I knew it would be tight, but didn't quite imagine it would be that tight. Adrian Belton's record stood since 1989, and for very good reasons. It was a famously solid record illustrated by the fact that no one has really come close to threatening it in 26 years.
I wasn't really sure I would be able to change that, but you don't know until you try, and I knew full well this could be my one and only opportunity to (a) complete a Ramsay Round, and (b) lay down a solid time. So I prepared a schedule to get me round a few minutes inside the record (shared only with my support team), and set off from Glen Nevis Youth Hostel at 0300hrs yesterday in near perfect conditions - blue skies and just a slight breeze on the tops. The opportunity was there.
I was 20 minutes up after Leg 1 and feeling confident and in control, but the heat in the middle part of the day sapped my strength and chewed away at the 20 minutes to the extent that I was only on par with schedule at the end of Leg 2. No contingency time to play with at all, and some ambitious split times to achieve on the final Leg across Mamores involving 11 munros. It would be quite some battle to get the job done.
As a result the intensity of the whole experience cranked up significantly on Leg 3 - I clawed back a few minutes here and there - but in reality I was right on the cusp and it could have gone either way.
With the margins so tight I kept thinking what it would feel like to miss out by a few minutes - it would be a difficult thing to live with. I genuinely didn't know the record was achievable until the second half of the descent off the final summit, Mullach nan Coirean. I've never thrown myself down a mountain so recklessly, but boy was it worth it. In training I ran the last split in just over 60mins, the schedule said 55mins, and we ran it in 49mins. That's what adrenaline does for you.
I arrived back to the Youth Hostel and the record was mine - 18hrs 12mins - knocking 11mins off Adrian's time.
It's impossible to put into words the emotions involved in a run like that, and how it felt at the end. A huge relief obviously, but it was an experience so epic and dramatic that it's almost too much to digest. I guess in time that will happen and I will gain a bit more perspective, but all things considered it certainly feels like a real career highlight.
I will put together a more detailed write up in the next few days along with some insights from my support guys, but for now I just want to say a massive thank you to my brilliant team who made it all possible:
Leg 1: Cam Burt, Chris Busby
Leg 2: Olly Stephenson
Leg 3: Jon Gay & Graham Nash
Static Support: Gemma Bragg, Charlie Ramsay, Murdo McEwan & Anna Busby.
Selection of photos (Photo Credits: Olly Stephenson, Cameron Burt & Gemma Bragg)