Mountain man Jon finds home challenge tough

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Mountain runner Jon Smith, was the only Arran entrant in the gruelling Ultra Trail Scotland race recently, finishing in a respectable 17th place overall.

Two events were held on Saturday June 16  with Jon up against 34 other starters on the Tarsuinn Trail, a classic loop taking in some of the main ridgelines and traverses on Arran. The course was a little over 25km with 2,000m+ overall ascent. Only 27 finished the race.

The main event saw 14 elite runners tackle a gruelling shortened 60km course with over 5,000m overall ascent, taking in some of the most beautiful and challenging ridgelines on the island. There were nine finishers.

The Ultra Trail was a rescheduled event after it had to be cancelled last year because of bad weather. Jon told the Banner that he had been up against a strong field of runners from all over the UK and as far as Spain.

The 46-year-old from Lamlash only took up fell running seven years ago but has since competed in a number of extreme mountain running challenges.

Jon said: ‘The Arran event had been a real tester of mind and stamina and much harder than he anticipated. I found it a lot more technically challenging than the 28km Ring of Steall, despite it being 500m higher.’

Jon, who regularly runs up Goatfell, is now back in training for events later in the year including his third Ben Nevis race in September, which he plans to use as his taper event for the Salomon World Series Glen Coe Skyline event, which is 55km with an overall climb of 4,800m, later the same month.

So what drives on Jon in his mountain running? ‘I tried road running but there was not the element of danger which I enjoy with fell running,’ he said.

Jon’s sister Kirstie, a fell runner herself, was part of the Arran Mountain Rescue Team which assisted with the marshalling of the Arran event on the day and was atop Cir Mhor and Caisteal Abhail to spur her brother on during the race.

Runner Jon Smith was the only Arran entrant in the challenging Arran Ultra Trail held on the ridge tops of Arran’s northern mountain range. Photograph: Kirstie Smith