Toughing it out in the Highlands

An increasing number of adrenaline junkies, fitness fanatics and enthusiasts of all levels are piling on the pounds for Scotland’s economy by taking part in some of Britain’s toughest off road triathlons.

  • Full feature in Issue No. 5

Such is the rise in popularity and demand for challenging competition that a number of changes are being made, and new events added, to the sporting calendar in and around the Outdoor Capital of the UK this year.

 The Wilderness Arc Adventure Race in Lochaber,

Photograph by: Gerry McCannThe Wilderness Arc Adventure Race in Lochaber,

For the first time in its history The Highland Warrior, a classic middle distance triathlon is taking place outside of its usual location of Fort William on Sunday 5 July.

Instead, athletes from across the UK, and further afield, are due to put them themselves to the test on the spectacular and rugged trails of Glencoe, Ballachulish and Kinlochleven.

The 1.9km swim will be staged in beautiful Loch Leven, in the shadow of the Pap of Glencoe, followed by the 94.5km road cycle round Loch Leven and 21km run on a mixture of fire road and multi surfaced bike path behind Ballachulish.

For the last few years, the Highland Warrior triathlon has been based at the Old Fort in Fort William, which is a brilliant location for transitioning through while appreciating the views of the Fort William Lochside.

“The Highland Warrior triathlon is a classic half-iron man distance triathlon,” said Frazer Coupland, from the event organisers No Fuss Events.

“Since it was introduced a few years ago, we have seen many a Warrior crowned at the Old Fort.

“We felt that this year we wanted a new location. One of the mains reasons for the change is down to the summer traffic in Fort William.

Adventure racing in Glencoe

Photograph by: Gerry McCannAdventure racing in Glencoe

“The tide times for July when we hold the event meant that cyclists would be heading out into mid-morning town centre traffic, which is just too busy.

“With the move to the new location though, we will be bringing more stunning scenery, fantastic waters to swim in and great trails and quiet roads for running and cycling.”

Also taking place on the same day as the Highland Warrior is the Wee Battler, a shorter version of the warrior, perfect for aspiring multi-sport athletes.

The Wee Battler takes place on the same course as the Highland Warrior, but with shorter distances – Swim – 950m, Road Cycle – 31.5km, Run – 10km.

The new course has been selected to suit triathletes of all abilities as it takes participants through some fantastic scenery along quiet roads, around Loch Leven and through some of the forest roads behind Ballachulish.

The rise in popularity for adventure sports and challenging outdoor events has boomed across Scotland in recent years. Estimates suggest that they could worth almost £200 million a year to the economy as mountain biking, winter sports, open water swimming and such like attract an increasing number of visitors from throughout the UK and Europe.

Almost every weekend somewhere in the UK there is an endurance race sending people through woods, up mountains, down river gorges or over a variety of obstacles with natural and man-made.

It’s a sport which has boomed in the last 30 years attracting thousands of people from all walks of life looking to swap the rat-race for another more personally satisfying challenge.

Such is the rise in demand that No Fuss Events have launched the new Marathon de Ben Nevis off-road ultra which will take place on Saturday 19 September.

The 64km Ultra Run, recognised as a qualifying race by the International Trail Running Association, has been hailed by the organisers as a route of pure discovery. Starting early in Fort William’s Braveheart Carpark athletes will run through the forests of Glen Nevis on the famous West Highland Way, taking them all the way to the Mamore Lodge in Kinlochleven.

After hot drinks, or cold if the sun is shining, the route takes runners off the beaten path and to the banks of Loch Eilde Mohr, running through the Mamores towards the Grey Corries.

The next challenge will be a river crossing, which could be ankle deep, or perhaps a bit higher if the rain comes!

Adventure racing in Glencoe

Photograph by: Gerry McCannAdventure racing in Glencoe

After the river crossing, athletes will find themselves on some tough terrain – the ground gets a bit steeper here and a bit rougher but they will be rewarded for their hard work with the now infamous Lairig Bothy BBQ.

After topping-up the energy levels the competitors will be onto the home straight heading towards Leanachan Forest and Nevis Range.

Once through the forest, it’s all downhill to the Ben Nevis distillery and the finish.

“This is a whole new event for No Fuss,” said co-organiser David ‘Spook’ Munro.

“We love the route and think that this will be a brilliant challenge for anyone who likes running and adventure.

“We are used to cyclists and triathletes, but the Ultra Runners who are getting involved will be a whole new set of faces to us. We can’t wait for them to take on the challenge of the Marathon!”