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A Fort William athlete has become the first person to cycle the West Highland Way in under nine hours, setting a new record for the second time in less than a year.
Gary Macdonald, perhaps better known locally for his success in the Scottish Six Days Trial, broke a six-year-old record last August when he cycled the 96-mile route from Milngavie in nine hours, 28 minutes and 34 seconds knocking an hour off the previous best time.
Unbeknown to him, professional athlete Rab Wardell, who held the record in 2011, had been planning a re-run of his previous attempt, aiming to better the record set in 2015 with a sub 10 hour time. Gary’s achievement, just a month before he was due to set off raised the bar considerably.
Complete with backup team and video crew, Rab beat Gary’s new time by 14 minutes and two seconds to reclaim the record.
That was, until last Saturday, when joiner Gary further pushed the boundary by completing the route in just eight hours 40 minutes and 14 seconds.
Gary said: ‘I am delighted to have done this and be the first to cycle the West Highland Way in under nine hours.
‘I had always wanted to tackle the route and when I did it last year I set out to beat
the previous record but didn’t expect to do it by such a large margin.
‘I had no idea Rab Wardell had been preparing for some time to do exactly the same thing a month or so later, so my record didn’t last very long, although it was good to know the difference wasn’t that much.
‘Things have been difficult for everyone during lockdown, including me, and with the competitions I would usually take part in cancelled I thought of having another go at the West Highland Way.
Gary’s feat was made all the more remarkable as he prepared for the ordeal while still working full time, fitting in training and adapting his special light but strong bike in his own time.
The weight of the bike was especially important as it had to be carried over some sections.
‘Training was really tough, spending hours on building fitness and my bike while still working,’ he added.
‘However this time, various companies helped out with sponsorship and I would like to thank all of them for their support which allowed me to invest in equipment and specialised clothing.
‘It was very tiring, but really satisfying to have achieved this time, which I hope will last a bit longer than the last one, because I’m certainly not doing it again!’