If you were raised in the 70s or 80s then, like me, you no doubt remember Record Breakers, a programme which somehow managed to be both intellectual (how did Norris McWhirter remember all those records?) and engagingly bonkers (Roy Castle tap dancing outside TV Centre with a troupe of hundreds in order to set a world record) at the same time. From the most athletic to the most absurd, the common factor in record-setting (as Castle’s enthusiastic end titles reminded us each week) was dedication:
That’s what you need.
If you wanna be the best,
and you wanna beat the rest.
Dedication’s what you need.
The programme may no longer be with us but dedication, in many forms, always will be. In running there are plenty of examples of dedication: getting up early while it’s dark and there’s snow on the ground to fit in a marathon training run, committing to a huge challenge to raise funds for charity or giving something back by standing on a freezing course in all weathers to marshall a race and support others. Yes, dedication is what you need.
In June of last year, in a display the late Roy Castle would have been proud of, the Fair City of Perth showed its dedication by attempting to beat the world record for the largest kilt race (a record currently held by our namesake and twin town in Ontario, Canada). Frustratingly, we were just 16 runners short of breaking their record of 1089 runners set in 2010 (although the Canadians are awaiting verification of their 2012 attempt which I believe exceeded 1700 runners) so of course we had to have another go!
A few changes were made this year, starting with a move of date to August to tie in with the weekend of the Perth Highland Games. There was also an adjustment to the length and route of the course so last year’s 8K taking in both Inches and Tay Street was reduced to a 5K around the North Inch area, making it much easier to manage and removing the need for road closures.
Steve was once more involved in the organisation of the event, this year mainly the registration of runners, so despite my best efforts to avoid the task I found myself sitting on Friday night stuffing safety pins into race packs and labelling envelopes for the pre-registered runners. The “upside” to this was that I was able to get my pack the night before rather than having to go to race registration at Bell’s Sports Centre on Saturday morning and could simply arrive in time for the pre-race running club photo at 12:30.
Arriving at the North Inch, the atmosphere was buzzing. Runners ageing from 5 to 70+ were milling around in kilts, having their photo taken with the event mascot and checking out some of the other family fun day activities on offer. I soon found my clubmates and we chatted for a bit before taking some photos. After that, it was time to locate the elusive Steve so I could put my fleece in his bag (the weather was nice but I knew I would feel a lot cooler later on). One last trip to the toilet and it was time to line up at the start.
An attempt was made to get people to line up in the right place depending on their estimated finishing time, but this being a fun run there was a mix of both seasoned runners and those just there for a good time and to help set a record so it was always going to be difficult to sort everyone out accurately. I didn’t see any point in worrying about this – I was pretty much guaranteed to get stuck behind slower runners in the crowd plus I had the additional consideration of my kilt so I had decided not to set out to achieve any particular time. I got as close to the front as I could and was joined by one or two other runners I know so was able to have a chat while we waited to get started.
At 1pm we were counted down and runners were released in waves. I reached the start line fairly quickly, started my Garmin (there was chip timing so I knew I would get an accurate time later) and set off to try and find some running room.
The first mile seemed a bit erratic. It felt like I was dancing about trying to find some room so I could settle into my pace and I no doubt ran some of it far too fast as I spotted gaps in the crowd I wanted to slip through. The first mile, which I completed in 8:08, looped around the North Inch and as the 2nd mile began I was back on the familiar riverside paths by the golf course. These paths are quite narrow so I got a bit boxed in. I also found myself getting quite warm from the kilt and as we looped around at the top end of the course close to the George Duncan track, I was delighted to see the water station. I decided to approach this the same way I did in Florida by slowing right down to walk, get a drink and pour some water down my back before running on. I may have lost a bit of time, but I had already been slowed and knew I would probably be able to find a bit more room to speed up again once back on the Inch. Mile 2 in 8:28.
The 3rd mile took us back towards the North Inch to complete our lap and finish back on the grass where we started. As predicted, the wider paths on this side offered a little more running room, however the finish gantry seemed really far away. I was running faster again so concentrated on keeping my pace steady and looking at the crowds who had come down to watch. It was good to see some familiar faces shouting encouragement and hear my name being shouted. Mile 3 in 8:07
Finally, the finish gantry was ahead of me and I was veering off onto the grass towards the finish. There were still many runners around me and I was aware of a group of guys thundering up behind me. I sprinted over the line and stopped my watch.
In the finish area I returned my chip, collected my medal and goody bag (water, caramel wafer, iron broo flavoured tablet, charity wristband and some leaflets/vouchers) then joined some of my clubmates who had just finished as well for another picture. Steve was pretty busy but he was able to quickly take my medal photo before continuing his finish line duties.
Behind me, you can see one of my favourite competitors from the day: a guy dressed as a storm trooper. After the race he was getting his photo taken with loads of people and entertaining lots of children so I was able to get a picture:
Whilst waiting for Steve to finish, I had a walk around and chatted to loads of people. I found myself very popular as all anyone wanted to know was whether or not we had broken the record and, since Steve was part of the organising team, they hoped I would have an answer. Sadly, at that point I did not as not everyone was finished and the official numbers would be counted from the race chips.
At last, Steve was able to join me and we could enjoy some of the facilities on offer. We had a delicious burger from a local producer, talked to more people and watched the prize giving. I also managed to sneak in a photo with the event mascot, Hairy MacKilty:
Last, but not least, we had an ice cream whilst watching the finale to the day: The Red Hot Chilli Pipers.
All in all, a great event. Everybody was in high spirits and seemed to have had a great time. The organisation was very smooth, registration seemed to have been very straightforward and the route was good (although crowded, but that was to be expected). I may have been running alone, but I was never by myself and it was fantastic to see people of all ages and from all walks of life united in this one event. Runners who would ordinarily be very competitive were running with their children, people were walking (or in the case of 2 girls, hula hooping) round the course having fun and funds were being raised for charities. Dedication at work.
So did that dedication pay off? On a personal level, yes, as I ran well. 229th overall, 17th in my age category and a chip time of 25:11. A 5K PB!!
“And the record?” I hear you ask. As I write this, this results show 1323 finishers so we certainly exceeded our numbers from last year and exceeded the current official record of 1089. All results (both ours and Canadian) are unofficial until verified by Guinness, but one thing is for sure: there’s plenty of dedication in Perth to make that record ours. No matter what, we’ll be back next year and this time we’re going to smash it! Best get your kilt sorted out now…