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Knoydart Calls: The Highland Ultra

Knoydart brought a lot of adventure.

A long journey finally brought me to Inverie, the gateway to Knoydart. Inverie was a small settlement consisting of maybe 100 people. The town center featured a very tiny strip by Loch Nevis, consisting of a town hall, gift shop, Britain’s most remote pub, lodges, and a restaurant. I got reacquainted with Kris King, the race director and an incredible human. I met Kris at the Jungle Ultra, another stage race he puts on. In addition to Kris, I also found myself reunited with Jon Shield, the winner of the Jungle Ultra 2022 event. Immediately, Kris got us acquainted with Knoydart’s history, the monument in town, registration, and our tents. The afternoon moved slowly on a sunny day, though the Beyond the Ultimate team happily assured us that the sun wouldn’t last. Then, it was time to sleep and get ready for the Highland Ultra

Stage 1

Finally getting a somewhat restful sleep and adjusting to the jetlag, I woke up to the sound of rain pounding on my tent. Outside it was chilly and rainy. Still, this was the experience I came for. For sunny days, I could have just stayed in California. Stage 1 consisted of about 31 miles (50 KM) and a decent amount of climbing. After lining up by the race flags, we were off on a road loop around the peninsula. Rain poured down and got worse. The roads turned into bogs as we got past the first checkpoint at town hall. This was truly a Beyond the Ultimate style soft introduction. 

The Moorlands

Once we cleared the windy coastline, highland Cows and sheep greeted us on the moorlands. Through the first farm gate was the start of the true bogs. The bogs slowed you down, got your shoes muddy, and drained your strength. Though relentless, the terrain was incredibly beautiful. Then, the rain hammered down. Water flowed down the single track. A ravine grew so fierce, it required a strong maneuver to get to the other side safely. Teaming up with other runners, we made it through the first stage, but not without a few slips, falls, and bruises. At camp, it was time to get dry and prepare for the next day.


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Middle Earth Conversations

Although there was a promise of better weather, Stage 2 started with rain as well. This would be a long marathon distance day with significantly more climbing than the previous day. Now, there were no roads. Only climbs, river crossings, and muddy moorlands. The sun brought with it some serious heat on the lower elevations, but that would change on the ridgelines. After the 2nd checkpoint, it was through a river and up an incredibly brutal climb up the side of a mountain. During this day, separate middle earth conversations and story sharing added to the fun. The top of the rocky ridge brought with it patches of snow and howling winds. Then, the road back to camp and one more rest.

Up and Down Ridgelines

Even before stage 3 began, I was in a massive calorie deficit and had done my best to rehydrate and replenish electrolytes. Stage races were a balancing act between weight and proper fuel. Typically, calorie dense foods and liquid calories helped tremendously in reducing pack weight. Although the shortest at 16 miles (25 KM), stage 3 was a very long day of going up and down ridgelines. The bogs continued to be relentless, with one of them clutching me thigh deep. Teaming up with an athlete from Estonia (with a stick no less) made the day incredible as we tackled the technical ridgeline together. At the top, you could see all of Knoydart and beyond. Then, I saw Inverie and began a sharp descent into town. A few falls later, I made it to the road and darted to town. Confusingly, I moved past a fire brigade (I later found out there was a fire and the town rallied together to put it out). 

The Last Training Block

Nevertheless, I had finished my first self-sufficient stage race. Scarfing down food and getting into comfortable clothes, I headed to the Old Forge. With the other runners, we listened to Scottish folk music and had a grand old time. The next day, it was sadly time to say goodbye to Knoydart as we boarded the boat back to Mallaig. As soon as the boat landed, it took 15 minutes, and everyone was off. Though I had a long road home, I would enjoy what Scotland had to offer for a few days, my eyes now moving towards the last training block of the Triple Crown of 200s.

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Aum Gandhi Run Tri Bike Magazine Co-Owner

Aum Gandhi is a social media manager, content writer, and co-owner of Run Tri Bike. An active ultrarunner, Aum has a palpable love for the sport and the trail community. His purpose in all his professional and personal activities is to inspire others by leaving a positive impact. Aum maintains a personal blog on his website in which he shares both his running exploits and features of energizing endurance athletes to all audiences. In his free time, you’d probably catch Aum reading, crewing at races, playing video games, out on the trails, or watching NBA Basketball.