New Cuillin ridge record! (Running)

Inn pin downclimb

Inn pin downclimb

The record I set for Skyeís Cuillin ridge back in 2007 has been broken at last. Over the past six years Iíve often wondered who would break it and when. For a long while I was pretty confident it was safe – none of the fell runners who were faster than me (or more relevantly faster than I was in 2007) had the climbing ability required, and I couldnít imagine anyone running the ridge faster than me without also being a better runner. When I first heard that Ben Nevis winner Finlay Wild was also a climber I wondered if it might be him. Then I heard that not only was he a climber, but what made him so awesome at fell running was his speed over rough ground, and I knew he would make a good candidate. Finally I heard he was interested, and we discussed the ridge quite a lot as his interest turned into action.

Iíve always had mixed feelings about the record getting broken. Of course part of me loved knowing that nobody else had ever run so fast along the most spectacular and challenging mountains in Britain; there is a large picture of the ridge hanging above my dining room table and it felt good to look at that each morning. But another part of me was keen for other people to have a go. To some extent because it seemed that a record which nobody ever tried to break wasnít much of a record at all, but also just because I wanted such a fantastic thing to be experienced by anyone capable of it. Iíve had many good days out in the hills, but running the Cuillin has to be the most memorable. Before Finlay got interested (or before I knew about it) I even emailed Kilian Jornet about having a go as part of his ďKilianís QuestĒ series. Unfortunately I never heard back.

Being the record holder became a part of how I saw myself, and, to a degree I didnít expect, how other people saw me. People I had never met would say ďoh youíre that guy who holds the Cuillin record, arenít youĒ when they heard my name (probably helped by having a weird name!). I was even once given a free pint by a barman for the achievement.

In terms of Finlayís time, while it is very impressive I canít say I was that surprised with how much time he took out of me (although his official time is only 2.5 minutes faster than mine, he ran it a week before that 7 minutes faster, in 3:10:30, but absent-mindedly forgot to visit the very top of one summit, passing within metres of it). In 2007 if Iíd been 7 minutes behind one of Britainís top fell runners in a 3-hour race I would have counted it as an exceptional performance (I was 17 minutes behind Ian Holmes at the Duddon race, a British championships counter, a month after my Cuillin record). My Cuillin run was an exceptional performance for me at the time, but Finlay is one of Britainís best fell runners at the moment, so it stands to reason that he should go that much faster.

Itís natural to wonder just how fast it could go. People often said they thought my record was unbeatable, but I always felt a faster round should be possible. Yet I also knew that each attempt meant taking some risks, and I rationalised that I would only allow myself that level of risk again if I thought I was significantly fitter than I had been in 2007.

Interestingly, if you add up the fastest recorded time for each of the legs of the round from my run and Finlayís two fast runs (5 of which are mine, 8 Finís) you get a time of 3:02. It doesnít necessarily follow that anyone could run all the legs at that pace, but it gives an idea of what sort of time might be possible. When that will come about is another question. The combination of exceptional runner and good-enough climber needed to go faster still is pretty rare, so unless Fin has another crack I think weíll be waiting a fair while.

Looking at the picture now still feels good, but rather than it just being pride and good memories, I look at it with excitement again at what Finlay has just done and what might be done in the future.

As for me, Iím currently training for another marathon. I ran the Brussels 20k recently in 69 minutes (respectable on a hilly course) and yesterday I was down the track doing 300m reps to try and gain some much-needed speed on the flat – you couldnít get much further from running the Cuillin ridge!

Iím going to be running the Berlin Marathon for the fantastic charity Whizz-Kidz and am hoping to go significantly faster than the 2:34 I managed at last yearís Amsterdam Marathon. If you would like to sponsor me, here is my JustGiving page.

Finlay’s account of his record is here. Good effort Fin!