Thursday, 16 July 2009

Harris Half Marathon

Bit late with this one but we went straight from Skye to Aberdeenshire to scrape and paint my mum's window frames and are just back.

This was my 4th go at the hilly Harris half marathon. Its the final half marathon of the Heb 3 series where competitors need to complete 3 of a possible 5 Hebridean half marathons and who ever spends the least time at it wins. Of note is that there is a very generous team cash prize of £200 which has drawn a greedy Portobello contingent for 3 of the last 4 years.

I couldn't complete 3 of the Hebs this year due to work and weddings, but did Stornoway and Harris anyway. The effort it takes to get there, the courses themselves and the general pre and post race fun make these heb half marathons worth it and they have quite a loyal following so you see the same faces year after year.

We had a bit of an epic drive to the camp-site in Uig at the far end of Skye. We had to leave Edinburgh kind of late anyway due to not having time to get organised beforehand and perhaps some shilly-shallying so it seemed we would make it to camp by about 11pm which was later than we would have liked but we'd come to terms with it. Imagine our surprise then when we got to Sligachan, half-way across Skye and discovered the road was closed all night for on-going road work. We had to take a long diversion up the Dunvegan road and then 8 miles of very interesting single-track over the hills to Portree. At about the zenith of this diversion the car started to make a funny rubbing noise. "No please god no!" "Not now, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, with no mobile signal!" Our shiftless godless prayers were answered and the rubbing noise went back to whence it came. We finally drove into Uig Carpark after midnight and put the tent up as quietly as we could. Well I say we, - but I went to the toilet block to brush my teeth and when I got back Peter had pretty much put it up. Good man.
We both slept fine being knackered from a busy week and a long drive.
In the morning the sun baked us out of our tent before our alarms had had a chance to go off.

Up already were a possie of Helensburghs. A bit later on we were to see Graeme Jervis who was formerly of Forres Harriers but has been poached by the HBTs. Also Hamish MacDonald who we met at the Everest Marathon but we often see at different races in Scotland. On the ferry to Tarbert we met more familiar folk. Ivor Normand of HBT (His rule is, he tells me "You cannae miss Harris!" and this was his 9th consecutive Harris half.) Davie Hearn who oscillates between Stornoway and HBT (the dark side) was in his usual jolly form. From a distance we say a fit looking Dick Wall who is clearly in serious training. He went for a bike ride after the race!

The day unfolded in the usual laid-back island way. Registration and then a bus-ride down the island to the start. There is a pee stop about a mile from the start as the people who live at the actual start are sick of people peeing in the gardens and on the road where they live.

At maybe 1.20pm we were set off by a local policeman (who looked barely out his teens). He gave a few instructions, to be careful etc. and asked if there were any questions. "Why do we do this?" asked a wag from the throng of runners. "Because you are all mental." was the quick response. Without further ceremony we were off.

It was hot and there was a head-wind and after the first four miles the really serious hills begin. I swapped places with Louise Provan a few times early on, finding I was going past people on the downhills. Not so later on... It was quickly apparent that it would not be a day for fast times so I nudged the Garmin onto heart rate so I couldn't start worrying about my pace. I think this was a good strategy. I kept going as steady as I could, without red-lining, hoping to have something left for the mostly downhill (though never very fast) last 5 miles. I didn't manage to hang onto Louise and I slipped back a bit but not drastically and did manage to pick it up once the long uphill from mile 4 to mile 8 was behind me. Just before the last mile I turned around and saw a woman in a pink t-shirt not far behind. Hell's teeth! I would have to try to pick up my pace! I did this by pulling faces and making funny noises and thankfully it worked and I managed to keep ahead. I bowled into the finish area grimacing and near-blinded by the effort and the heat.
One tiny moan I have is that I think they stiffed me for 3rd lady vet. The full results aren't up yet but I beat the official 3rd lady vet's time. This also happened to me in 2007 when they gave my prize to Susan Lennon. I can see it fully from a race organisers point of view - nothing would put you off runners quicker - a bunch of moany whingers. But I also can see it from my point of view and quite frankly I wanted my prizey!

Anyway, the post-race stuff was great. We had a nice meal in the Harris Hotel with the Helensburghs. I think I was drinking Clansmans (should that be Clansmen) and then on the boat we fell in with the HBTs who insisted that Peter fill his 1st MV tankard with the HBT ladies' team prize winning wine and that we all drink. We had 2 of the 3 HBT ladies' bottles of wine and then some other stuff, peut-etre some Port and some beer and then at the pub at the end of the pier in Uig we had some beer and whisky and gave Graeme Jervis some rousing support for his pool-playing until the pub was shut and we were asked to leave. Rolled into our tent at 1am and were surprisingly good the next day considering...

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