Ah, Inverness. How I forget how long it takes in a car to get to you…
Thanks to sick people being around me with their sickness and coughing sick germs all around me, I was, after finally shirking off a two week cold, struck down again with some grim plague. I took Wednesday night off from the gym. And then Thursday. And on Friday I felt so rancid that I had asked to be put down and cried at my desk at morning break had a little pity party for myself. In fact, when the bell rang at the end of the school day, it took a full 30 minutes before I could muster up the strength to leave my desk and walk to my apartment.
Thankfully, Ian and I have started (and nearly finished) watching ‘Rome’ on Netflix, so I had something to look forward to every day (other than lying in bed in a dark room). In fact, we have become so engrossed in the show that on Saturday, feeling a bit more human, I bought some spelt flour and baked a traditional ‘Roman Loaf’ (according to the recipe on the back) for us to rip apart with our hands and feast on as we watched. Accompanied by “traditional” Roman butter, of course. And bottled Heineken (also 100% traditional, I’m assured).
Unfortunately, our ‘episode of Rome with dinner’ grew into a Rome-a-thon, and Ian and I didn’t go through to bed until a slightly unreasonable hour. And so on Sunday I slept in. Up not quite early enough to allow for a bit of relaxation, and not quite late enough to have to write off the possibility of going to Inverness entirely, I spent the next 20 minutes frantically scrambling around my apartment, throwing on my race kit, trying to find my Garmin/keys/wallet/mp3 player/phone (which somehow had not charged overnight)/running socks (I own like 20 pairs, so why had they all mysteriously vanished?!), and then sat down to demolish a yoghurt and catch up on a bit of work.
Just before 8, I kissed Ian goodbye and headed downstairs and to the meeting point to await my chariot, a Fiat Panda filled with Naomi, her boyfriend Stu, and Ronnie. Naomi and Stu had both run the Paris half (comically called ‘Le Semi’) the previous weekend, and were both worried about how they would manage just 7 days after a peak performance. Sniffling and trying not to fall asleep in the warmth of the car, I told Naomi I’d be happy to keep her company if she fancied taking it easy, an offer she may have, at times, wished she hadn’t accepted.
We arrived at Bught Park with literally hours to spare, and since we were such keen beans, found ourselves registered, relieved, and sitting on the floor of the sports hall by about 10:30. Somehow we managed to convince Ronnie that the start had been delayed by half an hour, which he was very angry about, but eventually came clean when it seemed as though he was going to hunt for an ATM and a shop with all the fictional extra time, and would potentially miss the actual start.
As the start approached, Stu (a serious athlete) dumped his warm layers into the car and went to warm up. The rest of us dumped our clothes in the car, and then returned to the warmth of the sports hall, meeting up with a few familiar faces along the way. Eventually, the piper started leading runners to the start line, and we tailed onto the swarm, choosing to stay indoors as long as possible, because: weather.
Naomi, Ronnie and I made a token effort to join in the enthusiastic warm up dancing (Stu was basically at up at the front and needed no such ridiculousness), until we started moving forward, breaking into a jog, and then speeding up to cross the timing mats.
“I guess we’re running 13 miles then.”
Ronnie stuck with us for less than a mile before Naomi and I persuaded him to go ahead – he has been working hard at losing weight and was keen to get his first sub-2 half marathon since 2012, and we both thought he was capable, unlike the two of us (dead legs and snot face). The pair of us plodded along, and I despite my heart rate, I felt comfortable. I thoroughly entertained Naomi with hilarious and enthralling tales (or so I would like to believe), and we kept a pretty even pace (about 9:30 minute miles) for the first half, stopping to walk through the water stations. Naomi’s legs soon voiced their disapproval, however, and the pace dropped back a bit after this point. At one point, at a road crossing, the marshal told us we had to stop to let a bus past, which at the time was a welcome 10 second break, but would have been a real offense if we’d been running for time! Still, he was apologetic, and it’s not like either of us minded.
With about 5k to go, we approached Esther, someone we recognized from the local parkrun. Her half PB is 2:10, and at the rate she was running she was on track for a PB. Just when Naomi was really starting to struggle, the role of PB pacer seemed to give her a reason to push on to the end, and we made it our mission to bring Esther in under her goal time. We stooped to ridiculously unnecessary tactics (trying to become windbreakers, shouting like a drill sergeant, picking up a branch from a nearby grassy area and prodding her forwards with it), but she kept with us, and even managed to outkick us with a sprint finish at the end. I mean, yeah, Naomi and I were busy with a conversation, but still – excellent effort.
Even Ronnie shouting at us with less than a mile to go, exclaiming that Claudia (someone we know) was only about a minute ahead (Ronnie knows I get competitive at the end) wasn’t enough to make me leave our little pacing group. Especially since this half marathon was technically my ‘cut back’ for the D33 in, ohhhhhhhhhh, two days. Which I am starting to panic a bit about. I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to be so busy at work, because at least it has kept my mind off of that little gem of information.
Anyway, Ronnie managed his sub-2. He ran just over 1:51, in fact, and he was ecstatic. Sadly, this means Naomi and I have lost a race buddy because he will once again start leaving us in his dust. Stu, a freak of nature, ran less than half a minute slower than his Paris PB and crossed the line in 1:17:52. Quite frankly, disgusting.
Once we had all gathered in the sports hall and chatted with other runners for a bit, we decided to head back to Aberdeen, singing along to some quality tunes (‘We Built this City’ and ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ come to mind).
Overall, a good, but long, day out. Here’s hoping I’m this cheerful in 48 hours. And that I can still walk.