The Stornoway Running and Athletics Club (SRAC) team recently received another country stamp on their ‘virtual club passport’.
This time Slovenia was the country and runners from all across Europe gathered in ‘Lubbily’ Ljubljana.
The 24 year old country’s capital city proved to be a great venue choice for the SRAC runners as the three race event allowed involvement from throughout the membership regardless of ability or experience.
Four took part in the 10K, six ran the Half Marathon and two managed to complete the full 26.2 miles of the marathon.
The hugely popular 10K distance meant that it was run separately from the Marathon and the half marathon.
The 10K was the first event of the day. Two of SRAC most experienced competitors; Jim Bruce and Ethel MacNally along with Janetta MacDonald and Norma Gatensby were among the early starters at 8.30am.
Not perhaps, the normal time for racing to start and in fact, ‘so not the norm’ that Donnie MacLeod (making his road-race debut) opted for the half marathon to gain a further two hours in bed.
Jim was disappointed at not being able to run in one or other of the longer distance race options due to a series of ‘injury hold-ups’.
But, was delighted with a decent run to place 802nd from 5,807 finishers and first in his age category.
SRAC’s other experienced campaigner Ethel MacNally, took a more relaxed approach taking in all the scenery of lovely Ljubljana and the charged atmosphere of the cheering crowds that lined the whole route.
She also had the company of Janetta and Norma with her as they soaked up the event and blethered their way round a fabulous course.
Ljubljana can now be added to the Mid-Night Half in Norway and the full New York City marathon they also did together.
SRAC’s ‘virtual passport’ sure has some range of venues and events stamped on its red and gold pages.
SRAC or perhaps in the case of the club’s annual ‘away-day run’ happening, SIRAC (Stornoway International Running and Athletics Club) were represented with Welsh, Austrian, German and both island and mainland based Scots running in the Half and Full Marathons.
The combined start required runners to be in position 20 minutes before the starter’s gun was fired, but what a ‘pumped’ 20 minutes that was.
As the 7,900 runners crammed into the various starting pens in race kit in the morning air 6 degree chill, it could have been a long wait!
But, the sheer mass of runners in the starting pens served to keep the legs protected for the morning chill.
The race atmosphere grew minute by minute as the booming beat of drummers from a gantry above the runners was absolutely pumping and as loud as you can imagine.
All the SIRACers raring to go in the sub 1 hour 35 pen were bouncing to the beat of the pre-race drums!
Scenes from Gladiator and their fighting arena sprung to mind as we awaited the starter’s gun. This was going to be a great race!
Then as the drums silenced, the starter’s gun exploded! Then the band on the gantry spanning the start line struck up with some fast playing chords and we were away. Though it took 16 minutes for everyone to cross the start line.
Norman Ferguson was the club’s top runner going into the race and his recent form ensured he was the team’s fastest runner, indeed he ran a personal best (PB).
From his start, however, it didn’t seem like this was going to be much more than an easy day at the office for Norman.
But, as the crowded start thinned out at about 2K he started to pick up the pace and moved through the field.
His opening 5K split of 19 minutes and 53 was the fastest opening 5K from the club group.
But his fourth 5K split between 15 and 20K of 19: 03 was the best of the day from the SIRAC team.
The crowds throughout the race were brilliant, but as the race neared the Congress Square Finish in the City’s Old Town, the roar of the crowds increased and luckily for Norman he still had enough in his legs to respond to the crowd and pick up the pace.
His reward was a new Personal Best 1 hour 23:08 giving him an overall place of 92nd from the mass of just under 8,000 thousand starters.
The club’s supporters then had to wait eight minutes to see the next Red and Gold runner come into the finishing straight again.
Owen Davies not only was our second runner home, but the second runner of the day to record a new Personal Best and by a massive 4 minutes.
His time of 1 hour 31: 56 may have been even better had he not played the nice guy card at the start though.
Owen stuck rigidly to the starting pen time bandings when so many others did not.
Donnie MacLeod and Ross Munro running together learned this as Owen managed to catch them up a mile and a half into the race. Owen eventually finished a minute ahead of Donnie, so a running lesson learned. So perhaps an even paced race next time will see an improved Personal Best for Owen.
In the next two and a half minutes there was a ‘flood’ of SIRAC runners crossing the line.
Donnie Macleod who had shadowed Ross for the opening 15K of his debut half marathon decided to go for bust in the final 6K (though he thought it was only 5K).
A long way for a natural 800 metre runner and a very bold move. But it worked as he ran his fastest split (20:41) and Donnie also caught up with our favourite Austrian, Gerald Kalchaeur.
Gerald had started with intent to run the marathon, but the signs were there to call it a day and so the pair crossed the line together in 1 hour 32:09!
Ross Munro was making a race appearance after an 18 month absence and was pleased to run well under his predicted time of 1 hour 40.
His time of 1 hour 34:23 placed him 25th in his (old) age category and within the top 10% of the category!
Gunter Fuchs was the final SIRACer over the line and he is indeed an SRAC International runner, joining SRAC almost eight years ago. Gunter has been on every club ‘away-day’ in Europe since, including; Bratislava, Enschede, Hamburg and Callanish!
The brave of the day were marathoners Corina Rahmann and Ludger Schuren. Both refuse to bow to lack of training or injury so that the toughest challenge was achieved.
They both completed the full marathon well below their best performances, but none of the SIRAC team could evidence any tiredness as we shook off the running kit and reconvened at a local city restaurant.
The pre-race drummers sounded a loud message that the atmosphere was going to be great and the race a memorable one.
As it happened things turned out that way for a number of reasons.
We now look to the future, the local Alex Murray Cross Country Series and both District and National cross country championships.
There’s also the Wacky Racers 5k events through the winter, see the SRAC website. But thoughts may begin towards where next the SRAC International group gather. Why not be there? Prepare for a race and see a new city?
The club continue to be active on a number of fronts and last weekend coach coordinator Seumas MacTaggart and Club Chair Ross Munro attended the annual Scottish Athletics Awards night.
The club were one of five nominees for the ‘Impact Club of the Year’. Thanks to all the club members, parents, volunteers and businesses that contributed to this nomination.
Pictured is Norman Ferguson on his way to a personal best performance