2020 has been a strange old year. A lot of us off work, no chance to meet up and socialise due to the restrictions of the pandemic, which of course means no races. Until now! Over 5 months later than our previous race, the Balloch to Clydebank half marathon, the Harriers were back fresher than ever, ready and raring to go!
Our return to racing came in the form of the Kintyre Way Ultra, the 32-mile trail across the West coast from Tayinloan to Tarbert split into 3 stages with checkpoints in Clachan and Skipness. 2 Harriers were brave enough to tackle the full distance, Craig Perrie and Lynsey, and we had a couple of guest Harriers in Chris’ brother-in-law Gareth and Lynsey’s boyfriend Barrie. We also had 4 Harriers to form 2 strong relay teams, James, Chris, Scott and me. Due to a couple of call-offs, James, in fantastic form just before the lockdown and continuing that throughout it, and I, in the midst of a training plan for a marathon that was never going to happen, would have to run the first 2 legs of the race but looking at the times from last year we were confident of strong positions for both teams.
For most of us it was an early start to get across from Glasgow to Tayinloan for a 9 o’clock start for the solo runners and 10 o’clock for the relay runners. Scott very sensibly decided to stay nearby-ish to Tarbert so didn’t need to leave Glasgow at the crack of dawn like the rest of us. We arrived in good time for the start of the race, staggered starts in order to comply with social distancing, and the relay runners were there at the end of the first kilometre to the see the solo runners head off. Gareth was the first to come past us, looking comfortable with a big smile across his face as he came past. Soon after Lynsey and Barrie came past and headed off towards the beach, closely followed by Craig looking to catch the others as soon as he could. We then headed off to the start so James and I could get organised and ready to go.
James set off first and I followed a minute later. We ran side by side along a beautiful sandy beach before we turned onto a grassy field and I then led the small group of 5 runners the wrong way. Well, how were we supposed to know we were to jump down a very steep gulley rather than follow the ‘’path’’! Luckily, we noticed quickly. Many others weren’t so including Lynsey, Barrie and many of the other solo runners including eventual top 10 finisher Richard Cooper. After the sandy section, James and I then hit some tough shingle beaches which we agreed were some of the toughest sections, before we hit the paved section into Clachan at the end of the first leg, bringing our respective teams in in 1st and 4th place. We then continued off up the first major climb pursuing the solo runners while further up the road the solo runners were out on the moors at the top of said hill. Craig was running strongly, pushing himself close to a top 10 finish. Lynsey, after putting in the 3rd fastest female performance of the first leg, continued strongly up the hills and out towards Skipness. Gareth continued to build on his strong first leg, and Barrie, in his first ultra in 7 years, struggled a bit but pulled himself through to the second checkpoint. James and I continued to struggle on, dragging ourselves up the hills but powering down the other side to make up any lost time. I passed Barrie and Lynsey while out on the moors and just about managed to make it Skipness to hand over to Scott with us in 2nd place. Scott flew out onto the road and up the massive hill that came within the first few kilometres. A little while later Lynsey came in to refuel before Barrie came in a bit after that. Lynsey very selflessly decided to sacrifice her own time to run with Barrie to encourage him around the last 10 miles of the race. After a quick sit down, a drink of water and something to eat, Barrie and Lynsey headed back out onto the trails. A little while later James came in, putting in a valiant effort to bring the team in in 5th place. Chris then took over, and just as Scott had previously, he shot off up the steep hill trying to put in as strong a performance as he could.
James and I were absolutely shattered after our efforts and after a cool down period and stretch off, we got into the car to head over to the finish at Tarbert to see the others finish. Unfortunately, we missed Craig coming in to finish with a very respectable 12th place finish and Gareth coming in in 27th place winning the prize for 1st placed super-vet. Congratulations to him! We also missed Scott’s sprint finish to bring our team in in 2nd place with a strong lead over 3rd place. Scott said afterwards it was quite nice to not have any real pressure on the 3rd leg and he was able to enjoy the race a lot more than he maybe would have otherwise. A little while after James and I arrived and we had a chance to see how the solo runners had got on across the whole thing, we saw a recognisable figure on the other side of the harbour. Gearing up for a classic sprint finish, Chris powered round the corner and dipped over the line, bringing his and James’ team in in 5th place. Chris descended the steep hill like a gazelle after having got through some ‘’hairy grass’’ which he said had really slowed him down. He breezed past Lynsey and Barrie down towards the finish line. About 5 minutes later, they crossed the line together. We tried to urge Lynsey to sprint past Barrie, but they pretty much crossed the line together, a great race from both of them in more ways than one.
We were glad to have our racing back after such a long break without it, the solo runners, the relay runners and the prize winners. Hopefully, it won’t be such a long break before the next one, although I am sure for most of us the high from Saturday could last a long, long time.
Full results available at http://www.kitst.co.uk/kintyre-way-ultra-2020.html although there seem to be some inconsistencies with the splits.
Solo Runners (Chip Time):
1st – Kieran Cooper, 4:02:36 [Course Record, congratulations to Kieran]
12th – Craig Perrie, 5:20:41
27th – Gareth McKenna, 6:04:21
53rd – Lynsey McLaughlin, 7:08:51
55th – Barrie Johnstone, 7:09:52
Relay Runners (Chip Time):
1st – Frigate Bound (Colin MacFarlane, Tom Carbro, Stuart Oates), 4:35:08
2nd – Marydolls #mwnd (Finn Boyd, Finn Boyd, Scott Coulter), 4:52:19
5th – Maryhillbillies (James Prior, James Prior, Chris Hever), 6:17:56
I will close the report with some great words from Chris, summarising the race in a paragraph better than I have in the rest of the report:
‘’On reflection of a great day I’d like to pay tribute to a few heroes yesterday: Finn and James stepping up to do two legs over 22.5 miles without adequate training – awesome. Finn and Scott for coming 2nd in the relay and Craig putting in a great performance and time putting Maryhill on the map and Lynsey sacrificing a good time to help Barrie finish not forgetting Barrie and Gareth’s efforts I myself finally conquered gravity and enjoyed every minute of it it’s a shame Linda and Natalie had to miss out. A reminder to just get out there and do it this is where memories are made.’’
Photos at Kintyre Way Ultra 2020