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Runner Jack Scott sets new Southern Upland Way record

Written by Fiona

November 05 2020

Jack Scott was looking for a new running challenge in early summer after setting a record on the Glyndwr’s Way in mid Wales. He chanced upon the Southern Upland Way in Scotland and when he saw that respected runner Mike Hartley held the record for running the 213-mile route, Jack knew this was the right goal.

Jack, 26, of Stone, Staffordshire, said: “I recovered quickly after the record run on the Glyndwr’s Way and I thought there might be one more big effort in me this year. When I saw Mike’s name associated with the Southern Upland Way, I knew it would be the step up in challenge I was after.”

Mike set the record time of 55 hours and 55 minutes in 1988.

The Southern Upland Way is a 213-mile (344km) coast-to-coast long-distance footpath in southern Scotland. The route links Portpatrick in the west and Cockburnspath in the east via the hills of the Southern Uplands.

Jack’s record attempt took place on Friday October 9. He was fortunate to have a team of supporters and runners for the challenge and he had spoken to Mike about the route beforehand.

Jack running with a supporter.

Jack’s Southern Upland Way run

The run started in the tiny harbour town of PortPatrick with a plan to attack the first 100 miles. His schedule became more generous after the 120/150-mile mark. He said: “I think I covered the first 100 miles in around 21.5 hours. The weather was far from ideal but I still felt the pace was comfortable and I was in control.

Next came a tough spell between 100 and 120 miles as Jack climbed up and over the highest and most exposed part of the route, Lowther Hill.

He said: “The weather was poor and my pace dropped. But I picked up a fresh support runner at 120 miles and, from there, we moved extremely well. I caught back up on my expected time and progressed well into Saturday, especially as the weather had improved.”

Jack had only 17 minutes of sleep in the first 30 hours and he felt the pace dropping into Saturday evening, yet he was able to calculate that he still had a chance at the record.

After another short sleep at the 155-mile point, Jack was set up for a chilly night heading for the east coast.

He said: “It was then that the hallucinations started to creep up on me and I had to sleep on the trail twice until we could reach my support vehicle again. Once, by the bank of the River Tweed, I thought we were in the Bahamas.

“Then again, up on the hill, I saw a makeshift farmer’s fence, pulled a pallet off it and lay on the trail for five minutes to try and reset my body.

“I was suffering from some real bad pains down my left shin at that point. Pain killers did work but my progress was slowing.

“I made a decision to drop the pace slightly and manage the injury. I wanted to give myself a chance for when the time came to really dig deep.”

The final miles

Jack calls the final section – the last eight to 10 hours – the championship miles. He said: “I knew if I got to that point and there was still a chance of the record, I’d do it.”

He allowed himself a 12-minute nap and then faced 8.5 hours more.

He said: “I needed to cover 34 miles and this meant running at just over 4 mph. I left the road support with a runner called Tim. I’d never met him before. In fact, I’d never met any of my Scottish support runners.

“Tim and I had a chat and I told him I had one more gear I could find, one last effort and so we ran. These are the championship miles. This is when you have to make a decision whether all the training, effort, the time and money you’ve invested will result in a positive outcome or if will you slowly fade and miss the record.

“I knew this moment would come and I’m proud that at that time I was strong enough to make the right decisions, which resulted in a successful run.

“I was running up hills I really didn’t want to run up, and heading down them I felt I was tanking along nicely.”

After around two hours, the sun came up and Jack checked his progress. He discovered he was 15 minutes ahead of record pace.

He said: “We kept pushing, moving effectively and efficiently. All pain had gone and the adrenaline was pushing me on. The pace was uncomfortable but I still felt in control and the tight timescale didn’t faze me.

“With four miles left, I think we had an 18-minute lead on the record time. I remember looking left and catching the eye of Glen, my road support. We both had a tear in our eye, we nodded to each other, nothing was said; we just nodded. I knew then, I had it.”

Jack’s time of 55 hours and 42 minutes is 13 minutes faster than Mike’s 32-year-old record.

He said: “It was an honour to cover the route and to meet the people I met. I am truly thankful to everyone who helped, whether it was the lady offering me jelly babies by St Mary’s Loch at mile 148, those who clapped and cheered me along or Mark Canning, who had a lovely bacon roll waiting for me whenever I stopped.

“It was a superb weekend in Scotland.”

Who is Jack Scott?

Jack only started running seriously three years ago and has been doing long-distance challenges for two years.

He holds a Fastest Known Time (FKT]) on the Offa’s Dyke Path. He won the 185-mile race in September 2019 in 49 hours 42 minutes. 

His FKT on the 137-mile Glyndwr’s Way is 35:35. He took 2.5 hours off the previous record.

Next up is the Northern Traverse in April and the UTMB. Jack also hopes to “have a crack at a record time on one of the double rounds”. 

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