I may not have been able to run for a while, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been completely cut off from the world of running, and the tail end of September allowed me the opportunity to reconnect a bit more with my favourite sport as I accompanied Steve to a couple of races in my role as his driver, support crew and chief cheerleader!
First up was a reasonably local trip just half an hour or so north on the A9 to Pitlochry. Steve had made a last-minute decision to run the 10k race there, so we set off in plenty of time to find a parking space and for Steve to register. We last ran this race in 2009, but the route has changed a bit since then so he wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.
Registration was in the local fitness centre and the race itself started a little further back down the road in front of one of the big hotels. The road was actually shut for a couple of minutes to allow the race to start safely. The finish was on the other side of the river by the Festival Theatre, so I planned to simply walk over there once the race was underway.
While we were waiting for the race to start, we bumped into several runners we knew and had a chat. One thing that did frustrate me a bit, however, was the number of people demanding to know why I wasn’t running. Even when I explained that I had been injured for months and was only just able to start running again, several told me that I would be fine and I should “just get on with it and race”. This made me angry, as I knew that this was terrible advice and that I was nowhere near ready to take on 10k at this point, but I simply smiled and ignored it so as not to spoil the day. Those who have followed my ups and downs throughout this year know exactly how tough it has been and how determined I am to return sensibly to running so as to avoid any further complications. Why would I risk it all over a 10k race that had no real value to me? I was far happier talking to those who asked about my recovery and how long I thought it might be until I was fully back to running again. In general, runners are a wonderfully supportive community, but based on this experience, I have to say that we can also be our own worst enemies when it comes to dealing with injury!
My own frustrations aside, it was soon time for the race to start so I wished Steve luck and got ready to cheer him on as he began his race.
With the runners away, I set off to walk across to the Festival Theatre. I had 2 options for this. Option 1 was to cross the river at the suspension footbridge, however when I was in primary school I had a couple of class trips here and the boys used to bounce around on the bridge, terrifying all the girls. Having never entirely put my fears of “the wobbly bridge” behind me, I plumped for option 2: to cross over at the dam/fish ladder. There are some beautiful views here so I took the opportunity to take a few photos since I knew I had plenty of time:
Soon enough, I arrived at the Festival Theatre and the finish area. I had about 15 minutes until the first runners came in, giving me the opportunity for a quick snack before positioning myself along the home straight to cheer the finishers on.
He was pleased with his time and enjoyed the new route, so this was a successful trip and great preparation for the following week.
The week after Pitlochry it was time for a much longer road trip as we headed further north to Inverness. Originally this would have been my final marathon of the year, but since my injury had prevented me from training, I was going to be firmly on cheering duties for this one. I had expected to feel sad that I wasn’t running, but oddly enough I was ok. I think since I hadn’t run in so long, I had really made my peace with this decision and was very much focussed on taking part in Cycletta the following week.
Since I wasn’t running, I was the driver for this one and I HATE driving up the A9. It’s not a great road and it seems to take forever to get anywhere. Eventually, though, we arrived at the event village at Bught Park where Steve registered and we checked out the race expo where I bought samples of a female-specific sports drink. The idea behind it is intriguing and I’m looking forward to trying it.
We also collected our pasta party tickets before meeting up with Danielle and her husband Pat. Pat was running his first marathon and Danielle was aiming for a PB in the 10k. We arranged to meet up later to discuss logistics, then Steve and I headed off to catch up with the Macmillan team who had really decided to look after us at this race:
This VIP pack was a godsend as it meant that on race day I was able to park at the Bught park (which has limited parking) and had access to the VIP tent, which was right on the finish line, for refreshments. I did head into the tent to watch Danielle finish her race (and she stormed it, nailing that PB!) but spent the rest of my time up to then helping out at the Macmillan marquee. Once Danielle finished, we staked out a spot close to the finish to wait for the guys to come in.
I got so excited when I spotted Steve that I actually missed getting a photo as I was waving frantically at him, but fortunately Shirlie from Macmillan was able to snap him in what has now become his trademark finishing pose:
He seemed to take ages to make his way through the finishing chute, but when he finally appeared I threw myself at him for a hug (which turned out to be a bit sweaty – ick!) before whisking him off to get some food in the hospitality tent before they finished serving lunch. This also gave us a bit of room for some nice photos by the finish line:
We also discovered that we got goody bags from the hospitality tent, which made me feel like a celebrity!
It was a jute bag each, containing jars of selected Baxter’s chutneys and relishes (Baxter’s are the title sponsor of the event), some soup and a money-off voucher. Fancy!
After we’d eaten, we met up with Danielle and Pat, who had run a very smart first marathon and finished strong.
Steve, however, was rapidly seizing up and struggling with climbing even the smallest of steps, so he headed in the direction of the massage tent while I delivered various bags to the car (another plus point of being parked in the VIP car park – easy access!). When I returned, Steve was grimacing on the massage table. After all the painful treatments he’s subjected me to, I couldn’t resist a photo to commemorate the moment!
Legs working better, we dropped Danielle and Pat off at their car before driving home again. After a quick change, we headed out for something to eat. It was Ryder Cup weekend so everywhere in Perth was packed, but we were able to get a table in our favourite post-race Italian restaurant, then on the way home we couldn’t resist a couple of novelty photos to round off the weekend:
And so it was that our A9 adventures came to an end. Loch Ness marked the official end of Steve’s 2014 challenge. I had been worried that I wouldn’t enjoy myself since I wasn’t running, but I had a great time at the event village and it was brilliant to have a proper catch-up with Danielle. That said, hopefully the next time we head north for a race I’ll be running too!