Andrew Duncan along with some friends travelled to the Isle of Coll to take part in their half marathon. Lovely weather and scenery along with great hosting by the islanders made for a memorable event. Very scenic if undulating course followed by a BBQ and a ceilidh also helped to make it a full weekend! Looks like a superb event and certainly worth considering for next year.
Andy said: “This was an event I had heard about from friends who said it was good but they had never actually taken part! Well they were right, but it was better than good, being an excellent trip and with all other events laid on by the Islanders, so much more than just a race.
The race took place on the Saturday afternoon. As Coll was a place we had never visited before we took the decision to travel across on the ferry on the Friday and make it a long weekend trip. This was definitely worth doing and something I would recommend. The only downside was the ferry left Oban at 5.45am. On the way across we bumped into Elly and Fiona who were heading to Tiree but unfortunately they were unable to make the race on Saturday on Coll.
The majority of people who attend the race camp in a field next to the finish line. When the ferry docked on Saturday the campsite soon became a small temporary village. The Islanders had arranged for temporary showers to be installed and you had pretty much everything you needed.
The whole weekend has now become a ‘’running festival’’ with a children’s race, 5km, 10km, a half marathon walk as well as the half marathon race. There were over 250 runners taking part which helped to make an excellent atmosphere.
The half started at 2pm on the Saturday. One of the reasons I was attracted to the race was that it starts at sea level and does not climb higher than 50m above sea level so I was expecting a flat course. I was wrong! The course undulates the whole way round with hardly any flat sections. Add in the strong head wind and it was definitely a challenge.
The race started on the pier where the ferry docked. There were just over 100 entrants for the half with some people travelling from as far afield as Vermont, USA. The race started well (for me) and I felt quite comfortable over the first few rises. After about a mile we started to run directly into the headwind which stayed with us for the next six or so miles. It was at this point I should have heeded the advice of the locals and tried to conserve some energy – but I didn’t and paid for it later!
The course carried on undulating and there was a short section which was off-road and behind a series of sand dunes. This was a welcome relief from the tarmac and we were also able to escape the wind. The views from the course were great as you could look across to Tiree on the outward section and then on the return leg you had views of the mountains on the mainland.
Throughout the course there were many water stops all provided by the Islanders. The majority were in fancy dress as there was a prize for the best dressed water station. This was won by the Chimps Tea Party. At one stop you could also grab a wee dram of whisky but I didn’t find out where it was until afterwards! I have made a mental note for next year.
After about 8/9 miles my legs decided that they had been pushed too far, too fast and it then became a battle to complete the race rather than achieve any pre-race target time. The last few hills seemed to drag on forever but eventually the village of Arinagour came into view. It was great to then be able to run down the last hill and then onto the finish line in a time just under 1hr 55minutes. The course was definitely challenging but also very rewarding, after you had crossed the finish line.
After the race the fun really began. The bar was open from 3pm and it probably closed about 3am the next morning. There was a barbeque with specialities such as hand dived scallops as big as your hand and the traditional island curry. There was an excellent ceilidh with the music provided by a band from Tiree called Trail West. For those who could last the pace the dancing carried on until way into the small hours.
On the Sunday morning you could get bacon and sausage rolls, again all provided by the Islanders. Throughout the event there was a great atmosphere with everything laid on so you really did not want for anything.
In my opinion this event will grow and grow. It is much more than just a race and gives you chance to have a great weekend away. In time for next year’s event there should be a new village hall which will hopefully mean an even bigger ceilidh. It’s a trip I would most definitely recommend and entries are already open for 2012 at www.collhalfmarathon.co.uk . Hopefully in 2012 it won’t clash with the ERN LP Run!”