Big run was like climbing Everest four times over

Falkirk runner Elspeth Luke completed the Watershed challenge
Falkirk runner Elspeth Luke completed the Watershed challenge

A Falkirk runner became the first woman to complete an endurance challenge which saw her cover 680 miles and climb over 40,000 metres.

Professional musician Elspeth Luke (33) took 34 days, from July 13 to August 15, to conquer the gruelling Watershed run, which follows a route from Peel Fell in the Scottish Borders to Duncansby Head in the far north east and takes in 44 Munros and countless bogs along the way.

The Watershed is the drainage divide in Scotland, running south to north, and separating the river systems flowing east into the North Sea and west into the Atlantic Ocean.

Elspeth, running with friend Stuart McFarlane, not only became the first female to complete the route, she also raised over £10,000 for charity at the same time.

The former Dollar Academy pupil said: “It actually went to plan and we paced it out quite well. I had a couple of quite easy days where I only ran for six hours and a few epic days, including one day when I ran for 13 hours and covered 45km, climbing 3000 metres.”

The route was first completed in 2012 by Dundonnell runner Colin Meek, who took 27 days to cover the distance.

In the end Elspeth, who has also completed two ultra distance 95-mile West Highland Way Races, averaged 35km – 20 miles – and eight to nine hours of running a day as she powered up Munros and negotiated muddy marshlands.

The uphill portions of her challenge were the equivalent of her scaling Everest four-and-a-half times.

“I didn’t know what the cumulative effect of the run would be for me, but I recovered quite quickly because I had built up so much strength during the run.”

Fitness may not have been an issue for Elspeth, but the weather conditions almost turned her running challenge into a swim.

“The terrain was really tough going and on the worst day heavy rain made a river crossing a bit more exciting, raising the water level so it almost submerged a bridge. It was a very fast flowing river.

“It’s certainly not everyone’s idea of fun.”

Fun or not, Elspeth helped to coin in cash for Funding Neuro, a charity which pays for research into neurological conditions like Parkinson’s Disease – something which Elspeth has personal experience of.

“My dad has Parkinson’s so that’s been a big motivation for me.”
Visit www.watershed.com or www.justgiving.com/watershed-scotland for more.