For the past 5 years I have been a regular at this local race, bagging a PB on more than one occasion, but this year my experience of the Perth 10k was to be slightly different…
I entered the race some time ago, expecting to have put my injury behind me and be back to regular training, but as I counted up the number of weeks that my enforced summer running ban would last, I realised that at best I would be just one week into my “comeback” and that diving straight into a 10k would be crazy. Since Steve is one of the race organisers, I instead volunteered to help him out with race registration and take the role of sweep cyclist (the sort of job I normally find quite tedious, but a sweep cyclist was needed and I was able to do it) on condition that I could still have my race medal and Tshirt since officially I had paid for them! He agreed to this so I dug out my hi-viz vest, made sure I was familiar with the route and prepared myself for a long, slow cycle around Perth.
Race day stated early for me as registration opened at 8:30am. There was a team of us on hand to register runners and answer any questions they had. There were a few early birds trickling in, then a surge of registrations closer to the start time. Everyone was in good spirits and pleased that the weather was nice after a few rather chilly and damp days. Since I was technically working for Steve, I wore my branded team top from the triathlon the week before, along with my cycling skirt.
As the start time approached, I collected my bike and headed towards the start line where Steve was delivering a briefing to around 420 runners. By now, the sun was splitting the skies and I could tell the runners were in for a hot one.
And that’s when I spotted him. Can you? Just to the right of the tree just left of centre in the above photo. Spot him yet?
This is local runner and fundraiser Alan Glynn who works tirelessly to raise money for Meningitis Now in memory of his baby daughter Alexis Rose. He has committed to running both the Great North Run and Loch Ness marathon in this mascot costume, so the Perth 10k was an ideal opportunity for a “test run” (after all, you can’t exactly head out dressed like that on a Sunday morning by yourself!). Immediately I realised that he would be BAKING in there, and that more than likely I would be keeping him company (and making sure he didn’t pass out from heat exhaustion!). Cycling along next to a giant green mascot? This was going to be an interesting morning!
And so, armed with a pocketful of fruit gums and the phone number of the First Aider who was roving the field on his bike, I set off behind the runners for a pleasant tour around some of my staple running and cycling routes.
As I pedalled around, I smiled and called greetings to spectators, gave information to marshals and checked in a few times with the first aider. Soon, though, it was just me and the big green mascot. I know of Alan from our running club but hadn’t previously had much chance to chat to him, so we were able to pass the time quite easily in that way that runners can. So long as he kept chatting, I knew he was ok (although absolutely boiling) and I could help make sure he was drinking plenty to replace the fluids he was losing as he sweated it out in his own personal sauna. I even shared my fruit gums! Because of the heat, much of his race was a walk rather than a run, but this was all about testing out the costume rather than thinking about time and he was more than comfortable with that.
At the halfway mark there was a water station so while Alan poured some water over his head and down his throat, I was stashing extra bottles in my backpack and encouraging him to put some extras in the mascot head which he was now carrying (we were the last to pass the water station and there were lots of bottle left). He was in good spirits and chatting merrily with race volunteers and anyone else who passed by. We blethered about running, our “bucket list” races and a fundraising race he is organising for next summer. It was really pleasant and I’m glad I was able to spend that time chatting with him.
Eventually, we made our way back to the North Inch and the home straight. Some of the marshals still out on the course (mainly local cadets) joined us, then Alan’s wife and other Meningitis Now supporters joined us and soon I felt like I was cycling along behind Forrest Gump (albeit it a rather large and green Gump!). It was fantastic to see the support he was getting at a time when the fastest runners would have been home, showered and sitting with their feet up! As the finish line loomed closer, Alan donned the mascot head once more and ran to the line for his big finish (flanked by 2 cadets with the first aider and me close behind) where a medal and plenty of water were waiting for him:
I take my hat off to him. I honestly don’t think I could cope with running in a costume – even those Santa suits for 5k fun runs in December are pretty toasty – and in that heat too. But he did it and both he and his family should be very proud.
With my duties over, I collected my medal (there were plenty left) and had one of my more unusual medal photos taken before grabbing a quick bite to eat and hearing reports of the rest of the race which by all accounts had been a great success:
To reward me for my efforts, Steve even treated me to an ice cream from the Perth branch of Jannetta’s. Yum!
I quite enjoyed my sweep cyclist experience and the Perth 10k is certainly a race I will continue to support as it has a 30+ year legacy here and means a great deal to Steve as it was a race he used to take part in with his dad. Hopefully next year I will be able to run it again. And you never know, maybe it will be a PB…