OK, the idea of a 21-ish mile trail race over the hills of the Ardgartan peninsular on the first weekend of February might seem a little mad, but when I saw this being offered by Rocket Events last year I knew it had to be done. This was only the second year of the event, but I know the Rocket team through their Glen Lyon and Glen Ogle races, and they are a highly professional outfit - beneath an outer layer of quirky gritty humour lies a very well-organised team who truly love and understand trail running and always offer tough, uncompromising yet eminently doable routes with proper safety backup.
I entered the race in September, and it sold out soon after - always a good sign. As the winter storms raged, the route became fluid, though it was always going to be “between 20 and 25 miles”, until with a few days to go an approved course emerged - like the 2023 course but with one major deviation taking us over the top via what became known as the “Bog of Doom” and thence down “A*se-slide Hill”. This was the toughest (most fun) bit of the course, but the preceding 14 miles or so were pretty spectacular - forest trail with some single-track bits, undulating above Loch Long and then up above Loch Goil. Great views, great company, and, amazingly, perfect running weather -even some sunshine! There were two water stations, at 7ish and 14ish miles (Rocket Races have a loose approach to distance measurement), and route signage was very clear throughout (even I didn’t get lost - and I was running by myself for the second half of the race). By myself but not completely - every so often someone would overtake me, (or vice-versa), and friendly encouragement kept everyone going.
The weather became atrocious going over the top - incredible gusts of wind combined with calf-deep bog and raging burns to nearly have me over a few times, and clambering down what was practically a cliff face kept the concentration going (I really, really don’t want to fall over again!) - but soon the mountain was behind me and it was back onto the final 5 miles (ish) of good undulating forest trail before the welcome sight of Ardgartan Hotel and the finish. Hot soup, tea, coffee and the loveliest race volunteers you can hope to meet were all in the finishing marquee - it doesn’t get much better than that. (It did, actually - very soon I was in the Arrochar Hotel, showered, in front of the rugby on TV with a pint and some chips👍).
The numbers :- 21.1 miles, 4,144 ft ascent; ok it took me over 5h35min, but I finished and I didn’t fall over! Race limited to 150 max, sells out pretty quick. Race starts 08:30, lots of accommodation in nearby Arrochar.
Do I recommend it - oh yes! Would I do it again? See you there next year!