Aside from Parkrun, I don’t usually do a lot of trail races, especially in January when I place all my focus on road running and marathon training. Usually for Paris. When the opportunity presented itself to run this one, I jumped at it.
As most of you know, I’m a regular at Perth Parkrun (hardly a surprise as I mention it in every post) and having finished 2nd in the points table for last year, I was one of those things that are usually afforded to other people – I was a prizewinner! With a number of prizes available, we were given the opportunity to state our preference and so I opted for this race, primarily as it was the only one I could actually do (the others either clashed with other races or when I’m on holiday) but also that I thought it would be fun to do….and I wasn’t wrong!
There are 4 races in the Strathearn Trail Series (all 5km) from December to March. I couldn’t manage the December one as it clashed with the Glasgow Santa Dash so I opted for this one. I was up early and was torn between going for an easy 4 miles first then go out but by the time I finished messing about trying to decide what to do, I ran out of time and just headed straight for the race. The thought did cross my mind to run out there and back but it’s about 8 miles each way and that’s a bit far at this stage of my training.
I headed out to Methven and to where Blue Sky Experiences are located as that’s where the races are held. I’d been there before on my stag do to do Quad Biking so I knew where to go. It was a bit icy when I got out the car and that was a sign of things to come in the race. It was a great set up, went in got the race number, chip and back out fairly efficiently. I knew many of the people there either from Parkrun or some I remember when I worked in a gym who were doing this race for the first time.
I managed a lap of one of the fields to make up for my lack of further miles I should have been doing and got back in time to put my hoodie in the car before the race was due to start. There was a junior race as well as a senior race and good to see quite a number of kids there taking part. We got a brief instruction about the route and the warning that the first stretch was pretty icy and then we were under way. The farm track we started on was very icy and so most of the runners either stuck to the centre of the path or the verges. Once we got into the woods, there were no more issues with ice and so we could get down to good quality running.
The first wooded area was interesting as we came off a main path and onto a smaller one through the trees and so it was largely single file all the way. This could be frustrating if you were desperate to pass people but it can be fine to just to follow the people in front and wait for the next chance to pass. Once we got out of the woods the path opened up a bit so myself and the guy ahead of me took up that opportunity to pass one person and then the next person ahead of us.
By this stage, we were approaching the second woods section and as Ben, the organiser, had told me when we chatted before the start that there would be a surprise, I thought it would be best not to speed up or do anything daft. Having said that, this was the first time of me doing this race so EVERYTHING was a surprise! We caught the girl ahead of us and then the hilly bit started. Not just a gradual incline but bits that were almost vertical to begin with but had us weaving in and out of the trees and of course, when there’s a very steep climb going into the woods, there was also a steep decline coming back out of them so I took advantage of that and was able to speed up and recover at the same time.
After we cane out here, we were guided round another field and as we were just hitting 2 miles, I still held back a wee bit to save some energy for the last push. When I say “held back”, I was still breathing heavily so if I was to speed up, I doubt whether I would’ve been able to hold that pace for long. This field was slightly undulating but nowhere as brutal as the last section. Once we got round that field, it was into the last field, a gradually increasing incline before heading over onto the grass and the last 100m to the finish. I should say here that for every field that we went into, the majority of them involved running through little streams so it was a case of finding the shortest stretch of water to run through.
On the tracks through the fields, there were two paths side by side to follow, presumably created by a tractor at some point and so you either follow the person directly in front or switch to the other one though there was no great advantage. In the field going uphill, I found a good bit of strength and so I drew level with the guy who had been in front of me for the majority of the race and went past him with about 150m to go. I didn’t know how good a finish he had so I stepped up a gear as we got to the top of the hill then stepped it up again going downhill and felt a surge that I haven’t had for a while.
I crossed the line, got a chocolate bar and headed indoors where they had hot drinks and some home baking (always one of the best things about smaller races!) The results were scrolling on the screen instantly as people crossed the line and so I managed to see that my official time was 22:25 which I was really pleased with given the conditions and type of course. I spoke to a few of the other runners before heading home.
All in all, this was a really good race. When entering, you can get a deal to do all 4 races or just an individual one. If you’re not marathon running in April, after a bit of fun and stay near Perth then this is definitely worth doing. The fact of having 4 races allows you to be able to work hard in training in between each race so you can improve your time. The event was well organised, the marshals were great and very supportive and the team at registration and after the race were very helpful.
This is one race I will be back to!