Ronnie, who sends me information and virtually every single running event in Northeast Scotland, sent me a link about an event at a local shop that was on the day after I arrived back in Aberdeen. I wasn’t really planning on doing it, because I wanted to do weights at the gym, but as Grant completely failed (way to go, buddy) to book me in for the class, I was open to other exercise opportunities.
My first day back at work was brutal. I slept from nearly as soon as I got home around lunchtime on Monday until about 8pm, which was heavenly. I then could not return to the land of nod until after 2am. I had to be up to shower for work before 6am. I was a pretty grumpy customer when I trudged into the school, and any trace of sunshine was slapped off my face by the thunderstorm of news that was a whole-school meeting after school. Whoever picked out the dates for these meetings has a heart of black tar, if indeed they have a heart at all. I failed to disguise my horror at prolonging my suffering for the day and received looks that said ‘We know…. We know….’ from my colleagues.
I somehow soldiered through all of my classes, possibly exaggerating the intensity of periphery Sandy-related turbulence, forgetting several times mid-sentence what I was saying, looking at kids and realizing that in two weeks I had forgotten their name… I also managed to keep my eyes open (mostly) throughout the staff meeting at the end. Then I dragged myself home in the dark (screw you clocks going back and stealing an hour of my daylight).
*Related: Scottish ‘summers’ are amazing in the fact that you have, like, 22 hours of daylight every day, but Scottish winters are horrific. You go to work in the dark, see some weak ass sunshine through a window, despair when twilight appeared, and then go home in the dark. It sucks*
Once home I realized that I had texted Ronnie in a moment of insanity to tell him I’d be there. After getting changed into running gear and bracing myself for the cold, and then waiting for Ian to get changed out of his work clothes so he could cycle to his mum’s for dinner, I made my way to Run4it, one of Aberdeen’s specialist running shops. There were several people there who I had met before, either at races, at parkrun, or online, and I was given a card to write my details on and then fitted with a (blindingly) bright Ronhill running jacket. It was (blindingly) pink, and had a light attached to the back.
There was a pretty decent turnout (it WAS a free event), and in the end I think about 24 people showed up. We arranged ourselves into teams of two (I teamed up with Ronnie), and were given a map of Aberdeen and 5 clues (totally unnecessary since the points were already labelled on the map). We were told that it was a round trip of approximately 4 miles, if done right. We had to reach as many of the checkpoints as possible, have our team card stamped at each one, and then make it back to the shop within 45 minutes. For every minute we were late, we would have 150 points deducted (there was a possible 1500 points to earn, so late minutes were not appealing). Ronnie asked me what I wanted to do. I replied, “Win.”
All of the teams gathered outside, the timer was started, and we stampeded off along Union Street (Aberdeen’s main street), dodging pedestrians, prams, traffic, bikes, bus stops, and rubbish bins with the elegance of a drunk antelope. My Garmin, not quite alert to the fact that I was thousands of miles away from where it thought it was when I turned it on, was taking its sweet fucking time to find a satellite, so I have no idea what pace we were going or how far we had travelled. The only thing we had to go on was time and feel.
We huffed and puffed our way to the 1st checkpoint at the Castlegate, surrounded by two other teams (team one comprised of two dudes, team two comprised of two chicks. The rest had all gone for different checkpoints to begin with, so we had no idea how fast they were going. Our group of 6 seemed to have the same idea, so we kept running in the direction of our second checkpoint at the Beach Ballroom. One team (dudes) tore themselves away, and we kept a steady pace (I imagine) behind them, taking a slightly different route. We hit checkpoint 2 just before the team of two ladies, and then shifted our direction for checkpoint 3, Pittodrie Stadium. We took what Ronnie assured me was a ‘shorter route’ on some track with no lighting and lots of uneven ground (treacherous), and the team of ladies was hot on our tails. Eventually we came to the checkpoint (the furthest away from the shop, therefore the most valuable points-wise), had our card stamped, and started racing uphill towards checkpoint 4 – Marischal College.
During our journey there, we remained within spitting distance of the team of females. There were several road crossings we had to navigate, and Ronnie got into a bit of an argument with a bus driver, but neither of us was struck by traffic, so everything was still good. I was starting to get pretty out of breath by this point, and began to think these two chicks might get in before us. After all, they seemed slightly faster and we all had the same final checkpoint – His Majesty’s Theatre – to get to, before returning.
Despite being bummed about this, Ronnie and I stuck with them, getting stamped seconds after them at the theatre. They headed back towards Union Street, but Ronnie and I decided our only hope of winning was to take a shortcut. Now it was game on! We ran up one of the side streets, and despite better judgement I allowed Ronnie to lead us through what can only be described as a grassy dumping ground behind some blocks of flats (in the dark – again), before we emerged onto one of the little streets than runs perpendicular to Union Street. As we approached the end, I was amazed we hadn’t seen two hi-viz, hot pink blurs fly by before us, and I was even more amazed that when we turned onto Union Street and looked back, we saw the two women behind us! I shouted at Ronnie to speed up, too afraid to look behind, and we made it back, panting, in 36:45! About a minute later the two women turned up. And of course the all male team we ran with at the start had already made it back to the shop and were relaxing and enjoying nibbles.
Once I had my breath back, I looked around and my heart sunk. About half the runners that were taking part were already back in the shop, and the rest were trickling in steadily. Luckily, not all of the teams had made it to every checkpoint, however, and Ronnie and I found out we had made it back in time to snag second place!
Once everyone had returned, we had a little ‘awards ceremony’ where the three top finishing teams got a certificate/gift voucher and their photo taken, and then the spot prizes were handed out to those who could correctly answer questions from the Ronhill representative (who had since removed our pricey jackets). After a bit of a chinwag with everyone, Ronnie and I decided to put in a few slightly more relaxed miles, which we did, and then we parted ways.
Jet-lagged, exhausted, and content with ‘winning’ something for the first time in ages, I had a shower, got into pyjamas, and curled into Ian for a very cosy sleep.
Tonight? Out to Hazelhead for some trail running, then on Sunday a 6 mile cross-country race! I don’t think I’ll dominate, but it should be fun.