The weekend just gone saw two events of significance, but I’ll focus on just the one here and write up the first next week.  Sod Chronology!

On Sunday, the Scottish National Road Relay Championships took place.  Clubs across the country converged in Livingston to take part in a number of races, all kicking off at the same time from St Margaret’s Academy, just by the River Almond.  It’s a great day out with the club, and for me, probably the most ‘together’ of all such events, which has a lot to do with the mass start and the second factor; the relay element!

The River Almond, the other side of which we covered from right to left during the race

The race is made up of alternate short (3 miles) and long (5.8 miles) legs, with team members setting off once the previous leg is finished.  This can mean a bit of waiting around before your leg starts, and plenty time to chat to those who’ve finished about how horrible they found it beforehand if – like me last year – you’re lucky enough to be running the final leg!  Fortunately no such concerns for me this time out, running second in a short team of only three.  Though it did mean I had the dubious honour of a long leg when I’d hoped for a short one, such is life!

To add to this blow, I’d also been at a Feeder gig in Edinburgh the night before; a few pints and a mosh pit (yeah, I know) are probably not conducive to quick times, compounded by existing niggling injuries.  There’s a saying about beds and lying down that seems appropriate.

Enough of my whinging though; I got myself down to the start area via a two miles jog from Livingston North train station, a route travelled a few times for the parkrun at Almondvale Park next door, with a good 45 minutes until the Big Off.  It was a cracking day for it, the first ‘taps aff’ day of the year:

I also have a very short video of the start itself here.

After catching up with most folk about their training for their Spring marathons (one already ran!), and idle chat about what the day would bring, the first runners started to come in with barely 15 minutes on the clock.  Impressively, Corstorphine finished the first leg in third and seventh.  The seventh place slightly miraculous considering he’d spent the last week skiing, but I digress.  What I was driving at was it was time for me to get ready.

Chris brought home the first leg for our wee team, and off I went to shouts of encouragement from my club mates.

This course is quite cruel in that it’s slightly downhill for 200m, then immediately sends you up a hill!  It’s – despite being a ‘Road Relay’ – almost entirely on pavement and sticks to the confusing network of walking/cycling paths and quiet residential parts throughout the town, and fairly undulating for the most part.  This makes it both a good workout and an absolute pain at the same time!

Absolute pain is true, in two senses.  Before I was even up the hill I had to stop to tie my shoelaces.  An absolute crime to not have sorted this earlier, condemned by stopping my watch!  Had no idea what I was doing, clearly, and cursed myself doubly as I restarted it and launched up the hill.  Oh, and I was painfully (ha) aware of my niggles in my ‘upper leg’ with just about every step.

Still, I initially made decent enough progress.  Even on the second leg the runners were already well spaced out, but I picked off two or three to the loss of one and toddled along as well as I could.

Until I had to stop to tie the same shoelace again. Idiot.

By this point we were near Livingston North, so still early on.  Over the next couple of Km I made up the places I’d lost (one of which was hard-earned!).

Course route and elavation (on left)
Station at the top right

After about 6k I became aware of a pair of feet behind me, and after initially thinking they must be on their way past, they settled down into a fairly constant distance of a few metres back.  At one point the feet were almost alongside me, which was when I became aware it was the person in the middle below:

Quite late into the lap, from memory. Credit to Bobby Gavin,

I’d no intention of racing her but the patter of feet was at least a constant spur.  She also handily shouted me the right way at a fork in the path – possibly a little further along from the photo above – which was the only point in the course not well marshalled or marked.  The shouts of support for her (HBT are always well supported!) helped me too, but my legs felt heavy after taking most of the previous week off, and refused any suggestion to go faster.  I just wanted it over!

By the time I went under the bridge in the first photo, I knew we were nearly done.  This is on the parkrun course, so familiar ground.  I pushed a little, or tried to.  Running past the stadium and going over the little bridge to make the final turn up the hill, I tried to keep steady for a Big Finish, knowing there’d be shouts of encouragement on the home straight.  I did my best impression of a sprint but I can’t imagine it amounted to much!  I immediately sat down on the curb, cooking in the toasty – for March! – sun and absolutely knackered.

Time?: 36:48 official for 9.18km, according to the watch.  Slightly slower than last year on a slightly different course, so not the greatest day I’ll ever have.  But you know what, the weather was great, the club had a successful day at the office (3rd in the senior men, and won the men’s masters!), and at least I was able to get round!

I’ll be doing yet more resting, and following up with Part I of my weekend soon.