The Aviemore Half Marathon and 10k is an annual event for Allison and I as it’s been 5 years since we went up for the first time and have been back every year since. It holds a lot of memories for us as that’s where we got engaged back in 2009 when Allison ran her very first Half Marathon. She was very nervous about it the night before the race so I decided to help her take her mind off it by proposing! It certainly worked although a couple of stiff drinks would’ve done the same job. And a lot cheaper (joke!).
We’ve gone up every year since to run the Half Marathon and I’ve also taught the warm-up for the event. We’ve always looked forward to going up the night before and staying in either of the hotels in the MacDonald Resort or in the wigwams at the Badaguish Outdoor Centre where the start of the race is and for what the race is set up to raise funds for. This year is different though as Allison is currently in France on a school trip, I decided just to drive up on the day (far too early a start to drive up in the dark on a Sunday!) and also that I decided to run the 10k instead.
I had always planned to run the 10k this time as it was two weeks since I ran the Loch Ness Marathon, wasn’t sure how my legs would be but I viewed this race as a reward after all that I’ve done this year. I already smashed my Half Marathon PB at the Scottish Half Marathon in early September and so I the 10k had a higher value to me – an opportunity to run my fastest 10k for the year. The great thing about this race is that it’s predominantly downhill and so there was a potential for a PB but it doesn’t matter how fast the course is, you still have to put the performance in to get the time you want. A PB was definitely possible but I would’ve been happy with a 40min time as I’ve been over 41mins so far this year.
I was probably the most relaxed I’ve ever been on the start line of a race as there was nothing really at stake and so I could just go out and enjoy it, which is what I had in mind anyway. We had a nice warm sun greeting us as we set off on the forest track for the first mile or so before we got to the road. I passed through that first mile in 6:23 and when I hit 6:09 for the second mile, I knew I was on for a PB. I felt very comfortable and despite not running since Loch Ness, I carried on with the same form I had for most of that race. My focus was simply to feel in control, tilt my shoulders forward when running downhill and to stand tall, lift my knees and use my arms when on the flat and it worked a treat. This is by far a more economical way to run, saves a lot of energy yet I found myself sailing past other runners.
When you focus on your own performance, the miles fly by and you barely notice anyone else around you. It’s common in a race to use the person in front to pace you and glance over your shoulder occasionally to see who’s behind you and how far away they are. You can waste too much energy doing this after all, you can only control your own performance and there’s no guarantee that you will be able to keep up with the person in front of you and there’s no guarantee that you have the energy to stop the person behind you overtaking. I used to do this and I can’t think of any time where it benefitted me. When you focus on your own performance, you become less aware of those around you and you can make the people behind you work that little bit harder if they want to pass you.
Before I knew it, we were at mile 4 and just 2 miles to go. I don’t know what happened to mile 3! I had become aware of catching the group in front of me and speeding up in short sections to go past them and doing this a few more times as we passed mile 5 then came off the main road to join a path that would take us closer to the finish. I normally glance at my watch at every mile to see where I’m at but after the first 2 miles, I hadn’t done this at all. We crossed a footbridge, passed some lodges and then it was a sharp incline to mile 6 and the last couple of hundred yards to the finish. We were already into Aviemore and then we crossed the road and onto the grass for the race to the finish line in front of the Four Seasons hotel. I gave it one last push but fatigue had kicked in by this point and so I managed my now trademark pose as I crossed the line and that was it.
I was delighted to see my Garmin say that my time was 38mins 22secs, around a minute and a half faster than my previous 10k PB which has stood for 10 years. I felt an enormous sense of mental, as well as physical, relief that my races for the year are all over and that I can relax now. This year has been an absolutely amazing journey and I’m immensely proud of what I have achieved both in performances and fundraising. I am also delighted to finish the year on a high and with the knowledge that I can potentially run even faster next year but my immediate goal is to rest and repair my body and in a month’s time, start to prepare myself for the Paris Marathon in April.
It’s always worth to take time to reflect on what you have achieved as much as look ahead to the next run or race and always allow yourself some time out to rest. That’s where the results come from.