Report by John Liddle
Race Date: 5th August 2023
This race always takes place on the first Saturday in August which makes planning for those seeking to go, pretty confident of dates if booking a holiday in advance. It’s a long standing race (evidenced by looking at photos of previous winners which they publish in black & white !).
As with other Scottish island events, it’s not the easiest location to get to and numbers running were down this year. I heard people mentioning ferry issues but for those who can make it over the night before, as it’s in the middle of school holidays, hotels, B&B’s and similar places are at a premium. I managed to sleep in the dormitory of the local Youth Hostel taking me back some 35 years to my last experience – (and it was superb and something I would not hesitate to do again !).
This is not a chipped time event (they were seeking volunteers to man the stopwatches 48hrs before the start this year !) & it starts ‘around’ 10:30am in the main square of Bowmore, just outside the distillery. After climbing up out of the village, you run inland heading south with the first 7 miles being undulating with more climbs than downhill. Whilst as mentioned there weren’t many competing (just 87 this year), I found myself running in a group of 8-10 and throughout the run, we would regularly change positions and chat (where are you from ? you’ve come how far ? are you mad ? – were most of the questions asked of me !). I managed to finish in front of most of this group which I didn’t think too much about at the time.
After 7 miles you turn sharp right and head downhill for a mile towards the airport. It’s only a small airport with usually 2 scheduled flights a day but gained fame in the 1990’s when King Charles crashed a plane there ! Turning right again when you reach the airport, all that is left is a straight road back to Bowmore. Now, I know Strava can’t lie BUT….whilst it shows this road to be largely flat or downhill, there is no way it is. You can visibly see the climb to the horizon ahead and combined with a strong breeze, made this tough. The final few miles into Bowmore, are genuine climbs with a couple of nasty hills before rewarding you with nice descent as you run back into the village.
T-shirts, a bottle of water, a medal and a Mars bar were waiting for all the finishers.
Onto the prize giving ceremony which takes place in the nearby Gaelic centre. In their normal fashion, the hospitality was laid on with free and plentiful plates of sandwiches, crisps, cans of Tennants and drams of whisky. Now, Ardbeg distillery are the main sponsors of this race and judging by the prize table, went overboard in their fantastic generosity once again.
The normal top 5 in each category were read out, quality bottles of whisky, large trophies and clothing were being handed out when I heard my name mentioned as 3rd place in the VM50 prize. I have never won anything for my running exploits before, since being 4th place finisher in the Ellesmere Port schools 100m event when I was 9 years old !
This was the 4th time I had participated in this event and whilst it’s not a half marathon PB, I was happy to nudge under the 1:50 mark as it’s not a fast route.
I know it’s a long way to go and realistically, you probably need to combine the event with a holiday or a short break but if you do, you may find yourself returning time & time again, like I do – there is something about the place !
I caught the public transport back to the ferry port for the 2hr ferry back to the mainland and a mere 8hr car journey back to Sheffield.
87 runners took part.
First male & winner:-
Drew Dutton Campbeltown 1:15:52
Christie Ford Glasgow 1:30:15
25th John Liddle 1:49:20
Link to full results here.