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Runner Andy Campbell sets new winter West Highland Way FKT

Written by Fiona

January 08 2024

Ultra runner Andy Campbell has set a new winter Fastest Known Time (FKT) for the West Highland Way. The 35-year-old from Pitlochry completed the 154km (96-mile) route with some 3,155m of ascent  from Milngavie to Fort William in 19 hours 54 minutes. His supported run was 31 minutes faster than the previous record holder Jonny Kilpatrick.   

Andy said: “I am really, really happy that I have set a new fastest time for running the winter West Highland Way.”

Start of the West Highland Way in Milngavie.

Why run the West Highland Way?

Andy, who is a store manager for Mountain Warehouse in Pitlochry, is very familiar with the iconic Scottish trail. He has walked it many times and he also ran it non-stop during the summer some five years ago in a time of 22 hours, 39 minutes.

He says: “I felt that after running the route in summer, the pinnacle for me would be to run it in winter.

“It was a goal that appealed to me and having learned more about nutrition and the correct training for ultra races over the last few years, I thought a winter non-stop run would be achievable.

“More recently, I looked up the fastest time for a winter run of the route and I wondered it this was something I might be able to beat.”

Andy’s winter WHW FKT

Andy, who has also launched a trail running guide company, set off at 8pm on Saturday January 6 from Milngavie, north of Glasgow.

He ran north and found the first section to Balamaha in the dark and cold quite tough. He says: “It was very, very cold and this made it difficult physically. There were also some sections of cold fog to deal with. The buff I had over my face kept freezing hard and my hair froze together.”

At around the 10-hour mark, Andy reveals he started to suffer mentally. He says: “My body was moving quite well but my mind felt very tired. This meant I couldn’t motivate my body to go any faster and this slowed me down a bit.”

When the sun began to rise, Andy felt a boost of energy. He says: “The sunrise was beautiful and I suddenly found a bit of extra energy. It was lovely to feel some warmth in the sunshine, too.”

Another tough spell came when heading up the Devil’s Staircase in Glencoe. Andy says: “It is always a hard push up the Devil’s Staircase and I suddenly felt too warm after feeling so cold earlier on. The sun was at my back and I was far too hot for a while.”

He is grateful for the support of his wife Gilly and running friend Graham Johnston. At each stop for food and hydration, Andy gave Gilly a hug.

He says: “I really looked forward to every checkpoint and the hug from Gilly gave me new energy to carry on. I always left refreshed and feeling great after seeing and hugging her.”

Graham joined Andy for the final stretch from Kinlochleven to Fort William to help with his pacing. 

Andy says: “I was struggling toward the end and especially after descending the Devil’s Staircase. My knees were hurting because I needed to run on the heather to avoid an icy and snowy trail. 

“It was great to have Graham alongside me and to keep me going. 

“I think I knew from the top of the Devil’s Staircase that I had a very good chance of setting a new FKT but you never know what might happen.

“Reaching Fort William in a new fastest time felt amazing.”

Andy at Fort William after finishing his FKT with Gilly, right, and Graham, left.

Andy has been surprised by his recovery. He says: “I thought I might have done a lot more damage to my knees because they were very painful in the later stage of the run but they seem to be recovering. I also have a bit of a niggle in my heel but I am hoping this will disappear soon.

“It feels great to have set an FKT run for a route I like so much. I am thinking about other FKTs that I might be able to do now.”

Other West Highland Way FKTs

Supported: Rob Sinclair, 13h 41mins, 2017-06-24

Supported: Lucy Colquhoun, 17h 16mins, 2007-06-23

Unsupported: Pawel Cymbalista, 17h 57mins, 2022-07-16

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