I seem to have developed a habit of being very last minute when it comes to this race. I suppose it’s because the event is local and there are usually on the day entries available. But unlike last year, I did actually mange to put in an online entry in advance, albeit the day before the race!
This race started back in 2012 as a world record attempt, and has become a regular fixture on the local running calendar ever since (although no longer a record attempt). It takes place the same weekend as the Highland Show and is the kind of event that attracts everyone from front-of-the-pack speedsters to those walking the route (and a couple of ladies who always hula hoop around!). Last year there was the addition of a half marathon which takes place in the morning, whereas the 5k Kilt Run is at 1:30pm. Steve and I signed up to the 5k as neither of us fancied racing a half marathon at this point, preferring to do our own longer run the following day.
But what about parkrun? I hear you ask. Don’t worry, we did that too! Steve decided it would be good for him at this point in his training to race both parkrun and the Kilt Run as hard efforts, whereas I knew that for me it would be a better idea to go easy(ish) at parkrun then a little harder in the Kilt Run later on. To put that into context, for Steve that meant running both events in under 20 minutes! Not being quite so speedy, I aimed for “comfortably hard” (between 8:20 and 8:30 per mile) rather than an all-out effort at parkrun (finishing in 25:44 compared to last week’s 23:41) and felt good at the end. My aim was then to be below 25 minutes in the afternoon, maybe around 24:30 since I would not only be on my second run of the day, but have less recovery time before my regular Sunday long run.
After parkrun we took a walk around to the concert hall to collect our race numbers for the afternoon then headed home to have something to eat, get changed and do it all over again.
Kilts on, we headed back down to the North Inch, visited the toilets in the sports centre then milled around chatting to people before it was time to line up for the 5k start. Steve lined up at the front and I slotted in not too far behind him. A few announcements, a countdown and we were away.
The start/finish was in a slightly different position from last year and although we ran more or less on the same course after that, we were doing so in reverse! As we set out a few people went flying past me but I stuck to my own pace of around 8 minute miles. There were a few spectators and I got a nice shout from Ella who had run the half marathon that morning.
For me, the course was nice but fairly non-descript as it’s a familiar route – along one side of the North Inch, cut off to head around the cottages up to the new school campus, around the football pitches then back onto the riverside path until it rejoined the Inch on the other side. A fairly fast route, but after a warm, still morning the wind had picked up a bit to make it harder, especially in the last mile which coincided with my legs remembering they had already run that day!
About half way around I exchanged a few words with a woman from the local running club who usually runs near me at parkrun. She had also run that morning so neither of us were really pushing too hard. She did get away from me a bit at the end, but I wasn’t really looking to up my pace too much since I had a run planned on Sunday morning.
It was as I ran the last half mile or so that I remembered how difficult it is to be anonymous at a local race. There were so many people I knew spectating and cheering on others and it was nice to get a shout from them too. I dashed over the line (clutching my race number as I’d managed to knock out the top safety pins and it was blowing cheerily in the breeze) and stopped my watch at 24:24. Perfect! I was then handed a bottle of water and a bag containing my medal, a cereal bar and small packet of sweets.
I found Steve and it then took us another half hour to get moving as we stopped to talk to so many people, but eventually we found some space to take photos then headed back to the car.
We were both starving so made a departure from our usual eating habits to treat ourselves. Not something we eat very often at all! And there’s something very odd about eating fast food whilst watching superhuman feats at the Olympics!
While I enjoyed the race itself, sadly I do have a few issues with the event and have actually delayed posting this race report in order to see what response I got from the organisers. Unfortunately they have not yet responded to my messages, so I’m going to simply give an account of how things look from my perspective as I like to be honest about the experiences I have at races.
First of all, I said at the start of this post that I had entered fairly late on, just a day before the race. Online entries were still being accepted so this was no problem. Steve was a little more organised and entered a day earlier. That evening, he received a scheduled email giving him final instructions and information such as where to pick up the race numbers. When I registered I got the standard confirmation of entry, but the email with the race information was never sent to me. Nor could I find any information about number collection on the event website or social media. The only reason I knew where to pick up my race number was because Steve had received that information already (it was in a different location from last year). When we headed along there, things didn’t seem terribly organised. The table to collect half marathon numbers looked really well organised and systematic, but by this point most half marathon runners should have been long gone to get the buses to the start. The volunteers issuing 5k numbers had a tiny table, piles of papers and numbers all piled up in bundles. I gave my name and was handed a number, but couldn’t see the paperwork to confirm that they had marked off the right person.
Secondly, we had to affix our own timing chips to the back of the race numbers. This is the first time I’ve ever had to do that. It was the ones where the disposable chip is surrounded by foam and they stick easily to the number, so no big deal for me, but I’m not sure I’d have felt so confident if I was an inexperienced runner and we were given NO INSTRUCTIONS nor were we shown any pictures to make sure that all participants were able to affix their numbers properly. If the goal is accurate results, surely making sure people know what to do is crucial?
Next, there was some doubt about the race route. The map on the website seemed to indicate last year’s route, but Steve thought it might be reversed (as turned out to be the case) and the start/finish line moved. We had asked to see a map when we collected our numbers, but there wasn’t one available. When I arrived at the North Inch I wasn’t actually sure where the start was, and chatting to others as I waited to line up, it seemed that nobody else had much idea of the arrangements either. Maybe not such a big deal for me as I’ll never be at the front of the pack, but I spoke to some speedy runners who might very well be in that position and they didn’t know where they were heading either!
Finally, and my biggest issue with the event, is the results (although the issue more than likely arose earlier in the process, probably at registration when I was handed my race number). According to the results, race number 348 (the number I was wearing) finished in 34th position with a chip time of 24:23. That’s consistent with my Garmin and represents my fastest non-parkun 5k by about 15 seconds. Unfortunately, it’s not my name next to that result! My name appears much further down the list next to a chip time of 32:45 and a different number. Clearly, there has been some sort of administrative error, the most likely being that I was handed the wrong number. The chip has obviously registered, it’s the name assigned to it that’s wrong. All credit to the runner who wore the number my name is next to; I’m sure they ran their very best under whatever their circumstances are, but the time I’ve been “officially” assigned is ludicrous for my current level of fitness. I know this is in many ways a fun run, but as soon as there’s chip timing, there’s a level of seriousness added and a degree of accuracy expected. Indeed, at the start line the “fast and elite” athletes were separated from everyone else. I have contacted the organisers by two different methods, but as yet have had no response to my query, nor have the “provisional” results been altered. I find this extremely disappointing and at the moment I’m unlikely to enter this event next year, which is a shame.
Having been involved in race organising before, I know it’s a big job and mistakes can happen. Often those mistakes come down to the fact that we’re human beings and fallible. It happens. I actually don’t mind that, but when a mistake happens, what happens next is the crucial thing. Things that can be rectified should be, and an undertaking to improve on shortcomings should be made. As I tell my pupils: it’s ok to get things wrong, but we have to learn from those mistakes. Not getting so much as an acknowledgement of my messages, even just a “thanks for letting us know” or “we’ll look into it” is bad practice and just downright rude. Being an optimistic person, I still hope that something will change and a correction will be made, as these issues have soured what should have been a fantastic day of running.
I hate having to be so negative, and I’m sure the vast majority of people had a fantastic, problem-free experience, but on this occasion that was not what happened for me. A great race spoiled by organisational errors. And that, unfortunately, is what I’m going to remember.