Dunoon Ultra Marathon 2016

Photo courtesy of Ken Clark photography
UltraPosition (118)Gender PositionCategoryCategory PositionLeg 1Leg 2Leg 3Chip Time
Phil Humphries109V50102:00:4201:32:5301:46:0805:19:43
John Edmund6148OPEN502:37:4302:02:1502:05:5506:45:53
Relay (Oz, Ellie and Elly)601:49:5101:48:3501:48:0505:26:31

Phil Humphries said:

Back in March 2016 I was sitting alone in the Real Food café in Tyndrum sipping a coffee and stuffing myself with an enormous slice of cake when a bloke sitting alone at the table next to me asked if I had run far today. I explained that I just completed about 30 miles of the West Highland Way as a training run. It turned out he was also an ultra runner and lengthy conversation about the joys of ultra running quickly ensued during which he told me all about a new race, the “Dunoon Ultra” that was being planned for October that year. It is always good to hear about new races especially ultras and it sounded like a great route and the type of ‘low key’ friendly kind of race that instantly appealed.

Running in the first half of the year for me all revolved around the Cape Wrath Ultra, so I did not give this new race much thought again until the end of July, when after several beers it somehow cropped up in a pub conversation between Elly, Ellie, Oz, Brian (a friend of ours) and myself. By the end of the evening we had decided to form a relay team consisting of Elly, Ellie and Brian (team ‘BEE’), Oz would hold the coats and I would run the whole thing. However as October approached Brian unfortunately picked up an injury, and he and Oz swapped roles.

The morning of race day came and I remember arriving at the Ben More gardens in one of those “can I really be bothered with this” kind of moods. My previous race, the 33mile Tiree ultra the month before had not gone well due to a complete lack of energy for the first 25 miles of the race and I had finished well down the field over an hour slower than the previous year. I had not done much running in the intervening period, so was I going to suffer again and could this end up being my first ever DNF? However while milling around at the start the friendly enthusiasm of the other racers and friendly marshals started to rub off on me. I met up with several ultra runner friends including a very happy and enthusiastic John Edmonds from ERN. The race organizer announced that pipers will play some tunes (he did not say how many!) and as soon as they stopped the cannons will fire and that would signal the start of the race. Fortunately the pipers did not keep us waiting too long and the cannons fired and we were off, 120+ runners along a short avenue of redwood trees heading straight for a very narrow bridge. After squeezing through the bridge the next feature of the route was a long climb up through Pucks Glen. Oz was off at a fast pace and I decided it would be foolhardy to try and keep up with him as he was no doubt on a mission to give Ellie and Elly as good a start as possible, I needed to save my energy for the full 33 miles (and I was not competing against any relay teams). The first 3rd of the race was quite hilly with some long climbs and steep descents, but all on a good surface and most of it very runable. The views above Loch Eck were magnificent and I was enjoying the race and started to push the pace a bit. I ran and chatted a bit with a relay runner from Dunoon Hill Runners who I had met previously during the Fort William Trail Marathon back in August. Running through the relay runner handover point I was wondered how far ahead of me Oz had arrived (not that I was competing against any relay teams of course). There were lots of cheers of encouragement and a quick kiss from Elly and hug from Oz as I passed through. The next section was comparatively flat with just the occasional minor undulation, and the route back down the other side of Loch Eck was a nice contrast to the first much hillier section. It took me a long time to catch up Ellie, because Oz had arrived a good 10min ahead of me and Ellie was running really well. Like me Ellie was enjoying the race and we ran together for a half a mile or so chatting away, before I felt the urge to increase my pace a bit (not that I was competing against any relay teams of course). I arrived through the next relay handover point and advised Elly that Ellie was running well and not too far behind, so she would need to be ready to go pretty soon. I did not hang around and pushed onto the next section of the route. Sometimes on long races when you go through a checkpoint the next few miles can feel hard-going and you have a bit of an energy dip – this was one of those times. When I reached a section of flat narrow road, I slowed down and started walking. I knew there would be a big long climb to come soon, so I had some food and coaxed myself running again. There were lots of runable zigzags on the climb that were not too steep, but still quite energy sapping this far into the race. I decided I would walk to the top of hill then after glancing back down the hill and caught glimpse of Elly not too far behind and she was going well and running up the hill. This spurred my legs back into action and I started running up the hill again (not that I was competing against any relay teams of course). It was hard, but I knew that once I had finished and was enjoying a beer that I would be glad I that I had pushed myself that bit harder and run that hill instead of walking! I was not over the top of the hill yet, but I was certain there were only about 2 miles to go and very soon there would be a nice downhill run to the finish at Dunoon pier. However out of nowhere there appeared a “5 miles to go” sign, that had me groaning and pulling confused faces. Also there was not one top to this hill, there were in fact several tops connected by several down-bits and flat-bits. But I kept willing myself to keep on running no matter how slow and hard it was. Eventually I could see Dunoon and the coast below. Then it was not long before I was on a long sweeping downhill to sea-level and I could let my heavy legs fly a bit whilst trying not to trip on loose stones or roll an ankle. Once I reached the esplanade I had under a mile to go and did not let up, wanting to finish with a flourish (not that I was competing against any relay teams of course). I ran passed some bemused crowds who were simply out for a stroll, before sprinting along the pier to the finish line. Elly was not long behind, like Oz and Ellie before her, having had a super run. I met up with Oz, Ellie and Brian, and then cracked open a celebratory beer and cheered Elly over the finish line. Whilst milling around at the finish the bloke I had met in the Real Food Café back in Tyndrum spotted me and asked if I had enjoyed the race and I told him it had been a really enjoyable race and a good route. I asked him if he had run and if so how he had got on, and his mate standing next to him smiled and told me “oh he finished ages ago and a good 15 min ahead of the guy in second place!”.

We made our way back to the house where we were staying the weekend and then headed out for a good feed in the local pub. At the end of the evening I discovered a message on my phone from the race organizer. The message said that there had been a glitch with the recording of the race times and once they had sorted it out it appeared that I had won the prize for 1st Male Vet 50, and could I phone him back to arrange the prize to be posted out to me. So first thing in the morning I phoned him back and he drove by the house and awarded me my prize. Now I am not entirely sure I would have won that prize if it had not been for all the help from the relay team that I was not competing against!

Photo courtesy of Alan G Forsyth Photography
Photo courtesy of Oz

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