Last summer Katie Henderson smashed a Cairngorm mountain running record which had lasted 32 years – only to see it broken by another athlete just three weeks later.
But the Aboyne-based physiotherapist has now re-entered the hill running record books with another epic performance in the Scottish Highlands.
Aberdeen’s Kath Butler clocked what was to be known as the fastest known time for a run over the four tops of Cairngorm, Ben Macdui, Cairn Toul and Braeriach when she recorded 6hr 45min in 1988.
Henderson substantially revised that mark when skipping round the mountainous circuit in 5:48:13 last July.
But, the following month, Caroline Marwick of Inverness Harriers cut the FKT down by another significant margin, to 5:30:30.
Henderson’s latest challenge was to bag a women’s FKT for an extension of last year’s run – tackling what’s known as the Cairngorm Big 6.
This run includes the original Cairngorm 4,000s, but adds in Ben Avon and Beinn a’ Bhuird. There’s actually a seventh Munro on the route, as Sgor an Lochaine Uaine was reclassified in 1997.
Henderson, who has enjoyed a lifelong passion for walking, mountain biking, climbing and ski-ing, completed the 40-mile journey, which included close to 13,500ft of elevation gain, in 12:44:24.
Highland athlete Ally Beaven broke the men’s record last summer when clocking 9:00:34, but until now there hasn’t been a FKT for a woman.
Henderson said: “I suppose I’ve set a record rather than broken one, so I have the fastest and slowest known times by a woman for this challenge.
“I read about the route in Ally Beaven’s book, but I’ve known about it for a long time, more as a winter ski-ing route rather than a running one.
“It’s a classic ski circuit, so that’s where it originally came from, but I didn’t get the chance to do it last winter.
“So, I just decided to try running it recently, when the weather was good. It wasn’t a case of training specifically for it. It was more a case of having the time and just deciding it was a good idea.
“It’s the longest run I’ve done, both in terms of distance and time on my feet. I did it solo and, of course, there’s no route markings.
“Although the weather forecast was good, the clag came down at one point, so I had to use a map and compass for navigation. So that was an added challenge.
“I didn’t have a specific time in mind, I just wanted to complete it. I thought somewhere in the 12-14 hour timescale was possible.”
Henderson has now set the standard, but whether her mark survives longer than her 2020 4,000s record remains to be seen.
The Deeside runner is adamant, however, that she won’t be tempted to have another go at it.
She said: “I don’t think I’d run it again. If I do the route again it will be on skis.”
In the meantime, Henderson will continue to enjoy long runs in the mountains, but has only one competitive race pencilled on her calendar.
She said: “I’ve done some enjoyable runs over in Knoydart and I did the Cuillins Traverse, so I’ll do more of that sort of thing.
“The only race I’ve got planned is the Snowden Skyline, but that’s not until October.”
Henderson puts race organiser hat on
Henderson will switch to race organiser mode next weekend when she takes charge of the 26-mile Lairig Ghru run between Braemar and Aviemore.
The event has attracted a field of more than 200 runners including past winners Robbie Simpson (Deeside Runners) and Kerry Prise (Metro Aberdeen).
She said: “We have a very good line-up in the women’s and men’s races, so it should be interesting.
“The guidelines for events have been relaxed a bit recently, which is good, but we’ll still be setting the runners off in waves.
“We’ve also altered the finishing point in Aviemore to avoid the main street as it’s far too busy now and it wouldn’t be a good idea to have so many runners congregating there.”