Insane, ambitious, crazy, challenge-lover are some ways to describe entering this or, as my mum said when I told her when I was in for the London Marathon nearly 20 years ago, “you’re off yer heid!” I wonder what she would’ve said about this?
Late last year, Allison drew my attention to an article about Run Balmoral celebrating their 20th anniversary by offering a package to do all 4 of their adult events in 2017. The events are 5k, 10, Duathlon and 15 mile Trail Race and I barely read it before signing up. I thought that it looked ‘fun’ and it brought back wonderful memories of Edinburgh in 2014. I had run the 10k race that year, enjoyed it and so it made perfect sense to sign up. I had also signed up for the Edinburgh Ironman 70.3 so thought it would be perfect training for that event. I didn’t really pay too much attention to the fact that it was to be just 2 weeks after Paris and I would normally be looking to run 10k or something to get back running again.
We were given specially designed t-shirts and asked to wear one on each day and as the day arrived, I packed my stuff and headed up to Balmoral. The Saturday is a really busy day with lots of other events going on for kids with some races and other activities so it’s a real family day out. The 5k wasn’t starting until 12.30pm so I didn’t have to get up too early for the 90 minute drive north.
I got myself ready and then lined up on the start line along with everyone else. There were over 100 sign-ups for the Devil and so it was easy to spot my fellow crazies. When you’re doing multiple events, it’s difficult to know how to pace each one unless you’ve specifically run back to back in training. I didn’t. I thought the 5k should be steady so I could keep something in reserve for the 10k. That worked until the gun went off and my legs decided to go for it! We followed a slightly out and back course, heading out just over a mile, going round some cones before heading back then going off on another path that went parallel to the first one, beyond where the finish line was before looping back round in front of the castle and to the finish. A nice run done in 19:35. I was pleased with that as I haven’t run that distance specifically in quite a few weeks apart from the Paris Breakfast Run, which was more of a jog. A few other runners I spoke to had the same pacing issue I had and so the 10k would be interesting!
The challenge with doing multiple events isn’t really what happens during the actual races but how you recover between them. I sat in the sun, sipping on some energy drinks then started jogging and doing some mobility exercises to warm up for the 10k. This race started out following the same path as the 5k but instead of doubling back, continued onto track and began “the hill” that this race is well-known for. The hill is a 300ft elevation stretched out over 1.2km and a good test. Once you conquer the hill, you’ve got the best part of a mile on the flat before you come back downhill then another mile to the finish. The teasing bit is at mile 5 as you’re running parallel to the finish on a path slightly higher up, you can see people crossing the line and stopping but you’ve still got a mile to go!
The great thing about this race, along with the 5k, is that there are lots of people lining the course along that last mile giving you a great cheer and lots of kids with their hands out looking for a high-five as you go past. Sometimes you just want to concentrate on getting to the finish but on days like today, nothing beats the fun of high-fiving every child’s hand on the way past. The distraction can be a good thing!
I made it round the last bend and managed my customary sprint finish, passing a couple of people who had passed me before we got to the last straight. These races felt harder than when I did both distances in Edinburgh in 2014 as that day the 10k was first so the 5k was somewhat easier afterwards. Job done! The running part was anyway. My hopes of a quick escape and get home early were dashed as I was walking back to the car, came to a fork in the road and couldn’t remember which one I had come in on and couldn’t see anything around that felt somewhat familiar so just guessed and went for it. It became clear that the car park I was approaching (there were 5 in total) wasn’t the right one. I asked one of the stewards for help as I didn’t know which number car park I was in! He pointed to one that seemed to be in the distance and then gave me some directions on taking a short cut to get there.
Following instructions isn’t usually a major problem for me unless I’ve run quite far before hand! The shortcut took me to a road but I didn’t know whether to go left or right so I went for right as that’s where everyone else was heading. I kept walking but still couldn’t recognise anything that resembled the car park or the path that I had followed to get to the start. I eventually found myself on the road that I came in to the estate on and remembered the route from there and quickly found the car park and my car. As I was driving out, I saw the end of the shortcut I had taken, it was only 100m from the car park but I had walked off in the opposite direction! Gutted!
The walk back to find the car felt like harder work than both races! The journey home was fun also. A 90 minute journey broken up by an enforced stop at Glenshee Ski Station cafe for a double espresso to keep me awake for the remainder of the drive home. There were plenty of tourists in and it was slightly amusing that the young guy behind the counter took that British tradition of communicating with foreign tourists by speaking slowly in a very loud voice!
Home, rest up and get ready for Day 2!