Suzanne Davis reports….
My marathon training for Abingdon didn’t stop whilst we were away in the Outer Hebrides and so whilst we were there I decided to take part in the Two Islands Half Marathon which involved a wonderful ferry trip from Leverburg in Harris down to the Isle of Berneray on the north coast of North Uist.
This is a very friendly, relaxed, quite continental half marathon now in its fifth year and growing in size. There were runners from Germany, Canada and The Netherlands as well as runners from the surrounding islands, mainland Scotland and England. However numbers attending were still fairly small (there were 35 runners in total!) which I guess is due to its location. Unlike the half-marathons I’m used to doing, finding the start was a little tricky. We’d just been told it was near the Gatliff Trust Hostel, which we found but there were no obvious pointers. Eventually I did see some other runners gathering around a land-rover with a guy handing out race numbers – this was the start! There was one toilet in the youth hostel and the baggage check was the back of the land-rover! After a very brief warm up, just before 10:30am we were all lined up on the grass, there was a count down from 5 and we were off!
From the start at the youth hostel, the half marathon route starts crosses a causeway to North Uist. I’d been told the route was ‘gently undulating’ and it didn’t disappoint from that perspective – mile 10 was exceptionally steep! My poor legs didn’t quite know what to do – but as with everything that goes up, it eventually goes down and I was at least able to gain a bit of time on those sections. It didn’t help of course that I was in holiday mode and had probably been indulging a little too much, but perhaps that’s what actually helped me power up the steeper sections!!
Apart from the first ½ mile or so being on grass, the route itself was all road-based, with stunning with sea views for virtually the whole way and it was nice to be able to enjoy the freedom of the road, with whoops and cheers from the occasional groups of locals and cars that passed by. Julian and the children were able to easily follow the route by car and cheered everyone on along the way. The water stops consisted of a man riding out ahead of us on a motorbike, stopping every few miles to be ready to pass us bottles of water (or mars bars!) if we needed it. Not like anything I’d ever done before.
Eventually the route turned to Lochmaddy and headed towards the lovely Hamersay House Hotel, who were the sponsors of the race. Everyone congratulated everyone and we waited to cheer every single runner across the line. We were each presented with a medal on the finishing line along with water and more chocolate – yum! Once all runners were back we were shepherded in to the Hotel who had laid on lunch for everyone – either vegetarian pasta or meat chilli – and it was delicious!
Then came the prize giving and I was delighted that I’d come in as 1st Lady, with a time of 1:35:29, placed 6th in total. Having looked back at previous results the previous quickest female time for the course was 1:41:12, so I’d managed to beat that too. I was super chuffed, but regrettably the lady who usually came in 1st was none too pleased; I definitely got given the cold shoulder on departure. I hope I was gracious however and I’m proud to have put Cheddar on the map so far north! I can definitely recommend it if you’re ever up that way…..