This blog is overdue but I've had so many attempts at writing it it's crazy.
I've ran the Tiree 10k a number of times in the past but never the half marathon. Training recently has been a bit up and down and so I wasn't expecting much from this race.
Mandy and I arrived in Tiree to a very odd landscape. It had been snowing and for the first time since 2000, it had stayed on the ground. Usually due to the sandy soil, snow just melts instantly on the island.
Within a couple of hours though, it was starting to melt and the following day all that was left was a couple of half melted snowmen dotted around the island. Another day later and race day there was nothing left of the snow.
The race starts on the beach along with the 10k runners. This made for a very interesting first mile. Racing along the beach then up on to the main roads it was difficult to tell if I was racing against 10k or 1/2 marathon runners.
I was sitting 5th out of all the runners at the second mile. The 3rd mile was an out and back section and as the small group at the very front of 3 runners were heading back towards me, I quickly tried to read their race numbers as our numbers said whether we were 10k or 1/2 runners. To my surprise the guy leading the entire race was a 1/2 marathon runner. I spotted a 10k runner number but missed the other guys numbers. At this point I was thinking, worst case scenario, I was sitting 4th place in the half marathon but it was early stages and I could chase them down once I turned around and got the wind on my back. The wind was fierce so I had already decided not to look at my watch. I could only run as hard as the conditions would allow.
Just after the 4th mile the two courses separated. The 10k runners head straight on while the half marathon runners took a left hand bend. It was then it hit me, only one guy had gone left, the other 3 guys had gone down the 10k route. I was now sitting 2nd in the half marathon.
The next 4 miles were tough. Heading in to the strong wind and running slightly uphill, I was close enough behind 1st place that I could see him but he was just too far to catch him and try and shelter from the wind. On one of the corners I had a quick glance behind me to see if I could even work with 3rd place to shelter but he was no where to be seen. I was on my own.
Eventually the course turned and the wind was now on my side and after successfully negotiating a couple of cattle grids, I was feeling like I was back running more comfortably, not battling the elements.
The course was more undulating than I had given it credit. I was expecting a pancake flat PB smashing course, what I was given was the opposite but it's one of the most scenic courses I've ever had the pleasure to race.
With 2 miles to go I thought my 2nd place was under threat though. I got a stitch, it came from nowhere but it pulled me to a halt. I stood, looking back down the road I had just ran hoping that I'd managed to keep the gap between me and 3rd place big enough for me to recover and get running again.
The stitch passed and I got running but then once again, with 1 mile to go, it came back. It wasn't enough to stop me this time but enough to have an impact on my pace.
The last 500 metres was back down on to the beach and I could see the finish line. I focussed on it and just did everything I could to finish strong.
Post race thoughts
Now that a week has passed, I've thought about the race a lot. I need to find a cure for the stitches. The result could have been very different if 3rd had been closer.
The course needs to be respected, it has a couple of stings in the tail that I hadn't expected, even after driving the course a couple of days before.
I don't think I would have changed how I ran the first couple of miles. It was so tempting to go with the front pack but for all I knew, they were sub 35 10k runners and going out at that pace for a half marathon would have ended my race before it had started.
I have unfinished business with this race, I'll be back!
Cheers Gordon Donnachie for the photo.