The Perth Kilt Run first came into being in 2012, inspired by our twin town of Perth, Ontario, where the world record for the most kilted runners was first set in 2010. Despite our best efforts in both 2012 and 2013, we have sadly not beaten the Canadian record of 1764 runners (yet!), and for 2015 the focus was on a fun day of events rather than a world record attempt.
Positioned in the same weekend as the Perth Highland Games, this year there was an ambitious range of options available: the traditional 5k Kilt Run, the new Touch of Tartan Half Marathon and two kilt walk events at half and full marathon distance. Rather than having thousands of kilted runners in one event, participants would be spread over several events with some, like Steve, doubling up to complete both the half marathon and the 5k.
To be honest, I was rather indecisive about entering this one. On the one hand, I knew I would feel left out if I didn’t take part, but on the other hand my half marathon training was more important to me and not only did I not want to miss parkrun that day, I also had a longer training run planned the following day. But as the day of the event got closer, I realised that so long as I took things easy, I could still complete my planned runs as well as take part in the 5k Kilt Run. By this point, however, I was too late for online registration so had to take a chance on securing an on-the-day entry.
And so it was that my Saturday began as usual with parkrun. Last week I ran it hard to achieve my first sub-25 minute time since early March, so this week I was making a conscious decision to “take it easy”. Although I wore my Garmin, I was running by feel and thought that averaging around 8:30 per mile would be fine. As it turns out, I averaged closer to 8:15 per mile, but felt comfortable throughout, which was the aim, so my fitness must have improved. We were even joined by the sun, a somewhat elusive feature this summer!
I was there by myself since Steve was running the half marathon which started at 10:30 and he had to be on the shuttle bus to the start line around the time we would be running parkrun. That meant that I could make a fairly quick exit to head along to the sports centre to sign up for the race in the afternoon (I could actually have gone beforehand, but would have had nowhere to keep my race number since I walk to parkrun).
Entry secured, I headed home as I had about 3 hours until I had to run again – luxury after some of my previous escapades this year! I used the time to freshen up a bit, eat, choose my kit and catch up on some reading. I also took delivery of a pretty medal for my August virtual 10k which I had completed as part of my long run last Sunday.
Steve arrived home around 12:30, having completed his half marathon in about 1:37/1:38. He was a tad muddy from some of the terrain but really only had time to grab a quick snack and change into his kilt before we had to head back over to the North Inch for the start of the 5k.
When we arrived there was some kind of mass zumba warm up going on (I’m not a fan of the mass warm up – there’s never really enough space to move!) after which we were led towards the start line. There was a briefing, but I couldn’t hear everything that was being said. I wasn’t worried though, as being local I had a decent idea of the route and knew that I wasn’t going to be at the front so could just follow the pack. I did hear an attempt to get participants to line up in a reasonable way with walkers at the back, but I knew that in reality this wouldn’t really happen and was prepared to do a bit of weaving around people.
We exchanged a few words with one or two people we knew, then all of a sudden we were moving towards the start line ready to begin. Having run comfortably in the morning, I intended to go a bit harder on this one (my non-parkrun 5k PB of 25:11 was set at this event back in 2013) and with Steve suggesting that I might have a chance of beating him since he was running on weary legs from his morning exertions, I was all set for a smackdown!
As the race began, things went exactly as I expected: there was a general shuffling towards the line as some people tried to start running and others set out at a more leisurely pace (this was, after all, a fun run). Since the race was chip timed, I didn’t worry about this as I’d much rather get stuck approaching the line than once I crossed it, but I did spend much of the first mile weaving around slower runners. As a result, I lost sight of Steve but caught up with him as we headed along by the river and spent a few minutes simply keeping him in sight as a pace maker. By this point, I’d found a decent gap to run in and was ticking along at a nice steady pace.
The route followed the path on the river side of the North Inch, before joining part of the same path used in parkrun, but turning at an earlier point and sweeping by the George Duncan Athletics Arena before returning to the Inch for the final mile. It was during the 2nd mile that I drew level with Steve, who was chatting with another runner who was on his 2nd tartan race of the day. This was a tactical error, because as soon as he realised I was there, Steve’s competitive instinct kicked in and he began to pull just slightly ahead again to make me work harder, and once we were back on the Inch, he picked up the pace far earlier than I would be able to maintain, and made a big kick for the finish, leaving me to work as hard as I could to try and finish as close as possible behind him.
Turning onto the last stretch on the grass, I saw Steve ahead of me crossing the line and found one final burst of speed to the finish. I could hear some friends calling out my name as I went by, but I was fixated on the finish line as I could see the clock ticking closer and closer to 25 minutes. I squeezed in at 24:58, only then remembering that I was wearing a chip and would therefore have a faster time!
Shuffling forwards, I returned my chip then collected a bottle of water and my goody bag, which contained my medal, some sweets, a cereal bar and some leaflets. I was also handed a race memento in the form of a spurtle, which is the traditional utensil for stirring porridge. These were provided by our “sister” race in Perth, Ontario.
And of course, we took a couple of post-race photos:
Since Steve had run both the half marathon and the 5k, he decided to take advantage of the free massages that were on offer, and since I was in the queue I had one too in order to freshen my legs up a bit before running again the following day. Aside from the massage tent there were one or two food stalls, some things for kids to do and a big stage with some musical acts throughout the day.
However rather than hang around, once we’d had our massages we headed off to a nearby ice cream shop for a delicious cone. Yum 🙂Once home, I checked back over my splits from my Garmin to find I had run a pretty even race then speeded up towards the end – 8:07, 8:09, 8:01 then the last stretch apparently at a 7 minute mile (don’t think I could have kept that going much longer though!). Despite having run earlier in the day and spending a good chunk at the start weaving, I ended up only 7 seconds slower than my triumphant parkrun last week with my time of 24:38 (about 20 seconds behind Steve). On both occasions Steve was in front of me as a pacer so perhaps that made a difference and it will be interesting to see if I can shave any more time off that over the next few weeks. Oh and yes, 24:38 is a new non-parkrun PB. The Kilt Run is always an enjoyable event with a great atmosphere, but I did feel that the smaller numbers this year had an impact. There’s a marked difference between being part of 1000+ runners and being part of around 350. I’d love to see the numbers grow again in future as it’s amazing to see so many kilted runners together, even if crowding does lead to a slower time – sometimes it’s more about the experience. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.