I feel a little odd writing this now.
Just over three months ago, I was in Scotland supporting my dear friend Scott in his attempt to complete the West Highland Way Race. Next to me was his wife Annie.
But now that it’s over? It’s been really hard to write what it meant to me. The experience is not something that can be merely chronicled. There’s real emotion, and how I felt is the important part. What happened is merely fact.
When I read Scott’s writeup, my task here became even harder.
Still. It’s been three months. So with a dram of Laphroaig (10 years, original cask strength) at my side, let’s get to it.
It’s important to remember that all three of us had been here before. In 2012, in the face of torrential rain, Scott ran off into the darkness at Milngavie. 67 miles later, the race was lost. We hoped and expected this time to be different.
My written journal has one entry of note:
June 21, 2015; Fort William, Scotland
Today was going to be a day to forget, or a day of celebration.
Fortunately, celebration is justified. This morning, shortly after the day began, the West Highland Way Race ended, at least for Scott. 44 of 188 people had already finished and another 110 would cross the line behind him.
Celebration takes many forms. This one started with a lumpy twin mattress and dreams—dreams that don’t matter and that I no longer remember. Celebration continued with a simple breakfast—nothing special, but hot and comforting.
The awards ceremony ends with the 1st place runner handing the last place finisher his (or her) goblet—”everybody that finishes this race is a winner.”
Clearly, everyone here believes it. This is no participation prize—you don’t get anything for trying. But to finish is not to try, it is to do.
Scott did. And like 2012, I will treasure the memories of this trip, forever. Tomorrow, the vacation part of this vacation returns. But for a few more hours, the celebration continues—the work is done.
So yeah. Scott finished.
The thing is, for Annie and I, the time we spend with Scott was pretty short. Aside from an extended recovery at the base of the Devil’s Staircase, we never saw him for more than a few minutes before he was off again. In comparison, we spent 24 hours in each other’s company. 24 hours with very little sleep.
Would I say our job was hard? No. But it was difficult. We didn’t have the physical demands that Scott did, but we also didn’t have any escape from the emotional demands. We had no place to hide; we had a job to do.
In retrospect, it was fine. Annie and I both got pretty stressed at times, and we both came back from it.
In the end, we made a pretty damned good team. I got us where we needed to be and Annie got Scott where he needed to go. And I think we both enjoyed our time on the road.
In a way, I’m happy that Scott didn’t finish in 2012. For if he had, I wouldn’t have gotten to experience the 2015 race. I have fond memories of both, but already they are merging together… the highs of 2015 are mellowing the lows of 2012.
In Scott’s writeup, he wrote
And Aaron, who joined us on the 2012 attempt too, was surprisingly easy to convince to join again — but turns out he was most interested in coming back for the whisky.
That’s not really true. I admit, I was excited for the parts of the trip that weren’t the race. But the thing is, as I sip this whisky that I purchased as part of this great adventure… Every time I sip a whisky from Scotland, I can’t help but remember these trips. These memories, they are a part of my association with Scotland now. They are part of the joy of whisky now. Every dram is now a manifestation of my memories; they are a reminder of where I’ve been and who I spent that time with.
Who would have thought that a small dose of golden liquid could hold so much?