When a gust of wind took a plastic bag along the beach that evening I chased it for only a very short stretch, before giving in and watching it blow off. My legs, at this point, had done their days’ chore, carrying me through my first ever half-Marathon.
When I enroled into the competition earlier this year, the goal was to finish the 21km, no matter how. It was after I got in touch with an old acquaintance, who is a very keen runner and had asked him to set me up with a training plan that my ambition grew, I thought under two hours must be doable.
I’ve always enjoyed being out and about, but had done nothing that qualifies as “sport” since I left school, years before the turn of the millennium. The twelve weeks leading up to the 4th of July, the day of the race, were at times hard going, mainly due to getting up at 6am four times a week to do ten to eighteen kilometers up and down the Cromarty hills. Had I entered the competition with less or no training, I doubt that I’d have made it past the finish line.
I started training with a few 12k outings at a pace of around 6min/km. I owe huge thanks to my coach for constantly adapting the challenge, pushing and supporting me, providing structure and feedback where otherwise there would have been exhausted resignation early on.
As training progressed I was delighted to notice my form improve, persuading me to set the goal to finishing in under 1:45. I felt that stitches, sore muscles and stiff joints are a bother, but I can just run them off. I learned how amazing a banana can taste after an exhausting run. And I understood that whereas the body has physical limitations, it’s down to a strong mind to keep things going, when the going gets tough.
The latest attempt to get to Harris as a family had been messed up by a broken down car. This time, needless to say, we made it onto the ferry and all the way to Granny’s house no problem whatsoever.
All the hours of training could not prepare me to find out that my running shorts had been left on the mainland on the day of the big run. This emergency nearly had me attack a good pair of trousers with pair of scissors and I would have followed through with it, was it not for the fantastic Pakistani-owned bric a brac shop in Tarbert that sells, well pretty much anything.
Two hours before the start of the race I walked out of said shop with the closest thing to running shorts I could find, a pair of swimming trunks (which turned out a perfect choice, as it rained quite a lot soon thereafter).
Minutes later participants gathered in the village hall to register and collect four safety pins and a number each. My heart sunk a bit, seeing literally everybody rub athletes ointments on muscles and joints and sucking energy-gel sachets, while I stood there with my banana. I had not been in any sort of competition (nothing that would qualify as sports at least) since school days, nervosity crept up causing brief thoughts of doubt, nibbling at my confidence.
A few minutes later some 150 energized and pumped up runners stepped out of the bus and into the rain, trotting back and forth, getting the ‘Now is the time!’ message right down to each toe. The start in Borve had been scheduled for 1pm but was slightly postponed. Then, a good ten minutes past the hour, Adrenalin was finally allowed to rush as everybody set off.
I had studied the elevation map before, so I was remotely prepared for the hills along the way. The headwind came as a nasty surprise, turning my hood into a break-balloon, a factor I grimly blame for adding a minute to my time. Training and lots of good advice taught me to push merciless if need be, without overdoing it.
Finding this ‘zone’ and staying in it had been a concern, as I’ve always trained alone and can get pretty competitive. I managed to tie in with a group of five for the first 10k, was overtaken twice and later managed to regain one position. I came in at 1:31:56, considering the day’s conditions and the route I am very chuffed with that.
The official race results list me in postion 14, way better than I expected. However, I consider myself to hold position 13, not only because a) I like that number but, more importantly, because b) I’m convinced the guy who came in 10min before everybody else at 72min is from another planet. His waistline was the height of my shoulders. Approximately.
Respect to that achievement, satisfaction with my own performance and again heartfelt thanks to a brilliant coach and to Fi for continued support and putting up with me, helping me get where I needed to be.