Missing the Breweries due to a stomach bug and also not getting into the Skyline threw me into a state of running desperation – all that training for nothing 🙁 – so decided to suck up the cost, and make a last-minute sign-up for the Mamores Half Marathon (MHM). Although I contemplated the full Glencoe Marathon, my experience from the Lairig Ghru earlier in the year suggested that I would not be fit enough to just turn up to run 26 miles on a rocky track. This was a wise move.
So – last Sunday I left the house at 7am and drove through hellish conditions up to Kinlochleven for a 11am race start. The forecast was awful – with heavy rain for the whole day – the beginning of the tail end of hurricane Maria – but the good news was that the winds would not hit until the evening.
The MHM, full marathon and a 10K race over in Glen Nevis are organised by WildFox events and running these races comes at a cost….but I was desperate….and anyway the website stated that, “ The fee is great value and includes WildFox Events’ support from signing up to crossing the finish line, refreshments and services at checkpoints/water stops, medical and logistical support.” OK, I thought – I’ll get a lot for my money!
Registration was at the climbing centre at Kinlochleven. I have to admit that I was very impressed with the ice climbing walls and definitely want to go back for a play. I had a good 60 mins to warm up, stretch and chat with the many runners milling around. I recognised very few faces though – clearly a different type of event and related punters to the standard hill races. The start of the MHM was staggered into four phases which was a good idea as the starting area was quite small and already marathon runners were coming through. The rain was torrential at this point and everyone was decked out in water proofs. Thankfully it was quite mild, so I decided to run in shorts and only use my running cag. I was in Phase 3 and had a nice chat at the start line with Carolyn McLeod, a road/trail runner from Aberdeen – both of us worried that we were at the front of the start line. She was aiming for a 1:50 time. I had no idea what I should aim for so mumbled 2 hours although to be honest had no idea. At ~11.15, the starting horn went off, and true to form, I was leading 🙂 . After 400 metres, I looked back and was way ahead of everyone else except Carolyn who grinned. I shook my soggy head and thought that this was going to likely end in tears and pounded on.
After about a kilometre of road, the route left the tarmac (phew!) and started climbing up a rocky track and I soon started catching up runners (already) from Phase 2. I would now continually pass runners for pretty much the rest of the race – well – until the last 3 kms (more on that later!). In total, the MHM is 21.4kms long, with a total climb of about 560m and much of this is in the first few kilometres. I felt really strong in the beginning, and bounding up and overtaking phase 2 and then phase 1 “walkers” felt quite uplifting. However, I soon started to overheat. It may have been raining, but it was mild, and I started to sweat profusely. Damn. So, I stopped to take my jacket off and then wasted time by getting my sleeve stuck in my Garmin Velcro strap. Cursing, I grappled with my soggy running jacket for what felt like many minutes while a few runners (Carolyn included) passed me. Grrr! I soon stuffed the straitjacket into my backpack and sprinted back upwards, soon passing those who had passed me.
Once the main climb was complete after about 6kms, I settled into a comfortable pace along the water strewn track and focussed on the runners in front – mentally ticking them off as I cruised past. It was around this time that Carolyn passed me however – her superior road running skills clearly giving her the advantage on the track. She was the only person who passed me until the final few kms.
The next 6 kms or so went quite quickly. I think the wind was mainly from behind as we tracked westwards. The views were nothing to write home about as the cloud was down, but the rain was lighter than at the start. Sometimes the odd strong gust of wind did whip up, especially when the route veered northwards around the halfway point but all-in-all the conditions were not that bad except for the waterlogged rocky track itself. Some sections were really quite pretty especially through the woods of the final water-stop.
I started feeling a little fatigued around the 16km mark partly because my right foot was hurting and I guess my body was trying to compensate. I have no idea what is wrong with my right foot – possibly a minor stress fracture. It “went” when I ran Dollar back in July and although has been steadily improving (often pain free on nice muddy races), the hard and sometimes technical nature of the MHM was not doing it any good at all. At 17.5kms, the route left the wooded trail and joined a forest road that would take us down into Glen Nevis. My hoped for final boost of speed down the road to the end was not to be as my foot was really quite sore now. This was an uncomfortable end to the race and at least 5 runners passed me in those final 20 minutes. Another grrrr!
I crossed the finish line in 02:05:07 with a fanfare of hype with my name being shouted over the speakers, “and here comes Rob Wilson completing his fist Mamore Half Marathon…….”…I did not hear the rest of the babble as I limped straight into the event marquee feeling a little deflated.
I was ravenous and had assumed that I could delve straight into the food and drink. But it all cost money – I couldn’t believe it. So, I quickly grabbed a free cup of coffee and went off in search of my bag to put on a fresh change of clothes (and find my wallet). Once dressed I bumped into Carolyn – she had indeed made it in 1:50 – 8th overall, 2nd female and 1st V50. Respect. I had come in 27th (5th V40) which I guess is not too bad from 275 runners. Carolyn and I did however have a bit of a whinge about the “value for money” – £5 for a burger, costs for drinks (tea and coffee free), £10 for the T-Shirt, another £10 for a massage. On top of that, the organised bus back to Kinlochleven was another £10. Now – compare that to the Two Breweries where £15 covers everything (bus and food etc etc). Sheesh!
So – that was that. A good run despite the foot near the end, but I doubt I’ll ever do it again as the cost was extortionate. Honestly, there is better support at most long hill races.
Oh – I briefly bumped into Kate Darlow – she had ran the “costlier” full marathon in 5:14:33 (136th from 437 runners). Great run for her, but she also had a good whinge and said that last year, food and T-shirts had been included in the price. We say no more!!
So – Skyline is tomorrow – sigh! – and although I am now walking limp free, there is no way I should sensibly run (the original plan was to run as Tim Doyle). I will make a final decision tomorrow morning. A sensible person would rest until Manor Water next week, and then save himself for “transgender” fun at Jedburgh – more on that in the future.