Medal: No, but as it was the race’s 30th anniversary, they splashed out on a commemorative tech tee for all finishers.
The back of the t-shirt
I’ll freely admit that one of the reasons I signed up to this race is because they were offering a tech tee to all finishers for the anniversary, even though it was clear that this would not benefit my medal haul in any way. But there was a much more significant reason I decided to take part. And it’s all down to a fridge magnet.
About 2 years ago, Ian, myself, and our friend Liell decided to visit Loch Leven castle, which happens to be on an island in the middle of, you guessed it, Loch Leven. To get to the castle you need to catch a boat from the visitor’s centre, where we paid for our ticket and got in line behind a young family.
During our wait, a guy came up and started speaking to the young family. It was one of those ‘Wow, small world, how are you doing?’ conversations. He was soon joined by a couple of children pulling at his leg/drooling/making annoying noises. Then came the wife/mother. A flawless line cut. I was onto their game, and made towards them to articulate my unhappiness about the whole situation, but Ian told me it didn’t matter, because there would be enough room on the boat for everyone. You can see where this is going, I would imagine.
There was not enough room on the boat.
As the two families sailed towards the island, I held my tongue like a responsible and mature adult, and once they were out of earshot, took out my rage on Ian, who was clearly irritated about the situation as well, but tends to be one of those people who silently simmers, whereas I will explode, act like a dick, and feel equal parts embarrassment and satisfaction after an angry episode.
Eventually, we got a boat to the island, and enjoyed the (beautiful, and totally worth going to visit) castle. When we were ready to head back, we saw the same family boarding (and filling) the boat that was about to leave, and had to wait, again, because of the size of their group. By the time we finally got back to the gift shop, it had closed. This pissed me off because:
- I wanted to buy ice-cream, and I had been denied this option
- Every time I visit a castle, I buy a souvenir fridge magnet from the gift shop, and now my collection would be incomplete.
Number 2 was obviously more emotionally damaging than I first thought it would be, since over 2 years later I felt it was necessary to enter a half marathon on the basis that I could finally complete my fridge magnet collection. I swear to god, I do have social skills, and I have real friends. I even have two who had agreed to accompany (and drive) me to Loch Leven:
[The above photo took, like, ten tries to make sure all of our heads were in shot. We absolutely looked like assholes in the parking lot.]
Once we had registered, I quickly realized that I was under dressed for the weather, especially next to my two cosy companions with their base layers, and their running jackets, and their hats, and long sleeves. I guess the freakish sunny/warm weather the weekend before had lulled me into a false sense of security, but who can blame a girl for wanting to get rid of her t-shirt tan?
Teri (happy and warm) and myself (the opposite of that)
I was ordered to ‘smile!’
Anyway, the race sold out this year (600), so we huddled next to the other runners as we listened to the bagpipes before the start. We had decided to run as a group, and set off at a very casual pace, especially as it took about half a mile for the crowds to thin out a bit and find a natural rythm.
Mile 1 – 9:11
Could this be the first half that I finish in under two hours this year? That first mile felt fairly conservative, and Ronnie and Teri seemed comfortable as well, so we pushed on happily. Of course, we were pushing on more than we had realized:
Mile 2 – 8:33
Mile 3 – 8:33
Mile 4 – 8:32
Mile 5 – 8:30
Mile 6 – 8:20
Now, my PB is 1:53:28, which is an average pace of 8:37. I’m still not completely over Paris since I didn’t really give myself a break afterwards, and I hadn’t really rested properly, or been training specifically for a half marathon, so I already knew I was being dumb, and that logic would be right when it told me, “Rachel, you will not be able to maintain this pace. Slow the fuck down.” Logic is a bummer sometimes, and I opted for a more carefree approach to my new ‘Destroy my PB’ strategy that appeared out of nowhere, around mile 4.
Ronnie was starting to do his steam engine breathing, but I pleaded with him to keep going at this pace for as long as he could. Teri was not offering much in the way of conversation either, so I knew we were all kind of pushing way harder than we had intended to.
Me (luminous orange) and Ronnie (black) at around the 6 mile mark. Photo: Nichola Ritchie
Ronnie knew I was keeping track of time, and told me to go ahead. It is around this point that we had started heading back around the other side of the Loch. Into some pretty strong headwind. Oh, and up a hill, heralding the start of the course’s ‘undulations’.
Mile 7 – 8:40
This is when things got crappy. I hadn’t really looked at the elevation profile for the course, and despite a veteran Loch Leven half marathoner warning us in the morning that the first half is relatively flat, and the second half was a mean kick in the teeth, I had chosen to believe that he was completely wrong. It turns out he wasn’t, much to my chagrin.
Mile 8 – 9:33
Mile 9 – 9:45
Well terrific. My excitement at running a killer time was killed just as quickly as it appeared. Today was not going to be a PB day. But I could still make it to the finish in less than two hours, right? This became my new goal. In a race that I started with no goals.
Miles 10 – 13.1 – ???
I stopped looking at my watch close to mile 10 when I got a stitch. I tried to run through it. I tried to slow down and keep running. And then I was forced to walk for a couple of minutes until it went away. When I started running again, it felt laboured, and somewhere around mile 12, Teri caught up with me. The two of us ‘encouraged’ each other and we were blasted by gusts of wind from every direction except from behind, and we stuck together until the end, coming in, much to our amazement at that point, in under 2 hours. For a relatively modest time, we were elated. But our bodies were trashed.
Ronnie came in about 4 minutes later and was pretty happy with his time as well. It was his most consistent run since he picked up his injury last year, so hopefully this means he’s back on track to start kicking my ass. Unfortunately, it also means my running buddy will be too fast for me, so I’ll have to actually start racing properly again. After today’s performance, that seems like it’s going to hurt a bit.
After the race, we all found a couple of other people we knew who were there for a chat and some orange juice, and then we headed back to the car.
But we weren’t done just yet. Our final stop for the day was the Loch Leven Castle visitor’s centre, where in exchange for a couple of pounds, I finally got my fridge magnet.