Another runner has recorded a new Fastest Known Time (FKT) on a Scottish long-distance trail. Billy Gibson, of Dundee, completed the 91km (56.7 miles) Fife Pilgrim Way in 8 hours, 2 minutes, 32 seconds for. The route includes 1318m (4327ft) of ascent.
Previous FKTs included Mike MacDonald, James Hall and Olivier Pennachio, who had completed a self-supported run together in December 2020 in 9:04:51.
Billy, 45, is a senior charge nurse in orthopaedic trauma and is married with two children. His wife Fiona and their sons supported his ultra run.
The runner has mainly concentrated on shorter events and road marathons until trying a few longer distance runs more recently. He says: “My wife is the proper ultra runner and I have only been dabbling in longer events recently. I did win the Glen Clova Half in 2018, as well as the the Dundee Marathon in the same year – and then the Dundee half marathon in 2019.
“I also finished second veteran at the Highland Fling in 2018, which gave me a silver medal for the Scottish Ultra championship.”
Build up to the Fife Pilgrim Way FKT
Billy has been training for the West Highland Race for the last two years, but it has been cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid restrictions. He had agreed with his coach Neil MacNicoll, of Runrecover, that he would plan some warm-up races and also have a back up in case his chosen races didn’t go ahead.
The Fife Pilgrim Way came about after Billy was approached by Dan Monaghan at Fife-based running club, PH racing, about organising a Dundee Hawks team to take part in their planned Ekiden relay in March on the route.
Billy says: “We had an extra person for the team and the others had joked that I should just run it solo as a training run. I suppose that planted the seed. It was also fairly close to home so logistically it was easy to do in the current environment.”
However, before taking on the FKT challenge, Billy has never stepped foot on the route.
Fife Pilgrim Way FKT 2021
Billy ran from Culross east to St Andrews on April 17. With lockdown easing sooner than expected, he moved the date for the run forward a couple of weeks.
Billy said: “I only decided to do it after my speed session on the Tuesday because I’d entered the WHW challenge race. The challenge race takes place earlier in the year than the WHW Race and so I needed to make sure I had some recovery time for that.
“But because of the quick change of plans I’d not really put much thought into fuelling and where I’d meet Fiona and the boys, or the timings of the meet-ups. This didn’t help logistics much and my timings were way off on the first checkpoint at Lochore Meadow.
“I think I was about 40 minutes early there and I missed them so decided to keep running but without picking up more food and hydration. They had tried to catch up but the satnav took them on a mystery tour of Fife so it meant we didn’t meet until Markinch about 30 miles into the run.
“It was getting hot and because of the unknown of when I would get fuel I slowed the pace a bit at this section. This probably made the trail from Markinch to Kennoway, which was also into a headwind, a bit of a slog.”
Overall, Billy really enjoyed the trail. He said: “It was a great route and I realised there were lots of fantastic parts to the trail that I had driven past before and never realised they were there.
“I would say the trails beside Kelty, Clatto hill and Clatto reservoir between Kennoway and Ceres were the most stunning and I also enjoyed the downhill trails from Craigton Country Park into St Andrews.”
He reports that he set of at a “fairly conservative pace”. He says: “I felt fairly strong for the whole distance so I was confident of finishing the route. This was probably a bit of naivety though.”
Billy sets a new record time on the Fife Pilgrim Way
He says: “It is a great finish as you run through Craigton Park and down into St Andrews. With lockdown easing and the sunny weather there were lots of folk out enjoying the fresh air. The icecream shops were really busy and the thought of one at the finish kept me going. The queue was too big when I finished, so I’m still waiting on it!
“It was great to see Fiona and the boys at St Andrews Cathedral, as well as my coach Neil and his wife Gillian. It probably helped that there were a couple of students setting off on a run as I ran down South street as I tried to ‘race’ them to the finish.”
Billy believes he is still learning about longer distance runs. He says: “I’m enjoying the new focus on nutrition and logistics after years of chasing marathon PBs. I’d say getting the planning and nutrition right is a huge factor compared to the shorter events. It also helps to have great support on the day to get you through the tough points.
“I was grateful to Martin Butcher and Dan Monaghan, of PH racing, who ran with me for the first few miles to make sure I got through Dunfermline safely. Their great chat certainly made the first few miles fly by.
“The signage on the route isn’t always the best, especially in the parks around Glenrothes, so it was definitely worth having the GPX loaded on to the watch. I’m a bit navigationally challenged, so this meant I ran an extra mile run compared top the record time of Mike, James and Olivier.
“It’s a fairly runnable route, especially on a dry day like when I ran it, so I can imagine if one of the top runners gives it a go the time will be lowered. It’s feels great to have set a decent benchmark though.”