Incessant rain coupled with sticky, gooey mud which sucked the life and energy out of the legs can only mean one thing – cross country.
This week Stornoway Running and Athletics Club sent a number of athletes across the water for the Lindsays National Cross Country Championships in Falkirk.
Bringing together the best runners from all corners of the country the event sits right at the top of the pile for prestige amongst cross country athletes who each race for individual placings, and also collectively for their clubs in a team competition to gauge where they are placed amongst their peers.
Heavy rain, and melting snow, had ensured that the grounds of Callender Park were absolutely saturated come race day, parts of the course were underwater, indeed, the start/finish area in front of Callender House was deemed unusable just before the races got underway. Infact, a rumour was circulating that the local council wanted the event cancelled due to the poor course conditions.
But athletes are made of hardier stuff and have never been daunted by a brown tidal wave of mud or a relentless downpour from the skies above.
The action began with the under 15 boys setting off to the first bang of the starter’s pistol. A massive number of 150 boys lined up for this race which was raced at pedal to the metal from the off.
David Morrison was the pick of the Stornoway boys, sticking with a break away pack, and running himself into 22nd place overall. His first year at Under 15 level, this was a quality run, and with some of his competitors moving up the age groups next year, David has a great chance to really impress next time around. Daniel Stewart was next home in 123rd place, with Aodhan Finnegan not far behind him in 129th.
Under 17 boys next where Ali Binns and training partner Scott Maciver were to go, and already the course was starting to cut up badly where wet grass was quickly turning into sticky mud.
By the half way point, Scott had to withdraw as he wasn’t feeling himself, and Ali fought on bravely through the mud, finishing a more than respectable 52nd place.
Sophie Graham was our only representative in the Under 17 womans race. 46th place for her, in yet another quality field.
Connor Maclean was running the Under 20 Mens race and he had the watching crowd excited from start to finish.
Running two short laps of about 800m around the first hilly section, before heading out behind the big house onto the golf course area, Connor was well up with the leaders early on.
The final two mile section through deepening mud, was killing the legs of every one taking part, and it was all about whos were the freshest after a tough cross country season. Connor taking 8th place was a fantastic result.
Senior women next up, with names like Beth Potter, Morag MacLarty, and Freya Ross on the start line, in the biggest womens entry ever at the nationals, Eilidh Mackenzie was always going to be up against it. Cometh the hour, cometh the woman in this case, and a classy performance from Eilidh saw her having a fantastic race to come through the finish line in 20th place.
This is the first year that women have ran the same distance as men in the championships, a leg sapping 10k, and finishing so high up the field is a great result for the Stornoway lass.
It came down then to senior men to bring the days racing to a close.
The course at this point had no parts that would give any respite for tired legs, mud up over the ankles for large sections, slippery muddy climbs, and ever deepening puddles to negotiate.
It was all about one man at the sharp end of the race, Olympian and Scottish half marathon record holder, Callum Hawkins, who seemed to glide where others seemed to trudge!
Leading from start to finish, he romped home to take the gold.
Stornoway runners placed well, Florent Schaal in 45th place, the pick of the bunch, just ahead of William Macrury (in a Cambuslang vest) in 49th.
Murdo Alex Mackenzie ran an amazing 77th, Duncan Mackellar 101st, Norman Ferguson 137th , Andrew Joyce 213th, and making up the team of six runners, Allan Maciver 642nd.
This was a great team performance, SRAC finishing as 22nd best team in Scotland on the day.