The Ben Nevis Race started all the way back in 1937. On the first Saturday of September, up to 600 participants compete, starting with a race roster based on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The event begins and ends at the Claggan Park football field outside Fort William, and successful finishers complete 16 kilometres (9.9 miles)–with 1,340 metres (4,400 ft) of ascent.
Race records were set in 1984, when Pauline Howard and Kenny Stuart of the Keswick Athletics Club sped through the course at times of 1:43:25 and 1:25:34, respectively. These long-standing record lay ripe for the taking.
A certain fitness standard is maintained by the race. To enter, runners must belong to an Athletic Club and have finished three ‘Grade A’ hill races.
The Ben Novis mountain poses serious challenges to participants, so everyone must carry a hat, gloves, waterproofs and a whistle.
There are time restrictions at two points. First, anyone who hasn’t reached the halfway point after an hour is turned back. Participants have a total of two hours to get to the summit or risk being turned back. Competitors who take longer than three hours 15 minutes are turned away from the race in future years.
History of Hill Running on Ben Nevis
Ben Nevis has hosted races since 1895 when Hairdresser William Swan from Fort William made the first timed run on 27 September. He ran from the old Fort William post office to the mountain summit and back in just 2 hours 41 minutes.
Over the years, Swan’s record was beaten several times. However, the first official race on 3 June 1898 under the rules of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association. A mere ten runners competed that day. The race route began at Banavie’s Lochiel Arms Hotel and was longer than the Fort William route. Hugh Kennedy, a 21-year-old gamekeeper from Tor Castle, finished the circuit in 2 hours 41 minutes.
There were regular races until 1903, which saw the last two races held in 24 years. This could be related to the observatory’s closure in 1904. The first race ran from the foot of the Pony Track to the summit; Ewen MacKenzie took just over an hour to run it and was the roadman for the observatory. Meanwhile, the second race started at the Fort William post office, and MacKenzie set a record of 2 hours 10 minutes that was unchallenged for 34 years.