As host to the 2018 Scottish Ultra Trail Championships, this year’s Highland Fling starting list of over 800 will once again include some of the UK’s top ultrarunners. Saturday's (28 April) 53-mile race along the West Highland Way is arguably the UK’s biggest and most competitive ultra-distance event.
The women’s race promises to be hotly contested with last year’s women’s podium finishers returning to battle along the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond to the finish in Tyndrum.
2017 winner, Nicola Adams-Hendry, is set to defend her title. The Garscube Harrier has been a force to be reckoned in the Scottish Ultra-distance scene over the past few years, winning the Scottish Championships twice. This will be her fifth Highland Fling. She has also won the Devil o’ the Highlands, three times.
Irish athlete Nicola, who resides in Edinburgh, runs for Carnethy and has a marathon PB of 2:33 is expected to run a big race. Winning every ultra she competed in last year, she may have a crack at Beth Pascall’s 7:52 course record.
Morgan Windram-Geddes and Rachel Normand (nee Newstead) who finished second and third last year will be looking for podium places and championship medals again while 100km internationalists Charlotte Black, Sophie Mullins (both Scotland) and Gemma Carter (England) are expected to mix it up at the front end. Carter is fresh from a win at Country to Capital and a sub three marathon in Manchester. Local runner and resident Californian, Jamie Aarons has a wealth of ultra-experience and wins to her name and is sure to make her presence known.
Others to look out for are Sara Al-Khadhimi, Aisling Allum, Gemma Bragg, Rosie Doull, Charlotte Finch, Georgina Hinton-Lewis, Claire McArthur, Carla Molinaro, Jo Newens, Louise Smart and Christine Waller.
In the men’s race, there will be an equal depth of talent. GB trail team’s Kyle Greig makes his Highland Fling debut. The Metro Aberdeen athlete has shown his current form by finishing fifth in a top international field at the Tarawera 100km in New Zealand. He was also the first GB athlete at the World Trail Championships in 2017. No slouch in shorter distances, his 10k personal best is 30 minutes. An incredible rise for an athlete who only ran his first marathon in 2016, clocking 2:25 in his debut at the distance.
Two athletes, Neil Kirby and Jon Ellis, both multiple winners at Centurion Running events will be making the journey north with their eyes on the podium. Kirby has won both the SDW and NDW 50 and 100 mile races and shows current fitness with a win at the recent the Coast Trail Series in Sussex.
Ellis can almost be viewed as a 50-mile specialist, with a string of wins at the distance. His most impressive performance was fourth at the Swiss Alpine Marathon last year. The Highland Fling course will play to his strengths.
We also expect John Connolly, local runner and previous winner of the Devil o’ the Highlands, to be in contention. His best Highland Fling time is 7:59 in 2016. But following a CR at Glen Ogle 33, a win at the Stour Valley 100km and a fine performance at Transgrancanaria 125km, he’s likely to hit the red carpet much quicker this weekend.
The 53-mile distance is long enough to challenge the most experienced of runners, but it’s short enough to unearth some raw new talent. It’s especially popular for ultra-newbies and speedy marathon and hill runners moving up to ultras.
Race organisers advice: “Just remember it’s 53 miles. The race to Drymen isn’t real!”