Running Scotland's Watershed

Ultra-distance hillrunner Colin Meek is nearing the end of an epic 700-mile trail and mountain run along the full length of Scotland's Watershed. He contacted us this morning by iphone with a progress report.

Nice dry feet?, 94 kb
Nice dry feet?
© Colin Meek

Colin set off on May 26th at Peel Fell on the Scotland-England border and aims to make it to Duncansby Head near John O' Groats on the weekend of 24th June.

Scotland's Watershed is a 700-mile route defined by geology, and described in Peter Wright's book Ribbon of Wildness. When rain falls on Scotland (a not so rare occurrence) it runs either into the North Sea or the Atlantic; it is the Watershed that defines that line.

This linear route tracks through some of Scotland's wildest and most complex country, running from Peel Fell on the Border with England over the Southern Uplands, then tracing a weaving line through the Central Belt, over the Campsie Fells and into the Highlands. From here northwards the route runs through tough terrain close to the west coast, notching up an impressive tally of major mountains all the way from Ben Lomond to Ben Hee, where it swings east for the final stretch through Sutherland's Flow Country to the far northeastern tip of the country. In total the route visits 44 Munros and 24 Corbetts, plus a fair few bogs.

Colin, who lives near Ullapool in Wester Ross, spent two years planning and training for the run. Since January 2011 he has clocked 3,000 training miles and three ultramarathons.

'I am now a little further north than Ullapool and have six more days running left' he told us this morning.

'I'm tired and bruised, and my feet are a bit battered but I'm still going. I had a great day over the Beinn Deargs yesterday, then over Seana Bhraigh: Four Munros, 22 miles, 2000m ascent. Progress has been good but I've had to modify my intended route on occasions due to logistics mostly. I've stuck to the plan though of following as closely to the Watershed as I can and exactly on it over the vast bulk of its length.'

The far northwest has escaped most of the recent deluge that swamped the rest of the UK; Colin tells us the weather has been very kind to him, and the ground remains unusually dry.

Caught napping after 11 miles, 144 kb
Caught napping after 11 miles
© Colin Meek
Cadha Dearg, Seana Bhraigh, 99 kb
Cadha Dearg, Seana Bhraigh
© Colin Meek

But it's still proving harder than he'd thought it would.

'I'm coping with the mileage' he says, 'but the ascent is very tough - some days 2500 to 3000m - and that coupled with consecutive days takes its toll.'

'Logistics have been very difficult too, but I am getting great help from friends and family. Every day I need to get to the location where I stopped the day before, and planning that has been very hard to avoid legs with too much or too little mileage.'

'I've wild camped for a few sections but that was very, very tough. A 27 mile push from Kingshouse in Glencoe to Culra Bothy near Ben Alder with a big sack will live long in the memory! The hardest day so far was over five Munros in the Fannichs from Achnasheen to the A835. I was really dead on my feet and dehydrated.'

'Overall though, it has been a great adventure - and my hunch was right - the Watershed has some great sections for hill-running and mountain running - with some of the best actually being in the Southern Uplands.'

Next up are the Cromalt Hills and Ben More Assynt, with the end now very much in his sights.

To follow Colin's progress on the final few days check out his blog.

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