It’s always good to have a race where you don’t have to travel that far to get to and for me, the Loch Leven Half Marathon ticks that box. Organised by Kinross Road Runners, it sits perfectly if you need a race to prepare you for the Edinburgh Marathon two weeks later or even the week before the new Stirling Marathon.
Allison won her place through Perth Parkrun and so rather than hold her jacket, I decided to run as well. I’m due to run the Stirling Marathon and so this would fit in with my last long run. It’s a race I’ve run twice before, once in 2009 when I went on to finish 2nd in the Perth Roadrunners Championship and again in 2014 when I raced it to check I could still keep going ahead of doing the Half and Marathon in Edinburgh.
The race started at 11am and was a bit cool to start with, great running weather really. Registration was at the wonderful Loch Leven Community Campus and the start was a mile or two away and so made for a nice wee jog/walk to warm up. I was looking forward to this race being my first one in a Perth Roadrunners vest for a few years, having rejoined the club a couple of months ago. From the start, we made our way out of town and wanted to get into the comfortable pace that worked so well at Inverness in March. The first 2 miles were sub 7 mins and the next 2 were just over 7 and felt good so thought that if I could keep going at roughly 7 min/miles then I would be delighted to get close to 1hr 30mins. It was possibly around that point that my body remembered that it’s not run as well as Inverness since then and so I slowed down. This wasn’t bad and to be honest, I didn’t actually have a plan going into the race so I was quite happy to see what would happen.
On a bright clear day, you get some cracking views over the loch but sadly this wasn’t one of them but still the fog brought an eerie view of Loch Leven Castle on a small island in the loch. The first half of the race is predominantly flat with the only incline of note coming in mile 5 when you’re about to go along the far end of the loch but then there’s a good descent to follow. I was going along nicely until the hamstring/pelvis problem I picked up in March reappeared at around mile 6 and so when I got to the water station, I stopped and did a couple of stretches to hopefully ease it off.
It’s important to go easy in the first half of this race as the second half is fairly hilly, particularly from mile 8 at the village of Scotlandwell and this is where the race really starts. It starts with a steepish climb before becoming a steady climb for around 2 miles. Each time you get to the top of a hill, you think you’ve made it but then you climb again. My hamstring wasn’t enjoying the hills too much so had to stop a few times to stretch. When I started running again, I was pleased to see that those who had been ahead of me each time I stopped weren’t too far ahead of me.
We had a bonus of a Haribo station around mile 10 in the shape of a young boy standing with a tub of Haribo at the last drinks station. As the water was in plastic cups, I made the point of stopping to take a drink rather than waterboard myself as what usually happens when I try to run and drink from these cups! I grabbed a couple of sweets and they seemed to give me the perfect boost as I started to speed up.
The last few miles of this race has a completely different challenge – dodging the midges! They don’t seem to bite, they just fly into your face and the last mile or two can be spent trying to pick them out of your eyes! The roads aren’t closed for this race and this area is fairly quiet so you’re likely to spot less than a dozen cars the whole way round. In most races in rural areas where roads are used, there’s always going to be at least one disgruntled driver and I came up against one here. Between miles 10 and 11, there’s a road that goes off to the left and the runners pass the bottom of the road. The drivers were very polite and awaited a space to appear and turned onto this road and there were a few marshals around as well to ensure everyone’s safety. When I was about 100m from the junction, one driver passed me then pulled in as he waited to turn but as he pulled in, he got close enough to the side of the road that meant I had to stop as there wasn’t enough space to keep running or jump onto the verge. I suspect it wasn’t intentional but with no cars coming the other way and another couple of cars ahead of him who had left space for runners, I couldn’t see why he couldn’t have lined up behind he other cars or there being a legitimate reason for him blocking the path.
I wasn’t held up too long and as we came round the bend, we came off the road and onto trail for the last mile. I began to feel really strong here, spotted a few people who had passed me earlier and I started passing them. It always feels good when you’re able to pass people in the last couple of miles of a race! We made our way along the path before joining onto the road among some houses, up to the top of the road, onto the pavement beside the main road before joining the path that would take us closer to the Campus and the finish line. I wasn’t entirely sure where the finish line was but the crowds of people got bigger and noisier and so it was safe to assume we were pretty close. I usually look to spot a gantry but there wasn’t one and I could spot a couple of flags and the timing clock and so I went for it. There was one girl ahead of me so I gave it all I could and passed her just before the line.
I did it! I got my medal, bottle of water, caramel wafer and banana then headed along to the timing van where you could type in your number and get a print out of your official time. I had clocked 1:37:41 on my Garmin but as I’d forgotten to switch off auto-pause, I knew that time wouldn’t be accurate and so I was really pleased with 1:38:41, I thought it might’ve been closer to 1:40. I hung around for a bit chatting to fellow club members and the wonderful Ginnie who had given us a great cheer at various parts of the course as her boyfriend, Brian, was running. i was torn between hanging around to wait for Allison or nip back to the car to get some warm clothing on and so I chose the latter, hoping to get to the car and back for her crossing the line but inevitably got the “where are you” text as soon as I got back to the car!
Things I learned from this race: It’s not clever to go to a Take That concert in Glasgow the night before the race, get to bed late and expect to run well the next day. Have an idea how I’m going to run/pace the race and stick to it. If I’m going to wear a brand new running vest, at least make sure to wear it in a training run or remember to pack plasters to cover my nipples. Let’s just say that I was a bit sore and capable of picking up the shipping forecast by the end of the race!
All in all, this was a great race that was well organised and well supported by Kinross Road Runners and I would recommend this to anyone. If you’re going to run, wither wear a visor or sunglasses to try to keep the midges out of your eyes!