A marathon is a big enough task as it is. Throw in the Scottish Highlands, bringing with it the demanding conditions you would expect from the North, and the small matter of a grueling 500m climb worryingly named the Devil’s Staircase, and you have yourself one hell of a challenge.
This all describes the Glencoe Marathon, an event that began in 2012 and has grown in popularity year-in year-out. It takes place in one of the most scenic spots in the United Kingdom under the shadow of the UK’s biggest mountain – Ben Nevis.
If the description of the 26.2 mile journey is not enough to scare you, the fastest time ever recorded is a mammoth 3 hours and 18 minutes, compared to the world record marathon time of 2:02:57 set by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in 2014. And finally, every single runner of the event carries a survival pack, just in case the worst happens.
Now meet John Killingworth, a marathon runner who decided to take on this monumental challenge for his tenth marathon, citing a retirement from running in 2016 with his swansong at the London Marathon. His previous marathons include the Antarctic Marathon, making him no stranger to extreme conditions.
Dressed from head to toe in Odlo’s Autumn-Winter 2015/16 range, John tackled the Scottish mountains in 5:50:32, making him one of 459 finishers. What did John make of the unbelievable marathon course and how did Odlo perform under such testing conditions? We spoke with him just a few days after the event as he continued to let his body recover to find out!
“You’re following the route up towards a thing called Devil’s Staircase, starting at the base of Glencoe. I was falling over running through two foot of mud - there were other people who were losing their trainers in it, it was just impossible to get any footing at all!
“Then you come to this thing that they call the Devil’s Staircase – you turn this corner and you’re following a trail, a rubble trail up a mountain. Running is impossible, you just have to walk it. It was 8 miles to the top of the staircase and that took me 2 hours – I normally run a half marathon in an hour and 50 minutes.
“Running by the side of Ben Nevis was really beautiful, it’s the most picturesque area and you feel quite privileged to be running there, but towards the end, exhaustion set in and I just wanted to get to the finish.”
The Odlo Range
“The DEXTER RUNNING SHORTS feel like you haven’t got anything on, you just need it to be like that and I felt really comfortable in them.
“I wore the EVOLUTION BASELAYERS, I had them on at the start and I took when it was freezing, but removed as the temperatures hit 40 degrees. I kept the DORADUS RUNNING JACKET on throughout, it’s really lightweight and that’s what I love about it.
“With this type of run, you have to carry a survival bag as well as an extra set of waterproofs and a Camel bag, so it’s all about managing the weight you are carrying. The Odlo kit was so lightweight I barely felt it, which is exactly what you want need for this kind of endurance challenge - your kit needs to improve your performance, not hinder it, or weigh you down.”
Would you do it again?
“I wouldn’t do it again because it was extremely hard and requires a lot of training and commitment. It’s also a challenge ticked off my list. I have done five marathons now and I have another planned for April before I retire from marathons.
“For the Antarctic Ice Marathon I was running 60/70 miles per week. I was getting up at five in the morning, running eight miles, coming back from work and running another eight miles in the evening. I can’t fit that kind of training in anymore when I have other responsibilities.”
John, who has raised over £85,000 from his marathon running over the years in support of Breast Cancer Care, wore the DORADUS RUNNING JACKET, DEXTER RUNNING SHORTS, ZEROWEIGHT RUNNING TIGHTS, BLACKCOMB EVOLUTION WARM LONG BASELAYER PANTS and BLACKCOMB EVOLUTION WARM BASELAYER SHIRT.