Saturday 25 May 2024

The Tiree Half Marathon

The main road on Tiree:

On the first Saturday in May I left the house at 2 a.m., drove through the night to Oban, boarded the ferry for Tiree, cycled to the campsite and back past corncrakes and skylarks, to arrive 1 p.m. at race registration after 11 hours travelling for the Tiree Half Marathon with friends, discombobulated at the rapid change in scene; the registration volunteer dancing behind the table as she handed me a bag with a Hawaiian flower garland to wear, people cycling on the beach, a piper warming up: and we all went down to the shore where a line had been drawn in the sand to mark the start of race.

Cycling to the start of the race:

Tiree is different to other Hebridean islands. Low lying, fertile and surrounded by long beaches, its nearest equivalent is Sanday in Orkney. Its name means 'land of corn', as depicted in the Wickerman-esque island flag. It is known today as a surfing location, but I wasn't here to surf. My aim was land-based - but only just. Of the 21km of the half marathon, only 6km were on road: the race route is mainly on the beach.


It was slightly surreal to find myself on a Hebridean beach surrounded by keen runners having woken up in my own bed that morning, and the sheer novelty of the experience kept me going through tiredness, high humidity and sand underfoot. I ran out of puff about two thirds of the way through, and was glad of some salty food in the Lodge Hotel afterwards, not having eaten much all day. 

The Tiree ferry lounge:

This was just a flying visit to Tiree, which is no way to see the island: I got only glimpses of the unique Tiree expression of the Hebridean blackhouse and whitehouse, only visited one shop, missed the ceilidh, the beach clean, the beach yoga; but the next morning, before getting back on the ferry home, I did go down to Balephuil Bay to poke around the sea thrift and driftwood.

Balephuil Bay:

Just for one brief moment, the sea turquoise over sand.

Until next time, Tiree.