Words: Jenny Davis
I remember reading a snippet in Trail Running magazine describing the Cape Wrath Ultra (CWU) as the UK’s answer to Marathon des Sables, so I had to check it out. I assumed that meant it was also around 250km and convinced five friends to sign up to do it with me in May. Of course, they’d all read that it was much further than that, at 400km with an elevation of 11,200m! Somehow those crucial facts escaped me and I only found out it was a 400km race two months after signing up. My flatmate and I decided we needed a constant reminder of the distances involved to get over our fear of them, so we installed a huge whiteboard in the living room with the distances and elevation for each day written up in capital letters.
I’ve always wanted to know what event would have me near breaking point – I finally found that in the CWU. I forgot my suntan lotion on one particularly hot (45mile) day, burning the back of my right leg particularly badly. It suddenly dawned on me: I’m surrounded by bog mud. So I kept slapping that on my leg to keep the sun off – it worked a treat. After a few hours another runner caught up with me, explaining he simply had to ask why I kept slapping on piles of mud to my left calf! I also took a nasty tumble on Day 7; I adopted the brace position as I really thought I was heading for a face smash against some rocks, then I suddenly find myself suspended over the rocks wondering what on earth had happened… my right knee got stuck in a bog! Such was the strength of the bog-hold on my knee, it held me in place and I narrowly missed the rocks. We invented a game called ‘Bog Betting’: pick a line across the bog and you have to commit to it no matter what. You either end up in it up to waist height or make it through in one piece – no deviation allowed from the route you’ve picked out in advance, no matter how hairy it ends up looking when you get up close. Sounds daft, but it gave us hours of hilarity.
The camaraderie was epic. Some incredible athletes took part, and it’s just awesome to be able to spend time in such great company. Bodies might become fatigued but people’s spirits always shine through. I particularly love that the race organisers allow those who don’t make cut-offs to continue in the race, albeit they’re no longer officially competing. That sums up to me what CWU is all about – it’s the experience and the opportunity of running in such a remote and incredible location: that shouldn’t be taken away from anybody simply because a cut-off was missed. I love that they allow people to continue on their journey. The camaraderie was like no other. The CWU in three words? Captivating. Wild. Undulating.