Harris Half Marathon – archive 2012

The last outing in the Heb 3 series was the Half Marathon, Tarbert, Isle of Harris. Find out more about the Heb 3 from the Stornoway Running Club website. In 2011, I completed Benbecula, Skye and Harris and got this lovely scoop for my efforts. DSC_0147The main issue (apart from hills, wind, 13.1 miles….) is that the travel requires some pre-organising and commitment, especially the wee country roads drive across to and through Skye, which we did  a couple of times for these and the Uist Hill Races. Plenty ferry’s from Uig to Tarbert, Harris and to Lochmaddy, North Uist for the commute across causeways to Benbecula and there’s transport laid on to take you to and from the races, although camping and B&Bs/hotels are viable options (look out for runner’s discounted rooms/meals).

Sadly in 2012, I only made the Benbecula and Harris races due to injury and road blockages on the morning of the Skye half. But 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, apparently.

Did I mention that the Outer Hebrides are thee most beautiful places in the world 😉 There’s no home-land bias here, I’m an ‘Eastie Beastie’ myself being from Easter Ross, but wow! I waiver between telling anyone who’ll listen about the islands to keeping complete schtum for fear of over-crowding. The scenery can be tear-evoking and certainly removes some of the sting from the wind, the rain, the gradients……..

This particular half marathon is a hilly route with high chance of a head-wind and no shelter what-so-ever.

DSC_06412012 was no exception – about 100 of us were bussed out passed Skeabost and I was lucky enough to be distracted from my travel-sickness through chatting to a gent about this years Cape Wrath Challenge (thanks Mr). We huddled at the start and eased into an uphill struggle against the wind. Not just any wind, a Galeforce 7 which would see many of the hills unrunnable as we struggled to make our trainers meet the ground before they were whipped away.

My running style, such as it is, became bent over as I leaned into the wind to balance myself. This was actually a neat trick until my back started to complain about the S-shape curve it was holding in the very open sections.

I’ll admit, I echoed a mad-man’s cackle at the sheer stupidity of trying to make haste against the elements. I pushed and pushed, sometimes with very little forward momentum and the overall effort was literally unsurpassed in any previous race. I literally had nothing left at the end and had to just let gravity take me for the steep descent into the ferry terminal.DSC_0834

This was all further compounded by the fact that I’d beaten last years time(!) AND everyone else was about 10 minutes off their normal time (which means this was likely a best performance for me). I hated parts of it (because I was under-trained and it was hard) but I also loved the route’s scenery, the camaraderie that you get during the Hebridean series; like a really exclusive gang, respectful of each other regardless of ability, conjoined in our love for the islands and individually touched by how special the Outer Hebrides are. I’d consider everyone a friend when you’re out there and you don’t compete per se, you encourage and commiserate and you get invited for a ceilidh, porridge and offered a nights kip from people you have literally known for 2 hours during a race. Hell yeah! Don’t mention the drinking at the Hebridean Hotel which continues all the way back on the late night ferry!

Then there’s the ever present Jim Bruce from SRAC, notable by his grey pony-tail (see below gallery) and the super sub-set of exclusive Heb 5 individuals, who have completed all 5 races in one year- Barra, Benbecula, Stornoway, Skye and Harris (not necessarily in that order!) and get a special gaelic mention on their series tee-shirt “rinn mise na coig” meaning, I did the five. There are other island halfs if you can’t get to these ones which take place May through July; Isle of Coll, Mull, Berneray to Lochmaddy “two islands” half and there are rumours of an Isle of Lewis Marathon coming soon 🙂

Take it from someone who has made the pilgrimage for two consecutive years- it’s worth it and you won’t regret anything about the experience, so bring your best camera and prepare to eat a lot of cake and sandwiches.

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Benbecula Half Marathon

I completed the Heb 3 last year; Benbecula, Skye and Harris. Loved the experience, met loads of other runners and got some good chats along the way (the usual back of the pack cameraderie). I managed to scoop the FV35 in 2011 (there were only two of us in it) but I relished the prize and promised I would return, better trained, thinner, all the stuff you normally swear you’ll do.I didn’t. Four months on from the December marathon and I was up one serious calf strain and an achilles issue. I had managed to get to where I could run 7.5 mile route on trail but was in no way distance or speed trained. BUT since we were heading up to the islands anyway, it seemed rude not to at least try and get round.I forgot my Garmin last year so this time I thought I would start out and see how far I could get with the promise that if anything hurt I would pull up and walk or DNF. My old buddy from last year Philip, was there dressed in a woolly jumper again (even though it was warm n sunny). We set off into the headwind and everything went well, 5K in 27 mins, 10K in 55 mins, 10 miles in 91 mins. The wind was a real struggle and unfortunately, there wasn’t a recoup of the wind behind as by then the route was well away from the coastline. Well, it got properly tough around 9 miles but I held on, overtaking a few here and there, managed a gel and knew that it was roughly flat and down-hill from the last water station at mile 11. I took a walk through the station, downed two cups of water and staved off a stitch as I pushed through the glue that was my untrained legs in the final few miles. As I crossed the final main road, I saw another lady running for Vatersay crossing behind me and decided I would try and stay in front of her. Pace felt like 12 min miles but the Garmin said ~8.35. The heat and wind had sapped a few runners, one who I urged to “stay with me” but he said he had nothing left.

The finishing strait

No pick up for a sprint finish, Phil finished 30 secs in front (last year I was only 3 secs behind him). I gave myself a break, knowing I was still under treatment for injuries and hadn’t run further than 8 miles all year.However, I got two surprises: One – my finish time was sub-2 and running a half in 1.58.22 was not far outside my 2011 PB. Two – there were 5 runners in my age category and I had passed the second one in the last mile, the lady from Vatersay, so I managed to pick up the FV35 prize again.

Good effort by me (not up for the false modesty) and a great indicator that I’m not too far off form and that with a return to full fitness and some specific training, my Half marathon PB WILL die this year.Our summer holiday continued to Harris, Lewis, St. Kilda and onto the mainland to Achiltibuie. However, we didn’t make it back down to Skye the following weekend so my hopes of perhaps completing the Heb 3 series again were totally dashed. But I was happy with the race and the outcome. Benbecula is an idyllic place to holiday, walk, bike and run and I feel very lucky to have been part of this event again.

http://runbenbecula.btck.co.uk/HalfMarathon/HalfMarathon2012