With an air of trepidation I toed the line of the Aviemore Half situated high up in the Cairngorms. The air was cool and the weather bright for my first run only race for almost 2 years. It felt good to be out there with the least amount of gear for a race I’ve had in a while. I half wanted to take a bike up there just to feel comfortable, but there was no need. We’d been bussed up to the start line at Badagulish where both 10k and Half runners were milling around, drinking tea, coffee and eating porridge. The atmosphere was fun and friendly.
I was slightly nervous as I had no idea how I’d perform, the last time I had tested myself over the distance was at the Aberfeldy Half Ironman where I did a 1:45 run split. This race was to be downhill for quite a bit of the way, my training since Aberfeldy had been off and on with my passed 4 long runs being 10, 12, 14 and 16.5kms. This wasn’t the 10% rule but I was feeling good and my injuries were being kept at bay.
I started chatting to a guy from Fife and I asked him what his pace prediction was, 1:32-1:35. I had myself assumed 1:39 would be more about the pace I’d see.
I stood just in front of this sign and hoped for the best and thought if I could keep up with this guy then that would be good.
I started running and was chatting quite a bit to the 1:32 guy, the scenery was absolutely fantastic, the Cairngorms were to my left, rising out of the forest at the end of the moor we were running through. Entering the forest the air cooled, and the sweat on my forehead was cooling which made it feel like it was raining, though it was far from raining. The sun was out, poking through the clouds lighting up the steam coming off the runners ahead.
It was mile 2 before I knew it, the legs were feeling strong and was effortless, my watch was showing 4:30 average pace and I was happy with that. Still chatting to the guy, I lost all sense of running and was gliding through the race, doubts lingered in the back of my mind about going off too quickly, only to be talked down by the fact it was downhill and it would be OK!
The only bit of incline was 3miles in, a tough sharp uphill and I dropped the guy from fife. Ultimately feeling like he’d glide passed me later as i paid for my strong hill legs I never actually saw him until the end. The road took a bit of a downward turn, with a fairly rapid but enough to be able to run still and I was flying, my watch beeped, 3:52! Shit, that’s fast I thought. I also thought maybe the beer last night helped!
The race route dropped now and I was slowly picking people off one by one. We rounded Loch Morlich, opening up to a beautiful vista north toward Cairngorm. It was half way and I was doing fine.
The path narrowed and it got difficult to overtake, I politely squeezed through one by one, still feeling strong, still feeling like I could have gone on at that pace for a long time yet and all the while knowing it was downhill from now on.
Joining the road and there was at last some cheering from some supporters. We ran along the far left hand metre of the road, coned off for our benefit, though I wanted to get on and pass some folk which meant careering further out onto the road, which was quiet so no troubles there.
4 miles to go and I dared to look at the watch, 1:02. Quick calculations and I thought I could get near my 2012 Edinburgh Half Personal Best of 1:26:58.
I picked up the pace and still managing to take some people, and i’ve little recollection of people taking me, I powered on without too much effort. This was a good feeling, the road still losing height and still the pace was strong.
2 miles to go and something started to hurt, I knew this stretch of road as we’d walked it the night before, and I knew what I was looking out for, the road levels and the traffic built, we were ushered onto the pavement which I think mentally slowed me down. I was hurting and not going to make near the PB.
After going around the houses I finally made Aviemore and was pushing hard, the cross of the road was done perfectly so i didn’t have to wait for traffic, and down, entering the grassy park I put on a sprint finish, feeling like I could go and vomit at any time.
Crossing the line I was immensely happy with 1:29:51. This was a true test of ability and it seems that I’m more than able to run. It makes me wonder what is achievable with more focused training?! (And no beer the night before)
A runner who’d finished about the same time came and shook my hand and said that he’d used me as a pacer and he achieved his PB. Looking at him, he was more of a runner than me! This brightened up my day!