I went into this badly under-trained, and anticipating a world of pain.

On the plus side, I was visiting another island I hadn’t been to before (following Tiree earlier in the year) and would get to see a friend I’d last seen in Luxembourg over a year ago.

My build up was erratic, with panic miles in the penultimate week before the race.  That 15.2km – spread out over the morning! – was the furthest I’d run in a single day since that Tiree race in April.  I ran three marathons last year, and I’ve been reduced to this!

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So with confidence at an all time high (ha), I set off straight from work on Friday evening.  A rocky start with a delayed train meaning a nervy connection for the Oban train ended just fine, and I got to enjoy the scenery on lovely evening.  It’s a stunning part of the world, worth anyone’s time and plenty of it.

With the race the next day, I prepared the way any premier athlete would: with some fish and chips.  It was delicious.

My night’s sleep at the Youth Hostel less so; the mortal enemy of the peaceful traveller, The Snorer, made an unwelcome appearance.  It was temporary, but a pain all the same.  To get over this, I kicked off race day with a couple of coffees and the most sickly slice of carrot cake I’ve ever had.

I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but I didn’t like this cake very much *insert face of mock outrage here*.

The ferry journey over was a 45 minute breeze compared to the four hours to Tiree.  Eggy & I made the short walk to pick up our t-shirts/race numbers. The pre-race briefing also took place here, giving us little time to get the half-mile to the start line on the other side of Craignure.  Unsurpringly, the race started late!

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I took up near the front.  I had competing thoughts here; unsure of my form, but also fairly determined to give it a blast in the hopes to get a sliver of running glory.  There’s a trophy up for grabs for the person with the quickest cumulative time over the Tiree, Mull & Coll, and I would very much like to add “Lord of the Isles” to my LinkedIn profile.

I went off controlled, but quickly.  I didn’t look at my watch once but the early pace showed:

1km – 3:53
2km – 3:57
3km – 4:26 (uphill!)

I got steady and less speedy after that.  I became metronomic (apparently not a word) and the mantra stuck.  In the early miles I could hear the footsteps of my ‘nemesis’, Stonehaven, close behind.  Knowing he was a rival for the title we each coveted was enough to keep me as close to my game as I could.

We’re cool, by the way.  Hello if you’re reading this!

I’d gone into the race nominally in second, less than a minute behind another chap I don’t know (but would recognise when I saw him), with Stonehaven close behind me.

The nature of the course didn’t give me too much to go at: follow the road, get to the end.  Pretty, but constant.  Those long straights with the same people slowly pulling away from me wasn’t fun.  The wind relentlessly in my face wasn’t fun.  Footsteps getting louder behind me wasn’t fun…but then relief, it wasn’t Stonehaven!  Keep it going…

The race was on open roads so we were advised to keep to the left throughout.  I did occasionally veer to the centre for the few right-hand turns, stealing a little distance, but just as frequently I’d have to move back left as I heard traffic approach.  It was pretty quiet though, and the drivers were all really patient.  Even got a few shouts of encouragement and toots on the horn!

The mile markers were coming slowly.  I’d been passed by three people and passed nobody since the first mile was out of the way, such is the size of the race.  Things picked up once we got into the same stretch as the 10km also being held – the sight of kilometre markers made everything feel so much more manageable!

It didn’t hurt to have people coming back towards me, either.  First up, the leader in the trophy race.  Oh yes.  He’d started to struggle (walk) at mile ten in Tiree, but that started at eight miles today.  Unlike then, I caught and sped up as I passed him to try to drop him.  I’m mean, I know this.  Then, two miles on, one of the guys that had passed me earlier, and while I was finding it tough, this was motivating.

We were also coming up by the tail end of the 10k race, so extra people to chase down!  I gave a few words of encouragement to all of them, got a few back, and into the last couple of miles we went.

It ended fairly uneventfully, crossing the line in 1:31:39.  A good deal quicker than I expected or had any right to get, frankly.

The trip ended with a lengthy prize-giving, plenty of tea, and with me losing my phone on the way back to the ferry port (hence no photos, sorry!).  Fortunately I’ll be reunited with it shortly.

I only got to spent that one afternoon on the island; I’d strongly suggest you get at least a long weekend to get around it properly.  There’s a lot I’ve left unexplored, which may well merit a return trip at some stage…

Next up: a couple of parkrun reports and the third of the Tri-Island Hebridean half marathons from Coll.  Until then…BYE!