Murdo Macleod took part in this unique, one-off event. Starting at the 5,000 year old Callanish Standing Stones then following the undulating coastal route North to Calloway before turning East at seven miles and crossing the island by climbing over exposed moorland to finish in Stornoway with the last few miles in the wooded Lews Castle Grounds. The weather was beautiful; sunny and dry but with a strong headwind blowing for most of the race.
Murdo said: “By Jove that was hard; a bit breezy and humply – an excellent race, challenging, well organised and friendly.
Registration was in Stornoway on Friday evening where you collected your race number, good quality technical T-Shirt, a bottle of strong ale and a black pudding!
The next morning, as this was a point-to-point, buses were laid on from Stornoway leaving at 0700 taking runners to the Breasclete Community Centre where changing and toilet facilities were available before travelling the last mile by bus to the start where toilets were also available at the visitor centre. Spare clothing etc could be left on the buses and these were taken back to the finish. Black bags and tags were given out at registration.
A unique start at the Callanish Standing Stones where, following a short safety brief and good luck from the organiser, Tony Robson, the small field set off down the road to Stornoway. The weather was lovely and sunny throughout but with a persistent headwind for most of the race. As one runner commented “unless you trained in a wind tunnel don’t expect a PB” The route followed the undulating coastal road to Carloway, and its Iron Age Dun Carloway Broch, before turning East and crossing the island climbing steadily to mile 18 over exposed peat moorland with spectacular views of lochs and distant mountains before descending into Stornoway via the scenic, wooded, Castle Grounds. These last few miles were a welcome break from the wind, but the gravel surface and a couple of short steep slopes were tiring and must have been interesting if you had blisters!
As the field was relatively small, it soon spread out, particularly after the start of the long climb, and I ran most of the way by myself. The route was extraordinarily quiet. There were marshals on motorbikes but apart from them I can only recall two other vehicles on the route and, except for waterstops and the few locals out cutting peats (who always waved), you had the road to yourself – once you got near the end, there were spectators in the Castle Grounds and a warm, friendly crowd at the finish.
The runners seemed to come from all over the UK with a large contingent (at least 20) from the 100 Marathon Club. I ran a while alongside Roger from the 100mc and I asked him how many marathons he’d done – over 450 if I heard him right!! For the truly insane, there was a ceilidh on Saturday night, rest on the Sabbath and a similarly “challenging” marathon in North Harris on the Monday. Interesting to note that 49 out of the 89 runners ended up doing both, with some impressively consistent times shown on the SRAC website. Among those taking part were Steve Edwards who had just set the world record for 10 marathons in 10 days (average time of 03:32:04) and Horst Preisler, 72, who has run a world record of over 1500 marathons.
Good T-shirt and excellent trophy with buses to the start, water stops roughly every three miles and gels at 16 and 20, made this excellent value for money. Marshals (including Army Cadets) were very friendly and supportive while doing an excellent job. I couldn’t make it, but the ceilidh was excellent by all accounts and I regret that I also didn’t have the time (and probably the fitness) to run both marathons as the photos from Harris look spectacular. This race is meant to be a one-off but if it’s on again, don’t miss it (or have a go at the North Harris Marathon instead – or both!), you certainly won’t be disappointed.
Thanks to all at SRAC for being such good hosts, an excellent race and a great day. The hardest running event I’ve done – really enjoyed it though! “
Details of the race (and accompanying Half Marathon) and the North Harris Marathon can be found on the Stornoway Running and Athletic Club website at SRAC including finishing times and photos for both marathons, comments etc. Some photos below including some from the SRAC website.