Myself and liane made the long journey over to the isle of Jura, for one of the toughest fell races going, nerves were running high, checking weather reports, maps, ferry tickets, fuelling and packing up the van, double checking we had everything, set off on Thursday night for the stunning drive up to Kennacraig. Made it just in time before it was completely dark and jumped into the back to get the head down before the first ferry in the morning across to Islay. Woke up to fine weather and crossing was a couple of hours, time to relax, we were finally on our way.
I had been to Islay a few years ago with the boys to do the half marathon, but this was lianes first landing, so had a good drive round to check out the place. Found some cool little bays to watch seals and their young chilling out on the rocks, magical. Up to the north of the island for the second crossing of the day. Driving down the steep road to get the wee crossing to Jura, the paps were in full view now, oh Christ what have I got myself into this time!!!
On the other side, it was getting more remote, down to a single tracker, and a short drive to the main village of Craighouse, with one shop, a hotel and the towering chimney of the distillery, with not much else, except for a large banner overhead of finishing line...... When we arrived there was quite a lot of people around setting up tents, but we were not slumming it on this one, booked into a bed and breakfast for the duration. On the drive out to the digs we passed the '3 arched bridge' this was where you come off the hill and hit the road for the 3 and a bit miles back to the finish, not far I hear you say, but only knew I would be hurting at this point tomorrow. That night we cycled back into Craighouse for a good feed and blether in the hotel. Got talking to a face I had recognised researching the race - Donald booth. The man that made things happen to get the race up and running again after it dwindled out in the 70s. Very interesting man and only spoke to him for a short while, but it was like I had known him for years. He signed my book 'they come and go', that he'd written. Brilliant !! On the cycle back passing the the '3 arched bridge' there was now lots of plastic bags lying at the side with road trainers in them. Clever I wish I had thought of that.
Race day was wall to wall sunshine, my prays had been answered, with just getting round on a clear
day hard enough. Craighouse was now buzzing, I collected my number and 10 tags to hand in at check points, with Manny Gorman in front of me, the women asks any medical problems, Manny replied just my piles, I burst out laughing. Now realising how quality the field was, the long distance heavy weights of Paris, Bonser, Whitlie and Alan Smith, never mind the brute force of Haines, Wild, Fallas and Jebb to name a few. We were herded into a pen like sheep for a final count and onto the start line, we were off. Pretty boggy underfoot out onto the open hill, the pace was steady, finding my way and sitting in behind, not to go off too quick or I would pay for it later. Going well ( on for sub 4) The terrain changed pretty quickly after the first decent and onto the other side climbing the near vertical first pap, thinking that wasn't to bad, just the six summits to go..... But coming down the paps I couldn't deal with very well, very technical scree and what I can only describe as a boulder field, with each runner picking their own way through it. With plenty passing me on the descents I knew sub 4 was out of reach. With that out the question I actually started to enjoy the scenery, which was stunning, 360 views for miles, and lost count of how many up and downs I'd done. Scoffing most of
my energy bars and drinking my bladder dry by the last big climb I was struggling a bit. With a fast run from the top of the last summit to the road, it was back to bogs, and now the dreaded cramps set in, I bit the bottom lip and got on with it, swearing to myself, finally reached the bridge. Probably the slowest 3 and a bit miles I've done in a while, but didn't care, plenty of spectators were cheering everyone along that long and winding road, with the lure of that distillery chimney dragging you into the finish. I heard "Andrew Cox, Moorfoot" being shouted out as I crossed the line, with a t-shirt and a "well done, get into the shade your burnt" from a lady, I'd made it home in one piece. I didn't want to take my shoes off as I knew my feet were in a mess, I took shelter in the shade. Liane as always waiting patiently, taking photos and having a laugh at the state I was in. Hector Haines was sitting not even looked like he had ran a race, cool as you like, had won the race easy, putting 11 mins into the beast that is Finlay Wild, and breaking the course record which had stood for years. Talking with Donald the night before saying I was ok at going up, but coming down was my trouble, he told me you can't win races if you're not a fast descender. If Finlay Wild wasn't fast at coming down then I
don't know what is, Hector put him to bed on Jura that's for sure. With a couple of ginger beers going
straight to my head after the race we retreated back to the digs. With a good sleep and fuelled up again, the legs were surprising ok the next day. We took the bikes round the island for more
exploring, with treats of stags playing on the beach, to more seals and seabirds in abundance. Jura is a magical place, and it's not always about going to do a race, it's about the whole experience of the wonderful places that is out there in Scotland. Oh and Liane said yes..........