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Athletes from across the country descended on Kintyre last weekend to take part in a new three-day running festival for people of all abilities.
Organisers of the the 33-mile Kintyre Way Ultra marathon this year joined forces with the team behind the Great Carradale Canter’s 5k and 10k races and, with the addition of an eight-mile Friday Frolic fun run, hosted the inaugural event.
The challenging Kintyre Way Ultra was first run in 2007, from Tarbert to Campbeltown, following the course of the Kintyre Way walking route.
At that time, it was a relay by a group of friends but it gradually developed into a popular race.
Both solo and relay runners took on this massive 67-mile challenge until the introduction of a shorter 35-mile option from Tayinloan, which proved so popular that the longer route was dropped.
With the organiser Rob Reid and later Suse Coon being based in the north of Kintyre, the option to run from Tayinloan to Tarbert took off and this proved more manageable during the Covid years.
‘We were one of very few races with the know-how to stage staggered starts and thus enable safe participation at this time,’ said Rob.
But when the Kintyre Way was extended via Southend to Machrihanish, it became exactly 100 miles long and there was always an ambition to run what became known as the southern third.
While organisers knew that the amount of Tarmac would deter a number of pure trail runners, they hoped there would still be enough interest in taking on this new challenge.
Originally, they wanted to have the finish in Machrihanish but the infrastructure was lacking and the route would have involved a dangerous descent that was best avoided.
By starting in Machrihanish and finishing in Campbeltown, the route became safer, with access to a spacious finish area.
Instead of being held in three stages, as it had in the past, there could now only be two, meaning the traditional three 12- to 13-mile relay legs were replaced by two 17-mile and 16-mile legs, with additional water stations at the halfway points.
With the stage from Southend to Campbeltown on Tarmac, apart from a short section on the beach at Macharioch, organisers offered to drop off and pick up a change of shoes at Southend – something that turned out to be much appreciated by competitors!
With plans in place to carry out this year’s race on the southern third of the Kintyre Way on the Saturday, organisers got in touch with the Great Carradale Canter team, to see if they could combine forces on the same weekend to provide a warm down race on the Sunday.
‘Now all we needed was a ‘welcome to Kintyre’ option on the Friday night,’ said Suse, ‘and with it being the 10th anniversary of Machrihanish Airbase Community Company moving into community ownership, an eight-mile fun run up the beach and back through the airbase was born, entitled the Friday Frolic.’
Three people took on the challenge of running all three races but only one, Bryan Gregg from Strontian, achieved success.
‘Weather conditions were fairly benign with the wind abating, no rain and the sun only becoming a problem for slower runners who were out for longer,’ Suse said.
‘A marshal sent the first three runners on a short cut which was spotted on the GPS tracking system and required a small addition to their times, meticulously calculated by Rob.
‘Despite this, they were well clear of the rest of the field and set quite a challenge for the future.
‘The finish line saw the usual happy but exhausted runners saying “never again”, but changing their minds within seconds!
‘It was certainly a race of two halves, with favourite sections equally split between the early terrain running hills and the later tarmac with stunning views.
‘Those who had taken the trouble to read the race description and profile came prepared physically and mentally and coped well.’
A brave run by Michael Deason from Shettleston Harriers set the record at 04:44:07.
The first lady home was Helen Falconer in 05:47:34 while the relay record was set by Frigate Bound – Tom Carbro and Stuart Oates – in 05:17:58.
First male supervet (50+) was Richard Taylor in 05:27:11, while first female supervet was Leonie Palmer in 06:33:59. Both were in the top 20 finishers overall, showing age is no barrier to endurance running.
Special mention was made at the prize-giving of the furthest travelled participants – brothers Markus and Bernd Pux, who saw a film about Kintyre made by a German television company last year and came to see it for themselves – Stuart Millar, who was celebrating his birthday, and the oldest male and female competitors, Kenny Reid and Jean Macdonald.
Funky Chicken provided amusement for children of all ages at the finish, with a magic show by Simon Wrighton keeping spectators entertained.
Suse added: ‘We are grateful to many new volunteers and landowners along the southern third, to our sweepers Richard, John and Elaine, to Oban Mountain Rescue for safety cover, and to the SSE volunteers who transported drop bags, gave out goody bags, brought in signs and made themselves available to fill in gaps wherever these appeared; to our professional timing team KitST, and to Argyll Bakeries – sponsored by SSE – for the food at the finish.
‘In addition, we have to thank local businesses who sponsored the prizes as follows: men’s prizes were provided by Kintyre Gin, ladies’ prizes were provided by Kilkerran Single Malt, relay prizes were provided by Fyne Ales and supervets’ prizes were provided by Loch Fyne Whiskies.
‘Additional thanks to Machrihanish Holiday Park for organiser accommodation and to Greg Sherman of The Ugadale Hotel for parking facilities and refreshments after the Friday Frolic.
‘We hope to see everyone back again next year on Saturday May 13 when we will be running the middle third, from Tayinloan to Campbeltown.’
The weather took a turn for the worse for Sunday’s Great Carradale Canter, a 10k run starting and finishing at Carradale Harbour, with 5k options for both adults and juniors.
See the back page for a photograph of the event’s trophy-winners.
A Great Carradale Canter spokesperson said: ‘Thank you to all the entrants, the marshals who had to stand out in inclement weather this year, as well as other supporters doing the timing and the teas.
‘Others include Jewellery Casting Scotland, which sponsored the trophies, and Tesco and the Co-op, which provided the competitors with refreshments.
‘Roll on next year.’
Results for the Kintyre Way Ultra and Great Carradale Canter races will be available at www.kitst.co.uk