After stumbling across this picturesque race last year, Kenny and I booked ourselves in early for a return visit – it did not disappoint!
Last year we had both loved the race but it had been a last minute entry and we had not even considered the possibility of making a weekend of it. This year we knew better and decided to make the most of the event by booking ourselves in to the Kames Hotel for a couple of days to fully enjoy the post-race BBQ and ceilidh.
The 12pm start was ideal and allowed us to have a decent night’s kip and a reasonable breakfast before we would need to start thinking about warming up. Nevertheless I still felt a little disappointed at having to turn away the full cooked breakfast in order to stick to my reliable pre-race bowl of porridge! The weather was certainly better than that of the previous day and, as we made our way to the start, conditions were looking fantastic.
I have been working my way through a marathon program over the last couple of months and, with only 5 weeks to go until my target race, this would be a real test of how effective that time had been. The hilly nature of the course meant that it would be difficult to judge my current fitness levels purely on time however I knew that I would get an idea of where I currently sit by comparing my time to that of last year. I certainly felt fitter this time around, but an official confirmation was the goal!
As I warmed up, any hope of a first place finish disappeared when I spotted Neil Renault preparing to take his place on the start line. I also spotted Broc Drury, last year’s winner, fitting in some final stretches before taking his own place and I hoped I would give him a good battle. Last year Broc beat me by a couple of minutes however I was confident that this year I should be able to knock some time off my previous performance and therefore believed I could hold on to him for a few miles at least (I was wrong!).
The race began with the familiar climb up and out of Tighnabruich – which seemed to never stop – and I found myself tucked in behind Neil and Broc. I soon realised as we crested the hill however that I was running a little too fast and that I would have to let the pair of them get away. And so they did – quickly! I settled into a steady rhythm and felt good despite the horrifically undulating first few miles.
As I reached the half way point I was still sitting in 3rd and felt great. I calculated that I was on for a pb and decided to try and pick up the pace a little, safe in the knowledge that the remainder of the course would be relatively flat. It was also at around this point that I remembered to actually look around and take in the spectacular surroundings that I was encountering. Last year I barely noticed the beauty of the route as I was too busy staring at the road before me! Some of the sights were truly stunning and I started to plan less strenuous trips to explore the area further in future.
During the second half of the race I started to pass the walkers who were completing the same route but had started earlier in the morning. This was a great distraction as I had been running solo for a while now and the cheers of support were fantastic motivation to keep pushing. I will be the first to admit that I struggle to maintain pressure on myself to really push hard when I am running alone and the eyes of these walkers was exactly what I needed to inspire me to keep digging deep.
Coming into the final miles I was pleased to note that I still felt strong. I knew I was running much faster than I had done last year and my legs were feeling surprisingly fresh after all of the climbing in the first half of the race. I was able to maintain a nice pace into the final mile and then really kick for home when I spotted to huge gazebo that promised the finish and a burger!
I was over the moon to finish in 56:51 – two and a half minutes quicker than last year and nearly thirty seconds inside the previous course record. Neil had managed to win in an incredible 53:33 with Broc crossing the line just over a minute later.
As I crossed the line it was great to be joined by Vicki and Lisa, along with Kenny’s dad, to cheer Kenny to the finish as he managed to sneak inside the top 20. Burgers were eaten and we wandered over to the local pitches to take in some of the shinty before grabbing a cuppa and a cake in a local tearoom. After that it was a chance for some shuteye and recovery before hitting the post-race ceilidh (and fantastic buffet) where we learned how to dance like helicopters.
All in all this was a brilliant weekend and I will definitely be back!