Running a MOK in Campbeltown.

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.

PicMonkey Collage

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!


MOK RUN 2015


Returning to MOK Run 2015 for the May bank holiday we knew we were in for a well-organised event and an epic weekend of running and entertainment. This was our second visit to Campbeltown and we hoped to implement our now ‘experienced’ race strategies on the stunning Kintyre course. Sadly our tour guide, local hero and cousin of everyone in Campbeltown John Barbour succumbed to, yet another, injury resulting in his withdrawal from the 10k and more importantly the rest of the weekend’s entertainment as he opted to stay home in Glasgow. Lisa didn’t manage to toe the start line either having been ill the week before which was disappointing given the effort she had put into her training.

Ready for action
Ready for action

So on Sunday morning we (‘The Boy’ – aka Jack – and I) made our way to the start pens having reluctantly turned down the Full Scottish breakfast on offer at the B&B. I don’t remember there being start pens last year and I wasn’t really paying attention so ended up a bit closer to the front than usual. I felt confident though having finished 18th in the half marathon last year, still my best performance in an organised race. Then I remembered that all the whippets doing the 10k were at the same start so started to edge my way backwards to ensure I didn’t fly out of the traps too quickly. Conditions at the start were best described as fresh and I adopted the penguin strategy of getting to the middle of the crowd for warmth.

Bowser set off quickly giving me my now favoured race tactic of hunting him down. My pacing has improved a lot recently and as usual a many of the runners let their adrenalin get the better of them setting off quicker than perhaps they had planned. As we reached the 1km mark everyone was settling into their groove and the 10k runners peeled off leaving the half marathoners staring ahead at the long and gradual incline on the main road out to the North of Campbeltown. It was at this point that I passed John and it was good to see that he had slowed early enough in the race to allow for a good consistent run.

The initial stretch of the race is about 3.5 miles in total with a gradual incline along the main road. I had remembered the start as being tough last year but the wind this time around made conditions very tricky and most runners were trying to pack together for any small respite and shelter. Despite sitting on the left shoulder, then the right and then directly behind a few runner’s it was becoming clear that the wind was defying normal laws of nature and was in fact coming in strongly from every single direction.

Turning sharp left on to the road past the farm to the beach the wind continued to hinder progress but I decided to string out the pack of runners and pick up the pace a little in the hope of getting a new PB on the course. This worked although one or two runners came with me. By the time I reached the beach I was glad that ‘The Boy’ hadn’t appeared on the way back to Campbeltown placing me roughly the same distance behind him as last year. As I reached the small summit of the first sand dune ‘The Boy’ flew past at exactly the same point as he had done in 2014, bounding up the hill without another runner in sight well on course to defend his title. A few more runners passed on the way down to the beach before the iconic stretch along the sand. Heading to the water mark seems to be the preferred option to ensure a run on the wetter, and therefore, harder sand. The added bonus is that it provides a great backdrop for the race photos afterwards.

After turning on the beach at the 6-mile mark it was amazing to be able to hear, breathe and run upright as someone had decided to turn off the wind machine. The wind never feels as strong on the back but it was good to get a little helping hand on the way home. Climbing the dunes off the beach sucks and drains the energy from your legs in a way that no undulating road race ever will. It certainly takes a good while to get back into your stride and I traded places several times with runners in the next mile as we found our rhythm again. Turning right onto the airport road I again looked to pick up the pace conscious that I was heading for a marginal PB.

For much of the first half of the race I had been running with the first lady, not Michelle Obama, and it was great to see and hear so much support from the runners nearer the back of the field who were yet to approach the half way mark. About 400 metres onto the airport road we were surprisingly brushed unceremoniously aside as the eventual female winner flew past us. I had assumed she would slow in the next minute or so given the rapidity of her burst but to her credit she increased the distance over the next few miles.

This pass spurred me on to a few 7-minute miles where I felt comfortable and again I started to pass a few more runners. Feeling comfortable I kept up this pace as we returned towards the town of Campbeltown again and managed to set my sights on a few more targets, I mean fellow runners. I had roughly counted the runners coming off the beach and reckon I’d been about 30th at that point so I was keen to ensure a top 30 finish. It goes to show what a strong field was entered this year as I had been in the top 20 with a slower place at the 2014 race.

Entering Campbeltown I had managed to sustain my pace and buoyed by the finish line even managed a quicker final mile on the final descent to the promenade crossing the line in 1:34:40. I felt strong for the second half but the legs certainly suffered with the pace. Almost two minutes quicker than last year I was really pleased as MOK Run is certainly among the more challenging courses around.

One of the highlights of the race are the incredible hand crafted medals, sandwiches and Danish pastries dished out at the finish area and it was great to get out the cold into the refreshment tent. ‘The Boy’ managed a 5 minute improvement on his PB and retained his title costing me dinner in the process as our obligatory ‘most-improved’ bet again saw me losing out. It was great to then watch Bowser come in and ‘The Boy’s’ Mum and Dad who had travelled up from London on the back of the good press they had about the event last year. They were proud as punch of ‘The Boy’ but equally had both run strong races leading many to question their true parentage given their youthful appearance.

Didn't keep him waiting too long
Didn’t keep him waiting too long

After watching the prize giving we headed to the pub for a couple before initiating the most crucial part of our race strategy, the afternoon siesta. We’d flagged badly at the ceilidh last year and wanted to make sure we had the stamina required to celebrate in style and enjoyed a great dinner in Whiskey Macs before heading to the Victoria Hall for another great night of live music, dancing and a chance to see the early race photos projected onto the wall. Despite not winning the raffle again we had another great night with ‘The Boy’ and I lasting until the DJ set, a big improvement on last year’s performance for the second PB of the day.

Monday morning provided another highlight with an excellent, and well earned, Full Scottish before we all headed home. Lisa and I stopped at the wedding venue on the road home to drop off the 250 odd beers that had been weighing down the car for the last week to complete a memorable weekend.