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Training on an Island

I’m not sure why, but a few people think it’s not possible to train on a small island. Let me introduce you to Papa Westray, also Known locally as ‘Papay’, which is only around 4 miles long and a mile across at its widest point. This tiny island is a gem, offering the best of Orkney in miniature – grass tracks, impressive cliffs, sandy bays, road and short hills. You can even run past the Knap of Howar – the oldest standing house in northwest Europe.

The weather is known to be very changeable. During the summer there are lots of beautiful days but sometimes there can still be windy and rainy conditions. During the winter it can be very cold, but that’s what base layers are for ! I also make good use of my NoblePro treadmill for my training. Nighttime running is amazing all year round and if you’re lucky you could even get to train under the Northern Lights (I’ve been that lucky).

If I want to train or run on a different island there are two ways to leave Papay, by air or by sea. Loganair has scheduled flights around Orkney islands and one of the flights is pretty famous around the world. It travels to Westray which can take only 90 seconds (the shortest commercial flight). It’s a 15-minute flight to the main island and a boat to Westray takes 25 minutes.

Long run / easy run / race pace – I’ve got 3 options, stay on Papay and run the longest road (roughly 3.7miles) or the loop (roughly 3.2miles) multiple times or head to Westray and run the longest road (roughly 11 miles). In Westray there are lots of side roads, making it easy to have a marathon route out and back. I can also jump onto my NoblePro Treadmill and run in Zwift which would is completely flat if I want it to be.

Hills – On Papay, I’ve got 4 short hills which are great for everyday training, Westray has a few more but if I want to look for long hills I need to head to the mainland where there are lots of hills to be found. Sometimes it’s worth picking the right one because the weather also could be playing a role in your training. For example, if I pick the closest hill to me I might be running against the wind, but if I go to the third hill away from me there is barely any wind as it’s more sheltered.

Interval Training / Tempo Runs – there aren’t many flat bits on Papay as most of the roads go up and down slightly but you could make it work. If I wanted slightly longer hills on the toad I would need to go to Westray, the mainland. With tempo running I used to use lamp posts or trees as points to run to, so that’s something we don’t have.  Instead, I tend to use the fence posts. If I’m indoors on my treadmill there are plenty of training programs on the Kinni App to pick from or sometimes I just design my own.

Cross Training – there are plenty of options to pick from, it just depends on what sort of crosstraining you like doing, I have both an indoor bike and an outdoor bike. It’s nice to head over to Westray for a bike ride or to the main island if I’m looking to do over 100 miles. With the sea around us, we have the option of swimming or kayaking/canoeing. Swimming isn’t one of the things I would normally do.

Rest – rest isn’t always possible but what I mean by that is I have a wonderful family and very active children, plenty of running about on the beach or riding scooters outside the house. So, in a way, it is resting from any heavy training session just not sitting around doing nothing.


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