The World Record for the most people running in a kilt is currently held by Perth, Ontario and yesterday, as part of our jubilee celebrations, the newly minted city of Perth took on the challenge set by our Canadian counterparts to try and break that record. For what seems like years (but is really only months) Steve has been involved in the organisation of the event alongside the local Council and other interested parties such as partner charities and sponsors. Yesterday, all those plans came together to result in a quite spectacular event.
Now, regular readers of my blog will be aware that I have had an ongoing injury problem for the last couple of months, meaning I have been unable to run, and because of that injury I knew I would be unable to run the entire 8K (5 mile) route. Because of this, I was fairly certain I would be unable to participate, but at the same time felt as if I was somewhat missing out since this would be one of those events that seemingly EVERYBODY would be involved in. Following a visit to the physio on Friday evening, where it was confirmed that while running would still not cause me any damage, it would just be rather uncomfortable, I was toying with the idea of signing up. To achieve the record, participants only had to run the first 100 metres, after which they could run, jog or walk the rest. I knew I could manage this, but how would I cope with stopping to walk over what I would normally consider a short distance? A solution presented itself when Steve said he needed someone to act as “sweep”, that is, to be the back marker and walk/jog behind the last participant so that the marshalls would know when they could stand down and those managing the road closures would know when they could reopen to traffic. I readily agreed as this job meant that I could participate, but would have legitimate reason to be walking the bulk of the course. I paid my entry fee, dug out my kilt and got ready for the dubious honour of being last in a race!
Registration on Saturday morning was at Perth Concert Hall and even at around 10am (the race wasn’t until 2pm) there was a buzz in the air as people collected their race numbers, timing chips and kilts. Over 1000 people had signed up to take part and I was glad I wasn’t helping out with the registration as this meant I was able to make my escape and go home for a while – the advantage of a local race!
After removing Morven, the “novelty sporran” from my kit, I got myself dressed and ready to head around to the North Inch. This was the venue for all of Perth’s jubilee celebrations which included a parade of 1000+ pipers, a big picnic, entertainment and, of course, the race. There were already lots of people sporting something similar to this which has now joined my list of “daft running outfits” alongside the reindeer antlers and the Santa suit…!
The event attracted a number of very interesting participants. We had representatives from Canada (including the organisers of the Canadian race and the mayor of Perth), a party from one of our twin towns, Aschaffenburg (including their mayor) and local adventurer Mark Beaumont who is best known for cycling the globe. There were also runners from around the world including Australia, the USA and Holland as well as those from around the UK. The first three finishers, in fact, were from Bedford and were on a stag do!
At 2pm, 1074 excited kilted participants (including a particularly famous bird involved in the production of a well-known local whisky!) crossed the start line to the cheers and support of what seemed like almost everyone in Perth! The route looped once around the North Inch, along Tay Street by the river (where there was a huge amount of support), around the Lesser South Inch (Perth, of course, famously “built on two inches”) then back along Tay Street for another lap of the North Inch before finishing. Since I was walking behind some groups who were walking all but the first 100m, I was actually still completing that first lap of the North Inch when the lead runner passed me, to the delight of the cheering crowds lining the path.
For me,the event was an interesting one. It was very odd not to be running and I certainly could have run much more than I did. It was nice, however, to receive the waves and shouts of encouragement from friends and fellow runners who were passing me at points where the route doubled back on itself. It was also nice to meet people I would never have met if I had been running: an older gentleman who had travelled from Aberfeldy and told me he and his wife had celebrated their golden wedding the weekend before; the mayor of Aschaffenburg who shook my hand at the end and thanked me for keeping him right; a lovely 60 year old woman for whom completing the distance on foot was a massive achievement and all the assorted marshalls and support crew who uncomplainingly stayed at their posts until I had passed by, allowing them to stand down. We as runners don’t always fully appreciate the contribution these people make to the smooth running of a race unless we have taken on that role ourselves, and it certainly gave me a new-found respect for those prepared to take on the challenge of completing such an event knowing that they would not finish until long after the majority of runners would be home and enjoying a cup of tea! I certainly didn’t appreciate how tiring it would be. I think I was more tired last night from walking the route than I would have been if I had run it!
I didn’t really keep an eye on the time, so I’m not sure how long it took me, but I am glad I was able to be a part of such a historic event and have the obligatory race T-shirt to commemorate the day.
Sadly, we were just 16 participants short of breaking the record, but as a race the event was a resounding success. Everyone enjoyed themselves and it got so many people involved who probably wouldn’t normally run. Upon hearing that we didn’t quite break the record, responses were unfailingly, “never mind, there’s always next year!” and in less than 24 hours a good number of people have already registered their interest for another attempt next year.
Perth, Canada had better look out: Perth, Scotland will be back and we have our eyes fixed on that world record!