Having previously attempted the 96 mile in 35 hours West Highland Way Challenge Race, Guy had a pretty good idea of what was required with regards the personal sacrifice required to complete it, including weight loss, cutting out most carbohydrates and alcohol, and a large amount of mileage including daily 4 to 6 mile runs every morning whilst on holiday in Lanzarote.
The day before the race Guy organised equipment into the correct drop bags for Checkpoints 3, 6 and the finish line, with the first bag containing all the safety equipment required for the night-time section of the course, including a sleeping bag, large orange survival bag, head torch and spare batteries, change of clothes and spare warm clothing.
Race day started at 6am and the challenge immediately began with a huge climb out of Fort William and straight up into the mountains via a treacherous track. Upon Guys descent from the mountain he missed the turn off to the first checkpoint, 14 miles into the journey, and had to traverse an awful knee-deep bog to get back on course.
After the first checkpoint the trail climbed up, over the ‘Devil’s Staircase’ which is as gruesome going up as it is going down. Guy made the second checkpoint at Glen Coe Ski Lift at the 25 mile mark, and then commenced the steady climb to Rannoch Moor, descending to Lock Tulla, and then a long, steep twisting climb up and over another mountain and a long descent down to Checkpoint 3 where he was reunited with his first drop bag containing the mandatory safety kit, adding extra weight to his already tired legs.
Reaching Checkpoint 4 at Auchtertyre Campsite, at the 44 mile mark, in the dark, Guy refuelled before heading out into the dark where all he could see were the eyes of sheep in the fields. At this point the pain in Guys feet had started, with 10 miles to the next checkpoint and the terrain consisting of sharp jagged stones. Unfortunately the only respite from this was a mile from the next checkpoint, when the terrain became tarmac.
As Guy entered Checkpoint 5 the sun was rising and he determined that he was behind schedule and decided to use the very crowded facilities, full of other runners either taking a nap or that had DNF’d (Did Not Finish) to get warm and take on board much needed hydration and sustenance. At this point Guy removed his boots to assess the damage and found the pain is excruciating. There was no way he could dress them decided to dry them, apply antiseptic and get warmed up.
At this point the realisation hit home that it was not possible to finish with the cut-off time and Guy called his wife as he was physically and mentally exhausted. Guy nodded off and in the blink of an eye the chalet door flew open and his wife stormed in, giving him a hug and saying ‘Now get your boots on and get out of this chalet. Times a ticking…quitting is not an option!’
Guy gathered his belongings and started on the 18 miles to the next checkpoint. The terrain on this leg isn’t just walking, it’s climbing up and down boulders and rocks and Guy had been going for many hours, and was now travelling at 1 mile an hour. Staggering into Checkpoint 6 he was greeted by a race official and advised that he had missed the cut off by around 30 mins. There was no way he could finish in time unless he was still running and even walking, he would have to be doing a steady 3.9 mph.
Sadly he couldn’t go on which left a bittersweet feeling and disappointment that he had not finished again, but relieved and comforted to know that he had pushed on to another checkpoint.
Guy explained “Many thanks to all my friends and family who have supported me, believed in me, and sponsored me. An awful lot of money (£1350) has been raised for the TLC, for which I am extremely grateful. It’s truly a fantastic cause.”
Well done to Guy from everyone at Northumberland Freemasons. We are extremely proud of your fantastic attempt and achievement.
Many thanks to Guy Smith of Holmes Lodge No.2571, which meets at Byker Masonic Hall, for the submission of this article.
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