26.2 Miles – A Journey to Oblivion and Beyond

Okay, so I had to think of a catchy title.  I’ve been trying to do that for days but nothing has come to mind, so now at least the blog has a title.

You may have guessed or know by now that I FREAKING WELL DID IT!!!!  Words cannot express how I felt.  So many emotions coming together in such a short space of time at the finish line.  Wow, just wow.

So, I know you want details, so I’ll start at the beginning.

We’d decided to take a leisurely trek across to Ullapool on the Thursday afternoon and then get the first ferry over on the Friday morning.  I’d never been there before and quickly figured out that they have a captive audience so food, accommodation etc, is perhaps not to the highest standards (I’m fussy, what can I say!)  I did however take the opportunity to buy some compeed as I had a suspicion that I might just need some more of these going by my most recent long runs.

We ate, we wandered about and watched the evenings incoming ferry and headed to bed.  May I say that anywhere on the west coast if you are prone to attack by the Scottish Midge, you NEED jungle formula.  I had it, but unfortunately it was in my case, so our evening stroll ended with me having a scratch fest and Gary with a face full of said Midges.  I was too quick to laugh at him though, because the little beasties did not touch him at all.  It seems they like me but are not fond of him!

I’d love to say I had a good sleep, but nope, could not settle.  I think reality was setting in and the challenge ahead was starting to bring me to my senses.  Still we had breakfast and checked out of our hotel and headed for the ferry.

Previous experience has taught me that sometimes I’m not great on boats.  I wasn’t doing too badly until a small child sitting fairly close to me was ill, and when I say ill I mean exorcist style projectile vomiting over herself and the floor.  We had been outside earlier, so we took our leave again to get some fresh air.

Once we had arrived in Stornoway we checked into our accommodation then went in search of food.  I’m lucky enough to have friends on Lewis, so my neighbour from Edinburgh met us and we went to register then off to have a look at the route (when we could find it that is!)

For some reason I thought that Lewis was pretty flat.  No idea where I got that from.  I can now tell you that it is not.  The route in fact had 356 metres of ascent and 344 metres of descent.  For those of you who are interested in these things, here is the elevation profile measured against my pace!

Where the heck did all these hills come from?
Where the heck did all these hills come from?

Now that I’d pretty much scared the hell out of myself I went back to the guest house and after sorting out my kit for the morning thought it would be a good idea to get some sleep.  Unfortunately sleep was pretty much lacking and I ended up making up my hydration pack and having a cup of tea at 4am on race morning.

Having gone back to bed to try to get some rest, I was rudely awakened by the alarm at 5.30am, so it was time to get some breakfast, which consisted of porridge with blackcurrant jam.  Struggled to get this down, but thankfully managed and before I knew what was going on, I was dressed, number on and ready to head for the bus to the early start.

That was one thing that really appealed to me about this race.  The organisers wanted to encourage all comers even walkers to attempt the course, so an early start was very much welcomed.  I was surprised to see my old neighbour Jac there, but after our drive of the course, she’d figured out that it might well be good to take advantage of the early start!

Once we got to the starting destination there was time for the obligatory trip to the bathroom and then the next trip to the bathroom, just to make sure.

Soon after we gathered outside and we were counted down and set off on our way.  I was thrilled with the downhill start, but even before mile 1 we were on the way uphill.  Worst of all we passed the markers for miles 25 and 26 so we knew that we’d have to negotiate this hill again 😦

I settled into my pace and was enjoying the scenery.  It is a breathtaking place.  Soon I was heading back towards the start as the first section is an out and back and I was thrilled to see Naomi, Rachel and Rhona as they gave me a cheer as they waited for the mass start which was 2 hours after my early start.  This was around 6 miles in and I was feeling good.  After this there were some ‘undulations’ so I ran what I could and walked what I couldn’t.  I’d pretty much decided that my regimented run/walk routine was not going to work on this route, so I just went with the feel of it.

I’m not exactly sure where (between miles 8 and 11), but I reached a water stop where the lady manning it insisted on taking my pulse so I must have looked a bit on the dodgy side.  She made me loosen my Garmin strap and take on some water and after a chat seemed happy enough for me to go on my way.

Trouble is I knew what was coming next.  There was a very challenging section down to Blackhouse Village.  Undulating would be an understatement (in my book anyway!).  I just went with how I felt and at the start of it there was a very kind marshal with wine gums, so that certainly helped me on my way.  As I was approaching half distance the lead runners came past.  I can honestly say that everyone passing me was very encouraging and this really helped given the ‘interesting’ terrain.  I even got a hug from a fellow Fetchie, and some encouragement from Gavin Orr, on his world record attempt to run the fastest marathon in full highland dress.

As the route at Blackhouse village is a turning point we had to go back along the same ‘interesting’ route for a couple of miles before we turned on to the Pentland Road at about mile 15.  This is where things started to suck.

When we’d driven it I thought that it didn’t look too bad.  It was a slight incline, but nothing like what the first half of the route had been like.  What I hadn’t taken into account was the wind that constantly battered you and the sheer desolation of the moorland.  Even with people around you here, you felt alone.  As I made my way along this road my spirits started to drop.  I’d managed to keep myself going, by ticking off the miles for each one of the kids at the Pavilion Children’s Home and I’d even been singing “When the Going Gets Tough” by Billy Ocean and “Kids” by Kylie and Robbie.

As I approached a water station around mile 18, the lady who was walking the route passed me.  I hit an all new low.  I was dead last and I knew it.  I left the water station after some jelly beans and went on my way, half crying (not easy when the wind is blowing so strongly).  I even took out my phone and phoned Gary as I just wanted to hear his voice.  I just needed a bit of encouragement from someone I knew.  He couldn’t really hear me because of the noise of the wind, but he told me I was doing great.

Then encouragement came, in the shape of Rhona (redwinerunner).  She was looking really strong, and had a quick chat with me to see how I was doing.  I was pretty miserable at this stage (sorry Rhona) so my chat was pretty much along the lines of “this is awful”.  She gave me encouragement and kind words which raised my spirits before she set off along the road.

I started to feel much better and a sense of determination kicked in.  There was no way I wasn’t finishing this.  I could do it, but it was going to be hard.  I hated this section of the run despite the amazing scenery.  I could hear a corncrake somewhere on the moorland, but it was well camouflaged.

At around mile 21 the route takes a right and you start to head back towards the start.  This meant that the wind was now behind me, which made a big difference.  My spirits lifted more, but by this point I was euphoric in the fact that I had run further than I’d ever run before, but I could feel that my feet were a mess.  I knew there were at least a couple of blisters which had been forming since half way and they were becoming more painful.

Close to 22 miles a lady came past and told me my friends were not far behind.  I was really thankful when Naomi and Rachel caught me up as the pain from my feet was causing me to be delusional.  I started to cry, but Naomi (crooked-smile) told me to save it for the finish.  In the space of around 2 minutes I’d changed my opinion from “I’m never doing this again” to “maybe a less hilly marathon would be good”.

Needed a big sanity check!  I’d been power walking as my feet were so sore, but I started to jog along again, encouraged by my friends and the fact there were some rather large cows at the side of the road.  I was actually not doing too bad.  I could see the lady who was walking ahead and I was actually gaining on her.  This was pure joy!

After a while Rachel (medal slut) and Naomi pushed on for the finish, but by now we were around mile 23, so only 1 parkrun to go!  I kept going with my kind of weird jog as by this point I couldn’t really feel my legs.  The good thing about that was that the pain from the blisters was much less intense.

I pushed on and got past the walking lady around mile 24, which is close to the start.  Gary was there and I had just enough time to give him a hug and a kiss, take of my hydration pack and sunglasses, and before I made off for the finish I heard some of the Lewis contingent in the shape of Jac and another Rhona banging on the shuttle bus window to wave to me.  I headed off and Gary drove to the finish so he could meet me there.

The only thing now between me and finishing was 2 miles and that hill.  I knew I would not be able to run up it as my legs were really getting tired, so I continued with my ‘funny jog’ and a power walk when this was not possible.

Soon enough I was mostly up the hill.  I could see Naomi and Rachel running towards me, and then the cramps started to kick in.  I knew I couldn’t let the lady walking beat me so I powered on and Naomi was giving me extra encouragement because I was very close to the time she had predicted for my finishing time and she really wanted that bottle of Bollinger!

I crossed the line in a kind of hobble fashion as it was at the Callanish stones themselves so the surface was somewhat uneven.  I managed to stay ahead of the lady walking and I got my goody bag.  I think I was a bit spaced out at this point, but here are the pictures Naomi took of my finish:

Nearly there, but poor calves were cramping up!
Nearly there, but poor calves were cramping up!
Ha, you can't see my time!
Ha, you can’t see my time!
Yay, I actually did it!
Yay, I actually did it!

Once I’d regained some sense of normality, Rhona, Rachel, Naomi and their Island host Jemma piled into our car and we went back to the start for food.  A totally excellent spread of soup, sandwiches and biscuits was devoured before we all went our separate ways.  We would meet up again in the evening at the Ceilidh.

I caught up with some of the other Lewis lassies (Kirsteen, Yvonne and Judith) and had some fizz before heading back to the guest house for a cold bath and then a hot shower, finally followed by more food and drink.

Made it to the ceilidh in the evening where I met up with everyone including Jane who had swapped from the marathon to the 10k due to an injury 😦

My bottle of Bollinger was polished off quickly, but I did share it and Jane kept topping me up with more fiz 🙂

I still have to pinch myself as I can’t quite believe that was me.  The time seemed to pass so quickly during the race:

Garmin Time - Not Official!
Garmin Time – Not Official!

Official time was 07:09:48.

I must congratulate Stornoway Running Club for hosting such an amazing event.  The goody bag was also one of the finest I’ve ever seen:


What is missing from this picture is a massive Stornoway Black Pudding.

After a good rest on Saturday night I was invited to Jac’s for lunch, which kind of turned into a bit of an all day event.  I’d like to thank her, Murdo and Charlie for their awesome hospitality.  We even managed to go for a little walk!

Monday consisted of mainly driving the first part of the marathon route so we do some proper sight seeing.  There was not enough time to get around everything, but I’ll be back to see more of the Island for sure.

All in all there were probably more highs that lows on the run.  To date the total raised is £1,928.20, which is almost double what I was originally hoping to raise.  The response has been so overwhelming as have all the good wishes.

Would I do it again?  Well if you’d have asked me around mile 20 the answer would have been no.  As the dust has now settled, I think I can safely say that this will not be the only marathon I ever do 😉

Glutton for punishment?  Me?  Yeah 😀


8 thoughts on “26.2 Miles – A Journey to Oblivion and Beyond”

  1. Carol, you’re a star and an inspiration and I’ve loved reading your blogs! Well done, you’re now a marathoner! xx

  2. Love reading your blog Carol. Amazing run you had. Thanks for remembering the Fetchie hug. Was great to meet you. Elevation looks interesting, I don’t remember it but holy moly that looks tough. I’m really glad I did it and had a blast at the ceilidh. Might see you at GNR – good luck. Why not try Loch Ness Marathon, it’s a beautiful route and a lovely city too.

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