Hoka Highland Fling Training Weekend 2015

It’s the end of November, and once again, I find myself in Tyndrum, in the Scottish Highlands for the first of the annual Hoka Highland Fling training weekends.

The weekends are aimed at runners training for next April’s Hoka Highland Fling 53 mile ultra trail race. They are superbly co-ordinated by John Duncan, the Fling organiser, with Kirsty Burnett providing the facilities at her superb wee complex of hostel, chalets, trekker huts, hobbit houses and camp site “By The Way” nestling beneath the West Highland Railway at Tyndrum lower station.

The idea of bringing runners of varying standards together, from elite level to those training for their first ultra, to share ideas, good company, some stunning trails, not forgetting FOOD has proved to be a big hit.

Around 45 runners assembled at Tyndrum on Friday evening. Runners had travelled from Glasgow and the south, Edinburgh and Dundee in the east, and from Fort William, Deeside and Aberdeen in the north. After settling in to their accommodation, some runners headed for The Real Food Café in the village to sample or in many cases, reacquaint themselves with the excellent food served up in this popular venue. The Real Food Café proprietors, Sarah and Alan, have been long time supporters of the Highland Fling race. Others prepared their own meals in the hostel.

The communal kitchen and lounge at the hostel made for a bustling school camp away day atmosphere on Saturday morning as we all tucked into breakfast (some breakfasts larger than others!) prior to setting off for our Saturday expedition on the Highland Fling Route. Other runners who couldn’t stay for the whole weekend, arrived from Glasgow and Stirling to swell the numbers on the run.

The By the Way hostel and campsite is the venue for the race finish, so John had planned for us all to run an out and back stretch “down the way” to Beinglas Farm at the top of Loch Lomond. A great training run for those familiar with the route and a great opportunity for first timers to get to know the route. After posing for a group photo shot we all headed off. There was no compulsion on distance or time and folk could run the whole distance to Beinglas at the top of Loch Lomond a round trip of around 25 miles or turn round at a point of their choosing.

The overnight sleet/snow had turned to steady rain as we set off and on some stretches ankle deep puddles straddled the path. There was also some light snow still lying on the path as we climbed up along the “roller coaster” in the forest above Crianlarich. At the viewpoint, looking down Glen Falloch the surrounding hills were all shrouded in the low clouds. Some of us turned round here, others turned around at 8 plus miles just after the A82 road and rail crossing in Glen Falloch. Others, obviously well into their winter training, completed the 13 miles to Beinglas Farm to make up an approximate “marathon training run”.

Noanie had prepared wonderful soup for everyone when they returned. The afternoon, or what was left of it, was spent relaxing, swapping tales of races past and races to come. There was also a chance for runners to check out some of the latest shoes from the Flings’s title sponsor Hoka One One and the two new support partners, Ultimate Direction packs and Injinji socks. Several folk took advantage of Bearsden based Gordon Stevenson massage sessions. Glasgow based Physio and elite runner Matt Williamson was also on hand to offer a “niggle clinic” offering simple advice on a one to one basis to any runners with current or recurring wee niggles.

Early evening saw everyone meet up again in the communal lounge which, with the props of screen, projector and laptop, was turned into an informal mini lecture theatre.

John had arranged for Gordon and Edinburgh based Matt Holland to give short presentations. Matt Holland gave an excellent presentation on the importance of running form for all runners with examples of runners he had helped and tips for everyone. For some ‘self help’ Gordon also gave a great talk on injury prevention, with tips on how to monitor little niggles and key stretches to help prevent some of the classic overuse running injuries.

 Both Matt and Gordon were re-emphasising the age old wisdom, that  training for any event  is not just about the running, it is essential to complement all the miles with stretching and  strengthening.

After a short question and answer session, we tucked into the lovely meal that Kirsty and her helpers had cooked for us.

Sunday morning, we all woke to a wonderful covering of snow.

We set off on the forestry track across the railway from By The Way over to Glen Conan, the site of the Tyndrum goldmine. A 4-5 mile loop in soft snow, through pine forests and highland landrover tracks all covered in fresh snow was magical to say the least. Some of us even put in some easy Fartlek efforts along the way, and some opted for a second loop or extra miles on surrounding trails.  Lots of jokes too, following Matt’s talk the previous evening, as  some  commented on each others form as we ran.

Everyone agreed they were going home totally enthused and inspired, many looking forward to the next training weekend already. Check out details of the two remaining Hoka Highland Fling training weekends at the Fling Facebook site. Run and Become would highly recommend to any runner or group of runners wanting a self catering, self sufficient short break, checking out “By the Way”. It makes for a superb base and Kirsty and Rainold are excellent hosts.

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