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Runner Paweł Cymbalista sets new Great Glen Way FKT

Written by Fiona

February 14 2022

Ultra runner Paweł Cymbalista has set a new Fastest Known Time for Scotland’s Great Glen Way. The 34-year-old, from Mallaig, ran 118km (73.3 miles) from Inverness to Fort William in 11 hours 53 minutes and 32 seconds yesterday.

He was 2.5 hours faster than the previous supported FKT set by Francisco Javier Cabrera Valdes and David Gallie in 2018 and 1.5 hours quicker than Daniel Rowe-leete’s unsupported FKT set in 2020. Both records were set from north to south.

Pawel said: “I’m really happy with my run and while I thought I might be able to get close to the previous record time I am very surprised so much quicker. I am really sore today though.”

Note: There is also a Great Glen Ultra Marathon race – see my list of Scottish ultra running races – that heads south to north and is 114km (71 miles). It starts just north of Fort William at Corpach and takes place each July. The record time for this is 10 hrs 48 mins set by Mike Raffan.

Pawel sets Great Glen Way FKT
Pawel on the old railway at Invergarry on the Great Glen Way FKT.

Pawel’s new running challenge

Pawel decided to attempt the Great Glen Way running challenge after setting another new record last year on Ben Nevis. It is impressive given that in 2013, he weighed 16st and was a heavy smoker and a drinker.

Pawel explained: “I travel to Inverness quite a lot for shopping and I kept seeing signs for the Great Glen Way.

“I looked into the route and then discovered the various FKTs. I thought it would be a good route to run and it became a good goal.”

While Pawel is already a keen runner, in January he focused on building up a consistent mileage. He followed an accumulator challenge, running a mile on January 1, two miles on January 2 and so on until he ran 31 miles on January 31.

Pawel, who is married with children, said: “It was a great way to build up my miles.”

Pawel sets Great Glen Way FKT
Fuel for the Great Glen Way FKT.

Great Glen Way running FKT

At 7am on Sunday, Pawel, who is originally from Poland, set off from Inverness running south. The first part of the Great Glen Way is the hilliest.

The Lochaber Atheltic Club member said: “The previous two record times were from Inverness to Fort William and so I just followed this example. I also knew the first half would be the hilliest – and it was.”

The total elevation of the Great Glen Way is around 2000m. Pawel took advantage of a pacer for the first 30km or so to Drumnadrochit. He said: “A fellow club member John Yells helped to pace me to start with. Then I had friends who cycled or ran with me on other sections, too.

“I have five points where I could access food bags and water. I am very grateful to all those people who supported me on this challenge.”

While the first half is the hilliest and includes most of the total elevation, the long stretches of canal towpath proved tough, too.

Pawel said: “I had to adjust my legs to the flat canal route after the hills and it then got dark. The canal was the hardest because it was very flat and repetitive. It all looked the same and it was hard mentally at this stage.”

Pawel sets Great Glen Way FKT
At Drumnadrochit with John Yells.
Pawel sets Great Glen Way FKT
Pawel smashes Great Glen Way FKT.
Pawel sets Great Glen Way FKT

Final dash for the finish

With 18km to reach the finish, Pawel knew that he had a chance of running under 12 hours but he needed to up his pace.

He said: “It was a bad time to suddenly decide I needed to go faster. I worked out that I needed to run kilometre pacing of 5:10 to 5:30 for the last 18kms. This allowed a small amount of time to stop to take on gels but it was a lot to ask my legs after already running 100km.

“I pulled out everything to do that.”

Pawel’s FKT is classed as supported, while Daniel Rowe-leete’s time of 13:25:01 was unsupported. For more information on FKTs see  FastestKnownTime.

Pawel could not be drawn on his next running goal. He said: “My legs are very sore today and I can hardly walk downstairs so I am not thinking a bout what next yet. I also have a sore Achilles tendon. However, I do like a running challenge!”

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