I struggle to see myself as the kind of serious runner who has an ‘A-Race’ in their calendar. But if I had one this year, it was the Salomon Mamores Vertical Kilometer at Glencoe, back in September. If an A-Race is the one that you plan for, train for, focus on and work towards, then yes, this was it.
I only enter races that really stand out for me: otherwise, I struggle to motivate myself to train for them. It may be shallow and silly – particularly when you’re running at my unremarkable level – but I only really want to run races that have some special sparkle; some magic ingredient that distinguishes them from the dozens and dozens of others that happen every weekend. In that respect, choosing the Mamores VK was a no-brainer: THE UK’S FIRST VERTICAL KILOMETER RACE. Sold. Yes please.
Add to that the ‘skyrunning’ label, together with the experience of having watched Emelie Forsberg herself completing the VK’s big brother race, the Glencoe Skyline, in 2015, and it became even more irresistible. On a purely pragmatic note, there was also the fact that by September I was still only 20 weeks post-natal. My inner realist understood that there aren’t too many epic races that you can expect to train for in five months from a ground zero start with no sleep and whilst breastfeeding. But a VK? Just one kilometre up over five kilometres along? Yes, yes, yes; I knew at once that this was the race for me.
I loved the training. It felt TOUGH – and having a good reason to head for the hills every so often proved a brilliant counterpoint to the intensity of life with a new baby. I loved the camaraderie that developed between fellow entrants Fiona, Ellie, Lucja and myself in the lead-up to the race – we were all in it together (and we even managed to meet up for a post-race beer – MAJOR race-day highlight for a new mum who gets out as little as I do!). I loved – retrospectively – how scared I’d felt, the first time that Ryan and I recced the route, when we got caught in a storm on top of Na Gruagaichean: we shivered whilst we slurped down gels in the sleet, crawled along the ridge for fear of blowing away, then raced the failing light back down to our rented caravan where our children and my long-suffering parents were waiting for us. It felt EPIC.
When the race date came, I loved, loved, loved the festival vibe of the race base in Kinlochleven. I loved that I took nearly an hour off the finish time that I originally predicted for myself, making it to the top on race day in a respectable 1:19:05 and 15th in the womens’ rankings. I loved the chat with fellow runners on the way up and back down; the opportunity to cheer on and be cheered by others who started before and after me. I didn’t love being overtaken by faster climbers, for sure, but that was always inevitable. I loved getting a text from Ryan -‘You smashed it!’ – just moments after I reached the finish line on the summit, as he spotted my finish time flashing up on the screens at the Ice Factor, one immense kilometre below me. For one glorious moment I felt like a hero.
But my exultation stopped right there. From that moment on, the sense of achievement drained right out of me. I felt as flat as a pancake and more like a fraud than ever. And in the months that followed, I’ve struggled to rationalise that.