Kyle Greig lived up to pre-race favouritism to finish first at Saturday’s (28 April) Highland Fling. However things didn’t go to script in the women’s race as early leader Carla Molinaro dropped out leaving Carnethy team mates and training partners Rachel Normand and Nicola Duncan to battle it out for first place. Normand (8:22:23) prevailed with Duncan second in 8:26:54.
As host to the 2018 Scottish Ultra Trail Championships, the Highland Fling starting list of over 800 included some of the UK’s finest ultra runners. The 53-mile race along the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Tyndrum is arguably the UK’s biggest and most competitive ultra-distance event.
Aberdeen Metro and GB international, Kyle Greig made his intentions known from the gun and was out in front within metres of hitting the main street of Milngavie. He gradually built a lead over his nearest rivals and was two minutes up on Rob Sinclair’s course record of 6:41 by Drymen (12 miles). He paid for the early exertion in the latter stages, but still had a lead of 20 minutes ahead of the second runner at Beinglas (41 miles).
It was touch and go whether Greig would join the exclusive sub 7-hour club, but a finishing time of 7:06:56 is a very respectable time. An incredible rise for an athlete who only ran his first marathon two years ago.
Post-race Greig commented: “Overall I’m very happy with my race and getting the Scottish title. I would have hoped to run quicker, but the technical section took a little more out of me than I had expected. I have never been to such a friendly and positive race with everyone including the supporters, the runners and helpers making it feel such a fantastic running community. The views along the route were literally breathtaking and definitely makes you proud to be Scottish.”
The battle for the other two podium spots and Scottish championship medals changed frequently throughout the race. John Connolly (Pyllon Racing) was patient and content through Drymen in eighth place. By Balmaha (19 miles) he had moved up to fifth and then third by Beinglas, with Jon Ellis (Ealing, Southall & Middx) less than two minutes ahead. Connolly closed the gap within the closing mile and finished with a 23-minute course PB in 7:36.11, taking Scottish silver and Masters Gold. Ellis (7:37:16) crossed the line in third place.
The Scottish Championship podium consisted of Greig (Aberdeen Metro), John Connolly (Pyllon Racing) and Nicholas Wolverson 7:54:44 (Edinburgh AC).
The women’s race was expected to be hotly contested and it did not disappoint. Outside favourite Carla Molinaro took an early lead and was over five minutes ahead of Nicola Duncan and Sophie Mullins (Fife AC) at Drymen. Last year’s 1-2-3, Nicola Adams-Hendry (Garscube), Morgan Windram-Geddes and Rachel Normand were more content with their pacing, rather than racing, in the early stages.
By Balmaha, Molinaro has a six-minute lead on Duncan, with Normand and Adams-Hendry one minute behind. Molinaro dropped out north of Loch Lomond, leaving Normand and Duncan to battle it out for first place.
Normand eventually took the lead and won in 8:22:23, with Duncan close behind in 8:26:54. Gemma Carter (Serpentine) reaped the benefits of a conservative race strategy and worked her way through the field to finish third in 8:46:54. Last year’s winner Adams-Hendry put in a gutsy performance to finish fifth in 9:04:17, taking Masters gold.
Rachel Normand said: “I planned to go out steady and was confident enough to let others go out fast at the start, then started to overtake people after Balmaha. The few miles into Inversnaid I ran with my training buddy Nicola and I knew if I wanted to make up time it would have to be on the technical lochside section as she would have a strong finish on the hills. So I left the aid station first, pushed on the technical section and tried to hang on. I felt strong until the final three miles when I had a sudden panic that I was going to get caught but held out to the end.”
The Scottish Championship podium consisted of Rachel Normand (Carnethy), Nicola Duncan (Carnethy) and Nicola Adams-Hendry.
Other results included SAL Veterans Men: John Connolly, Billy Gibson and Dave Andrews; and SAL Veterans Women: Nicola Adams-Hendry, Charlotte Black and Angela Reid.
Full results for the 2018 Highland Fling available at runABC Scotland race listing.