I had been tempted to enter this race last year, but as I had only complete one painful half marathon when sign ups were closing, I didn’t feel comfortable committing to such a big distance, and ran the 10k instead. This year, I didn’t even hesitate when I typed in my bank card number and clicked ‘Submit’. What a nice way to shake out the legs after Paris, I thought.
Regular readers may have started noticing a few trends on here. Like that I hate the cold. Or that I am about as graceful as a drunk rhinoceros In keeping with pre-race tradition, I managed to injure myself in a really stupid way. Thankfully, it didn’t involve my feet or legs, popular injury sites in the past, but my finger. Being absolutely destroyed by a closing door. And so I woke up on race morning (after very little sleep, as I was celebrating a 60th birthday the night before and indulging in one or two adult beverages) with a swollen, bruised, throbbing, painful finger. For reference, I documented the swelling by comparing it to the same finger on my left hand:
Obviously, searing pain is not enough to deter me from enjoying a pleasant day out on what was meant to be a very pretty course, and Ronnie picked me up at some hour that escapes my memory (but it was earlier than I was probably happy with). Ronnie had recently pulled out of the Edinburgh marathon (in 4 weeks) as his ankle injury has prevented him from doing the training he needs, but he had signed up to this race as a training run in preparation, and he was determined to complete it. The only problem being that he hadn’t covered a distance this long since the Loch Ness Marathon (last September), and he had found recent half marathons a struggle. With this in mind, I told him I would stay with him and we would run at whatever pace he wanted.
Despite the sunshine when we arrived at the Balmoral estate, we were welcomed by strong, bitter gusts when we left the comfort of Ronnie’s car. And then some rain. And then about 8 seconds of warm-ish sunshine before the wind started up again. We both took a while deciding what to wear, but still had time to enjoy a hot chocolate (or coffee, if you’re Ronnie) in the warm car before being called up for the race briefing.
Before I knew it we had started, and I remembered the relatively flat tarmac section from the 10k. We followed this for a couple of miles, Ronnie feeling comfortable running strong, me feeling the effects of a late night and too much beer. Soon we were on an undulating land rover path, and the fresh air and bursts of sunshine had me feeling a bit more human. Miles 3-7 were good all around, dodging small rocks and holes and taking in the forest scenery.
The we reached a very obvious incline. We powered up for a bit, but Ronnie was struggling and asked for a walk break. We stopped and started a few times for the next couple of miles, running the flats, and taking walk breaks when the inclines became too much. I tried to be encouraging, but I have a feeling that Ronnie was not feeling my buzz:
I, on the other hand, was ECSTATIC that I was experiencing sunshine during a race in Scotland! When there is sunshine (that actually produces some heat), nothing can get me down:
The steady incline continued on the land rover track for a bit before going back down and passing by the mile 3/8 water station, before veering off and immediately going back uphill on rougher trail. There were more walk breaks here:
After less than a mile, the trail turned onto another rocky land rover path, and we were quickly out of the forest and exposed at the top of a hill. It was rough underfoot, but relatively flat, but Ronnie was spent.
We had bursts of running, and longer walk breaks, until eventually we were just walking. Uphill. There were some great views of Lochnagar, but the clouds were starting to roll in, as well as the rain.
What goes up must come down, and soon we were back running again, enjoying the descent. There were a few more undulations before we eventually reached the edge of the forest again, but with less than 2 miles to go, Ronnie and I settled into a decent pace and prepared to enjoy a downhill finish.
Except that didn’t happen.
Right when Ronnie finally started feeling confident that he could run to the finish, the course veered right, up a grassy, muddy hill. Back to walking it was. We heard gunshots in the distance (hunters, not murderers on the loose), and I managed to find a deer antler in the grass which I took with me as it was only marginally bigger than my hand. And then, FINALLY, the last downhill stretch (which was very steep), before we saw the tarmac again.
We started running just as Balmoral came into view, and I told Ronnie in no uncertain terms that he was not allowed to walk from this point on because there were spectators. He agreed, and we soldiered on the finish line to collect out medal and t-shirt. I had mentioned once or twice (or more) that I would love to get a Mr. Whippy (cheap vanilla ‘ice-cream’ with a consistency that is like a mix between actual ice-cream and Cool Whip) when we finished, but he seemed pretty ready to get out of there, so we went straight to the car, and got on the road home.
Turns out he wasn’t lying to me all those times during the run when he said he thought he was going to be sick, because we had to pull over to let him do just that. I guess that means my job as drill sergeant for the day was a roaring success. Thankfully, we made it to a supermarket for something to eat soon after, and got home without incident, and apart from some blisters and a bit of general soreness, Ronnie seems to be fine today.
Unfortunately I can’t say the same for my foot:
Overall I really enjoyed the course, and taking it at a relaxed pace allowed us to really enjoy the scenery. Whilst it could have been warmer, the weather was admittedly better than most we’ve had this entire year, so I won’t even complain about it. I’d love to go back next year with a time goal, and I’m sure I wont be the only one returning.
Now off to ice my finger.