Three words come to mind in connection with this race – coincidence, care, and celebration.
I had gone on holiday expecting to be “invisible” and certainly the only Northern lass there. But within minutes, Malcs spotted a Sunderland Stroller vest which turned out to belong to Joy Champion, who I had never met before, but got along with nicely. Coincidence. We picked up numbers and bright orange tees, and went out for a few pix in the warm sunshine, before jogging up to the start.
This was about a mile out of Craignure, where the ferry docks from Oban, and we started basically in the road. A midday start meant it was well warm and a bit humid too. The race went back to Craignure, then another half mile past it, before turning back round Iona (the person not the island) and heading back through Craignure, past the start point, and following pretty undulating and uneven open roads back to Salen, the finish.
It always takes me 3-4 miles to settle into a race, even with a wee warm-up, but after a mile I wasn’t right. It was indeed hot, I started with a steady pace and waved at Malcs and the kids in Craignure, plodded up the hill round Iona, and threw my running cap at Malcs on the way back past them again. Malcs told me at the finish that, even at this point, he knew I was struggling. He was right. Leaden legs and feeling nauseous, I couldn’t get into my stride. And I don’t do heat well either. I mentioned this at the water station at 3 miles, where I could have happily stopped, but knew I hadn’t given myself long enough, so vowed to plod on until halfway. The marshalls were very supportive and (without me knowing) radioed ahead to other stations so they knew I wasn’t so good. Here comes the care element.
The views across the sea were marvellous, the scenery beautiful, but it was a tough road and didn’t come across as “mainly flat” as billed by the race organisers. The nausea didn’t abate by 5 miles, nor did the heat, so I stopped for a minute to re-assess how I felt. Runners-by shouted encouraging words, including a lass from Gateshead, then the Coastguard drove slowly by and checked up on me. He reminded me of the water stations with medical facilities every three miles, and I said I would take it easy in the heat.
At mile 6, the marshalls were expecting me, and their support helped me rally. It was starting to cloud over a bit, which helped too. The undulating roads continued, and I plodded on till I saw a sign for a campsite about 7 miles, which Malcs and I had stayed at many moons ago, and my heart jumped at something familiar. Most of the scenery was still close to the coast now, some trees, some odd houses dotted about, and a big downhill appeared which made me happy!!! The Coastguard had still been going back and forth, waving, smiling and nodding as if to say “I see you are still going there” but the miles weren’t going any faster! In retrospect, I don’t think the iron infusion had kicked in, and I simply had insufficient energy and oxygen in my blood, so had to rest at times for plenty of liquid and start off slowly again.
That big hill had helped and mile 9 came around fairly soon, but I was done in by 10. Enough, I thought, and route-marched half a mile as it started to rain gently. Other runners were very kind as they passed me, and echoed the concern of the marshalls, and Coastguard. After that, mile 11 came quite soon, and I knew I just had to pace myself slowly and I would finish. At mile 5, I could have cheerfully stood still and been driven to the finish. The Coastguard passed me here again with a wave and a “Keep going, nearly there”. My mindset altered as I focussed on getting to mile 12, then 13, and my pace quickened a little as we entered Salen. After a bit of an up, then another down, I could see the finish line, up a small incline, and pelted as hard as I could to the end. It was just over 2 hours, but I was delighted to finish at all. Celebration.
Once again, the marshalls and medics were waiting for me. A medic put his arm round my shoulder and asked how I was. I still felt sick, and off we went in to get some dioralyte. I was touched by the consistent care of the emergency services and volunteers, who had watched out for me all the way, the medic told me. I thanked him and asked him to pass my thanks to the Coastguard who had pretty much kept me going throughout. The medal had a sort of Olympic flame on it, it being the last day of the Olympics, and I wore it that afternoon and all the next day. Unfortunately, once we got to Tobermory, I was sick all over a coffee shop floor. But still pleased as punch that I had completed the race.