Report from Greig
The challenge is to complete at least three of the five Western Isles Half Marathons – Stornoway, Harris, Benbecula, Barra or Skye in any one year.
This is the longest running series of half marathons in Scotland and 2012 saw the 23rd event. It is a hugely popular race series, with increasing entries every year. In particular, the Barra race, which is only able to support limited numbers, sells out the day entry is opened every year. The series starts with the Stornoway half marathon and ends with the Harris half marathon, which traditionally involves post race celebrations, both locally and on the ferry!
3 Bella runners completed at least the minimum 3 races Myself, Nea MacInnes, John Sandbach.
First up for the Bella challenge was the 2nd race in Benbecula. Despite it being a circular route it had the usual stiff headwind for about 12 miles (always described as “perfect running conditions” in the local press) and talk of a strong challenge from the Heb 3 host club Stornoway, I did enough to grind out my 3rd Benbecula Half win followed by Nea clinching 2nd with a fine PB after a good race with a couple of runners from the previously mentioned local club. John Sandbach picked up a “Heb PB” for his first counter and the bravest run of the day was from Sandra Houldsworth who with a couple of miles still to run had a nasty fall and despite the blood oozing from numerous wounds still managed to finish and was then promptly whisked to hospital where she discovered she’d also broken 3 toes.
7 days later in Skye it was the heat that took its toll on the runners, I finished 3rd followed by Nea 4th and Robbie Hayman 5th to win us the Skye team prize and John in 85th adding another time towards the series.
Next it was onto Barra where Nea and John were joined by Louise Gray. Nea had another fine race on Barras famously brutal undulations, battling so hard with a runner for 2nd place to his surprise he almost caught the leader finishing just 10 seconds behind. Louse also ran well coming in 3rd v40.
Finally it was to Harris for the fifth and final race in the series. Nea was series leader having already completed his 3 races, I had to finish my final counter in under 1.27 to overtake him and at last win the thing after being runner up 3 times in the previous four years. And with John Sandbach (like Nea) having already completed his 3 races we were also in with a chance for a first ever Bella series team win breaking the usual Edinburgh stranglehold (Portobello, HBT, Corstorphine).
On the day it was pretty grim. You get taken on a fleet of buses out to Borve and run back the 13.1 miles in an easterly direction back to Tarbet. The theory is despite the first 10 miles being almost constant climbs, the stunning scenery and the normal South Westerly winds will ease you gently home. Unfortunately this year we had to chew our way through a Force 7 easterly headwind. I somehow managed to stay upright long enough to win the race and series with a gruelling 1.23 with Nea finishing 2nd just 4 minutes later to finish the series as runner up from 7th last year.
Afterwards we were delighted to have it confirmed we’d also clinched the team prize, meaning we left the awards ceremony with a huge haul of prizes. It is a brilliant series in stunning locations on challenging courses with little time to recover between races. Now the challenge is to retain these titles for next year and maybe a first Bella ladies winner/team prize?
Series info here – http://www.srac.org.uk/heb3.htm and If anyone needs advice on logistics/accommodation etc give me a shout.