Rob Sinclair’s ultra running hat-trick
I wrote about Scottish runner Rob Sinclair’s incredible hat-trick of race wins. He won and broke the records for The Fling, the West Highland Way Race and Devil o’ the Highlands Footrace. Read the Sunday Mail pdf or the full story below
Rob’s ultra running hat-trick
A Scottish runner has won an incredible three ultra distance races on the West Highland Way in one summer.
Rob Sinclair triumphed in the 53-mile Highland Fling, the 95-mile West Highland Way Race and the 42-mile Devil o’ the Highlands Footrace.
It was his first time competing in the three events and he broke every course record.
Rob, 27, of Aberdeen, said: “I still can’t quite believe I have won all three of these major Scottish races.
“To have also broken all the course records, too, feels totally crazy.
“I started the year not knowing how I would do because I had never competed in the events before.
“But it has been an amazing summer and all my hard work in training has paid off.”
Ultra distance running in Britain refers to events that are 30 miles or more.
It is a fast growing sport with many new participants and races.
In Scotland, the three races on the West Highland Way are very popular.
The WHW Race, from Milngavie to Fort William is the world’s longest established ultra-distance race.
The Highland Fling, which also starts in Milngavie and finishes in Tyndrum, is seen as a warm-up event for the WHW Race.
The Devil o’ the Highlands, from Tyndrum to Fort William, completes what is known as the Triple Crown of West Highland Way races.
For many people simply finishing one is a major achievement.
Yet Rob has taken the Scottish ultra running scene by storm and ran these long-distance races faster than most people run a 10k.
In April, he smashed the Highland Fling race record by 10 minutes to run the 53 miles in six hours, 41 minutes and 13 seconds. He was 36 minutes faster than his nearest rival.
Two months later, Rob boke the WHW race record by an incredible 33 minutes.
He ran the 95 miles, with a total ascent of 14,000ft, in 13:41:08 to beat the previous race record of 14.14.44 set in 2015.
Then on August 5, Rob scored his hat-trick record breaker with a time of 5:12:21 in the Devil o’ the Highlands race.
He was just over a minute faster than the previous fastest time for this race, which also doubled as the 2017 Scottish Ultra Trail Championships.
Yet Rob, who runs with Insch Trail Running Club, is a relative newcomer to the world of ultra-distance running.
He took up serious running only a few years ago when he discovered that he enjoyed running trails and hills near his home.
He said: “Ultra running was a bit of an unknown to me but I knew that I liked running off-road so I did a lot of that in training.
“Then, when I started doing longer races, it seemed I could keep going at a decent pace.”
In Rob’s first ultra race, the 43km Lairig Ghru Marathon in 2014 he came 11th. In the Glen Ogle Ultra 33 Ultra 2015, he was second despite being ill the week before.
His winning performances started with his first 55-mile Cateran Trail Ultra in May 2016. He also set a new course record.
In 2016, he returned to the Lairig Ghru race and won it.
Next up, where the three WHW races. Rob said: “On the start line of the first race, the Highland Fling, I had no idea how I would do.
“I just set out at a pace that I thought I could sustain, although I really wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep going at that speed.
“It turned out I could and I was delighted to win and break the record.”
After the Highland Fling, Rob received some coaching advice from experienced ultra runner Mike Raffin.
He also took part in a a summer training camp in the Alps, during which he ran his furthest distance to that date, 70 miles.
He said: “After winning the Fling I chatted with Mike about my potential in the WHW Race.
“Although I had no previous experience of running further than 70 miles, and I would need to run another 25 miles, Mike reckoned I would do well.”
Rob went on to run a brilliant WHW Race and led from the start, although he confessed it was a harder than he had imagined.
From Bridge of Orchy onwards at around 60 miles, the weather changed bringing rain and strong winds.
He said: “I found the wind really took it out of me. It was swirling around and quite strong.
“I kept trying to focus on pushing on and I tried not to worry about the conditions but that is easier said than done when I was running into an unknown zone.
“The last eight miles of the race were the hardest for me. I knew I would finish but it couldn’t come quickly enough.”
With two record-breaking runs under his belt, Rob was a favourite to win the Devil, too.
He said: “I had tired legs after the other two races and I did not set out to race hard, like I did in the other three races, as I just wanted to finish.
“It was neck and neck with Eoin Lennon, of Carnethy Hill Running Club, for a lot of the race.
“But at the Kinlochleven checkpoint at about 27 miles, Eoin wasn’t feeling so good. He stopped for a rest and I carried on.
“I stepped up the pace a bit and I still felt fine so I pushed on without once looking over my shoulder.
“When I crossed the finish line and found out I had also broken the course record I was over-the-moon.
“It has been such an incredible summer of racing and it gives me the confidence to enter more races like these.”