Having more or less survived the Ardbeg Islay Half Marathon the week before, we soon found ourselves on the road again for our second consecutive Half Marathon weekend. Again this would involve a spot of sailing as we were booked to go from Oban to Craignure for our first taste of the Mull Half Marathon, the MullRunners’ home event.
In order to be at peak physical condition for the run we loaded Mabel up with the essentials and headed North-West-Ish to find somewhere to park up for the night. This trip’s new gin came courtesy of Aldi, it was an interesting looking Black Forest number called Needle. We’d never heard of it but the blurb on the bottle looked interesting. Just important not to overdo it, we are athletes after all with a strenuous race to run the next day.
Gin.. bad idea.
After an uneventful drive we headed to the pretty village of Benderloch for the night. Well technically it was a lay-by just outside the pretty village of Benderloch, but that’s the advantage of a camper van. We parked up and got ourselves organised and decided on a quick night cap. The Needle gin was accompanied by Fever Tree “normal” tonic which was nice, but it really came into it’s own when paired with the Elderflower tonic.
So we had a wee Gin.
I must say it was very agreeable. Must be the spiciness of the Black Forest air or those German spruce needles.
Maybe just one more.
You can see where this is going, can’t you…
We woke up the next morning with the sound of a marching band thumping through our heads, and was that horrendous banging the ghosts of the German High Seas Fleet engaging in some gunnery practice just over the horizon??
Oh ye gods of Hangovers, what have we done??
The short drive to Oban was a bit of a blur, but eventually we found somewhere we could leave Mabel for the day while we got the Ferry over to Mull. At this point the thought of food was second only to the thought of a trip on the ocean wave when it came to things we’d rather not think about but fuelled by Ibuprofen and grim determination we boarded the boat, which was full of shiny, happy running types making far too much noise and with not nearly enough respect for the clearly dying.
Never. Drinking. Again.
When we arrived in Craignure we were met off the boat by a piper which was a nice (noisy) touch before we headed to the hall to register and collect our bits and pieces. The 10K runners were then bussed to their start line while we were directed to ours.
The first issue with the race route on Mull was that the start point was in Craignure, and the race finished at the Salen Hotel. All well and good, except that there’s not 13.1K between the two places. The topography up there isn’t very flexible, they couldn’t just drag the two villages further apart.
We enjoyed the walk to the start from the hall, interesting to see how different people got “in the zone”. Some ran up and down while some walked. Others chatted while some were silent and focussed. And then there’s us, saying “you can’t throw up here, keep walking” and noting the presence of toilets that may come in handy shortly.
The GinRunners usually run together, but we’d decided pre-hangover that we were going to do our own thing here. The race started with a quick loop round the hospital carpark, where we all waved at the old folk on the way past, before heading back along the road towards the hall for the “making up the required distance” loop. This was basically an out and back up a leg-testing hill with the joys of running up it and seeing the seriously quick runners coming back down on the other side of the road.
Salen or bust.
During the race the roads were open, but caps well and truly doffed to the coastguard guys who drove up and down the road with their blue lights on keeping everyone safe.
I passed Bex on the way back down the loop as she made her way up the hill, and she looked about as good as I felt. I made it through the first 5K at a reasonable-for-me pace, and then the hangover struck back and the worst headache I can remember kicked in. 5K to about 8K was pretty flat and I battled on with the field thinning out until about 10K where there was the only real hill of the route which spaced things out even more.
10K came up in about 57 minutes which I was delighted with, but I had no idea if I could keep it up. I was hoping to average 6min / Km but that would mean trying to keep at more or less that pace. Luckily at this point I caught up with two folk from Glasgow and I kept up with them as we chatted for the next couple of K before they started to pull away.
Hitting the psychological wall.
The next bit was weird, mentally weird. On a long, straight bit my new found running buddies headed out of sight in front of me and a look over the shoulder revealed I couldn’t see anyone behind either. Given the great turnout and what I thought was my decent pace this was strange and I found out that although my legs were up to the task my brain wasn’t quite as on-point. When your only friends are the mile markers and you don’t think you’re running THAT quickly it gets pretty depressing, or boring, whatever, it wasn’t fun. I plodded along in my own hungover misery until about 5 k to go then had a wee word with myself… This is just a park run now, less than half an hour to go. GET A GRIP.
Salvation came off in the distance as I saw a girl that had overtaken me a while back. Running is so much easier when you have something to focus on, and I focused on catching her. About 2K from Salen I managed that and set about making it to the finish. The last few hundred meters to the finish line is uphill, and as I got to the bottom of this I caught something out of the corner of my eye as the girl I’d overtaken moved to get her own back.
Nooooooo. Not another fast finish.
I should have let her go, I should have just enjoyed the last part of the race but.. well.. I’m stubborn and so I accelerated up the hill and across the line as best I could. Yay, 3 seconds in front, go me.
Keeping the paramedics on their toes.
I collected my medal and had some water then collapsed in a heap on the grass to catch my breath. Must have looked splendid, because one of the race medical staff came across to ask if I was OK.
Yeah, more or less. I didn’t dare look at my watch to see what my time was. Before the race I was hoping for under 2:15 with some crazy idea of being under 2 hours. I knew the middle bit of the race had killed any thoughts of the latter. Still hopeful I’d made the former though. Had I managed it in 2:07:00 meaning 6min/Km.
You’re on the edge of your seat reading this, aren’t you!!
Well, Yes. I did. Exactly 6min/Km. I’d done 57 something for the first 10K, then 1:03 something for the next. I was happy enough with that. Bex arrived shortly afterwards having beaten her target too. A good GinRunners day all round. Keen to get rid of us as quickly as possible the awesome organisers put on extra busses too. As a result we made it to Craignure in time for the earlier ferry back to Oban. Of course the post race festivities continued on the island.
Bloody hell were we glad to see Mabel though. A major nap in the Corran Halls carpark was required before heading to Wetherspoons for a celebratory slab of steak.
While we were on Mull we were told about the Hebridean Tri-Island challenge, which is basically a Half or 10K on Mull, Coll and Tiree. That’ll be three dates for next year’s calendar then.
Think we may do the 10K version though 😉