News > Ring of Steall Skyrace by James MacKeddie

Ring of Steall Skyrace by James MacKeddie

03/11/2017

The Ring of Steall is set in the mystic valleys of the Western Highlands, a stone's throw from Glencoe. Starting in Kinlochleven, the route ascends Sgurr an Lubhair, traversing the Devil’s Ridge and onto Sgurr A’Mhaim, before descending sharply down to Glen Nevis. Skirting through the valley on a mix of road and trail, there is a broad river crossing, before the course once again heads vertical, ascending the side of An Gearanach.sk

Weary legs are now at the mercy of Stob Coire A’Chairn and Am Bodach, before returning down the trail first ascended, now a bog and mud minefield, leading to the West Highland Way path junction and the home straight.

18 miles and 2500 meters of ascent and descent.

Now after that description you are most likely have either of two trails of thought… “why?” or “where do I sign up?”

The Ring of Steall is part of the UK Skyrunning Series and now part of the Skyrunning World Series.

It attracts the elite and the everyday (no guesses where I fit in!).

My training leading up the race hadn’t been too bad, averaging 50 miles a week in solid blocks, but what proved to be my Achilles on the day was the lack of time spent in mountains. My legs were destroyed at the end, but my confidence in opening them up on descents was weak. I managed to avoid going into the red on ascents, but I lacked the power to move competitively.

The route was stunning, with rolling cloud shrouding the Devil’s Ridge as we ascended, breaking as we traversed, opening up views to sheer drops to my left flank, as shoes fought for grip on greasy rocks.

The first descent off Sgurr A’Mhaim was a sweeping scree field, before tight and steep switchbacks, reminiscent of mtb bike parks, though much more severe. Bodies fell all around looking for traction against gravity.

The road provided space to regain places, living in Milton Keynes, hills are at a premium. Ascending An Gearanach, after a refreshing river crossing, the pace around slowed as a death march ensued. The leaders had already finished.

Exhausted runners sat on the side of the trail and fellow competitors encouraged them to keep moving. Whistles and survival bags were mandatory for a reason, the elements and a fall weren’t your only threat.

The top ridges were taken with care, longing for the final descent. When it came, I was up to my knees in places, thick in a mud bath, some 12ft wide at times. Navigating around the edge where possible, I maintained a steady pace, until the fire road and final road, let me unleash some road speed.

6 hours on the hill, finishing with a 7 minute mile! Now all I need to do it cut off 2 hours 40 to get a competitive time.

Well, a man can dream.