Marathon man

Category: Sport

Marathon Man...

No, not the famous film with Dustin Hoffman, but none other than Tolsta's own long distance runner, Angus MacKay (34 North Tolsta).

Since taking up running seriously in 2000 at an age at which some of us think that a vest is a useful under garment in the Winter months, Angus has run seven marathons in a diverse range of locations world-wide: New York; Caen in France ('the Liberation Marathon'); Berlin; Rotterdam; Venice; Milan, and closer to home, Loch Ness. Throw in 12 half-marathons from 1999 to 2004, 2 North Berwick Runs (22 miles), the Highland Cross Duathlon (50 miles), the Great Wilderness Challenge Cross-country (13 miles), and the Western Isles Challenge, and that amounts to significant mileage all over the globe in a relatively short period of time. Angus hopes to run in the Sarajevo Marathon later this autumn.

The serious running really began when he applied speculatively to run in the New York Marathon in 2000 and was horrified to learn that he had been accepted. A gruelling 18-week training programme ensued involving 400 miles of running. He ran it in 4 hours 17 minutes. His fastest time for the marathon to date is 3 hours 13 minutes but his target is to run under 3 hours. This is all a far cry from when he used to plod along the Tràigh Mhòr with a heavy-set bloke from New Tolsta, and Dòmhnall Mhòisein, himself a Glasgow Marathon runner of 70's vintage and whom he cites as his inspiration. In these days the wheeze was louder than the breeze and the aim was to complete the distance before the tide came in. On that note, Angus's best time for the Tràigh Mhòr, Abhainn Lìdh to Gob an t-Seabhaig and back, is (unofficially) 15 minutes 55 seconds which beats the previous unofficial (local) best of 16.40 - Sekonda, beware of cheap imitations! Eminently beatable of course, but not bad for an old guy.

Any aspiring young runner out there, and it is especially encouraging to see so many young Tolsta runners making such an impact at local level, should give it a try. It is also heartening to see that the Tràigh run has been incorporated into Stornoway Running Club's (SRC) local running calendar and it will be a regular event from now on. The inaugural run was held last year and was won by Angus in a time of 19 minutes against a decent field including some SRC runners. Conditions on the day were not conducive to a fast run, but the barbecue was pretty good afterwards. Look forward to seeing you there this year.

Angus Mackay (Senior)

Angus Mackay (senior), who served as a Free Church missionary in Borve and in Tolsta, was recognised as a strong, courageous fishermen and also one of the fastest runners on the island in the early nineteen hundreds.

According to beul aithris , a Stornoway businessman, keen to prove that Stornoway had the fastest runner on the island, organised a race between Angus and the best athlete in the town. The race was from Bayhead to the number one pier and he offered a prize of a pound of tobacco for the winner. Angus won comfortably, but he was never given the tobacco!

Angus Mackay (junior) was a regular visitor at 82 North Tolsta , Taigh Oscair, and Siugaidh recalls how he often spoke about his father, Angus (senior).

'Bha m'athar cho cabhagach na inntinn', he often said. If there was work to be done on the croft or round the house, such as taking in the hay, thatching the house etc then Angus (senior) was up at the crack of dawn, rattling on pans and dishes until he got his two sons Donald and Angus up and got them going on whatever had to be done. There was no peace until the job was completed and only then did the boys 'get a reprieve'.

In order to illustrate that Angus (senior) was a powerful runner Siugaidh tells the story that on one occasion, when one of his children was very ill and in need of medication, Angus, knowing he could cross the moor faster than he could go to Stornoway, set off, across the moor at great speed, bound for the doctor's house in Borve. At Abhainn na Cloich he removed his shoes and, barefooted, ran until he got to Dr Mackinnon's surgery in Borve. Once there he explained his predicament, got his medicine and ran non-stop back across the moor to Abhainn na Cloich. With his shoes on he made his way into the village.

This took place on a Thursday, the day of the mid-day church service, and again according to beul aithris has it that, he passed churchgoers making their way home from the midday service when he entered the village. These same churchgoers had been on their way to the service when Angus left for Borve two and a half hours earlier. Some feat!

(Medicine at that time cost, two shillings a bottle if you had your own bottle, but half a crown if you did not have a bottle).