Not very long ago, some time in 1985, Peter Haines said to me that if there was one race on the calendar which was worth going to, it was the Jura. He was spot on. Wow, what a weekend! Took a while to get there.
I had been talking to a guy on the ferry about sea-kayaking and mutual acquaintances, one of whom happened to be Pete, and he mentioned that he, Don, had been responsible for resurrecting the Jura race in 1983. In fact, you can watch a very interesting video of Don Booth talking about all this on the Jura website home page. Don was not running this year, or in any way involved in the organisation, which has now been handled brilliantly by Phil Hodgson and Mandy Goth of Todmorden Harriers for the third year running. They intend to carry on and do their ten-year stint at this job, and they have certainly got it down to a ‘T’. Most impressive.
Where to start? It was one of those three days so packed with superlatives that it takes a long time to come down to earth.
The weather was on top form (and still is, by the way – I have moved up the coast a hundred miles or so) … dawn to dusk sunshine every day and a brisk cool easterly breeze producing perfect running conditions. Dry rock, dry scree and firm grass, just the odd few deep boggy sections lurking around which never dry out. See for miles.
Actually, being able to see for miles does not always help on this race, as all the tops are convex, usually steepening into terminal quartzite scree of all shapes and sizes, and you could not see which way people had gone off, just the tiny specks of the ones who were already on their way up the next pap. They say reconnaissance is really important for this race. It is. But, err, when? (See R. Jebb ‘interview’ below).
Three Ilkley Harriers started – and finished.
Dave Wilby had an absolutely cracking race, finishing in just over the four hours, and narrowly missing out on a sub-four-hour inscribed whisky glass, a very much prized award. He said he was not too bothered (but he was really). Kelly, and their dog, were up on the hill looking out for us, between the second and third paps, I think, and it was so nice to see a supporting face. Dave was 32nd.
Heather Dawe and Aidan paddled over in their sea kayaks . Their’s were not the only boats adorning the camping field, and talking around to a few people, there was a surprising number of sea paddlers in this gathering. In fact, I think I’ve got a date to paddle over with Don Booth next year. It will be a good trip for all the family, wind permitting. There was a persistent and quite strong easterly this year, and Heather and Aidan very wisely paddled round the coast to Port Askaig and took the boats back on the ferry – with the rest of our approximately one hundred bikes. Heather came in at a few minutes over the five hours, looking quite sanguine, in the circumstances. She was 107th overall, and 12th lady.
The finish is on the road between the hotel and cooperage (Jura malt) on one side, and the camp field on the other. Then blue sea beyond that. When Heather came in, I was still slumped in a chair a few yards away from the line, into which I had collapsed, unable to manage another pace, just twelve minutes earlier. It had been ten minutes before I could speak more than about one word. Talk about cutting it fine. I did everything possible in the way of keeping going. This involved drinking a sachet of lucozade on the way up the first hill, as instructed by Geoff Howard, wise fellow, then topping up a drink bottle of Go powder with water at good moments, and accepting any offers of cups of water from those nice marshals on the summits and at Three Arch Bridge (more about the bridge later). Even so, for the last couple of miles, it became quite clear that if I tried even to up my speed by 0.1 mph, the internal energy supply would not be able to keep up, and that would be that. The final 3 and a bit miles of the Jura race are something you try not to think about while struggling up the last two paps, and ‘bounding’ down the two miles of moorland to the Three Arch Bridge. Why? Because there is no more downhill. Just an endless hard tarmac road which goes on, and on, ....
There were rumours around that Ian Holmes always changes into his road shoes at the Bridge. (Built by Thomas Telford – fine bridge). I was not sure whether or not this was a tall story, but remembering how horrible even one mile of road is on the 3P, I took some nice light springy road shoes over, and a bike, and stashed them (shoes, not bike) a hundred metres along the road from the bridge the night before. They were life savers; worth every one and more of the thirty seconds it took to yank the Walshes off, brush the scree-grit off socks, and put them on. Not only do you run faster along the road, but it is psychologically damaging for the poor sods you pass still pounding along in their fell shoes. And you tell them, of course.
The next piece of sadism is the milestone which says 'Craighouse 1 mile'. You think ‘that’s got to be the hotel and distillery, hasn’t it. You check your watch There’s nothing else in Craighouse. Sorry, not really. It’s one mile to the first house in Craighouse, and then nearly another grinding, scenery-never-moving mile to the finish. Never has a distillery chimney stayed the same size for so long, or an island moved past so slowly. My hope was to finish in under five hours. I made it with just two minutes to spare, and was 93rd overall, third V60. I did manage a little overtake just before the line - he didn’t have road shoes. They’re very kind to us pensioners on Jura, and I won a piece of pottery.
The first six pints never touched the sides. Then we settled down a bit. When I woke up bright and fresh on Sunday morning at half past seven, when the sun was getting a bit too warm in the tent, I still didn’t need a pee. Back to normal hydration then.
It was a Bingley 1 – 2. Robert Jebb had a stonker, missing the record by only 50 seconds, about 7½ minutes in front of Ian Holmes. I asked Mr Jebb if he had been going for the record, or whether he had been looking hard at his watch along the last 3 miles of road, and anyway, how he had paced the race as a whole. Well, here are his secrets, as far as I can remember, so you have no excuses: he legged it up the first hill as fast as reasonably possible in order to establish a lead, then ran the hilly bits at a comfortably fast pace without paying any particular attention to split times, and thus arrived at the Bridge. He then ran along the road as fast as he could, and anyway, I don’t think he had set his stop watch at the start. So now you know. And it was also clear why he had to come across in motorised transport. See photo. Robert had been on the island for a few days to reconnoitre the route. He does not run up the steep hills, just walks very fast.
The real excitement was for second place. According to Ian Holmes, on arrival at Three Arch Bridge, he was just ahead of Jethro Lennox. Think 3 Peaks and think revenge match – and Ian has won Jura a few times. So Ian stops to put on his road shoes – yes it’s true – and Jethro gets about 50 yards in front. Slowly, slowly Ian pulls back the yards, nudges ahead, and tries to break Jethro. Can’t break him. Jethro comes back. Ian tries again. Jethro comes back. Less than half a mile to go, Jethro gets ahead. Then the road shoes kick in, Ian puts in a final sprint, Jethro can’t respond, and Ian Holmes pips him by four seconds for second place. I suggested to Mr Holmes that as simply trying to keep running along the last few miles of road was horrible, having to battle it out right to the line must be an almost unimaginable horror. He just smiled enigmatically. Here he is wearing the shoes he wore for the rough bit of the race. Unfortunately you can’t see them on the photo, but they are Inov8 Rocklite 285s, the red ones, which are not really fell shoes. He would have preferred Walshes normally, but he’d gone over on his ankle and he needed a lower shoe which would not press on the sore spot. Suppose he had had to take it easy then.
Andrew Schofield was 6th. I asked him ‘how can it be that a big bloke like you is such a b****y good fell runner’? He thought about this for a moment, and said that he would really like to be a couple of stone lighter. It’s not fair.
Angela Mudge beat her own record by about five minutes, and was seventh overall. Awesome. She was camped quietly in the middle of the field of 50 to 100 tents with her two little brown and white dogs, Arkle and Canna. Most of the runners’ dogs were collies or other sheep dogs – good on the hill – but Angela’s dogs have legs about three inches long. As we cycled back on Sunday morning, we peddled along with them for a while, and, well, these are Mudge dogs. Eight miles along a road, and eight miles back is nothing to them. Angela has a very quiet, self-effacing, unobtrusive manner. Just this indescribable presence.
Talking about dogs, Kate Jenkins of Carnethy, 4th lady, took her biggish dog around the race! All that sharp Quartzite scree? No problem, apparently. I have heard that the dog was not very well at all on Sunday night. Something it ate, most likely. Might have been the cat: dog spies mog. (Cat lovers – the cat survived, but had never seen so many dogs in its life).