On Friday 18th I drove north and spent the night in Dingwall with George and Christine Harvey. On Saturday George and I took the trip north to Achiltibuie where I took part in the second Coigach Half Marathon.
This would be my third half marathon this year and my fifteenth in total. The reason for taking part was partly for running but also for nostalgic reasons. My paternal grandfather Donald MacLean was a native of Altandhu, Coigach and was born here on 31st December 1875. The route of the half marathon would take me past the house where he was born and raised.
We had visited the house around 1968 and I have included a photo of that visit in the album accompanying this blog. The biography of my father currently being researched had stimulated my interest in this part of the family and I was able to locate the house (Seaview, In Altandhu) on a visit last year. The house had passed out of the family when my great uncle Roderick (who lived there) died in the early seventies. I had not remembered the beauty of the landscapes from the visit in 1968 and felt very much a desire to reconnect with my roots. When I heard that a half marathon was being run in Coigach it was put straight on the 'to do' list!
Although the light was not great on an October day, the first thing I noticed was the change in the colour of the landscape compared to my visit last summer. The land had changed from green to a warm, golden brown autumnal colour, with the prominent mountain of Stac Pollaidh dominating the landscape. As well as the photos of the race I have tried to include some of the surroundings. Having run half marathons in Skye and Harris it still must be said that the topography traversed during this race is pretty special and hard to beat.
I registered at the Hall in Achiltibuie and then carried on a further mile or so towards the start near Polglass. George took a few photos at the warm up and then shot away to get to Altandhu to record me passing the old family home. The race seemed to attract some interest having only started last year and the number of entries had virtually doubled year on year.
We were piped off and I averaged an alarmingly fast seven minutes per mile for the first three miles. The road from Achiltibuie is slightly down hill which is deceptive as it doesn't feel as if you are going very fast. However the first three miles would have constituted a personal best if the race had been a 5k!
I started off running beside a girl with a Maryhill Harriers vest so felt quite at home! I also saw a woman with a Garscube Harriers logo (another local club in Glasgow) so the north west of my city was well represented. After the first three miles we had our first climb which took me up to the family homestead which was almost bang on the six mile marker. Just before Altandhu we passed the Fuaran where there was further pipe tunes to encourage us. Scotland the Brave if I remember.
George was waiting at Seaview and duly recorded my progress, advising me that I was 'about fifteenth.' The next part of the race between six and seven miles was the toughest climb but you just put your head down and get on with it. I had to stop for a brief stretch after going down the other side as some cramp started up in the back of the legs.
After that there was nothing else for it but to keep the head down and pound out the miles whilst taking in the breathtaking scenery. I had been recovering from a heavy cold and had not run for two weeks so was a bit apprehensive about taking on a half, never mind getting below my usual target of less than I hour 45. Despite running a I hour 38 this year I was feeling that I would just like to get through the race with no mishaps and try and enjoy the experience. However I kept my eye on the time and was in line with a sub 1:45 time the whole way. The gradual climb for the last three miles back into Achiltibuie felt tough and then there was the matter of the steeper slope up to the finish at the playing fields for the last few hundred metres, where all the finishers got a warm reception from the friendly locals. Gorge and I headed back to the hall for some excellent fare. Pumpkin and ginger soup along with a hot dog! As I had a further journey to make after getting back to Dingwall we headed off sharpish. I am sorry we didn't wait for the prize giving but time was against us.
For the record:
Finished: 16th out of 59 runners
Time: 1 hour 42:06. (Respectable enough!)
I want to thank my cousin George for taking most of the photos you will see and for his support and company on the day. Also thanks are due to Christine and the Balloan family for hospitality over the weekend. It was a great trip!
If you are a runner, consider giving the Coigach half a try. Great location in a truly stunning wilderness accompanied by real highland hospitality.
I hope you enjoy the photos.