WHAT are the most punishing and lung-bursting fitness challenges in the country? If you’re a fitness freak or just a glutton for punishment, then these events are for you
Scotland is blessed with some of the most captivating scenery in the world and it serves as the perfect setting for a host of fitness events. But there are some events which stand out from the crowd for the sheer Herculean levels of endurance and stamina required to complete them.
The Le Mans of mountain biking is the Strathpuffer, a 24-hour offroad event held in the depths of the Highlands during winter. Entry for January 2016 is now open, but with icy roads, hailstone and below-zero temperatures common at the event, it’s not for the faint-hearted. Solo and pair entrants as well as teams of four are welcome, with competitors negotiating the spectacular Torachilty Forest and lochs around Strathpeffer. Originally conceived as a one-off event in 2005, the ‘Puffer recently reached its tenth anniversary earlier this year.
At the big-budget end of the scale is the Glencoe Marathon. The trail-running event links Glencoe and Glen Nevis, while giving runners the opportunity to climb the Devil’s Staircase en route - a 50-metre climb over the Aonach Eagach mountain ridge. With some of the most dramatic views of the Highlands available to runners taking part, the event is famous for its stunning vistas as much as it is for the challenge it represents.
Winning the British Triathlon Event of the Year Award after its inaugural event in 2012, the Celtman has a hard-earned reputation as Scotland’s toughest event. Competitors of the Wester Ross event swim 3.8km in chilly Atlantic waters before enduring a 200km bike ride over winding Highland roads. Finally, participants run 42km over Beinn Eighe, completing an ascent of over 4000 metres in total. The midsummer event scheduled for June 2016 is open by application only, and definitely one for hardcore triatheletes.
As one of Scotland’s best-known endurance events, Tough Mudder enjoys high attendance and completion numbers every year. Nevertheless, it is still one of the hardest events of its kind, with the 2016 challenge located around Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries & Galloway. With past obstacles including the famous Electroshock Therapy section, the Tough Mudder event is notable for new obstacles every year.
As one of the oldest challenges of its kind still run in Scotland today, Ramsay’s Round is the only event where competitors attempt to climb 24 Munros in 24 hours. Named after Charlie Ramsay’s successful world record-setting attempt in 1978 with a time of 23 hours and 58 minutes, the challenge is 58 miles long and has a total ascent of 28,500 feet.
While these events are geared more towards experienced fitness fans, Gemma Simpson, events & marketing manager at the sport’s governing body, triathlonscotland, offers advice for those inspired to get involved in triathlons at a beginner’s level.
She says: “To get started in a pool-based triathlon you will only need a swim suit, goggles, shorts, t-shirt, trainers, helmet and a roadworthy bike.
“Training is the key to success and each week you should aim to swim, bike and run at least once a week, for 12 weeks prior to your race.
“You can also practice transition skills by adding in a few swim-bike and bike-run sessions near to your race date. Joining a triathlon club will add structure to your training and club members will be on hand to offer advice and support. To talk to someone about preparing for your first race, call triathlonscotland on 01786 466921.”