John Lucas Round Strathaven Relay

On Sunday 14th August 2016 the Bella Train headed to Strathaven to take part in the John Lucas Round Strathaven 50 as a relay team. The race is billed as one of the last road based ultras in the UK with great views of South Lanarkshire.

The race starts and finishes in Strathaven, taking a circular route around the town down country roads and through various other villages. As we were taking part in the relay element of the race, it was down to our own team to ensure our runners were at each checkpoint in time for the changeover. We perhaps took the 'support team' element of relay too literally, given we had a picnic out of Brian's boot at every checkpoint. But we were well stocked and set to start our challenge.

Brian took stage 1, starting from Kirklandpark Primary at 9am heading to Drumclog 10.7 miles away. We felt that Brian had the best leg, starting out with a group of runners and having the rest of the day to relax. It seemed to work, as Brian clocked our fastest pace of the day even with the extreme hills thrown into the mix. He finished strong, but exhausted, and handed over to our next runner Lisa.

Lisa's leg took her 8.6 miles to Sandford along more country roads. At this point the rain started slightly, however there were still some runners close enough to Lisa that she was able to overtake two. Success! A theme was appearing for the day and that theme was hills. Again, Lisa had a strong finish and set up Linda well for her stage 3.

Linda had the shortest leg of the day, 6.3 miles to Stonehouse, but by no means was this easy. By this point Emily and I were getting itchy feet as we'd had to forgo the mars bar cake in preparation for our legs. Bucking the trend, Linda felt great after her stage and the phrase 'PB' were uttered if only the course was better. Linda clocked in an excellent time and managed to dodge a few cars to hand over our relay wristband to me for stage 4.

Stage 4 was the longest at 14.5 miles and, at least to me, the worst stage of them all. By this point the runners were extremely spaced out and I didn't see any runners until mile 11. While the views were spectacular, the course continued to punish us all with relentless hills. As I struggled with 14.5 miles, I questioned how the ultra runners complete the full 50 miles? I was even out there long enough for Linda to have a cheeky glass of wine. The constant clock watching in the hopes I could time travel, plus the fact I had no idea where I was so had to finish my leg, pushed me on to Auldhouse and our last handover. Hallelujah.

Emily took our glory leg of 9.9 miles which took us back to Strathaven and the finish line. With no break from the hills, or the isolation, Emily battled the elements to enjoy crossing the finish line with the support car ready for its final picnic. The day was deemed a success as the course was well marshaled, the relay was a nice change to our normal races and good company always helps when the going gets tough. It also gave us all a real appreciation for ultra runners, the winners finishing in some amazing times. But we'll probably give this one a miss next year, and make sure we fully research any race that Lisa suggests next time!

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