Stornoway Half Marathon: 24 May 2008
The stunning, stark, boulder strewn island of Lewis and Harris was the host for a number of runs on the 24th & 26th May 2008. I’d never been there so I chose this as the venue for my first half marathon and nearly came straight back home again - what a course! Largely run on tarmac with a number of gravel track sections it’s a half of two halves. The weather was glorious and the course for the half is quite sheltered from the wind in most parts.
Starting near the impressive Lews Castle you take a trip round the edge of the town and harbour front. You hit your first uphill at 3 miles when you leave Sandwick Bay. From here it’s a zig-zag and another wee incline round the housing estates back to the castle grounds at half-way.
The joy of half-way disappears quickly as you climb up to 7 miles, stagger over tree roots as you try to cut some vital yards off the corner and wheeze through to the downhill recovery crossing the start only to be faced with another climb taking you out of the trees into some more open moorland.
The best (beast?) is yet to come though. The route follows the River Creed upstream and as you notice the lodge which marks 10 miles you would feel the excitement of the finish drawing ever closer until you remember to reach it there’s a short, sharp, shocker to negotiate. Before your legs are back with you there’s a bit of a bump to get onto the road back to the coast and then it’s a gentle undulation to 11.5 miles.
But it’s not over yet. Another short, sharp, shocker would bring tears to your eyes but that would be a loss of much needed fluid and salt at this stage. More undulation and a flat (hurrah) finish at Porter’s Lodge arch where you’ll get a rousing cheer and a shout out from the commentator. “NO. 9, IT’S SARAH KNOX FROM SERPENTINE RUNNING CLUB, ALL THE WAY FROM LONDON… and what a lovely kilt.” Thank you, thank you, collapse!
I thought this was a real toughie for a first timer but I can’t deny it is beautiful and good fun at the end of the day. Of course, what I did was nothing compared to those who did the Hebridean Two Marathon Challenge, including Brian Mills and Steve Edwards who I believe run a lot of these things... If you like ‘em gnarly you could do worse than pick up a marathon out here. The Point 1 Callanish Stones Marathon left the stone circle 1.5 hours before the half marathon started. As the courses combined in the castle grounds that gave an added bit of ‘fun’ for the leaders. The North Harris Trust Marathon (and walk) started at Amhuinnsuidhe Castle taking a roller coaster ride to Tarbert, a sharp climb out, more roller coaster rides, and back down again to finish at the Harris Hotel.
Medals and a bag of sustenance for all finishers and souvenir t-shirts for 5 Gaelic poonds all presented with big, friendly smiles. A fine spread was laid out in the presentation room and both this and physios were available for a donation to a local charity. The trophies were fantastic as well – a real incentive to run your socks off! A ceilidh on the Saturday night was well attended although there was a distinct lack of kilts… I did spot a pair of tartan troosers though and, to be fair, it was a bit breezy.
Extremely well organised set of events in an astounding location that I thoroughly recommend for running and relaxing.
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