When I entered the Forth Road Bridge 10K I was running well: I had successfully trained for and completed two spring marathons and had picked up new PB times at several other race distances. I was therefore looking forward to working on my pace and getting a great time at this rather unique event. Then, disaster struck!
It has been said that there are two types of runners: those who are injured, and those who are waiting to be injured. While I don’t necessarily believe that injury is an inevitability in running, it’s certainly true that the higher the mileage you run, the higher the chances are that you can pick up an injury. I’ve had my fair share of aches and niggles, experienced some (rather painful) sports massage and am no stranger to the unexpected “ouch” factor of the foam roller, but so far I’ve been fairly fortunate in that any time I’ve had to take a break from running, I’ve been able to use the cross trainer in the gym to keep my fitness up. That good fortune came to an abrupt end with my most recent injury.
Thanks to a bit of overzealous lacing of a new pair of running shoes, I injured a tendon in my left foot. Rest, ice, elevation and ibuprofen only went so far, so a trip to the physio was in order for a bit of friction therapy and ultrasound treatment. I was also banned from running, cross training, cycling, gym workouts…all I was allowed to do was swim (and swim I did – I thought I was going to develop fins!)
Luckily, after a couple of treatments (and some of that painful sports massage) the physio gave me the thumbs up to run again, but by this time I’d lost about 3 weeks of training and there was less than a week to go until race day. Never one to give up, I got back in the gym to pick up my core/strength training and, in an uncharacteristic demonstration of common sense, limited my cardio to the cross trainer and some very short running sessions to make sure I wouldn’t suffer any last-minute setbacks and could start the race with full confidence that my foot would be up to the job (even if my fitness wasn’t!)
And so, this morning saw a return to that familiar habit of waking up early, having breakfast and donning my running kit (making sure my trainers were not too tightly laced this time!). I was pleased to see the sun make a reappearance in the sky after what had seemed like an eternity of rain recently, however this also meant that this was likely to be yet another hot and sweaty race. Typical!
The Forth Road Bridge 10K is an exceedingly popular race organised by Pitreavie AAC. Now in its 9th year, the race fills up quickly, with a huge waiting list for one of its 400 places. Its popularity is no doubt down to the slightly unusual route (how often do most of us get a chance to race across one of Scotland’s iconic landmarks?) and, of course, every runner’s highlight – the post-race spread!
The race begins at North Queensferry Community Centre and after parking the car there was a bit of time to catch up with club mates and familiar faces from the race circuit before everyone began to gather at the start line. The Community Centre is actually at an elevation slightly above that of the bridge and for the first mile or so the route goes predominantly downhill, making it all too easy to set off too quickly and then pay for it when, inevitably, the route climbs uphill to join the main road and reach the bridge itself!
Although I’ve driven over the Forth Road Bridge more times than I could possibly count, I’ve never actually crossed it on foot and I’ll admit to a degree of trepidation about this part of the course. Naturally, I was looking forward to the spectacular views and was pleased that today was such a clear day, enabling me to see far down the Fife coastline in one direction and far out towards the sea in the other. My anxiety, however, stemmed not from the fact that the camber of the bridge means running at an incline for some distance, but the fact that it is a suspension bridge.
My fear of suspension bridges can be traced back to my Primary 1 class trip to Pitlochry (we knew how to party in the 80s!) where we had to walk across a reasonably short suspension bridge. Of course this meant all those pesky boys in the class ran gleefully across, taking great delight in bouncing up and down to terrify the girls. I’ve never quite gotten over this, so the thought of running across a much longer suspension bridge, a bridge on which I have found myself stationary in the car and filled with dread as I felt the bridge moving, yes moving, underneath me, did nothing to calm my nerves!
Fortunately it was not too windy today and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that because I was constantly moving, I did not really feel any movement from the bridge. It was still quite an odd sensation for the first few minutes but I soon knuckled down to the task in hand.
The bridge portion of the course begins from about the 3K marker and it’s a long steady incline up towards the middle of the bridge at around 5K. There is then a bit of relief running down to the end of the bridge where the route veers to the left at the old transport cafe and around the disused lorry park before following the road under the bridge and back up the other side to begin the return leg on the opposite side of the carriageway at around the 7K mark. There was a water station as we ran through the old lorry park and since I’ve never yet mastered the art of drinking from a cup of water on the move (throwing it straight into my face is more like it!) I slowed down to grab a cup and walked a few paces in order to take in some welcome fluids.
It was as I began that last 3K section to the finish at the bridgehead on the Fife side that I was struck by how odd the weather was today. As I ran south across the bridge I was very aware of how warm it was and couldn’t help noting that I was effectively running across a high platform in direct sunlight with the rays bouncing off the waters below – no wonder I was “glowing”! Rejoining the bridge to run north, the weather quickly changed and I enjoyed a few minutes of light, cooling rain before the clouds once more cleared towards the finish. Just another example of the good old Scottish summertime!
Given my recent injury problems and lack of training, my only target for today was to complete the race in under an hour and in one piece, so I was really pleased to find myself at the finish line in 57:42 where I was presented with my finishers’ medal, bottle of water and a caramel wafer.
As for the foot, it held out fine bar some slight throbbing afterwards. My biggest problem was the drop off in my fitness, but after the frustration of injury it was great just to be out running again. I now have 2 weeks to improve my fitness ahead of my “home race” the Perth 10K at the end of the month. Time to hit the roads again…!