Report from Nea
The 4Th race of the Hebridean half marathon series took place in the scenic island of Barra on Sat 30th June. 4 Bellas made the journey, myself, John Sandbach, Sandra Houldsworth and Louise Gray. With Sandra being the cheerleader after nursing 2 broken toes in a fall during the Benbecula half.
The weather was a bit damp for the start with a light wind (which in the Hebrides is usually around 50mph!). The race was started by Father John Paul MacKinnon from the island Parish TV series, he gave a rousing speech and wished everyone luck!! He should have thrown in a couple of prayers for good measure knowing about the poor souls that were about to tackle the 340ft hill at the 11.5 mile mark! A local girl held the Olympic Torch for the start, I thought about grabbing it and taking it round the island but decided against it as this route is bad enough without the extra baggage!
The race started on the West side of the island in Castlebay and followed a clockwise route round the island. Andrew Laycock from Kinross Road Runners settled into the lead after the 1st mile followed by myself and Joshua Low. The first 4 miles are fairly flat for the Heb series, passing some of the most beautiful beaches in the Hebrides, then the route turns to the east into the wind and the hills!
At the 5 mile mark there is a steady climb of 170ft, with the leader in sight and still hearing Joshua Low’s footsteps behind me, I wondered if I had went off too fast as I could see the local coastguard jeep being used as the lead vehicle, I have only ever seen a lead vehicle upto the 1st mile!! I was keeping a close eye on my pace as the hard bit was still to come, having experienced THE hill in the previous year on which I lost my heart and soul and struggled to conquer it!!
With the beaches left behind and the hills beginning, the leader was only a couple of minutes ahead but I still hadn’t shaken off Joshua Low in 3rd. So onto the hill, in the previous year I had been given good advice – “To leave a good bit in the tank for the hill”!! I felt OK at the bottom of it as I started the climb, my legs started to feel heavy as soon as I took the 1st step of the 340ft climb and I had a quick look behind me to see Mr Low bearing down on me having closed the gap significantly. The baby steps I was taking on the climb were hurting and they hurt even more when I slipped back into 3rd position. With a position lost the head went down just as well as I didn’t want to see how much of the hill I had to go!! The end of the climb was in sight and the baby steps started to mature back to their near normal stride, having picked up my heart & soul lost there the year before, I started to feel I had defeated the monster on the fast downhill!
The drop back into Castlebay is rapid with 1.5 miles to go, still annoyed with myself for losing a position – the chase was on! I caught Mr Low with half a mile to go approaching the last climb of the course – a wee 50 footer which I surged up and to my surprise got back into 2nd place. I pushed on trying to create a bit of space and started to realise I was catching the leader, on the final downhill to the finish I just ran out of road with Andrew Laycock taking 1st, followed by me 11 secs later and Joshua Low a mere 17seconds behind me in 3rd.
John Sandbach ran another good race in the series with 1:39:16 to complete his Heb3 in 5:07:20. Louise Gray had a good run in 1:48:14, just in time for the sun to come out and enjoy the scenery!
The official results got printed and they showed that I finished 1 minute 11 seconds behind the winner, a bit disappointed with that as it was a close finish!! It was Andrew Laycock’s birthday so I think they gave him an extra minute for that!
The legendary buffet didn’t disappoint, last year I piled so much onto my plate it split in half, so this year I held back! I didn’t attend the evening Ceilidh, so maybe John, Sandra & Louise could fill in the gaps if they can remember!