In an age of organised races, 4G and airbnb, what lengths do you have to go to, in order to experience life in a raw, unfiltered and disconnected way?
Multi day stage races and courses with ever increasing distances/climbing continue to grow in popularity, however, there remains a degree of sterilisation for all those taking part. Safety crews, checkpoints, drop bags and volunteers are on hand, both physically and mentally for support.
The rise of FKTs (Fastest Known Times) has broke away from the new norm, run either supported or self supported, in remote and easily accessed locations alike, the past few years has seen this discipline spread into the UK. I can hear you, yes you, the person mentally releasing a pressure valve at present… “FKT’s have always existed, we just called them ‘x’.” You are correct. The FKT is nothing new, however, the framework that surrounds them creates consistency, allowing times to be compared objectively and a way to check claims.
Damian Hall once again graces these pages (this is the unofficial fan club global page) and for those who’ve followed for a few years, will remember his South West Coast Path FKT. This time, the adventure would include a partner, Beth Pascall (they’ve since partnered up for weekend events such as Mountain Run’s) and the trail?
The Cape Wrath Trail
“as the octonauts say – Let’s do this“
230 miles though the baron North West Scottish Highlands, between Fort William and Cape Wrath. The trail has gained wider recognition in the trail and ultra running community through Ourea Events’ Cape Wrath Ultra in recent years. Held in summer, this multi day stage race offers fast running, given the load you carry is minimal in comparison to taking it on self supported.
And self supported is what Damian and Beth chose to do.
They also chose to run in winter, in a part of the world notorious for long nights, rain fall and unrelenting weather systems. Summit Fever Media would be on hand to record their attempt, but it must be pointed out that no support was provided once the clock started. The discussion of what constitutes support has started to become widely debated, right down to if you let people know you are doing it, as this for some, gives the runner a sense of support…. given announcing your intentions is part of FKTing, this all gets a little blurry.
Anyway, back to the trail.
Carrying the vast majority of what they would require for the duration, minus water and some food that would be purchased from shops along the route, balancing pack weight, safety and comfort was a challenge. Ok, let’s forget comfort, who are we trying to kid?
All will quickly become apparent when watching the film.
Clothing, sleeping bags, stoves, sleeping matts, food, spares…. it all adds up, with 25-30 litre packs bulging at the seams, as all air was squeezed out of every dry bag in a bid to make all essentials fit.
Was seeing Damian weep a tear a highlight? Perhaps. I’m pretty sure this has something to do with a lack of tea bags or a brave bag sacrificing itself. The mystery shall remain.
Matt and Ellie manage to blend cinematography with run and gun, video diary shot by Damian and Beth, often at low times, where the effects of severe fatigue and exposure to winter conditions, are clearly on display.
In fact it is these less sexy shots which translate the reality of life on the trail to the viewer, where poor light and dodgy audio replace gimbals and radio mics, Damian and Beth telling their own story. You discover what really becomes a priority in a bothy, where the motivation to move forward lives and how the team dynamic comes into its own.
Though not as severe as on Through Hell and Highwater with James Cracknell and Ben Fogle, no where close, it comes clear that there are two different minds at work, with different self set goals and ideas in how to achieve these. But with this comes balance and compassion, mixed with as Damian promised at the start, jokes.
From those they meet on the trail to decisions they make, the story really is the experience, reseting goals and working with the terrain/conditions, rather then fighting in an attempt to maintain splits.
Overall for me, WRATH gives a very brief insight into a week on the trail, where we see the pair succumb to fatigue, watching their transition from elite runner to robot, disconnected from the outside world, focused only on the mission in hand, the essential day to day tasks that require addressing in order to continue forward. It’s a display of what can be achieved if we focus on what really maters, rather than obsessing about a million and one superficial distractions, that adventure can be found on your doorstep (believe it or not people do live in Fort William) not just on a race start line.
Let 2020 be a year of finding comfort in discomfort and discovering adventure.
To watch WRATH – CLICK HERE FOR A LINK TO VIMEO ON DEMAND