Time: 55:07 [Results]
Medal: Yes, and a miniature of whisky!
Sometimes I wish Scotland was famous for something other than whisky and shortbread, because they seem to be popular goody bag items at local races, and I hate both. It does mean my friend Grant, a whisky drinker, is going to luck out when I see him in a couple of weeks, as he did after I ran the Isle of Skye half marathon last year.
However, I suppose that Scotland is also famous for some beautiful scenery, and the Glenlivet 10k boasts proudly that it is the “most beautiful run in Scotland”. Today, apart from seemingly hurricane-force winds, the weather played ball, and we were greeted with sunshine and blue skies, which allowed all of the runners to appreciate just how stunning the race is.
The race is set in the Cairngorms National Park, on the Glenlivet Estate, home of the Glenlivet distillery. It’s a bit of a drive, so although the race started at 11, Elaine picked me up at 8am to head out from Aberdeen.
We arrived shortly before 10, and made prompt use of the swanky toilets (not a porta loo in sight!), before collecting our numbers and timing chips. We had something to eat, and then dumped our clothes in the car, being battered by the winds as we did so. Still, this was our view (it’s hillier than it looks):
I had DNS’d this race in 2012 after falling ill (and yes, I was avenging my loss), but Elaine had run it last year. She let me know that the first couple of miles are a steady incline, and then you get to enjoy the view and cruise through a few undulations, and a mainly downhill final few miles. She also helpfully told me that the race finished short of the start, and not to panic when I saw neon specks climbing the hill back to the distillery, because they would have already finished and started walking back to collect their goody bags.
At 10:30 we had the humorous race briefing, and at 10:45 we headed outside and huddled with other runners at the start, which was prompt. I had decided that I would listen to music for a change, and had downloaded Hole’s ‘Live Through This’ to revisit my angry teenage years after I was reminded about the album’s existence after a friend had mentioned it was the 20th anniversary of its release a few days ago.
The race starts with a short, gentle uphill, before a longer, less gentle downhill. What a tease that section is! I was full of energy, blasting classic tunes, and flying downhill in the sunshine with a smile on my face. And then you get to 1k, and the ‘steady incline’ begins. This isn’t so bad I thought to myself, keeping steady and following a girl in a green top in front of me. OK, this is starting to feel quite horrendous I thought, after 5 minutes of slog. Yep, I’m having a heart attack I thought, as I resigned myself to a power walk.
Once my heart rate had come down again, I picked up to a jog, and refused to walk again (apart from the two water stops) for the rest of the race. Thankfully, I only had one more hill of any great importance to crest before a sign informed us all that we had conquered the worst of the uphill sections. This is where water stop one was located, and after a few sips, I was flying downhill again. This is also where the best vistas of the race were, and I threw caution to the substantial wind as I craned my neck to admire the scenery floating by, trusting my feet not to land in a pothole. I remember smiling here as well.
Before I knew it, we were taking a left turn back towards the distillery, and I noticed, as Elaine had warned, those neon specks cresting a hill in the distance. If I hadn’t been warned, I probably would have felt pretty defeated, but knowing the finish line was close, I pushed on, even managing a cheeky sprint finish.
I waited for Elaine to finish, and then we began the walk back, picking up some water and our medals on the way. Back at the hall, we collected our goody bags, and then took advantage of the free distillery tour.
I learned that whisky making is a fairly simple process (if you have all the expensive machinery) thanks to our knowledgable and amusing guide, Sandy. You need barley, yeast, and pure spring water, which is in abundance on the estate. I also learned that whickey is clear, just like vodka and gin, but that it gets it’s colour from the wooden barrels it is stored in, as well as remains of sherry or bourbon that the barrels were used for before. Oh, and apparently whisky loses .5% alcohol each year it matures. Obviously there was more that we were told during the tour, but it’s worth a visit if you get the chance. I mean, I don’t even like the stuff, but I still found it pretty interesting.
After the tour, you are invited to try a dram of either 12, 15, or 18 year old Glenlivet whisky. I had hoped that my newfound appreciation of how it is made would help me enjoy the tast of some of Scotland’s finest, but tasting it had the same effect any other whisky has had on me: it made my tongue and lips burn, and tasted far too similar to what I imagine paint stripper to taste like, tickling my gag reflex. I couldn’t finish my measure.
Elaine and I both stopped at the guest centre for a baked potato before we left, partly to get the taste of whisky out of my mouth, and then we drove home along the winding roads, admiring a bit more of the scenery.
I’m glad I finally got to tick this race of my list, and it is certainly a contender for one of the prettiest races I’ve taken part in. I also wasn’t expecting a medal, so that was a nice suprise. I woud like to give a couple of shorter races a go after the Fling to try and gauge how terrible my ‘speed’ has become, and maybe do something about it. But’s that’s on the other side of a very big obstacle…