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Runner Pawel Cymbalista smashes Cape Wrath Trail record

Written by Fiona

April 12 2023

Pawel Cymbalista has set a Fastest Known Time (FKT) for the 230-mile (370km) Cape Wrath Trail, from Fort William to Cape Wrath. His time was 86 hours, 49 minutes and 19 seconds.

The 35-year-old ran solo and unsupported – and beat the previous supported record by Graham Connolly and Paul Giblin by 8 hours and 56 minutes.

Pawel, from Poland and now living in Mallaig, started the challenge on Wednesday April 5 at 7.45am in Fort William. He finished on Sunday at the most north-westerly point of mainland Britain.

The route includes a total elevation of 39,000ft (12,000m).

Pawel, who is married with two children, was also raising money for Lochaber Hope, in memory of his dad. The charity offers mental health support.

Pawel at the start in Fort William with a member of Lochaber Hope.
Pawel’s choice of footwear. Credit: Brad Cain and Kevin Woods

Another running record for Pawel

Pawel, a member of Lochaber Athletic Club,  has previously set other long distance running records.

He also set a record for the number of non-stop ascents of Ben Nevis.

Landscape of Cape Wrath Trail. Credit: Brad Cain and Kevin Woods
A short boat crossing to Cape Wrath peninsula. Credit: Brad Cain and Kevin Woods

Pawel’s Cape Wrath Trail FKT

Pawel is thrilled to have set another running record on what is widely claimed to be Scotland’s toughest long-distance trails.

He revealed that the weather was great for the Cape Wrath Trail. He said: “The weather played by me and I had plenty of light and dry conditions later on and right to the lighthouse at Cape Wrath.”

Although a route with challenging terrain and a need for navigation, Pawel enjoyed many aspects of the trail. He said: “I liked that I was following the footsteps of Scottish history, running through the clearance lands all the way up to the lighthouse. The whole run felt very important in terms of the history of the people that used to live here. 

“Also when running through villages it reassured me that there are people around me even though I saw other people on the trail, especially in the later stages.

“In addition, the views were stunning all the way and on all sections.”

An unsupported, solo run requires that a participant carries all the items and food they will require for the challenge.

He said: “My food choice was super tasty and nutritious, which was good. I took enough food to give me 3,500 to 4,000 kcal a day but I still finished with 1kg of food left. This surprised me. I had to take the risk of carrying less weight of food in order to have a higher chance of finishing. It is harder to run with a heavier pack.”

Pawel. Credit: Brad Cain and Kevin Woods
Pawel finally reaches Cape Wrath lighthouse. Credit: Brad Cain and Kevin Woods
The finish. Credit: Brad Cain and Kevin Woods

There were some very tough times for Pawel. He said: “The nights were the hardest and the first 20 hours was in rain. It was hard, but I battled through it.

“Later on, the nights were difficult because navigation wasn’t easy in the dark. I kept praying for a road or a track to follow, rather than so much off-path running.

“I ended up hallucinating, too, due to lack of sleep. I kept seeing people, running with them and talking to them. It was scary at times because I really believed I was running with other people.”

Audiobooks helped Pawel to get through the darker moments. He also benefitted from a few naps.

He said: “I needed a few cat naps to restart my brain and keep it working. I slept 95 minutes in total in naps of 15 minutes and then four 20 minute naps. It made a huge difference to my performance and it meant I could keep going.”

Pawel and the lighthouse behind. Credit: Brad Cain and Kevin Woods

At the end of the Cape wrath Trail, the lighthouse is hidden by the landscape almost until the end. Pawel said: “I couldn’t see the lighthouse ahead and I was very tired so I really struggled to find it. I got lost 3km before I finished. I found a river leading to the military road and then that led me to the lighthouse.

“Finally, then, it was amazing to see my friends at the finish line. I knew I was safe. It had been a few days of many up and downs and I am pleased I managed to defeat my demons.

“Thinking about my family and friends helped me to stay upbeat even though every step hurt due to multiple blisters, scratches and bruises on my feet.”

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