Ages ago, in an moment of optimism that all would be well with my running, I entered this race which I first took part in last year. I figured that by the time August came around my injury would be gone and I would be into my autumn training schedule. Sadly, this is not the case. A visit to the podiatrist on our return from holiday resulted in the order to not run for a further 4 weeks and as the date for this Jog Scotland event rolled around, I wasn’t even half way through my
sentence two weeks. One of the pitfalls of entering races is that often entries have to be in really far in advance (either to guarantee a place or benefit from the lowest entry fees) which can be a bit of a gamble as the fickle hand of fate can present you with an injury or illness at any time. The best laid plans to take part in a race can result in missing out and losing an entry fee. As runners, we tend to accept that this will happen at some point, but it can be frustrating.
At first I thought I was going to miss out on this one and simply write off my entry fee, but then I had an idea. I seemed to remember people finishing in 50-55 minutes last year, and it crossed my mind that maybe I could walk (the podiatrist had encouraged me to walk lots and do some weight-bearing exercise in order to maintain bone density whilst running is off the agenda) just like I saw at events in Florida. Steve was again involved in conducting the warm-up so I got him to ask the organisers (GSI Events who also organise the Edinburgh Marathon Festival) if this was ok. Their response? They expected the last finisher to cross the line in about an hour. An hour! I reckoned I could walk 5k in 45 minutes so since the race was practically on my doorstep, I decided to go along, see how quickly I could walk, and get my medal anyway. I love it when a plan comes together!
On the day, the weather wasn’t brilliant. I have no problem with running in the rain so walking wasn’t going to be an issue, but I was unsure about what kit to wear. When I run, I get warms would have chosen shorts, but I didn’t expect to be quite as warm walking. I would also need to make sure I had a waterproof jacket on since I expected more rain. In the end I went for 3/4 running tights, a lightweight tech Tshirt and a jacket. I also stuck on my “emergency hat” which served the double purpose of keeping the rain off my face and acting as a “disguise” since I was (needlessly) feeling a little embarrassed about being a walker.
Steve cycled up to the George Duncan Athletics Arena as he was going to conduct the warm-up, run the race and then go round as sweep cyclist. I decided that we didn’t need another wet bike to contend with so opted to drive up, slipping in just as Steve was about to start warming us up.
The first thing I noticed is that there was a slightly bigger field than last year, but I didn’t spend much time looking around as I knew I was going to be at the back of the pack. While I knew I could get round well within the anticipated 1 hour cut-off, it was on my mind that a lot of the marshals would be from my running club and since it was wet I didn’t want to be responsible for people hanging around for ages just to wait for me!
Warm-up done, one of the organisers stood on a chair at the start line so that he could take an enormous group selfie! He had already done this at the morning event in Aberdeen, so presumably this also happened in Glasgow and Edinburgh the next day, but unfortunately I haven’t managed to find the pictures. With that done, it was time to get started.
It was strange watching the runners head off as I began my walk along the track as normally I would be one of them, but I behaved myself and stuck to a walk (even though it was REALLY tempting to run!). Being at the back did mean that I had plenty of time to pose when I spotted one of my photographer friends taking pictures of the event. There goes my disguise – oops!
Almost immediately, I found myself at the back chatting to the first aider who was following the pack on his bike. I was walking quite briskly, however, and could see some of the slower runners in front of me. But within a few minutes I actually passed one of the other participants who had begun walking and began to put some space between us. Sadly, everyone else in front of me was also pulling away and I soon found myself on the North Inch almost completely alone!
I could see the runners spreading out around the Inch, but safe in the knowledge that I was no longer last (not that it would really have mattered if I was – someone has to be) I marched on enjoying some of my favourite tunes from my running playlist. Since I was walking, I took the time to grin at all the volunteers and give them a cheery thank you. What was really nice was that every single one of them smiled back. I always try to make a point of at least smiling at marshals/volunteers, but when I’m running it’s not always so easy to speak to them, so I’m glad I was able to thank them properly this time.
By the time I had completed the first mile, I realised that I could get around in less than 45 minutes and at that point I decided to make things interesting by trying to see just how quickly I could do it. My walking pace was probably about as quick as I could manage without breaking into a run, but since I’ve been maintaining my fitness with cycling and swimming, I was finding it quite straightforward. So straightforward, that as I walked along by the riverside on the return leg of the route, I realised that I was actually catching up with some people in front who were alternating between running and walking! As I passed by, one of the girls asked if she was last and I reassured her that she was not, by quite a stretch. This seemed to make her feel better, but she was clearly finding it hard so I exchanged a few words to encourage her before carrying on. Interestingly, she continued to alternate between running and walking, but never really managed to get far past me – at one point she was even joking that I was going too fast! Eventually, she dropped back behind me and I was on my own again.
Despite the rain, I was having quite a pleasant walk and maintaining my brisk pace. Before I knew it, I was well into the final stretch and approaching the track. Last year, the route measured long as there was an extra loop around some of the nearby houses, but this was sorted out for this year and we made our way straight back to the track. I actually passed someone else as I marched up the short hill to the gate and was gaining on another group who were just ahead. As I crossed the finish line I found myself right on their shoulders and, quite unexpectedly, had to wait a moment for my medal as there was suddenly a “crowd” and the medals were being hung around each participant’s neck with a sincere “well done” rather than just being handed over – a nice touch which I always appreciate. I was also handed a small bottle of water and a goody bag.
Steve had returned to the track too from his sweep duties as only one person was still out on the course and the first aider was content to stick with him, so I used the opportunity to get a photo:
After some chatting to the organisers, I headed home to get tidied up and investigate my goody bag:
Not a bad haul for a 5k: a sports towel, assorted food, shampoo sample, bath oil and a High 5 Zero tablet. I’m also fond of the medals from this event as they are a decent weight and look good on my medal hanger. One last touch is a text message with your provisional finish time, in my case 42:02, well within my 45 minute estimate. When I checked the official results later, I discovered I was in fact 71st out of 76 finishers (not bad for walking!) 39th out of 43 females and 9th out of 11 finishers in my category. Having fully expected to be last, I found this result pretty interesting as I was the only one who fully walked the entire course. I can only assume that my fitness level meant that I was able to walk a lot faster than those who were taking walk breaks in their running.
Overall I like this event. It’s great for those looking to try their first 5k as it’s friendly and inclusive, yet there is also a more competitive edge for those who are a bit more speedy. Everyone is really encouraging, something I was particularly aware of on this occasion as I was towards the back, and nobody is made to feel out of place. I certainly plan to be back next year, but although I enjoyed my walk, hopefully I’ll be able to run next time!
Have you ever missed out on an event due to injury?
Have you ever been last in a race?