A few months ago, Andy, who made an appearance in the Falkirk and Bella blogs had been itching to get us signed up for a race somewhere scenic, or at least that’s how I remember it. Tiree was his favoured one, but after some digging I found this one. It nicely fitted around what I already had planned, so it was in no way selfish at all. And besides, it’s not a bad spot.
Less than ideally, I was still carrying the dose of hamstring tendinopathy my physio diagnosed the month before. Blackpool was probably not the most sensible idea as it was, but not wanting to let Andy (and his dad!) down, I was always going to run this. Having not run one step myself in the weeks since, and that having a knock on to Andy’s training (we’d started midweek run after work that had to be scrubbed) off we went.
The race is based in Kinross, and with no train station, I was left to mooch off Andy for a lift. I got myself up to a rainy Dalmeny for 8.30am, and by 9 we’d arrived at the unexpectedly fancy-looking Community Centre for registration. And the first of many toilet stops, all of which were absolutely necessary and not in the least bit born out of paranoia.
We scrambled around the place to find our bearings, eventually finding the start and figuring out the finish was back at the Community Centre…handy, as it helped pass the two hours until the race start!
After the mile walk back to the start – the rain thankfully having given up – we were moving.
My idea going into this was to maintain 8 min/miles and hope that’d be ‘easy’ enough to keep the pain at bay. Unfortunately, said pain turned up more or less immediately. It was going to be a fun!
The course was great, though, and distracting. This isn’t a part of the country I’m familiar with at all, so I took to gawking at the fields, the loch, the trees, even the M90 right next to us during the early miles, and then admiring the succession of small villages we passed through with excellent names like Scotlandwell and Kinnesswood.
Completely unexpected was the support on the course. I’m not even just talking of the four water stations on the course, the final two complete with bonus jelly babies to help you on your way, or of the marshals encouraging us round while keeping right, but other people! Sure, it wasn’t London (not that I’ve done it to know, but I have a tele) levels of folk lining both sides of the road the whole way round, but I didn’t think I’d see a sole! The small pockets around the course brought a smile to my face, and even the often troublesome youths were joining in. No shouts of “Run, Forrest!” or anything. Huh. Oh, and a very nice pair had sweets of their own that I pinched one of – much thanks to you even though you’ll never see this!
There were some cows at some point, and horses really close at another. I remember there being caravans, too, though that’s not as exciting, I grant you.
It’s on the open roads circling – as you might’ve guessed – the loch, and while that did mean the cars were competing for the same piece of tarmac occasionally, I only saw it cause an issue once where a motorist ground to almost a complete halt due to oncoming traffic and it generally being a tight squeeze, leaving no space for the runner just in front of me. Said runner stopped briefly, swore loudly, and then off everyone went again. Cost maybe 3 seconds in all, so not all that bad really. I was impressed by the patience most of the drivers showed; I’m not sure how well advertised the race was locally, but I didn’t see anything particularly reckless.
Back to the race. It was hectic at the start, as is the norm, taking most of the first mile for folk to sort themselves out into some semblance of order. Some people came flying past me, but mostly I ‘floated’ around slowly picking off others. That’s one thing that can be said for running a little within yourself – it becomes clear who’s pushed that little too hard!
I should probably include myself in that, really. The steady undulations of the course and complete lack of training in the last fortnight contributed to my calves tightening in both legs, combined with the hamstring pain. Ugh. My breathing was absolutely fine, it was just my lower half letting the side down.
Miles 3-6 were really unpleasant for me (not the race itself, incidentally, I’ve not a bad word to say about that), mainly because I knew how much further I still had to go! Once we were over half way and I could start counting down, I was able to start blocking out the pain a little.
‘Moment’ of the day came as we went through Balgedie, around ten miles in. A male vet decided to start chatting to a woman in her twenties, initially with a condescending “not far to go now” while passing her, only to slow up to talk about the weather and compliment her on her speedy ascent of the steep hill out of Scotlandwell (I think). Persistent is one word…pest, another. I was past them both and on my way.
I pushed a little more during the last mile, constantly resetting the sights on fresh targets. Not matter the pace, it’s always satisfying to finish a race strong. And with the finish line in sight, the announcer called out my name and club for the benefit of the crowd, slagging me for my choice of bright orange t-shirt (my Blackpool finishers’ tee)!
Kudos to that guy, still energetically cheering on and chastising runners for the next 25 minutes I was at the finish area. No idea how he kept that up!
I finished in 1:38:01; far from my slowest half, and a performance I’m really pleased with considering my 1:45 target set, accounting for the tricky lead in.
Andy and his dad both completed their first half marathons in very respectable 1:50 and 2:02 respectively, and already the talk has gone on to our next rural run!