After years of toil, a Skye endurance runner is hoping that one final push will tip his fundraising efforts over the six-figure mark.
But it’s not exactly a little push.
Alistair Macpherson is taking on the daunting task of running 180 miles from Glasgow to Inverness.
As if running seven marathons back-to-back wasn’t enough, the 43-year-old is aiming to complete the route in just 70 hours.
The challenge has been in the pipeline for a while, before Covid halted his progress.
Not to be deterred, Mr Macpherson – or Ally K as he is better known – is finally ready navigate the long route in aid of Highland Hospice.
Here’s how he’s going to do it.
Ally K’s Long Run 2.0
Ally’s route is not quite as easy as you may think.
Rather than navigate the shortest route as the crow flies, the Skye man has instead decided to take on the West Highland Way, before clambering across the Great Glen Way, finishing up with the small feat of running the length of Loch Ness.
Ally, who works a fortnightly shift pattern on the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry between Ullapool and Stornoway, is no stranger to an endurance challenge, having successfully fundraised £78,000 for cancer charities in the past.
The last dance
This run, which he’s calling Ally K’s Long Run, will be his final big challenge.
He’s promised his wife as much.
If he can replicate the level of support he’s had for his previous efforts, he could top the £100,000 mark for funds raised for cancer charities.
Ally said: “To prepare yourself for this is a lot of training and a lot of dedication.
“My head was in a good place, everything was going fine but then unfortunately, I had to make the call due to the pandemic.
“It was tough, but it was the right decision.
“With an event like this you want support from everybody and you don’t want people to be negative towards it.
“It was disheartening but it was disheartening for a lot of people because there were so many things that were cancelled.
“It was a really horrible year.”
Raring to go
The run will begin on the evening of July 28.
Ally has been able to rejig his training programme this time round and has had the help of personal trainer Kevin Campbell from Tribe Fitness in Inverness.
“Working with Kevin has been great,” he said.
“In the past I have just ran but we have done weight training, in the gym working on core strength, building up muscle groups and joints to hopefully prevent as much injury as we can.
“That has been a huge help for me.”
He has even set himself small challenges already, such as running every four hours over the course of a 48-hour period to train his body to run tired and navigating Skye’s Trotternish Ridge, a combined elevation of around 6,500ft.
A real team effort
Ally has stressed that although it is his name on the challenge, it really is a team effort.
Along the route he will be supported by nine friends, including his wife Donna, who will ensure he is well fed and watered, as well as being conditioned to tackle all elements.
Ally added: “Each event I have done I have learnt from it and what I have maybe done wrong I have changed for the next one.”
The 180-mile route entails seven marathons and is his longest challenge to date.
He has already put in the hard miles and hopes his preparation has him ready for what lies ahead.
‘A strong head will carry weak legs’
Ally said: “To be honest, you can’t really train as such to run that distance – a lot of it is in the head.
“A strong head will carry weak legs.
“There has to be a level of failure or else it wouldn’t be a challenge.
“For me, I will hit low points, really low points, and they may happen during the night or during the day.”
Almost every long-distance runner has heard of the wall.
It’s that point during a tiring effort when your legs begin to feel like concrete. All you want to do is give up.
How does Ally plan to break through the barrier when the going gets tough?
He said: “I have experienced it before. When I ran from Skye to Maggies, I hit the wall just after the Skye Bridge but managed to come out of it.
“I deal with it in my own way and I will maybe put the music on, focus and break the run down into 10k sections or by each mile or two miles, but I feel I do set myself little challenges at times.
“It is these little things that help. When the aches and pains creep in you have just to manage them as best you can.
“I have got a pretty strong mind and I can deal with most things.”
A dedicated JustGiving page has been set up for donations to Ally K’s Long Run with all proceeds going to Highland Hospice.
Ally is grateful to his donors and added: “I never, ever thought for one minute we would be anywhere near £100,000 but it goes back to the people and their support.
“I am so grateful for everybody’s kindness and support, people that believe in me and realise what I am doing and putting my body through.”
Jenna Hayden, events fundraiser at Highland Hospice, said: “I think Ally’s event is slightly crazy but so important.
“We are looking forward to supporting him along the way.”