Ben Nevis – Ups and Downs – 3rd September 2016

Ben Nevis – 8.7 miles / 4419 ft – 3/9/16

Well, this is well over a month late but hopefully there’s still some entertainment value to be had out of a Ben Report, so here we go.

We had 5 P&Bers taking on this classic beast of a race, with a couple of first timers thrown in.

Mark Nixon made a surprise appearance after a quiet fell season, proving that the rumours he was injured beyond repair were greatly exaggerated. A strong climb saw him in 6th place to the top but descending “like a sack of potatoes” landed him with a 13th place finish and ‘Best Newcomer’ trophy.

It was also the first Ben for James Woodman, who approached the affair with due excitement and a complete disregard for a recently broken collar bone, as befitting a P&B runner. Here’s what he had to say:

Having sent my entry off back in January and heard nothing back, I assumed I’d missed my chance to run the Ben this year and almost completely forgotten about the race until two weeks ago when I received an unexpected phone call saying there’d been a drop out and would I like a place? I excitedly said yes immediately, without even considering the fact I’ve spent all summer sat on my arse and had only got the all clear on a broken collar bone two days previously.

Friday night after a long drive, pitching my tent at 2am in Glencoe with the rain lashing down to the point even the midges were sheltering I wasn’t feeling quite so optimistic and was apprehensive of what I was letting myself in for. Race morning, the sun eventually appeared and with the bagpipes playing and the Ben out of view behind Meall an t-Suide I happily registered, warmed up and had forgotten about my worries.

After a parade around the starting field the horn blew, off we went and I tucked in to Mr Pilling’s slipstream at a steady pace trotting up the road whilst the usual jostle and hustle for position occured around us. A mile in, off the road and I felt good, decided to work a bit harder and immediately regretted it. I tried to push on but had nothing in my legs or lungs and struggled all the way past the burn and was nearing the top of the scree.

It was at this point Finlay Wild came flying back down past me. Seeing the leaders skipping back down gave me hope I was nearing the summit and I dug a little deeper, alas it was another 20 minutes before I finally reached the summit cairn and happily turned and let my stride open up back down the hill. Having only run my first big mountain race earlier this year I’m still very much lacking in descending technique and ability and had been told before the race that the descent on the Ben is just a little bit of fun. I loved the scree skiing and found myself rapidly gaining places as I galloped all the way back down to the burn to join the footpath and promptly fall to my knees. My quads had given up and no longer wished to support me! I hauled myself back up and continued the descent, losing most of the places I’d just gained, with a few of the more experienced runners giving me a smirk as they passed.

Back down the footpath and the final slog down the road and I was extremely glad to have finished the Ben, but also extremely glad I’d taken the decision to run at short notice. Hopefully another year of experience, less injury, more fitness and slightly better race preparation will have me back in the starting field and a sub two hour finishing time will be within reach!”

Rachel had a superb run, smashing nearly 4 minutes off last year’s time and finishing 8th Lady.

Caroline wasn’t quite as quick as previous years but has surely easily now done the Ben more than anyone else in the club, so she must still be enjoying it.

Jo Schreiber had a rather eventful race, as she took a tumble and caught her knee on a sharp rock. A mountain medic took a look and even though she was well up for just jogging back to the finish, she was told it really did need to be looked at properly.

She texted Rach and said she could “see the bone” but it wasn’t until a few weeks later at the Merrick race when we caught up with her in person where we got to see the gory photos.

CLICK HERE to see the wound but be warned, it’s pretty nasty!

The amazing thing is, Jo came out for a run with us just 2 weeks later. They don’t make ’em soft in Scotland.

As for me, this year was my third attempt at the Ben – the first year I had a fall, the second year I threw up, this year I was just shit! My slowest time yet, although I’ve narrowed down why I continue to have a bad run (won’t bore with the details) so perhaps it’s one to fix another time. That said, it’s still a priviledge to be up there running in such a stunning place and it’s a cracking race to do. Well done all that ran this year.


Mark Nixon 13th 1:47:12. James Woodman 101st 2:06:29. Rachel Pilling 137th (8th lady) 2:12:26. Graham Pilling 232nd 2:25:13. Caroline Harding 323rd 2:39:31.


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