Last week I found myself following the long and winding road to Campbeltown with the sun streaming through the windscreen of my slightly overcrowded Vauxhall Corsa and the radio fading in and out of reception. What had started as a frustrating crawl out of Glasgow, stuck behind hordes of families making the most of the bank holiday sun, turned into a drive which never fails to impress. We had spoken about the possibility of catching the ferry this year but that would have meant missing out on the stunning scenery that lines the entire route to Campbeltown. The wild and uncompromising mountains, lochs and forests which dominate the route make the drive itself all part of the experience of MOKrun.
Upon arrival we checked into our B&B and made our way to the organised ‘pasta-party’. This has been an entertaining part of the weekend for the last couple of years and we knew that the food would be great. The buffet of pasta dishes, salads and baked potatos would provide plenty of fuel for the following day’s half marathon and the atmosphere generated by being in a hub full of runners really helps to set the mood for the weekend. This year the restaurant was slightly quieter than it has been previously but the food was once again very good and excellent value.
I was a little concerned this year as I seemed to have developed a tight hamstring overnight which had been exacerbated by the long car journey. I decided therefore that a good night’s sleep and a decent warm-up would be vital if I hoped to recreate my success at this race from last year. Thanks to this I sacrificed the opportunity to watch the Champions League Final and instead had a hot bath and an early night! Unfortunately the next morning arrived and I still had a nagging pain deep in my upper hamstring. I set off for an early warm-up (after my standard ‘pre-race breakfast’ of porridge and jam) and was suffering straight away. I found that I was unable to run at any real pace without a fairly intense pain in my leg. At this point I spoke to my friend Ben who was down supporting his fiancee Katie in the half marathon. He pointed out the ‘Free Massage’ tent which stood alongside the start line. I figured I had little to lose and so jumped in. Usually I would not dream of trying something new so close to the start of a race (let alone try a massage!) however I felt that my race was already falling apart and so I may as well try it. I hopped sceptically onto the table before being told to climb back down and lie on the floor. I did as I was instructed and before I knew what was happening, my back was yanked one way and my hips the other. After this almighty crack I was hoisted up onto the table and soon felt the elbows of my masseur wedged firmly into my leg. After ten minutes of wincing and fighting back tears I was finally eased into a couple of stretches before being ushered out of the tent of torture. Miraculously, it worked wonders! I skipped out of the tent and immediately felt the benefit. I was able to complete a decent warm-up and found myself on the start line feeling much more happy with my chances.
For the last two years I had been fortunate enough to win this event and I hoped to repeat this again to complete my hat-trick. This year however I knew that I was lining up alongside some very strong competition, including previous winner Kenny Campbell of Ronhill Cambuslang Harriers. As we made our way out of Campbeltown I found myself running along with Kenny tucked in on my shoulder. My initial plan was to try to stick with him for the first half of the race before putting my foot down as we came off the beach in the later stages. In practice, however, this was not to be the case. We hit the beach side by side and enjoyed striding out along the sand to the sound of the bagpipes and the crashing waves. As we emerged onto the golf course after a tough mile of beach-running, we remained together.
We continued to match each other stride for stride for another couple of miles, gradually increasing the pace as we went. The support offered in this stretch of the course from the other runners was incredible – Kenny even joked with me about the number of cheers I got from my fellow Bellahouston Harriers as they made their way to the beach. At mile 9 however things began to get serious. As we hit the mile-marker Kenny put in a sharp burst for about 100m. As he pulled away I went with him, realising that allowing him to get away would probably signal the end to my challenge. I managed to cling on and eventually he dropped the pace back to a more steady speed. Believing this to have knocked Kenny’s confidence, I decided to make my own move. As we turned a corner, I strode away and built up a small lead however Kenny retaliated and before long we were side by side again. Unfortunately this attack had really taken it out of me and within minutes he pulled away again. This time I had no extra gear and had to watch, frustrated, as the distance between us slowly increased. Coming into Campbeltown for the finish I picked up the pace again and managed to cross the finish line in 1hr 14mins – a slight improvement on last year’s time. There would be no first place trophy this year – or bunch of flowers for Vicki – but it was nice to make the podium again. MOKrun wouldn’t be complete without the phenomenal Ceilidh at the end of the evening. A lovely dinner followed by some dancing and a few beers was a great way to end the weekend.
Whilst some of my usual MOKrun squad were unable to make this years event, we still had a decent showing. My mum and dad both loved coming back for their second taste of Campbeltown and Ben and Katie were impressed with their first MOKrun experience. As always, my fellow Harriers put in a fantastic showing (both on the racecourse and the dance floor!) with Susan MacRitchie putting in a phenomenal performance to retain her title from 2015. Vicki also smashed the 10k and enjoyed the relatively short distance of her first race since the London Marathon. Anyone looking for a fun, friendly and scenic run should seriously consider paying a visit to MOKrun – it’s not a PB course but it is definitely a memorable one!