has been done before - we will be following the Hebridean Way for a lot of it, but have added in some very special extra bits - I don’t THINK this has been done before…. Sound the world first klaxon!
Every member of the team has a different story and differing levels of experience and fitness. That's because the world if full of these women. No two are the same. That said I believe that everyone has the capability within them to be able to do something like this, it just takes some support, some training and some solid advice and a proper HELL YEAH attitude. I’m going to be documenting our progress here on the website with regular updates and some stories from the powerhouses we have taking part. I wil also be updating y’all over on the Ultra Awesome facebook page - so get over there give it a follow to keep up to date. For now I thought I would do you a little intro to our 8 intrepid explorers….. you don’t need to know about me. You all know about me already……
Anna Brown, 37, London.
Anna started running in 2007 as a cross training exercise - she was a competitive rower, rowing for England in a Commonwealth crew in 2006 until her retirement in 2014.Anna has a few marathons and ultras behind her, but is still worried what the challenge will bring
“I’m worried about my legs coping with the massive distances for 5 days in a row. Failure scares me” says Anna. “I’m a challenge-driven person, so like to work towards goals and targets, whether that’s an event or just cumulative totals. For example, in 2016 a group of friends and I decided to ‘run the date’ in February, so started at 1km on 1st, 2km on 2nd etc up to the 29th (it would be a leap year). This was totally fine until the 17th when I pulled my Achilles and had to run with an injury for the rest of the month, increasing distance every day! We then increased the distance over 2 years until last year when we did 500km. Since then I have always on the lookout for slightly wacky challenges to work towards.My next big challenge other than the Hebrides is MDS in 2020 which I finally signed up to after years of being too scared. Am hoping this will help prepare me.”
Laura Fisher, 43, Kent.
Laura started running around her 39th birthday. “I grew up thinking I hated running. Even though I was very active, I always saw running as a necessary evil” says Laura. “Since realising that running was actually something I enjoy, I've done countless obstacle races - everything from 10Km to marathon distance. I've never run an ultra.”
Laura signed up to the challenge because the loved the simplicity of it. “By 'simplicity' I don't, by any means, mean 'easy'” says Laura. “the thought of an entire week of doing what I love, focussing on putting one foot in front of the other in a part of the world I've always wanted to see was a prospect I couldn't pass up. To not have to juggle conflicting schedules, to not have to be a peace-maker amongst family members, to not have to try and squeeze running into the corners of the day that are left after the obligations of the kids, dogs, chickens, even the flaming guinea pigs! A full week of just thinking about running, and the journey, and the adventure, and the stimulation of being with like-minded women doing an event that's a world-first. Who on earth wouldn't want to be part of something so amazing?! I'd love to inspire my kids in the process - and to teach them that Comfort isn't always King - sometimes we have to push to our limits and scare ourselves and be prepared to be uncomfortable for greater gain”
“I'm scared I'll discover I'm not as strong or resilient as I think I am - but the ultimate goal is to overcome all that fear and realise I'm a badass after all”
Gillian McColl, 46, Kinross, Scotland.
Gillian is an experienced runner, and has done a number of marathons and ultras, starting in 2016 and most recently run the Spine Flare (108 miles along the Pennine Way. “This is a great opportunity to do something that has never been done before and with an all-female crew” says Gillian. “I have never done anything like this before where I will be part of a team and not just running my own race. “
“My husband and the kids are really supportive of my running as I think they have realised that when Mum doesn’t run, she can be a little bit cranky! I used to feel so guilty about the time that I took out to run, and it didn’t help when I had the comments from other mothers “Oh you must be selfish to take so much time out for yourself”. Now I’ve realised that I need the time out to clear my head and make me a healthier and happier person. The children also love telling their friends about events that I’m doing as they think it’s a bit crazy how far I run, and I want them to see what is possible when you try and push yourself out your comfort zone. If you had told me three years ago that I could have run a marathon never mind an ultra I think I would have laughed!”
Kirsty Aplin, 35, Hampshire.
Kirsty describes herself as a “varied“ runner, having started out on OCR, later moving into pure running. To date, she has completed over 20 marathons all over the world.
“I absolutely adore Scotland and have wanted to do a supported event there for sometime” says Kirsty.
“I hiked unsupported with my husband the Great Divide Trail in the Canadian Rookies this time last year. It was 1000km over 32 days, hiking 12-14 hour days with 30,000m of elevation gain. There was trail, no trail, many rivers and much crawling and climbing over fallen trees and bush waking - there were bears and we had to hang our food in a tree away from the tent. My biggest worry is not being able to keep up with the other amazing women on this trip. I am scared of failure. I hate not completing what I have set out to achieve.”
Kim Hopkinson, 30, Oxfordshire
Kim started running 4 years ago in an effort to lose weight. “I tried lots of different classes, swimming etc, but running stuck. I was so overweight that I started out running under the cover of darkness, eventually joining a local club and started going to parkrun etc. It took ages for me to pluck up the courage to enter a race” says Kim. “I saw this challenge on an Instagram post on my 30th birthday when I was having a mild existential crisis. It's the sort of thing I would say "I wish I were the sort of person who could do that" but the only way to be that sort of person is to actually to it.”
“The multi-day aspect and distances scare me a bit. Knowing I've got to get up and do it all again day after day for 5 days, not knowing how much and what kit to take is an issue, and meeting new people is also a big step for me. “
“I want to leave this trip with the realisation that stuff like this is for people like me. Amazing women doing amazing adventures always say "If I can do it anyone can" - I've never believed that applied to me. I would also like to see some otters!”
Alice Kirk, 54, Kent.
Alice has been running her while life, specialising in half marathons up until her husband died when she was 28.
“I was offered a place to run The London Marathon and after this I became involved in the local running club as it was very sociable.” Says Alice. “After a difficult period in my life about five years ago, a conversation with an ultrarunner encouraged me to see if I could go further and I entered my first ultra, January 1st 2015. Since then, I have taken part in thirty-four ultra events. My longest multi day event to date is two days – this one is a little longer!”
“I love the experience of a small group where you really get to know people when things become difficult. It brings out the best in people”
“I am an ordinary Mum of three teenagers. Running ultras is the most amazing thing. Running has kept me going through the roughest times in my life. It has been my constant companion. When there was nothing else, I could always go for a run. I want to see how far I can go.”
Ciara Downes, 46, Stirling, Scotland.
Ciara is also an experience ultrarunner, having completed the MdS in 2016; North Downs Way 100 in 2016, South Downs Way 100 in 2017, Lakeland 50 2018 and Namibia Crossing 2019.
“Most of my friends would describe me as stubborn and determined” says Ciara. “I probably started running properly around 2011. I played team sports in school and university so I had to do a bit of running for those. But as little as possible! My longest distance is the NDW100, when I managed to get lost and ran 108 miles.”
“My biggest worry is staying healthy enough to get to the end. I do tend to get blisters and chafing on long runs. I am hoping for an amazing experience in a beautiful part of the world. I expect that I will form deep friendships with the other women on the trip - friendships that will last well past the week of shared experiences.”
Lorna Spayne, 37, Devon.
“I have recently been feeling like everything that I do is somewhat sterile, that I’m not really pushing myself or doing anything that has any particular meaning to me” says Lorna. “I have been reading novels set in the Outer Hebridies for years and have always wanted to explore the area for myself so when this came up, I thought like it sounded perfect!”
Lorna started out as a road runner, making the switch to trails just last year. She has a handful of trail marathons and Ultras under her belt and is very experienced at crewing people on long distance attempts. “69 miles is the longest distance I have done in one go” says Lorna. “Multi day events have only been marathon doubles over a weekend. I’m worried that I will not be fit enough for long periods of running because I am coming back from a long lay-off after a recurring injury, so I am entering this as a hike with the odd bit of running. The sheer enormity of the distance scares me. I have no idea if I can do it or not! The thought of a lot of rocky terrain because I am not very good at staying on my feet!”
“I truly don’t know whether I’ll be able to achieve this. I’d like to survive it so that in the future I have something to look back on that makes me realise that I am stronger than I give myself credit for.”
So there we have it…..
Full squad present and we are raring to go. I’m going to be adding bits of news etc here, but the best way to keep up with progress is in the Ultra Awesome Facebook page - or even better become a member. For just $10 a month you will receive a monthly newsletter full of inspiration, motivation and massive reality checks, plus discounts, information on how to join future projects and test pilot trips and other stuff I haven’t thought of yet. You will also be able to access exclusive content via the Patreon page and you’ll be helping support me to write the book. If you don’t fancy that, you can donate a one off $10 for the book fund below. Good innit!?